THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 100.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. As the off-weekend thread, this is culture-war-free, so please try try to avoid overly controversial topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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412 Responses to Open Thread 100.5

  1. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Two theology questions, fellow Christians!
    1, when God speaks in the Old Testament, is that the Father or the Logos?
    2, who is Hagia Sophia?

    • Deiseach says:

      1. It is the Trinity 🙂

      26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

      2. Oooh, that’s a good one! Is it the Holy Spirit, or is it Lady Wisdom of Proverbs 8?

      23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

      24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.

      25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:

      26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.

      27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:

      28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:

      29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:

      30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

      31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

      • JohnofSalisbury says:

        Second (and someone had better now third) the Trinity for 1. For 2, I ‘m going to have to go for the Logos. ‘O Sapientia, quae ex orae…’ is a call for the Word to come.

    • alamesage says:

      1. Depends on the context; OT theophanies that are embodied are the Logos speaking, and that are disembodied are either the Father or the Holy Spirit. But, since they are all God, it is too fuzzy to make distinctions. Especially between Father and Spirit, or Logos and Spirit, since the Spirit proceeds from them both. Those distinctions are very hard to tell.

      2. A personification of Wisdom, not an actual person. Later on, Jesus is described as the fulfillment of all wisdom (literally “the wisdom of God”), and so all the traits of wisdom also apply to Jesus. Which is why, when we read passages like Proverbs 8:22-31, it sounds strikingly like a description of one of the persons of the Trinity.

      • Deiseach says:

        But Wisdom is described in female terms (Proverbs 9: “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars/She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table”) and is described as a “daughter of God”, which does not fit with the Father and the Son in the Trinity.

        Then again, God is spirit, neither male nor female, and there is apparently a theological approach to defining the Holy Spirit in feminine terms so since Wisdom is one of the gifts of the Spirit, Wisdom/Sophia as being the Holy Spirit and hence part of the Trinity is feasible.

        I do think there is a distinction between Wisdom and the Logos, and that Wisdom (particularly as described in the Old Testament books) fits better with the Spirit. But eh, I’m not a theologian.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          As I recall, “spirit” in Hebrew is a female noun, so gender wouldn’t have been an issue in the original Book of Proverbs.

          • marshwiggle says:

            That is so, but the issue isn’t grammatical gender. The issue is the appropriateness of an extended female personification for any of the members of the Trinity. That said, there is that one time where Jesus compared himself to a female chicken (Matthew 23:37 / Luke 13:34). But that’s a brief simile, not a several verse long metaphor.

    • LewisT says:

      1. I pretty much second alamesage’s answer. Whenever God shows up as a physical being in the Old Testament (including appearances as the Angel of the Lord), it is the Logos/Jesus/Second Person of the Trinity. All other times it is the Father who speaks. The Spirit is present in both cases, but he only ever speaks through others (in other words, the H.S. never speaks immediately, but only mediately, through prophets, Scripture, etc.).

      2. She is the eternal and incarnational wisdom of the sacred and the Divine Feminine.

      More seriously, it depends who you ask. If I remember correctly, some Church Fathers said it was Christ and some said the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe the church ever definitively decided either way.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Wait, is this saying angels aren’t real? I thought angels, as separate beings in their own right, were a pretty vanilla part of the story? Is that not the case?

        • Evan Þ says:

          To start with, just to confuse things, the Hebrew word “malak” and the Greek “angelos” both simply mean “messenger.” (Cf. 1 Samuel 23:37 where a malak comes to tell Saul that the Philistines are invading.) However, pretty much everyone agrees that God has “messengers” – “angels” – who’re spirits, not humans, and separate beings in their own right.

          But “The Angel of the LORD,” in exactly those terms, is different from the other “angels of the LORD.” He accepts worship, He gives prophets their prophecies (Numbers 22), and people describe seeing him as seeing God Himself (Judges 13). Because of all this, many Christians equate “the Angel of the LORD” with Christ.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The Incarnation could aptly be called the Capital-M Messenger of the LORD. But before the Incarnation, the Son was the Logos, logical Creator of all things. His role as Messenger of the Good News happened in time, after the OT…

    • JohnofSalisbury says:

      Continuing thoughts. If we really want to, I can research things with books, but because I’m lazy and my library is woefully disordered, I haven’t yet.

      Regarding question 1. The Trinity are perfectly united in essence and activity. They are thus united in their OT speech-acts. That is, I think, the standard Nicene view, defended by eg Augustine in De Trinitate. The view that portions out different deeds and words to different persons belongs to a less mature, ante-Nicene mode of theology (‘economic Trinitarianism’). In particular, regarding the ’embodied theophanies are the Logos’ view: Christ is not a Time-Lord. The Logos enters the physical world around 1AD, and does not travel bodily back in time. I guess that’s a mite strong: strictly speaking, I concede that I don’t know that He doesn’t travel back in time. But you certainly can’t advance a theory of OT theophanies that assumes that He does.

      I’m less confident about 2, but my reasoning is as follows. ‘O Sapientia’, as quoted above, is to my knowledge the oldest and most prominent liturgical invocation of Holy Wisdom, and clearly identifies Wisdom with the Son. Via lex orandi, this is pretty strong evidence. Further, Chokmah seems to be the closest Hebraic analogue of the Hellenic Logos. Also, 1 Corinthians 1:24 speaks of ‘Christ the power of God and wisdom of God‘. I’m not especially concerned about the gender issue. Since the Logos is definitely a man, the fact that wisdom is feminine is some evidence against the identity. But ‘Wisdom’, like ‘Logos’, is directing attention towards the divine rather than the human nature, and the divine nature is so far beyond our gender categories it makes even the most radical gender effluent look like Jordan Peterson. On a related note, perhaps Christian rationalists (Logosians?) should try penning a liturgy to, say, the Divine Steelman.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Regarding question 1. The Trinity are perfectly united in essence and activity. They are thus united in their OT speech-acts. That is, I think, the standard Nicene view, defended by eg Augustine in De Trinitate. The view that portions out different deeds and words to different persons belongs to a less mature, ante-Nicene mode of theology (‘economic Trinitarianism’). In particular, regarding the ’embodied theophanies are the Logos’ view: Christ is not a Time-Lord. The Logos enters the physical world around 1AD, and does not travel bodily back in time. I guess that’s a mite strong: strictly speaking, I concede that I don’t know that He doesn’t travel back in time. But you certainly can’t advance a theory of OT theophanies that assumes that He does.

        Oh my, I didn’t realize that my question was so naive as to be ante-Nicene. 🙂
        Hang on, though. The Hebrew Bible includes both plural (Elohim, “Let Us make man…”) and singular (YHWH). If God is always perfectly united in activity, were Moses and the later inspired writers inspired to write a distinction without a difference? Furthermore, in what manner are the Three Persons distinct personalities, outside of the Logos having one in the Hypostatic Union?

        • A1987dM says:

          IIRC, the Old Testament was assembled from several earlier sources, some using YHWH and some using Elohim, so the distinction reflects which individual (or group thereof) wrote which particular passage.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        On reflection, I think the issue of grammatical gender is something of a red herring. Genders in most languages are pretty arbitrary anyway, so it would be mistaken to read much into it. Like, in English “wisdom” is neuter whereas “Christ” is masculine, but this doesn’t really have any bearing on whether or not Christ is the Wisdom of God.

  2. Clocknight says:

    Any suggestions for blogs in the same vein as SSC? Especially with a similar style to Scott’s. I looked at his recommendations on the left, but besides Gwern, I couldn’t find any that I really liked (though admittedly, I haven’t checked all of them).

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I think Emma Pierson’s “Obsession with Regression” is very good, and in a similar tone to SSC, although much less prolific, especially recently. The conclusions reached are slightly more left-wing, but the method and forms of argument and intellectual self-discipline, which are what attract me to SSC, are fairly similar

      Of the ones Scott links too on the left, the one’s I’ve most enjoyed have been Popehat (sometimes-abusive and immoderate but very well informed free speech lawyer with a lucid and entertaining prose style) and Shtetl-optimised (Scott Aaronson, on a mix of politics and theoretical computer science).

      538 (politics and sport, with the focus very much on statistical prediction rather than advocacy, although not quite as purely so as latterly) isn’t exactly SSC-like, but may appeal to many of the same people.

      • Deiseach says:

        I like 538’s sports predictions; they gave Liverpool 89% against Stoke’s 2% (with 9% chance of a draw) before the recent 0-0 thrillfest (note: sarcasm may be in use, may not have been a thrillfest) and YES THIS IS CORRECT THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE RESULT A THRASHING FOR STOKE BUT THIS IS US, RIGHT, THIS IS WHAT WE DO LOSE* AT HOME TO A TEAM STRUGGLING TO AVOID RELEGATION MEANWHILE WE’RE HEADED INTO A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL.

        So it both confirms my biases and drives me crazy, which is oddly comforting 🙂

        *Yes, the result was a draw but at this level a draw like that against a team like that is a loss.

        • Matt M says:

          I’m really looking forward to your meltdown when they go down 4-0 against Real in the final (and don’t have a miracle comeback this time)

          • Deiseach says:

            If we get to the final, I will be relieved, delighted and anxious.

            If we play Real, I will be anxious.

            If we lose, they’re a good team, it’s no disgrace to be beaten by a good team, and I’ll be distraught 🙂

            I’d nearly say I’ll take a guaranteed “get to the final, lose 4-0” at this stage!

            It’s interesting if odd to see that three of the four semi-finalists are former clubs of Xabi Alonso, so whoever wins, there’s a very good chance it will be a former club of his (unless Roma do beat us in the second leg and make it through to the final).

        • Gobbobobble says:

          THIS IS WHAT WE DO

          Deiseach says

          Liverpool

          Leave it to football to overcome centuries-old enmities

          • Deiseach says:

            Hey, Liverpool is one of the largest Irish cities outside of Ireland! 🙂

            A combination of them being The Team That Won All Round Them when I was at an impressionable age with several of the Irish national team players being Liverpool players meant that when I was getting sort of interested in sports in the usual “oh are our guys playing?” casual way, they were the team I gravitated towards (my mother was Manchester United all the way but failed to pass that on to me).

            Of course, the seven fat years have been followed by the seven lean years, but if you don’t stick with your guys through the bad times, you can’t call yourself a fan – even a filthy casual fan.

            Also, God bless and preserve Mo Salah and keep him wrapped in cotton wool right now 😉

    • aNeopuritan says:

      Scott described hotelconcierge.tumblr.com , which he still hasn’t linked to for whatever reason, as hard to distinguish from himself.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        What an odd blog.

        While reading it, my system one says it’s insightful and deep, and yet system 2 finds it difficult to note what actual point they’re making with most of their posts. I even started reading it with the hypothesis in mind that it is the output of a recurrent neural network, but it seems it manages to hold together too much large-scale coherence for that to be the case.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          An example, please?

          • beleester says:

            It’s hard to pick out an example, it’s more the way an entire article goes on at breakneck speed, but here’s one from the most recent post:

            Point: lies cannot be proved or disproved by geometry. Counterpoint: still, being lied to is a distinct subjective experience. Example: when a minor fall to major lift makes you spit rage, it’s never because the song is particularly bad, no one actually enjoys math rock but no one gets mad at it either. The anger is instead a response to perceived manipulation. People get mad at rap/country/Bieber because these genres lean heavily on identity; the artist is, from the first guitar twang/phat beat/“baby,” trying to convince you of something about him/her/yourself. “Well, doesn’t everyone do that?” Extremely duh, but note that if you accept the artist’s claim as true or false then the nausea doesn’t occur. You can’t be manipulated if you’ve made up your mind, a sufficiently bad lie stops being one, see also, camp.

            The writing has a sort of… jargon? Not jargon, the words themselves are perfectly fine, but a collection of cultural references and world-view that I don’t share. It’s like overhearing a conversation that’s peppered with inside jokes. I kinda get what he’s gesturing at, but I don’t understand it well enough to explain it to my grandmother.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            Definitely has references unfamiliar to me (e.g. music details), but do they make it hard to understand A) “truthiness” isn’t entirely objective; B) you can detect lies and be angry at them *if* a manipulation attempt on you is involved? Or was I supposed to have understood something else?

          • beleester says:

            Like I said, it’s more the way he does it for an entire post than any one paragraph. This paragraph on how we perceive truthiness is itself part of several equally-dense paragraphs about other aspects of truthiness, which are in turn part of a movie review which he’s using to illustrate a point about… something.

        • quaelegit says:

          That’s was my experience with sam[]zdat. Admittedly, I only seem to try reading when I’m tired, so that might be why, and I’m still intending to try again.

          Actually, despite my apparent disrecommendation, sam[]zdat might be a good one for @Clocknight to check out. The article leads certainly seem to address interesting and SSC-adjacent topics.

          • Nick says:

            I had the same experience (I think we’ve talked about it before too). It’s worth noting that lou keep (who does sam[]zdat) has some good posts on the subreddit which may be more digestible. There was a thread a while back on what he means by narcissism, for instance, and there are pretty regular discussion of his posts, which he participates in.

      • outis says:

        I just went to hotelconcierge.tumblr.com and I have an unrelated question about the picture in the current top post (this one): does it feel extremely comfy to anyone else? It makes me want to put on a suit and go do some business with these guys. It’s weird.

        Edit: before reading the post.

      • rlms says:

        hotelconcierge has been described as the successor to The Last Psychiatrist, who is in the sidebar.

    • a reader says:

      Put A Number On It! ( PutANumOnIt.com ) is a rationalist blog that resembles SSC somewhat (its author, Jacob, is a big admirer of Scott), but has more mathematics/stats in the arguments, even when it speaks about dating, for example.

      Shtetl-optimised (Scott Aaronson, on a mix of politics and theoretical computer science).

      I second this recommendation – but it’s not only science and politics, there are also a few book reviews and recommendations, for example. Science is usually about quantum computing or P vs NP question and I admit I don’t really understand those posts.

  3. Tatterdemalion says:

    What is the correct intellectual/emotional self-discipline for life in an echo chamber whose views you disagree with?

    I think that the correct way to cope with the fact that all your friends – all the people whom you like and want to respect you, and whose opinions you regularly hear – share the same general views and cultural background you do without going mad is fairly obvious: seek out, read, and if possible engage with the best and smartest people advocating opposing views.

    But I find myself with the opposite problem: all my friends have broadly similar views, which I disagree with, and because I’m naturally contrarian I find that I’m developing a really strong outgroup aversion to those views. Rationally, I know that there are lots of outgroups with views that are both intellectually and morally worse than those of my friends, but because I’m not regularly having my nose rubbed in them, and I can challenge them without fear of stigma, I don’t have nearly the same visceral rage against to them.

    I worry that this is making me evaluate my friends views unfairly hostilely, but I’m not sure what to do about it – deliberately seeking out badly written articles by people I disagree with, or even people I agree with, seems unduly perverse, and I don’t think it would produce the same response in me.

    Any suggestions on how to avoid/challenge one’s own outgroup/fargroup prejudice when the outgroup is “all your friends”?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Three basic choices. Since “suck it up” isn’t working, that leaves assimilation and dissociation — either adopt their views or find a new set of friends with views that don’t make you angry.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        Of the three options you suggest, “Suck it up” is the one I’ve picked and will definitely continue to pick – having political opinions that annoy me isn’t something I’d end something as valuable as a friendship over (I’m mildly autistic and don’t make friends easily, so the ones I have mean a lot to me), and “other people disagree with me for reasons I think are wrong” isn’t something I’d deliberately change my opinions for (is it even possible to consciously change what one believes about the world? I guess maybe things like the Alpha course try that, but I’m sceptical).

        To be clear, the problem I’m asking for help with is not so much “my friends’ opinions annoy me” – that’s a problem that I already know how to manage, and don’t think can be cured.

        It’s “I worry that knee-jerk prejudice against these opinions that annoy me is corrupting my judgement and leading me to oppose them more vigorously than is rational or fair” – which I think I may not be managing terribly well, although it’s hard to tell from the inside, but hope might be effectively treatable if I could work out how.

      • Nick says:

        Why is “convincing them otherwise” not an option? I’ve pushed a lot of my friends toward views closer to my own, and I think they’ve had the same effect on me. Talking about one’s differences is something friends should be able to do. If the real issue is that their views are unreasonable, that’s a deeper issue than just the fact that they disagree.

        (In fairness, that’s something I’ve done in conversation over the dinner table and the like. I doubt it would work on social media or in places less conducive to long conversation.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      1. Get off social media that includes your friends, and read people who have better versions of the same opinions, or people who are different enough that it doesn’t annoy you. For the former, go for writers instead of people posting stuff on Facebook for likes. For the latter, there are opinions that when coming from people who have been dealt a hard hand in life annoy me less than when I hear them from my (almost exclusively well-off, not doing too poorly in this world) university acquaintances: the former comes off, emotionally, as someone with a hard deal venting, while the latter comes off emotionally as often-hypocritical social posturing. This isn’t necessarily an accurate reading on my part, but they’re my emotions – my ability to control them is not 100%.

      2. Work harder to critique the views of people who you worry are moving into “the enemy of my annoying friend is less annoying than my friend” territory. This seems to be your concern more: that you’re drifting into emotional agreement with bad opinions because they’re the opinions disliked by people you find annoying. Step back, and read history: something that was monstrous in the past is going to be monstrous in the present, for example.

      3. Realize that simply being annoyed is not that bad. If it’s not actually a threat to you, you can just ignore it.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        Thanks – I think point 2 especially is good advice. It really sticks in my craw – I hate the idea that it will look superficially as though I’m acknowledging that they were right and I was wrong all along, but the very fact that I find the thought of doing so so unpleasant is probably evidence that I need to…

        • dndnrsn says:

          Just say “they’re both wrong, and one side is wronger than the other, but I’m closer to the side that’s less wrong, so they’re more annoying.” Think of it like it’s a war: the guy in the foxhole next to you who chews with his mouth open might annoy you more than the enemy across the way, but that doesn’t make him the enemy, and it doesn’t make the enemy better, and for all you know they chew with their mouths open and you just can’t hear it.

          I’m less annoyed by university acquaintances’, etc, opinions, and more on their general milieu. Someone’s ability to tolerate disagreement (not “opposing views” in the sense of commie-vs-nazi or whatever; I mean disagreement by people who mostly agree with them) isn’t necessarily in lockstep with how moderate their views are: I know lots of people whose views are basic-boring left (not leftist), but who react to very minor disagreements extremely aggressively (and who, never interacting with people whose opinions are “opposing” think that people with relatively minor differences from them are scary extremists. The monoculture I’m a part of isn’t a leftist monoculture, it’s a centre-left monoculture of a particular sort; and one that’s convinced that mainstream Conservatives (probably to the left, in absolute terms, of mainstream Democrats) are crypto-fascists. Social media makes this a lot worse: when there’s sweet sweet Likes on the line, that creates an incentive to remove nuance. Same with shares or reblogs or upvotes or whatever.

          What bugs me is the sense that I can’t differ a teeny little bit, I can’t offer a correction to a statistic I know to be false, I can’t point out that what someone is saying is openly false, etc. I don’t disagree with them that much, but any disagreement is read as complete disagreement. I imagine your situation is much the same. So, I just try to disconnect. Most of their opinions don’t even mean anything. They’re not expressing what they really believe. They’re just saying whatever will get them that blue thumbs-up.

    • Education Hero says:

      Aside from The Nybbler’s recommendations, there’s also a more advanced alternative that combines all three: subversion.

      Specifically, agree and amplify with respect to the views that you disagree with. Walk the fine Poe’s Law line between overzealous true belief and Jonathan Swift-style satire, and you may gradually alienate people from their views when they see the logical conclusions of those views. At the very least, the resulting entertainment value will serve as an excellent coping mechanism.

      Obviously, this risks your status within the echo chamber as well as the health of that community, so it’s best if you have advanced social skills and don’t mind watching the world burn, potentially with you inside.

      • outis says:

        But this is based on the assumption that people’s position can be changed by argument (by absurdity, in this case), which we know to be false.

        • James says:

          Whenever I’ve ironically exaggerated a standard leftist position to draw out its absurdity, it’s received hearty laughs and led to absolutely no re-examination whatsoever. I doubt people even realise that there’s a point lurking within the joke.

          • Education Hero says:

            I don’t believe that we established that we were discussing leftist spaces in particular, but it would appear that you have underestimated the leftward-lean of your crowd and thus need to amplify further.

        • Randy M says:

          I think you might be so good at this it would be unfair to employ it.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        I think you’ve misunderstood the request – it’s “how can I avoid becoming irrationally hostile to my friends’ views”, not “how can I attack my friends’ views most effectively or entertainingly”.

        • Education Hero says:

          Changing your friends’s views sidesteps the problem, while deriving amusement from their views does help you avoid becoming irrationally hostile to them.

    • Garrett says:

      Become a loner who drinks a lot. :-/

    • tmk says:

      The people around you probably have differing views, but on axes you don’t notice. To make a silly example, if a flat Earth believer joined your friend group, they would probably lump you in with the others as yet an other round Earth sheep.

    • J Mann says:

      Lots of good suggestions. Here are mine:

      1) Spend some time sympathetically trying to figure out why your friends believe what they believe. Never assume you’ve got it completely – keep refining your model of how they developed their ideas. (Also – don’t let them know you’re treating them as an anthropology project; just listen to them and sometimes ask clarifying questions). You may find that understanding helps you develop sympathy, or even that they have a point on some issues.

      2) Don’t engage with your friends on social media about politics. In my experience, social media is where people are at their most unfiltered and jerky. If you see that someone is discussing politics, just skip over it, like you would if you realized they were discussing a movie you still planned to see. (I follow a couple special interests on Twitter, but the most insightful people on those pop culture topics spend about 10% of their time smugly professing political opinions that grate on my soul – I consciously practice ignoring those posts and am much happier for it.)

      3) I sometimes play a game where I try to find an opinion that I hold on an issue and that my correspondent will agree with, to test for common ground. It’s a good way to refine my model of the other person, and sometimes finds that we do agree on some important points.

      • James says:

        Don’t engage with your friends on social media about politics. In my experience, social media is where people are at their most unfiltered and jerky.

        Extending this, you might have better luck talking to your friends one-on-one, rather than in group situations. People hate changing their mind in front of an audience—they much prefer to signal and snark. Social media is just the utmost degree of this situation.

  4. johan_larson says:

    What is the minimum number of national borders you need to cross to travel by land from Paris to Pyongyang?

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      Svir hayrff lbh hfr n pyrire gevpx V qba’g xabj bs.

      Nf sne nf V pna frr, lbh unir gb fgneg bss Senapr-&tg; Treznal-&tg;Cbynaq naq svavfu Ehffvn-&tg;Abegu Xbern; gb trg sebz Cbynaq gb gur obql bs Ehffvn lbh unir n pubvpr bs Orynehf be gur Hxenvar (Cbynaq obeqref n Ehffvna rkpynir, ohg V qba’g guvax gung urycf).

    • bean says:

      Let’s try this sideways. There are two cities named Paris in Canada. We do Canada > Alaska > Russia (people swim this border, so I’d argue it should count) > North Korea. Got it in 3.
      (I was really hoping there was a Paris in Russia, but no such luck.)

    • Clocknight says:

      V tbg vg jebat ol 1. Ehffvn obeqref A. Xbern.

      V gubhtu bs Senapr Treznal Cbynaq Hxenvar Ehffvn Puvan A.Xbern

    • fion says:

      V guvax svir vf gur orfg V pna qb. Guebhtu Treznal, Cbynaq, Orynehf naq Ehffvn.

    • quaelegit says:

      The obvious route gets it in five (I had to look at a map to check but came up with the route before looking). If I can abuse Kaliningrad that brings it to four.

      BUT ANOTHER PUZZLE: I’ve just been having a ton of fun with this quiz of Soviet city maps, which people here might enjoy!

  5. Mark V Anderson says:

    I have run out of favorite books, but I have a couple of that I gave four stars on Amazon. I think these two are well worth reading, even if not as good as the other ones.

    The first one is Capital in the Twenty First Century, by Thomas Piketty. I will just copy my review from Amazon below. I’ll do the second one in a few more threads.

    Great Insights, With Some Defects

    I gave this book four stars because of the many fresh ideas, along with lots of complementary data. I never realized the swing that aggregate capital made in the Twentieth Century in the developed world, being about six times national income on the eve of World War I, then falling dramatically during and between the world wars, and then gradually increasing after WWII, until it is now almost back to six times national income. Piketty then argues that income from capital is increasing versus labor income, and furthermore that inherited capital is the majority of this capital. He overstates these arguments, but he makes a very nice counterpoint to the more common argument that it is unequal salary income that is driving most inequality these days.

    I did not give him a fifth star because his arguments do way overstep his data. He argues that capital is becoming increasingly unequal, when his evidence indicates the opposite. His argument that most wealth is inherited is far from convincing. He says that it is the increase of capital that is driving the inequality in income, even as he documents that salary income is a large component of the change, at least in Anglo countries. He argues in favor of a worldwide capital tax and the great coordination of financial information between governments that this would require. It is hard to believe that he doesn’t see the tremendous risk of worldwide government tyranny if such control over all financial activity were achieved, but not once does he mention this possible downside.

    I think it is very likely that Piketty is correct that capital will continue to grow in proportion to the economy, as it is an ongoing feature of the modern world that it continues to automate where it can. I think this is mostly a good thing, because substituting capital for labor decreases the workload on people.

    Piketty implies that inequality in capital is similar to where it was before the wars. But in table 7.2, he shows that capital percentage owned by those he calls the middle 40% (from 10% richest to 50% richest) was 5% in Europe before the wars. But this group’s holdings now range from 25%-35% of the capital outstanding, depending on the country. This incredible change in capital structure he should have emphasized more, except that it goes against his theory of increasing inequality. It is true that the lowest 50% hasn’t changed much from the period before the wars to now, at 5% each time. But that is partly because he doesn’t include private and public pensions in his numbers. Pensions were essentially zero before the wars, but private and government pensions now cover most of the retirement income of practically every person of the lower 50% in the developed world. I can’t calculate the true holdings of the lower 50%, because he uses %’s instead of Euros, but I am sure it is well above the 5% he indicates. (I did try to find his data per his footnotes, but the URL was broken). As one example, the USA spent almost $1.7 trillion on social security and Medicare/Medicaid in 2013. I suspect if you capitalize this it would change his figures dramatically.

    Piketty also makes the contention that wealth inequality will grow as long as r>g. But there are large factors that move in the opposite direction: consumption decreases accumulated wealth, income / estate taxes and charitable giving decrease inherited wealth, and multiple heirs decrease wealth per person. He over-states the difference in return to the wealthy versus middle class (he only demonstrated this for the wealthiest universities, so it is likely to be insignificant for non-billionaires). Since inequality of wealth has decreased greatly from 100 years ago, I see little likelihood of this turning around any time soon.

    Piketty claims that the majority of wealth is inherited, but again his evidence does not show this. He calculates that in France 2/3 of wealth is inherited, by multiplying estate values times the length of the average generation, and dividing that by total wealth. This is a clever if imprecise method of calculating inherited wealth. But he misses some major factors. He uses France for this calculation because it has the best data, but in a later chart he shows that Germany’s inheritance flow is a little more than 2/3 of France, and Britain less than 2/3. My guess is that the more dynamic USA economy would yield an even lower flow than Britain’s. Also, Piketty assumes that 100% of estates go to individuals. I did an analysis of US estate taxes based on 2014 IRS data. I discovered that after subtracting expenses and the spousal deduction, charitable dollars were 18.3% of the estate, and taxes were 18.6%. If we assumed that France had the same proportions, then the percent of French inherited wealth would be 42%. My guess based on these numbers is that inherited wealth averages about 20-25% in the developed world.
    The book also appears to be a bit deficient when it comes to understanding US taxation. He doesn’t seem to realize that American taxes are much more progressive than those in Europe. Even though the marginal tax rates in the US are much lower these days than they were in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, the actual tax paid now is more progressive now than it was then because of all the deductions allowed then. Effective IRS tax rates in 1965 were 30.8% for incomes over $1 million and 31.2% for those making from 50k to 100k. Unfortunately I don’t have the rates for lower incomes. But in 2008, incomes over $1 million paid 23.5%, $50k -100k paid 8.7%, and $0-50K paid 0.7%. The differences don’t account for inflation but still do indicate more progressivity today. Also I don’t think Piketty’s US data include state taxes, which would add 5-10% to his numbers for this country.

    • Aapje says:

      Good review, thanks.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        It’s not a good review because it principally focuses on the disagreements.

        If there are so many things to disagree with, and only one item worth highlighting agreement on, then why does it merit 4/5 stars? The data? The graphs?

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          There is more to talk about in my disagreements, but that doesn’t mean my disagreement is higher. The most valuable parts of the book are its data, which gives us a lot to think about and discuss, and the fresh idea (at least to me) that inherited wealth is a much bigger component of inequality than is generally maintained in this day and age. He overstates his data, but he still pushed me a lot farther into his camp than I was before I read his book.

    • bean says:

      Random question: What do the IRS rates look like when we adjust the incomes for inflation? $1 million in 2008 is equivalent to $147k in 1965. That said, the 30%+ on 50k-100k back then is still probably higher than the rate on the equivalent high six figures now.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        You are absolutely right that both incomes I included in my essay are pretty rich. That’s why my point that I didn’t have lower incomes. My data for 1965 isn’t great, but something.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Also, Piketty assumes that 100% of estates go to individuals.

      How is that relevant to the calculation of the proportion of wealth that is inherited? Why do you claim Piketty makes any assumption about it?

      charitable dollars were 18.3% of the estate, and taxes were 18.6%. If we assumed that France had the same proportions

      I believe that it is illegal for continental estates to give to charity. Of course, taxes are much higher.

      He over-states the difference in return to the wealthy versus middle class (he only demonstrated this for the wealthiest universities, so it is likely to be insignificant for non-billionaires).

      What, specifically, does he say? When he writes about universities, he specifically says that he’s talking about r not even for billionaires, but for the richest multi-billionaires.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        How is that relevant to the calculation of the proportion of wealth that is inherited? Why do you claim Piketty makes any assumption about it?

        Because Piketty explained his calculation of inherited wealth as being based on total wealth and the length of each generation, the death of which would result in inheritance. The implication was that 100% of that wealth went to individuals, because he did not include leakage in his formula.

        I believe that it is illegal for continental estates to give to charity. Of course, taxes are much higher.

        Are you sure? Why would that be the case? Or do you just mean that it isn’t a reduction of the taxable estate? That would definitely lower the proportions going to charities, although would not bring it to zero. And of course either law in France or the continent might result in Piketty not realizing the significance of charity from estates in the US.

        What, specifically, does he say? When he writes about universities, he specifically says that he’s talking about r not even for billionaires, but for the richest multi-billionaires.

        Maybe so. I guess from my perspective 1 billion and 50 billion look about the same. 🙂

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Sorry, I thought you meant an individual heir, as opposed to multiple heirs.

          Why would that be the case?

          Why would it not be the case? How could a dead person have a “will” to steal their children’s birthright?

          Of course, each country has its own estate laws. I believe that in Germany money donated to charity in the decade before death can be clawed back by the heirs. A simple google search brings up this about France, which says that if the deceased has N children, they each get 1/(N+1) part of the estate and the remaining 1/(N+1) can be freely distributed, so he could give it to charity.

          • John Schilling says:

            Why would it not be the case? How could a dead person have a “will” to steal their children’s birthright?

            What is a “birthright”, and why does one child have a right to a billion dollars by virtue of birth alone, while the next child born in the same hospital on the same day gets nothing?

            The person who earned the money, has the right to spend or give it as they please, including to their children. Or not. And deciding not to give a billion dollars to your children just because you happen to have it lying around, is hardly child abuse or even neglect.

            For pragmatic reasons, it is probably advantageous to allow living people to designate how their remaining money is to be spent or gifted on their death, to avoid various perverse incentives. Because this…

            Of course, each country has its own estate laws. I believe that in Germany money donated to charity in the decade before death can be clawed back by the heirs.

            …gives lie to the fact that you and Germany are talking about the will of dead people (or lack thereof). A living person has the express will that, with a billion dollars that he has fairly earned, he wants to give the world a cure for malaria or in its absence a million bednets rather than giving a gigabuck’s worth of hookers and blow to someone he knows to be a wastrel. And if he happens to die nine years later, nope, the people and government of Germany have decided it’s going to be hookers and blow.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not sure Douglas Knight is arguing for this aristocratic continental norm, rather than describing its perspective, but I kind of hope he is to have an example of nominative determinism.

          • quanta413 says:

            I don’t think I totally understand this. But it looks to me like what Douglas Knight says is a thing in Germany (disinherited children clawing back money donated to charity)… really is a thing in Germany. https://www.german-probate-lawyer.com/en/detail/article/forced-share-under-german-law-1492.html

            Ctrl + f for “clawback”.

            Unless I’m horribly confused or the site is wrong (I can’t read German so I can’t read the law), German law is kind of hilariously inegalitarian and family-based when it comes to inheritance.

            Is this a thing in more places than I realize? Being unable to fully disown badly behaved children?

          • johan_larson says:

            My father was educated in Business back in Finland, and as part of that he had to take a general law class. He told me that under Finnish law, if you got half the inheritance you would have received under an even split, you had no recourse. That suggests that an heir could receive less than half of an even split, but then the deceased needs to justify the reduction. (And I have no idea what reasons are acceptable.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It sounds like German law is like Finnish law: half of the estate must be divided evenly among the children and the other half may be freely distributed (to charity, to a nephew, to the favorite child). The additional detail is that living charity donations are not a way around it. If you gave away half of your estate the year before you died, then what remains must be evenly divided. What if you gave away your whole estate the year before you died? Can the heirs retrieve it from the charity? The phrase “claw back” is suggestive, but I’m not sure.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Why would it not be the case? How could a dead person have a “will” to steal their children’s birthright?

            I presume (I hope) you are steelmanning here. I guess it is an aristocratic tradition that a person’s wealth belongs to his descendants and it is unethical to send it elsewhere? I do find it very hard to understand that point of view, and it seems the other commenters fell similarly. But I guess some truly feel the descendants deserve the money. This attitude of mine and other commenters isn’t just an American thing, is it? Could some Europeans respond?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Sorry, I thought you meant an individual heir, as opposed to multiple heirs.

            Well, yes, that was a further point. If you say that wealth per person keeps increasing because individual wealth increases faster than GDP, then you need to take account of when inheritance passes to multiple heirs, and Piketty does not in his calculations.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Randy, Mark,
            No, this isn’t aristocratic. Primogeniture is aristocratic. This is Napoleon’s liberal reform.

          • Randy M says:

            Very well. It seemed aristocratic to me because it is a rule stating the wealth must stay within the family–your line about “why should the dead have a ‘will'” was particularly suggestive of an attitude that an individual is part of a larger unit that they should not be able to subvert. It seemed like the kind of law rich people would pass to try to circumvent regression to the mean.
            But I guess that doesn’t square with dividing it among all heirs equally.

          • quanta413 says:

            No, this isn’t aristocratic. Primogeniture is aristocratic. This is Napoleon’s liberal reform.

            I don’t think that’s right in general even if the English used primogeniture in most places. Wikipedia indicates that many areas on the continent only moved to primogeniture in the 16th to 18th centuries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salic_patrimony

            Before that they apparently split the inheritance but only among male heirs. The wikipedia article even claims this is why Germany was split into so many tiny little principalities a few centuries ago.

            Current German law looks a lot like medieval custom without the sex specificity, but that could be coincidence.

            Any German probate lawyers around here?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The French Revolutionaries also saw this as an improvement over the “paternal despotism” of the English system of free distribution. I’m not sure they called it “liberal,” though.

  6. Controls Freak says:

    WARNING! INFINITY WAR SPOILERS BELOW!

    (Yvgrenyyl) Gunabf’f nqibpngr: jul vfa’g n fhofgnagvny cneg bs gur gurngre nhqvrapr ba Gunabf’f fvqr? Gunabf vf n thl jub Gnxrf Vqrnf Frevbhfyl. Va cnegvphyne, ur gnxrf nirentr hgvyvgnevnavfz frevbhfyl. Va gur nofgenpg, ybgf bs crbcyr yvxr nirentr hgvyvgnevnavfz. N jbeyq jurer crbcyr zhygvcyl gbb zhpu naq gnk gur erfbheprf bs gur rnegu orlbaq npprcgnoyr yvzvgf vf n fgnaqneq obbtrlzna. V’z ernqvat Ernql Cynlre Bar evtug abj, naq gung’f gur obbtrlzna. Gbb znal sbyxf; gbb srj erfbheprf; zbfg crbcyr unir n greevoyr fgnaqneq bs yvivat, naq guvf vf ngebpvbhf. Guvf vf vaurerag va n ybg bs raivebazragnyvfz, gbb. Gunabf gnxrf vg frevbhfyl.

    Zberbire, vg’f abg yvxr Gunabf vf cbjre-uhatel sbe uvf bja fnxr. Ur’f abg gelvat gb orpbzr Qvpgngbe Bs Gur Havirefr. Ur’f abg gelvat gb zhygvcyl tbyq naq ubefrf naq jvirf sbe uvzfrys. Nsgre ur shysvyyf uvf zvffvba gb vapernfr gur havirefr’f nirentr hgvyvgl, ur ergerngf gb jung vf nccneragyl n uhzoyr nobqr gb jngpu gur fha frg nyy ol uvf ybarfbzr.

    Svanyyl, uvf zrnaf ner rkcyvpvgyl rtnyvgnevna, pbafvqrevat gur irvy bs vtabenapr naq enaqbzvmvat gur qrnguf jvgubhg erfcrpg gb jrnygu, fgnghf, rgp (naq gur qrnguf, nf na nfvqr, frrz eryngviryl fubeg naq cnvayrff sbe gur zbfg cneg).

    Fubhyq jr pbapyhqr (1) Gunabf qvq abguvat jebat, (2) Nirentr hgvyvgnevnavfz vf ernyyl ernyyl jebat naq guvf zbivr whfg cbvagf bhg gung zbfg crbcyr vaureragyl xabj gung vg’f jebat, be (3) Zbfg crbcyr ner znavchynoyr ol pvarzngbtencuvp gevpxf, qrcvpgvat fbzr sbyxf jvgu “tbbq” zrzrf naq bgure sbyxf jvgu “onq” zrzrf gung ner zbfgyl begubtbany gb gur inyvqvgl bs gurve rguvpny cbfvgvbaf?

    • CatCube says:

      As much as I hate ROT13, I guess it’d be unfair to not use it for massive spoilers (that I sure didn’t see coming) on a new movie.

      V fubhyq abgr gung V’z cerggl urnivyl qrbagbybtvpny (Tbq fnlf qba’g xvyy unys gur cbchyngvba, naq gung’f tbbq rabhtu sbe zr), ohg gb gnxr gur hgvyvgnevna cbfvgvba nethraqb:

      Cneg bs gur ceboyrz jvgu Gunabf’ haqreylvat cyna vf gur nffhzcgvba bs Znyguhfvna fgneingvba va nyy cynprf fvzhygnarbhfyl. V pna’g fnl gung zngurzngvpnyyl jr jvyy riraghnyyl eha bhg bs sbbq sbe crbcyr npebff gur havirefr, ohg ng yrnfg ybpnyyl ba rnegu jr’ir orra *erqhpvat* gur nzbhag bs fgneingvba nf jr’ir grpuabybtvpnyyl vzcebirq ntevphygher (gur Terra Eribyhgvba).

      Jura lbh pbzovar guvf jvgu gur snpg gung xvyyvat 50% bs gur cbchyngvba va na nern jvyy pnhfr irel, irel fvtavsvpnag rpbabzvp qvfehcgvba, guvf zrnaf gung Gunabf cebonoyl qvqa’g vzcebir gur yvirf bs crbcyr ba Rnegu. Gur rpbabzvp pbyyncfr gung jbhyq erfhyg sebz gur qrnguf bs unys bs gur cbchyngvba jvyy cebonoyl zber guna bhgjrvtu gur nqqvgvbany pnybevrf gung pbhyq gurbergvpnyyl orpbzr ninvynoyr.

      Zbfg sbbq va gur HF vf cebqhprq ol n fznyy ahzore bs crbcyr hfvat vagrafvir grpuabybtl. Jura n znffvir nzbhag bs guvf grpuabybtl orpbzrf haninvynoyr qhr gb gur qrnguf bs gur crbcyr jub cebqhpr vg, gung zrnaf gung gur nzbhag bs sbbq ninvynoyr jvyy cebonoyl pbyyncfr, rira vs gurer ner srjre zbhguf gb srrq–cyhf vg jvyy ebg va gur svryqf jvgubhg gur znffvir ybtvfgvpny flfgrz arrqrq gb zbir vg gb gur cbchyngvba.

      Abj, gung qbrfa’g zrna gung gurer nera’g fbzr cynargf jurer guvf jvyy or na vzzrqvngr vzcebirzrag nsgre gur qvfehcgvbaf ner svkrq ol zbivat crbcyr, ohg V qba’g guvax gung guvf vf gehr ba Rnegu nf bs 2018.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Vs Gunabf fvapreryl oryvrirf gung rirel cynarg jvgu n fncvrag cbchyngvba vf ng vzzvarag evfx bs Znyguhfvna pbyyncfr nf bs 2018 va Rnegu’f ersrerapr senzr, ur’f n tbbsonyy. Shegurezber, hayrff yvxr 90% ner fhofvfgrapr snezref, vaqvfpevzvangr xvyyvat jvyy yrnq gb na rpbabzvp pbyyncfr gung xvyyf nyzbfg nf znal nf gur 50% jub qvrq ng enaqbz.
        V pna’g oryvrir V’z fnlvat guvf, ohg guvf cebonoyl znqr zber frafr va gur pbzvp, jurer Qrngu gryyf Gunabf gung orpnhfr gur tnynkl vf svyyvat hc jvgu vagrefgryyne pvivyvmngvbaf, zber crbcyr ner abj nyvir guna unir rire qvrq, fb tb oevat onynapr gb ure xvatqbz.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Abg gb qrsraq xvyyvat 50% bs gur cbchyngvba bs gur havirefr, ohg jbhyq vg arprffnevyl pnhfr n uhtr pbyyncfr? N ovt cneg bs vg vf n shyyl rdhny qvfgevohgvba bs qrnguf npebff nyy pynffrf, qrzbtencuvpf, rgp. Zbfg bs gur gvzr jura lbh guvax nobhg n qvfnfgre pnhfvat n pbyyncfr, vg’f tbvat gb or ng yrnfg cnegyl orpnhfr lbh ybfr nyy gur crbcyr jub pna qb K, be xabj ubj gb L. Va guvf pnfr, unys bs gur vaqhfgevny snezref, bvy ersvarel jbexref, cbjre cyna znvagnvaref, rgp. ner fgvyy nyvir naq jbhyq cerfhznoyl or noyr gb pbagvahr jbexvat.

        • Randy M says:

          How are they chosen? If it is random, you are going to have clusters; some cities without doctors, others without sanitation engineers, and so on. Collapse, maybe not, but the ensuing chaos would lead to considerably more death and lowering of the carrying capacity in the short term.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Orpnhfr xvyyvat unys bs gur havirefr vf jebat. Vg’f boivbhfyl jebat gb fynhtugre uhaqerqf bs gevyyvbaf bs fragvrag orvatf. Gung’f gur creprcgvba bs gur nhqvrapr, yrg nybar gur creprcgvba bs pbzvp obbx zbivrf. Rira gur ivyynvaf (yvxr Ybxv) jvyy abg pninyvreyl gbff nfvqr yvsr.

      Gunabf unf n fgnaqneq ivyynva cybg orpnhfr ur vf n fgnaqneq ivyynva, abg n ureb.

      Yrnivat gung nfvqr, Znyguhfvna yvzvgf qb abg nccyl gb gur Zneiry Havirefr. Gurer ner cerfhznoyl cyragl bs haqre-qrirybcrq cynargf yvxr Rnegu gung unir abg rira pbzr pybfr gb ernpuvat gurve shyy grpuabybtvpny crnx. Gurer ner ab Qlfba fcurerf. Cyragl bs cynargf jr frr ner ohearq bhg jerpxf pncnoyr bs orvat green-sbezrq. Naq, zbfg vzcbegnagyl, gurer vf pbafgnag, ZNFFVIR jne. Gur Zneiry Havirefr vf arire tbvat gb ernpu n pneelvat pncnpvgl orpnhfr gurer vf jnl, jnl, jnl gbb zhpu jne guvaavat bhg gur cbchyngvba nyy gur gvzr. Naq n ybg bs gurfr svtugf ner fcrpvrf-raqvat svtugf: rira Hygeba, n yvtug-jrvtug ivyynva, vf pncnoyr bs qvabfnhevat nyy bs uhznavgl.

      Nyy bs gur tbbq thlf ner pncnoyr bs znxvat fnpevsvprf sbe gur Terngre Tbbq, ohg bayl jura gurl unir GUBHTUG VG GUEBHTU. Znlor Gunabf gubhtug vg guebhtu orsber ur fgnegrq guvf dhrfg, ohg gurer’f ab gubhtug va nalguvat ur qbrf. Ohg guvaxvat guvatf guebhtu vfa’g n jrnxarff, vg’f n fgeratgu.

    • John Schilling says:

      I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to, but from your description and other spoilers I have read, I think I can make a pretty good guess:

      1. Vs lbh xvyy unys gur cbchyngvba bs gur havirefr naq gura ergver, gura jvgu n abzvany 2% tebjgu engr nyy lbh’ir nppbzcyvfurq vf gb cbfgcbar gur Znyguhfvna pngnfgebcur ol ~35 lrnef. Naq lbh’ir cebonoyl perngrq >35 lrnef bs zvfrel naq fhssrevat sbe gur fheivibef bs lbhe yvggyr ncbpnylcfr. Guvf vf abg gur jnl gb svtug Znyguhf, naq vf n arg unez.

      2. Hgvyvgnevnavfz bs nal fbeg arrqf gb or zber guna whfg “Url, V’ir pbzr hc jvgu n dhvpx yvggyr engvbanyvmngvba sbe xvyyvat n ohapu bs crbcyr; bapr V’ir rkcynvarq vg gb lbh V whfg xabj lbh’er tbvat gb yrg zr trg ba jvgu gur xvyyvat!”, be zbfg crbcyr ner whfg tbvat gb frr hgvyvgnevnavfz nf n purnc rkphfr sbe ivyynvaf.

      3. Orpnhfr bs #2, nobhg 99% bs gur zbivrtbvat choyvp ner abg hgvyvgnevnaf naq frr hgvyvgnevnaf nf ivyynvaf. Juvpu vf jul gur hgvyvgnevna punenpgre va gur zbivr vf n ivyynva, naq uvf hgvyvgnevna nethzragf ner qryvorengryl pensgrq gb or frra nf boivbhf engvbanyvmngvbaf sbe ivyynval. Gur ener hgvyvgnevna ivrjre vf tbvat gb cvpx hc ba guvf oyngnag fvtanyyvat, engure guna orvat fb njrq ol gur ener rkcrevrapr bs frrvat n sryybj hgvyvgnevna ba fperra gung gurl vtaber gur synjf va uvf frys-whfgvsvpngvba.

      4. Gunabf vf abg n cnegvphyneyl jryy-qrirybcrq ivyynva rira ol pbzvp-obbx fgnaqneqf, orpnhfr guvf zbivr oneryl unf ebbz sbe nyy bs vgf urebrf naq pna’g nssbeq gb qrirybc gur punenpgre bs gurve nqirefnel. Ur trgf n purnc ovg bs engvbanyvmngvba gb nqq znlor unys n qvzrafvba bs punenpgrevmngvba gb “V’z n ovt htyl fpnel thl jub vf tbvat gb xvyy ybgf bs crbcyr lbh pner nobhg gb cebir ubj onqnff V nz!”, naq gung’f abg pbaivapvat gb nalbar.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Non-spoiler, so not Rot-13’ing.

        Re: 4
        Thanos is a pretty good villain. Most of the Marvel villains are pretty bad with the notable exception of Loki (and I liked Ultron). Thanos seems level-headed in a way that the antagonist in Black Panther was not, and he inspires an absolute feeling of dread whenever he squares off against the Avengers.

        Most of the Marvel movies are kind of peppy and up-beat. This movie’s tone is intense and foreboding. It’s what the DC movies are TRYING to be.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I agree with this.

          Also, I thought the movie was spectacular. I mean literally: it was an amazing spectacle. To take 10 years and 19 (I think?) movies to build to one enormous movie with 50 stars and characters, running almost 3 hours long and yet it doesn’t feel like it, and doesn’t turn into a cluster? Amazing achievement unlike anything done in cinema, and I doubt we’ll ever see anything like it again. Well worth the price of admission and I predict the movie is going to hit $2 billion worldwide box office.

          The only complaint I have is vs jr’er pevgvdhvat Gunabf’ cyna, gura vs lbh pna fanc lbhe svatref naq erfuncr gvzr, ernyvgl, fcnpr, rgp, gura vafgrnq bs xvyyvat unys gur havirefr, jul abg whfg:

          1. Jvfu sbe vasvavgr erfbheprf be

          2. Znxr K% bs gur cbchyngvba fgrevyr.

          Lbh pna nyfb nethr “ur’f ahgf.”

          VVEP, va gur pbzvp ur xvyyrq unys gur havirefr orpnhfr ur jnf va ybir jvgu gur vapneangvba bs Qrngu. Vs gurl unq hfrq guvf zbgvingvba vafgrnq gura ur jbhyq unir fvzcyl orra nabgure rivy ivyynva jub jnagf gb qb onq fghss orpnhfr ur’f onq vafgrnq bs orvat…fyvtugyl flzcngurgvp orpnhfr ur’f qbvat vg “sbe gur terngre tbbq.” Univat fbzrguvat bs n pbzcyrk zbgvingvba znxrf uvz n orggre ivyynva guna va nal ZPH zbivr rkprcg Oynpx Cnagure.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            V fbeg bs nterr, ohg Gunabf unf nyernql gubhtug vg guebhtu naq vf pbzzvggrq gb uvf vqrn. Crbcyr jub unir bofrffvir pbzzvgzrag jba’g ernyyl guvax bs nygreangvirf, ab znggre ubj fzneg gurl ner. Gurl nera’g guvaxvat orvatf nalzber, whfg rzobqvrq jvyycbjre, naq Gunabf vf gung gb gur agu qrterr.

            Crefbanyyl zl ovttrfg ceboyrz jvgu gur svyz vf gung gur ybffrf frrz yvxr n wbxr, orpnhfr vg frrzf yvxr n sbertbar pbapyhfvba rirelbar jvyy or erfheerpgrq va gur arkg svyz. Naq V sernxva’ UNGR erfheerpgvba gebcrf.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ohg “Pbzvp Obbx Qrngu” vf n gebcr. V rkphfr gur hfr bs Pbzvp Obbx Qrngu va n pbzvp obbx zbivr.

            Naq vg’f n fgbel nobhg hygvzngr pbageby bs fcnpr, gvzr, ernyvgl, fbhyf, rgp. Fb orvat znq nobhg tbqyvxr cbjref orvat hfrq gb oevat crbcyr onpx sebz gur qrnq va n fgbel nobhg tbqyvxr cbjre vf haernfbanoyr. Yvxr orvat znq nobhg nyy gur ceboyrzf nffbpvngrq jvgu gvzr geniry va n gvzr geniry zbivr. Fhfcrafvba bs qvforyvrs nobhg gurfr cnegvphyne gbcvpf vf onxrq vagb gur nterrzrag gb frr gur zbivr.

            Naq xabjvat gur cybg bs gur pbzvp obbx nurnq bs gvzr, V xarj guvf jnf tbvat gb unccra naljnl, fb sbe zr gur jubyr zbivr V jnf jnvgvat sbe gur svatre fanc.

            Gur bayl vffhr V unir vf V qba’g guvax V’z tbvat gb yrg zl svir lrne byq frr vg hagvy gur frdhry pbzrf bhg. Ur’f nyjnlf orra bxnl jvgu qrngu bs urebrf va svpgvba (Fgne Jnef, va gur Pybar Jnef pnegbba tbbq thlf qvr rirel rcvfbqr). Ohg V qba’g yvxr gur vqrn bs uvz frrvat Fcvqre-Zna qvr orttvat va Veba Zna’f nezf naq gura unir gb rkcynva “ab, whfg jnvg n lrne sbe gur arkg zbivr naq ur’yy pbzr onpx!”

          • John Schilling says:

            Leaving spoilerville:

            But “Comic Book Death” is a trope. I excuse the use of Comic Book Death in a comic book movie.

            I no longer watch comic-book movies, because I’m not willing to excuse that sort of silliness and particularly not at the same time as I am supposed to be suspending disbelief about a serious fgbel nobhg hygvzngr pbageby bs fcnpr, gvzr, ernyvgl, fbhyf, naq tbqyvxr cbjref.

            You could tell a good story about a villain with the motives ascribed to this one. But if you set out to do so, you’ll pretty quickly come to the conclusion that comic-book superheroes don’t really add anything to that story, except an excuse to kick up the spectacle of the fight scenes. While negating most of their actual consequence, because Comic-Book Death is a Trope.

            “X is a Trope!”, is not an argument for X being good or even tolerably mediocre.

          • mdet says:

            My only real criticism of the movie was “…qba’g Fcvqrl naq Cnagure nyernql unir frdhryf yvarq hc?” V’z gbgnyyl svar jvgu Pbzvp Obbx Qrngu nf n gebcr, ohg gung xabjyrqtr jnf rabhtu gb oevrsyl gnxr zr bhg bs gur fprar naq qel hc n srj bs gur grnef V jnf bgurejvfr furqqvat. V ernyyl qvq jnag znal bs gur Niratref gb qvr, creznaragyl, ohg vs gubfr gjb ner pbzvat onpx, gura nal/nyy bs gur qhfgrq punenpgref pna pbzr onpx, naq bapr ntnva gur urebrf trg bss pbafrdhrapr-serr. Ohg zr xabjvat gur cebqhpgvba fpurqhyr bs gur ZPH vf abg gur zbivr’f snhyg.

            It’s otherwise everything I wanted it to be.

            In response to John, that doesn’t bother me because I might be more interested in characters than stories, if that makes sense. And superheroes are usually pretty interesting characters, trying to find ways to balance personal tragedy and great power and great responsibility.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Okay John. It’s a good idea that you don’t watch comic book movies then. Also, I suggest not watching romcoms if you get annoyed by “misunderstanding that could be explained in seconds if given half the chance temporarily ruins relationship.”

          • Randy M says:

            fgbel nobhg hygvzngr pbageby bs fcnpr, gvzr, ernyvgl, fbhyf, naq tbqyvxr cbjref.

            C’mon, how was that a spoiler?

            On point, comic book/super hero movie resurrection should be restricted to instances where heavily foreshadowed as at least a possibility. Like Knivre moving his mind into the oenva bs gur pbzngbfr zna seen earlier in X-whatever it was, or instances of Cubravk erfheerpgvat Wrna Terl when done well. That way you can have your shocking come back while retaining the impact of other characters dying.
            “He’s surely dead, but we never recovered the body” actually works as a trope because they do explicitly leave the possibility open, though if the characters in the story aren’t genre savvy enough to continue their search for the body the writers risk making them look stupid.

          • fion says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I wouldn’t let a five-year-old anywhere near that film! It was too violent for me in places!

            I guess I’m even more of a wuss than I thought. 😛

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Just because comic books have been using a certain trope for a while doesn’t mean it is a good trope. Some tropes might be executed poorly or better. A good time-travel trope (IMO) is the plot-line behind Days of Future Past, where as a bad time-travel trope is Prisoner of Azkaban.

            I don’t read Comic Books much, but the MCU has avoided a lot of the extreme silliness of the comic books until Guardians of the Galaxy and parts of Thor Ragnarok (like Jeff Goldblum’s entire character and his stupid orgy spaceship).

            In general, I am also not interested in the perpetual power creep that defines the genre or other genres like shonen anime. A good example is Naruto, where merely stalling a tailed beast was an awe-inspiring task that would require your life, by the middle of the series was something you could easily solo, and by the end of the series the tailed beast were basically Elite Mooks.

            MCU has thus far avoided that. In this movie there’s some power creep but it’s extremely reasonable.

            EDIT: Actually, Hela in Ragnarok was ridic OP’d. She seems Thanos-tier, possibly strong enough to 6/10 or 7/10 Thanos.

            Spoilers for IW:

            Gunabf pna znaunaqyr gur Uhyx, ohg ur’f gur bayl bar jub pna qb vg. Gube pna bayl ohfg hc Gunabf orpnhfr ur rkregrq n terng qrny bs rssbeg trggvat Fgbezoernxre.

            I am concerned about the introduction of ungodly powerful characters to one-up Thanos and Worf effecting.

            Some of the kids behind me were a bit upset at points in the movie, though TBH that was kind of universal to EVERYONE watching the movie…

          • John Schilling says:

            In response to John, that doesn’t bother me because I might be more interested in characters than stories, if that makes sense.

            Makes perfect sense. But characters are rarely interesting if they face no real challenges to their goals or consequences to their actions. And for characters who define themselves by beating up bad guys, tropes like CBD and the functional immortality it grants, take away most of the challenge and consequence.

            Also, I find that pretty much any superhero would be an even more interesting character if they faced the same problems without the superpowers (or functional equivalent thereof), and arbitrarily filling your universe with superpowered freaks just powerful enough to be a “fair fight” for a superhero just highlights the silliness. The radioactive spider bite adds nothing to the guy who knows he could have stopped a thief but didn’t and later find that same thief has killed his beloved uncle.

          • Randy M says:

            Also, I find that pretty much any superhero would be an even more interesting character if they faced the same problems without the superpowers

            What stories can be told only or more readily with superpowers?

            Asking how gaining power changes or reveals a person’s character works well in the genre. The super power might be a stand in for authority or wealth, which could make a fine premise for a movie (something like Dave, say) but if you want an action movie where the character is front and center, and isn’t a war movie, super powers work well.

            They can also be used to explore how carelessness can endanger others, like, I think, Hancock . You can also tell the story with more mundane weapons, like in that Very Special episode of Gargoyles (ironically I’m citing this as a non-superhero example).

            Maybe others, but mostly they’re there for their spectacle.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The super power might be a stand in for authority or wealth, which could make a fine premise for a movie (something like Dave, say) but if you want an action movie where the character is front and center, and isn’t a war movie, super powers work well.

            And this is why Batman has turned out the best superhero movies.

          • Nornagest says:

            If you want to tell stories about power, or about exclusion, or status or talent or what have you, it can be useful to have a reason for it that doesn’t come with any cultural baggage.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you want to tell stories about power, or about exclusion, or status or talent or what have you, it can be useful to have a reason for it that doesn’t come with any cultural baggage.

            Wealth is probably a better proxy for real power in the real, contemporary world than physical strength (speed, laser eyeballs, whatever). And since comic-book superheroes put you solidly in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, insisting on the setting being the real, contemporary world is almost perverse. You want to explore unearned power without cultural baggage, have your protagonist be the secret heir to the throne of Camelot, Ruritania, or Westeros. And telling the story of a political leader from an advanced alien world stripped of his power and exiled to Earth can be done perfectly well without invoking superhero tropes.

            Which basically leaves the niche of A: unearned power plus B: a contemporary Earth setting plus (as Randy M noted) C: lots of FX-heavy action sequences. And somehow this niche is expanding to dominate the blockbuster movie market. I do not think this is because of the multitude of storytellers who are deeply interested in exploring the consequences of unearned power, and if so I think they are mostly failing.

          • sfoil says:

            @John Schilling

            But characters are rarely interesting if they face no real challenges to their goals or consequences to their actions. And for characters who define themselves by beating up bad guys, tropes like CBD and the functional immortality it grants, take away most of the challenge and consequence.

            I think stories like this can be compelling, either because the reader/viewer is along for a ride to someplace interesting (escapism?), because of reader projection (power fantasy), or maybe because there’s some type of message or “deeper meaning” involved (Good Prevails Over Evil, Look At How Great The Ingroup Is, etc). I actually think the bigger problem is the lack of consequence rather than challenge.

          • Nornagest says:

            Wealth is probably a better proxy for real power in the real, contemporary world than physical strength (speed, laser eyeballs, whatever).

            But it has plenty of cultural baggage — that’s what I was trying to get at.

            Superheroes make a handy metaphor for just about anything in this space, because you can focus on the parts that work for the story while glossing over the rest. I’m not saying you can’t do that if you make your protagonist super-wealthy or a badass mercenary or the secret Crown Prince of Spain or something, but it’s a lot harder.

          • sfoil says:

            The radioactive spider bite adds nothing to the kid who knows he could have tackled a thief but didn’t and later find that same thief has killed his beloved uncle.

            If you want to tell stories about power, or about exclusion, or status or talent or what have you, it can be useful to have a reason for it that doesn’t come with any cultural baggage.

            This occurred to me a long time ago reading a story by Harlan Ellison called “Basilisk”. A scorned and traumatized war veteran returns home to find everything is changed…but now he’s got PSYCHIC POWERS! Which he uses to, among other things, kill the man who took up with his girl while he was away. Aliens and mind powers add nothing to this classic, true-to-life narrative.

            More recently, I saw the trailer for a terrible-looking movie about oppressed kids with magic powers, which they proceed to use in a destructive manner. Only in self-defense, of course! But again…you know what else is incredibly destructive and could be used by precocious teenagers to defend themselves against an oppressive government? Automatic firearms, satchel charges, land mines, anti-armor rockets, surface-to-air missiles, mortars, nerve gas, etc, etc, etc. The story could be exactly the same: Evil Government Wants To Control Kids’ Lives; Kids Take Matters Into Their Own Hands. Imagine the charismatic leader who commands masses of armed and sworn fanatics casually beckoning the fashionably ethnic female protagonist across a camp fire, AR-15 clutched in his other hand and chest festooned with magazine pouches and bandoliers of rifle grenades over his body armor. She’s impressed, to say the least. Mentor proffers the protagonist his sidearm as she visibly draws back “I can show you how to use your powers…” Keep the soundtrack for maximum comedy.

            A man with a gun, or a girl with a gun, have too much cultural baggage to tell the stories the creators want to tell.

          • Randy M says:

            (psst, sfoil, your name doesn’t correctly link to your blog)

          • baconbits9 says:

            I would say they make for a lazy metaphor, not a handy one. A metaphor is something your audience should be familiar with or with easy to understand the implications or it doesn’t do anything.

          • baconbits9 says:

            A man with a gun, or a girl with a gun, have too much cultural baggage to tell the stories the creators want to tell.

            I doubt it, it makes it harder to tell the stories mostly because the story they want to tell are terribly stripped down. Giving teenagers guns to fight for their freedom has been done tons of times. The problem is that owning a gun doesn’t make you special, but having magical powers does a, waving your gun at the girl across the campfire and making a girl come close to you is a threat, waving your magic hand and controlling her body can be made to look suggestive. The latter allows filmmakers to sidestep the obvious question of “what kind of hero forces a girl to do what he wants”, where the obvious answer is no kind of hero.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yes, most superhero stories could be told without super powers, using status or real weapons in their place.

            One interesting thing about superheroes when they first appear, though, is that they’re in the SF genre. A lot of X-Men First Class felt like an early ’60s SF story about young men dealing with having psionics. Iron Man and Ant-Man are about how a new technologyg would change the world. This is easy to forget, because the technology never does change the world; genre conventions require the hero to hoard it as a personal power source. Change that and you could have some interesting SF.

          • John Schilling says:

            But [wealth] has plenty of cultural baggage — that’s what I was trying to get at.

            I’m not saying you can’t do that if you make your protagonist super-wealthy […], but it’s a lot harder.

            I am skeptical, because I don’t see the creators of It Could Happen to You, Willy Wonka, or Brewsters’ Millions having to overcome any cultural baggage on their way to telling stories about how ordinary people respond to becoming extraordinarily wealthy. I think the cultural baggage you are referring to pertains not so much to money itself, but to the mechanisms by which money is normally obtained. Posit a lottery or a crazy rich uncle or other wholly arbitrary and guilt-free source for a financial windfall, and there’s little baggage. Since your average superhero origin story is equally random and arbitrary, I am skeptical that baggage-avoidance is a major part of the equation.

            But while we are on the subject, two of the more baggage-heavy sorts of wealth are hereditary family fortunes and robber-baron capitalism, including silicon-valley extrapolations of the latter. Yet Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark fit almost seamlessly into their respective fictional universes, with fiscally-induced baggage only to the extent that a particular writer goes out of his way to bring it in.

            And stepping away from wealth, there’s essentially no cultural baggage associated with being a hereditary monarch in a fantasy world or in a period piece set prior to 1776. Everybody understands that this is the wrong way to run a society but, unless you’re making an explicit political allegory about it, nobody will give your protagonist any grief for being a prince if we imagine they lived before Thomas Jefferson invented Democracy.

            And really, you can still get away with that if you set it in a European or African micronation. So I’m unclear as to what, other than the fight scenes, “Black Panther” gained from all the vibranium silliness when there was an equivalent story to be told about a South African principality whose pretender wants to launder modern weapons to oppressed African-Americans. Heck, make it a period piece in 1967 and you don’t even have to change the title.

            Also, there’s surprisingly little cultural baggage surrounding unearned cultural power, like having one’s garage band hit the big time and becoming Rock Gods with all the wealth, influence, and wish-fulfillment fantasy that involves. Except, like most of the previous examples, there’s much less room to go around physically beating people up.

            So, given the competing hypotheses that superhero movies are basically about exploring the consequences of unearned power without cultural baggage, and that superhero movies are basically about kick-ass fight scenes and low-grade wish-fulfillment fantasy, I have to say the “cultural baggage” explanation doesn’t come across as all that convincing.

          • mdet says:

            In the rot13 part of my comment, I did make the point that stories should have consequences, in part because we should get to see how characters react to failure as well as how they react to success, and because winning all the time can get predictable and boring. Iron Man 3 did have one of the most interesting premises of any MCU film, since it was about Tony Stark having to cope with PTSD after his previous adventures.

            And as for what I like in movies and tv, I definitely love creative or spectacular visuals, whether that comes in the form of Marvel’s big action set pieces, or Wes Anderson’s meticulous set design, or Edgar Wright’s clever editing, etc.

            I tentatively think I prefer character-driven to story-driven media, at least insofar as I don’t care anywhere near as much about the implausibility of superhero stories as John does. They meet my standards of being visually engaging, and I enjoy seeing how the various characters’ larger-than-life personas meet and clash and get along and change in reaction to the challenges they face.

            Maybe a good example of both of these is that I enjoyed Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 for its gorgeous visuals and because I found Ryan Gosling’s low-key but determined performance really interesting, even though I wasn’t sure at all what the plot was trying to do. (The story kinda meanders, the villain monologues but does nothing of any consequence, I’m really not sure *why* he wants to do what he does, and the ending gives a little bit of resolution to K but leaves a whole lot of loose ends. I obviously would’ve preferred a better story but I still give it a thumbs-up as-is). Fury Road was another gorgeous + interesting character interactions + weak story that I liked.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Iron-Man 3 dealing with his mental issues is great. It’s why I liked Iron-Man 2 (the first half) as well: Tony Stark dealing with his imminent death!

            Iron-Man 3 sucked because of the power creep. Every random mook is an Avengers-level fighter who can go toe-to-toe with the Iron-Man suit. The Big Bad is scaled up from that. Because “reasons,” Pepper Pots needs to be the hero of Iron-Man 3, so she takes on the Big Bad herself. She’s at, what, Hulk-level strength?

            This is ignored in other films. Maybe she got better or something.

            I don’t care as much about Iron-Man 3 ruining the Mandarin, because I’m not really a comic book fan. However, the villain is pretty lame in Iron-Man 3, even by Marvel standards! I don’t even remember his name or his goal. Some random British scientist that got pissed at Tony Stark because he was late for a meeting?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Comic books (when done well) do the exact same kind of cultural exploration as science fiction. Take issues in our own society, strip away the baggage, and look at them from an outsider’s perspective. So the TOS episode with the half black/half white and half white/half black aliens who hate each other for no reason baffling the Enterprise crew is really about racism. The TNG episode where Riker bangs the alien from the planet of asexuals who have some genetic throwbacks who experience sexual attraction and are therefore outcasts is really about gays. X-Men is really about the civil rights struggle and Professor X is a stand-in for MLK while Magneto is Malcolm X. Wrap it all up in fun space exploration or fantastic powers on earth and you have an approachable way to talk about these issues.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Some random British scientist that got pissed at Tony Stark because he was late for a meeting?

            No, because Tony lied to him about being interested in meeting him to discuss his ideas when really he wanted him to go away because he was weird looking and awkward and Tony wanted to go bang chicks. That’s why he has a personal grudge with Tony, anyway. Beyond that he’s trying to replace the President with the Vice President who would be his puppet in exchange for healing his amputee daughter for general “I want power and wealth because I’m a bad guy” reasons. Which is basically the same as the motivations for the bad guys in Iron Man 1 and Iron Man 2.

            To be honest I can’t think of an MCU villain who’s been any more than 2 dimensional except Thanos and Killmonger from Black Panther, who was far more interesting than T’Challa was. That was my only real complaint with the story from BP: T’Challa was the least interesting character. Even the side characters were better developed because they all had to make choices between loyalty to the throne/nation, loyalty to T’Challa, doing what’s “right,” etc.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Following up, the motivations of bad guys in the MCU:

            Iron Man: Stark’s business partner wants power and wealth.

            The Incredible Hulk: The government wants the Hulk’s power for military…power.

            Iron Man 2: Stark’s competition wants power, fame, and wealth.

            Thor: Loki wants power.

            Captain America: Red Skull wants power.

            The Avengers: Loki/Thanos want to subjugate the Earth (power).

            Iron Man 3: A weird guy once snubbed by Stark wants power and wealth.

            Thor 2: The Dark Elves want power.

            Captain America 2: Hydra wants power.

            Guardians of the Galaxy: Ronan wants power and genocide.

            Avengers 2: Ultron wants power and genocide.

            Ant-Man: Corporate bad guys want money and power.

            Captain America Civil War: Bad guy wants revenge on the Avengers.

            Doctor Strange: Supernatural bad guys want power.

            Guardians 2: Bad guy wants power and genocide.

            Spider-Man Homecoming: Vulture wants money.

            Thor: Ragnarok: Hela wants power and genocide.

            Black Panther: Killmonger wants to spark global revolution to free oppressed black people. I disagree with his worldview, but he’s not after power and genocide for the sake of power and genocide.

            Avengers: Infinity War: see spoilers, but at least it’s not just power for the sake of power.

          • John Schilling says:

            For Loki, the power is at least in part a way to earn his family’s respect. That, plus enjoying the chaos, plus Tom Hiddleston, puts him well above the usual crowd of “Moar moneyz/powerz!” costumed freaks.

            And, going old school, at least Gene Hackman and Terence Stamp had fun with the money and power bits, in a way that was simply contagious.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Hey, let’s give Thunderbolt Ross more credit than that. He doesn’t want to capture the Hulk and turn him into a weapon. He wants to kill the Hulk because the Hulk is a walking natural disaster that levels a city whenever he feels like it.

            This is why he also makes sense as the guy who wants to get superheroes under control in Civil War.

            There’s a reason Ross has always been a pretty good antagonist – Marvel always liked the “antagonist who thinks they’re the hero” trope, but General Ross has a much better claim to it than most. He’s partly responsible for creating the Hulk, the Hulk is a hugely destructive threat to his country, and he sees it as his responsibility to clean up the mess.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ehhhhh, sure, yes, Ross wants to stop the Hulk from destroying things, but that’s secondary to capturing him and bringing his powers under military control. They keep trying to capture him rather than destroy him, and not capture him so they can cure him but so they can study him.

            I agree this is a less-bad antagonist motivation than most of the rest of the MCU as military research perhaps in service of the nation-state is a better reason for extreme use of force rather than “I want lots of power and murder for my own personal reasons or perhaps no reason at all.”

            ETA: Also yes, Hiddleston’s Loki is a lot of fun to watch.

          • mdet says:

            The reason why Pepper took out the Big Bad in Iron Man 3 is because, in my understanding, that movie was about Tony learning that it’s ok to ask for help and to rely on other people. He’s suffering from PTSD, tries to downplay it and go it alone, brags about how easily he could take the Mandarin to hide his insecurity, loses everything, then has to rely on others’ help for the rest of the movie, ending with someone else killing the Big Bad and Tony accepting medical help for his heart condition rather than just relying on his own patch-up job. Oh and Pepper was explicitly cured, they didn’t just forget she had superpowers

            Re: Villains — I think villains should be judged not just by what they want but by what they bring out in the hero. In this respect, Ego from Guardians 2 is my third favorite MCU villain, since he initially comes to Peter as the perfect father he never had, vs Yondu, the flawed father that Peter actually grew up with.

            [Edit: People got to Loki wanting his parents’ respect before me.] Reacting to Loki’s jealousy, Thor learns humility.

            And Winter Soldier is about Cap’s turn from a naively obedient soldier into an individualist who’s highly skeptical of centralized authority (as every good American should be). There’s not much of a Big Bad in this movie, but Hydra’s infiltration and manipulation of Shield is enough to make the point.

            But yeah, all the other villains are pretty much only differentiated by how charismatic they are.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The reason why Pepper took out the Big Bad in Iron Man 3 is because, in my understanding, that movie was about Tony learning that it’s ok to ask for help and to rely on other people. He’s suffering from PTSD, tries to downplay it and go it alone, brags about how easily he could take the Mandarin to hide his insecurity, loses everything, then has to rely on others’ help for the rest of the movie, ending with someone else killing the Big Bad and Tony accepting medical help for his heart condition rather than just relying on his own patch-up job. Oh and Pepper was explicitly cured, they didn’t just forget she had superpowers

            This isn’t at all believable because Iron-Man solely failed because he had absolutely no perimeter defense and was taken by surprise in an unbelievable manner. That’s handing someone an Idiot Ball. When Iron-Man takes the initiative with all his Iron-Man suits, he pretty much destroys the entire villain army EXCEPT for the Big Bad, who can only be killed by Pepper Potts because Reasons.

            There are other established heroes in the MCU (or hell, you can even introduce a NEW hero like Iron-Man 2 brought in Black Widow) who would not be so out of place.

            There a lot of ways to show a messed up person without something as ridiculous as pitting Pepper Potts against the Big Bad. You might as well have Spiderman’s overweight “guy in the chair” friend one-shot Thanos in the next Avengers movie.

            IM3 ranks really low in the pantheon for me. Maybe not down there by Thor: The Dark World, but not much better than the first Captain America. It’s definitely not a movie I have ever felt the urge to re-watch.

          • Deiseach says:

            Iron Man: Stark’s business partner wants power and wealth.

            Ah, Obadiah Stane was a bit more complex than that, or at least there was something there in the character to explore. He very much was involved with the early success of Stark Industries and plainly felt that he should have been given more credit than he was (and it was just as plain that Howard Stark had a realistic evaluation of Stane’s talents and let him do the marketing and business side while keeping control of the actual ‘genius inventor and I own all this’ side). It’s clear that Stane regards himself as Howard’s true successor and the one who should have been given control of the company, and that he took advantage of Howard’s death and Tony’s youth to consolidate his position. The sand in the oyster is that Stark Industries is reliant on Tony’s erratic brilliance for its cutting-edge, and that Tony is every bit as stubborn and haunted by the legacy of Howard Stark as Stane is, so he won’t step down from his father’s company no matter how much Stane nudges him.

            Stane resented Tony because, from his point of view, what was he but a spoiled kid? Sure, he’s a genius, but he prefers to play with his toys than run the business and again, there’s the hint that Stane encouraged Tony to ‘don’t bother with the boring details, that’s what I’m there to do’ in order to consolidate power in his hands – and the film at least shows how good Stane is at these kinds of office politics, going around Tony to get the backing of the board and managing to shut him out of his own company, and manipulating Tony himself.

            Yes, Stane wants power and wealth, but he’s also driven by a complicated and unresolved issue with Howard Stark where he seems to have been the star-struck protegé who wanted to contribute to Howard’s genius, but unfortunately his talents lay not in the sciences but in the business (and people-schmoozing) area. Howard took advantage of that (and possibly of young Obie’s hero-worship) for the sake of building up his company because he recognised Stane’s talents and that a successful business needed someone who could run the day-to-day business side, and I imagine Stane indulged in dreams of “when Howard finally steps down, I’ll be the heir apparent” except that’s not how it worked out.

            So Stane has a lot of resentment towards Howard (who is dead and can’t be got at) and Tony for cheating him out of his rights, as he sees it, and taking the company out from under Tony is just balancing the scales.

          • Matt M says:

            Isn’t that also basically the plot of Ant-Man, from the villain perspective?

          • MrApophenia says:

            Not sure where you’re getting Ross wanting to capture and weaponize the Hulk? Unless I am completely misremembering, he just wants to kill him. (But maybe I am completely misremembering, and/or conflating with comics Ross.)

            I believe the generally more weasely Lt. Glenn Talbot is traditionally the one who wants to use the Hulk to his own ends, in the comics at least; as generally contrasted against ol’ Thunderbolt’s much more straightforward Ahab motivation.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’d say Marvel’s worst movies came right after Avengers.
            Iron Man 3 was a leftist conspiracy theory about how there’s no such thing as a Terrorist of Color; they’re just actors hired to play bogeymen by white CEOs. Also the evil white CEO makes explodey men and Pepper Potts gets infected just long enough to kill him when Iron Man can’t?
            Thor: The Dark World was just incoherent. The Dark Elves have been off the grid, now they’re back and want to destroy the universe with a MacGuffin. Like several previous superhero movies, they carefully establish that if the MacGuffin’s CGI happens, one or more planets will be destroyed. The CGI happens and no planet is destroyed. Somehow this leads to teleport spam?

      • MrApophenia says:

        Yrnivat nfvqr gur oebnqre dhrfgvbaf nobhg zbenyvgl, lbhe thrff nobhg ubj gur zbivr unaqyrf gur gbcvp vf jnl bss. Gunabf trgf gur zbfg cybg nep naq qrirybczrag bs nal punenpgre va gur zbivr – V guvax lbh pbhyq ernyyl znxr gur nethzrag gung Gunabf vf gur npghny cebgntbavfg bs gur zbivr. Ur’f na nagvureb abg va gur zbqrea frafr (zbenyyl nzovthbhf thl gur nhqvrapr fgvyy ebbgf sbe) ohg va gur bevtvany frafr bs n ivyynvabhf cebgntbavfg.

        Vg vf nyfb, irel cbvagrqyl, abg gur pnfr gung uvf hgvyvgnevnavfz vf n pyrne engvbanyvmngvba sbe whfg jnagvat gb xvyy n ohapu bs crbcyr. Ba gur pbagenel, gur zbivr ernyyl qbrf chfu gur vqrn gung ur ubarfgyl guvaxf guvf vf nyy sbe gur terngre tbbq; vg’f abg whfg n yvar bs ohyyfuvg.

        Gur zbivr qbrfa’g rire ernyyl rkcrpg gur nhqvrapr gb nterr jvgu uvz, ohg gurl jbex cerggl uneq gb znxr uvz na vagrerfgvat punenpgre jub vf qbvat jung ur vf qbvat bhg bs erny pbaivpgvba, abg whfg n zbhfgnpur-gjveyvat fhcreivyynva.

    • hls2003 says:

      Nf Wbua Fpuvyyvat abgrf, Gunabf’ cebsrffrq zbgvingvbaf ner rkgerzryl qhzo vs bar pbafvqref gung ur unfa’g fuhg bss cbchyngvba tebjgu. Nalguvat ur qbrf jvyy or haqbar jvguva qrpnqrf be yrff. Nsgre nyy, znal Rhebcrna pbhagevrf ybfg zrnfhenoyr senpgvbaf bs gurve cbchyngvba gb Jbeyq Jne V, naq lrg jrer noyr gb erpbire shyyl naq unir ynetre nezvrf ninvynoyr gb svtug jvguva gjb qrpnqrf. Ur vf jebat nobhg gur ceboyrz naq jebat nobhg gur fbyhgvbaf. Vs ur jrer n hgvyvgnevna, uvf pnyphyngvbaf jbhyq or fb sne jebat nf gb or nofheq. (Vg vf nyfb fhecevfvat gb zr gung gurl znqr, rffragvnyyl, n enqvpny raivebazragnyvfg gur ivyynva).

      Gur orggre rkcynangvba, V jbhyq fnl, vf gung Gunabf vf xabja nf “Gur Znq Gvgna.” Ur rkcynvaf gung ur uvzfrys rkcrevraprq gur genhzn bs frrvat uvf ubzr qrfgeblrq ol birecbchyngvba (ubj eryvnoyr uvf aneengvba vf znl or hapregnva; va gur pbzvpf vg jnf Gunabf jub qrfgeblrq uvf bja ubzrjbeyq, V oryvrir). Ur guhf unf na veengvbany ohtnobb nobhg gung cnegvphyne guerng. Gb chg uvz vagb nal fbeg bs pburerag cuvybfbcuvpny senzrjbex vf n zvfgnxr. Ur vf zber yvxr fbzrbar jubfr ybirq barf jrer xvyyrq ol n erqurnqrq zna, pbapyhqrf gung tvatref unir ab fbhy, naq guhf qrivfrf n cyna gb ahxr Verynaq. Gurer vf n pbaarpgvba orgjrra gur unez fhssrerq naq gur unez ceriragrq (srjre zheqref ol erqurnqf jvyy bpphe, cerfhznoyl) ohg vg vf abg nal xvaq bs n pbafvfgrag be ybtvpny cuvybfbcul. Vg vf fvzcyl n cnegvphynevmrq bofrffvba bs na vafnar frevny xvyyre.

      Bqqyl, creuncf gur fvatyr zbfg qvfpbeqnag abgr va gur zbivr sbe zr jnf gung jura Gube nofbeorq gur “shyy oynfg bs n fgne,” V pna ohl Gube fheivivat – fbeg bs – ohg ubj gur urpx qvq uvf pybgurf fgnl vagnpg? (Zl jvsr erfcbaqrq jvgu na raguhfvnfgvp “Lrnu, gurl qrsvavgryl fubhyq unir ohearq bss!” Uzz.)

      • Randy M says:

        To reduce mosquito cbchyngvba, sometimes we release male mosquitos sterilized by gamma radiation to compete with the females, crashing the cbchyngvba in the next generation.
        Obviously in the Marvel universe Gunabf can’t release humans affected by gamma radiation, because that would create a generation of super-humans. (Or is that an explanation for mutants?) He should try accelerating the production of sexbots.

      • fion says:

        Yeah, I think your take on it makes a lot of sense.

        Regarding the arhgeba fgne, bar bs zl nfgebabzre sevraqf qvq n onpx-bs-gur-rairybcr pnyphyngvba gung pbapyhqrq gung gur gbgny syhk bs n arhgeba fgne jbhyq unir zrygrq gur qrfverq zrgny va n znggre bs anabfrpbaqf engure guna n znggre bs zvahgrf, juvpu V sbhaq n zvyqyl nzhfvat cbvag.

        • hls2003 says:

          You friend knows gur zrygvat cbvag naq fcrpvsvp urng bs heh? In any event, gur ovttre pbaprea jbhyq or gung gur nkr urnq znl or vaqrfgehpgvoyl rapunagrq, ohg gur unaqyr vf whfg znqr bs jbbq. Gube jvyy chg fbzrbar’f rlr bhg fjvatvat vg nebhaq jura gur unaqyr funggref ng fhcrefbavp fcrrqf.

          • fion says:

            Warning to any spoiler-sensitive skim-readers: below not rot13’ed

            No, but I think the longest she could possibly get was 6 nanoseconds using real metals. Even if we allow the fictional metal to have the relevant properties being an order of magnitude larger than is possible we don’t get close. Of course, it is a fictional metal so anything is possible, but I think it’s fun to draw attention to just how crazy the numbers involved would have to be.

            Haha, that’s definitely true. But then again, it is special wood!

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Dude, where have you been since 2011? Taking utilitarianism seriously is the mark of a Marvel villain. Last time someone did it, Thor yelled a rule (“You can’t kill a race!”) and hammered his face. So conclude 2.

    • Nornagest says:

      (Not going to bother ROT13ing this.)

      Leaving aside all the possible problems with the plan’s logic, I wouldn’t expect any significant proportion of the audience to be committed utilitarians, let alone such committed utilitarians that they’ll follow the theory off the proverbial cliff. It’s not always easy to find that in philosophy departments, let alone randos in movie theaters.

      Most people are totally unaware of the different schools of ethics; most of the people that aren’t, haven’t thought about it enough to have a strong opinion; and most of the people that have, prefer another school or have come up with some kind of half-baked rationalization to get around Repugnant Conclusion-type issues.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Nz V jrveq sbe guvaxvat gurer jnf fbzrguvat arne gur ortvaavat bs gur zbivr guna gur grzcbenel qrnguf ng gur raq?
      Vg’f orra gjb lrnef fvapr Pvivy Jne. Nyy gur riragf va Oynpx Cnagure unccrarq jvguva gjb zbaguf bs gung. Gur riragf bs Fcvqre-Zna fgnegrq gjb zbaguf nsgre Pvivy Jne naq qvqa’g pbire zhpu gvzr. Fb gurer’f guvf tnc bs nyzbfg gjb lrnef jurer nyzbfg abguvat unccrarq naq gur urebrf jrer fghpx ubyqvat gur fnq fgnghf dhb sebz gur raq bs Pvivy Jne.
      Gurer’f ab gryyvat ubj zhpu bs guvf gvzryvar jvyy fgnaq ng gur raq bs Niratref 4, ohg vs gur erfbyhgvba vf whfg trggvat gur tnhagyrg bss Gunabf naq erfrggvat gur pbfzbf gb ubj vg jnf 24 ubhef rneyvre (juvpu vf ubj vg unccrarq va gur 1991 pbzvp), guvf vf fnq.

    • mdet says:

      I agree with what everyone else has said, but I think your (3) explains most of it.

    • fion says:

      V’z flzcngurgvp gb Gunabf’f ybtvp, ohg V guvax ur snvyf ba uvf bja grezf.

      Abg nyy cynargf/fbpvrgvrf va gur havirefr jvyy or fvzvyneyl bire-cbchyngrq. Fbzr jvyy or cevzvgvir naq fheebhaqrq ol na bnfvf bs hagnccrq erfbheprf. Bguref jvyy or fbcuvfgvpngrq naq jvyy unir svtherq bhg cbchyngvba pbageby naq erfbhepr znantrzrag va gurve ybpny nern. Bayl n irel srj jvyy or ehaavat bhg bs erfbheprf naq tebjvat hafhfgnvanoyl, fhpu gung n enqvpny cbchyngvba erqhpgvba pbhyq uryc gurz. Rnegu vf nethnoyl fhpu n fbpvrgl, ohg vg frrzf gb zr gung va n pbhcyr bs uhaqerq lrnef jr’yy rvgure unir penfurq be svtherq vg bhg. Ubj znal cynargf jvyy or va gung srj uhaqerq lrnef jvaqbj? Naq jul qbrfa’g Gunabf abg whfg “uryc” gubfr cynargf/fbpvrgvrf? Uvf enaqbz jnl bs qbvat guvatf qbrf abg fbhaq bcgvzny.

      V guvax gur svyz-znxref ner gelvat gb chg sbejneq na nethzrag gung nirentr hgvyvgnevnavfz vf onq. Gurl’er onfvpnyyl fnlvat “lbh xabj gung vqrn gung lbh guvax fbhaqf tbbq? Jryy urer’f gur ybtvpny pbapyhfvba bs vg! Qbrfa’g ybbx fb tbbq abj, qbrf vg???”

      Naq V guvax vg’f npghnyyl irel pbzzba va svpgvba gung gur onq thlf ner gur barf jub ner pbzzvggrq gb na vqrny va n snveyl ybtvpnyyl pbafvfgrag jnl naq gur tbbq thlf ner gur barf jub fnl “ohg vg’f whfg jebat!” Orvat jvyyvat gb znxr fnpevsvprf znxrf lbh n onq thl. Hfvat ernfba gb neevir ng n pbapyhfvba gung qbrfa’g frrz vaghvgviryl evtug znxrf lbh n onq thl. Uryy, rira pbzcebzvfr frrzf gb znxr lbh n onq thl!

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Va gur erny jbeyq, birecbchyngvba vf n svpgvbany ohtnobb.

      Va gur ZPH, birecbchyngvba vf nccneragyl n ceboyrz. Gunabf unf grfgrq guvf ng yrnfg gjvpr gung jr xabj nobhg, obgu cbfvgviryl naq artngviryl: ur snvyrq gb qb vg sbe Gvgna juvpu sryy, naq ur qvq vg sbe Tnzben’f ubzrjbeyq juvpu orpnzr, vs abg n cnenqvfr, bar va juvpu ab puvyq unq na rzcgl fgbznpu.

      V xabj crbcyr va gur erny jbeyq jub fhofpevor gb gur snyynpl gung mreb-cbchyngvba-tebjgu vf arprffnel gb fgbc znaxvaq sebz orvat jvcrq bhg. V qba’g yvxr gubfr crbcyr. Ohg V qvqa’g yrg gur snpg gung gurl zvtug hfr guvf zbivr gb whfgvsl gurve npgvbaf znxr zr guvax gung Gunabf vf n onq ivyynva. Orpnhfr V qba’g yrg gubfr crbcyr ehvba zl yvsr. (Frr gur haeryngrq guernq nobir ba guvf cntr sbe qaqaefa’f nqivpr gb Gnggreqrznyvba gung lbh fubhyqa’g ungr fbzrguvat whfg orpnhfr crbcyr lbh ungr jbhyq rawbl vg.)

      Gunabf unq whfgvsvpngvba sbe uvf npgvbaf va uvf havirefr. V qba’g jnag gb ercrng nyy gur snpgf bs gur zbivr gb crbcyr jub unira’g frra vg, ohg gung zbivr whfgvsvrq gung birebchyngvba vf n ceboyrz va gur ZPH, whfg yvxr vg whfgvsvrq gung gurer ner zntvpny fcryyf be SGY qevirf be nep ernpgbef be Vasvavgl Fgbarf.

      > Naq jul qbrfa’g Gunabf abg whfg “uryc” gubfr cynargf/fbpvrgvrf?

      Orpnhfr ab bar jvyy yrnea bgurejvfr. Vs lbh whfg tvsg gurz n qbhoyvat bs erfbheprf, gurl jvyy rkcnaq gb gubfr erfbheprf. Vs gurl rkcrevrapr gur unyivat bs cbchyngvba naq frr gur erfhygvat orarsvgf, gurl pna rvgure yrnea ba gurve bja gb pbageby cbchyngvba be qb enaqbz phyyvat ba gurve bja va gur shgher. Naq jr qba’g rira xabj vs gur Tnhagyrg pbhyq qb nyy gung. Lbh pna fnl “ur unq gbgny pbageby bire gur havirefr” ohg ba-fperra jr qvqa’g frr uvz perngvat fbzrguvat sebz abguvat.

      Ntnva, birecbchyngvba vf n fghcvq vqrn va gur erny jbeyq, ohg fb vf whacvat bhg n jvaqbj naq erylvat ba lbhe yrivgngvba pybnx gb fgbc lbh sebz qlvat.

      • John Schilling says:

        Orpnhfr ab bar jvyy yrnea bgurejvfr. Vs lbh whfg tvsg gurz n qbhoyvat bs erfbheprf, gurl jvyy rkcnaq gb gubfr erfbheprf. Vs gurl rkcrevrapr gur unyivat bs cbchyngvba naq frr gur erfhygvat orarsvgf,

        Gur “orarsvgf” bs nyzbfg sbhe ovyyvba enaqbz ivbyrag qrnguf ba Rnegu nybar? Va rkpunatr sbe n cheryl grzcbenel cbchyngvba erqhpgvba, ynfgvat ab zber guna n srj qrpnqrf? Gur qvfehcgvba naq fhssrevat qhr gb gur avtu-ncbpnylcgvp pngnfgebcur jvyy ynfg ybatre guna gung; sbe fgnegref nccebkvzngryl gur ragver cbchyngvba bs gur havirefr jvyy fhssre unys n praghel be fb bs CGFQ. Zbfg rpbabzvrf naq znal pvivyvmngvbaf jvyy pbyyncfr.
        Gurer vf nccebkvzngryl ab yvivat orvat gung jvyy npghnyyl orarsvg sebz guvf, naq gur srj rkprcgvbaf jvyy or gur jneybeqf jub pna bayl guevir va gur punbf.

        Rira vs lbh fgvchyngr gung gur Rnegu jbhyq unir orra n cnenqvfr vs vgf cbchyngvba unq fgbccrq tebjvat ng 3.8 ovyyvba, cngu qrcraqrapr znggref naq lbh pna’g trg gurer sebz urer ol whfg xvyyvat gur bgure 3.8 ovyyvba crbcyr. Fb rira vs jr nffhzr gung birecbchyngvba vf “whfgvsvrq” nf na ZPH ceboyrz, engure guna fvzcyl nffregrq, guvf fbyhgvba vf zvaq-obttyvatyl fghcvq, varssrpghny, naq rivy. Pvgvat vg nf na rknzcyr bs fbzrguvat hgvyvgnevnaf fubhyq purre sbe, vf jul zbfg bs gur jbeyq jnagf hgvyvgnevnaf frag gb gur pnzcf.

  7. Andrew Hunter says:

    Seeking more book recommendations on a specific theme: naval history of the progress of a war. Two great examples of books I liked and want more of: Ian Toll’s Pacific Crucible and Massie’s Castles of Steel. I want a history book about some war–WW2 is a great option, but I’ll accept anything as far back as, IDK, maybe Lepanto? Probably once we get to Napoleon things become more interesting?–and a campaign or series of campaigns with interesting things about the politics, people, logistics, and technology involved.

    Bean’s blog has a few recommendations, but I’m not quite up for the 14-volume official US history of WW2, and I’m a bit Jutlanded out at the moment.

    • Urstoff says:

      I just finished Pacific Crucible and am now half way through The Conquering Tide. So if you haven’t read that yet, definitely read it. I hope the third book comes out this year, but haven’t heard anything yet. James Hornfischer’s books (Neptune’s Inferno and The Fleet at Flood Tide) seem to be well-received, but I haven’t read them.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Roger Crowley’s “Empires of the Sea” is a good coverage of the wars between the Habsburgs and their allies and the Ottomans between 1521 (the Siege of Rhodes) and 1571 (Lepanto). It might not be quite what you’re looking for, since land combat (Rhodes, Malta, and Cypress) feature a bit more heavily than naval combat, but the land combat is presented in a context of a sea-based strategy.

      • mrjeremyfade says:

        Mad props for Roger Crowley.

        “Conquerors” is a fascinating look at how Portugal got their global empire started.

        “City of Fortune” covers the rise of Venice.

        “1453” has less, but not no, naval element.

        “Empires of the Sea” is a fascinating look at the era around Lepanto and the great sieges.

    • Tarpitz says:

      If you don’t want to read the full 14 volumes, Morrison also wrote a “short” (600 page) version called The Two Ocean War.

  8. James says:

    In OT100.25, I panicked and asked for advice because a woman I like invited me to go out dancing with her and a female friend. A quick update is only fair in exchange for all the responses I got, as I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seats:

    I went, hung out, danced, had fun, and am glad that I went, but didn’t make any headway in courting her, nor do I expect to in the future. Things were warm and cordial, but any attempt to steer things in a more flirty, less just-friends-y direction were rebuffed clearly enough.

    When I’d last seen her she was acting in a way that led me to believe she was into me, but I now realise that this was just because she was on MDMA that night. A tricky confound.

    We were trading weird traditions from our respective countries—I mentioned Guy Fawkes night, where we celebrate burning Catholics—and they seemed both impressed that I’d heard of Zwarte Piet and slightly nonplussed that I said it seemed fairly harmless, for which I respectively thank and blame Aapje.

    Ho hum. But I had another date the next day that went rather better, so I’m not losing any sleep over this one… even if she is gorgeous.

    • Aapje says:

      and they seemed both impressed that I’d heard of Zwarte Piet and slightly nonplussed that I said it seemed fairly harmless, for which I respectively thank and blame Aapje.

      Ah yes, that is not a safe position to take, since it is at the core of the Dutch culture wars (which has escalated to road blocks and a threat to commit a terrorist attack). The wise move is not to play, or at least not until you get her opinion (and don’t deviate too much from it).

      I did merely say: “get her to explain things to you,” not ‘judge Dutch culture,’ so I plead innocent to leading you astray, although I am guilty of not recognizing that you might go straight for the jugular, rather than ask about fierljeppen, licorice, stroopwafels, ice skating or any of the other safe topics that I have discussed here in the past.

    • keranih says:

      I went, hung out, danced, had fun, and am glad that I went, but didn’t make any headway in courting her, nor do I expect to in the future. Things were warm and cordial, but any attempt to steer things in a more flirty, less just-friends-y direction were rebuffed clearly enough.

      …granted, I am 25 years out of date with how Kids These Days do things, but that was a pretty fast decision. You might have tried too hard, too fast.

      Try giving it a bit to cool off, and then try less hard. If she’s still stand offish, then drop it.

      I wasn’t there, I didn’t see you, I don’t know. But her lizard brain has a 7-10 year end game, so give her (or the next female of your interest) a bit more time to make up her mind.

    • Deiseach says:

      At least you know now, and you had a good time. If you hadn’t gone, you’d still be wondering “did I have a chance, I should have gone”.

      And definitely keep in contact, because at least you know you have someone you can hang out with and go out for a good time (in a bunch) with 🙂

  9. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to devise a story where men are from Mars and women are from Venus, literally. All men and all women, that is.

    • Machine Interface says:

      This is set in a semi-distant future where artificial parthenogenesis has been mastered. Venus has been colonized and terraformed by radical feminists, who perpetuate themself by creating only women. Mars has been colonized and terraformed by radical men right activists, who perpetuate themself by creating only men. Meanwhile on Earth, the singularity has happened and everyone is a genderless uploaded consciousness piloting swarms of bots.

      [ok not much of a story, but it works]

    • johan_larson says:

      It’s 1924, and we are in McKay County, Manitoba, a backwoods part of Canada. Around here the towns are named after classical people and places, the work of a land surveyor who was very proud of his grammar-school education. There’s a Pericles and an Athens, and of course a couple of towns named Mars and Venus.

      It is the custom here to hold a yearly dance where all the marriageable young men and women can meet under the watchful eyes of a couple of older folks. In more uptown places it might be called a Debutante Ball, but here it’s the Spring Dance. It’s a small affair, with about twenty or so dancers in attendance. And as it happens, at this particular dance hall in this particular year, all the men are from Mars and all the women are from Venus.

    • Nornagest says:

      Eliezer did that one somewhere in his back catalog.

    • Evan Þ says:

      A summer camp used to name its cabins after planets, or maybe after Roman divinities. Unfortunately, it’s fallen on hard times, and there’re fewer campers this year – few enough to fit into two cabins. So, all the guys stay in Mars; all the girls stay in Venus.

      In the next chapter, the camp falls through a hole of Sufficiently Advanced Technology to end up on an otherwise-unpopulated world.

  10. Philosophisticat says:

    Scott and a few others here have previously expressed sympathy for Negative Average Preference Utilitarianism. As best I can tell, the main reasons they have come from a paper by Roger Chao Scott linked to in an earlier post. I’ve said before that the arguments in that paper are very confused, and that the view isn’t taken seriously by philosophers for good reason, but I decided to write up an explanation of why.

    • Not A Random Name says:

      Thanks for posting, was an interesting read.

    • vV_Vv says:

      It seems that all variants of utilitarianism run into morally absurd conclusions. I wonder why so many people are drawn to this philosophy.

      • It’s mathy. That’s the next best thing to truthy.

      • albatross11 says:

        Is there a system of deciding right and wrong that doesn’t sometimes end up in absurd-sounding conclusions?

        • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

          I believe so. Though that will depend on what you take to be absurd.

          How about “Do what your conscience seems to be saying?” Seems wrong, but not absurd.

          Anyhow, it’s easy to come up with systems that don’t have as many extreme absurdities as utilitarianism.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        People like the idea that you have some kind of moral obligation to help those in need. If I walk past a drowning man because I don’t want to take a minute out of my day, we want to be able to say not just that it would have been better if I had helped him, but that I should have helped him.

        If you grant that this obligation exists, which a lot of people clearly want to, utilitarianism is a natural conclusion. It’s a lot less obviously silly alternatives like the Copenhagen interpretation of ethics.

        As for why people are drawn to it despite these problems, I don’t think most people stop to engage in edge-case-testing thought experiments before adopting a stance.

        • vV_Vv says:

          If you grant that that obligation exists, which a lot of people clearly want to, utilitarianism is a natural conclusion.

          I don’t see how this follows.

          It’s a lot less obviously silly alternatives like the Copenhagen interpretation of ethics.

          Which is a strawman that nobody argues for.

        • Nick says:

          If utilitarianism is so natural a conclusion of belief in moral obligations, how come it took so long for someone to come up with it? Either other conclusions are more natural, or there are plenty more natural conclusions, or else it’s very mysterious why it took us so long to hit upon it.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems to me (as a very unsophisticated thinker in this area) like the big advantage of utilitarianism is that it lets you do some calculations and think about large numbers of people and small effects and get some kind of answer. There are a lot of real-world issues in politics and economics where you really need this notion.

          • vV_Vv says:

            It seems to me (as a very unsophisticated thinker in this area) like the big advantage of utilitarianism is that it lets you do some calculations and think about large numbers of people and small effects and get some kind of answer.

            How so?

            You can divine QUALYs or something and then add them, or average them, but it’s a garbage-in-garbage-out calculation which typically results in conclusions that grossly violate moral intuitions, not just in edge cases but also in practical ones (e.g. the EAs who say that well-off educated Westerns should refrain from having children in order to donate their disposable income to high-fertilty third-world people who live at the edge of starvation, since this is apparently a more “efficient” use of resources).

          • Nick says:

            albatross,

            Can you be more specific? Do you just mean being able to compare harms and benefits like in the torture vs dust specks thing? Utilitarianism can do that, sure, but part of the question is whether trying to compare and balance and so on even needs to be done, or whether a rule like “don’t torture people” suffices instead, or a virtue which excludes torture entirely, etc. The question is especially pressing if actually trying to compare and balance and so on leads to endless paradoxes or repugnant conclusions.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @vV_Vv

            It’s worse than that. Utilitarianism says you should ditch the children you already have in favor of donating more to EA.

          • skef says:

            Theories of ethics that are responsive to intuition start as attempts to generalize about the role of value in decision-making. Hypothetical cases play a role in that process of generalization, but the initial formulations tend to be motivated by concrete cases.

            All forms of consequentialism focus on … consequences. Consequentialist theories become interesting when intuitions concerning the value of some act judged by its consequences diverge from how other theories characterize the value. So you would not expect interest in consequentialism to develop without that divergence being evident in concrete cases.

            I would argue that there was minimal divergence of that sort prior to industrialization. The scope of predicable consequences was in general much smaller, and the few actions that could really muck things up could already be judged wrong by other ethical standards or social conventions. The prospects for making things much better by way of conventionally (to the time) unacceptable means were few.

            As I once said: “there are today not just ends but accidents that can cause more suffering and death than virtually anyone in ancient Greece could hope to intentionally bring about in her lifetime, if she so wished.” This is a huge change, and I’m not surprised that Consequentialism did not emerge in any lasting way prior to the inflection point.

          • albatross11 says:

            Suppose there is some otherwise-morally-neutral policy proposed change (maybe something complicated involving depreciation schedules for the tax code). We come to the conclusion that N people will be made worse off by this change, and M people will be made better off. How should we think about whether or not we want to make this change?

            It seems to me that trying to quantify the effects by more-or-less summing them up is the best way to get a sensible answer.

          • liquidpotato says:

            @albatross11
            This seems like an incomplete argument to me. For one thing, how would we determine what is good/bad for N and M? It leaves a lot to the interpretation of whichever random person happens to be reading the argument.

            I always thought the clean energy argument to be something along this line for instance. We say coal is bad for the environment/health of a lot of people so we do our best to close the coal plants, killing off the mining towns and their industries thereby leading to lose of jobs for that sector which led to (the possibility) of something like the Trump presidency, which may wipe out whatever good was supposed to be gained by shuttling the coal plants. (1)(2)

            (1) To pre-empt any replies along this line, I am not talking about the law of unintended consequences but rather that what is good for a person/demographic can be really subjective.

            (2) It’s too early still to say what a Trump presidency means. However, I will say that I never in a million years would have expected peace in Korea to happen less than 2 years into his presidency.

        • John Schilling says:

          If you grant that this obligation exists, which a lot of people clearly want to, utilitarianism is a natural conclusion.

          Wouldn’t the natural conclusion be deontology, with an explicit rule of “You must help people in distress if you can easily do so”? Or maybe virtue ethics, with helping people in distress as a cardinal virtue?

          I’m not seeing how you get to utilitarianism or consequentialism as the obvious answer, when every other ethical system can get the same answer without requiring the observer to solve even a trivial math problem before helping the drowning man.

          Well, OK, except for Objectivism.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            I shouldn’t have trimmed down the original version of that post, where I called utilitarianism as an obvious place to reach if you build out from “Help people” as a pillar. My new phrasing is bad and I retract it rather than trying to fix things.

            But if a utilitarian seeing a drowning man has to solve a trivial math problem about utility, the “Helping people you can easily help” deontologist must solve an at-least equally difficult question about “easily”. And you can’t drop the easily clause without obligating our deontologist to spend every waking moment curing malaria.

          • MB says:

            What about: if it’s hard even to decide whether helping is easy, then it’s actually hard.

        • Jiro says:

          I grant that this obligation exists in central cases, and so does everyone else who “grants that this obligatrion exists”.

    • rahien.din says:

      Thanks for writing this! It’s very clear and very good.

      The hitch I ran into was in the discussion of NAPU’s implications for procreation :

      Second, NAPU suggests that the following would be close to an ideal procreative policy: we have many, many, many children – then, as infants, we painlessly kill them. This would be wonderful according to NAPU because these additional children will add to the denominator, without adding many frustrated preferences. Infants do not have many future directed desires, and so if they do not live long, they have much fewer unsatisfied desires than the average person. Note that Chao could not say that killing the children would remove them from the denominator, because then his view would no longer be immune to the “killing the worst off” objection.

      This seems to be a vulnerability for any form of utilitarianism, insofar as it includes “everyone who ever was” in the denominator. I kind of think that all you’ve shown is that it is absurd to consider the preferences of the dead… which sort of turns it into a straw argument.

      Wouldn’t it be sufficient to say that “a preference being unsatisfied lowers the welfare of a person, but a satisfied preference does not improve the welfare of a person” is isomorphic to the foundations of antinatalism?

      • Philosophisticat says:

        No, this is only a problem for NAPU and other negative averagist views. Standard averagist views do not have this particular problem because infants who die young arguably do not have a higher overall balance of preference satisfaction than adults if you allow yourself to count satisfied preferences positively (ditto for hedons, etc.). NAPU does not allow this, hence the issue.

        Non-averagist views don’t have this problem because there is no denominator.

        Non-averagist views with negative views of welfare, both of the preference and non-preference variety, tend to lead you towards anti-natalism (See e.g. Christoph Fehige’s view). It is not the only way to get to anti-natalism, though. David Benatar and Seana Shiffrin both have anti-natalist arguments, for example, that do not rely on a negative view of welfare.

        • rahien.din says:

          Eh. I largely agree with you, but I think the bit about procreation-for-infanticide is an overreach.

          David Benatar and Seana Shiffrin both have anti-natalist arguments, for example, that do not rely on a negative view of welfare.

          Honestly, when I read your description of NAPA, I was reminded immediately of Benatar. The necessary asymmetries are very similar.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            It might look like that on the surface, but I think Benatar is not a utilitarian of any stripe, and his favored asymmetry is a bit different. Benatar thinks that for people who already exist both the positive and the negative stuff count. But he thinks that when deciding whether to create people, you only get to count the negative stuff. Obviously that’s pretty weird, but he has his arguments for it.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Also, I don’t see your reasons for thinking it’s an overreach. I explained why it’s a pretty straightforward implication of the view. You seem to think that the problem relies on including everyone who ever was, but it’s not necessary. It follows even if you think that only existing and future people get counted in the averaging, and every single remotely plausible averagist view must say that.

          • rahien.din says:

            It might look like that on the surface, but

            I’m not claiming Benatar is a utilitarian. I don’t know if he is.

            There is a certain claim, “Absence of bad is necessarily good, absence of good is not necessarily bad.” Benatar’s antinatalism is that claim applied only to the decision to procreate. NAPU is that claim systematized broadly into an ethics. That’s all I’m really saying. Moreover, negative utilitarianism seems to have spawned antinatalism before, so maybe the bases for these ideas are not all that different?

            I agree, though – Benatar is more than a little weird. Did you listen to his conversation with (a highly incredulous) Sam Harris?

            Also, I don’t see your reasons for thinking it’s an overreach. I explained why it’s a pretty straightforward implication of the view. You seem to think that the problem relies on including everyone who ever was

            You’ve created a special ethical category for infants. Because of the biological fact of their birth, they no longer count as “future persons.” But because they effectively have no meaningful preferences to frustrate, they carry no ethical weight in NAPU. This is an attempt to have it both ways, and it fails.

            You agree that unborn future persons carry ethical weight in all utilitarian systems, regardless of the fact that their preferences can neither be expressed nor entirely predicted prior to the formation thereof. Future persons have ethical status because of our expectation that they will form preferences. You grant that this is true even in NAPU.

            But, you claim that because postnatal infants have not yet formed clear preferences to be frustrated, they have no ethical status in NAPU, despite the greater certainty of our expectation that they will form preferences. Therein, you are necessarily claiming that our expectation of preference formation instantly stops carrying ethical weight at the moment of parturition.

            This does not seem plausible, nor does it seem to follow from your description of NAPU, nor have you provided any justification of this purported discontinuity. It’s an overreach.

            To put it in a manner similar to your initial discussions of denominators : If Chao is permitted to count future persons, he has even firmer permission to count infants.

            My ethical interpretation of infancy (and, I presume, Chao’s) is to continue to categorize the postnatal pre-preference human as a “future person,” in which case they continue to exist in the utilitarian denominator. There is a gradual transition from “future person” to “full person” as the infant naturally develops their set of ethically-meaningful preferences. Conception for the sole purpose of neonatal slaughter is unethical in NAPU.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            But, you claim that because postnatal infants have not yet formed clear preferences to be frustrated, they have no ethical status in NAPU, despite the greater certainty of our expectation that they will form preferences. Therein, you are necessarily claiming that our expectation of preference formation instantly stops carrying ethical weight at the moment of parturition.

            This is not at all what I’m saying, and I cannot identify the source of your confusion.

          • rahien.din says:

            This is not at all what I’m saying, and I cannot identify the source of your confusion.

            Doesn’t cohere – if you can’t even identify the source of our disagreement, you have no basis for claiming it is due to my confusion. Consider that you might simply be incorrect.

            If anything, you have asserted your own confusion, as despite your efforts, you find yourself unable to comprehend. Again – not necessarily my doing or my obligation.

            If you don’t elaborate any further, I am unable to alleviate any confusion, regardless of source. But all things considered, this is probably enough. I enjoyed your writeup and largely agree with you.

            Cheers!

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I can know that you’re misreading what I wrote without understanding why you’re misreading what I wrote. Read again and notice that I am not making any claims about infants’ lack of moral status. Anyway, I can see that you’re looking for a way to exit the conversation, so I’ll let it end here.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rahien.din

            Are you saying that according to NAPU if you kill infants you have to either count the unfulfilled preferences they would have had had they formed preferences (but which they did not have) as part of the numerator? Thus more frustrated preferences should be added per infant killed? This seems like a view that depends on more levels of counterfactuals to measure utility than is sane.

            It’s not clear to me why if this is true, then the possible future preferences of a fetus would not similarly be relevant. Or even of those who might be conceived. Or even sillier, the possible preferences that might be frustrated only if I took up eating gourmet cheeses each day.

            It’s also not clear to me that there’s a discounting function you can apply as a function of age (including pre-birth) that would actually smooth this problem out either. It just makes it more tedious to construct the appropriate point to “ethically” murder people at.

          • rahien.din says:

            quanta413,

            It’s not clear to me why if this is true, then the possible future preferences of a fetus would not similarly be relevant. Or even of those who might be conceived.

            Starting from philosophisticat’s writeup (emphasis mine) :

            Advocates of average views almost invariably say we ought to maximize the average preference satisfaction of all the people who did, do, and will exist (or at least who do and will exist)

            I do not dispute what Philosophisticat states very clearly : in the various forms of averagist utilitarianism, the numerator includes both present and future persons’ preferences. You seem to think that implausible, which suggests to me two possibilities.

            One, you may (you seem to) think averagist utilitarianism is implausible as described. This is fair, but not the topic of discussion. We were not asked to defend or refute the plausibility of averagist utilitarianism en bloc. We were asked to consider NAPU vis-a-vis other forms of averagist utilitarianism.

            Two, you may disagree with philosophisticat’s description of averagist views. If you do not permit, arguendo, that almost all forms of averagist utilitarianism are concerned with the preferences of all the people who do and will exist, I am simply not the one to which you should address your concerns. Take it up with Philosophisticat.

            Now, if you think that to consider future preferences (the expected development of preferences by future persons, our expectation that developmentally-young persons will develop further preferences, etc.) leads us into tedious or unclear or complicated ethical territory, I would agree. I don’t foresee any end to the difficulty, only its refinement.

            But there is a relativity of wrong here. If one is to say “We will find a clear and agreeable discounting function that will optimize our ethical weighting of future preferences across all stages of life from preconception to full adulthood,” they are wrong. But if you think that presuming such a discounting function is just as wrong as the claim “NAPU suggests infanticide for its own ethical sake,” your view is wronger than both put together.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rahien.din

            I do not dispute what Philosophisticat states very clearly : in the various forms of averagist utilitarianism, the numerator includes both present and future persons’ preferences. You seem to think that implausible, which suggests to me two possibilities.

            Counting future people who will definitely exist seems distinct to me from counting preferences that people may or may not form. I don’t disagree that the view implies counting people who definitely will exist and form certain preferences; I disagree that it’s obvious or sensical to sum over all possible preferences they may or may not form to calculate number of preferences frustrated. I’d think that a standard utilitarian point of view implies that the “utility” of each world only depends on what actually happens. Uncertainty may lead to probability distributions over worlds, but this doesn’t matter much if we can make a possible world have negligible probability (by say… murdering someone). This is the thing I disagree with you about obviously following from Philosophisticat’s description.

            Thus my “if I ate gourmet cheeses” example. I highly doubt that a NAPUtilitarian is going to tell me that I have to sum over the future versions of me who will try gourmet cheese and thus develop a frustrated preference when considering whether or not to not eat gourmet cheese in order to avoid developing a preference for gourmet cheeses that could be frustrated.

            But if you think that presuming such a discounting function is just as wrong as the claim “NAPU suggests infanticide for its own ethical sake,” your view is wronger than both put together.

            I believe that it’s probably fixable in an academic sense, but any moral view that requires such fine tuning about counterfactuals of preferences that don’t form to stop obvious obvious moral wrongs when there are other options right next to it that don’t need it (like including positive preferences) is highly questionable.

            It’s kind of moot because utilitarianism is usually worthless as a guide to moral action anyways, because rarely will anyone hand over even a hypothetical calculation function you could use if you had perfect foreknowledge.

      • Jiro says:

        I think this falls under blissful ignorance. Most people treat wellbeing as relative to some base state. If someone’s mental capacity or knowledge is less than the base state, and if their preferences are fully satisfied only because of this lower capacity, but would not be fully satisfied in the base state, it doesn’t count as fully satisfying their preferences.

        So it doesn’t matter that mentally retarded people are happy (because they are so low in intelligence that they can’t understand why some things, including low intelligence, would be considered bad). It doesn’t matter that you don’t know your wife is cheating on you, or that you were raped while unconscious, or that you’re happy because you’re in a virtual reality which makes you think your wife is alive when she’s really dead. It doesn’t matter if thinking you’re emperor of the US gives you happiness.

        A hypothetical experienced person that an infant could become would not prefer to have been killed as an infant or to have stayed an infant. So killing the infant doesn’t count as killing a being with fully satisfied preferences.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      Incidentally, while I think the mistakes I wrote about above are the most substantive in Chao’s paper, they are not the most philosophically embarrassing. That goes to the argument in this passage:

      Another objection many people have sought to use to discredit and debunk
      negative utilitarianism is by saying that to a negative utilitarian, it would be
      better if the world had never existed in the first place — even if the only painful
      experience that would ever exist was a small paper cut. This objection tries to
      play on people’s intuitions that if the only suffering that would ever exist in the
      world was a sole paper cut, that this is still better than the world never existing,
      which they claim is counter to what the negative utilitarian believes. However,
      this argument is false as it is based upon an impossible assumption. This
      argument contains an implied premise (which is necessary, given that someone
      is giving this argument) that there is a conscious being evaluating existence
      without existing themselves, which is necessarily impossible.

      I leave it as an exercise for the reader.

    • rlms says:

      Thanks! Can you elaborate on this

      By killing them, you remove the value of their satisfied preferences from the numerator, but you do not remove them from the denominator.

      ? I agree that you would not remove the value of their preferences that were satisfied up to their death from the denominator, but I don’t see why you would remove that from the numerator. Likewise, you would remove the value of the preferences they would’ve satisfied in the future from the numerator, but AFAICT you would remove that from the denominator too.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        The reference to “them” is ambiguous the way I wrote it. The denominator isn’t determined by the value of preference stuff – it’s just the number of people – it’s the “capita” in “per capita”. What I’m saying in that passage is that on standard average views, if you kill a person who will have a happy life, then the fact that that person existed means that they still contribute 1 to the denominator, but all of their potential future happiness doesn’t get added to the numerator. So it’s strictly worse for the average.

        Here’s a simple case. Suppose there are currently two baby people, Jane and Joe (and never any other people). Jane’s life will have ten units of satisfaction. Joe’s life will have five units of satisfaction. Chao is thinking that if Joe is killed by a meteorite, then the average will be 10. But that’s assuming that someone dying means you don’t have to count them in the denominator. This is wrong – you have to count all the people who do and will exist, even the ones who are killed (Chao himself is committed to this for his own view). So if Joe dies, the average will be 5. If he does not, the average will be 7.5. So killing the worst off doesn’t help.

        • rlms says:

          But why must the denominator be the number of people ever, rather than the amount of people/life lived/potential preferences satisfied at any particular time? The latter seems more logical to me. To take your example, suppose Jane and Joe have 10 and 5 units of life satisfaction per year and have both lived for 10 years. Then the average is (10*5 + 10*10)/(10 + 10) = 7.5. If we kill Joe, then in 1 year the average will be (10*5 + 11*10)/(10 + 11) = 7.6.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I feel like you answered your own question. Nobody does it that way presumably (in part) because it has absurd implications like that you ought to kill happy people to raise the average…

            Remember the dialectical situation here. Chao accused standard averagism of implying that you ought to kill happy people to raise the average. I pointed out that the version of the view averagists actually hold does not have that implication. Now you’re describing a different view, which averagists don’t hold, that does have that implication. ???

            Other problems: take the hedonistic version of your view for simplicity. It implies that adding hedonically uneventful periods, like sleep, to someone’s life makes the world worse. That’s silly.

          • Nick says:

            Philosophisticat, is there a version of utilitarianism that doesn’t lead to absurd conclusions? Which, to the best of your knowledge, is the least problematic version?

          • rlms says:

            @Philosophisticat
            My question’s just a tangent, I’m not saying it’s relevant to Chao. And I don’t support my proposed averagist method (obviously the correct moral philosophy is just total positive preference utilitarianism that only counts currently living beings), I just thought that it was the more common belief.

            I think the standard averagist view has its own problems. If the denominator is just lives then someone who lives miserably for 100 years is considered equivalent to someone who is happy for 50, and you have weird stuff around the definition of a life (say you consider the boundary of life to be birth, then adding a load of babies who die immediately after being born would change the total value massively). I don’t think my version has massively more absurd conclusions; I can imagine defending both “the below-average should die” and “hedonically uneventful periods are bad”, indeed I think I might actually endorse the latter (sleep is bad for the same reasons comas and death are, except with smaller magnitude and mitigating factors from its benefits).

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Nick It depends on how narrowly you want to construe utilitarianism, but no, I don’t think any version avoids all absurd conclusions. I think averagist views are more absurd than totalist views, and negative views are more absurd than standard views. Basically I think classical utilitarianism, or some preference variant thereof, is about as plausible as that kind of view gets.

  11. johan_larson says:

    One of the weird behaviors of online advertising is its habit of trying to sell me products that I have just bought. Right now, I’m seeing a lot of ads for TurboTax, a product I used and paid for literally yesterday. There is no chance whatsoever I’ll pay for it again today. You’d think a competitive marketplace would figure out that in some product categories, like cars and Russian brides, immediate repeat purchases are not likely.

    • A1987dM says:

      ISTM pretty much all attempts to automatically search for possible complementary goods for something you just bought/downloaded/whatever mis-classify plenty of substitute goods as such, e.g. Google Play Store app suggestions.

    • Brad says:

      I never really got into retargeting campaigns[1] but I think you can have a trigger to turn them off just like you can have a trigger to turn them on. So if putting something in your cart without buying it triggers a retargeting campaign I don’t see why checking out shouldn’t remove your ID from it. But I have experienced the same thing, so something must be going wrong.

      [1] Thank goodness, the fact that I had to know anything at all about ad buys in the first place was one of things I most hated about my last job.

    • Protagoras says:

      Yeah, I remember how many car ads I continued to be buried under for at least a year after I bought a car. I brought it on myself by doing a decent amount of online research and checking around (and leaving my info in some places) before choosing a car, but it would be nice if they would either give up a little more quickly or if there were some easy way to signal that yes, I’ve bought the car, won’t be looking again for several years, thanks.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Data about your purchases are reasonably private: only you and the vendor know what you buy. Data about what websites you visit, what Facebook pages you like, etc., however, are all over the place. Therefore advertisers know that you have been recently looking for something but they don’t know whether you actually bought it.

      • Matt M says:

        Right – this is my guess. That “good intentions” about privacy are resulting in a negative unintended consequence in this particular arena.

        If you told people / asked them to consent to Facebook and Google “knowing about every purchase you make (including ones you make offline)” I think a lot of people would find that creepy and unacceptable. But having them know “what products you looked at” seems less directly actionable.

        To use a very real example / concern – I’m not particularly worried that Google knows I’ve looked at various gun stores where AR-15s are for sale. But I definitely don’t want them to definitively know I purchased one, when, or where.

        That said, for purchases you might want to consent to, I do wish there was an easy button I could press to tell the advertising world I just bought a car, so they stop showing me car ads for a year.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Tax software may be an exception, but this is smarter than you think, by a lot.

      • skef says:

        People do take extensions …

        this is smarter than you think, by a lot.

        I think this is the wrong lesson. The bombardment with ads based on recent (or not) product searches seems dumb. Even assuming you haven’t bought yet, you were already shopping a different way. Any search engine is going to give you product links. Why would you then switch to an ad?

        The intuitive confusion comes from the question: “Can’t they do better than this?”

        The direct answer is: “Apparently not”, but the cognitive dissonance comes from the fact that given a chance to present you with an ad based on this flimsy premise, advertisers seem to jump at it anyway.

        So the better lesson is: Rates of success for standard advertising are much, much worse than you intuitively think. You’re probably less wrong about the strategy in question than you are about the relation between an individual ad impression and a purchase, which approaches the lottery territory that is difficult to comprehend without explicit mathematical reasoning.

        • baconbits9 says:

          This is some variant of the like mind fallacy.

          1. My tenants refrigerator is broken and needs to be replaced, I google around and then order/go pick one up almost immediately.

          2. My wife says “the refrigerator sounds funny”, I google refrigerator repairs and new refrigerator costs, but don’t make a decision immediately.

          Ads target the latter group, people thinking about X but who are either procrastinating or don’t have to make a decision. It looks dumb when it hits person #1, but person #1 wasn’t going to be persuaded in most circumstances anyway.

      • Nornagest says:

        That’s a really good point.

    • Unsaintly says:

      This is literally my professional field, so hopefully I can shed some light on it.

      The short version is that there is a spectrum, depending on the advertisers in question. On one extreme, you have super cheap “shotgun” ads, where a low-no customization ad is shown as many times as possible to as many people as possible for the cheapest price possible. It is very easy to work in trivial retargeting to these ads, such that you see whatever ads the advertiser has on hand that fit the webpages you were on.
      To put it briefly: these ads suck, and fewer and fewer advertisers use them. However, by their nature you will still see a lot of them since even a single advertiser using shotgun ads will show up very very frequently.
      As you move towards the other extreme, you get better personalization. At this point, you start to get things like publisher integration that knows that you not only were on X page, but that you actually bought something. Or, better yet, that you spent a long time looking at a thing or even added it to a cart, but ended up not buying it. That’s one of the best opportunities for advertisers, because it’s still at the back of your mind and you have an immediate desire for it.
      At the upper end, you even have advertisers tracking you offline via in-store purchases or location data to build a profile to ever-refining degrees of accuracy. At this end, you start to see some of the shotgun behaviors re-emerge due to some of the math Andrew Hunter linked to below. If you know enough about someone, you can predict very accurately whether they are more or less likely to need an immediate replacement refrigerator. No real excuse for showing Turbo-Tax ads though, to my knowledge. I’m sure the brains over in decision sciences could come up with scenarios where it applies.

  12. Andune says:

    Does anyone know if there are experimental studies on the trolley problem?

    Setting up the conditions for the trolley problem is of course not possible, but they are bound to occure naturally, during disasters and the like. Has anyone tried to compile these situations and actually studied how people act?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Triage is the medical practice of deciding who to treat when resources are limited. It’s not exploring individual preferences the way trolley problems are supposed to, but it might be relevant.

    • Perico says:

      Not quite what you’re asking for, but season 2 of The Good Place has an episode, appropriately titled ‘The Trolley Problem’, which tackles this very issue. It’s a comedy in a fantasy setting that combines moral philosophers, supernatural powers, an appreciation for the scientific method, and a great sense of humor. Highly recommendable.

    • John Schilling says:

      Setting up the conditions for the trolley problem is of course not possible, but they are bound to occure naturally, during disasters and the like.

      They really, really don’t. People have looked, and consistently come up short. Outside of actual wars, it is vanishingly rare to find events in which acting to cause the certain or likely death of a specific innocent person is actually necessary to prevent greater harm. Since almost no real people are consequentialists and since basically all other ethical systems are very strict about “Thou shalt not knowingly act to cause the death of a specific innocent person in peacetime”, there aren’t many experimental opportunities to be had. Doing your research in literal war zones has its own problems.

      There are plenty of circumstances that involve not helping an innocent person who will likely die without help, or actively creating a broad but diffuse danger such that no individual person experiences P(death) > epsilon but the integrated casualty expectation is >>1. Non-consequentialist ethical systems generally consider these to be completely different than running someone over with a trolley, and you learn nothing about trolley problems by observing how people behave in such situations (or vice versa).

      Also note, killing someone by pushing them in front of a trolley (or by redirecting the trolley to where they are already standing) is felony manslaughter in at least California, Texas, and New York and probably every other state in the US, even if you can prove and the judge and jury believe that you did it with the specific intent and actual result of saving the lives of five other people. Same goes for any trolley-problem analogue. So this research project would almost have to center on interviewing convicted felons, many of whom will be lying about why they pushed that fat bitch in front of a trolley.

    • beleester says:

      The web series Mind Field set up a simulation of a trolley problem (YouTube link). They set up a fake “switch control room” where visitors could see trains getting switched from track to track. They talk to the controller for a bit, learning how it works, and he even lets them flip the big red switch that sends a train from one track to another.

      Then, the controller gets a phone call and leaves, leaving the visitor alone in the control room. While they’re waiting, an alarm sounds. On the cameras, they see a group of people working on the track, with a train approaching. On the other track, a single person is working. The controller is nowhere to be found. Do they flip the switch?

      I don’t know what experimental conclusions you can draw (the interviews after the experiment showed that there are a lot of factors that could push someone to flip the switch or not), but it’s definitely the closest thing to the “classic” trolley problem.

    • drunkfish says:

      Quoting Scott from this links post:

      Van Bavel, Feldman-Hall & Mende-Siedlecki’s paper on ethics includes (first paragraph) a description of how a real-life trolley problem happened in Los Angeles in 2003 – transportation officials chose to switch tracks, saving dozens of lives. H/T Siberian Fox.

      • John Schilling says:

        Quoting (again) the second page of the original source, three links away from Scott’s post:

        “We didn’t know it was going to crash into houses, though,”

        Also, the place where the train was deliberately derailed was in the so-called City of Commerce, known for having extensive railroad facilities but relatively few actual residents. So, missing the key element of the Trolley Problem in the form of a known sacrifice to the Trolley Gods.

        If this is the best Van Bavel et al could come up with as an example for “The Trolley Problem is so a real thing!”, I’m going to go with the Trolley Problem not being a real thing. SNAFU, on the other hand, is definitely a real thing.

    • Chalid says:

      There’s the choice GW Bush made to try to scramble fighter jets to shoot down any remaining hijacked planes on 9/11. It’s only one example of a trolley problem, but a very widely known one, and I don’t think it was even the slightest bit controversial even among Bush’s many critics.

    • DavidS says:

      Not quite the same but this is an interesting insight into an intuitive solution from a child whose thinking may be less filtered on it than most

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N_RZJUAQY4

  13. Nick says:

    Share a bookmark that you think is cool and folks here probably haven’t seen. I’ll go first.

    Classic Castle is one of those old sites catering to adult Lego fans. As the name suggests, it’s for classic castle fans: the Black Knights, Knight’s Kingdom, and of course the old Yellow Castle. If you browse through Creations, they’ve got a lot of good stuff from past years—2015 is a great one to look through. They host yearly contests too like the Colossal Castle Contest, the Mini Castle Contest, and the Seed Part Challenge (you have to incorporate a wacky, unorthodox piece into your build), and those keep things lively. Some building advice and a lot of cool links can be found too.

    Lego occupies an interesting spot for me between being really, really great for building and a lot of fun, and being really frustrating because of piece limitations and cost. I prefer to just work in a CAD program, which gives me access to every piece ever made—but that’s its own curse, with the menus taking forever to load and fussing with colors and positioning and so on taking forever, and of course you can’t do anything with your build afterwards. I give the folks on Classic Castle and similar sites a lot of props for amassing such large collections that they can still build basically whatever they want.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      VCV Rack is an open-source software emulation of a Eurorack synthesizer, that plays through your computer’s speakers. Euroracks are the modern-day version of the classic modular analog synths of yore, like the original Moog made famous by Wendy Carlos.

      The program’s documentation basically assumes that you are Wendy Carlos and thus need no help with anything but the program itself. The rest of us will need a tutorial; this video will do to get you started and show you what the program can do.

    • tayfie says:

      Here’s a basic starting point for websites everyone should know about.

      makeuseof tends to be good for these kind of lists

      https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/best-websites-internet/

      I used to have a huge collection of cool sites via stumbleupon, but deleted the account after spending 9 hours there one day.

  14. Well... says:

    When kids’ shows and cartoons (in the US at least) want to indicate that a character smells bad, one pretty consistent way they do this is by giving those characters thick dark bushy eyebrows — often/especially a unibrow. Oscar the Grouch might be the most obvious example; Stinky the Stinkweed is less well known but also illustrative. Not a kids’ show but see also the McPoyles from “It’s Always Sunny”.

    What do y’all make of that? Could it have something to do on a subconscious level with Arabs?

    • sohois says:

      I would say no. Certainly I cannot think of any Arabian stereotype that involves monobrows, and in fact the only stereotype I can think of that sometimes is associated with a monobrow would be a Mexican stereotype.

      That being said, I do not think the answer has anything to do with real world stereotypes whatsoever. I would posit that a monobrow is the simplest signal for poor personal care. If you do not take care of your appearance, it stands to reason that you also do not take care of hygiene. A monobrow is probably a lot easier to draw consistently than unkempt hair (whether head, body or other facial) or tattered clothing, and so became the standard way of demonstrating this.

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/29/health/drugs-opioids-addiction-heart-endocarditis.html

    “With meth resurgent and the opioid crisis showing no sign of abating, a growing number of people are getting endocarditis from injecting the drugs — sometimes repeatedly if they continue shooting up. Many are uninsured, and the care they need is expensive, intensive and often lasts months. All of this has doctors grappling with an ethically fraught question: Is a heart ever not worth fixing?”

    I assume the problem is unclean needles rather than the drugs, in which case the first cheapest thing to do is supply clean needles.

    One angle on the article is that it’s about competing sacred values. People should take reasonable care of themselves vs. no live left unsaved if it can be saved.

    I’m not sure if this is relevant, but the operation isn’t all that effective even for people who don’t use IV drugs.

    “A recent study found that at two Boston hospitals, only 7 percent of endocarditis patients who were IV drug users survived for a decade without reinfection or other complications, compared with 41 percent of patients who were not IV drug users.”

    A general point– it seems to me that a lot of liberals hold themselves to high standards of conscientiousness and effectiveness, but never talk about them as virtues to be cultivated.

    • Well... says:

      I assume the problem is unclean needles rather than the drugs, in which case the first cheapest thing to do is supply clean needles.

      “Cheapest” only if you keep the hidden costs hidden. Although I’m generally against drug prohibition of most kinds, I do believe that drug prohibition (including controlled access to needles) effectively acts to some degree as a social/cultural barrier to drug use. As long as drugs are illegal, access to needles ought to be controlled too.

      In other words, the best combination is legal permissiveness coupled with cultural restrictiveness, and the opposite of that is the worst.

      A general point– it seems to me that a lot of liberals hold themselves to high standards of conscientiousness and effectiveness, but never talk about them as virtues to be cultivated.

      Maybe not about liberals in particular, but wasn’t that one of Charles Murray’s points in Coming Apart?

      • Orpheus says:

        As long as drugs are illegal, access to needles ought to be controlled too.

        Setting aside whether this is a good idea or not, it is simply practically impossible. Hospitals and the like use tonnes of needles every day, and if you try to control access to them like you do to drugs they won’t be able to function.

        • Aapje says:

          This is an issue with trying to ban drug paraphernalia, but also gun/explosives control. Tools that are useful for one reason are generally useful in many ways, including for benign uses.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Even harder to control than hospitals are individuals who have a legitimate reason to buy needles regularly. Insulin-dependent diabetics are probably the biggest category here, but there’s a long tail of others, both for human and veterinary medications. I’ve bought hundred-packs of needle-tips for a cat who needed daily subcutaneous fluids to manage his kidney problems, and it would have been trivial for me to allow a few of those needle tips to go astray if I’d been so inclined.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I assume the problem is unclean needles rather than the drugs, in which case the first cheapest thing to do is supply clean needles.

      The drugs are also unclean, they are cut with all sorts of stuff from talcum powder to starch to powdered milk, and they are typically handled in unsanitary ways e.g. do you think that drug mules sterilize the drug capsules after shitting them?

      Barring providing junkies with industrially-manufactured medical-grade heroin, I don’t see any easy solution to this problem.

      • albatross11 says:

        Providing registered heroin addicts with regular safe injections would surely decrease the harm to the addicts. It seems like the question is whether it increases the number of addicts by making heroin use seem less scary/officially forbidden/whatever.

        • Matt M says:

          Presuming we’re doing this with tax dollars, it also penalizes non-heroin users, who are taxed to pay for safe heroin injection sites that they will not benefit from.

          • Nornagest says:

            Only if the marginal increase in safety costs more than the marginal increase in visits to the emergency room from not having it. Taxpayers are going to take the hit either way; it’s not like most of these junkies are going to have insurance that can cover it.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean then you’re assuming that ERs are required to treat heroin users who OD for free, regardless of ability to pay.

            Care to have a public vote on that specific question?

          • Nornagest says:

            Not an assumption. Since 1986, ERs have not been allowed to deny care due to ability to pay in any US state. Opiate overdose* is not an exception, and I think you’d have trouble carving it out as one: “cannot deny care” is a hell of a Schelling fence.

            This is an unfunded mandate, and so the public ends up paying for it through their insurance premiums rather than through their taxes, but the public’s still paying.

            (*) Or hepatitis from using tainted needles. Or local necrosis from your heroin being cut with whatever white powder the dealer had lying around. Or the fungal infection you picked up in the junkie flophouse where you go to get high.

          • johan_larson says:

            You could make them pay for the drugs, I suppose. Pharmaceutical-grade heroin at cost or at a modest markup to registered drug users.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @johan_larson

            This is going through a lot of trouble that could be easily avoided just by making recreational heroin (or fentanyl, etc) legal.

        • Aapje says:

          @albatross11

          It seems like the question is whether it increases the number of addicts by making heroin use seem less scary/officially forbidden/whatever.

          Or decrease…

          People who are interested in drugs are not necessarily put off by those things.

          • Well... says:

            Making the drugs less scary/etc. shifts the demographics of the user base to one that’s less skewed toward impulsive thrill-seekers, but I believe it usually increases the number of users.

            I’m blanking right now but I know there’s some example of a legal drug that has multiple delivery methods; one method is socially accepted and one is considered edgier. (Smoking cigarettes vs. dipping, maybe? Beer vs. liquor?) The demographics of the user bases follow the pattern above.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m blanking right now but I know there’s some example of a legal drug that has multiple delivery methods

            Taking oxy by mouth, as prescribed by a doctor, due to some sort of serious pain VS crushing it up into a powder and snorting it, for fun?

          • albatross11 says:

            Cheap wine drunk from a bottle wrapped in a paper bag while sitting in an alley vs expensive wine sipped from a glass sitting in an elegant living room?

          • skef says:

            I’m blanking right now but I know there’s some example of a legal drug that has multiple delivery methods; one method is socially accepted and one is considered edgier.

            Caffeine pills seem to have a generally bad reputation.

            Vaping quickly became the MySpace of nicotine. (It might still be — I’m not in that loop.)

        • Iain says:

          It seems like the question is whether it increases the number of addicts by making heroin use seem less scary/officially forbidden/whatever.

          This is an empirical question. In fact, there is some evidence to show that it goes in the opposite direction: “The harm reduction policy of Switzerland and its emphasis on the medicalisation of the heroin problem seems to have contributed to the image of heroin as unattractive for young people.”
          In addition to reducing harm to addicts, providing heroin to longtime addicts is also a big public safety win, because they stop committing crimes to get money to buy heroin:

          After half a year, three-quarters had largely stopped taking street heroin. And the number of crimes committed by those in the group dropped from 1,700 in the 30 days before the program began to 547 in the first six months of the trial.

          And it’s arguably cheaper:

          “This is not about providing free drugs,” said MacDonald. “It’s about providing better care and reducing the burden on society.” It costs the provincial government about C$27,000 a year to fund a Crosstown client, as opposed to an estimated C$48,000 spent a year on health, policing and judicial costs for those who are dependent on illicit opioids.

          See also.

          We don’t have to speculate. Harm mitigation strategies have been heavily researched. As far as I can tell, all signs point to them being effective.

          • Matt M says:

            “This is not about providing free drugs,” said MacDonald. “It’s about providing better care and reducing the burden on society.”

            Money is fungible. Providing free non-drug benefits to drug users is indistinguishable from providing free drugs.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Money is fungible. Providing free non-drug benefits to drug users is indistinguishable from providing free drugs.

            Only if they were spending money on those other benefits already.

          • albatross11 says:

            One important difference: if we give heroin to heroin addicts in some kind of addicts-only program, then they’re probalby not supporting an infrastructure of heroin dealers who then stand around on street corners selling heroin both addicts and passing schoolchildren. If we give cash or resellable benefits to heroin addicts, most of those benefits will end up supporting the local heroin dealers.

            That seems like a pretty big win for some kind of registered-heroin-addict program where you come in and we give you an injection of medically-produced heroin with clean needles however many times per day you need it. Along with that, the addicts have fewer health problems and don’t spread HIV and hepatitis around so readily, and don’t overdose because they’re getting a consistent dose under medical supervision.

            There’s an immediate moral revulsion there to spending taxpayer money on buying heroin for people to use to feed their addiction. And you can imagine this leading to more addicts since addiction isn’t so bad under such a regime. (Though I gather that’s not what the current numbers look like.)

            So what are the other downsides?

          • Randy M says:

            One important difference: if we give heroin to heroin addicts in some kind of addicts-only program, then they’re probalby not supporting an infrastructure of heroin dealers who then stand around on street corners selling heroin both addicts and passing schoolchildren.

            Why do they sell to schoolchildren? Children don’t have money. If the children have money, then there will still be dealers selling to them, unless the children can go to the clinic and shoot up there also, in which case the two situations are pretty similar (except that ‘Heroin Dealer’ moves from exciting job with high potential to DMV equivalent).
            Or would the government then crack down really hard on the unlicensed dealers? In a way that works then but doesn’t now.

          • albatross11 says:

            The more people are buying heroin (as opposed to other less scary drugs), the easier it will be to find a supplier.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Children don’t have money. If the children have money, then there will still be dealers selling to them

            Consider the intermediate situation, in which children sometimes have money, but not consistently enough to support a dealer.

            In the world where every adult addict buys from a corner dealer, the dealer is making a healthy profit from adult customers and will happily also sell to children passing by who have money.

            In the world where every adult addict is buying from the government (and children are forbidden from buying from the government), the corner dealers can’t support themselves off the occasional child customer. They’ll have to find different work, or draw from child customers in a large area (and thus require much more dedicated child customers to travel to them, who will be correspondingly rarer and make profit even harder).

          • Matt M says:

            There’s an immediate moral revulsion there to spending taxpayer money on buying heroin for people to use to feed their addiction….

            So what are the other downsides?

            Putting the morality of heroin use completely to the side – my moral reaction here is that you’re essentially paying people to not engage in bad behavior – which merely encourages bad behavior.

            If the point is “We must give heroin addicts free heroin to prevent them from doing all sorts of other socially undesirable stuff” all that does is encourage every potential interest group to do socially undesirable stuff.

            Like, why free heroin for heroin addicts but not free rock climbing equipment for rock climbing enthusiasts? If rock climbing enthusiasts stood on streetcorners and harassed children would you change your mind?

            IF the state is going to be involved in subsidizing hobbies, it should probably subsidize the socially useful ones, right?

          • baconbits9 says:

            In the world where every adult addict is buying from the government (and children are forbidden from buying from the government), the corner dealers can’t support themselves off the occasional child customer. They’ll have to find different work, or draw from child customers in a large area (and thus require much more dedicated child customers to travel to them, who will be correspondingly rarer and make profit even harder).

            Or the adults getting herion from the government basically have an unlimited supply and can thus sell to the underage group.

            The US has age restricted drinking, and in many areas and times state control of alcohol sales, and yet strangely high school students have basically unfettered access to alcohol at moderately higher prices.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Or the adults getting heroin from the government basically have an unlimited supply and can thus sell to the underage group.

            Possibly, but now you’ve got all your drug dealers registered with the government, who is likely paying very close attention to how much they’re getting, and the addicts have very strong incentives to not dry up their supply. That’s something.

            Maybe enough of it leaks through on the margins, though. You probably can’t get 4x your normal supply to sell, but maybe you get 1.1x your normal supply, and give the children enough to get them hooked, after which they can just sign up with the program.

            It also raises the question of what happens if you start applying conditions and kicking people out of the program if they don’t follow them. I can’t imagine your average heroin addict is inclined to follow rules, so do we risk having enough of them kicked off the program that drug dealers have a profitable market again?

            But you can’t just give them unconditional, unlimited heroin, or baconbits’ scenario is inevitable (it’s like that “unlimited amounts of salt at zero cost” thing from a few open threads back, but now with a highly addictive drug!)

            Maybe just limit the total amount they can get, but how much does heroin dosage vary?

          • Matt M says:

            It also raises the question of what happens if you start applying conditions and kicking people out of the program if they don’t follow them. I can’t imagine your average heroin addict is inclined to follow rules

            This issue also manifests frequently in homeless shelters. Many cities have more than adequate “bed space” available in various shelters to house the city’s homeless population. The problem is the vast majority of them have various rules: No yelling at each other, no fighting, no drug use, you might occasionally be asked to do a chore or listen to a bible message, whatever.

            A whole lot of people would rather sleep under a bridge than obey those rules – and a “no rules whatsoever” space would fail to satisfy the preferences of most reasonable people. The government can’t really offer it. Religious types wouldn’t want to. Who’s left to provide it?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Possibly, but now you’ve got all your drug dealers registered with the government, who is likely paying very close attention to how much they’re getting, and the addicts have very strong incentives to not dry up their supply. That’s something.

            No you don’t, you have a government that is committed to giving them enough herion to keep street dealers out of business, and notably shrinkage of the government supply will induce the street dealers to return and make it an obvious and embarrassing failure if they do return.

            And the US government has a catalog of everyone who can give prescriptions out, doesn’t stop prescription medication from being readily available on the black market.

          • Iain says:

            Or the adults getting heroin from the government basically have an unlimited supply and can thus sell to the underage group.

            The standard approach to government-provided heroin requires the addicts to shoot up in the clinic, under doctor supervision. There’s no opportunity to sell it to anybody else, and it’s hardly the sort of situation that anybody who is not already addicted to heroin would opt into.

            Or would the government then crack down really hard on the unlicensed dealers? In a way that works then but doesn’t now.

            The Swiss study that I linked above estimates that 50% of all heroin imported into Switzerland is used by the heaviest 10% of the users. If you take 50% of the demand off the market — the most concentrated demand, no less — then dealing heroin becomes a lot less lucrative.

            Like, why free heroin for heroin addicts but not free rock climbing equipment for rock climbing enthusiasts? If rock climbing enthusiasts stood on streetcorners and harassed children would you change your mind?

            If rock-climbing enthusiasts were so hopelessly addicted to rock climbing that they descended into self-destructive lives of homelessness and crime, and decades of alternative approaches had proven to be more expensive and less effective? Then, yeah, I probably would support free rock climbing for addicts, administered in a controlled environment under supervision. Wouldn’t you?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Iain: so heroin addicts are utility monsters, and rock climbers or any other hobbyists should get their hobby paid for by the state if they can prove they’re utility monsters for several decades.

          • Randy M says:

            @Iain,
            I dislike subsidizing destructive behavior, but it’s nice if the economics truly work out to curb some of the side effects using the free distribution.

          • Matt M says:

            Wouldn’t you?

            No – I’d ignore the homeless and forcibly defend myself from the criminals. Whether their homelessness is due to general bad luck, heroin addiction, or rock climbing addiction. I don’t really care.

          • Iain says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            so heroin addicts are utility monsters, and rock climbers or any other hobbyists should get their hobby paid for by the state if they can prove they’re utility monsters for several decades.

            Huh?

            This situation has nothing to do with utility monsters. If I said that heroin addicts derive more utility from tax dollars than anybody else and proposed redirecting the entire budget towards heroin for junkies, this would have been a sensible response. As it stands, it’s a non sequitur.

            (Also, this entire hypothetical is silly. You really can’t think of any principled differences between rock climbing and heroin addiction?)

            @Matt M:

            I’m sure that makes you feel very tough. Some of the rest of us are willing to save money on law enforcement — even if it requires us to make life marginally better for heroin addicts. Irrational, I know.

          • Nornagest says:

            If I’m not mistaken, programs that give a controlled supply of opiates to addicts generally require them to use it on site and under supervision in order to avoid resale. It’s probably not impossible to divert some even so, but it’s a lot harder than “here’s an eight-ball, go have fun”.

          • Nornagest says:

            who don’t value apathy to the suffering of others as a terminal goal

            Uncalled for.

          • albatross11 says:

            I believe existing methadone programs (which substitute a different opiate for heroin) do the injections on-site to make sure the methadone doesn’t get resold.

            I think the general idea with this kind of program is that some addictions (like heroin) are so hard to break that most current addicts will remain addicts as long as they live. So finding a way to put them on a stable maintenance dose of heroin or some substitute like methadone may be the best we can do there–they avoid most of the dangers of illegal drugs, we register them and maybe have some kind of program to make sure they don’t spiral too far out of control, etc.

            This probably doesn’t apply to most drugs. And at least with heroin addicts, there’s a huge stigma associated with them that probably prevents others from demanding similar programs.

            On the other hand, the other way we’ve dealt with vice effectively, as a society, has been to legalize it and just clean up the consequences as best we can. Gambling went from illegal almost everywhere to widely legal and a fairly respectable business (the current president made much of his fortune opening casinos), control over that industry left organized crime for businesses that are probably nearly as smarmy, but that don’t break legs or fit people with cement overshoes anymore, etc. Some people have been made much worse off by that, because their gambling addiction ate their lives. But overall, it’s worked out pretty well for our society. Alcohol and now pot are similarly above-ground businesses that both provide a fair bit of human happiness, and also give some people the raw materials to wreck themselves.

          • Iain says:

            I believe existing methadone programs (which substitute a different opiate for heroin) do the injections on-site to make sure the methadone doesn’t get resold.

            I think you’re conflating two separate treatments.

            Methadone is typically taken orally, not injected, and at least in Canada there are systems in place for patients to take doses home with them.

            What you say is true for heroin-assisted treatment, though.

          • albatross11 says:

            Think of heroin addiction as basically lycanthropy. Some people, through bad choices and bad genes and bad luck, end up with this disease where, if untreated, a few will manage to keep themselves in wolfsbane potion and away from people during full moons, but many or most will become a danger to themselves and others.

            It’s not crazy to have a government program to register werewolves, and bring them in for a few days of wolfsbane and isolation from seeing the moon whenever the moon is full. This is safer and better all around than leaving them roaming the countryside.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ah, sorry, I was mixing the two up.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            I’m mildly annoyed at myself for not seeing that the solution is just to not let them leave the distribution center with the heroin.

            This situation has nothing to do with utility monsters. If I said that heroin addicts derive more utility from tax dollars than anybody else and proposed redirecting the entire budget towards heroin for junkies, this would have been a sensible response. As it stands, it’s a non sequitur.

            There’s something vaguely utility-monster-like about needing to give people what they want because if you don’t they’ll destroy themselves. The parallel is that the utility gain from giving them what they want (versus not doing so) is huge. It’s just that the (arbitrarily-numbered, correctly-signed) utility map for “Give them what they want? (no, yes)” is (-100, 50) rather than (0, 1000). The heroin addict would also be bounded in ways utility monsters typically aren’t, since there are upper bounds on how much heroin they’d want even given an infinite supply.

            Maybe a better mapping would be the abusive-relationship tactic where one partner threatens to harm themselves if the other person leaves them? I don’t know how often they follow through though, whereas heroin addicts pretty reliably follow through (and don’t usually threaten that way)

          • Matt M says:

            It’s not crazy to have a government program to register werewolves, and bring them in for a few days of wolfsbane and isolation from seeing the moon whenever the moon is full. This is safer and better all around than leaving them roaming the countryside.

            What about a program of “The ones who keep themselves in check are left alone, and the ones who attack people are shot and killed?”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11:

            Let’s talk about the real question: in an urban fantasy setting, would lycanthropy be transmitted through needle-sharing?

          • powerfuller says:

            Let’s talk about the real question: in an urban fantasy setting, would lycanthropy be transmitted through needle-sharing?

            Not if you’re using silver needles.

          • Randy M says:

            Lycanthropy, no, vampirism, yes. The former is more similar to rabies, transmitted through saliva; the latter by blood.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Matt M:

            What about a program of “The ones who keep themselves in check are left alone, and the ones who attack people are shot and killed?”

            Okay, but if you think that that is better than a programme of ‘the ones who can’t keep themselves in check are given what they need, under supervision, so that they don’t attack people, and no one has to get killed’, you’re really going to have to argue for it.

            You seem to be standing at the margin where ‘not wanting to condone heroin use’ starts trading off against reducing heroin-related harm here. If the costs of enforcing prohibition (including the extra lives lost/diseases incurred due to heroin being much more dangerous than it would be absent prohibition plus the extra lives lost due to control of the trade being in the hands of criminals who are incentivised to violence because they can’t settle their disputes using the legal system, the crimes committed by addicts to raise funds to buy the drug at prices inflated by the risk premium – i.e. higher than we could expect under a legally regulated system) are in fact greater than the costs of providing pharmaceutical grade heroin to registered addicts while otherwise tailoring the system so as to minimise leakage into the non-addict population, would you then be willing to accept the subsidy as the lesser evil?

          • Matt M says:

            You seem to be standing at the margin where ‘not wanting to condone heroin use’ starts trading off against reducing heroin-related harm here. If the costs of enforcing prohibition

            I’m not advocating for prohibition – either of heroin or werewolves.

            I’m quite certain the costs of “giving werewolves what they need” is a lot higher than the cost of a bullet. Probably true for addicts as well.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I’m not advocating for prohibition

            Sorry, neither you are. It wasn’t clear that you were against it though. Are you arguing that subsidised heroin under supervised consumption would be worse than a libertarian-ish heroin-is-legal, everyone-is-responsible-for-the-mess-they-get-themselves-into regime? Or that it would be worse than the status quo?

          • Matt M says:

            From a libertarian perspective, prohibition is probably worse than subsidies, if only because I also have to pay for the costs of enforcing prohibition.

          • Education Hero says:

            From a libertarian perspective, prohibition is probably worse than subsidies, if only because I also have to pay for the costs of enforcing prohibition.

            It would depend on how cost-effective your enforcement mechanisms are, compared to the cost of subsidies.

            Repeatedly catching and releasing lycanthropes probably adds up to very expensive enforcement, while liberal use of silver bullets probably costs less…

          • albatross11 says:

            Consider the libertarian approach–no prohibition, but we send you to jail if you’re a junkie (or werewolf) who keeps robbing people to get your fix/sate your full-moon hunger for human flesh, assuming you survive the attempt at robbing your probably-well-armed victim and the overenthusiastic private security guys he calls when he’s attacked.

            I’m assuming a libertarian approach isn’t going to go in for the death penalty for very many crimes (for the same reasons our justice system doesn’t–among other things, making the penalty for armed robbery the same as the penalty for murder kind-of incentivizes the killing of witnesses), and also isn’t going to go in for death squads to go murder the junkies/werewolves preemptively.

            Would this be better or worse than our world?

            Would that world be made better by the addition of some private charity that ran a free heroin-for-registered-addicts service? Or would that charity just be a place for hopelessly gullible people to send their money. How would we tell?

            More to the point, is *this* world, where heroin is illegal and is surely going to stay that way, made better by this kind of charity, assuming it could operate without being raided by the feds?

          • Education Hero says:

            I’m assuming a libertarian approach isn’t going to go in for the death penalty for very many crimes

            Eating humans might well warrant the death penalty, and silver bullets could also be used to apprehend dangerous lycanthropes rather than riskier non-lethal methods.

          • Deiseach says:

            The standard approach to government-provided heroin requires the addicts to shoot up in the clinic, under doctor supervision. There’s no opportunity to sell it to anybody else, and it’s hardly the sort of situation that anybody who is not already addicted to heroin would opt into.

            If the situation weren’t abused, it might be a workable solution. But human nature (and junkies’ needs) being what it is and they are, somebody is going to abuse it.

            I’m thinking of methadone clinics and the way the more together, ‘activist’ addicts protested about it being humiliating to have to queue up and consume their dose on the premises while being watched; they felt they weren’t trusted, and that they weren’t being treated like humans. So the bleeding hearts got the way things operated changed that they could bring their doses home, and the natural effect of that was some people were careless and their kids suffered the effects of that carelessness (and before anyone jumps down my throat, yes every day kids get into their non-addict parents’ medicine and end up in hospital or dead) and some sold part or all of their free government methadone to buy drugs that would get them high.

            If you have “you have to shoot up in this clinic with the dose we give you under supervision”, then someone – an activist, one of the more together addicts, social workers – is going to raise the same stink over this being an inhumane and degrading way to treat adults who are owed basic human dignity, and then you’ll get relaxation of “okay you can bring your dose home to shoot up in private” and then we’ll get abuse of the system as sure as the sun rises in the east, because people will fuck things up, that’s what humans do.

            If you could get the government clinics to stick to rigid “no we don’t trust you precisely because you’re a junkie”, then all the theoretical workers (I don’t want to use the term SJW because it’s the same school as the gender studies, women’s studies, oppression studies, no such thing as mental illness only creative otherness studies fol-de-rol) will come out of the woodwork and whine about how awful, how degrading, no addict would ever do anything out of the way, and the scheme will be ruined. The most likely way for it to succeed will be discipline, and nobody likes discipline.

          • rlms says:

            “bleeding-heart liberal” is a perfectly good term.

          • albatross11 says:

            Deiseach:

            Your argument proves too much–absolutely any government (or private) program can be made ineffective or counterproductive if we just assume that dumb arguments will carry the day in all cases.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @albatross: But they do, at least with government rather than private programs. Government can do nothing (at least domestically) that the bleeding heart liberals don’t like.

          • Iain says:

            Government can do nothing (at least domestically) that the bleeding heart liberals don’t like.

            Yeah, everybody knows how much bleeding heart liberals love the War on Drugs. (And ICE. And restrictions on abortion. And so on.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Iain: Government heroin clinics and state nullification of the federal law against marijuana? State and city nullification of immigration law?
            Abortion restrictions are basically the flip side of that, where the Supreme Court made a Blue law and Red states try to nullify the broad interpretation of it.

          • Iain says:

            Bleeding heart liberals like when the government does things they approve of, and dislike when it does things they don’t. This is hardly unique, and does not justify your claim.

          • but many or most will become a danger to themselves and others.

            Except that being on heroin doesn’t make someone a danger to himself or others. Having to steal to support a heroin habit, due to the expense of illegal drugs, does.

            There might be some illegal drug for which your metaphor works, but heroin isn’t such a drug any more than marijuana, for which essentially the same story was being told back at the time of the original campaign to ban it.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’d been vaguely fond of John Stossel– he’s a libertarian, he sounded reasonable when I occasionally listened to him. And then….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uA1NXKBigJk

    Freeloaders. He had some material (not sure how well it generalizes) about street beggars not being willing to work or accept food. And about his beach house being rebuilt– twice– because he got automatic Federal insurance for it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uA1NXKBigJk

    He talks with a Native American woman who wants more government aid, and mentions the Amish. She hasn’t heard of the Amish.

    The Amish live on excellent farmland. Native Americans were driven off their land into desolate areas. It’s a shame the Native American woman didn’t know that, but Stossel damned well should have.

    The two videos raise an interesting question– why do rich people who get subsidies generally stay rich, while poor people who get subsidies generally stay poor? I don’t think it’s just bad habits by poor people, and note that there are rich people with bad habits.

    Sometimes subsidies to poor people are rigged in ways that keep them poor, like a federal maximum of owning two thousand dollars to be on various government programs, which adds up to very little cushion for getting off the programs.

    Stossel isn’t a complete waste of time. He brings up the Lumbee tribe which hasn’t gotten government aid. There are some rich people in the tribe, but a fast search hasn’t turned up anything about how they’re doing in general. Stossel’s theory that the tribal council system imposed by the Feds is part of the problem for other tribes might be reasonable.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This isn’t directly on topic, because I know basically nothing about Stossel and don’t want to watch his video, but is something that needs a bit of push-back:

      I don’t think it’s just bad habits by poor people, and note that there are rich people with bad habits.

      People say this a lot, with the implication that rich / upwardly mobile people do exactly the same things as poor / downwardly mobile people but are insulated from the consequences. Drug use is the most frequent example I see people bring out. The thing is, as far as I can tell from my own experiences, the sort of “bad behavior” that people get into is on very different scales.

      I’ve been to a community college and a state college as an undergrad and an ivy league private college for graduate school. Kids at all three drank and did drugs. But what that meant is completely different. “Drinking and doing drugs” at the community college meant getting blackout drunk and smoking weed nearly every night, plus doing hard drugs like coke or heroin. At the state college it meant getting blackout drunk and smoking weed on the weekends and maybe taking some hallucinogens once a month. At the private college it means getting tipsy once every two weeks and smoking a bowl every other month.

      Everyone is “behaving badly” but at a certain point quantitative differences in behavior become qualitative. You can be functional if you drink and smoke pot but you can’t if you’re lighting up every morning before work or drinking until you throw up three times a week. The difference is that rich people are aware of that and moderate their behavior while poor people don’t or can’t.

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t think it’s just bad habits by poor people, and note that there are rich people with bad habits.

        “There are rich people with bad habits” =/ rich people and poor people behave the exact same in aggregate.

        So long as you believe that rich, generally, correlates with good habits and that poor, generally, correlates with bad habits – this isn’t shocking at all (and I don’t think that’s a particularly outlandish claim).

        If our base hypothesis is that subsidies do nothing, because they are limited and short-term attempts to “throw money at” problems that are ultimately traceable to bad behaviors, then the fact that they don’t make poor people rich shouldn’t be considered surprising at all.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The two videos raise an interesting question– why do rich people who get subsidies generally stay rich, while poor people who get subsidies generally stay poor? I don’t think it’s just bad habits by poor people, and note that there are rich people with bad habits.

      Rich people can afford more bad habits, though. A gambling habit that costs $20,000/year may be ruin for someone making a middle-class income, but a mere trifle to a rich person. Also in some cases rich people have a better class of moochers attached to them. It’s been discussed here that when a person from a poor community gets a windfall, all his friends and relatives will suddenly develop a need. Rich people’s hangers-on may be more cognizant of the fact that if they take too much they’ll lose their source of income. They may even steer a foolish rich person away from really harmful things.

      • albatross11 says:

        Also, you’ve got a lot more room to turn yourself around if you or your family have some resources.

        Screw off enough in college via drinking, drugs, video games, etc., and you’ll end up flunking out. If you or your family have some resources, that’s still bad, but you can come back–you may have to go to a community college or a less demanding college for a year or two, get your grades back up, and then go back and get your degree. Ten years later, nobody will know or care that your path to a college degree had a detour like that.

        Do the same thing when your family is dirt-poor and you’re at school on a scholarship, and you’re liable to end up waiting tables indefinitely, because nobody’s going to be helping you go back to school.

        That’s not 100%. Get addicted to meth, and you can burn through your family’s resources and patience faster than you expect. (Plenty of wealthy families lose kids to drug addiction.) But there’s more margin for error.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Habits scale with income. A gambling habit for a poor person might cost $20,000 a year, but for a rich person it would cost far more than that, and easier access to credit means easier access to losses. While a poor person with an impulsive streak gets hit by ads for the lottery a rich gambler will be personally appealed to by major casinos who have professional staffers whose job it is to identify and cajole whales into playing at their casino.

        No serious addiction comes with an upper limit to spending, a rich alcoholic can burn through 100x as much money on the same quantity of alcohol as a guy drinking malt liquor, and cost himself 100x as much when he slams his car drunkenly into his own garage door.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Habits scale with income.

          Assuming for the moment that’s true: If a middle-income guy (making $50,000, say) has a $200/year gambling habit, we wouldn’t say it’s a bad habit. If in a couple of years he gets that finance job he was angling for and is now making $5M/year, and his gambling habit scales to $20,000, most people would say that’s a bad habit, because they think a $20,000/year gambling habit is bad in an absolute sense.

          Further, I don’t think “habits scale with income” is universally true. Not every habit is an all-consuming addiction limited only by financial resources. Even some really bad addictions don’t scale with income; plenty of rich smokers are limited by other factors.

          • Randy M says:

            Most people would say that because most peoples conceptions of money is around the average income level.
            If the 20k$ gambling habit isn’t taking any additional time from the financier (he just ups his bets 2 orders of magnitude) it might well be less of a problem, unless his other expenses increased by a factor equally high or higher.

            Of course, it is probably going to become a worse problem if he now feels he has no limits and gets into debts that he can’t get out of, but that’s due to psychology and not the absolute current numbers involved.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the whole practical definition of how big a problem some habit is turns on whether it causes problems in the rest of your life. If you like gambling but never spend yourself into bankruptcy, then it sounds like a hobby, no more inherently bad than, say, taking expensive trips to exotic places. Similarly, if you use alcohol or tobacco or cocaine or whatever in ways that doesn’t take over your life, then it sounds like a habit–perhaps a bad one, but not life-wrecking.

            An example of this I know of: One of my coworkers had to go take care of an older relative who’d fallen ill, a retired doctor. She’d apparently maintained an addiction to amphetamines for several decades, and only stopped being able to get them when she ended up in a nursing home after a medical crisis.

            The amphetamines were probably a bad choice, but it sure looks like she was living just fine with them well into old age, at which point the problem was that she couldn’t get them anymore.

            From daily life, we can see lots of people who seem to have gambling and drinking habits that don’t seem to be eating their lives. I assume there are people with various kinds of drug habits in the same category, though I’d be terrified to start taking (say) opioids or cocaine recreationally.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Assuming for the moment that’s true: If a middle-income guy (making $50,000, say) has a $200/year gambling habit, we wouldn’t say it’s a bad habit. If in a couple of years he gets that finance job he was angling for and is now making $5M/year, and his gambling habit scales to $20,000, most people would say that’s a bad habit, because they think a $20,000/year gambling habit is bad in an absolute sense.

            Maybe, but probably only if you framed it a certain way. You could say “should a mother who can’t afford to feed her kids spend $5 on scratch off games” and elicit a similar reaction.

            Further, I don’t think “habits scale with income” is universally true.

            It isn’t universally true, your example of smoking is a good one, but habits that don’t scale with income are rarely ruinous or are ruinous due to a non financial cost (like smoking again).

          • Randy M says:

            Similarly, if you use alcohol or tobacco or cocaine or whatever in ways that doesn’t take over your life, then it sounds like a habit–perhaps a bad one, but not life-wrecking.

            Sure. Though, this reminds me of the utilitarian thought experiments around here that always seem to start: “Supposing there’s no other bad consequences…”

            A wise person takes lessons from the destruction these activities can wreck on peoples lives and treads carefully. Which isn’t to advise “Just say no”, mind, but have some humility when you estimate your resistance to temptation.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Sure. Though, this reminds me of the utilitarian thought experiments around here that always seem to start: “Supposing there’s no other bad consequences…”

            Yeah, if you have an elderly woman who ends up in a nursing home it is impossible to tell (barring her living alone to like 115) if the amphetamines that she was abusing had nothing to do with her landing there and it is similarly difficult to disentangle how much better of financially she could have been and how things would have turned out.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Most people would say that because most peoples conceptions of money is around the average income level.

            Precisely my point. Some of the obvious bad habits that some rich people visibly indulge in aren’t all that bad looked at purely from a “financial, relative to income” perspective. And that’s the perspective we need to look at when determining if habits are a large part of what separate the rich from the poor.

          • albatross11 says:

            Fair enough, but she was an old woman, and had apparently lived a very productive and successful life. It’s not at all clear to me that her amphetamine habit was worse than the drinking habit a couple of my relatives have, which has also followed them into old age without ever causing their lives to spiral out of control. Probably not great for them in either case, and I’d certainly prefer to steer clear of such things myself, but well within the range of choices (in terms of apparent outcomes) we normally let adults make for themselves.

          • Randy M says:

            Fair enough, but she was an old woman, and had apparently lived a very productive and successful life.

            I wasn’t saying she had bad outcomes; I was saying even though it’s possible for some, it is extremely hard for many, and others should take heed of that.

    • BBA says:

      The Lumbee are interesting in that their tribal identity entirely post-dates colonization and they are mainly descended from white settlers and black slaves who left civilization and “went native.” DNA tests show almost no Native American descent. On the other hand, they do have distinctive cultural traditions, they have continuously inhabited their region for a few hundred years, and they consider themselves “Indians” and not any other race.

      Is that enough to be recognized as a tribe? The state of North Carolina says yes, Congress (so far) says no.

    • vV_Vv says:

      why do rich people who get subsidies generally stay rich, while poor people who get subsidies generally stay poor? I don’t think it’s just bad habits by poor people,

      Why not?

      and note that there are rich people with bad habits.

      Yes, but to what extent?

    • FLWAB says:

      Concerning native tribes, one of the biggest barriers is that for many tribes their land is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and cannot legally leave that trust. The purpose was to prevent natives from being cheated out of their land permanently by anyone who isn’t the government (ie, rich white guy buys up all the reservation land, now there is no reservation for the natives). However in effect this means that it is very difficult to get loans to build homes or businesses in reservations because the bank cannot hold the land as collateral. This has led to a massive housing shortage, and has stifled economic growth.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/native-americans-property-rights/492941/

      I live in Alaska, and up here things went down differently with the Natives. We didn’t make reservations: instead, after a long legal battle, an agreement was reached in which all the Alaska Natives became United States citizens, same as anybody else. The federal government then set up several native corporations, one for each tribal region and another for Alaska Natives who had left Alaska since the it was acquired. These corporations work like normal business corporations, and in compensation for taking their land each corporation was granted ownership of large amounts of federal land that was historically associated with the tribe as well as a significant cash settlement. Each Alaska Native became a shareholder in their native corporation, and as such receives dividends from the corporation’s profits as well as the right to vote for members of the board and such. So instead of reservations with land held in trust by a federal bureaucracy you have 13 corporations who use the land and cash they received in the settlement to try to maximize profits for their shareholders, same as any other corporation. The only difference is the shareholders are the natives themselves.

      I’d say that the Alaska solution has worked a lot better than reservations. Though not all of these corporations are doing as well as the others due to differences in management and the value of the land they received (the North Slope corporation has made buckoo bucks on oil, for instance) they do allow natives to own their land collectively, develop it, and get the profits from natural resources. Many of the corporations have branched out into all kinds of businesses to make money: the largest movie theater in Anchorage is called the Tikhatnu Commons and is part of a large shopping district owned by the Cook Inlet Regional native corporation, for instance, and it’s indistinguishable from a shopping center made by any other developer (and seems to be doing quite well for itself). All over anchorage you can see tall, expensive looking office buildings that are the headquarters for various native corporations. A lot of them have got into the business of fulfilling federal contracts, as some diversity law that was passed a while ago allows them to get preferential treatment on bids because they are owned entirely by natives. The only native corporation that has outright failed has been the one created for natives that left the state: it was only given money, not land, and because the shareholders were not united together by communal ties (since they were scattered across the country) what ended up happening was that the board of directors that was hired ran the company into the ground while lining their own profits. I suppose it is a bit easier to maximize shareholder value when those shareholders are your aunties and uncles and you have to see them regularly in the village.

      So I don’t know if Stossel has a point or not, but I’d say the biggest difference between the Amish and the Native woman he interviewed is not that the Amish land is better but that the Amish actually own their land and can develop it however they like, while most of the Natives in the lower 48 don’t actually have property rights to their land because the government treats them like children who can’t be trusted not to sell it for booze.

    • rahien.din says:

      why do rich people who get subsidies generally stay rich, while poor people who get subsidies generally stay poor?

      Maybe mere finance isn’t the whole story. If I step out of the pool and you throw me a towel, I will get dry. If I am drowning in the pool and you throw me a towel, I won’t get any more dry (and in fact might be worse off for having a wet towel).

    • baconbits9 says:

      The two videos raise an interesting question– why do rich people who get subsidies generally stay rich, while poor people who get subsidies generally stay poor?

      The obvious answer is that subsidies reinforce the behaviors that qualify the receiver. If the condition of being rich is needed to get a subsidy you would expect it to reinforce being rich, if the condition of being poor is needed to receive a subsidy you would expect it to reinforce being poor.

      The more complicated, but related, answer is that rich people have options, they don’t feel pressure to make a bad long term decision to alleviate a short term problem nearly as often.

    • Orpheus says:

      why do rich people who get subsidies generally stay rich, while poor people who get subsidies generally stay poor?

      Well, the first part isn’t surprising. As for the second, I remember a while back Kevin C. discussed his financial situation, and he said that if he accumulated too much money (by the governments standards; not by actual people standards) they would cut off his financial support. So even if he manged to save money, it wouldn’t actually be beneficial to him.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think a lot of poverty programs have this kind of property–by accumulating a small amount of wealth or getting a small raise, you become ineligible for a bunch of benefits and end up much worse off. This is one thing an UBI is supposed to avoid.

    • The Amish live on excellent farmland.

      Amish population doubles about every twenty years, with the result that a large part of the Amish population at present is farming land bought within the last few decades and another large part is supporting itself not by farming but working in various industries such as construction or in small businesses they started.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Are there any notable examples of people who won the lottery, then either stayed rich or increased their wealth with great stewardship?

  18. greghb says:

    Kabbalistic implications of this article: people named “wolf” keep crying about Trump. First Michael Wolff writes Fire and Fury, and now Michelle Wolf delivers the White House Correspondents’ Dinner roast of Trump.

    These wolves even have the same first name, which means “Who is like God?” … discuss!

  19. Le Maistre Chat says:

    The film Black Panther seemed to establish that the Egyptian deity Bast is real and dead kings of Wakanda go hang out with her.
    Marvel’s Thor movies established that the Nine Realms of Norse cosmology are a bunch of celestial bodies somewhere in the galaxy.
    Y’all think the studio will do anything coherent with gods going forward?

    • Nornagest says:

      I hope it involves sentient polyhedral dice. Or nine different types of supernatural giant frog.

    • hls2003 says:

      During Infinity War, both Heimdall and Thor utter prayers to “the Allfathers,” plural, at various times. Given that in Marvel continuity the Greek pantheon headed by Zeus provides its own “strong guy” hero (Hercules) to the comics, who has teamed up with Thor at various times, and that other pantheons make appearances (I recall the Japanese pantheon coming into a recent storyline), including a set of “Allfathers” working together during a Celestials storyline, it seems like that throwaway plural by its Norse characters may indicate that the MCU is planning something similar in the future.

      However, all that being said, I expect it would be pretty far in the future. I rather suspect that the Marvel single-continuity superhero movie genre may lose its cultural influence and profitability before they get that far down the road.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I totally missed those “Allfathers” prayers. Which is odd, because I was hyper-aware of theological implications of Thor when watching Ragrarok. They had him say the generic exclamation “Oh my God!” and I was like “Wait, what’s he saying? ‘Oh my dad?’ ‘Oh myself?’ Or does Thor worship Christ (it’s not unprecedented in fiction)?”

        • Evan Þ says:

          Or does Thor worship Christ (it’s not unprecedented in fiction)?

          Sounds interesting; got any recommendations? (Preferably books?)

          • hls2003 says:

            Not sure what she has in mind, and I’m not really much of a comic book reader (most of what I know has been retroactively gleaned from Wikipedia dives). But I do recall seeing some comic book panels from much earlier eras – Golden or Silver Age – where Christmas is celebrated, in a semi-religious way. The ones I’m thinking of were from DC, not Marvel specifically, but bear in mind that DC also has its own various pantheons including Greek gods and others. And the two publishers basically always copied each other so it wouldn’t surprise me if Marvel had something similar in its back catalogue.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Books: not explicit, but Poul Anderson liked showing Aesir interacting with God and the devil. See The Broken Sword/i> and the climax of Operation Chaos.
            Comics: Apparently there’s a Marvel story, “Whatever Gods There Be”, where Thor is comfortable in a convent and then tells a Catholic priest who’s having a crisis of faith about pagan gods walking around “Your faith is NOT in vain!”
            Video game: In Shin Megami Tensei, where YHWH is just a tyrant with super powers, Thor is one of his devotees.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Marvel in the comics version keeps the Judeo-Christian stuff pretty vague most of the time, but it definitely does exist. However, it also does so in the same kind of interactable milieu as all the other Heavens and Hells.

            We know this because a couple years back, Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four died; he’s Jewish and went to conventional Heaven with God and angels and stuff.

            And in a plot development that I honestly thought was kind of brilliant, Reed Richards remembered that all the way back in Dr. Doom’s origin story, he had been trying to build a machine to open a gateway to Hell to free the damned soul of his mother. He screwed up the math, Reed pointed out the error, Doom didn’t believe it, flipped the switch, and blew his own face off (and since he’s a megalomaniac who couldn’t believe it was his own fault, blamed Reed.) Classic origin story, established in FF #5.

            But the implication, which nobody had ever picked up on before, was that Reed Richards must therefore also know how to build that machine, but correctly.

            So when he best friend died, he did that – and pointed it in the other direction, so they could full on jailbreak the Thing out of Heaven. And it totally worked, although ultimately it would have failed if God (who bore a more than passing resemblance to Jack Kirby) hadn’t decided he was impressed with their pluck and let it slide.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Reminds me of a short story I read a long time ago where everyone who dies goes to their own version of the afterlife.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            In the Supernatural TV series, everyone goes to their personal heaven (if they pass). Which is run by Judeo-Christian angels, but each person has their own little paradise, which doesn’t have to be Judeo-Christian in nature.

            In The Iron Druid book series, every pantheon that has had substantial number of true believers exists, all side by side, each one basically being a giant tulpa created by man’s faith. When you die you die according to the rules of your own specific belief. Coincidentally, there are a whole bunch of people pissed off at Thor. Two of the main character’s friends want the Druid’s help in going to kick Thor’s ass.

            Marvel usually doesn’t mention their creator-God, but he’s The One Above All, exactly one for the whole multiverse, right above the Living Tribunal, who is also unique.

          • Nick says:

            Farscape also did the “different beliefs, different destinations” thing.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think they left wiggle room for the possibility that the vision quests in Black Panther were just in the heads of the people having them, so they haven’t necessarily made a strong commitment that Bast is real.

      But if Bast is real, who says she isn’t just in psychic contact from another planet/dimension/whatever?

    • J Mann says:

      As I recall, the Marvel cosmology is basically that almost all (maybe all) human religious beliefs have a real instantiation, including an afterlife for souls and the ability to meet gods, angels, and devils, all of whom are essentially super-powered extra-dimensional aliens.

      Theoretically, there’s no reason Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, the Virgin Mary, and Elijah couldn’t come to Earth and join the Avengers, but in practice comics usually avoid writing in currently active religious figures.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Oh, Marvel has had Jesus show up, but He’s not down on the Avengers level like Thor and Hercules.
        As far as gods being extra-dimensional aliens, ehhh… Marvel established some time around 1980 that the gods of real-life pantheons descend from Mother Earth in a traditional theogony, most of them only after Conan the Barbarian died. They moved to extra-dimensional locations later (unless the Norse Nine Realms are within the galaxy, like in the movies).

        At least one crossover event (Infinity Gauntlet, 1991) showed the power levels above Thor as heads of pantheons, Mephisto < Jack Kirby's Celestials and his Watchers from Fantastic Four < Galactus & most Platonic Forms < Eternity < the Living Tribunal
        Notably absent: The One Above All (the aforesaid comic even had Thor tell Adam Warlock there is no God, just randomness, and that's good!), angels, Dr. Strange's gods.

      • Matt M says:

        Doesn’t this sort of thing tend to happen in some of the more obscure JRPGs, where Western deities aren’t tabooed in the same way as they are in American media?

        • Nornagest says:

          It’s a staple of the SMT games, but I don’t think it’s much more common across the lake than it is here.

          • sfoil says:

            Satan was the penultimate boss in Final Fantasy II, but I played an old ROM fan-translation before it had an official export release.

            Yes, I used “penultimate” correctly, the final boss was some other guy.

          • Nornagest says:

            I do think that fantasy games with a Christian or Christian-like cosmology are more common in Japan than they are here — Devil May Cry, Disgaea, Actraiser, Castlevania, Bayonetta, and so forth. I think that’s because fantasy thrives on exoticism, and Christianity comes off about as exotic in Japan as classical or Norse paganism comes off here.

            But I wasn’t thinking of a strict Christian cosmology; I was talking about the type of crossover cosmology where you get five or six different pantheons under the Christian one. And that — while it does appear in Japanese media — seems just as common in the West, probably because it solves about the same kinds of storytelling problems either way. (I associate it with Neil Gaiman’s work, myself.)

    • J Mann says:

      Now that I think about it, Marvel has the same problem as the Preacher TV series on AMC, which is once you have demonstrable proof that the afterlife is REAL, you would think it would have some substantial impact on how people live their lives, even if the afterlife turns out to be pretty weird.

      • Protagoras says:

        It seems quite plausible that many people in the distant past believed in the afterlife to a much greater degree than modern skeptical people do. This did not seem to have extraordinarily substantial impacts on their behavior.

  20. baconbits9 says:

    Oh no. Apparently an LCD manufacturer has been approved to drain off Lake Michigan at a rate of SEVEN MILLION GALLONS PER DAY. I often screw up counting decimals, but I am pretty sure that will drain the entire lake in just over 500,000 years. Good job weather.com letting me know that Lake Michigan is “about to hemorrhage”, time to stock up for the apocalypse.

    • The Nybbler says:

      That’s 7 million gallons gross; 4.3 million will be returned, so only 2.7 million net. So well over a million years.

      • b_jonas says:

        Is a million years significantly longer than the usual lifespan of a lake? I think it is, but I’m not good at earth science.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The Great Lakes are only 14,000 years old. With a glacial-interglacial cycle of ~100,000 years, it’s very unlikely the lakes will last anywhere near a million. Unless you believe climate change will prevent future ice ages, which I don’t think is the way to bet.

    • Nornagest says:

      “$COMPANY is using $BIGNUM gallons of water a day” is one of my favorite bits of lazy rhetoric. It’s startling how often it comes up.

    • CatCube says:

      I went there to look, and there doesn’t seem to be any implication that they’re going to be disposing the water outside of the watershed, so…they’re worried about the few weeks until the system reaches equilibrium again, I guess?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The watershed hugs very close to the lakes. For example, Madison is outside. The factory is in Mount Pleasant, only five miles from the lake, but just outside. The main complaint is that they played fast and lose with the rules to get water from Racine, on the shore.
        [This has detailed rules for straddling towns and a detailed map that makes it look like Mount Pleasant is inside.]

        Half of the water is going to be returned to the lake and half of it is going to evaporate. What happens to evaporated water probably depends more on the prevailing winds than on the details of the ridgeline, but I don’t know.

        All the coverage I’ve seen is pretty reasonable in saying that this just increases consumption by 1/1000, but that people are concerned about the precedent.

  21. rlms says:

    The first game of SSC diplomacy (see summary here) finished a couple of weeks ago. Anyone interested in another? If you are, fill in this form. Comment below with any questions.

  22. johan_larson says:

    Some weeks back, I paid for a 23andMe genetic analysis, and today I got the results. And they are boring. I was born in Finland to Swedish-speaking parents, and my analysis came out as follows:

    Finnish 80.9%
    Scandinavian (Sweden) 11.6%
    Broadly Northwestern European 7.1%
    North African & Arabian 0.2%
    Broadly East Asian & Native American 0.1%

    maternal haplogroup H2a1
    paternal haplogroup I-M253

    I guess the biggest surprise is that I have no Russian ancestry.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Yes I think 23 and Me is not very interesting for the average person. I got mine done some years ago. My ancestry wasn’t a whole lot different than I expected, and I had no major genetic flaws that I needed to watch out for as possible future diseases. The people that have contacted me as relatives are not closer than about 4th cousin or so.

      I think it was worth doing the analysis in case there was unexpected news. But since there wasn’t much there, I haven’t looked back on it in years.

      • 23andMe informed me that I had a greater than average chance of a meningioma, a benign (i.e. non-cancerous) tumor in the membrane that encloses the skull. Shortly after I had surgery to remove one.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      You can increase how surprised you are by things by making predictions ahead of time. Is this really what you expected? I’d expect Swedish-speaking Finns to be substantially Swedish, but you probably know better than I.

  23. Deiseach says:

    The kind of thoughts that occur to one when awake at ungodly hours of the morning with a dismal headache, and arising out of the discussion about inceldom: “good looking” and “attractive” are not the same thing. Someone can be attractive but not very good looking, and someone can be very good looking but not be attractive. And since tastes differ, one person’s “wow what a hottie” is another person’s “are you joking?”

    Also inspired in part by Facebook friend suggestions, which hinted to me I might know someone who looked rather like this (slightly older, somewhat more muscly, but the same kind of ‘arty’ black-and-white photo pose). I went “I’m pretty sure I don’t know anybody who looks like that” and some further consideration led me to think that not only did I not know people who looked like that, I wouldn’t particularly care to, since it’s not a look I find attractive. (To put my money where my mouth is, I think this man is attractive, even when he looks more thuggish for a role).

    And yet for many people the muscled look is desirable, whether as “that’s the kind of guy I want” or “that’s the kind of look I want”.

    Anyone know what I mean, or am I just talking out of the top of a rather sore head? Anyone want to suggest “yes I find X attractive even if they’re not the best looking” and “I know Y is supposed to be hot but they do nothing for me”?

    • DavidS says:

      Totally agreed with this. I think there are several versions of this (e.g. sometimes you’re saying ‘they really are good looking’ sometimes more ‘I recognise society considers them so’.) But as a straight guy there are certain women who I think are ‘objectively’ good-looking but I have no attraction to at all: I recognise it in the same way as I’d recognise a man was good looking or for that matter that you might recognise one animal was better-looking than another of its species. For me specifically this tends to be the muscly/sporty type of woman.

      Occasionally it’s not just personal attraction but recognising that someone is considered attractive without really grokking why. For me this includes for instance Ryan Gosling (at least in most roles I’ve seen): his look to me communicates stupidity and a sort of meanness/smallness for some reason (both of which are pretty unattractive to me) so I have to remind myself that he’s apparently a heart-throb.

      And you definitely have people who you’d never pick out as attractive in a photo but are immensely so when you’re interacting with them (as in they seem to literally look more attractive because of a sort of halo effect from how they behave/look). Or the other way round: I can see someone and think they’re attractive and then they open their mouth and sound stupid/horrible (actually I suspect some voices would do this with no stupidity/moral failing) and the idea of their being attractive disappears like a Magic Eye picture.

    • Nick says:

      Are you saying that “attractive” is more personal where “good-looking” is more objective? Would you put things like symmetrical facial features in the latter then?

      • Deiseach says:

        A little of that, certainly. Sometimes I see people hailed as very good-looking and I think to myself “He’s averagely handsome/she’s pretty but I wouldn’t say beautiful” and that probably has a large element of subjectivity to it.

        But I do also go “Yes, X is very good-looking but eh. Not my type”.

        Where that very tangentially intersects with the incel thoughts is that perhaps Bill thinks Ann rejected him because he’s not good-looking enough (hence the “2mm of bone structure/blue-eyed blond” stuff), but Ann just didn’t find him attractive, and that’s a horse of a different colour.

        I think we do tend to think “good looks = attractive” and yes, that’s very much so, but it’s not the whole of it, and that little element of subjectivity entering in makes all the difference. If Bill is convinced that he’s hopelessly ugly and no woman will want him because Ann turned him down, he’s not leaving himself open to the idea that maybe he wasn’t Ann’s cup of tea but Bernice would be happy to go out with him.

        I mean, I am also aware that “Oh, she’s got a lovely personality” is the kind of consolation prize awarded to ugly women, and everyone knows it including the women in question, but there is also the notion of jolie laide. Bette Davis, for example, was not beautiful in a conventional manner but that didn’t stop her being a film star cast in romantic leading lady roles.

        • J Mann says:

          Yeah, a couple thoughts.

          1) I’m pretty firmly in the middle of the bell curve, so I can find people who I find attractive and who are attracted to me thanks to the effects you describe.

          2) On the other hand, when I hang out with my best looking friends, or when see some random blog post about how some bartista melted because some tall arty guy with good cheekbones walked into her coffee shop, I realize there is another world out there for the striking. (As much as anything, it seems to be reasonably fit, appropriately groomed for the environment, and tall for men, chesty for women).

          3) Based on the one review of /r/incel I was able to stand, self-identified incels believe that they’re on the other end of that bell curve. IMHO, many of them would probably be able to find someone they could be happy with if they improved their grooming, acted with some self-confidence and kindness, and stuck with it, (Dan Savage’s stock advice for “no one loves me,” BTW), but they don’t believe it.

        • DavidS says:

          Can indeed be a consolation prize (along with ‘great hair’, which I once got as a consolation prize in a professional context where each person had to say three good things about each other person in the team had brought to the work).

          This, like most important matters of love, is explored fully in Harry Met Sally (note ‘Jess’ is a guy)

          Jess: If she’s so great why aren’t you taking her out?
          Harry: How many times do I have to tell you, we’re just friends.
          Jess: So you’re saying she’s not that attractive.
          Harry: No, I told you she is attractive.
          Jess: Yeah but you also said she has a good personality.
          Harry: She has a good personality.
          [Jess stops walking, turns to Harry, raises his arms in the air]
          Harry: What?
          Jess: When someone’s not that attractive, they’re always described as having a good personality.
          Harry: Look, if you had asked me what does she look like and I said, she has a good personality, that means she’s not attractive. But just because I happen to mention that she has a good personality, she could be either. She could be attractive with a good personality, or not attractive with a good personality.
          Jess: So which one is she?
          Harry: Attractive.
          Jess: But not beautiful, right?

    • fion says:

      Is this different to the distinction between “objective” and “subjective” looks? As in, “I find X good-looking even if they’re not objectively good-looking”?

      Or is it the distinction between sober opinions of aesthetics vs. feelings of wanting? As in, “X has really nice features and I think they look good” vs. “Mmm, I like Y”?

      I definitely agree with you that there are subtle differences in how we use the words, but I’m not quite sure about the mapping from the various experiences to the various words…

      • Deiseach says:

        This is all personal but no, I wouldn’t quite put it as “I find X good-looking even if they’re not objectively good-looking”, I would phrase it as “I find X attractive even if they’ve got a wonky nose or a scarred lip or whatever”.

        Of course that can then cast a glamour over things so that then you find yourself going “I find X good-looking”; where I realised I was in deep was when I found myself going “I like his knuckles” and then caught myself up and went “What the hell, Self?” 😀

      • J Mann says:

        I think generally in this context, “objective” means “broad majority opinion” and “subjective” means “me.” See, e.g., the Kenysian beauty contest, named because of exactly this effect when judging human attractiveness.

        Alternately, “objective” can mean “a list of objective factors that most modern people in the relevant group find attractive” (Body fat ratio, body proportions, cheek bones, clear skin, etc.)

    • Aapje says:

      @Deiseach

      I think this is pretty universal and a big benefit to mankind, so we don’t all chase the same few people.

      However, it’s still the case that some looks are desired by more people than other looks.

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh definitely, there is such a thing as “good looks” and most of us prefer them. But there is, or there seems to me to be, a subtle distinction: someone can be objectively good-looking but not appeal to everyone, and that’s not because “Ugh, everyone says Z is handsome but I think he looks like a sack of spuds”, that’s “yeah, Z is handsome but he just doesn’t appeal to me”.

        Like the exchange in Roger Rabbit about what does a toon who looks like Jessica (and could have absolutely any male, toon or human) see in Roger, and she says he makes her laugh 🙂

        And if you think “the reason I am not romantically successful is because I’m not good-looking enough, women are such shallow bitches”, you may be overlooking “maybe it’s my abrasive personality and not the fact that I’m not a six foot six tall blond blue-eyed stud?”

        • Barely matters says:

          you may be overlooking “maybe it’s my abrasive personality and not the fact that I’m not a six foot six tall blond blue-eyed stud?”

          I mean, sure, often the personality is the problem, but do you have any reason to suspect this is the case beyond the fact that the person is failing?

          Because I have to tell you, if I were to bet on the success rates between a loyal, kind, considerate, accommodating, sweet but unattractive guy, and a guy who is hot AF but a complete degenerate dickbag, my money is on the nasty fuckboy all the way to the bank.

          I agree with you that locating that actual problem is vitally important if a person is to improve. And that frequently unattractive people have shitty personalities to match. But I have noticed that even without any other information present, people frequently jump to personality being the (sole) issue (That if alleviated would solve their problem) with exactly as flimsy justification as the incels do when attributing the failure to their lack of rock hard Chad genes.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Part of this is the distinction between “good looking” and “sexual market value.” SMV is determined by more than simply physical appearance.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        To some extent, but I also think that this may be a divide between good looks that are generic and good looks that have a bit of an “edge” to them. Or just imply different things. Like, Tom Holland is a decent looking fellow, but he is not going to be attractive (hopefully) to any woman over the age of 30.

        “Boyish good looks” seems to be “good looking but not necessarily attractive”

      • albatross11 says:

        One irony that keeps hitting me in this discussion is that one of my close friends in college was honestly a rather homely[1] woman, even at college age (aka peak attractiveness for women), who nonetheless had a *constant* stream of suitors and (often high-drama) romances. Something about her personality/style/affect/reality distortion field made her extremely attractive to a lot of guys. I’ve seen the same with men–guys who are not in any objective sense good looking, but who still seem to never lack for interested females.

        [1] American version

        • Protagoras says:

          Iris Murdoch is an example of a famous person who was known for not being conventionally attractive (and one can see why if one googles her pictures) who had large numbers of fairly impressive male admirers and lovers.

    • Wrong Species says:

      There is some subjectivity but at some point, a guy needs to be a certain level of “objectively good-looking” before they have any chance of physically attracting a higher status woman. No one is attracted to the elephant man. Incels are, or at least think they are, below that level.

      • AG says:

        And yet, all that monsterfucking and near-furry fandom over anthropomorphic guys…it’s almost like most women have demisexual tendencies that can be overcome by raw “objective” attractiveness, but working through the demisexual framework to cultivate attraction is much more accessible.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The alternative explanation is that monsters are objectively attractive.

          • albatross11 says:

            Judging from various bits of popular fiction, this is true for vampires and often werewolves. Also for at least a few blonde-haired upper-class junior death-eaters.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’m kind of disappointed that The Shape of Water didn’t include “your children will be immortal” as one of the benefits of fishman romance. 😛

          • John Schilling says:

            Depends on the monster. But when, e.g. this is how you cast “Beauty and the Beast”, you’re not telling a story about how a good heart in an ugly body is the winning combination. And Hollywood probably isn’t where you should be looking to see that story told straight.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            John, is that just Ron Perlman with a lion nose prosthetic? 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            The lips and eyes have also been tweaked, and that’s not Ron Perlman’s hair, but you’ve about got it. Four hours of makeup to create an appearance very slightly less human and not at all less handsome than Ron Perlman in his natural state, and this is to be taken as a Monstrous Beast.

          • Nornagest says:

            They could have just used Ron Perlman in his getup from Sons of Anarchy and most of the plot still would’ve worked.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure, but the hairballs, shedding on the furniture, etc, definitely detract from sexual market value.

    • Anyone want to suggest “yes I find X attractive even if they’re not the best looking” and “I know Y is supposed to be hot but they do nothing for me”?

      Certainly true for me. Looking at random women I have sometimes tried to work out what the characteristics, physical or behavioral, are that I find attractive, and it doesn’t fit very closely to either an aesthetic judgement or conventional ideas of female attractiveness.

      Also, how attractive a woman looks to me depends a lot on facial expression, what emotions she is signalling.

      • albatross11 says:

        I dated a girl in college for a short time who was objectively quite attractive, but with whom I simply had very little chemistry. Nothing at all against her–she was pretty, pleasant, and intelligent–she just didn’t push my buttons, even though she met all the criteria I’d have listed for girls I’d have wanted to date.

  24. fion says:

    Is anybody else having trouble with the interface? I’m missing the “hide” and “up” buttons from other people’s comments, all the “italics”, “block quote” etc. buttons for when I’m writing my own comments and the little thing at the top-right that tells you how many new comments there are. Plus, every time I post a comment the page takes like a minute and a half to reload, which is a lot longer than usual.

    Related question: Is there a better way to report technical issues such as this than just posting a comment in an open thread?

    • Orpheus says:

      Seems fine to me.

    • Nick says:

      I’ve been having that too. Sometimes it gets stuck loading gravatar, sometimes other things, and I can’t find a pattern to it. It occurs at home but not at work.

      When the hide and up buttons aren’t loading, it’s just because the page didn’t load fully. That happens to me too sometimes, and a refresh fixes it.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      These are all external features added by Bakkot’s script. If his script has a problem, you should contact him. Probably what’s happening is that it’s failing to load on your side, which is probably no more his fault than anything else about the site.

      To run his script you need javascript and cookies. If you didn’t have cookies, you couldn’t post comments, so that’s not it. My first guess it’s some kind of ad-blocker preventing his script from loading. Is there a correlation between the slow loads and the loss of functionality?

      • fion says:

        It’s strange because I’ve tried it from three different devices (on different wifi/ethernet networks) and they all have the same problem. It get’s stuck on “connecting to bakkot.github.io”.

        As for correlation, it never happened to me before the day before yesterday, but all problems have occurred every time I’ve visited the site since; they’re all perfectly correlated. Disabling adblocker didn’t help.

        @Nick, a refresh doesn’t fix it because the refresh also doesn’t load properly. 😛

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I did have some problems recently that sounded like yours, but I think it was because I’ve been disabling javascript like I ought to.

          It looks like https://bakkot.github.io/SlateStarComments/ssc.js is the loaded script. Can you try browsing to that directly?

          • fion says:

            When I click your link it times out. Tried on two devices.

            “but I think it was because I’ve been disabling javascript like I ought to.”

            I don’t understand what this means. Javasript is definitely enabled on my browser, though, so I guess this isn’t my problem.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If you can’t pull up that URL I posted, that 100% is the problem.

            I’ve had issues where sometimes an ISP refuses to grab pages from a specific website. There may also be active webfiltering in place.

          • fion says:

            Yeah, I meant disabling javascript wasn’t my problem.

            Ok, thanks for your help. I’m still really perplexed that I’m getting the same problem with multiple different ISPs but nobody else is getting it. :S

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