THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

OT113: Opentekonter Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page).

Starting today, the visible Open Thread is culture-war-free. Please try not to talk about extremely controversial political and social topics. You can still talk about those in the Hidden Open Threads that you can find at the Open Thread tab every Wednesday and alternating Sundays. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server – and also check out the SSC Podcast. Also:

1. I know that the email subscription function is broken. Thanks to everyone who alerted me of this. I don’t know how to fix it. If someone is good with WordPress and thinks they know how to fix it, please let me know and I’ll give you access to whatever you need. I also need someone willing to fix the Report Comment function, which seems to work very inconsistently right now.

2. Comment of the week is this discussion of dark matter.

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1,006 Responses to OT113: Opentekonter Thread

  1. cassander says:

    Lies I tell you, it’s all lies! That’s a trireme, not a penteconter.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Good catch. I regret the error and it has been corrected.

      My thoughts on biremes, triremes, quadriremes and quinqueremes are that they were basically the ancient naval equivalent of https://www.theonion.com/fuck-everything-were-doing-five-blades-1819584036

      • John Schilling says:

        That was mostly only for the fours and above.

        Everything from the pentekonter up to the trireme was a reasonable technological escalation given that the dominant naval tactic was ramming under oar power. For that, you want as much power as you can get, without sacrificing maneuverability or structural integrity. I wonder if we can get CatCube to give us an effortpost on the structural integrity of clinker-built galleys?

        Never mind that. Wooden ships built using Hellenic methods started to have issues if you tried to make them more than 30-40 meters long, which is a good fit for twenty-five oarsmen sitting one in front of another on each side. That gives you a pentekonter. To get more power in the same hull length, you could try putting two or more men on each oar, or putting two or more banks above one another, but then they all get in each other’s way and while you’re trying to sort it out some less ambitious shipwright’s pentekonter has put a ram in your broadside.

        Until the Greeks eventually developed a technique for putting two (ca 600 BC) and then three (ca 500 BC) banks of oars on top of each other without interference. That gave them biremes of ~100 oars and later triremes of ~150 oars as the most capable warships for naval battles. Eventually, everybody else copied those.

        Nobody ever figured out a technique for putting four non-interfering banks of oars on the side of a ship, so quadriremes and above meant putting two or more men to an oar. Which meant some rowers couldn’t use their full stroke, plus coordination problems, and the bigger ships were marginally more powerful but less maneuverable.

        I don’t think any of them saw much use when peer competitors were fighting for naval supremacy via fleet battles. They made nifty flagships, so everyone could see that your admiral was way more badass than the other side’s admiral because look, more blades oars, and they would be accompanied by enough triremes that nobody is going to outmaneuver them one-on-one. And when things settled down to one dominant naval power, the optimum mix started looking like a bunch of smaller ships for pirate-hunting and the like (and a late Roman liburnian would look an awful lot like an early Greek pentekonter), and bigger ships for besieging coastal towns. In the latter case, you wanted room for supplies since you might not be parking on a friendly beach every night, and you wanted a big stable platform for siege engines of various sorts, and all of that shifted the balance in favor of fours and fives even if they were less efficient in the rare fleet battles.

        And then some idiot is going to see that his fleet has escalated to mostly sixes and say “my flagship’s gotta be at least an eight, maybe a ten. Make it so!”

        Unfortunately, the people who figured all this out were not the types to write down the details, so it took a while to determine that a quadrireme really only had two (we think) banks of oars. And the trick for making three banks of oars actually work, nobody entirely understands how this was done. When the contemporary Greek navy financed a bunch of experimental archaeologists to recreate the technology, they came up with something that seems about right but does not have the performance reliably attested to what their ancestors had been building 2,500 years earlier.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I don’t understand what it means for three banks of non-interfering oars to be do-able but not four. Is there some math or engineering principle here (or do we just not know?)

          • cassander says:

            I can’t speak to the interference, but there’s also an issue with height. the higher you get from the water, the less efficient your rowers get. even if you could get 4 to a bank (and remember, even three required highly skilled rowers to be decent at it and later, larger galleys took to adding more people to oars specifically to make more efficient use of trained rowers) the 4th row might not add enough power to make up for the extra weight, to say nothing of the extra cost.

          • J Mann says:

            @John Shilling

            Seconding Scott’s question. Is interfering oars a math problem or a physics problem? If it’s a math problem, it sounds fascinating.

            I’d love to read a more detailed account of the Greeks’ attempts to solve it, and would welcome any recommendations.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think it’s more of an engineering problem than a math/physics one, but as I noted, we don’t fully understand the technology for a three-banked ship. All we know, with modest confidence, is that the people who used to do this professionally never figured out how to do more than three.

            Educated guess, it’s probably an issue of the tolerance with which human crews (and these were trained professionals, not slaves) could keep their oars positioned while maintaining a fast rowing pace. The rowers can be sitting at different levels, but they’re all dipping their oars in the same sea – and at different angles. If an upper-tier oarsman puts an blade in the water just ahead of the lower-tier oar he was supposed to be just behind, the return stroke gets messy. I think.

            As for reading, these guys are probably the place to start looking.

          • AnteriorMotive says:

            If you look at a cross-section of a trireme, it was an incredibly intricate feat to pack three oarsmen into such a small space. The lowest guy’s oar was barely above water-level, so they fitted the oar-hole with a waterproof sheath. There was an outrigger hanging off the edge of the ship to hold another guy’s oar in place because he was barely inside the ship. The ship slightly tapers on one end, so one row has only 46 oarsmen.

            In the book written about the reverse engineering of the Trireme and the building of the Olympias, one frequent theme is that for many elements, despite having very little evidence to base its reconstruction on, they can be sure they got it right, because given all the constraints, only one version is physically possible.

            There’s a funny story in the book: Napoleon III, for a major event, decides to reconstruct a trireme. There’s a lot of hype leading up to the unveiling, and then it’s never mentioned again. A few decades later, the reconstruction is used for artillery target practice. Evidently the archaeologists and engineers screwed something up.

            Everything past 3-oarsmen per side, per segment, was achieved by using less oars, but putting multiple men to an oar. This has the advantage of requiring less skilled oarsmen (only one per oar, to guide the stroke), but it can’t match the maneuverability achieved by the trireme. It’s less suited to ramming, and more suited for carrying archers and marines.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          And a Viking longship looks a lot like a penteconter or liburnian.
          In the Iliad’ s Catalogue of Ships, the bard says Philoctetes brought ships whose 50 oarsmen were also archers, and the only other time crew size is mentioned, ships from Thebes had 120 oarsmen. That sounds either inefficient or an anachronistic bireme.

        • Lillian says:

          Nobody ever figured out a technique for putting four non-interfering banks of oars on the side of a ship, so quadriremes and above meant putting two or more men to an oar. Which meant some rowers couldn’t use their full stroke, plus coordination problems, and the bigger ships were marginally more powerful but less maneuverable.

          I don’t think any of them saw much use when peer competitors were fighting for naval supremacy via fleet battles. They made nifty flagships, so everyone could see that your admiral was way more badass than the other side’s admiral because look, more blades oars, and they would be accompanied by enough triremes that nobody is going to outmaneuver them one-on-one. And when things settled down to one dominant naval power, the optimum mix started looking like a bunch of smaller ships for pirate-hunting and the like (and a late Roman liburnian would look an awful lot like an early Greek pentekonter), and bigger ships for besieging coastal towns. In the latter case, you wanted room for supplies since you might not be parking on a friendly beach every night, and you wanted a big stable platform for siege engines of various sorts, and all of that shifted the balance in favor of fours and fives even if they were less efficient in the rare fleet battles..

          Quadriremes became fairly popular during the Diadochi period. One attested Athenian fleet was 3/8th quadriremes, and the Rhodian Navy used them as their principal combat vessel. During the Punic Wars the Romans and the Carthaginians both used quinquiremes as the mainstays of their fleets, with the triremes seemingly relegated to the role of scouts. For example the first real fleet authorized by the Roman Senate was 100 quinqueremes and only 20 triremes.

          So as far as i can tell, heavy ships dominated naval warfare between peer combatants from the Diadochi period up until the Battle of Actium. There Octavius’s larger fleet mostly composed of lighter liburnas was able to outmanoeuvre and decisively defeat Marcus Antonius’ heavier and more traditional fleet composition. These liburnas are thought to be biremes, so heavier than the penteconter ones used in the later Empire.

        • cassander says:

          IIRC, the olympias came pretty close to greek levels of performance, and considering that it was rowed by a bunch of out of shape classicists without any experience, they ruled it close enough.

        • faoiseam says:

          In crew, almost all the energy is produced by the legs, and the sliding seat enables this. I presume that these ships were almost all arm and trunk powered. Was there every a design that tried to use leg power by, for example, allowing movable seats suspended on ropes? I have wanted to know this for a while, but have not seen anyone who might have known before.

      • Protagoras says:

        I assumed it was like the numbers sometimes used for models of cars. Sometimes they mean one thing, sometimes they mean another, most of the time they just sounded good to marketing.

        • Nobody has yet mentioned the Ptolemaic Forty. The theory I have seen was that it was a giant catamaran.

          Nor, for the sf readers, Five-Twelfths of Heaven and its sequels, with spaceship classes obviously based on warship categories in classical antiquity. Odd and good books.

        • engleberg says:

          Re: just sounded good-

          Bet Greek had something like the French ‘tres’. Like Lionel Richie singing ‘Three times a lady’. You’re once, twice, three times an oared ramming vessel! I luh-ooo-uh-ooo-uh-oo-uhve you.

  2. Scott Alexander says:

    I want to figure out what to do with the Culture War thread on the subreddit. What is the best way for me to get all of the subreddit moderators together in a private place to have this discussion? Discord? Some kind of moderator discussion on Reddit I don’t know about?

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      Reddit has modmail, which is a spinoff of reddit’s usual private messaging system specific to the mods of a given subreddit. (As a mod, you’ll be able to see a link to it somewhere on the subreddit sidebar, or you can use https://www.reddit.com/message/moderator/.) If /r/ssc has enabled the new version of modmail*, you get a few more features, but either way it has the ability to start conversations with the full mod team and let people post threaded replies. It’s probably less good than making a full-on private Discord if you want various messaging tools, but if you’re looking for a medium-length public conversation between mods with minimal effort or external requirements, it’s the way to go.

      Alternatively, you could create a private subreddit for mods of the subreddit, and discuss things there – this has the benefit of coming with all the features Reddit offers for cross-subreddit interaction, and lets you demo anything you might want to try implementing in the main sub (like CSS, etc). Useful if you want a consistent place for lots of disjoint discussions of topics, just like regular subreddits are.

      Source: I moderate /r/math and we use both these things to pretty good results. Modmail exists by default and is almost certainly used by other /r/slatestarcodex mods, the private sub may or may not (but is simple to create).

      *If so, you’ll be able to find it at https://mod.reddit.com/mail/all.

      • Deiseach says:

        This is going to sound like whinging about the sub-reddit mods (because it is) but I’d really love if they had one story and stuck to it. As it is, now the principle of charity has been invoked to ban everything from sarcasm (I got my knuckles rapped for that one) to political jokes and it seems to be a toss-up if you get banned or not depending; one mod will be “that’s up to the limit of what’s acceptable but it just stays within the line”, another is “I’m giving you a warning for this” and a third is “ban!”

        I realise it’s all done by volunteers and it’s rather like herding cats but a bit of consistency would be very welcome, as I do think there has been some rules creep.

    • Evan Þ says:

      While we’re talking about this, let me plug my proposal to fight Moloch by requiring all posts in the Culture War Megathread to start with Carthaginem delendam esse.

      • Erusian says:

        I vote they end with it and the person must put someone/something they are against.

        Trumpinem delendam esse.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Bellum culturae delendam esse!

          • grendelkhan says:

            Can someone who can write Latin give me a translation of ‘Zoning laws must be destroyed’ and/or ‘Parking minimums must be destroyed’? I may start using that.

          • albatross11 says:

            How about NIMBY delinda est?

            (I don’t know Latin, other than common phrases like this, but I think the message would get across.)

          • Quintus Fabius Minimus Cunctator says:

            Did someone say Latin?

            If one is going to put it in indirect statment, then one should include the original “Ceterum censeo… ” IMO, although it’s less alliterative if it’s not about Carthage :'(. Anyway, I see “Carthago delenda est” more often.

            (Should be “Bella culturae delenda esse!”.)
            (And Trump is male, so delendum.)

            But to the issue at hand!

            “Rationes aedificiorum delendae sunt” or “Ceterum censeo rationes aedificiorum delendas esse” (rationes aedificiorum = reckonings of buildings)
            and “Minima considendi delenda sunt” or “Ceterum censeo minima considendi delenda esse” (minima considendi = minimums for settling down)

          • Evan Þ says:

            I never got beyond first-year Latin, but isn’t a simple est/sunt expressing a fact about the present? So we can say “Carthago delenda est,” but Cato couldn’t, because it wasn’t the case yet when he was making his speeches. We can hope our descendants will be able to say “Rationes aedificiorum delendae sunt,” but at the moment don’t we need to leave it as an “esse“?

            (Also, thanks for the translations, and correcting my declensions. I wasn’t sure whether to have it be bellum or cultura that takes the gender of the other?)

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Evan: What I think you’re missing here is that “delenda” is a gerundive, specifically of “delere”. “Carthago delenda est”: “Carthage is to-be-destroyed”, or “Carthage is for-destroying”. “Esse” appears when you see the longer form of the quote, “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse”, which could be glossed as, “Also, I consider Carthage to be for-destroying”.

            “Esse” is still a present infinitive, remember. I don’t know Latin well enough to know whether it can be used in the way you suggest. Note again that “delenda” is a gerundive; if you want the perfect passive participle (not the present passive participle, that doesn’t exist) it would be “deleta”. But, again, while my knowledge of Latin is pretty minimal, neither “Carthago deleta esse” (?) and “Carthago deleta esse est” (??) sounds like a sentence to me. Just because both these things become “to be” in English, doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable in Latin.

            Best, I suspect, to stick with the traditional way — gerundive + est.

          • Quintus Fabius Minimus Cunctator says:

            Exactly, as Sniffnoy says, delenda is a future passive participle aka gerundive.

            Example:
            Rationes aedificiorum delendae sunt=
            Reckonings of-buildings to-be-destroyed are. (To translate word by word.)

            The linking verb is present tense, but it’s still discussing something that should be done in the future tense. Sniffnoy is correct in saying that although esse is translated “to be” and the gerundive is also translated “to be [verbed]”, one cannot use esse to convey the same meaning as a gerundive.

            (To reply to your (Evan) question in parentheses: In fact, delenda should agree with bella (plural); culturae is separate as a noun in the genitive, and does not agree with any other word in the sentence. Wars of culture are to-be-destroyed.)

            Sniffnoy is correct that those two sentences he made up do not work.

        • Nornagest says:

          That doesn’t sound very liable to cool things down.

      • AG says:

        Reinstate the 2 out of 3 rule. The content quality won’t get any better, but at least instead of actually being about culture war 80% of the content will be quibbling about if it meets the 2 out of 3 rule instead!

        (I’m kind of serious about this. Like, sure it’s not very productive, but it reminds me of the old purpose of Fandom Wank, and how the wanks would be hugely Dramatic, but they wouldn’t carry the weight of Morality with them, and everyone not involved in any particular wank could recognize it as one. People wanna argue about anything and everything under the sun, and letting them think that we should do it with actually relevant topics is one of the biggest mistakes the internet has ever made. Incessant community quibbles arguing is a far less dangerous use of their time and energy.)

        • gbdub says:

          Honestly I think we’re already there – 80% of culture war threads here aren’t “Red Tribe vs. Blue Tribe”, but rather interminable debates about some combination of:
          1) Is the commentariat “too right wing”?
          2) How much dogpiling is too much dogpiling?
          3) Was comment X too snarky?
          4) How big a problem is it that snarky comment X was not called out by someone who notionally agrees with the author of comment X?
          5) Are we homogenizing the outgroup (i.e. do we overgeneralize feminists/SJWs/The Left)?
          6) Beefs between commenters that get kinda personal
          7) “Less of this, please”

          There’s already too little clash between actual ideas.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m a little concerned by how many personal beefs seem to have cropped up in the last week or two. Roughly since Scott announced his policy of affirmative action for leftists, I think — I noticed probably as many personal callouts in the week after that as in the previous three months. But that might just be when I started noticing.

            The bias/dogpiling/snark fights have been around for a while, but they’ve gotten worse recently too.

          • AG says:

            See, that just tells me that letting CW threads happen on the reg was a mistake, instead of restricting them to “things I will regret writing” posts. Sure, it may mean some people have to simmer more in their resentment, but I’d rather they spend their time honing their arguments for when the moment arrives. Having the “CW vent” valve so frequently open means they continually spew their Edgy One-Liners twice a week, instead of making the interesting effortposts I know they’re capable of making.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a common pattern in this kind of discussion I’ve seen: it’s easy to respond to the weakest arguments of the other side, and ignore the strong (carefully stated, reasonable) arguments. So I’d like to propose a heuristic:

            Try to respond to the strongest arguments on the other side first. Don’t spend a lot of time on weakmen.

            On the other hand, it’s reasonable to respond to weak arguments on your own side, ideally to offer a better argument.

          • gbdub says:

            I think the best heuristic might be “don’t argue against absentee positions”.

            Maybe every CW thread should be mini adversarial collaborations – start a thread with “I want to talk about X. Anyone here willing to seriously explain/defend the position not-X?” No takers? Don’t talk about it.

            This requires some commitment and effort from both sides – more right-leaners willing to lay off venting/dogpiling random crappy editorials/Facebook comments (and police those that don’t), and more left-leaners willing to actually advance/explain/defend left-leaning positions rather than just police the right-leaners. Maybe even some right-leaners willing to steelman / honestly attempt to argue left wing takes (or as albatross suggests, poke holes in weak right-takes).

            If Scott wants “affirmative action for left-wing comments”, that’s the sort of thing he really needs. Not “free passes for otherwise bannable comments”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            I’ve mostly given up on putting too much effort into a post, simply because the amount of generosity I can expect when people respond is too low, and the amount of disengenuous nit-picking is too high, without needed pushback.

            Generally, people simply don’t respond to strong arguments. It makes it very hard to have discussions.

          • bean says:

            Maybe every CW thread should be mini adversarial collaborations – start a thread with “I want to talk about X. Anyone here willing to seriously explain/defend the position not-X?” No takers? Don’t talk about it.

            If we could make and enforce that norm, I think it would be tremendously helpful. The second is likely to be a bigger problem. Posters on both sides are likely to defect fairly quickly, and unless it’s enforced with the threat of banning, we’re going to end up back where we are now fairly quickly. It takes a lot of self-control to ignore someone like that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @gbdub/@Nornagest/@HeelBearCub

            It kind of feels to me like the stereotype of a marriage where both parties kind of resent each other – just the same cheap shots, over and over and over again. I agree with HeelBearCub that it’s frustrating and doesn’t encourage high effort: it’s annoying to put a little bit of time into a response, and get back either a one liner, or crickets. Then the same cheap shot pops up one or two OT later. It gets old to think you have taken a shot at rebutting something, and it just doesn’t register at all.

          • AG says:

            Then the same cheap shot pops up one or two OT later.

            This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that regular CW OTs enable. I feel that when all OTs were marginally CW-free (under the “no gender or race” policy), the discussions in the “things I will regret writing” posts could get nasty, but that was more from posts going viral and newcomers flooding the comments (or the presence of some no-longer-tolerated people), but on the whole, discussions were way more likely to get further.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s clearly not a problem with the people around here; I’ve had disagreements over D&D that haven’t devolved into duelling cheap shots or you put in effort and then the other person just disappears. It’s not trolling – there’s only one or two people I suspect to be trolls in the original sense (goading others to put in more emotional and intellectual energy while expending little effort themselves) – trolling can happen with any topic. It’s only popped up in CW and CW-adjacent stuff – I think CW encourages cheap one-shots, regardless of the politics of the people involved in a particular place.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            We probably can’t require that CW topics get handled as adversarial collaborations, but we can reward it when it happens.

          • gbdub says:

            @HeelBearCub if you’ll forgive me for being a bit blunt / personal for a moment, because I think it illustrates something important that is not at all limited to you:

            I agree that a lot of what you identify as problems are real issues, which is why I included an admonition to the right-leaners to not do those things and police those that do. Unfortunately I think you often contribute to the problem in a negative way, because you’re a prolific commenter but a very high fraction of your contributions consist of calling out poor quality comments (or poor quality parts of longer comments) for being poor quality.

            In theory, I understand and sympathize with what you’re trying to do – provide pushback to comments that don’t meet the community standards/ideals.

            In practice, what usually happens is that the low quality comment gets signal boosted, and we get a long contentious back-and-forth meta conversation about form rather than content that often devolves even further because neither side will back down. It’s relatively easy to ignore a bad comment or three, it’s much harder when it grows to a subthread that dominates the “new posts” list.

            This exacerbates exactly the problem you decry: 90% of the responses end up being about the lowest quality initial posts (This is particularly bad when you pull out and respond to only a low-quality subset of an otherwise decent argument – then the entire subthread becomes about the worst part of the argument, while the good bits get ignored).

            Now, it would be ideal if good comments always got good responses. But a good comment from a unique perspective that gets no response, or only gets low-quality responses is still more valuable than that perspective never being shared. It’s MUCH more valuable than a fight over a low quality comment.

            I think it’s important to remember that there are a lot more readers than commenters here. Also, with no upvoting system, there’s not really a non-annoying way to acknowledge a good comment you read but can’t really add/respond to. So you have to be a bit thick-skinned and recognize that “no response” doesn’t mean “nobody read it / it had no value” – it’s just as likely to mean “that was so good I have nothing to add”.

            Likewise, if a crappy bit of snark or “cheap one-shot” doesn’t get called out explicitly, that doesn’t mean everybody agrees with it – more likely we’re trying to ignore it because we recognize it as crap and are embarrassed by it. If it’s getting boosted and expanded on, sure, it should be called out. But if it’s isolated and no one other than the original snarker is willing to defend it (and then only to protect their pride), better to ignore and move on to higher quality arguments.

          • albatross11 says:

            For comments I think are especially good, or show an especially interesting perspective, or sometimes just show what seems to me to be especially good behavior in an adversarial discussion, I will occasionally post a +1. That’s not sustainable if everyone does it, but as an occasional comment, I think it’s useful.

          • gbdub says:

            @albatross11 I think that can be good if not overdone, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a good equivalent to +1 for a poor comment. “-1” would be basically equivalent to “less of this please” which is equally likely to start a slap fight. I guess “less of this” with a precommitment to ignore any response might serve as a signal to later commenters and readers and be net positive, but it’s fraught.

            @bean any good system is going to require self-control. Adversarial collaboration seems to be a framework that encourages it moreso than free-for-all. And to be clear the intent here would just be to only start/sustain arguments when someone is willing to argue on both sides, not to require every subthread to be a comprehensive literature review.

          • pontifex says:

            Even with all the flaws, the CW threads are still the best discussion of culture war issues I’ve seen anywhere on the internet.

            For some reason, I always read “less of this, please” in the voice of an elderly British schoolteacher. I guess I am easily amused.

            As others commented in this thread, it is better to avoid signal boosting or dwelling too much on mediocre comments. It is kind of frustrating when there are a lot of them, but the good comments (both right and left wing) are the real reason to come here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:

            What is the appropriate strategy for prisoners’ dilemma?

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m starting to think that the IPD meme has been corrosive to the political discourse here. Once you’ve reduced the decision space to that little two-by-two matrix, it’s way too easy to talk yourself into believing that your opponents are defecting and therefore being as much of a jerk as you want is not only conscionable but might actually be morally compulsory.

          • Plumber says:

            Nornagest

            “I’m starting to think that the IPD meme has….”

            I assume that the PD in “IPD” is for “prisoners dilemma” but what’s the I for? 

          • Nornagest says:

            “Iterated”. There are strategic differences between playing one Prisoner’s Dilemma and several, and it’s the “several” version that’s more applicable to most real-life situations.

          • Plumber says:

            Nornagest

            “Iterated”

            Thanks!

          • gbdub says:

            There’s plenty of literature on the IPD and I claim no unique knowledge of it – but I’m pretty sure a drive by one liner in an honestly very civil thread where one of the primary legitimate complaints is an overabundance of drive by one liners counts as a defection? And I believe that ideal strategies are also supposed to be “forgiving” – If we’re trying to construct an ideal civil discussion forum, I think the “forgiveness” knob needs to be turned pretty high.

            I agree with Nornagest that the temptation to label everything a prisoners dilemma is toxic to debate. Like, how do you even map that to a discussion here? What does commenter X “win” relative to Y if he’s allowed to “get away with” a snark? Why would you assume that zero communication is allowed? That no collaboration between players, or between players and third parties, can happen? There are no points here. No one is winning elections or money (except occasionally on wagers both sides agree to in advance). No one goes to jail if the other side makes an unanswered negative comment.

            Fundamentally, the major issues here are, in my opinion:
            1) a need for more high quality left-wing comments
            2) a reduction in low quality posts
            3) a reduction in getting spun around the axle and focusing discussion on low-quality posts, because there will always be some defectors

            If you’re overfitting the IPD to “discussion in SSC threads” you’re going to make issue 3 worse in your attempt to drive 2.

          • quanta413 says:

            I’m starting to think that the IPD meme has been corrosive to the political discourse here. Once you’ve reduced the decision space to that little two-by-two matrix, it’s way too easy to talk yourself into believing that your opponents are defecting and therefore being as much of a jerk as you want is not only conscionable but might actually be morally compulsory.

            Agreed. It’s mostly used as an excuse to behave badly.

            Even if I was to concede that there is rampant defection going on here rather than the more ordinary variety of human bias; there can’t be an IPD here, because everyone always has the option of not responding or of leaving.

            And it’s not just misused with respect to describing dynamics here either. IPD is applied to all sorts of situations where it does not describe the dynamics at all.

          • Thegnskald says:

            gbdub –

            You don’t need an equivalent for a “-1”. Somebody is wrong on the internet – move on.

            If anybody is convinced by a poor-quality argument – that is their problem, not yours. Your job isn’t to point out that poor-quality arguments are poor-quality, if you want your position taken seriously, it is to argue against the high-quality arguments – or just to stake some out.

            I started this username out with a series of attempts to get the left and right to understand each other a little better. As far as I can tell, pretty much everybody liked them, except that one time some right-wing person quit the site because they misunderstood my questioning why racism was regarded as right-wing as claiming that racism is right-wing.

            I have noticed my self-appointed role of translator – of attempting to try to phrase ideas differently to try to stop the endless talking-past-each-other that happens here – has gradually become less of a focus. And I’ve gotten increasingly annoyed with the left, who I feel don’t actually put any effort into understanding what other people are trying to tell them.

            Not that the right isn’t equally prone to misunderstanding, but I do feel like they actually try to understand the idea they are criticizing, and that a lot of the call for higher-quality leftists comments is a response to the fact that the leftists literally aren’t trying.

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/10/17/open-thread-112-75/#comment-681311 is my attempt to frame a progressive idea in right-wing terms. It isn’t an idea I hold – I think the entire framework of the argument is based on a faulty half-measured form of determinism (short summary of my argument: Morality isn’t dependent on determinism, a person is the person they are regardless of the person they might have been if things were different) – but I feel like, I don’t know, it shouldn’t have been me? That maybe that should have been the first response?

            And I guess I can just step down – nobody is forcing me to play translator, instead of getting increasing annoyed. But the thing is, I think people do enjoy my posts more when I do that, which is itself annoying because that should be the default.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the goal is more high quality comments. I don’t think it’s all that important that they’re left wing, just that they’re high quality.

          • albatross11 says:

            Beware the man of one model.

            IPD captures a really important idea–we can have interactions where it would pay me to screw you over short-term, but I don’t because I care about future interactions. And in those interactions, if you screw me once, I’ve lost the incentive to treat you well the next time…but I might be willing to go back to cooperating with you if we can work it out somehow.

            But it’s:

            a. A very simple model which sometimes can be applied to enormously more complicated human situations.

            b. Only one model, and not appropriate everywhere.

            All models lie; some models are useful.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            There are already plenty of different ways to say Bad Bad Person. I don’t think all those beautiful minds went to the trouble of inventing game theory just so they could add one more to the list.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            That was a shorthand wherein I tried to get you to think about what happens when poor comments are not punished, not a drive by one liner. (Especially when those poor comments tend to skew a certain way. )

            Last OT, I got dinged for providing examples of something that an OP asked for. The reason for that being that the examples were so obvious, that the original request was itself essentially a defection. I won’t say anything more here, as it would just reignite that conversation which isn’t appropriate for this thread.

            You want me to engage in conversation wherein I don’t get to point out poor argument that is in bad faith? And then parse everything I say for each nit and misstatement, without thinking critically about the actual argument? Where I have to justify statements to the nth degree, and you won’t call out bad faith counter-argument from your side?

            I imagine why you might like that conversation, but, I’m not sure why you would expect people on the left to stick around for it.

            I can’t even have this conversation effectively because I can’t bring up the examples, as I am constrained by the rules.

            ETA:
            Come to think of it, this conversation is a good example of what I am talking about. I point out something fairly accepted, IPD is a decent model for certain kinds of games where the punchline is “this is why we can’t have nice things.” Rather than engage with what I am saying, Nornagest accuses me of using IPD as convenient excuse for toxicity. Then 4 more people jump in to say “me too”.

          • BBA says:

            The winning strategy for the iterated prisoner’s dilemma is to work the refs.

          • Nornagest says:

            I point out something fairly accepted, IPD is a decent model for certain kinds of games where the punchline is “this is why we can’t have nice things.” Rather than engage with what I am saying, Nornagest accuses me of using IPD as convenient excuse for toxicity. Then 4 more people jump in to say “me too”.

            Dude, I’m not a mind-reader, and neither are the other six people in this thread (who I mostly have mentally tagged as left-leaning or “it’s complicated”, by the way). If you want to me to think you’ve got a nuanced point to make, you need to actually make that nuanced point. Snappy one-liners tend to be interpreted uncharitably, and they almost invariably leave enough latitude for that interpretation. I shouldn’t need to explain why.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            You are ignoring the rest of my post, the argument you theoretically wanted me to make, in favor of doing the exact thing that gbdub accuses me of doing.

            Ever since you decided that I was doing too much “policing” of threads, you fairly consistently weigh in on my threads with a short snarky comment. But here in this thread, you are concerned with the amount of “personal beefs” you see having cropped up. What exactly is supposed to be my takeaway here?

          • Nornagest says:

            News to me. There are only a few people here whose posts I seek out, and I’m sorry to say you aren’t one of them. If I’ve been calling you out before — and I’ve been trying to do less calling out ever since somebody said they associate me with “less of this, please”, several months ago now — it’s not personal, it’s not systematic, and I’ve honestly forgotten that I’ve done it.

            On the other hand, if you’re convinced that I’m going out of my way to police you, then that sounds a lot like a personal beef to me. Just not mine.

            The message I’m trying to push here is simple: don’t assume people are defecting, insofar as the IPD model applies at all, which it often doesn’t. Or “don’t cultivate grudges”, but that’s really just another way of saying the same thing. I didn’t find the rest of your post up there relevant, partly because it was tagged with gbdub’s name and not mine, but also because it boils down to saying “they defected first”. It doesn’t matter who defected first; my whole point is that defection is a bad model.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I think that much of your policing is not very effective, in the sense that it generally doesn’t change the course of the conversation in a good way and because makes people feel attacked which causes resistance and defensiveness.

            I think a style more like this work better:
            – Did you consider …?
            – Do you have surveys showing what percentage of group X actually believes that?
            – Can you use a more specific name for the group you are criticizing or otherwise make clear that your claim actually only applies to a subset?
            – You are criticizing a fringe of the group, what do you think about this more moderate opinion: link or description of an opinion

            Etc.

            You could also choose to more ignore certain comments and engage better comments.

          • gbdub says:

            @HeelBearCub not trying to dogpile but you’re addressing me directly.

            Your IPD comment was a very ambiguous one liner open to interpretation. In context (my criticisms of your commenting style), it came off as some variant of “other people are defecting, so my actions are justified”. Had you made your more complete point initially this would have gone better probably.

            You want me to engage in conversation wherein I don’t get to point out poor argument that is in bad faith? And then parse everything I say for each nit and misstatement, without thinking critically about the actual argument? Where I have to justify statements to the nth degree, and you won’t call out bad faith counter-argument from your side?

            No, not at all. The issue isn’t that pointing out bad arguments is wrong or bad, it’s that pointing out bad arguments shouldn’t be your only contribution. For one thing, we need positive contributions as well, and in my opinion “more positive contributions” (particularly from otherwise underrepresented perspectives) has way more value than “more call-outs”. For another, call-outs often spawn bad arguments that swamp good discussion (and how could they do otherwise, since you’re ultimately arguing about a bad point).

            And I don’t get where you think I’m saying that you need to “justify your arguments to the nth-degree”. My criticism here is that you aren’t really making an argument / explaining your argument in the first place, and getting upset that we misinterpreted your ambiguity! If there’s elsewhere where you feel you’ve made a strong argument that got nit-picked to death, I apologize and will try to do better.

            I assume the example you’re referring to was your back and forth with Friedman. You’re right, let’s not rehash the actual argument. But how the meta of that went down, from my perspective, was this:

            1) Friedman makes a long post on a CW topic. The last part of his post makes a pretty weak argument, that could reasonably be interpreted as a cheap shot or bad faith.
            2) Nevertheless, the OP spawns a fairly lively discussion that goes in several directions, none of which really rely on the weakest part of Friedman’s post.
            3) After this conversation is well established, you responded to my sub thread with a call-out of Friedman
            4) I immediately concede your point! And then try to carry on in my original direction which I didn’t think relied on Friedman’s weak point.
            5) A few others chime in, none of whom are really willing to defend Friedman’s point and instead largely agree with you. I guess no one really calls him out by name but it’s pretty clear that the opinion is already in your favor.
            6) You continue to attack Friedman in a way that honestly comes off more as trying to claim a scalp than a good faith effort to improve the discussion.
            7) This kicks off a back and forth that frankly reduced my opinion of both of you without altering my opinion of who was originally in the right (you) at all (and I meant to say as much but got pulled away from the thread at that point). Friedman’s defense of an already weak point was weak, meanwhile I felt you persisted beyond when it was necessary because you wanted Friedman to cry uncle.

            Ultimately, everything beyond 4 and maybe part of 5 was counterproductive to good discussion.

            And maybe you chimed in later but when I left the thread, you hadn’t really provided any positive* contribution to the thread, but had put a ton of pixels into the Friedman call out.

            *i.e. you didn’t make original points of your own, or share your views on the overall topic.

            That’s the issue I have, not that you’re never allowed to critique a bad argument for being bad.

            You yourself note that it’s discouraging when your good posts get no follow up. Largely I think the same is true for low quality posts. You don’t like unanswered snark – I think ignoring it as long as it’s in isolation is the better approach. So give more good responses to good posts and that discussion will get encouraged while bad discussion will wither. More carrot, less stick.

            If you must call out, call out and move on. Everybody should be a bit more willing to police their own side, a point I’ve already conceded more than once. (Although I think there’s some outgroup homogenization going on – I’m sure you lump me with “right wing commenters” but much of the “right wing snark” is stuff I don’t actually agree with completely separately from the question of whether it is snark. Am I responsible for calling that out, or does it only count if it’s someone who agrees with the substance behind the snark?)

            Anyway this has already gone on too long and I’m repeating myself. If people think there is value in the idea, I will try to launch a couple mini adversarials in the next CW thread.

            EDIT: as a closing thought/de-escalation: I know this comes off as confrontational and critical of you, HeelBearCub. But please recognize that the context of this is that I think your positive higher effort posts could provide really valuable perspective that I (and I think others) would definitely want to hear even when we disagree, and I hope in the future you’ll do more of that, and I’ll try to show more appreciation when you do

          • Plumber says:

            @HeelBearCub

            “I’ve mostly given up on putting too much effort into a post….”

            You have?

            That’s a surprise to me as I thought you did some good quality posts in the last thread.

            @HeelBearCub

            “….Generally, people simply don’t respond to strong arguments. It makes it very hard to have discussions”

            Most of the strongest arguments I’ve seen lately have involved “Kavaugh, guilty or innocent” which doesn’t interest me much, unlike a discussion of the merits of his previous and likely judicial decisions, and the other strong arguments have been about Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry, which at least had some humor in it, but also not a topic that I care deeply about, I need to care about a topic to respond as well as think that I have something to add, and as for “quality” I try.

            With the next CW allowed thread I hope to start a discussion on general education and skills training for those of us who aren’t “advanced” and/or “cognitive elite” as that’s a topic I’m interested in.

            Nornagest

            “…. http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/10/17/open-thread-112-75/#comment-681311 is my attempt to frame a progressive idea in right-wing terms…”

            FWIW I found that attempt/translation a match my way of thinking and it did a good job of explaining why “liberalism” went “left”.

            Anyway, most of this discussion of SSC comment norms goes over my head.

          • Nick says:

            For the record: I found that bit at the end of David’s post ridiculous too, and considered calling it out. I decided not to because I figured I was just seriously misunderstanding him. It looks to me from browsing the thread again that other folks took issue with it too, though, including skef and albatross.

          • Jiro says:

            Try to respond to the strongest arguments on the other side first. Don’t spend a lot of time on weakmen.

            Insofar as responding to anything at all does good, it may do the most good to respond to those arguments that exist in the real world.

            Remember when Scott accidentally made a post that was taken as pro-Trump? The reason it was taken as pro-Trump is that he disproved the arguments against Trump that people actually use, and then followed up with a bunch of other arguments against Trump that nobody cared about. Naturally, the latter got ignored, so the whole thing seemed pro-Trump.

            Also, I honestly have no idea what a “strongest argument” is. It’s one of those phrases that looks like it should mean something but collapses when you think about it. I can’t come up with a reasonable definition for one that doesn’t have bizarre implications.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Plumber —

            FWIW I found that attempt/translation a match my way of thinking and it did a good job of explaining why “liberalism” went “left”.

            That was Thegnskald, not me. It was a good post, though.

          • albatross11 says:

            Jiro:

            What I mean is that it’s pretty common in a discussion to see two or three fairly weak arguments for the other side, and one pretty strong one. The easy way to proceed is to poke holes in one of the not-very-good arguments. The better way to proceed is to try to respond to the strong one.

          • I found that bit at the end of David’s post ridiculous too

            Looking back at the post, that should be either the query as to what were good examples of the same pattern on the right or the discussion of Ted Kennedy. Which did you find ridiculous?

            The central point of my post was the puzzle of why Warren had become a leader of the left of the Democratic party despite having violated what I would have thought was a strongly held norm of that group. I eventually got two different possible answers, one that it wasn’t a strongly held norm, one that although the issue first appeared during her first election she was already a leader in a non-electoral context.

          • The easy way to proceed is to poke holes in one of the not-very-good arguments. The better way to proceed is to try to respond to the strong one.

            I think both are worth responding to, although the latter is more important. Presumably the person who makes the not-very-good arguments believes they are good.

          • Nornagest says:

            Presumably the person who makes the not-very-good arguments believes they are good.

            In a format like this, I don’t expect people to be careful or reflective enough for that to be true. The stakes are low and there’s incentive to get your point out quickly, so most people, most of the time, I expect just regurgitate the first two or three things that come to mind, and whether they’re good arguments or not is up to chance.

            This is a more reflective forum than average, but I still wouldn’t expect much better here.

          • Plumber says:

            @Nornagest 

            “That was Thegnskald, not me”

            Thank you for the correction, and apologies to @Thegnskald for not giving proper credit.

            @DavidFriedman 

            “…I eventually got two different possible answers, one that it…”

            Spot on!

            I once read that conservatives are better at predicting how liberals will think on an issue than liberals are at guessing what conservatives think, but that doesn’t mean complete transparency, as seeing the world through another’s eyes is hard. 

            For myself this site has helped me understand “other sides” points of views better, very much including yours, one way is that instead of stray comments, to say newspaper articles, it’s recurring posts from district individuals and I begin to see the minds behind the words.

          • John Schilling says:

            Looking back at the post, that should be either the query as to what were good examples of the same pattern on the right or the discussion of Ted Kennedy. Which did you find ridiculous?

            I’m not Nick, but the part asking for examples from the right seemed rather odd. Kind of like if you’d said, “The DEA is needlessly violent and corrupt in its prosecution of the Drug War, [example]; are there similar examples of needless violence and corruption among the drug cartels on the other side?”

            I don’t think this was malicious on your part, but that was an inconvenient place to have a blind spot going into that discussion.

          • @John Schilling:

            I had a puzzle based on observed behavior on the left. I was less likely to have paid attention to the same behavior on the right, who I spend less time arguing with, there were people here who would have the opposite bias to their data, so I asked for examples.

            I would think it would be odder if I hadn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There are several good points raised here. Yes, it’s better if you can engage with good arguments. At various points I have tried to do that over my history here. Again, I feel very constrained I responding as to why I feel like this has been largely a frustrating effort.

            I asked that we not re-hash that previous thread conversation, as I was trying to make a different point, which has been ignored. And now the conversation is being re-hashed. Again, I feel constrained in response. If I say that feels like defection, will that be yet another example of overusing a memetic argument? I have now typed out and deleted a response multiple times that I cannot post if I want not to further CW. I’ll just say that I actually thought the “bad point”was actually the crux of the entire argument, but I won’t say anything more about it in this thread.

            The reason I brought in that conversation is that when David specifically reiterated he was asking for examples and I gave them, I was then criticized for doing so. It had nothing to do with the specific argument.

          • Nick says:

            Looking back at the post, that should be either the query as to what were good examples of the same pattern on the right or the discussion of Ted Kennedy. Which did you find ridiculous?

            As John said, the part asking for examples from the right. Your proposed explanation, that people are very good at believing what they want to believe, is both obvious on its own and obviously not a partisan explanation, nor are other proposed explanations. But especially following the Kavanaugh debacle, there has been a lot of claims that leftwing folks are more willing to lie and cheat and so on to get what they want. So, at the end of this post where there is no reason to think it’s a partisan phenomenon, to hear you say you’ve not seen this much on the right is very bizarre. Like, first of all, examples are not actually difficult to find if you go looking for them—like John said at the time, every Republican who has ever been divorced—, so since you apparently didn’t go looking for any, it would seem that you’re trying to say something else… like that the left is especially prone to this. Of course, I didn’t trust that I was understanding you, so I decided not to call it out.

            I agree with John that I don’t believe it was malicious, but I’ll say again it was ridiculous.

            Also, just to expand on what John is alluding to with his analogy, there is absolutely a pattern where a person adopts a kind of posture of neutrality, but where it becomes clear his position is not neutral at all. The DEA vs drug cartel example makes this very obvious, while in real life arguments it’s subtler, but one way it manifests is a kind of, “Gosh, I never noticed it on my side! Oh well, if you say so I guess we all do it a little….” Let me make clear that I don’t think that’s what you said or how you reacted at all, but I think that experience with this sort of thing was the basis for skef’s suggestion that you were putting on this air of being above it all.

          • albatross11 says:

            David: (Re responding to stronger arguments)

            The dynamic I’m thinking about here is one where you get several weak arguments and one strong argument, and then only the weak arguments get responses because they’re easy to poke holes in. The result is that nobody engages with the best argument from the other side.

            I agree it’s reasonable to engage with weaker arguments, but I think it’s better to respond to the stronger ones first, to avoid this pattern. I think the pattern happens without anyone intending it–it’s just that we all have limited time and the easy responses are fast to write.

          • Matt M says:

            Generally speaking, if I make an argument and nobody responds, I assume that my argument was either.

            a. So strong nobody was able to respond (in which case I mentally declare myself the victor)

            or

            b. So weak that everyone dismissed it as not even worth responding to (in which case… not so much)

            Usually, I think I’m good enough at evaluating my own arguments to distinguish A from B.

          • I was then criticized for doing so.

            I hope not by me.

          • gbdub says:

            @HeelBearCub – sorry for thinking the commentariat could discuss the style of that particular argument without rehashing the CW substance. Clearly naive on my part. +1 for restraining yourself and -1 for me and to everyone (David included) who couldn’t leave it meta.

            I think the core of our disagreement is that you thought the end of David’s post was the crux of the argument, whereas I thought it was ancillary. Feel free to expand on why you think that unconstrained in the CW thread and I’ll listen, though to be honest I think that’s a place we’re going to remain in disagreement. Primarily because even if it were the crux of David’s argument, it wasn’t the crux of the overall discussion on that issue and I felt that focusing on that detracted from the overall thread.

            +1 to Nick and albatross11, your reaction to David’s posts there basically matched mine and why I felt HeelBearCub’s assessment of it as a weak and plausibly bad faith argument was reasonable. I kind of wish David would acknowledge that because it’s hard to believe that he can’t actually see where that impression came from.

            And HeelBearCub, I hope I didn’t come off as criticizing you for providing examples, I’ve done my best to make my actual objections clear and I don’t think there’s much more I can add on that front.

            Anyway I’m going to leave my contribution at that for this thread, this portion of the thread is much less elucidating than a conversation that had stayed at the meta of “how to make better CW threads” and I apologize for contributing to taking it a bit off the rails. I’ll shut up and listen.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:

            I kind of wish David would acknowledge that because it’s hard to believe that he can’t actually see where that impression came from.

            This behavior, especially in combination with the fact that this is not a novel appearance of this exact same argument made by the same person, is a great example of what I am talking about. The fact that it then becomes extremely difficult to get people to acknowledge it, whether the original poster or others supporting their arguments, leaves one to conclude that one is not being argued with in good faith, or, at least, to any constructive purpose.

            ETA: +1 for acknowledging what occurred. As to the meta-point, I’d note that you would not have noticed it if I hadn’t brought it up. These kinds of small things accumulate, then you point it out, then people complain that you are pointing it out because it is “small”.

          • Dan L says:

            @ gbdub:

            I think the best heuristic might be “don’t argue against absentee positions”.

            I strongly agree with this, with the extension that it’s ok to confront the argument presented in a piece whose own quality is up to posting standards. A sure way to tank the quality of discourse would be to deliberately start importing Facebook memes.

            @ Aapje:

            I think a style more like this work better:
            – Did you consider …?
            – Do you have surveys showing what percentage of group X actually believes that?
            – Can you use a more specific name for the group you are criticizing or otherwise make clear that your claim actually only applies to a subset?
            – You are criticizing a fringe of the group, what do you think about this more moderate opinion: link or description of an opinion

            My observation is that this is the kind of strategy that results in a disengagement, only to see the same cheap shot pops up one or two OT later. Milquetoast responses get ignored, forceful ones get policed on tone.

            @ gbdub, Matt M:

            So you have to be a bit thick-skinned and recognize that “no response” doesn’t mean “nobody read it / it had no value” – it’s just as likely to mean “that was so good I have nothing to add”.

            Likewise, if a crappy bit of snark or “cheap one-shot” doesn’t get called out explicitly, that doesn’t mean everybody agrees with it – more likely we’re trying to ignore it because we recognize it as crap and are embarrassed by it.

            Generally speaking, if I make an argument and nobody responds, I assume that my argument was either.
            a. So strong nobody was able to respond (in which case I mentally declare myself the victor)
            or
            b. So weak that everyone dismissed it as not even worth responding to (in which case… not so much)

            On one hand, the convergence between the responses to high and low quality comments has some definite truth to it. On the other hand, it’s awfully convenient for when something needs to be disavowed. I can’t see that ambiguity as a healthy thing.

            If it’s getting boosted and expanded on, sure, it should be called out.

            “In practice, what usually happens is that the low quality comment gets signal boosted, and we get a long contentious back-and-forth meta conversation about form rather than content that often devolves even further because neither side will back down. It’s relatively easy to ignore a bad comment or three, it’s much harder when it grows to a subthread that dominates the “new posts” list.”

            Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I vote we install an unincentivized monarch to enforce norms with an iron fist.

          • Jiro says:

            What I mean is that it’s pretty common in a discussion to see two or three fairly weak arguments for the other side, and one pretty strong one.

            That doesn’t change things. I don’t know what “weak argument” and “strong argument” means.

            My first attempt to define those would be “a weak argument is an argument which you can disprove, and a strong argument is one which you cannot.” However, that definition would lead to the odd result that it would never be possible to usefully dispute a strong argument.

            My second attempt to define those would be “a weak argument is one which you can easily disprove, and a strong argument is one that you can only disprove with difficulty”. (Where “disprove” means “disprove to the best of your knowledge”.) That has odd implications if you lack knowledge in some areas (is the strongest argument for “some football teams are Martians” really that the football team I never heard of, and cannot disprove statements about, is made up of Martians?) Also, if I’m capable of disproving both argument A and argument B, aren’t they both equally bad in a sense, even if it took me more time to come up with one disproof than with the other?

            Another possibility might be “a weak argument is one which many people think they can disprove; a strong one is one which few people think they can disprove”, which has the same problems as the previous version.

            It may also be that by some definitions, an argument can be “strengthened” with the equivalent of a post-hoc rationalization. If someone believes that Jews eat Christian babies, well, I’m a Jew and I’ve never heard of that. Would the “stronger” version of the argument be “Jews eat Christian babies, but Jiro is not initiated in the msyetries of baby eating so they hide it from him”?

          • Nick says:

            I think there’re lots of ways for an argument to be made weak. For instance, if it’s incomplete, or if it’s easily disproved by a counterexample, or if it’s obviously not valid, or if it’s shown to prove too much. It seems to me you’re overthinking it a bit: all we need for “weak” to be meaningful here, I think, is that it be weak to the people you’re making the argument to, and since SSC has a pretty well defined audience, I think we have a pretty good idea what sort of counterexamples folks here could marshal or how obvious a logical fallacy in the argument would be.

          • I kind of wish David would acknowledge that because it’s hard to believe that he can’t actually see where that impression came from.

            I can acknowledge that someone might have thought that the reason I ended by asking for similar examples from the right was to imply that there weren’t any, but that wasn’t the reason and does not seem to me to be the natural interpretation, although it sounds as though several people made it.

          • skef says:

            I think that experience with this sort of thing was the basis for skef’s suggestion that you were putting on this air of being above it all.

            Since this seems to be a context where people are more amenable to talking about the issue, let me be clear about my point.

            The first time (that I’m aware of) David initiated this conversation a couple years ago I didn’t say anything. I believe there was at least one other time he did when I also did not say anything, but I didn’t turn up that reference in my search. It was only when he brought it up again last summer that I first commented. What followed was a long argument at both the object and meta level.

            Then in the recent thread David initiated the same conversation (alight — very slightly tweaked) *again* as if we had never had it in the first place.

            So whatever reasons other people have, my reason for believing David’s framing to be disingenuous is that I don’t believe that he isn’t aware the conversation won’t be almost entirely about Warren. If he wanted to talk about what he claimed to, he would say something like “since we’ve done this before, please avoid using Warren as your example.” Instead, I believe he starts this conversation because he knows how it will go and wants it to go that way.

            If my approach in that thread was uncharitable it was not *epistemically* uncharitable. Quite the opposite: to take David at his word requires believing that he is not very bright or “with it. This runs counter to other evidence.

            David has since noted the value of one of my points, however less-than-civil I was in making it. If only he had noticed/cared I made the same point the last time we could have avoided the whole sad spectacle.

            It now appears that few other people saw David’s positioning as on the level, which make sense given how the vast majority of the subsequent discussion focused on Warren — few talked about the supposed topic because few believed that was really the topic. Let me point something about this, that I think goes to the heart of how this place works now and why I left the first time and really shouldn’t be here now:

            Someone on side A was being kinda bullshitty about something. Someone (considered to be*) on side B* took a quite hard line on this, and a third person on (?) side B took a not all that hard line on it. As a result the second person has been called uncivil and the third tone-policed for their approach. A few other people have now tiptoed towards saying something about the first person’s bullshit, but maybe it’s a misunderstanding and really who cares because after all that time saying bad things about the public figure on side A a couple weeks ago, everyone can agree how *fun* it was to say bad things about the public figure on side B.

            If you want to have genuine discussions that might lead to changed minds, failing to chime in when *you* think people you otherwise disagree with have a point, and then complaining about how they went about making that point, are together going to make people with such points frustrated and exhausted and want to leave.

            If, on the other hand, you want to drive up your stats in an epistemic norm themed MMO, which you like because all the other MMOs are either close combat-based or have A.I that is way too weak, carry on.

          • Then in the recent thread David initiated the same conversation (alight — very slightly tweaked) *again* as if we had never had it in the first place.

            It is possible that you keep track of what conversations you have had with whom where and when more carefully than I do. Checking my blog, I’ve had three posts related to Warren over the past three years, the most recent inspired by the same FaceBook thread I mentioned here. I discussed the issue recently on FaceBook as well. I don’t remember recognizing the same possible answer to my puzzle that I got this time in an earlier exchange, but it might have been there.

            And I am still not sure whether the answer to my puzzle I extracted from your comments was what you intended.

          • skef says:

            It is possible that you keep track of what conversations you have had with whom where and when more carefully than I do.

            Your posts here almost never get more than the slightest push-back with the possible exception of your climate-change posts, which receive some push-back together with heaps of praise. I don’t need to believe that you remember most or all of your “conversations” to believe that you remember that one.

            Remember when I noted your much greater snippiness about my posts for months after that? You said your searches didn’t bear that out. Should I put the data together? It’s a trivial, maybe 45 minute screen-scraping problem.

            Does anyone else remember that but feel like bringing it up now would be just so uncivil?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            On the subtopic of which comments are worth responding to:

            I think the best thing to do is to respond to bad arguments by good commenters.

            On the one hand, responding to comments by people who regularly make weak arguments, or argue in bad faith, or constantly change topic and deflect, is just noise.

            But on the other hand, if someone genuinely makes a good argument, often the counterarguments are going to be about different sets of priors, or different contexts, or trying to figure out what weight to attach to different values–and while these are interesting, I think it’s more useful to just get a sense of what peoples’ different priors and values and weightings are, and to see the relationship between those and viewpoint than it is to try and actually get someone else to adopt your priors, values, or weightings thereof. Good arguments I think should be assimilated into your model of the world, but otherwise left alone.

            But if a poster who you find argues in good faith and makes a genuine effort to engage with others says something you think is obviously wrong, then I think that indicates a place where you can make a quick, decisive intervention to try and meaningfully improve someone’s rationality: you have a chance to point to a weak spot in the worldview of someone who genuinely is trying to improve their understanding of the world.

            The biggest difficulty in running this heuristic is deciding who is worth responding to, and dealing with situations where a discussion involves large numbers of people.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugene –

            I think part of the issue is that people are actually kind of bad at recogniIng which arguments are good.

            Or rather, I think people are bad at identifying what an argument is actually saying. It is difficult to talk about this without object references, which would get us into CW territory, but the simple version is that the first assumption you should make, when you see a bad argument, is that you don’t understand the argument being made – this goes 10x for an argument against a position you support.

            People are quick to argue and slow to try to understand. Human condition and all. But I strongly disagree with the notion that argument should be focused on bad arguments by good arguers. Or rather, insofar as there is argument, it should be targeted at trying to get a better understanding of the bad argument, rather than trying to tear it down.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Sure, it’s implicit here that “good argument” means “argument that you find good”, and similarly for bad argument, but I don’t think there’s any way around that.

            I also don’t think it matters too much; if you’re convinced by an opponent’s argument because you thought it was good even if you’re misunderstanding it, you still gained more sympathy for the other side, had to reevaluate your own positions, etc. Maybe it’ll make you more receptive to a better understanding of the argument that was actually intended.

            On the other hand, if you see a person who you think argues well make a bad point, there are two options:

            1) you are right, their argument was seriously flawed, and because they’re a good faith person, you pointing that out helps push them in the right direction
            2) you misunderstood them, but now there’s an opportunity for two good faith people to at least identify the sorts of misunderstandings and incomprehensions that divide them, and at best convince one or the other to update their views in the right direction.

            Obviously, this depends on you being a good-faith arguer as well! Again, this was implicit, but I suppose it could be made explicit: argue in good faith, find other good faith arguers, and respond to them when you think you see a serious flaw in their reasoning. Maybe you’re right, and you can improve their reasoning; maybe you’re wrong and they can improve yours; or maybe the issue is more subtle and you can at last get a sense of what it is that divides you.

    • deluks917 says:

      Imo the quarantine has failed. The vast majority of discussion is in the CW thread. Effectively all this means is we have a CW subreddit terribly organized into a single thread. The SSC discord has a CW channel and as expected its the most popular channel. But the CS channel only has 44% of the total posts. That is lopsided but the CW thread in the subreddit often has 95%+ of the total frontpage comments on the front page. When the CW thread has a lower percentage its usually because there are other threads on the front page that arguably belong in CW (right now for example).

      We are currently getting the worst of both worlds. The subreddit is almost entirely poltics/CW and controversial meta-discussion about the community. And on top of this we have a bad organizational structure. I would just get rid of the quarantine. Decide that CW is allowed on the sub or not.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        This is because people over-categorize everything into “Culture War”

        A thread about the “Sokal 2.0” got closed and sent there even though Sokal 2.0 is obviously an important discussion of academia and whether we are spending billions of dollars of public money on what is essentially Twilight novels.

        • albatross11 says:

          How would you define CW?

          My working definition is that it’s a question or discussion where some arguments and answers are closely bound to peoples’ identities, and to visible struggles between teams outside SSC.

          The question of whether George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin was in self defense was a past example of a CW issue[1]. This is true, even though there’s nothing inherently all that culture-warry about a shooting with a questionable self-defense claim–those happen a lot, and probably in the average case the way people see it isn’t primarily drawn by whether they’re liberal or conservative. But that case got loaded up with so much partisan/tribal identification that it became a partisan/tribal identity issue[2].

          Our brains have a really, really hard time separating out narrow factual questions (did this person’s actions meet the legal requirements for a self-defense claim?) from questions of team and identity and morality and all the rest. The culture war, especially with angry protests and saturation media coverage, is a really effective way to sabotage our brains.

          [1] I really, truly do not want to re-litigate that case. That’s not the point at all.

          [2] One of the really weird sidelines to this case was that Zimmerman, who was a hispanic guy, somehow became a kind of hero for some white nationalist types, because he had the right enemies. The culture war makes for strange bedfellows.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I personally don’t think culture war banning is smart at all.

            Even if I did I don’t think there is a useful delineation that doesn’t prevent discussion of some or all of the most important issues of the day. Indeed, I think the more you know about a topic the more easily you can categorize it into culture war if you are so inclined, so by making those choices you are just eliminating good comments.

            For instance we will take the Supreme Court case Frank v. Gaos. You might ask what cy pres in class action suits has to do with culture war, but as someone who understands the issue quite well, this is obviously a case involving classic constituencies of Red/Blue tribes, with the Blue tribe being incredibly defensive of the status quo because the two interests served are big law firms and prestigious law schools/legal advocacy groups.

            Now I might be the only person on this board that knows this is a culture war topic that is likely to have a controversial 5-4 or maybe 6-3 split on the Court. Does that mean the site is better off with me not commenting on the case?

          • Thanks. I didn’t know about that case.

            But your point raises an interesting issue of what counts as class war. If a dispute involves a conflict of interest between two groups, one of them mostly red tribe, one mostly blue, rural vs urban for example, is discussing it culture war even if it involves none of the ideological issues the tribes disagree over?

            In the case you mention, one could argue that the outcome that advantages blue tribe members is less consistent with their ideology than with that of their opponents.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            David, I don’t really know how this is less consistent with their ideology. Class actions are a huge part of traditional Red-Blue disputes because they involve centralization of minor things. This is particularly true in the legal field where “Trial Attorneys” have always been demonized by the right as making up claims and more recently class actions, generally to enrich themselves. One major critique from the right has been that these people don’t practice what they preach, and are merely grifters lining their own pockets while draining valuable social capital (there is an obvious divide in the field where most professors and trial attorneys, prosecutors excluded, are Dems while estate and transactional are more evenly split). Cy pres just takes that one step further where it is literally just trial attorneys making up claims so as to claim fees and enrich their favored 501(c) enterprises while normal people get less than nothing (they actually lose value).

            I apologize if that paragraph is too long. But, it is what it is. My brevity fails at night.

          • On the other hand, you can think of this kind of litigation as a private action substitute for state regulation.

            As it happens, I have a better solution to the problem class actions are supposed to solve. If you are interested we can discuss it in the next open thread.

          • Matt M says:

            “I can’t give an exact definition of CW, but I know it when I see it!” – Everyone

  3. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to foster the appearance of three top-tier tech companies (peers of Facebook, Microsoft, or Samsung) in Canada within the next twenty years.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Oh come on, I can’t do that in a culture-war free thread, as basically the most likely way for it to happen would be a transfer of HQ of the American tech companies, and the only way that’s going to happen is CW.

      • johan_larson says:

        Find ways of making it happen that don’t require American society to tear itself limb from limb.

        The most recent top tier tech company in Canada was RIM, and they certainly didn’t appear because of American culture war.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Isn’t Amazon still considering Toronto for their HQ2?

        If so, this suggests an easier approach: Get two other tech companies to also spin off an HQ2, and convince them to put it in Canada.

        • johan_larson says:

          I had in mind companies that would be based in Canada, presumably because they started here, not companies with branch plants here, even major ones. Though I suppose if one moved the actual HQ here that would count.

        • pontifex says:

          Jeff Bezos would be foolish to consider putting HQ2 in Canada in the current political climate. He will keep them in the running to bid up the subsidies, then choose Texas or somewhere cheap in the South.

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          Since I assume one main goal of Amazon’s HQ2 is to get two more US senators, I can’t take Toronto’s chances seriously.

    • Well... says:

      Insert Reamde reference here.

    • Tenacious D says:

      1. Assume some key breakthroughs in quantum computing are made at UWaterloo
      2. Specialize in sectors within tech where there has been some success in Canada in the past, such as hardware and cryptocurrency, rather than social media or web search
      3. Improve labour mobility (between companies and between provinces) and access to capital (from VCs to facilitating IPOs)

    • James C says:

      If I knew how to summon blue-chip tech companies I wouldn’t be posting about it here. I’d be laughing my way to Wall Street.

      • johan_larson says:

        “Summon” is an interesting word; it reminds me of the D&D “Summon Monster” series of spells. Picture a guy in a cloak casting a “Summon Tech Company” spell, and a building full of geeks pops up right next door.

        • toastengineer says:

          GURPS magic has “technology” as an element alongside earth, wind, fire, etc… Might be interesting to add Economancy to a magic system. “Summon Recession!”

          • johan_larson says:

            It wouldn’t be crazy in D&D to have a cleric spell along the lines of Blessing of Prosperity, cast on a village or town. The target of the spell would for the coming year enjoy good weather for growing crops and stable markets for their products.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            “Not but what my beer’s good, Gandalf. It’s been uncommon good, since you came in autumn of last year and put a good word on it.” –Barliman Butterbur

            The presence of the Magic Missile in D&D once inspired me to put forward a variant on Clarke’s Law: Any sufficiently banal magic is indistinguishable from technology.

    • Thomas Jørgensen says:

      You just want 3 massive tech firms? Okay, DIRIGISM GO!

      Firm one: Canadian Nuclear Merchant Shipyard. Canada has really good diplomatic relationships with almost everyone, and a solid nuclear skill base. Bunker oil costs way, way more than uranium per mile sailed, so we are going in for a brisk round of building nuclear powered cargo ships. So many nuclear powered cargo-ships.

      Firm two: Canadian Nuclear Merchant Marine Shipping: See 1: Ships that go faster with lower fuel costs are a pretty big competitive advantage. Leverage lots of diplomatic effort to get port access.

      Arguably this is just one firm, since, well, I do not really want to sell firm ones products on the open market.

      Since we are producing small reactors in bulk for the ships anyway, however, might as well get back into the reactor supplier business. Small reactors, mind. No developing a separate product line.

      Heck, as a separate business venture: “Canadian Offshore Power Inc” – A whole lot of smaller islands the world over have absurdly high power costs because they are running diesels in the absence of better bets.. The French had a concept a few years back called Flex-blue, which was basically to build submerged reactors in a shipyard, tow them to where they are needed and have them float anchored at -60 meters – because this layer of the sea is insulated from effectively all external events. So, build these things in bulk, run a utility-for-hire. “Pay us, and we will run a cable ashore”.

      • Matt M says:

        Man, if your business is hauling stuff around in giant ships, nobody is going to refer to you as a “tech” company, even if the ships are powered by really complicated engines…

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          *especially if you specialize in making complicated engines.

        • John Schilling says:

          Right. “Tech” means consumer electronics and software, and maybe trying to make mechanical things look and feel like they were consumer electronics and software. Technologically advanced automobiles only count as “tech” if you can squint and look at them sideways and see a smartphone that got kind of big and clunky when you wired in the hardware support for the “go places” app.

          Also, “Tech” is about moving fast and breaking things, and thus should on no account be allowed anywhere near a large merchant ship powered by a nuclear reactor.

          But I suppose it’s up to the OP to clarify what definition of “tech” he is using.

          • johan_larson says:

            Here’s a list of top tech companies, as I am using the term: Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, Nintendo, Samsung. I could be persuaded to include Cisco, Intel, eBay, Netflix, Oracle, Uber, Huawei and a bunch of others.

          • Well... says:

            Interesting…why are you definitely using the term for Amazon but need to be persuaded to use it for eBay?

          • johan_larson says:

            why are you definitely using the term for Amazon but need to be persuaded to use it for eBay?

            Both are unquestionably tech companies. But I’m not sure eBay is influential enough to be a “top” tech company. It was a very big deal for a while, but I don’t seem to hear all that much about it any more.

          • gbdub says:

            Honestly I’d quibble more with not including Uber. They aren’t huge, but they punch above their weight in terms of influence. eBay is big but not really an innovator any more, as far as I can tell.

          • Well... says:

            Gotcha. I interpreted “top” to mean “top few” since it was used with an indefinite article (or no article). But it’s unimportant.

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          I see tech as “Replace existing economic order through the application of superior technology”.
          Out-competing the existing merchant shippers by having much lower fuel costs counts.
          Though, I do have to admit, I did pick this sector because this is a stunt a government or sufficiently deep pocketed investor could plausibly pull off.

          Noone really knows how to make a spotify or apple appear. But if the minister of industry has the votes to make a major investment in marine nuclear propulsion, at the end of the day, you are going to have ships sailing the ocean blue.

    • Salem says:

      There are no top-tier tech companies in the entire EU. I am not confident I could create 3 in Canada!

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m the guy who asked people to move the USS Iowa to Denver and retrieve Voyager 1 within ten years. I’m not interested in easy problems. Cowboy up and swing for the damn fences.

        Personally, I’d try Paul Graham’s billion-dollar plan for building a new Silicon Valley, only bigger. Maybe a billion dollars a year rather than one billion total.

        • pontifex says:

          Politicians have been trying to build a new Silicon Valley for decades. It never works.

          The government makes a really bad startup investor because all the money they give out comes with tons of red tape, paperwork, and delays. The companies that spend time navigating the bureaucratic maze tend to be specialists in that area. There’s not enough time to focus on being the best car ride hailing company (or whatever) and also filling out form XYZ-1234 which will let you collect $55.13 on alternate Tuesdays if revenue is less than $300 a day and half of your employees are over 35.

          The government is also really risk-averse, which is the exact opposite of what a startup investor needs to be. If any big investment looks like it might not work out (even temporarily), it becomes a political liability for the sponsors. And of course there are continuity issues. Will the new mayor really want to continue the funding for the company his political opponent helped to get started?

          The biggest thing the government of any state could do to create startups is to forbid (almost all) noncompetes from being valid, the way California always has. Otherwise your best employees get locked up by branch offices of megacorps. Fortunately for California, the chances of other states doing this are between slim and none.

          • Aapje says:

            @pontifex

            I don’t think that your argument makes that much sense, because we also don’t see private investors creating a new Silicon Valley, despite there being substantial rewards for doing so. A large investor or group of investors could make out like bandits if they own a lot of land somewhere and attract companies that drive up demand for land (directly and indirectly) like happened in SV.

            It seems much more likely to me that the network effects are large, but non-linear (while the costs are linear), so the two stable situations are a small concentration of companies (or isolation) or a large concentration, not the intermediate state. Silicon Valley never had any competition while they grew, so companies who like concentration had to accept a sub-optimal state while SV was still growing. However, nowadays companies have two good choices:
            – go to SV and benefit from the network effects, although at a high cost (expensive real estate, high salaries)
            – go somewhere with little concentration and lose out on the network effect, but save money

            Then the worst choice is to be in a medium-sized concentration of companies, where you have substantially increased costs, but not the huge network effects.

          • Salem says:

            [W]e also don’t see private investors creating a new Silicon Valley, despite there being substantial rewards for doing so.

            I’m not sure this is right. It’s not obvious that creating a new Silicon Valley would give a private investor huge rewards comparable to those a government would get. Suppose we, as private individuals, could somehow turn Shoreditch (say) into a tech hub equal to San Jose – how much value could we capture? If we owned all the property in the area, we could capture a fair amount of the value, but that will never be the case. Even if we had billions in property holdings in Shoreditch, we’d still only capture such a tiny portion of the value that it’s highly unlikely that trying to turn the whole area into a bigger tech hub would be a sensible investment, as opposed to (say) getting better planning permission on our buildings or attracting better tenants.

            Now, you could capture the value much better if you could somehow build a tech hub on an entirely new site, so you could buy up all the land very cheaply in advance. And the fact that no-one has done that does suggest that it’s impossible (or at least very very hard).

          • Aapje says:

            Ultimately it comes down to investment vs benefits, but you can argue that it is also holding back government, especially if you factor in uncertainty.

            No government is going to throw billions of dollars at an attempt that may not work out, but perhaps that is what is required. Or perhaps even more.

          • pontifex says:

            Silicon Valley never had any competition while they grew, so companies who like concentration had to accept a sub-optimal state while SV was still growing.

            Not true. Route 128 was a serious competitor to Silicon Valley at least until the late 1980s.

            Then the worst choice is to be in a medium-sized concentration of companies, where you have substantially increased costs, but not the huge network effects.

            I’m not sure about that. From the company’s point of view, the size of the local talent pool is a huge constraint. I would expect that to be worse in a small hub than in a medium-sized hub.

            Now, you could capture the value much better if you could somehow build a tech hub on an entirely new site, so you could buy up all the land very cheaply in advance. And the fact that no-one has done that does suggest that it’s impossible (or at least very very hard).

            Yeah, creating a town out of a piece of literally unoccupied land seems to take years, maybe decades. The exception might be cases where some natural resource is discovered. Going from small rural town to cool tech destination would probably also take years or decades. You’re better off putting your money somewhere else unless you have a Walt Disney complex.

      • Well... says:

        Nokia will always be top-tier in my eyes.

        So will Blackberry, and they’re Canadian!

    • broblawsky says:

      Endow a massive effort to develop better AI, on par with the lunar program. This will accomplish very little, but the sheer number of trained AI scientists you’re churning out will probably make something significant.

  4. RavenclawPrefect says:

    What are the most useful/interesting things from an area you’re knowledgeable or skilled in that someone could learn with a time investment of at most 10 hours? (Bonus points: the same question in 10 minutes.)

    • johan_larson says:

      Can an adult learn to swim in 10 hours?

      • Lillian says:

        No, but an adult can learn to competently avoid drowning within 10 hours. This may qualify as “swimming” for most people, but speaking as someone who has never lost a swimming competition, i may have higher standards.

        • [Thing] says:

          What if I told you … there was a technique you can learn in zero minutes … by which you could avoid drowning and never lose a swimming competition?

          🤯

          • Well... says:

            Back before I liked swimming, I used to quip that it was the slowest, least efficient way to get anywhere.

          • Lillian says:

            What if i told you… that there are bodies of water everywhere, and people are therefore at some risk of suddenly experiencing unexpected and unplanned for immersion?

          • [Thing] says:

            Well I was just kidding of course, but I did actually pause to consider that for a moment, and I’m still not sure whether it’s more plausible that learning to swim raises or lowers one’s lifetime risk of drowning. I mean, obviously if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on boats or whatever you should learn to swim. And even if you generally do your best to avoid deep water, making an exception to learn some minimal level of swimming skill, in case you ever find yourself immersed in liquid accidentally, probably lowers your risk of drowning.

            But what if you take swimming lessons and discover that you enjoy it, and start swimming regularly for fun? I’m pretty sure that would increase your lifetime risk of drowning (and also of losing swimming competitions), which you could have avoided by just never finding out whether you like swimming or not.

          • bean says:

            I mean, obviously if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on boats or whatever you should learn to swim.

            Interestingly, this is not a theory shared by the Royal Navy at the beginning of the 19th century. Most of their sailors couldn’t swim, and they weren’t really encouraged to learn. I believe this was intended to discourage desertion.

          • johan_larson says:

            Modern navies, on the other hand, insist that recruits be able to swim, at least a little.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, when I was in the Navy, they basically taught me to swim in 1 hour. And by “swim” I mean “rudimentary backstroke at slow speed” but it was plenty sufficient to avoid drowning.

            Not that I had never been in the water before in my life, I could doggy paddle okay, but I had never really done a backstroke.

          • A1987dM says:

            @Lillian:

            If you mean “some risk” as in “zero is not a probability”, sure, but can you give any examples of scenarios of “suddenly experiencing unexpected and unplanned for immersion” with non-negligible probability of happening (say, > 0.001/person/year) to people using [Thing]’s technique?

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Interestingly, this is not a theory shared by the Royal Navy at the beginning of the 19th century. Most of their sailors couldn’t swim, and they weren’t really encouraged to learn. I believe this was intended to discourage desertion.

            I think learning to swim was discouraged more by sailors’ superstition than anything else- AFAIK swimming proficiency wasn’t any more common in the merchant service or among fishermen. The idea, essentially, was that being able to swim just means you take longer to die if your ship sinks or you go overboard unnoticed.

            (For a similar reason, modern single-handed ocean yachtsmen often don’t wear lifejackets, as if they go overboard they are dead regardless).

          • CatCube says:

            @A1987dM, @[Thing]

            It depends exactly what [Thing]’s proposed “method” is–if he means “never go out on the water, period,” then it’s probably going to get you there. If it’s “never go swimming,” that’s…a little more problematic. I can’t find the exact statistic, but according to the posters they hang up everywhere on our operating Projects, most people who end up in the water and fatally drowning never intended to go into the water in the first place. (In 89% of these fatal drownings, a lifejacket wasn’t worn, so the number of unintentional entries is going to be below that, and I can believe that it’s well above 50%–the link is to a press release, but the numbers given are familiar with other data I’ve seen.)

            So long as you never go boating, you’re in the clear. If there’s a possibility you plan on doing so, you should learn to swim. Also, wear a Goddamn lifejacket.

        • alexkidd says:

          you need to enter more competitions

          • Lillian says:

            That is in fact the correct way to parse my statement! Though i do genuinely have seven gold medals, the were all in local swim meets of no consequence, and i never strove to find myself properly challenged. Unfortunately, while i’m still as stick-thin as i was back then, these days i am so wildly out of shape that just carrying the groceries home leaves me winded. Any competition i entered now i would surely lose with no chance of winning, and that’s just no fun at all.

      • j1000000 says:

        I did, kind of. In fact, not to go all 2012 lifehacky, but it was more like I learned in 5 minutes. Or rather like Hemingway on bankruptcy it happened very gradually then all at once.

        I didn’t learn to swim as a kid. As an adult I took swimming lessons, but I was the only one not scared of water so I got almost literally no attention from the teacher, who spent most of her time convincing other students to stick their head in the water for a few seconds at a time.

        I spent another few weeks afterwards flailing about in the shallow end of a pool and I never could make it more than a single length without feeling like I’d black out in exhaustion. Then a lifeguard watching me “practice” said to me “First major problem is that your legs are at 45 degrees to your body — lower your head and straighten your legs so you’re in a line. Second is that you’re taking tiny breaths. Think of swimming like walking — you should be able to go basically forever if you go really slowly. Only if you sprint do you have to stop. Turn over completely when you breathe to take a long, leisurely breath. Go slow.” I immediately swam a quarter mile and could’ve kept going.

        I still don’t swim fast at ALL, keep in mind. But I can swim now.

      • sourcreamus says:

        Yes, when I was doing swim lessons, we taught 5 year olds to swim in 8 45 minute lessons. An adult should be much easier unless they had a water phobia.

    • Brad says:

      For the bonus question what to say if questioned by the police. Heck you could learn it in ten seconds—“I’m not answering any questions and I want to talk to an attorney.”

      • 10240 says:

        … if you are in the US. Not necessarily (ever?) if you aren’t.

      • sentientbeings says:

        As someone who was given that 10 minute conversation many separate times growing up – and it was always the same conversation – that answer strikes me as a very good one. It’s probably also worth it and possible to include within the 10 minutes how to deal with certain situations before talking to the police, such as, if you shoot someone, make sure that person is dead.

        • Lillian says:

          Also before you shoot someone, make sure you intend for that person to be dead. Not just because guns kill people, and taking another life is a weighty thing that should not be done carelessly, but also because warning shots are not valid use of force in most jurisdictions. They can also be a remarkably ineffective deterrent when the other person is intent on killing you first. If you gotta shoot, then shoot to kill.

          • Jiro says:

            I thought the acceptable reason is “I shoot to stop the threat”, not specifically to kill. Shooting to stop the threat is by definition self-defense, even if stopping the threat normally means a risk of killing. If your goal is to kill the other person, that’s murder.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The threat isn’t stopped unless they are dead.

          • Jiro says:

            Okay, make that “I shoot to stop the immediate threat”.

            It’s true that if someone is dead they can’t wake up a month later and kill you in revenge, but stopping that kind of delayed threat is not a legal reason to kill someone.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Jiro

            The issue is that if you are at the point where the threat is strong enough to react by shooting then there is no step 2 to confirm that it is neutralized without putting yourself in more danger.

          • johan_larson says:

            “Keep shooting until you are sure they are dead” sounds awfully severe. I wouldn’t want to stand before a jury and say that.

            Anyone know what professional firearms instructors tend to recommend?

            This is outside of my expertise, but the rules I have heard of are “fire two shots and assess” and “keep firing until they drop the weapon (gun)”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The recommendation used to be “shoot to stop”, which is no different than “shoot to kill” in terms of where the bullets are going. But I’d definitely consult a lawyer before talking to the police about the details of my self defense. Apparently pulling the trigger until the gun is empty is pretty likely to happen whether you plan to or not; maybe enough training could overcome this.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Anyone know what professional firearms instructors tend to recommend?

            So
            Home Invasions are an interesting topic in Chicago
            Over the last several years
            Only a few hundred have been killed
            Though many are fearful of home invasions

            That might threaten their family
            Or other loved ones

            Kindly, I asked my friends what advice their
            Instructors have given them, in the case of
            Loud noises in their houses at night, but…
            Legally, these retired and active police officers are only allowed to give certain answers

            There isn’t really a good sample size to see what your chances are in front of a jury and the advice is only useful in the case of home invasion, not someone on a street.

          • quanta413 says:

            My uninformed impression is that shooting to stop is shooting to kill for all intents and purposes.

            It’s probably best we admit this up front so people understand what sort of choice they’re making.

            But yeah, if your assailant collapses with blood spraying from a severed artery, you probably don’t need to keep firing. If you do unload a bunch to be sure you hit or in a panic that’s understandable, but that’s different from checking your assailant up close after they fall and then deciding to fire a few more rounds just to be sure. The second thing is a lot less defensible behavior (outside of a warzone) than the first.

          • Randy M says:

            Does A Definite Beta Guy’s post look formatted as poetry to anyone else?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Does A Definite Beta Guy’s post look formatted as poetry to anyone else?

            I’m not really sure what you mean…

            but that’s different from checking your assailant up close after they fall and then deciding to fire a few more rounds just to be sure

            Knowing this is the only legal
            Interpretation, no one would have even bothered
            Looking into this question, as doing so would
            Lose valuable instruction time

            Again, I am not sure how often this even comes up, so who can really say? There have been few justifiable homicides in recent years, and it depends on what jury you pull and who is doing a prosecution. Retired police officers from the 90s are probably not going to know about current practices of local PDsor what forensics can say.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not really sure what you mean…

            Capitalized sentence fragments, line break, sans punctuation, followed by a blank line, then another set formatted the same way.
            I suspect it comes from copying from another application or typing on a mobile device, but it amused me to assume you were writing your advice in verse. No slight intended.

            I dumb

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Now that I look again, it’s
            Obvious what ADBG is doing.

            Cute.
            With that being said,

            This subthread
            Has a strong likelihood of
            Redirecting the discussion in an
            Eminently
            Avoidable
            Direction.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Randy,
            Keep in mind, I have no advice, because I am not a legal expert or a self-defense expert. If your question is narrowly on what the shooting experts say, I do have second-hand experience, because I have a bunch of friends and relatives that have attended required classes. These experts include a lot of retired or current LEO.

            Those expert-suggested practices might not be legal, at least not based on my understanding of the law. Even if they were recommending something illegal (which I have noreason to suspect they would be), it might not be applicable in 2018, even if it were applicable in 1988 or 1978.

          • Jiro says:

            “Intending to do something that you know has a high probability of killing” is not the same thing as “intending to kill”. “Intending to kill” implies having a terminal goal of killing, while “intending to stop” does not.

          • Brad says:

            But yeah, if your assailant collapses with blood spraying from a severed artery, you probably don’t need to keep firing. If you do unload a bunch to be sure you hit or in a panic that’s understandable, but that’s different from checking your assailant up close after they fall and then deciding to fire a few more rounds just to be sure. The second thing is a lot less defensible behavior (outside of a warzone) than the first.

            In a post-Geneva Convention warzone, that’s a war crime.

            1. A person who is recognized or who, in the circumstances, should be recognized to be ‘ hors de combat ‘ shall not be made the object of attack.

            2. A person is ‘ hors de combat ‘ if:

            [omitted]

            (c) he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself;

            provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            In a post-Geneva Convention warzone, that’s a war crime.

            I’m well aware. I said it’s less defensible outside of a war zone not perfectly defensible in a war zone. And I’m talking about the morality and practicality of such decisions, not the legality. Although I’d contend that in war, your side winning or losing is far important to the legal effects of anything you do than the Geneva Conventions. I don’t think international law really maps well to national law in effect.

            Despite the Geneva Conventions, we have many accounts of people shooting potential captives. I’m not sure how you’d even know if someone shot an enemy after they fell in the middle of a battlefield. And given how brutal the business of war is, there’s a lot more slack to be cut in the middle of a warzone than on your front lawn.

        • Brad says:

          It’s probably also worth it and possible to include within the 10 minutes how to deal with certain situations before talking to the police, such as, if you shoot someone, make sure that person is dead.

          The question an area I’m knowledgeable or skilled about, so uh … I’ll leave that part to others.

        • Garrett says:

          if you shoot someone, make sure that person is dead

          Stop.

          I totally understand that having the other person dead is more convenient for you. There’s no one else to tell a conflicting story, no worries about being sued for a lifetime of pain & suffering, etc. But convenient is not the same as legal.

          Using any form of lethal force is only considered legal if you are doing so to stop the threat. Once the threat has ceased (for example, by the assailant running away), continuing to shoot, and especially to kill them, is no longer self-defense and may be prosecuted as some form of murder. It’s possible that you’d be able to “get away” with it (see: dead men tell no tales), but forensic science is continually improving and you never know what the police are going to take a detailed interest in.

          • John Schilling says:

            +1. If you shoot someone while they are lying on the ground, curled up in a fetal position while bleeding and screaming and crying for their mother, there’s a good chance that the police are going to know that’s what you did. And only a small chance that a jury is going to believe that you held a reasonable fear that they were going to get up and kill you if you took so much as two seconds to assess the situation. Same deal if you try to shoot them a dozen times before they have time to fall.

            If you want to privately, secretly, hope that the two bullets you fired at their chest while they were still standing and facing you, inflict mortal rather than merely disabling injuries, then nobody is ever going to be in a position to judge you on that. But even then, it would be tactful and prudent not to say so. And unless you are shooting people when they are clearly down, odds are that you will only disable and not kill, so you need to be prepared for what comes next.

            Which brings us to, ten hours of first aid training with a particular emphasis on how to control severe bleeding. Somehow, we’ve managed to convince most of the developed world that the One Clever Trick that saves lives is CPR, when that almost never does any good outside a hospital but knowing how to stop bleeding really is a big deal.

          • Lambert says:

            How *do* you stop severe bleeding?
            Especially those resulting from industrial accidents or outdoor pursuits.

          • sentientbeings says:

            I totally understand that having the other person dead is more convenient for you. There’s no one else to tell a conflicting story, no worries about being sued for a lifetime of pain & suffering, etc. But convenient is not the same as legal.

            I’m going to use this particular comment as means to respond generally to the other similar ones.

            The “dead” advice isn’t based on what is moral or even legal per se. It is based primarily on what is legally best for the shooter. I am not the skilled/qualified guy giving the advice – I’m reporting on the prior, repeated advice of judges, lawyers, and police officers, who do fall into that category. Their reasons are mostly in line with what you said – no conflicting stories, getting sued, retribution, etc.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m reporting on the prior, repeated advice of judges, lawyers, and police officers, who do fall into that category.

            Approximately how many judges, lawyers, and police officers have you personally talked to about this, and why? Because this is usually friend-of-a-friend level reporting, stripped of context or verification, and should not be trusted in what is literally a life-or-death matter.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @John Schilling

            Approximately how many judges, lawyers, and police officers have you personally talked to about this, and why?

            Separate individuals, spoken to personally, I’d estimate at 7 or 8. The number of actual instances of the conversation would be somewhat higher due to repetition from some of the same people.

            I have also heard it second-hand (as in, others receive the same advice and mention it) and read it before. I’m somewhat surprised that others here don’t seem to have received this advice, based on the number of times I’ve heard it second-hand. As first-hand advice, I find it easy to believe I’ve heard it more frequently than most. I’ve known a lot of lawyers.

            As to “why,” I can’t think of any particular reason. I have had a lot of conversations with lawyers. When I was young I remember asking about self-defense law in various contexts and how it varied by jurisdiction. It probably came up a few times in that context, and probably a few times in the “general advice” category, like saying “no” when a police officer asks to conduct a search of your vehicle.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Lambert: The short short version is, direct external pressure on the wound, wound packing for internal pressure, and tourniquets for severe bleeding from extremities. Tourniquets were deprecated for a while, but that was a mistake and they’re back in a big way.

            Blood is stored and circulated under pressure, so if it’s trying to get out, you need to apply more pressure to keep it in. Details for implementation, really deserve more than a blog post. But if nothing else, using the heel of your palm to apply maximum pressure on or just “upstream” of the wound is a good start.

          • Lambert says:

            The extent of my knowledge is more or less ‘put some vaguely sterile fabric on the wound and apply a load of pressure’.
            And don’t bother raising the wound, because the pressure head from that kind of distance is negligible.

          • Approximately how many judges, lawyers, and police officers have you personally talked to about this, and why?

            In my case one police officer, in Philadelphia, in the seventies. His advice was that if you shot someone you should make sure he is dead and make sure his body is inside your house.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I wouldn’t do that; maybe it would have worked in the 70s, but if you move the body post mortem it’s going to be really obvious to forensics nowadays.

          • Brad says:

            I worked with criminal defense lawyers, both in private practice and legal aid, and no one ever gave that advice in my hearing.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think the advice should be read “kill your assailant regardless of the circumstances”, because killing someone who is no longer reasonably a threat is definitely murder.

            It’s more like “shoot to kill” because “warning shots” or “shooting a guy in the hand so he can’t shoot back” or whatever:
            1) Only works in the movies
            2) Makes it easy to argue that you didn’t think lethal force was necessary
            3) Is much more likely to result in a miss, inadvertently hitting something you don’t want hit, and/or getting you killed when they retaliate
            4) Is less likely than a center-mass shot to result in a rapid end to the threat

            Perhaps it would be best phrased, “Don’t pull the trigger unless lethal force is justified. If lethal force is justified, act lethally until it isn’t”

          • Brad says:

            That strikes me as advice some kind of self defense expert might give, including perhaps a police officer, but not a judge or criminal defense lawyer. I don’t believe that sentientbeings is faithfully reporting what he was told, but I think either those lawyer/judges were macho posturing or passing along second party self defense advice without disclosing that’s what they were doing.

          • Aapje says:

            Note that investigations of shootings tend to show horrendous hit rates. Many shootings happen under bad conditions. Furthermore, the adrenaline makes it much harder to shoot well.

            So the idea that the average person can reliably make a disabling, but not lethal shot seems a bit of a fantasy.

            My advice would be: retreat if you can. If you can’t, give clear instructions (drop the weapon, back off, get away from me, etc) and do any threatening with words (I have a gun) or by showing you have a weapon. When that fails, shoot the upper body. Stop shooting when the person drops the weapon or falls down.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Brad

            I don’t believe that sentientbeings is faithfully reporting what he was told

            That’s rather uncharitable.

            I think either those lawyer/judges were macho posturing or passing along second party self defense advice without disclosing that’s what they were doing.

            With respect to the circumstances I best remember, I can state without any doubt that was not the case.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @sentientbeings:
            I think if you re-read the whole sentence , he left out a double negative, otherwise the rest of the sentence doesn’t make sense.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @HBC

            That seems reasonably likely. I hope you’re right.

          • Brad says:

            Yes, yes, that’s exactly what happened. I usually post from a phone these days and my editing suffers. Very sorry.

            It was originally “I don’t believe that sentientbeings is not faithfully reporting what he was told” but that didn’t sound great so I went back to make it “I believe that sentientbeings is faithfully reporting what he was told” but only did it half-way.

    • shakeddown says:

      Navigating with a topographical map, ten minute version: Navigating by topography is more reliable than going by roads, which keep changing or going unmarked. Closed circles are peaks – there are almost never local height minimums (except underwater). Valleys are generally narrower than ridges, which also helps tell which side of the line is higher. Now stand on a lookout for ten minutes and try to join the map to the terrain.

      Ten hour version: Now plot out a day trip with 5-20 checkpoints and try to follow it, tracking where you are on the map.

    • cassander says:

      I can teach you an awful lot of excel tricks in 10 hours. Enough to make any non-technical boss think you’re a wizard and a solid foundation on which to build more serious knowledge.

      • WashedOut says:

        Have you considered selling that service via skype lessons?

        • cassander says:

          Honestly no. I’ve taught a few free classes for a professional organization I’m a member of but that’s it. What do you think I could make?

          • WashedOut says:

            I’m an engineering professional that wants to get better at data handling/basic analytics in excel and also learn to sling VBA when I have to. I’d pay $30 an hour for well-taught lessons if I could have a say in the specifics of the content in advance.

          • cassander says:

            Interesting. At best I’m a passable teacher. truth be told, while I can show people how formulas work, getting good requires actually doing the work on a day to day basis, getting used to thinking of how to solve problems.

            If you already have the basics, my advice would be to subscribe to r/excel on reddit. People there post excel problems, and others solve them. I’d read through the problems as they get posted, and try to solve ones that, on looking at, you think you know how to do but aren’t sure. The difficulty ranges from basic to very advanced, so you have to pick through it a bit, but it’s basically an infinite problem worksheet of real life problems. There will also be a smaller number of discussions/trick lists, etc. It’s a great all around resource, and it will provide with what you need most, he practice of twisting your mind around into the shape of excel formulas and tools.

            VBA I know much less about, I rarely need it for my day to day work, so I’m not much past the level of cribbing code from people who know what they’re doing on the rare instances I need it.

      • nameless1 says:

        In what kind of situation do people need more than a Pivot table? For me that is the answer to nearly every question. It is basically an OLAP cube. The only other trick I use is the VLOOKUP function, which turns a bunch of Excel tables into something like a relational database, an ideal thing to put a Pivot on. If only Excel had a magic trick to make it take English function names instead of localized ones, I would be entirely happy with these.

        • Matt M says:

          VLOOKUP is blasphemy. Stop living in the dark ages and learn to index,match like a civilized person.

          • cassander says:

            agreed. I know this is a CW free thread, but I don’t care. People that use Vlookup are bad and should feel bad!

          • SamChevre says:

            I use INDEX(MATCH()) occasionally, but completely fail to see any general advantage relative to VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP. Can one of you expand on why INDEX(MATCH()) is better.

            The functions that are in my opinion most underused are OFFSET and INDIRECT.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve actually sent a Dr Zoidberg “YOUR VLOOKUP IS BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD” meme to a subordinate before.

      • Chalid says:

        As someone who is already very familiar with Python and Pandas and does a fair amount of data-crunching with them, but only with rudimentary Excel knowledge, what if anything would be the best few things for me to learn to do in Excel?

        • SamChevre says:

          If you already have data-crunching experience and tools, Excel is helpful for:
          Organizing and displaying small data sets
          Graphs
          Building prototypes for bigger systems to identify how the logic works or communicate it to others
          Anything that require iterative solutions (the Solver is a very useful tool).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Excel is much, much worse than pandas for graphing. And I’ve spent less than 10 hours using pandas.

            Spreadsheets are good for some things, although I find it hard to articulate what (maybe your #2), but for the things that require effort to learn about they’re just worse.

    • Well... says:

      Youtube videos have answered this for me on many topics (e.g. handyman work, automotive repair, cooking, various particulars of law, history, physics, etc.). I know it seems like a pretty low-quality comment to just refer to that, but if you’re genuinely interested I really do think Youtube is potentially a wonderful resource for those kinds of things.

      • RavenclawPrefect says:

        I’ve gotten some fairly good content off of youtube (praise be to those video speed-up browser extensions, anything under 2x is unbearably slow), but I’m sure there’s better stuff out there than what I’ve found (most of which is only high-quality insofar as it’s decent production quality or entertaining). E.g. basically all the big educational Youtube channels are much more surface-level than one would like for actually learning a decent bit about something, since that’s what gets clicks. Crash course is okay but highly variable, from what I’ve heard and the little I’ve watched directly. Any recommendations you have?

        Some specific channels I’d recommend:

        3Blue1Brown is the best channel for mathematics, hands down. Probably fairly well known within SSC, but for anyone who doesn’t: I go through a lot of online math content, and they provide the highest quality of mathematics instruction you’ll see in video format, both pedagogically and with respect to production value. Go check out the channel, click on what seems interesting, put it at 3x speed and absorb more intuition about calculus or linear algebra in 30 minutes than you’d get from a semester of mediocre teaching in a university class.

        Vi Hart is also excellent for more rambly, amusement-y, math-for-the-sake-of-exploring presentation, and her videos are clearly thought out well even if they’re presented in a less structured form. If you haven’t read much Martin Gardner etc. but like cute little patterns and visualizations (or have and want more), you’ll likely enjoy it. Especially recommended for people like Scott who bear all the signs of being a math person except actually manipulating symbols in the prescribed ways.

        Lindybeige is great for a lot of neat history on ancient and medieval technology (especially war-related).

        Educational channels I subscribe to but don’t endorse as immediately (usually have content of variable quality or depth), though they’re still worth watching: Numberphile, Computerphile, Tom Scott, CGP Grey, Kurzgesagt (mostly well-done intros to topics familiar to SSC- and EA-adjacent people), Kirby Ferguson, ElectroBOOM, Every Frame a Painting.

        • [Thing] says:

          Really? 2 or 3x speed sounds awfully fast to me. I usually use 1.25x (although I’d go as high as 1.33x if it were an option in the default YouTube interface). 1.5x is only okay if I’m watching something boring and don’t care if I miss things here and there. (And honestly, if I were trying to learn math from videos, I’d probably have to watch at normal speed and pause or rewind frequently.) Anyway, now I’m curious how fast other people here can play audio/video to save time.

          • RavenclawPrefect says:

            although I’d go as high as 1.33x if it were an option in the default YouTube interface

            For Chrome at least, here’s an extension that lets you do increments in tenths.

            For more fine-grained stuff, go to the console (should be under “inspect element” or similar on most browsers if you right-click somewhere on the screen), then type in “document.getElementsByTagName(“video”)[0].playbackRate = 1.33″, or similarly for any other speed.

            It varies from person to person, but here’s my comfortable listening speed for several videos in my subscription feed (comment filter will eat links if I include them all, but you can easily google to pull these up):

            Lindybeige on trying out a helmet: 1.5x, he talks pretty fast and it’s not a subject matter I know tons about.

            Yourmoviesucks interview with Jamie Shannon: 2.25x, pretty conversational so I’m not totally optimizing for information processing here.

            Computerphile on AI and logical induction: 3.25x, I’ve seen the video of Andrew Critch’s original talk on this at MIRI* (that one at more like 2x, IIRC) and I’m familiar with all the mathematical logic behind it so it’s not essential that I catch every single word here and if I lose focus for a second and miss a sentence or two I’ll be all right conceptually.

            3Blue1Brown on divergence and curl: 3x, I’ve seen multivariable calc a few years back but it’s been a while since I really had to put those concepts to work very hard, and the visualization stuff is new (though that’s much less audio-dependent anyway).

            Periodic Table of Videos on Dubnium – 2.75x, though that’s a pretty comfortable pace and if I needed to get somewhere quickly but wanted to finish the video I’d set it to 3x or 3.25x.

            Purely entertainment stuff where I care about timing (e.g. Citation Needed from Tom Scott’s channel) I’ll set at 1x, really slow speakers I might get up to 4.5x but that’s pushing it for most audio. And at that pace it definitely requires some care, you’ve got to maintain a certain level of attention on the words without focusing too hard with your conscious attention or you’ll slow your processing speed down and miss their next sentence. At least for me I can’t play things at 4x speed if I need to do any additional processing with my high-level faculties (like pausing to think about a related topic or ponder a question I have about the material), so it has to be relatively light (popsci videos on technical subjects yes, someone telling a story or anecdote yes, intro quantum computation lectures no).

            *Highly recommended, by the way. Fairly accessible and super interesting presentation of some neat technical content on AI safety and logical reasoning under uncertainty, plus some awesome hacks to get around Godel’s Theorem in weird ways. If you’ve got a little background in mathematical logic it’s super worth watching.

        • Well... says:

          I was thinking less along the lines of subscribing to channels and more along the lines of entering questions into DDG and following the video links to Youtube, plus some things Youtube recommends after that.

          This produces essentially two categories of videos that I get a lot of value from:

          1) Videos that provide the answer to a particular question I had (e.g. what’s the best way to create a mirror frame out of crown moulding; how do I replace a certain part on a specific make/model of car, etc.)

          2) Videos that teach me things I probably ought to have learned in high school (Vsauce videos fit this description), or let me in on specialized knowledge I’d normally not be privy to (e.g. professionals of various kinds talking about their work by using scenarios or reacting to clips from movies that depict their work).

    • WashedOut says:

      Analogue Synthesis in 10 hours:
      -high-level overview of the science behind analogue synthesizers
      -introductory lessons on manipulating waveforms, overview of filters and oscillators, attack-decay-sustain-release parameters
      -elementary composition techniques
      -sequences and pattern composition/programming/manipulation
      -recording, mixing and mastering basics

      In 10 minutes:
      As above but for digital.

    • Basil Elton says:

      You can learn basics of target shooting in 10 hours, if you split it up in 5 two-hour sessions or so. Or basics of Python or similar scripting language. I’m not so sure about horseback riding but I think it can be done too.

    • The principle of comparative advantage and the equimarginal principal both should take much less than that, and both are useful.

      Easy ways of baking bread would be another possibility.

      • Erusian says:

        You should combine them and talk about why you still buy bread despite knowing this easy method of making bread. People interested in economics and cooking would be a small niche but it’d be all yours!

        • CatCube says:

          Making bread is a pain in the ass, and freshly-baked homemade bread goes bad fast. I tried it for a while, but the two loaves were way, way, better than cheap store-bought stuff for two days, significantly worse for the next two days, and had to be thrown out for mold on day 5. I live alone. If I ate two one-pound loaves in two days, I’d be easier to jump over than walk around.

          A store-bought loaf will be at least acceptable for almost two weeks.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Freezers exist. You can also regain a good amount of that freshness by putting the homemade loaf in a lightly damp paper bag in a warm oven for a few mins.

          • SamChevre says:

            The best solution is to refrigerate the dough, and bake a few rolls every day or two.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ SamChevre

            That works well. It works really well with muffin batter, if you have a toaster oven with a timer you can get up, stick muffins in the oven, do your morning routine and then eat fresh baked muffins every morning for like 30 cents a pop.

          • SamChevre says:

            @ baconbits

            I will have to try that. To do the same with bread dough, just shape it the evening before and keep it in the refrigerator. (You can have warm cinnamon rolls for breakfast!)

        • The only time we buy bread is, very rarely, for stuffing a turkey and such and, more often, bagels, which are a good deal of work to make.

          and freshly-baked homemade bread goes bad fast.

          I bake three loaves of sourdough raisin bread (four with a recipe and a half for an SSC meetup). One gets used by us, the rest goes into the freezer. It freezes well, is almost as good as fresh.

          There is a book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which describes a different solution. You make a rather wet dough without kneading, let it rise and collapse, refrigerate. Any time in the next few weeks that you want fresh bread you take out enough, let rise about half an hour, and bake it.

          Five minutes a day overstates how fast it is, but it is a low work way of having fresh bread whenever you want it.

      • nameless1 says:

        How about Steve Keen’s objection to comparative advantage? https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevekeen/2016/11/11/trumps-truthful-heresy-on-globalization-and-free-trade/

        What I find very curious about this argument is that it is based on the fact that capital is concrete things: “The argument might sound convincing, until you ask a simple question: “So how do you turn a wine press into a spinning jenny?”. Answer? You don’t.”

        Does this remind you of something? It is what Austrian Economists, Misesians – who are generally huge free traders – say about business cycles: credit expansion makes people produce the wrong kind of capital goods, and there is necessarily a lot of pain until the old stuff is sold at scrap value and new stuff is produced.

        Now, I am a big fan of the capital goods are actual things attitude, because it injects a necessary reality check into models made by numbers. I find it highly interesting that it leads to a libertarian approach in one case and apparently to a non-libertarian one in another case.

        I really want to see a model like this taken to both problems. Say, a model starting like a capital good A has a book value based on its actual production cost, and a capacity to produce B amount of consumer goods per year, whose current unit selling price is C so it produces B * C value per year, with D amount of depreciation. But if its production becomes outcompeted, it can only be sold and turned into something else at a scrap value of E, which is far lower than A, even far lower than A-D i.e. current depreciated book value. And so on.

        To be fair, Keen ignores the part where you instead of scrapping the wine press, you sell it to Portugal. But doesn’t ABCT ignore that, too?

        • Matt M says:

          To be fair, Keen ignores the part where you instead of scrapping the wine press, you sell it to Portugal. But doesn’t ABCT ignore that, too?

          Not really. Even if you sell the wine press to Portugal, you’re still out the money that represents all the wasted time you spent making wine instead of cotton before you realized the economy was distorted.

          And further, a whole lot of capital goods are not easy to dismantle, sell, relocate, etc. That’s part of why the housing bubble was so devastating. It’s not easy to quickly convert a recently constructed new home in Las Vegas into something more economically useful. Further, if Portugal was also overvaluing wine, they won’t want your wine press. They also already have too many wine presses of their own. In real life, it seems rare that when one person/group makes an economic error, it can be easily offset by another party who made the exact opposite one. More likely, everyone makes the same error in the same direction and you suddenly find that everyone desperately wants the spinning jenny (therefore prices shoot through the roof) and nobody wants any of the 100 wine presses they have hanging around.

        • John Schilling says:

          What I find very curious about this argument is that it is based on the fact that capital is concrete things: “The argument might sound convincing, until you ask a simple question: “So how do you turn a wine press into a spinning jenny?”. Answer? You don’t.”

          If nothing else, you wait until the wine press wears out and order a new spinning jenny in place of the replacement wine press you would have bought.

          I don’t think any economist ever seriously expected markets or nations to instantly maximize their returns via comparative action. That’s a spherical-cow level approximation, suitable for teaching an Econ 101 class or introducing a new concept to the discussion. Real economies always take time to adjust to new conditions (except for occasional catastrophic downward adjustments).

          One can always point out that someone else’s spherical-cow analysis, in a place where that is the appropriate level of analysis, lacks some detail that would realistically shift the result in whichever way they prefer. That doesn’t make for pwning the globalists or Austrians or whatever. Mostly it’s a dick move and makes me think the speaker doesn’t have any really solid arguments.

        • The Nybbler says:

          To be fair, Keen ignores the part where you instead of scrapping the wine press, you sell it to Portugal.

          Which is a pretty large omission. The cost of moving and/or scrapping and rebuilding capital equipment adds complications to the simple model, but it doesn’t invalidate it.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            To be more specific: in a free-trade regime, adding capital goods to the model means that the trade between your two nations will no longer move from the non-specialized to the specialized equilibrium just because there is some comparative advantage; it has to be great enough to pay the expense of replacing the capital goods. If it isn’t, the non-specialized pattern will persist (or rather, as Schilling notes, it will move gradually towards specialization as the equipment wears out). The important thing is that, absent further argument, the market finds the correct response without the aid of government-imposed restrictions to trade.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The theory ignores the reality that, when foreign competition undercuts the profitability of a domestic industry, the capital in it can’t be “transformed” into an equal amount of capital in another industry. Sometimes it’s sold at a fire-sale price, often to overseas buyers. Most of the time, as ex-steel-mill workers throughout the Midwest know, it simply turns to rust.

            He doesn’t actually ignore it entirely

            The theory ignores the reality that, when foreign competition undercuts the profitability of a domestic industry, the capital in it can’t be “transformed” into an equal amount of capital in another industry. Sometimes it’s sold at a fire-sale price, often to overseas buyers. Most of the time, as ex-steel-mill workers throughout the Midwest know, it simply turns to rust.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Does this remind you of something? It is what Austrian Economists, Misesians – who are generally huge free traders – say about business cycles: credit expansion makes people produce the wrong kind of capital goods, and there is necessarily a lot of pain until the old stuff is sold at scrap value and new stuff is produced.

          Yes the Austrian approach is to discuss capital structure, but they do more than acknowledge this concept, it is central to their theory. Their claim about the business cycle is that when it is discovered that the investments are unprofitable you get a recession. The theory (though perhaps not all of its proponents) fully incorporates the idea that the reallocation of resources leads to a short term lower level of output, but that the eventual level of output will be at a higher level that you cannot reach without the reallocation.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I really want to see a model like this taken to both problems. Say, a model starting like a capital good A has a book value based on its actual production cost, and a capacity to produce B amount of consumer goods per year, whose current unit selling price is C so it produces B * C value per year, with D amount of depreciation. But if its production becomes outcompeted, it can only be sold and turned into something else at a scrap value of E, which is far lower than A, even far lower than A-D i.e. current depreciated book value. And so on.

          This is functionally the Austrian approach, only they use market prices and reactions rather than a model.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      You could become at least competent in shooting 2 basic classes of guns (that is, 2 out of pistol/rifle/shotgun).

    • J says:

      Touch typing. I’ve known so many highly trained technical people who sit in front of a keyboard all day and still have to look at the keyboard. Spend a few hours with typing tutor software. It’ll pay for itself a hundredfold. Even if you already know how, spending a few hours with a typing game can often double your speed.

      • arbitraryvalue says:

        I’m a professional software developer who types with just two fingers (and my thumb for hitting the space bar) although I don’t need to look at the keyboard. Some of my friends tease me about it, but I honestly think that it isn’t a big deal because I can already type quickly enough that thinking, rather than typing, is the rate-limiting process. Of course, I’ve never tried typing more quickly than I do, so I may be wrong. Is there an advantage to super-fast typing which I’m not seeing?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Touch-typing was developed when typewriters were manual, with the rows of keys at very different heights and each keypress requiring a long stroke with fairly considerable force (which needed to be consistent). While it’s certainly better to be able to type without looking at the keys, I wonder if classic touch typing (keep fingers on home keys, specific fingers for hitting specific keys) is really all that important nowadays.

        (Or maybe i’m just sore because I got thrown out of a typing class in high school — using manual typewriters, which were already dinosaurs at the time — for constantly jamming the keys)

    • J says:

      Learning about and then trying out improv theater has been life changing, and takes only a few hours to dip in one’s toes.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      If you have done some programming before (maybe also if you haven’t) you can probably learn to use the statistical programming language R to a degree that it is useful within 10 hours. While not the best for writing applications, it is a very convenient interface for doing statistical tests, models and plots very quickly. Being able to quickly visualise large datasets and look at relationships in raw data without having to rely purely on other people’s interpretation gives you a kind of intellectual autonomy that I believe you would otherwise have less of.

      As a beginner you don’t even need to learn about external libraries. Get yourself a copy of RStudio, learn about basic arithmetic, conditionals, functions, and how everything is at base a vector or list (skip environments for now), learn to use the ‘data.frame’ for data handling, ‘read.table’/’read.csv’ for data input, ‘plot’ for plotting, ‘lm’/’glm’ for statistical modeling, ‘rnorm’/’runif’/’r*****’ for random values (and simulations). If you have time left, look at packages: ggplot2 for nicer plots, data.table as a more powerful data.frame, dplyr for more convenient data manipulation.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        I’m a decent programmer (though it’s been decades since I was making a living programming), and I was able to pick up enough R to be useful in a few hours of tinkering.

      • cassander says:

        I started messing around with R recently, I honestly didn’t see much there that wasn’t way easier to do in excel. Sure, if you have a very large dataset, R is better, but I don’t work with that kind of data.

        • albatross11 says:

          One advantage for me is that I can write my formulas in the form of a function, rather than in a cell somewhere. That makes them a lot easier to debug! And then you can put those functions together and make a data frame that lets you display things like a spreadsheet.

          Also, there are a bunch of statistics/probability functions and packages that are nicer than what Excel offers (though Excel actually has pretty good statistical functions). And much better graphics.

        • brmic says:

          R recently, I honestly didn’t see much there that wasn’t way easier to do in excel.

          There’s a boatload of stuff excel can’t do. If you don’t need that, sure, a major advantage of R is missing. But that’s like saying I only need a pocket calculator on occasion and using it as an argument against Excel. Size of dataset isn’t really the issue.

    • sty_silver says:

      That’s probably both stuff you know already, but 1. Basic Game Theory, enough to understand the concept of a nash equilibrium (you don’t need 10 hours for that, more like 1, it could be taught in highscool), and 2. the signaling model of human behavior

    • silver_swift says:

      Our introductory course fencing consists of 5 sessions of slightly over one hour. This is easily enough to get you acquainted with each of the three weapons (in the sense that you know the rules and have at least performed all the basic attacks, parries and ripostes at least once).

      With twice that much time and individual attention from a teacher you’d probably get to a point where you can fence against a beginning fencer and not lose horribly.

      The 10 minute version of this is enough to explain the basic rules and the differences between the three weapons, without going through any of the motions yourself.

    • James C says:

      For ten hours? A driving course seems reasonable, while its probably not enough experience to consistently pass a test it’s more than enough for competency.

      • SamChevre says:

        What would be the main topics of “finance in 10 hours?”

        Curious because I tried to think of an “insurance math and regulation in 10 hours”, and failed completely to think of anything that managed to be both comprehensible and useful I could cover in that time.

        • Matt M says:

          Time value of money. Sunk cost fallacy. Benefits of diversification.

          That’s probably it. Worth spending the time to drill the basic concepts rather than overwhelming people with less important stuff.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Would start with personal finance and go on broader. Each hour would be a back and forth after maybe 20 minutes of talking about the subject.

          Hour 1: Basic budgeting, income and expenses
          Hour 2: Payoff of Patience – Seizing Sales and Savings (things like camelcamelcamel to accompany Amazon, Groupon Goods and other overstock sites, etc.)
          Hour 3: Interest rates, credit card rates, savings rates, and mortgage rates. Emphasis on not looking at just monthly payments but total amount you’re paying in excess of what you borrowed
          Hour 4: Get more sleep – save money by becoming less impulsive (scheduling the day)
          Hour 5: Basic Supply and Demand as it relates to seasonality and trends
          Hour 6: Liquidity, the importance of having funds available to avoid desperate decisions, even if it means not paying off some debt fully
          Hour 7: Retirement goals and lifestyle desired
          Hour 8: Stocks, bonds, and other investments, risks and opportunities
          Hour 9: How companies make money and why they borrow money to do so
          Hour 10: Overall questions

    • Garrett says:

      From my EMS background, find a place offering training from the Stop the Bleed campaign. Between that and a CPR/AED course you are going be under 10 hours and be prepared to handle a good number of major life threats.

    • AG says:

      Basic photoshop, basic video editing, basic audio editing.

      (With the number 1 used skill being the creation of animated gifs)

    • Corey says:

      The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours to get a private pilot’s license, but the basic stick-and-rudder stuff, how take off, maneuver in the air, and land can be taught in 10 hours. I’m confident that with 10 hours of training, an adult that had never flown before, could manage to not kill themselves in a light aircraft on a windless day.

    • detroitdan says:

      Read this and learn about money and banking: Money & Banking, by Eric Tymoigne

      • Salem says:

        This is a decidedly non-mainstream view money and banking. Don’t you think it would be more honest to present it as such?

        Perhaps you could say “Learn my controversial notions of money and banking. They are widely viewed as false by mainstream economists – but don’t let that put you off, there’s really good arguments in there.”

        If you presented like that, I’d be more likely to view you as a good-faith interlocutor.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’ll give you three options–the 10-minute and 10-hour version of each:

      Excel:
      If you can use a computer generally, I can teach you to use Excel in 10 hours to where you are in my category of “you can reasonably put “Excel” in your list of software you know how to use.”
      Subjects: workbook design and documentation, arithmetic functions, finding and matching functions, subtotal functions, range identification functions, interactions between workbooks.
      10-minute version: If you are basically familiar with Excel, I can teach you to use 3 most useful functions: COUNTIFS, SUMIFS, and VLOOKUP

      Cooking:
      If you have basic kitchen skills (can cut a hotdog safely, know what a measuring cup looks like), I can teach you 5 techniques that will enable you to cook a good meal in many styles.
      How to: chop vegetables, make bread, make muffin-type quickbread, braise meat, cook eggs several different ways.
      10-minute version: how to braise chicken.

      Tying things together:
      I can teach you every knot you’ll ever need, including how to tie a bow tie and how to tie down a load on a truck. Bowline, sheet bend, bow knot with variations, sheepshank-style truckers hitch, surgeons knot, fishing line knot, highwaymen’s hitch–tell me what you want to do and I’ll teach you the knots for it.
      10-minute version: I can teach you to tie a bowline and a sheet bend.

      • Matt M says:

        As someone who spent over 90 minutes trying to learn to tie a bow tie, I am confident that you could not teach it to me in 10 🙂

        • SamChevre says:

          I wouldn’t bet on 10 minutes, either; 10 hours, on the other hand…

          Here’s the trick that worked for me: put a dress shoe on the sink, under the mirror; every time you aren’t sure what to do, tie the shoe until you get to that point.

          (I’ve worn a bow tie most days for years.)

          • CatCube says:

            I usually wear a regular tie, and I’ve done a bow tie a few times. However, the regular tie is in the “that’s weird enough” region, so I don’t usually rock the bow tie.

            However, I was surprised by how difficult that people find the bow tie knot–it’s almost exactly the same knot you use to tie your shoes, but I guess the more precise requirements and having it on your neck instead of your feet makes more difference than I think.

          • Matt M says:

            I did eventually figure it out, but it was done by abandoning all hope of videos and reading things online and just trying to feel and intuit myself what had to be done in the final step where I was messing up.

            Somehow all the various instructions I was getting were making things worse.

            The worst part is I only wear one once a year, which is just too long to actually remember any of this, so “spend an hour trying to tie this bowtie” is now an annual part of my life.

    • Samo says:

      You can learn to distinguish between written Chinese, Korean, and Japanese in a few minutes. You can learn to read Japanese Hiragana (and maybe Katakana) in 10 hours. Although its probably best if those 10 hours are spread over the course of at least a week, rather than studying straight through.

    • S_J says:

      If someone is familiar with driving a car with an automatic transmission, I can teach them how to drive a car with a manual transmission.

      The ten-minute version of that would be “how to get a car with a manual transmission moving in first gear, and be able to bring the car to a stop if you need to.”

      A different skill: if a person had never lit a fire, I can teach them how to start a wood fire.

      The 10-minute version is simple, if kindling is already prepared and if a butane lighter is available.

      Ten hours ought to be enough to teach a person several different ways to turn a single large piece of wood into a pile of kindling… As well as using a variety of methods to start a fire. (Some of these are things I’ve only used once. A flint; 9V battery plus steel wool; magnifying glass; a bow-drill.)

      One of the tricks of fire is tending it, once started. Fires need airflow and fuel. It’s possible to add wood to the fire but block the airflow while doing so. Teaining this would take a little time, but not the whole 10 hours.

    • jg29a says:

      I’d guess that I could make a typical smart person massively better at Scrabble, with a 10-minute conversation about rack leave, mean tile values and major synergies, and the major factors involved in comparing candidate moves… combined with a few of the most useful word lists I could give them to study over 10 (distributed) hours with an efficient cardboxing program.

  5. David Speyer says:

    Are the N.50 threads also CW free now (so 2 CW free per week) or are all hidden threads war zones?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      War zones.

    • Matt M says:

      I’d just like to state that I strongly oppose this change.

      CW is fun. A lot of us enjoy it. I think traffic and comment volume will back this up.

      I know a lot of people complain about it and a lot of people suggested this change, but I still don’t see why they can’t just ignore it if they don’t like it, like the rest of us ignore battleship or D&D or any other discussions we aren’t interested in.

      Unless this change was made solely to protect Scott from doxxing and outrage mobs, in which case, well, that sucks and I think I know who is to blame but I’m not allowed to say so in this thread 🙂

      • johan_larson says:

        The problem with CW is that there is so much of it. The issues are controversial and inflammatory, so people tend to go on and on defending their positions and interpretations. Look at the recent postings about Kavanaugh and Warren; those threads just don’t stop.

        • Matt M says:

          And?

          The fact that there’s a lot of it would seem to indicate that it is popular, and that a lot of people like it.

          I guess having a lot of it makes it slightly more cumbersome to ignore, if you’re trying to ignore it. But still easily doable.

          • baconbits9 says:

            SA isn’t interested in making himself as popular as possible.

          • bean says:

            If it’s so popular, then there should be plenty of places where people can yell at each other over politics without having to put up with a CW-free thread every other week. (Checks rest of the internet.) Yep, there’s plenty of places you can go for 24/7 shouting matches over politics. What makes SSC different is that we try to occasionally do other things.

            I guess having a lot of it makes it slightly more cumbersome to ignore, if you’re trying to ignore it. But still easily doable.

            It’s really not, when we’re having a major fight over, say, a SCOTUS nominee. Like 95% of the thread is related to that, which makes finding the other stuff pretty hard.

          • Matt M says:

            What makes SSC different is that we try to occasionally do other things.

            No one is stopping you from doing other things. As I’ve said, I have zero interest in your battleship series, but I’ve never once asked you to take it elsewhere or anything. I just scroll right on by. Is it slightly inconvenient? Sure. But what right do I have to dictate my preferences on the rest of the readers here?

            Like 95% of the thread is related to that, which makes finding the other stuff pretty hard.

            No it isn’t. Collapse threads relating to the stuff that doesn’t interest you. Ctrl+F and keyword search things that do interest you. Usually once a post has more than 100 replies, this is what I do anyway, just because it’s so easy to get lost. One easy way is to post at least one comment in the threads you find most interesting, and then just Ctrl+F your own name.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Matt M

            1. This isn’t your blog, which is why you don’t get to “dictate your preferences”, not because this is some censorship free zone.
            2. This has never been a censorship free zone, SA was aggressive/assertive in trying to build a space that had the type of conversations he wanted, hence the relegation of CW topics so specific areas.
            3. Battleship conversations don’t dominate the threads, at their most popular Bean actually moved them to his own blog and now mostly links, preventing them from ever taking over (which they probably wouldn’t have, no offense Bean).
            4. Your methods don’t work for people who are generally interested in quality arguments, not specific topics. CTL+F your own name works if you want to continue an argument, but it won’t find you interesting views that you hadn’t considered or new topics you didn’t think you would be interested in.

          • Matt M says:

            This isn’t your blog, which is why you don’t get to “dictate your preferences”, not because this is some censorship free zone.

            I get to do the same thing you guys do – continually talk about what Scott could do to improve my enjoyment of the place.

            Given recent changes, it would seem that he takes this sort of feedback somewhat seriously.

            I’m not demanding this be a censorship free zone, I’m just expressing surprise that it isn’t. Or at least that demands/justification for censorship are backed by little more than “I don’t like this thing and it’s inconvenient for me to just ignore it.”

          • baconbits9 says:

            Your choice of words makes it hard to take these claims at face value. People who prefer a lower CW volume aren’t dictating their preferences, their preferences happen to be aligned with the host. Statements like

            I dunno, I’m just weirded out by what seems to be demands for censorship in a space that I would have thought would be above that sort of thing…

            Imply the superiority of one position over another, not a discussion of how to balance preferences. As are posts how ignoring CW is no big deal, they frame the issue as if your position is correct and not simply a preference.

          • Matt M says:

            their preferences happen to be aligned with the host.

            My perception is that the host is not imposing his own preferences, but rather, responding to user feedback. I would not presume to dictate my preferences to the host, but since he seems to be responsive to feedback, I will offer it. If he were to make a post saying “I personally hate CW and only tolerate it grudgingly because I think some people like it,” I would probably shut up about the matter.

            But so long as it appears that the squeaky wheel is getting the grease, it would seem like my best option is to squeak a little louder myself.

          • onyomi says:

            (Checks rest of the internet.) Yep, there’s plenty of places you can go for 24/7 shouting matches over politics. What makes SSC different is that we try to occasionally do other things.

            Another thing that makes SSC different is that one can discuss CW topics with a much smarter, more charitable group spanning a much wider ideological spectrum than is common.

            I don’t think it’s a coincidence that right-wingers Matt M and myself are especially inclined to defend CW on SSC: it’s because, as said previously, there is a greater dearth of places for right wingers to discuss CW online in a space that is neither a den of witches (/pol/), nor a left wing preserve (much of the rest of social media, especially if one’s social circle is Blue).

            That said, I like this particular decision because I actually prefer to do my CW ranting in places that are harder for the random passer-by to stumble upon. I would guess that the type of new user we are likely to attract because he was interested in arguing about e.g. Kavanaugh will probably be lower quality, on average, than the type of user attracted by e.g. discussion of psychiatry or rationality or philosophy.

            So I certainly endorse an ethos of “SSC: come for the psychiatry, rationality, and philosophy; stay for the CW,” rather than the reverse.

            I am a little worried about what Scott is planning to do to the CW threads on the Reddit. Though I’m not a huge fan of the Reddit interface, I have come to really enjoy those, especially the “quality posts” roundup. The fact that they are so popular without regularly descending into total dumpster fire territory does speak to their meeting a perceived demand. Of course, Scott is under no obligation to keep letting a sub associated with him meet that demand, but I don’t think it will be an easy task to replicate what’s already been built.

            Perhaps the best host for a CW is a reluctant host?

          • bean says:

            I don’t think it’s a coincidence that right-wingers Matt M and myself are especially inclined to defend CW on SSC: it’s because, as said previously, there is a greater dearth of places for right wingers to discuss CW online in a space that is neither a den of witches (/pol/), nor a left wing preserve (much of the rest of social media, especially if one’s social circle is Blue).

            I’m also right-wing, and I’m certainly not trying to cast out the CW entirely. I really enjoyed the stuff on Warren, for instance. I certainly will grant that doing CW here is better than pretty much anywhere else, but at the same time, I think a lot of that is because it’s only one part of what goes on here. Matt seemed to be pushing for more CW at the expense of other things, which I’m opposed to.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m pushing to reject the premise that allowing more CW will be “at the expense of other things.”

            Everyone seems to take that as a given. I do not. I like the “other things” too (although only a few of them, and there’s many that don’t interest me even a little bit)

          • onyomi says:

            I am glad the CW-free threads and Reddit “roundup” exist, as I do think that, if allowed everywhere, CW can drown out other interesting things.

            To put words in his mouth, my guess is Matt M is concerned about a “slippery slope” where CW is at first banished from one hidden space per week, then one more public space per week, then confined to the designated “free speech zone,” and finally more thoroughly curtailed.

            I don’t take this switch-up as the beginning of such a movement on Scott’s part so much as a desire to reduce the public face of SSC’s appearance of being a CW fight club, though I could be wrong.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M

            “….Ctrl+F and keyword search things that do interest you….”

            Thanks very much for the tip, unfortunately it doesn’t work on my phone, but I’ll try it when I may access a computer that has a Ctrl button. 

            I’ll fine with “hidden” CW threads, and just one a week is fine.

            Anyway, may favorite threads are the CW adjacent ones like the how to divide California into different States one, or the U.S.A. into different nations ones.

            Oh, I live in a “Blue” area and think of myself as mostly left but I checked out “r/slatestarcodex” and followed a link there to something called “r/SneerClub” which had a link to a post of mine at the “OT112: Opentagon Thread” which was cited as an example of “You think just the subreddit is bad?” horrible right-wing badness, which I thought was pretty funny.

            I’ll ask about the secret handshake and decoder ring at the next CW thread.

          • Matt M says:

            Anyway, may favorite threads are the CW adjacent ones

            For the folks who dislike “noise” one may point out that ~10% of the non-CW threads are posts either disobeying the rule, asking about the rule, very carefully edging around the rule, or invoking the rule to withhold information they’d otherwise like to contribute.

          • Yep, there’s plenty of places you can go for 24/7 shouting matches over politics.

            But few places where one can go for civil arguments over politics with a sizable range of views.

            My thread with Skef over Warren was less civil than most threads here but still civil enough so that I learned something useful, a possible explanation for the pattern I was commenting on that had not occurred to me.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M

            “For the folks who dislike “noise” one may point out that ~10% of the non-CW threads are posts either disobeying the rule, asking about the rule, very carefully edging around the rule, or invoking the rule to withhold information they’d otherwise like to contribute”

            I share that impression.

            @DavidFriedman

            “….few places where one can go for civil arguments over politics with a sizable range of views…”

            I concur, and I’ve seen more viscous “culture war” fights at a plumbing tools Forum and a Dungeons & Dragons Forum that both nominally “ban politics”, but that just seems to make the arguments only about identity and ethics instead of policy which just makes the fights worse.

          • Well... says:

            The CW-free OTs are a sort of self-deprivation holiday like Lent. You give up something you’re used to. It builds character.

            And if you are one of those weirdos like me who are more interested in non-CW topics than CW ones, then you get a free day (or, 3 days) where everyone else is kind of forced to discuss those with you.

            It’s also nice seeing the people who normally mainly write about CW topics showing a different side and sharing the other stuff that’s in their heads.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Thanks for everyone’s feedback.

            I’m not (currently) trying to ban CW discussion (on here). I figured that keeping the same amount of discussion in terms of number of open threads, but making it a little less obvious from the front page of the blog, would be a good way to allow people who want to talk to talk with the lowest cost to SSC’s reputation. By the time people figure out that the hidden open threads exist I would hope they would already have formed their first impressions.

          • Aapje says:

            Scott,

            I think that is a good choice.

          • bean says:

            For the folks who dislike “noise” one may point out that ~10% of the non-CW threads are posts either disobeying the rule, asking about the rule, very carefully edging around the rule, or invoking the rule to withhold information they’d otherwise like to contribute.

            10% is a lot better than 50%.

            @Scott

            I think the current setup is a good balance.

          • Matt M says:

            10% is a lot better than 50%.

            Well, I think my argument here is that actual CW discussion is still less “noisy” than a bunch of meta discussion about whether or not a particular CW-adjacent post violates the CW rules or not.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “This is the Hell we show to visitors.”

          • Lambert says:

            I heartily endorse the status quo.
            Reducing the visibility of CW OTs also sounds sensible.
            I don’t think there’s too much ‘is this cw?’ noise, but if other people did, I wouldn’t be opposed to an injunction on meta-cw discussion.

        • Deiseach says:

          The Warren one at least was fun, after the seriousness of Kavanaugh; it’s not really going to amount to a hill of beans whether she is one-sixtyfourth Cherokee or not, and any alleged misbehaving in claiming more Native ancestry than she really possessed is way back in the past and nobody really cares.

          • sentientbeings says:

            What I found fruitful about the Warren one was that, while overwhelming the the thread in some sense, there was plenty of discussion that was informative and had nothing to do with Warren per se.

            Of the hard sciences, I had least exposure to biology during my education. That discussion helped me learn some things about chromosomes and recombination.

          • Aapje says:

            @sentientbeings

            The discussions about the norms of the tribes was also interesting.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Kavanaugh pretty much went to a trickle once the confirmation happened. I expect Warren will taper off. There are interminable arguments in the Culture War, but there are interminable arguments outside it too (various things related to EA and UBI)

      • baconbits9 says:

        CW is only fun for SSCers (I would guess) because even the culture war threads here are decently intellectual (that is for CW). I fully support keeping the volume down on CW despite more than occasionally enjoying it.

      • bean says:

        I know a lot of people complain about it and a lot of people suggested this change, but I still don’t see why they can’t just ignore it if they don’t like it, like the rest of us ignore battleship or D&D or any other discussions we aren’t interested in.

        Volume. Particularly with the Kavanaugh stuff, it took over every CW-allowed thread for a month, to the point where I was cutting back how much I read just because there wasn’t much interesting stuff, and I was tired of seeing arguments over what the word “plausible” meant and the necessary standard of evidence. (Which now that I say it is still better than the “Kavanaugh is definitely a rapist/Kavanaugh is a saint and anyone who says otherwise is a liar” that I suspect dominated the rest of the internet, but still…) More than that, people only have so much time, and posting about the controversy du jour also distracts from the other stuff.

        Seriously, I don’t think Naval Gazing ever took more than maybe 1 in 4 posts on a thread, and that was only once or twice, if that. I’m pretty sure Peak Kavanaugh was more like 3 in 4.

        • Matt M says:

          I got sick of the Kavanaugh stuff and dropped out of it too.

          But it was still easy to ignore. Didn’t affect my overall experience much.

          I dunno, I’m just weirded out by what seems to be demands for censorship in a space that I would have thought would be above that sort of thing…

          • albatross11 says:

            This seems less like censorship and more like administratively deciding where/when we’re going to have some discussions. I mean, Scott isn’t saying “don’t have these discussions,” he’s saying “have these discussions in this set of threads and not that set of threads.”

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, that’s reasonable enough – and I had no particular issue with the “every other Sunday” rule. I guess I have two primary concerns.

            1. Limiting it to “hidden” threads makes it harder to attract new posters. A lot of new posters aren’t even aware the hidden threads exist. As such, these threads will always get less overall participation than the Sunday ones.

            2. I’m worried about the slippery slope. “Every other Sunday” was the first compromise. But the anti-CW people kept whining. So now it’s “No Sundays but everything else.” What comes next? At what point will I be forced to bake the anti-CW cake? 😉

          • bean says:

            Limiting it to “hidden” threads makes it harder to attract new posters. A lot of new posters aren’t even aware the hidden threads exist. As such, these threads will always get less overall participation than the Sunday ones.

            SSC attracts new posters through the main posts, which are usually CW-allowed. Anyone who wants to talk CW will be referred to the CW-allowed hidden OTs. Either they’ll read the disclaimer and realize we have them, or they won’t, and we’ll tell them about the hidden ones. If anything, this is going to improve retention, because the most visible OT won’t be a giant pit of arguing about CW subjects.

            2. I’m worried about the slippery slope. “Every other Sunday” was the first compromise. But the anti-CW people kept whining. So now it’s “No Sundays but everything else.” What comes next? At what point will I be forced to bake the anti-CW cake? 😉

            That’s not the policy. The .5 threads are now CW-allowed.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s not the policy. The .5 threads are now CW-allowed.

            Are the .5 threads not also visible? I thought Sundays were always visible and mid-week was always not?

          • JulieK says:

            1. Limiting it to “hidden” threads makes it harder to attract new posters. A lot of new posters aren’t even aware the hidden threads exist. As such, these threads will always get less overall participation than the Sunday ones.

            Maybe Scott is trying to focus his blog’s appeal specifically towards people who are less interested in CW stuff.

          • bean says:

            Are the .5 threads not also visible? I thought Sundays were always visible and mid-week was always not?

            No, they are not. Scott’s made them visible once or twice when he needed to put up a public announcement at that specific time, but in general, only the whole-number threads are visible.

          • Matt M says:

            Ah, well, the more you know.

            In that case, I retract approximately 50% of my complaint 🙂

          • Ketil says:

            Limiting it to “hidden” threads makes it harder to attract new posters.

            I really enjoy the CW stuff, after all, these things permeate the rest of the world, and SSC is the one place there is actual arguments, not just yelling. But the quote above is absolutely an argument in favor of hidden CW threads: we definitely want SSC readers participating in CW topics, not vice versa.

      • John Schilling says:

        I know a lot of people complain about it and a lot of people suggested this change, but I still don’t see why they can’t just ignore it if they don’t like it, like the rest of us ignore battleship or D&D or any other discussions we aren’t interested in.

        Because noise-to-signal ratio is a real and damaging thing, with the ability to block noise being neither perfect nor effort-free. And CW threads produce a lot more noise than D&D or battleships ever have.

        And you know what? You’ve got six threads a month to discuss CW stuff. They remain open for commenting for a month each, and they don’t drop off the “recent comments” list for at least a week, so you can always just go to the latest non-integer open thread and CW away to your hearts’ content with all of your like-minded friends. I might even join you from time to time. Doing this would be enormously easier for you, than collapsing and re-collapsing every thread that ever veers into CW territory would be for everyone else.

        So if you’re insisting that you really, really have to CW here as well, I’ve got to wonder whether it’s because you are too lazy to remember the one simple trick that keeps you from making a nuisance of yourself, or whether the noise is the point and you don’t want other people to be able to easily ignore the Very Important Issues you want to discuss.

        One of the things that makes discussion of CW issues here so much more pleasant than, well, everywhere else on the internet, is that people are genuinely considerate about how they go about such discussions. This minimal level of segregation is consistent with that ethic.

        • The Nybbler says:

          And CW threads produce a lot more noise than D&D or battleships ever have.

          I respectfully disagree, in the case of battleships.

        • dndnrsn says:

          So what you’re saying is, we need to find a way to heat up battleship and D&D discussion?

          • woah77 says:

            This sounds like a job for more roleplaying games. For more battleships with less DnD crunch, you should probably look at Pirates of the Spanish Main, a savage worlds system about pirates (or naval officers) around 1700 (I think.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            CW (Crunch War).

          • woah77 says:

            I’m avidly opposed to Crunch in recent years and think that even D&D’s most recent updates still leave entirely too much crunch. I’ve also been enjoying games with fewer rolls required of the GM, such as Tales from the Loop.

          • Plumber says:

            dndnrsn

            “So what you’re saying is, we need to find a way to heat up battleship and D&D discussion?”

            *ahem*

            So called “3e D&D” was an abomination, AN ABOMINATION I TELL YOU!

            Same goes for cable television and post 1980’s superhero movies and video games,

          • dndnrsn says:

            @woah77

            All crunch is not created equal. Rules that don’t “fit together” create more confusion and slowdown and so on, for a given “unit” of rules, than rules that do. D&D prior to 3rd edition could be very simple, but players who didn’t start playing with those versions always seem very confused by stuff like when you are trying to roll high and when you are trying to roll low, etc. Crunch in character creation/advancement affects the game differently than crunch in “live play.”

            @Plumber

            3rd ed D&D saved D&D! By the late 90s, 2nd ed had all the problems D&D had from the beginning, without most (if any) of the strengths of early D&D, and with a whole bunch of new problems thrown in to boot.

            (That it fell apart under the weight of way too much crunch within 5 or so years is, uh, look a squirrel)

          • Well... says:

            Could the D&D discussion be heated up by a sufficiently sized influx of letter-jacketed commenters calling D&D players a bunch of lame nerds who ought to be given swirlies?

          • woah77 says:

            @dndnrsn

            I agree that there are different kinds of crunch, but generally find that games with one kind, have many kinds. If combat, for example, is complicated, then character advancement is generally complicated to account for all the factors that roll into combat. This isn’t a perfect similarity, since games like Mutants and Masterminds is a lot more crunchy around characters than during gameplay. I guess I’d say that, in my experience, characters can have crunch without it affecting gameplay, but I’ve never seen gameplay have crunch without affecting characters. I’m a lot more averse to gameplay crunch, which is why I’ve been slowly trending away from DnD like games and towards games like Tales from the Loop.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think 5th ed has a good amount of crunch; I ran a quick session, got some stuff wrong, and was able to figure out what I’d been doing wrong very quickly. While character-related crunch doesn’t necessarily slow play down, it’s pernicious in other ways: it makes creating a new character a chore (which naturally limits mortality and thus shuts off certain styles of play), it makes it easy for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing to make a character that sucks, and it makes it easier for character optimizers to make characters better than everyone else (which in effect makes everybody else’s character suck).

            5th simplifies 3rd both as far as mechanical or gameplay crunch goes, and it simplifies character creation: choices are a lot less branching. Instead of needing an old 3rd ed hand to explain how to make your fighter able to do XYZ, you choose what kind of fighter you want to be and it more or less does what it says on the box.

          • woah77 says:

            No argument from me that 5e has a closer to reasonable amount of crunch. It’s just still more than I’ve found I enjoy over the last few years. I think that largely comes from a desire to focus on telling a story and not fighting a battle, since if I wanted to fight battles I have literally hundreds of games for that. You’re right that character creation crunch *can* make characters wildly unbalanced, but not every character creation system with crunch does so. Mutant Chronicles has a very procedural (and semi random) system for generating characters but those seem, to me, to all be equally competent.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, I think combat is part of the story. Someone who has been in life-or-death situations probably thinks those are important to their life’s story, right? I think the problem is easy filler combat that nevertheless takes up a lot of time. This is as much a problem with the game’s culture as the mechanics: if the GM in a super-simple, super-lethal game starts fudging the die rolls and so on so he can put in combats where PCs are guaranteed not to die, that contributes as much to the problem as systems where there’s lots of slow combat and PCs have ablative armour and HP and saves and Fate Points and whatnot.

      • pontifex says:

        “This is the Hell we show to visitors.”

        Ha, exactly. It’s good to have the open thread be CW-free, to create a good impression for visitors.

        Hopefully this policy will also let people get used to the norms of the website before dropping into another Kavanaugh thread. I am actually very much afraid of an influx of new people turning this into the Youtube comments section, part 2. This is a lot less likely to happen if the first discussion they see is about battleships or chess or something.

        • Matt M says:

          Ha, exactly. It’s good to have the open thread be CW-free, to create a good impression for visitors.

          See, this is the thing though. I don’t think this is necessarily true. A lot of people like CW, and my concern would be that a new person passing through seeing a giant “NO DISCUSSION OF CW ALLOWED” disclaimer will instantly think, “Oh, it’s one of those pretentious, holier-than-thou places, where the host doesn’t want anyone to express any forbidden thoughts. Nuts to that, I’m outta here!”

          • John Schilling says:

            A lot of people like CW

            And a lot of those people have made Reddit what it is today. I know where to go if I want to talk CW with all those people. Or even just the SSC-aligned subset thereof. I like it that there’s also a place I can go that has a different standard, even especially if it isn’t filled to the brim with Culture Warriors.

          • Matt M says:

            But this particular thread is discussing how this works in terms of attracting newcomers.

            Newcomers presumably don’t know about the subreddit or whatever.

            My only point is that a lot of people are assuming that “no CW” will make the place seem more appealing to newcomers. Whereas, I would point to the general popularity of CW and suggest that maybe it works in reverse.

            And maybe the established posters here who don’t like CW as much see that as a feature and not a bug, and okay, but that’s just, like, your opinion, man!

          • John Schilling says:

            My only point is that a lot of people are assuming that “no CW” will make the place seem more appealing to newcomers.

            It will make it more appealing to newcomers from that vast majority of the human race who like things other than Culture Warring. I find these people to be much more fun to hang out with than anyone anywhere who ever said “there’s not enough CW for me here, and nothing else is worth my time, so I’m leaving”.

            I also find them to be much more interesting and productive for occasional discussion of CW topics.

          • Matt M says:

            “there’s not enough CW for me here, and nothing else is worth my time, so I’m leaving”.

            This is a weak man of the argument I just laid out above.

            The objection is not “There’s not enough CW here and that’s all I care about” so much as it is “A place that so visibly bans certain topics of discussion doesn’t seem like a place that promotes the type of free exchange of ideas I find most appealing.”

            And given that virtually all of us here having this debate right now signed up for this place during a time when CW was visibly allowed, it seems rather odd to take the position of “people who come here for CW are bad and it’s good that we can avoid them.”

          • Nornagest says:

            As far as I’m concerned, we’ve seen where that free exchange of ideas gets us here, which is endless threads about which political biases we harbor, who defected first or worst, and how much point-and-sputter outrage is justified over whatever dumb story’s in the news that week. The freedom to be subjected to those all the damn time is a freedom I’m happy — even eager — to give up.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s an oversimplification, but I think a reasonable one.

            “…the type of free exchange of ideas I find most appealing”, implies that there are other types of free exchange of ideas that you find of lesser but still positive appeal. You, and anyone else that would make a valuable participant here. If that’s really thecase, then our free exchange of ideas regarding D&D, ginormous steel battleships with big guns, archaic wooden battleships with cunningly-arranged oars, the nature and mechanism of nootropic drugs, etc, etc, should be an adequate incentive to draw a crowd capable of filling this space.

            Furthermore, there is a difference between “people who signed up for this place during a time when CW was visibly allowed“, and “people who come here for CW“.

            Again, if you want a discussion with people who came for CW, and for whom other sorts of discussion are inadequately appealing to hold their interest, you know where to find it. You know many places to find that sort of discussion. You might object that all of these places are toxic cesspools, but there’s a reason for that. Or you might have some other objection to finding your optimal CW discussion in those places, but that could stand some explaining.

            Even for people who want to engage in CW discussion, there are many orders of magnitude more would-be participants for such discussion than this or any other single forum can reasonably accommodate. We can and must filter at least 99.9% of them. I’m pretty sure one of the most important filters we can apply, to keep this place from becoming one more toxic cesspool, is “sufficiently willing to discuss non-CW topics that they’ll stick around for just that and then maybe find the CW to be a nice bonus”.

          • pontifex says:

            I think it’s more fun to have a CW debate with people who find CW uncomfortable, than it is to have one with people who revel in it.

            The former type of people often make posts like “I know it’s controversial, but I believe X for reason Y.” The latter type of people often post edgy one-liners, takedowns of weakman arguments, outrageous tweets of the day, etc. etc. Frankly, it’s good if these people go to 4chan, reddit, or wherever to do that rather than add that to the open thread here.

            (P.S. I usually enjoy your posts, Matt, and don’t include you in this category. But we gotta be careful since the site is growing)

          • Well... says:

            Maybe it would be helpful to this discussion to have a persona or a few personas of “ideal newcomer to SSC”. Everyone probably has their own idea of who they’d most like to exchange ideas with here, so let’s make it explicit.

            If there’s some basic level of consensus about who we’d like SSC to attract then we can talk about whether CW threads would attract such a person. If there’s disagreement about who we’d like SSC to attract, then diffing the personas will probably turn up useful information too.

            Personally, I like talking to people who are relatively expert in a topic I’m interested in but don’t know a lot about. And I like when they are able to apply that expertise to CW topics to provide a fresh perspective — but if for whatever reason they never comment on CW topics that’s fine with me too.

          • Matt M says:

            The freedom to be subjected to those all the damn time is a freedom I’m happy — even eager — to give up.

            Then give up your own freedoms if you’d like. You can do so voluntarily, with no action required from Scott. But you have no right to offer mine up as a sacrifice alongside.

          • John Schilling says:

            But you have no right to offer mine up as a sacrifice alongside.

            Which freedom is that, exactly? This is private property here, and it’s not yours.

          • Matt M says:

            And it’s not yours, either.

            As I said before, I am excersizing the same right you all are. To offer feedback to Scott.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is anybody trying to stop you from offering feedback to Scott? Again, I’m not seeing anyone depriving you of your freedom or proposing that you should be deprived of your freedom, and I seriously question the wisdom of your trying to frame the issue in that manner.

      • carvenvisage says:

        @Matt M

        I know a lot of people complain about it and a lot of people suggested this change, but I still don’t see why they can’t just ignore it if they don’t like it, like the rest of us ignore battleship or D&D or any other discussions we aren’t interested in.

        Why do forums have introduction threads? I presume for some people it’s just the same as if you were in a cantine and people were getting red faced and angry nearby. People just don’t automatically change their social habits/responses when the venue changes.

  6. EricN says:

    People wanted a discussion of the political contribution matching website idea proposed in the classified thread in this open thread, hence this comment. I’m not sure whether this is too culture-war-y, but I imagine not? If it is, apologies.

    Link to relevant thread

    To summarize, my idea (which has been suggested before) is to create a website where people can pledge money to their preferred presidential candidate. Say that at the end of a week, Candidate A has $10 million and Candidate B has $12 million on the website. Then $20 million will get donated to charities of the contributors’ choice and $2 million will be given to candidate B.

    Here is a quick survey I’d like people to take to gauge a particular facet of the website’s viability (namely, that people from both sides of the aisle might want to use the website). You can see results (identified only by time of submission) here.

    A few questions arose in the classified thread discussion:

    1. What if the value of a dollar is different for the two candidates? The most natural solution is to have a market structure, so that $100 pledged to Candidate A could trade for $80 pledged to Candidate B. But markets are confusing to many people so this may end up being counterproductive. What do y’all think?

    2. In some ways, the website may incentivize people to behave dishonestly. For instance, if you were going to donate to the AMF (not through the website), you could pledge on the website to the candidate who is behind and have your donation matched, effectively forcing someone else to donate to the AMF. If this is widespread enough, it might end with people not wanting to donate to the website at all. Thoughts?

    3. The legal status of the website is unclear to me. Commented honoredb pointed out that the FEC was asked to rule on this very question and the decision was 3-3 (you need a majority for it to be legal). Commenter Chotu linked to a slightly later ruling in which the decision was 4-2; I’m not sure what changed, and I’m not sure how robust the ruling is to various changes in the structure of the website (e.g. is it safe to assume that the website is legal if it uses a market for matching donations rather than matching them 1:1?). It would be great if a campaign finance expert could weigh in!

    Anyway, feel free to discuss anything you want related to this idea!

    • Steve? says:

      I really hope this goes somewhere. Finding a productive use for the millions/billions of dollars sloshing around in US politics would be a huge win from an effective altruism standpoint.

    • Matt M says:

      I think you’re not even close to correctly modeling how/why people donate to political campaigns.

      This sort of system would work if it was 90% “I’m making this donation because I think it will help make the world a better place” and 10% “I’m making this donation to reward my friends and punish my enemies.” But alas, I think those are backwards, and it’s about 90% tribal loyalty/signaling and 10% general altruism.

      So, your failure mode is that there’s no particular market for these donations. People who want to engage in tribal warfare will look at your site and say “Well most of my donation won’t even be going to my candidate,” and won’t be interested. At the same time, general altruists will probably see this as an extra step contributing to overhead, and would rather just GiveWell.

      Even speaking for myself as someone who occasionally makes political and EA donations, even I don’t think I would use this. Because I can achieve the same thing without you by just altering my investment mix. I can choose to donate 90% of my money to altruism and 10% to tribal warfare, adjust that mix anytime I want, and I remain in control of it. By donating to you, I’m basically throwing it in a black box where it’s completely unknown how much of my money will actually go to my candidate and how much will go to charity.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        How about X%: I’m donating because I like this message and I want it to reach more people in as detailed a version as possible?

        As funds decrease political messages devolve to unconvincing, intermittent sound bites.

        • albatross11 says:

          The amount of money people are willing to spend to get a message to me does not correlate very strongly with how convincing the message is, or how likely it is to be true or useful to me. Khan Academy and MIT open courseware and Youtube videos of talks from academic conferences are all free but highly valuable to me and likely to be true and useful; Superbowl ads are incredibly expensive and extremely unlikely to be true or useful to me.

        • Matt M says:

          I guess that depends on why you like the message?

          I might donate to Trump because I “like” his message – but what I like about it is mainly that it enrages my tribal enemies.

          I also might donate to Ron Paul because I “like” his message – but what I like about it is that I think if more people understood and followed it, the world would be a much better place.

          I would suggest the former is much more common than the latter. I don’t want to go culture war here, but do you really think that most mainstream high-fundraising politicians have a particularly interesting and compelling philosophical message that the public has not yet encountered?

          Maybe this system would work if you set it up as “Libertarian Party vs Green Party” or something, but I don’t think the major tribes are going to be interested.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            but do you really think that most mainstream high-fundraising politicians have a particularly interesting and compelling philosophical message that the public has not yet encountered?

            I honestly don’t know. I’d like to see a study done which queries a cross-section of the populace, including those who aren’t politically in tune (a significant percentage).

            I’ve “politically” donated twice. Once after 9/11 to a part of the UN as a fear-based counter to the warmongering in the US (I wanted to send a message that some in the US supported worldwide humanitarian causes even in that era).

            Once to Bernie Sanders’ campaign to help shift the Overton window (I’m not in favor of his policies in total, merely in how it shifted the Overton window).

            So based on my experience, yes, but then I’m not that social (or tribal). And since I likely vote more often than the 1/3rd or so of the populace who are as unsocial or untribal as I am, I would guess that at least that 1/3rd of the populace is at least as out of tune as I am, and could benefit from hearing a radio ad or reading a mailer.

      • JulieK says:

        People who want to engage in tribal warfare will look at your site and say “Well most of my donation won’t even be going to my candidate,” and won’t be interested.

        The response should be, “Your donation will reduce how much money the other guy gets.”

        • Matt M says:

          That could plausibly work, although I think more people want “more of my own messaging (to include insulting the opponent” rather than “less of the opponents messaging (to include insulting my friend).

          That is to say, I think most partisans would be willing to pay more for 1 more Trump ad than they would be willing to pay for 1 less Hillary ad, although maybe I’m wrong.

        • Plumber says:

          @JulieK

          The response should be, “Your donation will reduce how much money the other guy gets.”

          That only works if I think the ‘other guys’ message is as or more convincing than ‘my guys’.

      • Because I can achieve the same thing without you by just altering my investment mix.

        No. With the matching scheme, the money of yours that goes to charity also “goes to” your preferred politician–by taking out an equal sum that would otherwise have gone to his opponent. That’s the beauty of the idea.

        It’s precisely analogous to the pairing custom for Congress, which lets a congressman both go home to see his family or campaign and “vote” by absorbing the vote on the other side of another congressman who would also prefer to go home, but won’t if he can’t pair.

        I don’t know if it would work, but it’s an elegant idea.

        • Matt M says:

          Yes, I understand that this is literally true, I just don’t think that most people will see it that way.

          Also, I wonder how enthusiastic the politicians themselves would be about this idea. My guess is not very. That they overestimate their own ability to use resources wisely and underestimate their opponents. And/or, that they desire to have large war chests because it increases their own power and prestige (and possibly ability to skim some off the top or at least use it for lavish travel benefits and other such things).

          I have to imagine that Trump goes onstage at his rallies and says “Don’t fall for this whole offsetting donations scam, the BEST way to #MAGA is to send the money directly to my campaign so we can ensure it gets used in ways that will benefit you. Bigly. Huge benefits.”

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      I think a significant failure mode would be for a well-funded candidate to overwhelm and negate a lesser-funded candidate. Imagine a well known candidate pulling $100,000 a month in regular donations, verses an unknown candidate pulling $50,000. That $50,000 is probably more than enough to get the word out that they exist and what their basic stances are, but now they’re receiving $0. $0 means they can’t even get the most basic message out and no one learns who they are. Incumbents and the well funded (independently rich/backed by billionaires) thereby win almost every time.

      Funding for campaigns is wasteful after a certain point (high diminishing returns), but incredibly useful up until that point. Especially for local candidates trying to break into a larger arena – Congress going to Senate, Senate to President – that base money is necessary.

      • EricN says:

        I agree — that’s why I’m proposing this for presidential elections in particular.

      • That $50,000 is probably more than enough to get the word out that they exist and what their basic stances are, but now they’re receiving $0.

        This assumes that all donations go through the matching system, which doesn’t strike me as likely. Imagine instead that enough money to do the basic job goes directly to the campaign, everything above that to the matching system.

        That makes sense if donors correctly read the situation for precisely the reason you are pointing out–the first $50,000 to the poorer candidate is worth much more than the third $50,000 to the richer, so a supporter of the former won’t regard the matching system as a sensible choice until his candidate has the first $50,000.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          Very true, which IMO greatly reduces the benefits of such a system. If, as Eric says, this is more about the presidential election, then it’s less prone to these problems but also much less useful in general.

          Perhaps we could suggest a modification – Money is released to your candidate regardless of opponents funding up until a certain level (higher for higher level positions) such that every campaign has a minimum of funding, but excessive amounts get siphoned off to charity.

    • Salem says:

      It seems to me that political contributions are a positive-sum game, in that they cause a more knowledgeable and informed electorate. You are essentially finding a way for partisans not to compete against each other so hard, which may be selfishly good for the partisans, but is bad for the country. Indeed democracy as a system is premised on the idea that selfish partisan competition will redound to general gain – e.g. that the desire of the As to paint the Bs as awful will force the Bs to clean up their act. And empirically, boroughs without a vigorous opposition tend to be ill run.

      I react to your proposal with the same horror as if you were incentivising scientists not to research so much. Sure, all scientists would have the same careers, more or less, if everyone published 50% of what they do now in quantity and quality, and the scientists would get more free time. But the public would get less science!

      • A1987dM says:

        It seems to me that political contributions are a positive-sum game, in that they cause a more knowledgeable and informed electorate.

        I could believe that for the first couple million dollars or so, but definitely not for the thousandth.

      • sentientbeings says:

        A more informed electorate is not necessarily one that makes better, or more rational, voting decisions. Evidence suggests that by common measures of “more informed,” political bias increases, as people become better able to rationalize their factions’ positions.

        I don’t think your science analogy works. If researchers’ goal is to discover truth, they are not fundamentally in competition. It is true that for various practical reasons, researchers compete for funding, but their work output doesn’t directly cancel out other work output. Even contrary research results don’t cancel each other out. The conflicting evidence teaches us something.

        Politicians’ goal in elections is primarily to be elected; sometimes there are secondary goals, but those are proportionately more important the lower the odds of actually being elected. One politician’s election is directly at odds with his opponent’s.

  7. albertborrow says:

    I was just asked to write an essay answering a whole bunch of questions about open source for my freshman software engineering class, and I feel like I’ve been training my whole life for this moment. (background: my father had me using Linux since before I could read) As someone who has grown up using these tools, it’s always kind of strange to me to see how unfamiliar most people are with it.

    • ggreer says:

      It’s not just freshmen who lack familiarity with these tools. In my experience, a CS or Software Engineering degree has little correlation with such knowledge. When I was in college, I had to teach my classmates how to use subversion. Within the past year, I’ve worked with Berkeley CS grads who didn’t know how to use git or basic shell features like tab completion.

      I really wish more schools would spend some time on unix tools.

      • Nornagest says:

        Tools, yeah, but that’s only one part of it. An academic CS degree is pretty good at teaching algorithms, but it’s really bad at giving students any of the skills they need to work on large collaborative projects.

        A typical project in industry might look like “this ten-year-old system that does A through X now needs to do Y too; make it so”. That breaks down into reading lots of other people’s code, figuring out the best places in the system to put the entry points for Y, writing the actual algorithms that do Y (while conforming to house style and reusing as much existing code as practical), testing it (often including putting new test cases into an existing test framework), getting it reviewed (often over-the-shoulder, but maybe using tools like CCollab), and committing it into source control. Every step of that, except writing the algorithm, a CS degree will tell you nothing about.

        • toastengineer says:

          An academic CS degree is pretty good at teaching algorithms, but it’s really bad at giving students any of the skills they need to work on large collaborative projects.

          And to be fair, that’s probably the right decision. Academia is slow, tools fall in an out of fashion; BFS and hash tables aren’t going anywhere ever. Plus, professors don’t actually DO any production programming, so how are they expected to teach something they never do?

          • Nornagest says:

            Tools go out of fashion pretty often, but I’d like to have seen a class on software development methodology that showed some of the principles behind those tools. It wouldn’t matter much if it used e.g. SVN while industry had moved on to git or Perforce; it’s much easier to transition between tools than to learn your first.

            And a lot of the stuff I was talking about has nothing to do with tools. Understanding other people’s code, and building on existing frameworks, are core software engineering skills that’ll never go out of fashion. Even academics use them. They just don’t teach them.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          As a software engineer myself, I can confirm this.

      • sty_silver says:

        I study SE, and I struggle far more with figuring out how to use these kinds of things than with the material of any computer-science-y lecture. I can only echo that I wish there were class for these kinds of things. It is, at various points, just assumed that you know how to use linux and stuff, but at no point was I told that and how to get used to it

      • arlie says:

        I’m finding it a little weird to see git classed within “Unix tools”. I’ve read at least one intro to git that concentrated entirely on web-based git use (probably github; the author seemed to be unclear on the difference, but was proudly trying to help others use whatever they’d been taught.)

        But I’ve been using unix since before linux was a gleam in Torvald’s eye, never mind git.

    • chlorinecrown says:

      I’d like to read it!

      • albertborrow says:

        The questions were, in order:
        1. What would be the differences between creating free software and doing so under a commercial product?
        2. When is it appropriate to use other people’s software?
        3. What might be the legal, ethical implications and moral obligations of doing so?
        4. Where does the responsibility lie on maintaining the software?
        5. Does one area interest you more than the other (free, open source, commercial)? Why?

        Because I think most people here are familiar enough with open source, I’ll give you the abridged version. For #1, I basically spent a paragraph showing that the biggest difference between free software and commercial software is the addition of economies of scale. For #2, I said that the legal answer is “according to the terms of use” and that the real answer is “as much as they’re not willing to sue you for”, and then gave the classic example of the extended WinRAR free trial period, where individuals using the free trial forever spread public goodwill and press, but corporations that wanted to use it had to do it by the books, buying licenses. For #3 I talked about the dispute over who owns a program once it is bought – say, the end user wants to make their own modifications, but the license doesn’t permit it. The last two questions aren’t really relevant.

        • The Element of Surprise says:

          addition of economies of scale

          Are there economies of scale in software development? I have never developed commercial software, but naively I would assume that one hundred people working on a product will be less than ten times more productive than ten people. (Also, how does this relate to open source / free software?)

          • Garrett says:

            There are economies of scale in terms of users for bug finding/fixing. One of the best things to happen to any library you write for your own use is to have someone else start using it. They will inadvertently throw a whole different set of use-cases against the code, likely finding additional bugs you didn’t even know to look for. This will result in better quality code over time.

          • albertborrow says:

            Not in the coding itself, but the addition of managers helps the development process, because you can coordinate more programmers. In commercial software, you have organizational structures like this implicitly, but in open source software, you rarely have it. This is because a free program doesn’t pay programmers, let alone managers.

  8. adder says:

    Who here knows much about copyright, and how it pertains to textbooks? I have this dream of writing an open access elementary mathematics text (series). I don’t have anything particularly new to offer, and would use the techniques presented in the best math books already out there. At what point does this become plagarism? Presumably, a unique approach to solving a math problem can’t become the intellectual property of that author/publisher forever…. can it? What if I take the form of puzzles and games of another text, provided I don’t rip off the exact values for those puzzles?

    • 10240 says:

      IANAL, but ideas definitely can’t be copyrighted, only the actual text can. The only issue you could run into is that if you read something and then try to write it down in your own words, you may inadvertently use the same phrasing, which may be taken as copying. Perhaps read stuff, then write it down a week later, when you have probably forgot the exact wording but remember the idea. (Of course if you use a source that’s itself free content, you can copy stuff as long as you give the source proper mention as required by its license.)

      In an academic work, the norm is to cite the source as a reference if you use other people’s ideas (except perhaps if an idea is very widely known, but even then you mention the originator’s name if it can be tied to a specific person), but that’s a matter of fairness and academic ethics, not copyright law. I don’t know what the custom is in a more elementary work.

    • Protagoras says:

      If you use other open access texts as your sources, then as long as you cite them you have no issues (at least if their version of open access allows adaptation; there are a few different versions of what it means, but the text should indicate). If you don’t use open access sources, you should really consult a lawyer, and not random people on the internet (or better yet just don’t do it). Even if someone here knows the relevant law, that isn’t the same as knowing what will hold up in court, and for that matter if you’re sued for copyright infringement, even if technically you are legally in the right it could be very expensive to defend yourself. What 10240 says sounds right, but I wouldn’t bet my livelyhood on it holding up in court, and even if it does you don’t want to end up in court in the first place.

    • Erusian says:

      Not a lawyer but took graduate level copyright law courses in undergrad.

      My personal suggestion: There are already public domain mathematics textbooks that cover a lot of subjects. My high school math teacher once had me look over a 1903 mathematics textbook. It covered virtually all the topics we had in class without much different. It wouldn’t have had any copyright. You could copy that book, write down to the questions, update the language, and make it publicly available for free. It would be a virtually complete curriculum. And you can find them on ebay for ten or twenty dollars.

      This wouldn’t work for advanced topics, like abstract algebra, but that… is not elementary.

      Anyway, no textbook manufacturer could ever copyright a mathematical formula they did not invent. And most textbooks do not invent new mathematics to teach. They could claim rights over their curriculum or pedagogical technique. My suggestion would be that you do not directly reference any other textbooks while creating your textbook, to avoid it being a derivative work of any kind. For example, if a textbook has a puzzle you like and you put in a similar puzzle, they could argue you derived it from their copyrighted work. For example, taking the puzzles and games of another textbook and changing out the numbers is a textbook example of derivation. It would not fly.

      Put another way, even if they can’t copyright the way to solve a problem, they can copyright the way they teach it to people. And not forever, but only until copyright runs out.

      If you want to do this, really want to do this, I’d suggest start reading on how people make make textbooks and on teaching techniques, combined with the relevant mathematical texts, and invent your own theories on the best way to teach. Otherwise… well, it really seems like you’re asking how close you can get to copying someone without being sued.

      • 10240 says:

        My high school math teacher once had me look over a 1903 mathematics textbook. […] It wouldn’t have had any copyright. You could copy that book,

        Make sure the author(s) kicked the bucket by 1948 (or the relevant year in your jurisdiction).

        • ana53294 says:

          Works published before 1923 in the US are in the public domain.

          If the country where it was first published was the US, then US copyright applies.

          Not all countries use copyright life+70 years, by the way. Some use +50.

          There are multiple laws in the US, which do not apply retroactively. So basically, there is a law for pre-1923, 1923 to 1978 (copyright has to be registered) and 1978* to now.

          * Copyright Act goes into effect.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      This is being done now. Check out openstax.org

    • adder says:

      Thanks for the responses. I suppose “talk to a lawyer if you’re serious about this” is probably the most obvious and best advice. Also, the tip regarding using public domain sources should have been obvious, but will probably prove very useful.

      Nonetheless, I still think there are a lot of fairly new approaches to mathematics that aren’t quite original, but presented in a new way. E.g. we all know that we could add two-digit numbers by adding each place value and regrouping where necessary, but if one text comes up with a fresh way of notating this, is it off limits?

      As far as puzzles go, I wonder who invented, e.g., the cross logic puzzle? If someone comes up with an equally cool concept today in a copyrighted material, is that concept their intellectual property?

      [I suppose I’m not actually expecting an answer here, unless a helpful IP lawyer happens to be reading here… but I just want to share where I’m coming from.]

      Part of why I want to do this is because I have developed some pretty strong opinions about the best ways to teach elementary math and what textbooks should look like. But I can’t say I’ve come up with any genuinely new pedagogical techniques; I suspect this is true of many textbook writers.

    • Leah Velleman says:

      It’s important to distinguish between copyright infringement and plagiarism.

      If your publication copies a large chunk of text from a textbook written after the 1920s, and you don’t fit through one of a few specific loopholes, you have infringed the publisher’s copyright, exposed yourself to lawsuits, and possibly committed a crime.

      If you don’t copy text, but just talk about someone else’s ideas in your own words, you probably haven’t broken any laws. But if you do it in a way that implies you came up with the ideas yourself, or you don’t properly credit your source, you probably have committed plagiarism. Plagiarism isn’t a crime — just an ethics violation (albeit a serious one that in some fields can get you fired or ruin your reputation).

      The rules of citation you might have learned in high school or college are about avoiding plagiarism. This means most people with a high school or college education know a lot more about plagiarism than about copyright. Which is part of why people are suggesting you get a lawyer — the actual laws here don’t correspond to the rules you were taught in school to follow.

  9. hash872 says:

    (Hoping this doesn’t violate the no-Culture War rule- especially as I have been silently hoping that Scott would administer this exact rule. I think 1 out of every 3 Open Threads being a Culture War one is a good ratio. Anyways this is health policy nerdery, so hopefully CW-free).

    I’d be interested to hear about the lived experiences of non-Americans who have single payer healthcare (if you live in a developed country- not sure if any developing countries have single payer). So mostly Western Europeans & Canadians. (Australia/New Zealand/Japan/South Korea/Israel- do y’all have single payer? I have no idea).

    Can you sum up the pluses and minuses for us Americans in a paragraph or two? Are you ultimately happy with it, or unhappy? Is it true specialists are on a gigantic wait list and it takes forever to see them? (As an American- I have to say it can take months to see a specialist here, speaking from personal experience). Do any of you have private insurance as a supplemental? Does everyone who’s upper middle class/wealthy have private insurance on top of single payer? Are prices for everything medical cheaper? (This for me personally, as a wonky neoliberal center-left type, is the ultimate argument for single payer- having one negotiator with massive leverage to drive down prices).

    Other thoughts on your single payer system? Really looking for life examples from people who have actually lived it- not American partisans on either side who have opinions about how awful/amazing the system is

    • cassander says:

      You’re conflating single payer with a universal healthcare system. They are not the same. The US has a single payer system, medicare, for everyone over 65. That’s not universal, but it is single payer, everyone pays in and the payer pays providers. Most countries around the world have a subsidized insurance scheme of one kind or another. the only countries with proper single payer are Canada, Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan. The UK often gets lumped in there as well, but they aren’t single payer either, they’re literal socialized healthcare, where the providers work directly for the state.

      • Simulated Knave says:

        Strictly speaking, *Canada* isn’t single payer as such. All the individual PROVINCES are. You are a member of your province’s insurance plan. If you go somewhere else, your care is still paid for by your province. Unless it isn’t. And different provinces are more or less willing to pay for certain things – and have different rules about what they’ll cover when you move or travel.

      • Mabuse7 says:

        Australia isn’t single-payer, we have a universal public option with tax incentives that heavily incentivise purchasing a private health plan if you have the means.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        The UK often gets lumped in there as well, but they aren’t single payer either, they’re literal socialized healthcare, where the providers work directly for the state.

        Partly. GPs are private businesses under contract to the NHS.

      • rlms says:

        Single payer isn’t a very well-defined term. There are multiple axes along healthcare systems can vary: the extent to which they are funded by taxes, employer-linked insurance, or private insurance; the extent to which users have to pay at the point of service; whether hospitals tend to be owned by the government, non-profits or for-profit companies; and how doctors are employed. You seem to be saying that latter two factors are part of the definition of single payer, whereas I would say that the only relevant thing is the funding source. But either way, it’s more useful to talk about actual differences than vague categories.

        I agree that it’s important to distinguish between universal healthcare and single payer, and that there are a lot of developed countries with multi-payer systems (by any reasonable definition), but I think there are more countries with single payer (or “socialised systems” if you want to categorise them separately) than you are suggesting. As I understand it, France, Germany and various smaller countries between/around them do have compulsory/subsidised/employer-funded systems rather than single payer, but most other developed European countries (Spain, Italy, Greece, most of Scandinavia etc.) have tax-funded systems.

    • shakeddown says:

      Israeli here: Kinda single-payer-ish – basically gets funded from income tax, but you choose which one of the four insurance providers you want to be on (also you can pay out-of-pocket for extra insurance, etc).

      I’ve always been happy with it – pretty efficient, good care/prices (Well, they come out of income tax, but the overall portion of GDP spent on healthcare is pretty low).
      On the minus side, I will say that the American healthcare system (to the extent that I’ve interacted with it) has better customer service and pays doctors better. But that’s kind of low on my priority list. (In America’s defence, it also has to deal with problems Israel doesn’t – you can’t just force all insurers to cover the entire country in America, for example).

      • Anatoly says:

        More details on the Israeli system. Everyone is registered to one of the big four HMOs (you have to be, by law). You can generally move from one HMO to another without penalties. Each of the big four has clinics throughout the country, one clinic in a small city, more in larger. For things like family doctor (GP) appointments, nurse service, blood/urine tests, you typically go to the HMO clinic, after making an appointment on their website or our equivalent of a 1-800 number. If you need to see a specialist, you look up the specialist in the service directory on your HMO’s website; typically a few of them will be present in HMO clinics, and many more are private doctors/clinics that “work with this HMO” (in American terms, in-network, accept their insurance, etc.). In my experience, seeing your GP is a 0-2 days wait, seeing a common specialist like an ENT or a pulmonologist is a 1-2 week wait, while a neurologist or a blood vessel surgeon can be a 1-4 months wait. All these in-network doctor visits are essentially free. Things that in-network doctors prescribe (tests, scans, physical therapy) are essentially free except for drugs. CT/MRI scans take 2-3 months wait in this system.

        Drugs are significantly subsidized by the HMOs. HMO clinics have their own drugstores in them, but also big chains of cosmetics+body care+drugstore stores throughout the country give you your HMO’s discount if you present your HMO card and a prescription. Prescriptions by in-network doctors are a must. A week’s supply of not-too-scary pills is typically $10-$20. As for scary expensive drugs (cancer etc.), there’s a country-wide “basket” of which of them are subsidized by the system and which aren’t. Decisions are made once per year by a committee in Health Ministry and are a Big Deal. Drugs that are “in” will be essentially free in any HMO.

        Each of the four HMOs has an extended coverage program, which costs I think $20-$30/month, and gives benefits like discounts on dental medicine (basic health insurance omits dental completely), a few subsidized consultations with out-of-network private doctors per year, surgeries abroad for catastrophic things.

        Hospital visits and procedures are free if prescribed by in-network doctors. Emergency visits and hospital stays are typically okayed later by the HMO, but you have to leave your credit card details at the hospital and if the visit was frivolous, the HMO won’t pay and they’ll charge you. Almost all hospitals are public (run by or heavily subsidized by the state), but there’s one largish private hospital network and very many private clinics/practices.

        Most specialists (or maybe just good specialists, I’m not sure) have this weird work structure where they work one day a week in an HMO clinic somewhere, another day in a private clinic that “works with” some HMOs and not others, maybe 1-2 days a week in a hospital.

        If you’re unhappy with your HMO choices or length of wait, private clinics and hospitals are happy to take your money. You’ll still wait 3-6 weeks to see a well-regarded specialist and a few weeks to do an MRI.

        If anything’s unclear/need more info, ask me questions.

        • nzk says:

          Another one.

          What you say is correct, but I think you paint too rosy a picture.

          1) Meetings with general doctors are very short, usually a few minutes.
          2) Meeting with Specialists is the same. Also, since you don’t have “your” specialist, there is no sense of ongoing treatment. Sure, theoretically you could book with the same specialist, but waiting times would be much longer then the “next available”.
          3) Conditions (I assume, mostly from movies, no direct experience) are sub-par to U.S. – no private rooms, etc. Multi-patients rooms even for patients screaming from pain are common, almost no privacy.
          4) Managing the health is up to the patient – looking up the “best” doctors, deciding what to book, etc. Yes, doctors give referrals, but you have to manage the process if you want a good outcome.
          5) Health Tax is quite high, 5% of income on most pay.
          6) Especially in winter, there is a lot of overcrowding, with people in beds in the halls. But this can happen any time there is pressure for any reason.
          When my Wife gave birth she had a bed in a room(not alone), but women who came before here were waiting in the halls on mobile beds with some curtains.

          • JulieK says:

            When my Wife gave birth she had a bed in a room(not alone), but women who came before here were waiting in the halls on mobile beds with some curtains.

            I assume you mean she was in a shared room in the maternity ward after giving birth, not that she literally gave birth in a shared room.

    • Cheese says:

      Australian. It works really well IMO, very happy with it (both as a consumer and working inside it). Has it’s pitfalls like any system.

      We have a public/private mix with the option to purchase supplemental insurance. As a public patient, everything is effectively free via a single payer/socialised system mix. Emergency care, primary care in community is effectively free. The majority of medications that one will ever be prescribed are majority subsidised by the government, especially if you are low-income. Specialist care in the public system is free, as you say waiting lists can be a problem – it is generally only in very specific areas that we have issues. For the most part you can get in quite quickly depending on the severity of your issue. Currently my state has a massive backlog for ENT services for example. The issue with this is specialist numbers rather than rooms/funding/equipment lack – there’s a big coordination problem in that medical student training is federally funded whereas post-graduate training is done in the tertiary hospital system which is state funded. It’s hard to get more numbers through in the areas that you want and no one wants to shoulder the cost of training (the college doesn’t help IMO). The other related pitfall is you can get a bit stuck in non-urgent specialist care (e.g. say you need a knee reconstruction or you need your wisdom teeth out but you can still function ok day to day), because they will prioritise it by urgency which means the waits can blow out. I know people who have done a bad ACL and had surgery in the public system the next week, and those who can still run on it and have had to wait a year or so.

      The above issues are one of the main justifications for purchasing supplemental insurance, it is basically waiting list circumvention for those who can afford it. Additionally, there are tax incentives to purchase it. Basically if a person earns over 90k and doesn’t have insurance, they cop an extra 1-1.5% income tax depending on salary. There is also a weird incentive to buy insurance before you turn 31, as the premiums that can be charged are regulated, and if you take out insurance after 31 you can be charged more (it’s transferable so you don’t have to stick with one company and there are gap options). The argument for the private system that we have is that it takes a lot of pressure off the public system by allowing people who can afford it to pay and not clog public waiting lists. This mostly works, although there’s some issues in that in some areas waiting lists are a function of specialist availability (most will do both public and private work). Also premiums are almost at the point where it isn’t really worth it for a lot of people.

      Quality of care wise there’s, for the most part, very little difference to what you’d receive in the US and here. There are some gaps with respect to rarer conditions where the government will refuse to fund treatments on a cost/QALY basis. But our population is only ~25 million so can’t have it all. I’m obviously fairly biased and cheer-leading a bit, but family members and myself have had all positive interactions, ranging from emergency public care (which doesn’t consist of fixing you then sending you out the door without rehab and follow-up) to oncology where we haven’t had to pay a cent beyond paying $6.40 a month for a script which actually costs ~$3700. And private as well, I have private which has been a net loss to me financially but enabled me to get my wisdom teeth out much sooner and I felt was a good idea to have playing contact sports.

    • Simulated Knave says:

      Canadian.

      Good side: it’s more-or-less free. Drugs are fairly cheap overall. Both these things are not to be underestimated.

      Bad side: free stuff gets abused, just like always – all clinics are free clinics, and it shows. Waitlists can be extremely long – wait time on a doctor’s appointment with a family doctor are often very long, much moreso than they seem to be in the States. Things are not particularly consistent from province to province. Old people are going to do truly horrific things to the health care budget. Despite things logically being MORE organized than the American healthcare system, we still have a simultaneous doctor shortage and shortage of residency spaces. There is a widespread shortage of family doctors that results in it being very hard to manage any kind of ongoing issue, since you’re dealing with someone different every time and you don’t know what they’ll be like.

      Overall, I’m happy, but it’s a deeply flawed system. Of course, the US system ALSO appears to be deeply flawed, and from my impression the Canadian system distributes the misfortune a little more equitably.

      Specialist waitlists are definitely long, and often badly coordinated.

      Private insurance in most of Canada is for dental and drug and supplementary non-medical stuff – many have it, many don’t, it depends on what you need it for. I can get by without right now. In ten years I suspect I’ll want it.

      Prices for everything medical…hard to say. I mean, we don’t see them. Dental prices appear to be cheaper, despite supplies costing more. Drugs are definitely cheaper. If this website (https://transferwise.com/gb/blog/cost-of-having-a-baby-in-canada) is to be trusted, costs are way, way, way, way lower. That seems likely – doctors do very well, but not as well as a lot of US doctors seem to.

      • Tenacious D says:

        To add to this, I’ve been fortunate not to have needed to go to the hospital as a patient since childhood so I don’t have direct experience but have observed the experiences of people I know.
        For urgent and life-threatening conditions (cancer and heart attacks, etc.) care is very good, and not having to worry about payment avoids extra stress during a very difficult time. It’s on quality-of-life (e.g. joint replacements) or preventative procedures that waitlists become a major complaint. Also, if you move to a new location there can be a long waitlist to even get on a family doctor’s patient roster—at least outside of the biggest cities. Diagnostic testing anecdotally can take several follow-up calls to get results reported, in addition to any waits incurred getting the test scheduled in the first place.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Canadian also.

        I like our system overall; I think it’s worthwhile to have a system where everyone gets the same thing.

        The biggest problem with the system is wait times for non-urgent stuff (want to see a specialist for something where you’re not about to die? Well, in six weeks, your doctor might get a call back from the specialist! Then you can wait another two months for an appointment! Show up early and be prepared to wait long after the appointment should be, because the specialist only works one day a week) and the generally low quality of the “customer service” side of things. I’ve never seen someone engaged in a public-facing job ruder than one ER nurse.

        Still, I wouldn’t take the tradeoff I saw when I took a cat in to a vetrinary hospital: on the one hand, service was incredibly good (short wait time, very easy to get a vet on the phone), on the other hand, it was all private, and the bill was considerable.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          the generally low quality of the “customer service” side of things. I’ve never seen someone engaged in a public-facing job ruder than one ER nurse.

          This surprises me; I am young and healthy enough that I haven’t had too much interaction with the healthcare system, but when parents or grandparents have been in, I’ve found the staff incredibly helpful and kind. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad interaction with Canadian hospital staff, though I’ve not spent too much time over in ER.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It was one particularly bad experience; generally staff are OK. However, it was the sort of thing where if I got that kind of treatment at a restaurant, I would never go there again. It was an overcrowded ER on a weekday night, they were probably understaffed; it was still obviously not the behaviour of someone who saw themself as serving the people they were dealing with.

            Even when staff are helpful and kind, though, it’s really hard to get information. A two-hour wait where you know it’s a two-hour wait is easier for me than an hourlong wait with no indication, y’know?

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        Another Canadian here, young and healthy enough to have had only minimal interactions with the health system. However, I’ve had family who have had cancer and other serious medical issues, two grandparents die in Canadian hospitals, and my mom has a bunch of moderately severe, chronic but not life-threatening issues that require visiting multiple specialists.

        My impression is mostly good. As others have said, wait times can be a little long, especially for things like clinics and specialists–I drove my mom to a specialist clinic the other week for one of her ongoing quality-of-life-impacting but otherwise not too serious issues, and after waiting in line for an hour, we were told (at 8 am or something) that the clinic had too few doctors to see anyone else in line and we would have to come back another day.
        On the other hand, we were able to find another doctor who could see her the next day.

        Making appointments for scans can take a while, though I feel like my parents haven’t had to wait much longer than a few weeks or so on average; I’ve heard stories of people waiting months for things like knee problems.

        I have heard no complaints whatsoever from any of my family who went in for serious, life-threatening issues: the cancer patients and heart-attack patients all seem to have had good experiences (other than the medical issues, of course). I thought my two grandparents who died in hospital both received great care, and family visiting from abroad remarked upon it at the time.

        There are a few private treatment options: my dad had a hernia surgery at a private hospital years ago, but when he had another hernia recently he opted to do it through the single-payer system, so I guess he didn’t think the private treatment options were that great.

        Dental and eye-care is private, and most people get it covered through employment insurance; some places will also help cover pharma costs. I am currently uninsured right now, which isn’t great, but it’s not terrible to pay out-of-pocket for a dental cleanup once in a while, and I anticipate being insured again in a few months.

        The major caveats to this are: all of my experience is in Ontario, and most of it is in Toronto/Toronto area; and I haven’t been to a doctor for anything serious in years, and my medical issues have been pretty minor since childhood.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      I live in Australia (universal coverage increasingly supplemented with private insurance) and spent a number of years in the UK (universal coverage single payer, free at the point of delivery).

      The Australian system has been moving away from an NHS-style pure single payer model since the mid-90s, when the then -government imposed a tax penalty on upper-middle class earners who did not hold private insurance. Prior to that private insurance was a fairly vestigial luxury good for high earners and perhaps the very sick (we’re now safely before my time).

      Australians can access free medical care (apart from dental, which is weirdly excluded form almost every universal health care model) by jumping through a sufficiently large number of hoops, but have to pay out of pocket and/or (usually and) via their insurance to see who they want in a timely fashion or in higher income areas. Out of pocket costs are usually low relative to income (<USD70 for a specialist visit if you're happy with whoever the general practitioner suggests) and catastrophic care is pretty reliable and cheap, though less so outside major cities (Australia is by some measures the world's most urbanised nation). The literature on relative effectiveness is extensive and, AFAIK, fairly positive, but my lived experience can't really attest to that.

      Personally, I'm relatively healthy and probably average, say, four primary care visits per year for myself and maybe twice that for my young child. Seeing a primary care doctor for free, rather than for cheap, within walking distance of my home or work often involves waits of up to 3 days. I see a specialist of some description maybe 1-2 times per year. My total out of pocket costs for all of this, including prescription medications, are probably less than USD150 per year and I would usually be able to see a specialist less than a week after being referred to them. These numbers reflect catastrophic-only health cover, so are probably in line with most Australians who share my level of general health.

      I have twice received emergency care at a hospital, once including an ambulance ride, and it was, I think, approximately free. The birth of my child cost, IIRC, low-to-mid thousands of dollars thanks to our selection of a range of "fancier" options which are probably standard under most US plans. It can be done approximately for free in less pleasant and slightly riskier ways.

      • WashedOut says:

        The birth of my child cost, IIRC, low-to-mid thousands of dollars thanks to our selection of a range of “fancier” options

        Do you mean in the low-mid part of the $1000’s dollar range? Or “several thousand dollars – much less than 10k but not much less than 5k” ?

        I’m Australian and have had private health insurance for about 5 years, never used it, but this is one thing I would really appreciate them to help out with.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          Several thousand dollars, though I remained strategically uninvolved in decision making, which is why I’m quoting such a broad range.

          Maternity cover typically has a waiting period, though it can be possible to get a staff member who is sympathetic to pregnant people to waive it. I think there would be pretty clear financial benefits from adding maternity cover for the period which includes the year of your child’s birth.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      As for the UK: the biggest shock to visitors is that it really is completely free. As in, there isn’t even a mechanism in place to take money from anyone. I’ve had relatives from the US visit and receive free care to which they weren’t entitled, simply because no one could figure out how to charge them.

      Obviously free at the point of care isn’t free – it all comes out of ones taxes – but it’s also very cheap as a proportion of GDP. The literature suggests that residents largely get what they (don’t) pay for, and there are plenty of horror stories. Without having researched them in any detail, I’d say that any large organisation devoted to dealing with people who would otherwise die is going to have its share of bad outcomes, but that some of the outrage is probably justified and some of it probably does relate to failures in incentives and lack of patient choice.

      My lived experience: it’s a genuinely no-frills experience, but I received fairly immediate, competent care from primary and specialist physicians, including the diagnosis of a chronic back problem which the Australian system had missed. I had to wait 1-2 weeks for specialist appointments at times, but that seemed perfectly reasonable given the severity of my condition. The downside is that it’s much for difficult to supplement the quality and comfort-level of care by paying a bit more – everyone ends up receiving much the same thing unless they opt for the real luxury bracket. Decisions on what care everyone gets are made rationally and backed by science, though they face a budget constraint that’s below what most rich nations choose to spend on their health.

      Based only on my personal experience, I would choose the UK system over the Australian.

    • smwls says:

      I don’t have a lot of experience with the NZ healthcare system, but in general my vague impressions are:
      – GPs/family doctors are not free, but fairly cheap (my doctor is $18 per visit), and usually available within a week.
      – prescription medicines are extraordinarily cheap thanks to a wonderful government agency called Pharmac
      – yes, there can be wait times of several months for non-urgent specialists and elective surgeries through the public system, but e.g. if you need to see an oncologist, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. All public specialist appointments, hospital stays, and surgeries cost exactly zero dollars.
      – I’ve visited the public emergency room a few times without hesitation; it’s completely free.
      – of course there’s underfunding (e.g. nurses are notoriously underpaid and have been striking recently), but per capita expenditure is fairly low, and quality of care is generally considered to be high.
      – ~30% of NZers have some kind of private health insurance, and this is correlated w/ income.
      – mental and dental health are a very different story. I think (although may be mistaken) that the former has fairly long waitlists even for relatively serious things, and being forced to pay for private care isn’t uncommon. Dental care isn’t subsidised at all for some stupid historical reason: it’s outrageously expensive, and a huge number of ppl don’t go to the dentist unless it’s urgent.

    • a real dog says:

      Poland here.

      There is an explicit “health tax” taken off most forms of individual income, used to fund public healthcare. Most hospitals and clinics are either privately owned or work as for-profit companies that happen to be owned by the local government. However, almost every one has a contract with the public payer (“National Healthcare Fund”, or NFZ) that allows a subset of services to be rendered free of charge. On top of that there is an expanding layer of private practice by doctors (paid in cash) and private medical insurance (with the services usually rendered in-house by the insurance provider).

      The good parts:
      1. Emergency care is free and relatively uncongested. If you break a finger you can usually go to the ER, get through a simple yet efficient triage system, and receive care within an hour or two. You won’t pay anything (except maybe 50% copay for some painkillers etc, if you want them). Ambulances are always free, though if you waste their time on bullshit you can get charged an US$150 fine.
      2. Surgery that would, in a private system, run into tens of thousands of USD is free. There are waiting lists, they are long especially for QoL surgeries (often over a year), but it will eventually get done. Surgery that would save you from death or a serious loss of functionality has a priority queue.
      3. There is a third-party system for rating doctors (znanylekarz.pl), which combined with almost every experienced doctor having a private practice allows you a timely and relatively inexpensive (30-50 USD per visit) consultation with whatever exotic skillset you need.
      4. Employer-provided private insurance is a pretty popular thing. The quality of covered doctors is really hit-or-miss (oftentimes it’s safer to treat them as prescription-giving machines than actual experts) and you can get a lot of diagnostics done for free, including things that are hard to get otherwise such as MRI (~6 months waiting list in the public system, if you don’t want to pay and it’s a QoL problem). I use it mostly for blood testing and care for chronic problems.

      The bad:
      1. The standard of care is pretty meh, in particular when it comes to new technologies. Hospitals are underfunded and lack equipment, they are quite competent at whatever was cutting edge 30 years ago but it’s nowhere near the US standard. Hospital food is infamously an atrocity.
      2. The public system is built on yearly per-service limits allowed to each contracted clinic, due to budget constraints. Unfortunately, this often leads to valuable equipment being underutilized, as the public payer won’t cover any more uses despite the fact that the machine IS IDLE RIGHT THERE and putting another patient through it actually costs nothing.
      3. Following from 2, queues for the public system are often unreasonably long, and stem from the limits, not actual staff/equipment shortage.
      4. Pay for doctors in the public sphere (or clinics/hospitals recently converted from totally public) is a joke, the doctors and nurses go on strikes regularily over it. Hospitals are mostly seen as the place for young doctors to get experience, with most of them moving towards private practice once they know stuff and have the certifications to prove it. Emigration is a popular choice as well.
      5. Private insurance covers consultations and simple diagnostics, but good luck getting surgeries or cancer care. Then you’re back to the public system – see points 1-3.
      6. Almost all dental care is paid in cash. It’s still pretty cheap (about $50 for having a cavity filled, up to $1000 for the very fancy stuff).

      It’s really a mixed bag, but everyone I know reacts with a mix of amusement and horror to the US healthcare shenanigans – so I’d say we’re doing something right. TBH learning from the mistakes of the Polish system you could probably design a far better one.

      • timorl says:

        Just commenting to say that this is a very good overview of the situation in Poland. And perhaps add that “hospital food” being number one on the list of problems is neither a coincidence nor an understatement.

        OP, if you want to learn about various healthcare systems I heartily recommend the WHO publications on the topic. You can either read one of the overwievs or the ones for specific countries if you want more detail, but all of them are very informative and not as dry as one would imagine.

        After writing that last paragraph I remembered the most surprizing thing I read in the report about Poland. We have a publicly funded and surprizingly well functioning system of non-hospital on-site healthcare in the form of “sanatoria”. Those are places where mostly old and some ill people go to get some rest and general wellness care (physiotherapy and the like I believe). In practice my grandma goes to such a place about once a year for 2 weeks. This is a very unique thing about the polish healthcare system and no wonder, because it sounds (even to me) like a huge waste of money. But the WHO reports spoke very highly of the system and apparently it improves quality of life significantly for older people, so my intuition is wrong.

        • Alaburda says:

          Lithuanian here. “Sanatoria” are rehabilitation centres or spa centres and they do work! Any patient after a stroke, for example, can have their QoL really improved with 30 or more days or rehabilitation. On the surface it may sound like just physiotherapy, baths etc, but usually treatment is catered to retain and improve autonomy of the patient, e.g. there are specific exercises to improve grip strength, limb strength or physical endurance. Long queues to get into the best ones, though, and the prices can be exhorbitant as our national healthcare system cannot cover the costs completely.

    • New Zealand. Sometimes described as single-payer, although I don’t know if that’s technically correct. My personal experience has been fine for the basics: seeing a GP is heavily subsidized and free for children, hospital and emergency treatment is free, dental care is free for under 18s, subscriptions cost a uniform $5 (US$3.30), and there’s further means-tested assistance available for most remaining fees.

      Where it gets tricky is anything involving surgery or specialists. For example, earlier this year I was put on a four-month waiting list to see a specialist, for a problem that was quite worrying, and that my GP essentially knew nothing about. I have also heard that it’s extremely difficult to get timely assistance for mental health problems in particular (NZ has the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world, and suicide rates are at historic highs at the population level).

      Middle-class and rich people can get around this problem in three ways:
      1. By taking out private health insurance, which is sometimes subsidized by employers, so they can skip waiting lists and choose their desired standard of care.
      2. By paying a private specialist out-of-pocket, without having to go through the public referral system or an insurance company.
      3. Geoarbitrage (i.e. medical, dental and cosmetic tourism).

      I have used all of these strategies at various times. For example, I was able to see the best [XYZ] doctor in Mumbai with two days’ notice, have a procedure scheduled immediately, and all the relevant medicine prescribed, for a few hundred dollars. I had my wisdom teeth pulled for less than $50 in Thailand, etc.

      One particularly noteworthy aspect of the NZ system is the single-buyer model for pharmaceuticals. We have a Crown entity called Pharmac which decides which drugs will be subsidized, then negotiates on behalf of the entire public health system at once. Because it only chooses one brand from each category, usually generic, pharmaceutical companies have to compete hard for the tender. NZ’s trading partners are understandably not thrilled about this, and always make a fuss about it during FTA negotiations…but it’s been in place for 25 years now, and saved us many billions of dollars.

      EDIT: As smwis notes above, dentistry is not covered for adults, which leads to some bleak outcomes like people waiting until it’s bad enough that they can go to the emergency room. I vaguely assumed this was a moral hazard thing (don’t remove a major incentive for people to look after their teeth) but this is completely inconsistent with the approach in every other domain.

    • Robert Jones says:

      I’m in the UK. I don’t have any experience of other health systems, so it’s difficult for me to make a list of pluses and minuses, as I don’t have a basis for comparison.

      I often find it difficult to make a GP appointment. I should explain that a GP is short for general practitioner and refers to the local doctor that you see in the first instance when you have a non-emergency medical problem. Any way, my last several GPs seem to have been heavily booked up. To deal with this they sometimes have a system where you have to call a specific time to make an appointment, and then I end up waiting on the phone for ages, because everyone else is trying to call at the same time.

      I understand there is a problem specifically in London with GP capacity, so this may be less of an issue in other parts of the country.

      The appointment times can be inconvenient. Partly that’s because of the capacity issue: if there’s only one appointment available, I have to take that and arrange my life around it. But also, GPs tend to operate normal working hours, so it can be difficult for working people to get to appointments. Obviously, if you’re off sick that isn’t a problem, but it can be difficult for routine appointments. The government wants GPs to offer more evening and weekend appointments, but the GPs aren’t keen, and apparently there isn’t that much demand. I suspect that working people tend to also be healthy, so they don’t use NHS services much, although there could be some chicken-and-egg stuff going on.

      Sometimes there can be a long wait for a specialist referral, but it depends on the specialist and how urgent the problem is.

      My NHS psychiatrist advised me to have my Asperger’s Syndrome assessed privately (which I did) because it would have taken too long to get it done on the NHS. He was a good psychiatrist though.

    • Argos says:

      I live in Germany; we have universal healthcare, but everybody can choose between around 10 public insurance providers. In addition to that, there are also private providers, which serve around 10 percent of the population (mostly well-off people and teachers). As in other counties, these private plans’ contributions is based on your personal risk profile, covers more medical services and is supposed to reduce strain on the public system.

      Personally, I am very dissatisfied by the way the system works, although it may objectively compare well to other industry nations and my dissatisfaction has probably little to do with the question of universal/private/single payer systems.

      In general, care is free or *very* cheap, and waiting times vary from ok to outrageous depending on where you live and which specialist you want to see. I assume that the system serves those well, that either have a very urgent or a very common/easy-to-treat condition. What is lacking is the treatment of somewhat hard to treat conditions that are not life threatening. As doctors usually have very little time for a given patient and no real feedback mechanism is in place at all (i.e. specialist doctors don’t see the patients again, are not informed of the outcome of the treatment; I understand that the UK is more advanced in this regard), there is very little incentive to treat problems like chronic pain or conditions that flare up occasionally.

      In my circle of friends (mostly people in their 20s) I have several people suffering from joint problems and the like, which led them to quit their hobbies and are impacting their working life/studies. None of them feels very well treated by doctors they see; as the waiting times are so long, they usually only see two or three doctors, and those doctors often do not even examine the joints in question. My personal experience was with the onset of hyperthyroidism in my teenage years was that even though I was suffering from hair loss and tiredness, none of the doctors suggested that as a possibility, dismissing it as a lack of sleep and getting older. It was only after I specifically requested a test that the correct diagnosis was found.

      On a more personal note, I find dealing with the medical system fairly unpleasant and I suspect other people share this sentiment. Staff is usually stressed out and overworked, so there is neither time nor inclanation for being overly friendly. I however already feel uncomfortable and vulnerable for seeking help, so I don’t bother as much as I probably should. According to this study German doctors spend 6 minutes on an average consultation, while in the US it’s something like 20 minutes, which is a very sad state of affairs.

      • melboiko says:

        For a contrasting experience, I came from Brazil to Germany & I bless the healthcare system every day. Sure it’s bureaucratic and doctors tend to be curt, but it has provided me with free or affordable care for everything I needed, including new eyeglasses, advanced dental care, psychological support, and my transition. If I was in the U.S. I wouldn’t be able to afford anything, if I was in Japan treatment would have been denied to me, & if I was back home I’d still be waiting for everything, so I consider myself super lucky to live in Germany at this point in history.

      • raw says:

        I also live in Germany and had to look up the numbers. There are currently more than 100 public insurance providers but the differences are quite small. You are only allowed to get a private insurance if your earn more than 60k euros per year or under special conditions (self employed or working for the government as “Beamter”). I thought there are much more people with a private insurance put in 2018 it was only 8.75%
        The big advantage, in my opinion, of the public insurance is that you pay a fixed percentage of your income (a bit like tax). That means if you have less money (e.g. being retired), you pay less.
        The overall quality of the health system seems good to me. Waiting times are often longer if you are in a public insurance as doctors can bill more for the same procedure from private insurances.
        The public insurance negotiate with the pharma companies and the caregivers to save costs which often results in a lot of bureaucracy for the caretakers. I have the impression that as a result the system is not very good for the people working in it.
        As for Argos arguments, I’m not sure if the German medical system is worse regarding chronic illnesses.
        My impression is that this is a problem of most modern medical system, that they are very good at treating acute illnesses but very bad at complex chronic illnesses that would perhaps even need life style changes as an intervention.

    • toastengineer says:

      Hey, I’m an American whose been poor enough to receive 100% free “insurance” from the state, does that count for anything?

      If so: I filled out a 3-page form, waited a week, they sent me a Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance card that got me whatever doctors and tests I needed. I had to pay $1 at the counter for prescriptions, but that’s it.

    • arlie says:

      I’m a Canadian who’s lived in the US for 35 years, but I’m old enough to have experience of the Quebec and Ontario health care systems as an adult, and most of my relatives live in New Brunswick, with one in Ontario. (Canadian healthcare is run by the provinces, and there are differences.)

      – as a young adult in good overall health, in the 1980s and early 1990s, I was completey satisfied with the health care I received.
      – my sister’s breast cancer seems to have been handled very well, in New Brunswick in the 2010s
      – ditto for end of life care for both my parents, also in New Brunswick
      – one nephew has Crohn’s syndrome. This got discovered at a point when his family income was severely impacted by the 2008 crash. Excellent medical care there – and most importantly, affordable. New Brunswick. He’s since moved to Quebec, and I presume the same quality of care continues.
      – the Ontario sister is satisfied with her health care, but I see her dealing with longer delays than I do, in the US with fairly good insurance
      – my mother waited much longer for cataract surgery than I did, and had it at a point where her vision was much more impaired than mine was when I had it. Finally getting it made a huge difference in her quality of life.
      – According to my mother, who was not a reliable source by that point, Saint John, New Brunswick has such a desperate shortage of primary care physicians that some large % of the population doesn’t have one – she said 30%.
      – I get a lot more ‘screening’ care than other members of my family. Things like routine colonosopies, just because one turned some specific age. Our standard of care seems to do some of these things earlier and more frequently. I am not a doctor(!) but I understand there’s real controversy about how much screening is too much. So it’s unclear whether I or my relatives in Canada are having the better expereicne.

      • Simulated Knave says:

        “Exciting” context for non-Canadians: New Brunswick is arguably the worst-run province in Canada. The literacy rate would embarrass a third world nation, and since the French and English both resent each other the government spends a lot of money creating double education and health care systems.

        Having lived in Saint John New Brunswick until 2010, 30% not having a primary care physician sounds about right. It’s a problem throughout the Maritimes – despite high salaries offered, people all want to go live in Toronto. Also, Saint John is habitually underserved due to the provincial government having resented it for the province’s entire history. Seriously. The provincial capital was founded pretty much just because the governor didn’t want to live in Saint John.

        Screening DOES start being pushed once you’re a certain age in Canada, though I think the waitlists mean its less frequent overall.

        • Tenacious D says:

          “Fun” fact: right now, New Brunswick is not being run at all. The outcome of the last election was such that no party could successfully form a government on its own or find a coalition partner. I doubt things will go as long as Belgium without a resolution but all sorts of rarely-used parliamentary rules are getting dusted off.

          • Simulated Knave says:

            Yeah, watching the Conservative leader either lie to everyone about how Parliament works or demonstrate that he doesn’t know himself was very much not reassuring.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I get a lot more ‘screening’ care than other members of my family. Things like routine colonosopies, just because one turned some specific age. Our standard of care seems to do some of these things earlier and more frequently. I am not a doctor(!) but I understand there’s real controversy about how much screening is too much. So it’s unclear whether I or my relatives in Canada are having the better expereicne.

        Possibly-relevant anecdote: A British friend recently moved to the US. In order to get a driving license there, she had to have a doctor sign off that she was medically fit to drive (I don’t know whether this is general PA state law or something restricted to immigrants).

        Her doctor asked when she had last had a physical. Her answer, of course, was “never”- they aren’t really a thing in the UK, healthy working-age adults don’t usually go to a doctor unless they’re sick. The doctor was shocked and refused to sign off on her driving license until she got one- and, IIRC, a gynecological exam!

    • jgr314 says:

      My anecdotal experience: I have a decent amount of experience with three systems: US (over 20 years), UK (10 years), Thailand (5 years). My family and I have not gone through major issues and most of our experience in the US and UK has been kid-related (pregnancy, birth, early years, allergies, immunization, etc).

      UK: we were lucky to be able to use the NHS and supplement with private services as needed. Mainly, we found the NHS very easy to use and fairly high quality. Two services particularly stand-out: the health visitors who make home visits in the early months after a birth and the emergency services my son required for some allergy/breathing scares. Those were both in SE London in an area that was lower middle class (or lower) when we were there. When we lived in posh central London, our local NHS surgery was basically on par with private clinics.

      In both private and public, we were easily able to find out how much things would cost.

      On balance, we perceived that UK providers would tend to under-treat. We were rarely given tests or prescriptions unless we pushed for them.

      For what it is worth, dental care was awesome (despite the historical stereotype about terrible British teeth).

      Thailand: again, we mix public and private services, over a wider range of services, from birth through old-age, mostly in greater Bangkok. Public services are high quality, but there is a lot of waiting, especially for emergency (non-scheduled) services. Private is high quality and they are especially great with kids and elderly patients. Thanks to rambunctious kids, we’ve gotten to sample services in some rural and provincial clinics/hospitals and have had mixed experiences, for example small clinics that weren’t able to handle emergency stitches.

      We perceive that Thai providers over treat, and the private providers are especially enthusiastic about giving out prescription medicines.

      We usually find it easy to determine how much the services will cost.

      Dental is very similar to our experience in the US: competent, but providers give the impression of being much more commercially oriented than optimizing care.

      US: though growing up here, I have no idea how this works. Since returning to the US several years ago, we’ve managed to get adequate care for our kids, but my wife and I haven’t even managed to get primary care physicians for ourselves nor have we had any regular/preventative check-ups. We generally find it hard to determine how much things will cost, especially what net amount we will pay after insurance.

      Concerns about healthcare in the US were a partial deterrent to returning and are the main reason we will probably return to Thailand when we retire.

    • Lillian says:

      Here is an unusual one: Private medical care in Venezeula used to be so good, that as late as 2013 my Venezuelan relatives were still preferring to obtain medical treatments and medicines over there rather than in the United States. It used to be that nobody wealthy in Venezuela would go abroad for medical treatment unless they a really bad cancer or some kind of very rare condition. Obviously none if this is the case any longer, but it’s still noteworthy that it ever was.

      Interestingly enough the principal complaint about the US medical system wasn’t so much the expense, though that was a factor, but rather the doctors. They seem to feel they were overworked, had bad bedside manner, didn’t listen to patients, and tended to both over and under treat. There was also, i suspect, some frustration that in the US they could not use political pull or money to get preferential treatment.

      The other big complaint was the hassle and absolute necessity of medical insurance. In Venezuela there is medical insurance of course, and obviously you want it if you can afford it, but US insurance is more like managed care, which adds a whole extra layer of bureaucratic stuff to deal with. To my relatives this all struck them as excessively complicated and unnecessarily difficult.

      So in short, my Venezuelan relatives didn’t like American doctors, and felt their money went less far and gave them less clout over here than over there. So as long as the private medical system in Venezuela continued to function, they continued to prefer it.

  10. Gray says:

    @Scott RE: “If someone is good with WordPress and thinks they know how to fix it, please let me know and I’ll give you access to whatever you need.”

    I’m happy to take a look – my email address is in my profile and I can provide links to freelancing site profiles if you want to verify that I am who I say I am + have experience with this type of thing. Let me know!

  11. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Why aren’t you reading Worth the Candle yet, SSC? It’s an ongoing fantasy novel in the growing genre of rational fiction by renowned author Alexander Wales, and it is absolutely amazing. It tells the story of Juniper Smith, an ordinary high-school student who suddenly finds himself whisked away to the magical land of Areb for no apparent reason and imbued with extraordinary powers patterned after RPG abilities.

    Sounds like just another LitRPG Portal Fantasy/Isekai story, right? Well, sure, but only in the same sense that Worm is just another superhero story. To compare it’s quality with another work which is very popular here, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, I would say that Method’s peaks are higher (Candle hasn’t made me cry yet; Methods did) but Candle’s average quality is higher (there are no missteps like the S.P.H.E.W. arc).

    And BTW, it is NOT fanfiction, so you can read it no matter what books or shows you have watched (though some familiarity with RPGs, either pen-and-paper or videogames, is strongly recommended).

    • albertborrow says:

      Seconding the recommendation of Worth the Candle, with the caveat that you need to be engaged with the text at a fairly high level in order to walk away from it with the right interpretation. (Fairly high is defined here as “slightly more than fanfiction, but a great deal less than most classical literature”) Like HPMOR, it leans on the unreliable narrator trope quite a bit in order to make its story work, and because Worth the Candle is explicitly a self-insert rather than implicitly, it’s very easy to pretend that the author is exactly as clueless as his character is.

      Also, if you’re deep into the community in general, it’s a good idea to check out the rest of /r/rational. We’re a little unorthodox, but I think we recommend stuff in a tight enough cluster that, if you liked HPMOR, you’ll probably be at least okay with most of the other works posted there.

    • amaranth says:

      the shape is the shape and you are the shape

    • Placid Platypus says:

      Cool, I’ve very much liked Wales’s previous work so I’ll be sure to check this out.

      EDIT: Are you sure this is him? The author name is different, and I don’t see any links to it on his website or anything.

    • Randy M says:

      I just binged Worm over the last couple weeks. This sounds worth looking into; I’m not sure whether to get to it or the Worm sequel first.

      • albertborrow says:

        If you’ve finished Worm, make sure to make a post about your thoughts on /r/parahumans. It’s always really fun to read people’s responses to the story.

        • Randy M says:

          reddit? Eh, I don’t care to establish myself there–by which I mean go through the password look up process. I can tell you here, though.

          I thought that the characters and prose were pretty well done, but the real strength of it was the worldbuilding and plotting. I loved how minor characters from early on turned out to have major impacts on the plot (like Marquise), or at least have backstories that shed light on the some of the ongoing mysteries (like, Battery). Sometimes the horror was a bit much. I liked the frantic pace in the middle and end, how threats kept escalating beyond what came before, or else shifted from straight combat into intrigue into battle of wits–Bakuda to Leviathan to S9 to Coil to Echidna was pretty wild. And the way Dinah’s prophecy was resolved was believable.
          I kind of predicted the sequence near the climax where Taylor’s power changed given some of the things Glaistig Uaine said.

          • C_B says:

            Worm sequel is blowing-my-mind good. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should read it before Worth the Candle (there’s always upsides and downsides to reading a serial novel while it’s being posted, and I haven’t read Worth the Candle yet to compare), but Ward definitely deserves a spot on your to-read list.

          • brmic says:

            I liked Worm, but found the sequel Ward awful. I forced myself through 8 arcs before I quit.

          • Nick says:

            I like Ward, but where it’s good it’s mostly not for the same reasons as Worm. The writing is better, there’s plenty of plot hooks to draw you in, and I mostly like the format of these early arcs, but it doesn’t quite hold me like Worm did.

          • rlms says:

            Count me as another “Worm was good but I didn’t like Ward”. The prose is better than Worm but it doesn’t have the worldbuilding and plotting that (as Randy M says) are the real strengths of Worm. I’ve read Worm twice, Pact once, and bits of Twig and Ward. I think either wildbow hit on something special with Worm, or the development of his worldbuilding and plotting skills after it actually made them weaker (although other aspects of his writing improved).

          • Randy M says:

            For the record, by Worm sequel I had in mind Pact, since that is linked in the notes on the last Worm chapter. I’ve heard of Twig and Ward but don’t quite know how they fit in.

            I think either wildbow hit on something special with Worm, or the development of his worldbuilding and plotting skills after it actually made them weaker

            Wildbow has said that he developed the characters over many years of aborted stories and brainstorming. I suppose most of this character/worldbuilding work made it into Worm, with the author having had time over the years to ruminate and intertwine the clever setting bits.

          • Placid Platypus says:

            Pact and Twig are both independent works whereas Ward is an actual sequel to Worm. The general consensus is that Pact is the weakest of the four, although still quite good; the worldbuilding is excellent but it suffered from some pacing issues. Among the other three opinions differ.

          • Nornagest says:

            For whatever it’s worth I got through Pact but didn’t get through Twig. Might have been the genre difference, or I might have liked the worldbuilding enough to cut it more slack. I agree it had pacing issues, and the characters generally weren’t as strong or well-rounded as Worm‘s (spoilers can account for a lot of that in-universe for Rose and Blake, but that’s not really an excuse).

    • Nick says:

      I’ve bookmarked it for later. Can I ask how far along it is? Does it look like it’s wrapping up, or does it look like there’s quite a bit of story left to tell?

      Also, can’t tell if intentional or not, but one way to read your second sentence is that the entire “growing genre of rational fiction” is by alexanderwales. 😛

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        I’ve bookmarked it for later. Can I ask how far along it is? Does it look like it’s wrapping up, or does it look like there’s quite a bit of story left to tell?

        We’re in Book 6. At the end of Book 2, Alexander Wales predicted there would be no more than 10 Books. Then again, we all know how these predictions can turn out; A Song of Ice and Fire was originally intended as a trilogy.

        Also, can’t tell if intentional or not, but one way to read your second sentence is that the entire “growing genre of rational fiction” is by alexanderwales. 😛

        That was a joke, yes. A reference to the prolificness of Alexander Wales; the man is a machine. As Green0Photon once said, “I swear half the stuff on this sub is written by you.”

      • brmic says:

        Can I ask how far along it is? Does it look like it’s wrapping up, or does it look like there’s quite a bit of story left to tell?

        The story recently moved from local to global level, which mostly leaves the cosmic level untouched. There may be some shortcuts yet to come, but OTOH some issues are at 2 out of 60 or 0 out of 12 and it’s hard to imagine a satisfying narrative that doesn’t spend at least 10 chapters on the issue in question, with 20 chapters a more realistic guess IMHO.
        Based on all that, I’d guess we’re at least 120 chapters from the end, which in terms of the progress so far would mean another year to year and a half until the end.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I will step in to say that I seldom if ever read fanfic/webfic, and I think Worth the Candle is fantastic. Well above replacement level.

    • ing says:

      Hmm, I think I’ve read some of this guy’s other works.

      Before I get too deep into this, can you say anything about the angst level in this story?
      Is it, like, more or less than Worm? Like, what’s the going prediction on whether the main character dies at the end?

      (I recognize it would be unusual for a self-insert main character to die at the end, but…)

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Before I get too deep into this, can you say anything about the angst level in this story? Is it, like, more or less than Worm?

        Worm is actually a pretty good parallel. Both are set in a dying world. Both are about high school students who have lost someone close to them. I would say the level of angst is about the same.

        Like, what’s the going prediction on whether the main character dies at the end?

        (I recognize it would be unusual for a self-insert main character to die at the end, but…)

        I have never seen any speculation that the Juniper is going to die at the end. It’s not been ruled out or anything, but there is no particular reason to think he will, either. In fact, chapter 73 seems to hint that Juniper is still alive at the end of the story (Juniper gets separated from one of his companions, so he tells that chapter from her perspective, and then halfway through the chapter he breaks the fourth wall to let the reader know that this is an interpolation he made from what he was told after the fact).

        • ing2 says:

          Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve caught up with this now, taking much of the weekend to do it. : )

          I’m now trying to figure out how to get email notifications when it updates. I’ve applied for AOOO membership, hopefully that will have an option for it.

  12. paranoidfunk says:

    Hi SSCommentariat:

    I’m looking to find a place of retreat in New England. Ideally, it would be a barn or cottage or shack in The Middle of Nowhere.

    I’ve never bought or maintained my own property before, so I don’t know what the legal aspects of being a Homeowner entail; or how to hook up the electrical, plumbing, water, etc.

    Does anyone have suggestions on where – or how – to look for such a place? Has anyone done similar? Could you point me to a forum or subreddit? Anything relevant is appreciated. Thank you so much.

    • Aapje says:

      You can just look at websites that lists real estate. If you don’t know what you want or what to look for, you can get a real estate agent to help.

      Given your lack of expertise, I would suggest getting a ‘home inspection’ before you buy it. Note that you may still need help interpreting the inspection report.

      Pretty much any ‘Middle of Nowhere’ home in New England will have a septic tank. Septic tanks need regular cleaning. Ask for documentation about the age & design of the tank, the last cleaning and the last inspection. If these cannot be provided to a reasonable extent, get a full inspection of the tank. Once you own the place, determine when you need to clean the tank (depends on the size of the tank and how much you use it) and make sure you get it done it in time.

      Many of the most rural homes have a well. These need regular testing, so you aren’t drinking poison. Get it tested before you buy.

      Ask the (selling) real estate agent how to get the electricity turned on.

      Heating is commonly done with oil. The oil tank may be buried or not. If it is buried, it is probably old & may be leaking. Beware.

      Figure out how you are going to get Internet access (unless the idea is to retreat from that as well).

      Keep in mind that some states in New England have very high real estate taxes (mainly Vermont and New Hampshire). This is bad for second homes. Then again, if you go for a really cheap second home, it may not be significant.

      All of the above is just some things that I picked up when someone I know bought a home in New England. It is not complete, caveat emptor, etc.

      • arbitraryvalue says:

        One thing to note about New Hampshire is that unlike all its neighbors, it has zero state income tax. If you are looking for a primary residence and plan to work from home, New Hampshire is an excellent place to live for this reason. Property taxes are relatively high as a percent of house value, but house value is low in absolute terms, so you end up saving a lot of money.

        • Matt M says:

          New Hampshire is also a great destination if you’re looking forward to meeting… uh…. “interesting” people…

          • j1000000 says:

            New Hampshire most DEFINITELY has some very “interesting” people, but I don’t think Free Staters exist en masse anywhere in the state, do they? I thought the Free State “project’ had mostly been abandoned.

            That site say there’s 4400 Free Staters in NH, that’s 3 people in every 1000. Massachusetts had the same libertarian voting percentage in 2016.

          • Matt M says:

            Keane is known to be an epicenter for that sort of thing.

            The FSP tends to “officially expel” people it doesn’t like from its “roster”, such as it is. So the weirdest ones probably don’t even count in their statistics!

        • chrisminor0008 says:

          New Hampshire taxes investment income.

    • ana53294 says:

      I follow a blog by a frugal couple that bought a homestead in Vermont. They document the process it took them to buy the homestead in great detail. You can see the initial vetting process they use, how they look at the well, and the septic tank. They talk about the process in great detail, but in layman’s terms.

      One of the things that seems clear to me is that buying and selling rural property is much more difficult than city property. It is a much slower process, and selling a rural property may take years. So if you do buy a ruraly property, you should be prepared that you won’t be able to sell it for a long period of time.

    • Erusian says:

      Where in New England? And what’s your budget?

  13. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Your mission is to reduce the proportion of people who are vulnerable to multilevel marketing schemes by 90%. Not vulnerable means bailing out after paying in twice or less. Not paying in at all would be best, but it may be too much to ask of people in general.

    • Well... says:

      Define “multilevel marketing schemes”?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Businesses where people make most or all of their money from the people they recruit rather than selling a product.

        Sometimes, as with Amway, there’s actually a pretty good product involved, but most of the people selling it still lose out.

        There’s also The Airplane Game, where it’s all just money shuffling.

        There’s even one called 31 that’s relatively gentle because the goal is to make a little money on the side rather than as much money as possible.

        Have some podcasts.

    • Erusian says:

      Ban recruiting incentives as more than… say, 20% of total real compensation. Write in an exclusion for headhunters whose job is explicitly to recruit people for positions but who cannot then be involved in activities like selling. Ban compensation as a portion of any recruited parties earnings. This attacks the ‘multi-level’ portion of it. If any employee received more than 20% of their total compensation from recruiting other employees, the company would be… fined and forced to repay them? I’m sure we could think of a suitable penalty. This will require salespeople to earn most of their money by selling, which will not hurt legitimate operations but will hurt pyramid schemes.

      Legally require buybacks of unsold stock from independent distributors or distributors below a certain size, with no tracking or retaliation allowed (though I’m sure they’ll get around this). This prevents the company from selling large stocks of unsellable products to its ‘distributors’ who then don’t move them out. Alternatively, find a way to make it so the company cannot sell stock to its salespeople and must supply the stock more directly without crippling some retail operations. This will incentivize the company to send only as much stock as they think the distributor can sell. (Side note: this is a huge demand among distributors and has been for at least a century and a half.)

      Both these will cripple pyramid schemes without destroying independent distributors. Direct selling through independent distributors is not a particularly exploitative way to sell. What makes a pyramid scheme exploitative and non-productive is that it relies on distributors putting in their own money and recruiting others who in turn put in their own money rather than making money through sales.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I like the idea of a requirement to buy back products.

        Still, MLMs seem to be so tempting to invent that I suspect the only solution is somehow hardening the public.

        • Erusian says:

          I don’t know. Law has a powerful effect on incentives. I’m imagining ambulance chasing lawyers getting in on this. “Did your parent distributor not buyback your stock? Pressure you to keep it? Encourage you to recruit your friends illegally? Call Crazy Eddy’s Legal Emporium. Don’t let those fat cat pyramid schemers take advantage of you! We only get paid if you win!”

    • Matt M says:

      It seems to me that MLM (and various other scams) are a simple byproduct of living in a high trust society. Do things to significantly lower trust and social cohesion and watch as everyone becomes increasingly skeptical of anyone claiming to offer them a “great deal.”

      I recently read a book about scams, I think it was called “The Confidence Game” or something like that. I was already a pretty skeptical person slow to trust anybody, but now I simply assume that everyone on Earth is constantly trying to screw me over and eternal vigilance is the only way I’ll be able to keep most of what I’ve earned.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t have a cite, so this may not be accurate, but I heard about an eastern European country after the fall of the USSR where there was a huge ponzi scheme– everyone was expecting not to be the last sucker.

        Not being high trust may not be the solution.

        What I’d like to see is some way of getting people to be reflexively numerate– to hear about an MLM and realize very quickly that it can’t work for the vast majority of the people in it.

        • SamChevre says:

          The giant ponzi scheme country is Albania.

        • Matt M says:

          realize very quickly that it can’t work for the vast majority of the people in it.

          Would this really help though?

          My impression is that a lot of people understand this part, they’re just overly confident that they’ll be one of the successful ones.

          People who buy lottery tickets understand that most people not only won’t win that night, but will never win. They just think they’re own case is special.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            That’s a fair question, but it might help if people realize that the odds of success are much higher if you get in early.

            Of course, that might lead to proliferation of new MLMs.

          • toastengineer says:

            It’s not even a matter of overconfidence; in my experience at least it’s a matter of desperation.

      • j1000000 says:

        I worked in a phone sales job for a few months after college. I have never trusted a salesperson again in my life.

  14. Lillian says:

    One month ago Ars Technica published this: When supplies of drugs run low, drug prices mysteriously rise, data shows; And the less competition, the higher the price hikes.

    Truly, this is a mystery for the ages. The forces in play here are so esoteric that the nation’s top medical researchers can only speculate as to what could possibly be behind this phenomenon. It’s almost as if there were some invisible hand at work here. If only our universities would dedicate resources toward studying these astounding economic factors, perhaps we might get to the bottom of this befuddling enigma. Nothing short of sustained academic effort could possibly figure this one out.

    No but seriously, how does an article like this even happen? How do a bunch of medical researches studying the medical market manage to apparently not be aware of the most absolutely basic concepts in economics? How does a writer for Ars Technica manage to write an article about it that sounds just as befuddled as our intrepid researchers? It is dumbfounding to behold a bunch of people who by all rights should know better inexpertly grope at the concept of supply and demand like some teenage boy encountering bra clasps for the first time. Except worse because the boy actually knows what’s he’s trying to get at!

    Then for the perfect conclusion to this astounding display of economic illiteracy, the researches who have come so close to discovering supply and demand curves, go on to recommend price controls as a solution to the problem. Our top minds in medical research suggest a policy with a track record of failure stretching at least as far back as the 4th century. But really, how would they know, when they apparently don’t even know how prices work in the first place? My gob is smacked, ladies and gentlemen, my flabber is officially gasted.

    • cassander says:

      In my experience, doctors, while usually pretty bright in general, are terrifyingly innumerate. And the data backs up that experience. Some surveys were done asking some very basic statistics (e.g. if a disease has a prevalence of one in 10,000 and a test has a false positive rate of 1 of 100, if someone gets a positive score what’s the chance they have the disease) and doctors scored very low.

      Journalist are even worse, and, I’d bet, on average a lot less bright. And tech journalists definitely aren’t the cream of the crop.

      • Lillian says:

        The journalist who wrote this article is herself a former medical researcher with a Ph.D. in microbiology, and the same is true of Ars Technica’s senior science editor. While i can see how practising medical doctors might be shockingly innumerate, shouldn’t medical researchers know at least basic statistics? Because that sounds like a core part of their job. For that matter, shouldn’t people studying prices have bothered to maybe read up on the subject a little? Maybe my 6th grade science teacher lied to me, but i was under the impression that reading the literature was Step 2 of the Scientific Process.

    • Erusian says:

      Economics is not a core subject. The vast majority of Americans do not study it. It’s not only possible but likely that a doctor or lawyer will never take an economics course outside of a few specialized disciplines. There is a huge amount of economic and business illiteracy. Lots of popular, mainstream positions rely on either not understanding economics or understanding a theme park version of it.

      And that’s not even getting into how many people take lessons and don’t seem to comprehend them.

      • johan_larson says:

        My impression is that a hefty portion of college students take Into to Econ. When I was going through there were a lot of such classes, and they were big.

        Economics courses are also required for two of the most popular college majors, Business (#4) and Economics (#5) (duh).

        Maybe the core principles don’t stick.

        • bean says:

          David Friedman has talked about what I think he called 9 to 5 economists, who seem to forget to apply economic principles outside of the office. If it’s possible for them to do that, then it seems likely that someone who took economics in school and is now in charge of Departmental Paperwork Compliance at work can easily forget to apply those same principles.

        • Erusian says:

          According to the DoE, a little less than 20% of college graduates (at any level) have a degree in a business or related field. Let’s round up and double that to account for economists, people who study economics, people who took it in high school, etc. (And that honestly seems very generous). That would mean 13% of people had taken an economics course. Not graduated with rigorous training: had ever taken any course. And that’s not including people who don’t really absorb the lessons.

          Contrast this with, say, English or basic mathematics. Virtually everyone has taken a mathematics course. More than 88% of the population has passed high school level exams in mathematics.

          The ability to understand economics should be taken less as a basic skill like addition or English composition and more like speaking French. A skill that’s not hugely out of reach if you sit down and decide to learn it… but something it’s safe to assume your average interlocutor does not understand.

          • Matt M says:

            But the general concept of “supply and demand” is the most rudimentary and common aspect of economics.

            Understanding that is less “speaks French” and more “knows bonjour, merci, and parlais-vous-Engles?”

            Being able to view price increases during a product shortage as something other than “mysterious” doesn’t require a ten week economics course. It requires about five minutes to read the first three pages of any economics textbook or listening to the very beginning of an intro lecture.

          • Erusian says:

            Not to be snarky, but considering you just misspelled “parlez vous anglais” you’re kind of proving my point.

            Coming from an educated background, it can be hard to remember that not knowing is the default. I suspect the majority of Americans do not know what parlez vous anglais means. Likewise, you can read basic economics videos on youtube getting people talking about how amazing the analysis is. I don’t think they’re faking: I think they honestly didn’t know.

            Now, whether journalists should know better is another question. Of course, I don’t think we hold journalists to particularly high standards, to be honest.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, I never learned how to write anything in French. I just know how to pronounce it (although the actual French would probably disagree)

          • Deiseach says:

            considering you just misspelled “parlez vous anglais”

            Perhaps he meant “parlez-vous Engels” as in Friedrich, considering this is related to economics 🙂

          • Lambert says:

            non Angli, sed Angeli.

    • JohnofCharleston says:

      That’s definitely a bad article, but I’m not sure the study itself was bad. The researchers certainly weren’t surprised by the sign of the result, they went in looking to quantify what was going on with the price increases. Reading between the lines, I think the paper was a pretty standard “let’s measure the effect of X” study.

      The key seems to be that the price increases that were enacted during the shortage persisted even after the shortage resolved. Econ 101 wouldn’t predict that. When there are supply problems with fuel after a hurricane, the price of gas doesn’t stay permanently high forever. If short-term shortages in medication have long-run price effects, that’s an interesting fact and clearly worthy of study. The authors studied those long-run price effects, confirmed the anecdotal reports and quantified harm. That’s a perfectly valid paper.

      The flaw here is in the reporting. The price increases themselves weren’t mysterious, the fact that they persisted was. The reporter conflated those frames, maybe because she didn’t know better, but it’s just as likely she didn’t realize the article was ambiguous. I lean towards the second. Note “mysterious” shows up in both the Ars Technica and Bloomberg write-ups. Presumably the Bloomberg reporter has taken Econ 101, yet he framed the paper the same way. Both probably relied on a University’s press office summary, or the researchers hit the same talking points in interviews.

      So in summary: paper seems fine, reporting garbles the message. Tale as old as time.

      • Lillian says:

        Oh thank God, a reasonable explanation that doesn’t mean a bunch of people researching prices apparently can’t figure out price theory. Okay reading it like that, it does seem like a valid study. In which case, my guess is that since medicine is a captive market in which demand is fairly inelastic with respect to price, then price increases that happen due to supply constraints do not tend to be reversed after they are over. As has been discussed in some of Scott’s articles previously, excessively high barriers of entry that stifle competition are likely to blame.

        • JohnofCharleston says:

          Yep, exactly. If I’m right, the paper (whose full text I can’t access) would have taken all that as a given and moved on to measure the effect of the increases that persist.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          then price increases that happen due to supply constraints do not tend to be reversed after they are over.

          If you read the article further it seems to imply not just that the price increase remained, but that the rate of price increase was still increased after the supply shock resolved.

          Prices were increasing by double-digit percentages (year over year) after the supply shock, whereas they were only increasing by single-digit percentages (year over year) before the supply shock.

        • Leah Velleman says:

          In general, science journalism is not reliably good at distinguishing the parts of the story that are Common Knowledge Background Information from the ones that are New And Exciting Research.

          A researcher sits down with a reporter and tells them ten facts. Eight are C.K.B.I and two are N.A.E.R. It’s really easy for the reporter, who might not really have a strong background on the subject, to accidentally shift a fact or two from one column to the other. Usually the result is just a little eye-rolling. Sometimes, like here, they really make an ass of themself.

          (Headlines are really bad, because they’re often written by an editor and not the writer. So there’s two games of telephone happening — researcher to writer, writer to editor. More opportunities for facts to switch columns.)

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Probably not quite econ 101, but the cause of the shortage matters. Taking a quick gander through the Google machine, drug shortages are persistent issues. For example, here’s the GAO:
        https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-595
        Apparently a lot of drug shortages are caused by persistent supply chain issues, not just one-off problems.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who knows how to read beyond the headline.

        Thanks for the detailed description.

      • Aftagley says:

        Another finding of the study was that during shortages where two different drugs became similar restricted, if one was made by fewer companies than its price rose more than the one that has a broader manufacturing base. This was a factor independent of overall supply of the drug, which is noteworthy.

        Overall, I agree this is bad reporting, but I think you had a slightly uncharitable read of the study/article.

    • j r says:

      Is it possible that the editors added the word “mysteriously,” expecting this response and more traffic?

      Maybe I’m way too cynical for this era, but it feels like trolling.

    • Jiro says:

      No but seriously, how does an article like this even happen? How do a bunch of medical researches studying the medical market manage to apparently not be aware of the most absolutely basic concepts in economics?

      Some possible answers may be CW.

    • James C says:

      A glance at the article suggests that the study authors were surprised by the size and period of the effect rather than the fact that the effect itself.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Since the study is paywalled it’s impossible to tell if the drug price is rising *when* supplies run low, or after the supply has recovered, without reading the study.

      The article seems to contradict the headline as to when these prices increase (during the supply shortage – according to the headline; or after the supply shortage resolves – according to the article).

      Since headlines are notorious in not getting it, I’m inclined to dismiss this one.

      Suffice it to say, it would indeed be economically ‘mysterious’ if prices start increasing faster than normal after supplies have recovered.

      Begin tongue-in-cheek snark:
      No but seriously, how does an article thread like this even happen? How do a bunch of medical researches studying the medical market rationalists reading a headline manage to apparently not be aware of the most absolutely basic concepts in economics journalism?
      /s
      😀

      • Lillian says:

        For the record, i read the article like five times and did not interpret it as it contradicting the headline until JohnofCharleston provided me with an alternate interpretation. The article’s writing is very unclear and muddled, so it’s very easy for different readers to come away with different impressions. In other words, it looked like it was a bad study and a bad article, instead it looks like a good study and a bad article (which is par for the course, really). Also i’m not a rationalist, i just post here.

  15. guzey says:

    I have a rough draft of a critical review of William MacAskill’s Doing Good Better. Want to be super careful and would really like to have several people check it before publishing. If you want to help — please email me alexey@guzey.com

  16. sammy says:

    Has anyone read Radical Markets? (hopefully this isn’t culture-war-y, if so I’m sorry)

    https://www.amazon.com/Radical-Markets-Uprooting-Capitalism-Democracy/dp/0691177503/ref=sr_1_1/147-8206106-4246166?ie=UTF8&qid=1540180169&sr=8-1&keywords=radical+markets

    I find it fascinating and was wondering about others opinions. It would be cool if Scott did a book review on this.

    I found some chapters to be silly/not-too-radical but the Harberger taxation ideas were really cool and seem to strike everyone differently independent of their political leanings.

  17. Brett says:

    I’ve found with candy corn that only some of the brands are good. Most of them don’t put enough honey into the candy corn, so they just taste kind of blandly sugary.

    I hope this isn’t creeping into Culture War stuff, but Occasional SlateStarCodex subject of critique Nathan Robinson had a debate with a libertarian the other day, and wrote about it.

    I was reading the back-story lore for the Wheel of Time setting, and realized just how much of that only works because of the lack of gunpowder weapons (there is an in-universe reason for it). Trollocs – the setting’s version of orcs – are big and scary, but also skittish and poorly disciplined under the best of circumstances. They’d be chewed to pieces by even Early Modern guns and artillery, assuming they didn’t just break and run at the sound of it.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      …I’d reply to that Robinson piece, but I’m pretty sure it would be CW…

      (Really, I don’t see how the piece itself, or linking to it, can be construed as not CW; while going by the description you gave it needn’t be, the piece itself clearly is.)

    • baconbits9 says:

      I think linking to someone who consistently on one side of the CW is going force any conversation into that space.

      • Aftagley says:

        Eh, I’ll try. A few non-CW points that I got while reading that piece:

        1. I think he’s correct is saying that people on both sides of the aisle who have styled them selves as “master debaters” have gotten that title by consistently refusing to debate people who could seriously challenge them. To use a sport’s analogy: we wouldn’t make a boxer the world champion when he demonstrates his skill by routinely defeating amateurs.

        2. Maybe this is common and I just haven’t seen it before, but his self analysis of his performance after the fact was interesting. You don’t normally get a good look at what someone was thinking and why they chose to focus on a certain topic.

        3. Maybe getting CW here, let me know and I’ll drop it – speaking from the left, I was a bit annoyed about how self congratulatory he was in this piece. I agree with the basic proposition that debate is good, but you can’t conflate Dr. Mitchell (the person he debated) with some of the other public figures on the right, which Robinson does.

        • baconbits9 says:

          1. Sure, someone who engages only weak opponents is being a crummy debater but Robinson tries tarring multiple people with the same brush. He puts effort into demonstrating that Shapiro is this type of person and then tries a guilt by association tactic with Jordan Peterson who has publicly engaged reasonably prominent leftists. How do we get down this discussion path without getting into CW territory.

          2. Robinson is specifically advocating that leftists start adopting if not the right’s tactics, their own tactics to win debates starting from the presumption that their side is right. This is basically the culture war (imo), fighting as if it is sides and not truth or correctness.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            2. Robinson is specifically advocating that leftists start adopting if not the right’s tactics, their own tactics to win debates starting from the presumption that their side is right. This is basically the culture war (imo), fighting as if it is sides and not truth or correctness.

            …and, that’s roughly a shorter version of what I was going to say. 😛

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Jordan Peterson

            ….

            is “anyone” taking him seriously?

            Yes, obviously, lots of people do because he draws lots of clicks, but ..seriously? He thinks the caduceus is a sign that the ancients understand the structure of DNA.

          • dick says:

            Did you miss the “Starting today, the visible Open Thread is culture-war-free” bit?

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Dick

            this is a meta discussion about if you can have a culture war free discussion around a link to a person who actively engages in the culture war.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          FWIW speaking as a libertarian I appreciate point #3 greatly and from reading Mitchell’s blog he strikes me as overly self-congratulatory and overconfident in his views as well, even though I agree with probably 90% of those views. Hopefully it at least counts as meta-CW (is that a form of CW or not?) to lament the parlous general state of intellectual care and nuance among those who feel inclined to debate these sorts of issues, at least if one does not except one’s “own side”.

        • professorgerm says:

          Personally, and I’ve been absent for a while so I haven’t kept up with Scott’s shift very well, I think discussing Robinson’s style should be safe although CW-adjacent.

          And I would add: Robinson pretty much always writes like that, doesn’t he?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Any time someone talks about “scoring” debate, I can only think of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FPsEwWT6K0

      Okay, that’s not true. I also remember my policy debate friends having to draft cards for why nuclear war is bad, because someone won a major tournament with “nuclear war is good!”

    • Aftagley says:

      This is almost certainly CW, but you’re objectively wrong: all brands of candy corn are terrible, sugary messes.

    • Ventrue Capital says:

      Brett, have you signed up for the “Soothsayers & Scoundrels” Discord server, for SSCers who are interested in tabletop games?

      RDNinja, blessings be upon him, created the server, and posted a link to it in the most recent classified thread.

    • Nornagest says:

      What’s the in-universe reason? I dropped that series in the middle of book 10 back in college and never picked it back up, but when I left it, it looked like some folks were on their way to (re?)inventing cannon.

      If you’re talking about the Illuminator monopoly, I don’t think that actually works over the scales that we’re talking about — although admittedly being bad at scale is kind of a perennial fantasy problem.

    • Dack says:

      I was reading the back-story lore for the Wheel of Time setting, and realized just how much of that only works because of the lack of gunpowder weapons (there is an in-universe reason for it). Trollocs – the setting’s version of orcs – are big and scary, but also skittish and poorly disciplined under the best of circumstances. They’d be chewed to pieces by even Early Modern guns and artillery, assuming they didn’t just break and run at the sound of it.

      I don’t know.

      The trollocs are already depicted as cowardly when left to their own devices. And as killing machines when shepherded.

      I don’t see them being more afraid of a gun than of a myrddraal.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Seeing parts of the debate is weird. I think its just an example of self selection. This guy thought he did well because he agreed with the arguments he was making. Dan Mitchell probably also thinks that way. In reality they are both below average debaters.

  18. Sniffnoy says:

    Not at all an expert, but — the comment on dark matter is certainly the conventional understanding but I’m not sure how accurate it actually is, specifically the part about the Bullet Cluster.

    Going by what I’ve read on Sabine Hossenfelder’s blog, the thing is that the dark matter hypothesis, and the modified gravity hypothesis, aren’t actually that different. They’re presented as if they’re wildly different, with all the evidence pointing to the one rather than the other; but in fact it’s hard to be quite so conclusive when they’re actually pretty similar. Because, you see, all the (surviving, anyway) modified gravity proposals out there work by adding additional fields that couple to gravity. Which is… exactly what the dark matter hypothesis does. The only difference is the sort of field; the dark matter hypothesis is that they’re the sort that can also be called a “particle”, the modified gravity hypothesis that they’re not, that they don’t follow those same rules.

    And put that way, the Bullet Cluster isn’t obviously evidence against modified gravity; yes, the gravity is not where the visible matter is, but that’s a possibility whether this extra field is a particle or not.

    • fion says:

      Do you have a link to a blog post about this? I couldn’t find it with a quick google. It’s true that the differences between dark matter and modified gravity are sometimes over-stated, especially for lay audiences. Modified gravity does indeed often involve introducing new fields coupled to gravity, which is what dark matter is. I think an important difference is the nature of the coupling between the fields and gravity, but I’m not an expert on this.

      My limited understanding of quantum field theory is that every field has particle excitations. If you’re introducing a new field, you’re introducing a new particle whether you like it or not.

      Also, as a more philosophical point, even if it’s possible in principle to explain the bullet cluster with modified gravity, I think I’m correct in saying that nobody has yet done so. Similarly, nobody has yet proposed a modified gravity theory that explains the “dark matter” contributions to the peaks of the CMB power spectrum. Dark matter does both of these jobs very easily.

      (BTW, I’m a final-year cosmology PhD student. I don’t work on dark matter.)

      • Sniffnoy says:

        I’m even more of a non-expert on this than you, I just do math. 😛

        My limited understanding of quantum field theory is that every field has particle excitations. If you’re introducing a new field, you’re introducing a new particle whether you like it or not.

        Yeah I’m pretty uncertain of this — my understanding was that the question is whether the field you’re introducing obeys the rules of QFT in the first place; but maybe that’s just wrong and there’s even less difference than that and both really are introducing new particles, in which case it’s less about whether dark matter exists and more about what type, i.e., ΛCDM vs something more exotic. This is where having an actual expert would be helpful.

        Do you have a link to a blog post about this? I couldn’t find it with a quick google. It’s true that the differences between dark matter and modified gravity are sometimes over-stated, especially for lay audiences.

        Here’s what’s probably the most relevant one.

        • fion says:

          I definitely agree with that blog post that the early universe is stronger evidence for DM than the bullet cluster, but that’s beside the point.

          I didn’t know about those calculations about the low probability of things like the bullet cluster happening in LCDM simulations. I might actually bring it up at Journal Club and see what my colleagues think.

          I feel as though she’s being a little dishonest in conveying the scientific consensus, though. She implies that it’s only pop-sci that says the bullet cluster is evidence for LCDM, but I hang around a lot of cosmologists, and I’m in one of the most MG-friendly departments in my country, and even there everybody thinks DM exists.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I feel as though she’s being a little dishonest in conveying the scientific consensus, though. She implies that it’s only pop-sci that says the bullet cluster is evidence for LCDM, but I hang around a lot of cosmologists, and I’m in one of the most MG-friendly departments in my country, and even there everybody thinks DM exists.

            Those are two different questions, though. Hell even Hossenfelder herself, as best I can tell, agrees that particle dark matter probably exists (she seems to be a fan of the superfluid dark matter hypothesis); her complaint mainly seems to be that, due to a combination of confirmation bias, a willingness to fudge things a bit, and unfamiliarity with modified gravity, people interpret just about everything as evidence in favor of particle dark matter and against modified gravity, even things that aren’t.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            No, she doesn’t claim that the consensus agrees with her. She just published a book about how the consensus is wrong!

      • 4gravitons says:

        Here’s the relevant Hossenfelder post.

        I think a paper linked in that post has a setup that explains the bullet cluster with modified gravity, but it may just show that bullet cluster-like setups are more common in modified gravity than in dark matter models. Not enough of an expert on this particular debate to judge this, but for what it’s worth here’s an older post on Sean Carroll’s blog with a conversation with Stacy McGaugh, a modified gravity proponent, that brings this up among other topics.

        Last-minute additions:

        Whether or not it’s DM isn’t about whether or not it obeys the rules of QFT (at least for modern approaches to modified gravity). I think fion is closer to the mark that it’s about the couplings, but I think it’s also about whether or not you’re looking at whether the mass is coming from the field or the particle (so for example, there aren’t many Higgs particles around, but the Higgs field is quite physically important). But as mentioned I’m not an astro person and I don’t know a ton here either.

    • Eric Boesch says:

      My inexpert impression is that the Bullet Cluster anomaly weakened all major theories that the phenomena attributed to Dark Whatever might be solely the reliable consequence of unknown universal laws acting upon known matter and energy. (Contrast with astronomical anomalies of the 1800’s which were entirely explained by replacing Newton’s Laws with relativity.) That is interesting regardless of whether the unknown stuff is particles or fields or a combination.

      I would appreciate confirmation or denial of my interpretation from someone more expert. If my impression here is wrong, I bet I’m not alone in that.

  19. Adam says:

    Hi Scott!

    My name is Adam, and I work for Automattic. We’re the company that makes Jetpack, the WordPress plugin you’re using for email subscriptions. I actually do Jetpack support there, so uhhh, not to toot my own horn, but I’m the perfect person to talk to re: your subscriptions not working. 🙂

    My work email is in my profile data here on your site, so feel free to reach out. Hopefully we can get the emails up and running again! Thanks!

    • Scott, I don’t know much about the Jetpack plugin’s subscription feature, but I can see that your blog has Jetpack version 6.5 installed, while the latest version, released two weeks ago, is version 6.6.1. You could try updating Jetpack and seeing if that fixes the problem. (I don’t see anything related to subscriptions in Jetpack’s changelog, though.)

      Another thing you could try is turning the Subscriptions feature off and on again in your settings for the Jetpack plugin, or disabling and re-enabling the Subscriptions module on your Jetpack modules page. However, I’m not sure whether this would preserve the list of subscribed users. The answer to that may be somewhere on Jetpack’s Subscriptions documentation page.

      (Adam, this is a reply to your post because I wouldn’t have known that the Jetpack plugin is responsible for that feature without your post. Also, you may be able to comment on my proposed fixes above, even if it’s just to say that it’s more complicated than that and that Scott should let you do it.)

      • Adam says:

        Rory,

        Thanks for the input! Unfortunately the issue is a bit deeper.

        Basically what’s wrong is that the connection between SSC and Jetpack’s system is currently broken. When that happens, our systems don’t get notified that a new post is live, and thus no emails are sent to subscribers.

        The particular error I’m seeing in our Jetpack diagnostic tool indicates that the error is not something I can fix in our systems. Someone (Scott, myself, or whoever currently manages the site) will likely need to reach out and cooperate with WPEngine (SSC’s host) on repairing it.

        I’m happy to do this if need be, or provide advice over email. 🙂

        EDIT:

        I also need someone willing to fix the Report Comment function, which seems to work very inconsistently right now.

        This is probably because the plugin SSC uses for reporting comments hasn’t been updated in 5 years:

        https://wordpress.org/plugins/reportcomments/

        Ideally you/we could find a suitable alternative.

  20. Argos says:

    What are you guys’ experiences in DIY health improvement OR:
    Is the trial and error approach of the anxiety samplers scalable to general health and longevity?

    There is a lot of noise flying around when it comes to nutritional and general health advice (e.g supplements, intermittent fasting), and a scientific consensus is usually missing. So, instead of reading the 100th meta-meta-analysis-review, the obvious and only solution is to try out stuff and see whether it works for you.

    However, there is a theoretical problem first: Do all interventions that increase longevity also improve general well being? If for example intermittent fasting actually causes something of a cleansing reaction in human cells, this should also affect some part of your daily experience. I wonder where this would also be true for stuff that reduces specific risks, i.e. if omega-3 supplements reduce risks of a heart attack in 10 years, would I notice it now? Or in general, how correlated is life expectancy with well being?

    More importantly, what are some measurements that could reliably track my well being? Humans have very weak memory, and are susceptible to bias. If I go through the trouble of actually fasting for more than two days, I am sure to find eating afterwards does in fact beat being hungry. The state from before the fasting is not mentally present anymore, making it hard to draw comparisons.
    Is it reasonable to just rate my mood/energy levels on a scale?

    Or should I use something objective, like time to get out of bed in the morning (I fear training effects though)

    • Many health problems stem from the gradual accumulation of ‘silent’ risk (e.g. visceral fat, DNA damage, metabolic resistance, carcinogen exposure), which means the attenuation of said risks is going to be equally ‘silent’. It’s kind of like an agency that works hard to prevent black swan events – if they do their job right, they’ll never get any credit, because nothing happens.

      I fast regularly, and have no idea if it contributes to my short-term wellbeing, except insofar as it is fits nicely with my personal preferences. I’d also be interested to know if there are relevant biomarkers that can be tracked by people who don’t own electron microscopes.

      My guess is that for people who are not looking to solve specific health problems, there are plenty of low-hanging fruit to pluck: things like blood lipids, waist circumference, resting heart rate, sleep duration/quality are all easy metrics to track, with obvious strategies for improvement, and well-documented benefits.

      Peter Attia often talks about the importance of focusing on the biggest bang-for-buck interventions, and the (over)promises of personalized medicine. I found this podcast episode with Patrick O’Shaughnessy particularly informative and entertaining.

      • I recommend listening to the whole episode if you’re interested, but if anyone wants a quick overview, here are my bare-bones notes. This is mostly paraphrased, any errors are my own:

        Health span
        If you want to live longer, you have to delay death. Assume you don’t smoke, and you’re not suicidal. There’s an 80 per cent chance you’re gonna die from four things: Cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and accidents.

        ‘Health span’ is as important, and maybe more important, than living longer. Four things that comprise health span:

        – Cognition (executive function, processing speed, and short-term memory)
        – Physical (functional movement, maintenance of muscle mass, freedom from pain)
        – Sense of purpose and social support
        – Capacity to cope with distress

        Evolution of Medicine
        Medicine 1.0 was the old-school approach based on observations, beliefs, bad humors, good humors. Germ theory came out of this.

        Medicine 2.0 was the randomized controlled trial. If they look like this, they get this treatment. If they look like that, they get that. HIV is an amazing example. It can almost become a chronic disease now. The things Medicine 2.0 dealt with all happen quickly: which antibiotic to take, how to deal with HIV, etc. They’re also all amenable to clinical trial, with randomization.

        Medicine 3.0 is an empirical, personalized, probabilistic medicine. You have to accept the fact you will not get the answer from any clinical trial, or any sum of clinical trials. The oath says ‘first do no harm’. That’s a very Medicine 2.0 thing, and frankly it’s already violated every day. The real question is, how can you take a probabilistic approach to this? What’s the trade-off that has to be made? You can’t invest capital without taking risk. It doesn’t make sense to think you can do something with health with no risk.

        Practical stuff
        There have really only been a handful of step-changes in human longevity. The first was sewers, the second was germ theory, and antibiotics. After that, most of the increases in longevity have been relatively modest.

        There are only seven things you can do:
        – Fiddle with food
        – Fiddle with exercise
        – Fiddle with sleep
        – Modulation of stress
        – Drugs
        – Supplements
        – Hormones

        Each of those has an infinite set of things you can do, but that’s not that interesting. What’s the strategy? How do you apply those seven things to solve this problem? And that, to me, is the science of longevity.

        On senescent cells:
        If you kill them, you can turn an old mouse into a young mouse. It’s a long stretch to say that will definitely work in humans.

        On sleep:
        Evidence is incontrovertible that we need 7-9 hours of sleep… I have a very hard time believing sleep is not going to be really important.

        On fasting:
        We evolved in an environment where we were not constantly fed. It was feast or famine. A lot of people say ‘fasting is not for me, I can’t do it’. You had to be able to go days without eating, and be mentally sharp, physically sharp, able to perform.

        On mindfulness:
        Our ancestors had the luxury of always being present. We are almost never present. This is important for being able to tolerate distress.

        On strength training:
        Lift weights and never stop lifting weights.

        The most important type of exercise, especially in terms of bang for your buck, is going to be really high-intensity, heavy strength training. Strength training aids everything from glucose disposal and metabolic health to mitochondrial density and orthopedic stability. That might not mean much when you’re a 30-something young buck, but when you’re in your 70s, that’s the difference between a broken hip and a walk in the park.

        • Brad says:

          Are fasting and weight training compatible?

          • Not only compatible, but (possibly) complementary, in the sense that lower body fat and better metabolic health are generally advantageous. There’s hardly any quality research yet, but there are plenty of competitive powerlifters and bodybuilders who follow intermittent fasting.

            If you mean weight training during the fasted state itself, I think it’s mostly personal preference. For longer water fasts, strenuous exercise intuitively seems like a bad idea (I am not a doctor!) but light cardio on the first couple of days is often recommended to deplete glycogen stores and get into ketosis as smoothly as possible.

          • Brad says:

            Just so I understand what you are thinking can you give a sample cycle schedule? Would it be something like:

            Lift for five weeks, fast for five days, recover for two days, rinse and repeat?

          • Oh yeah, sure. So there are broadly two types of fasting:

            1. Intermittent fasting, where you try to restrict your daily feeding period within a certain window. The classic schedule is 8 hours on, and 16 hours off. For example, I usually break my fast around midday or 1pm, and try not to eat any later than 8 or 9pm. You can exercise whenever you want; some people do it first thing in the morning, but they are braver souls than me.

            Intermittent fasting is the metaphorical equivalent of brushing your teeth. It may help a little with the likes of insulin sensitivity/cell repair/inflammation, but it’s probably not a long enough window to do a whole lot. The main benefit for most people seems to be simple caloric restriction.

            2. Water fasting, where you eat nothing for an extended period of three or more days. This is the metaphorical equivalent of going to the dentist for a deep clean. You don’t need to do it that often, but it gets in all the nooks and crannies: autophagy goes through the roof, pre-cancerous cells are hopefully purged, your organs shrink, the immune system is reset somewhat, various biomarkers improve dramatically.

            Personally, I’ve started doing a three day fast each quarter, and intend to build up to longer durations over time. Training-wise, it’s an opportunity for a rest, or to focus on stretching/light cardio/mobility. As mentioned earlier, it helps to do a bunch of easy cardio on the first day to use up the glycogen stored in your muscles/liver and get into ketosis faster.

            Note that there are all sorts of variations on both of the above approaches, and that it’s still early days on the research front, AFAIK. If the thought of not eating food sounds too horrible to contemplate, there’s also a ‘fasting mimicking diet’ developed by Valter Longo, an adapted version of which is endorsed by Sarah Constantin here.

        • johan_larson says:

          Lift weights and never stop lifting weights.

          I wonder. Is there some lifestyle that inherently contains the right amount of strenuous effort — just enough to keep you vigorously fit but not so much you start to wear out before your time — without added exercise?

          • Possibly. Both my parents have decent muscle mass for their age, purely from the likes of kneading dough, carrying buckets of produce, cutting firewood, sinking fence-posts, pulling mowers, etc.

            But a) that doesn’t seem like a broadly applicable way of living, and b) they could presumably reap even greater benefits, in a much more controlled fashion, if they did 30 minutes of weights or calisthenics a few times a week.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          There’s an eighth thing you can work with, and I recommend it highly– ease/efficiency of movement.

          Accumulating parasitic muscle tension* is a drain. If you make movements harder than they need to be, it’s just a cost to everything you do.

          The Feldenkrais Method is a way of improving kinesthesia mostly through gentle repeated movements. It’s typical to find that making movement easier and more varied in one part of your body has good effects elsewhere.

          The Alexander Technique is a way of accessing better movement by a release that starts at the neck an promulgates through the rest of the body. It includes paying attention to what you do as you start a movement (or think about starting it) and then doing a release which prevents the excess effort.

          The Franklin Method— moving better by having a more accurate map of your body and how it moves. This one has a lot of imagery and anatomy. It’s effective, and might be more fun for geeks.

          Qi gung and daoist martial arts.

          *I’ve heard that there can be muscle tone that’s habitually too low as well as too high, and that seems plausible, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it.

        • Slicer says:

          “If you kill [senescent cells], you can turn an old mouse into a young mouse.”

          This is partially true but mostly false. Senescent cells are just one of the Hallmarks of Aging. Getting rid of them has shown some serious benefits but it won’t keep mice (or people) around forever. Human trials for senolytics (things that kill senescent cells) are in progress.

          There’s real research being done on the rest of the causes of aging.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I track heart rate, blood pressure, and weight. Other than that, I rely on my memory of subjective well-being, and I have a solid idea of how much energy I have based on how quickly I perform tasks or am behind schedule. I have some idea of how many times I wake up in the middle of the night, which correlates with sleep quality, and is driven by how clean I keep my bedroom.

      My blood pressure and heart rate very clearly track how I am eating and how much cardio I do. If I miss vigorous cardio (80%+ target heart rate, 2x-3x/week), my blood pressure climbs about 10-15 points within 2 weeks. If I am eating a ton of salt (fast food consumption), my blood pressure climbs about 10 points. Beta-blockers, decent food, and regular cardio keeps me at 113-65, pulse 52. My unmedicated, lazy body is 160-90, pulse 70.

      WRT weight, I don’t recommend what I did, but I was about 210 at 5’10. I spent a month eating very little besides bread and meat, doing vigorous cardio every day for 45-60mins, and drinking 8-9 cups of espressos a day. That got to me a more sustainable 174, I got up to 190 once, went back down to 180, and have kept in the 170-175 range for the last several years. From what I understand, though, this is relatively trivial weight loss.

      I lift heavy weights 2x-3x/week. I am pretty weak, though.

  21. Szemeredi says:

    What about limiting the number of comments each individual can post in a given thread? (To, say, something small like 3)

    Usually the best comments are those from some specialist dropping in once to share something interesting. Usually the worst comments are interminable chains of back-and-forth between regulars. I imagine it would even solve the problem of culture war topics dominating discussion.

    • fion says:

      I think it would be really interesting to try this! (But I imagine it’d be very unpopular among most regulars.)

    • bean says:

      I’m opposed, although that’s probably to be expected. I’m not defending the interminable back-and-forth, and this is definitely an interesting idea as to how to control it, but I think it goes too far. First, it rules out a lot of our best content. Take CatCube’s recent structural engineering effortposts or dndnrsn’s on Biblical scholarship. These may not be to everyone’s tastes, but they’re good, serious efforts on complicated questions. When I was doing something similar, one of my favorite things was the back-and-forth (which only once wasn’t informative and interesting) with readers, and as a reader, it’s really nice to be able to ask questions. Second, it doesn’t actually help your goal much. Regulars jousting does take up space and attention, but you’re proposing to destroy the community for a minor improvement in ability to get attention for the stuff you want. Assuming you even get as much when a bunch of people stop checking the comments.

      • Jiro says:

        You will also get people gaming the system by saying outrageous things as a level X comment knowing that level X+1 is prohibited.

        They needn’t even do this deliberately–people will do actions that result in success whether or not they actually analyzed them and explicitly did them for a particular reason.

      • benwave says:

        One could conceivably try out a softer version of this where all but the first three comments of any given poster are hidden by default, just requiring a click to reveal. It might achieve what Szemeredi is angling for without significantly reducing the benefits of back-and-forth threads.

    • Matt M says:

      Usually the worst comments are interminable chains of back-and-forth between regulars.

      Says you. This is what I like best about this place.

  22. johan_larson says:

    This past weekend I went looking for fiction set in the Gulf War. I didn’t find much. Plenty of non-fiction I-was-there books were written about that war, but not much fiction. Or maybe the fiction that got written wasn’t particularly memorable.

    But I did find Frederick Forsyth’s “The Fist of God”, which I am thoroughly enjoying. The title refers to a nuclear weapon that the fictional Iraqi government developed in secret, and which Saddam plans to launch using a giant cannon against a US troop concentration.

    • Salem says:

      Three Kings is pretty famous.

      Does Bravo Two Zero count as fictional enough for you? I’ve never read Andy McNab’s other work, but I think some of the Nick Stone books are set in the Gulf War too.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      Re: Fist of God, an open thread or two ago someone brought up Gerry Bull and I asked if anyone knew the Tom Clancy book based on his story. Now I realize I was remembering wrongly, and it was Forsyth, not Clancy. So thanks for this!

    • Björn says:

      There also is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, about the Second Gulf War. It was even made into a movie in 2016.

    • sfoil says:

      There was a video game, Eternal Darkness, part of which was set during the Gulf War.

      That was a great game, and one of the thing that made it great was that the different characters you controlled through the ages actually played differently in ways that made sense. When you’re a pudgy colonial gentleman or a scrawny monk, you have a hard time getting aggressive with the eldritch minions you encounter. If you’re a broadsword-wielding knight or, as in the Gulf War section, a soldier with an assault rifle, you have much less to worry about.

      • Nornagest says:

        The guy in the Gulf War level was a fireman, and the rifle he was using was an experimental model that they only ever made prototypes of, starting five years after the Gulf War. It was a good game, but that segment was full of holes.

        (Still, I’ll forgive a lot of a game that lets me use enchanted C4.)

      • CatCube says:

        If there’s any game that deserved to be a series, it was that one. It was disappointing that it didn’t sell well.

    • Elephant says:

      Escape from Baghdad! by Saad Hossain is good, steadily building up from realism to bizarre surrealism.

    • Vermillion says:

      Pride of Baghdad is a graphic novel about the true story of some lions who escaped from the zoo when Baghdad fell and I really liked it.

      • John Schilling says:

        If graphic novels count, the Ramadan one-shot from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”, has either one page or all of them set in 1991 Baghdad. It’s a superb story either way, and almost certainly fictional.

    • Nornagest says:

      Jarhead isn’t so much about the Gulf War as it is about sitting in a base in the Saudi desert slowly going insane while waiting to be called up for the Gulf War, but it’s at least set during the Gulf War.

      • Lillian says:

        Parts of it are also by slowly going insane from the tension of advancing across the desert, waiting to meet the enemy who never shows up because he’s too busy high tailing it back to Baghdad. Also having the worse case ever of blue balls, but for legally sanctioned murder in the field of battle.

        Absolutely fantastic movie, highly recommend it.

  23. ana53294 says:

    What things does it make sense for the general public to overlearn, or learn it to the point of automaticity?

    Things I think should come automatically, without thinking:

    Basic arithmetic, the multiplication tables.

    Spelling and grammar rules (you should not have to think whether to write their/they’re/there, it should come without thinking).

    Touch typing.

    Rule of three calculations (for example, estimate how much is the per kilo price of that 375 g package of tomatoes).

    Common courtesy/etiquette.

    Most of the other things are more specific to certain professions, and it probably doesn’t make them worth spending all that time learning about. But I’d be happy if every high school graduate in Spain could do all those things.

    • AG says:

      Disagree about spelling and grammar rules. They’re extremely arbitrary from language to language, and as lnog as polepe can slitl udnrentasd ecah oehtr, what’s so beneficial about a rigid enforcement? Why should we reward the creation of silly language rules? Besides which, it’s impossible to enforce. People will memetically create new perversions of the language as a natural part of socializing.

      Now, I do think a strong understanding of phonics is useful, or learning grammar in a “logic rules” kind of way. It’s about enabling people to easily learn new words or comprehend new phrases when they encounter them. But you might achieve the same effect by forcing them to somewhat learn a myriad of different languages, instead of mastering just one.

      • ana53294 says:

        lnog as polepe can slitl udnrentasd ecah oehtr, what’s so beneficial about a rigid enforcement?

        It saves people time. Writing clearly shows you respect other people’s time. Clarity matters a lot.

        For a real-life example where a split comma ended up costing 5 million $:

        In 2014, the delivery drivers filed a legen-dairy lawsuit arguing they were owed additional compensation because a Maine law detailing overtime exemptions did not include a serial comma. According to the law, duties that qualified as exemptions from overtime include the “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing packing for shipment or distribution of” foods. Because the drivers don’t actually pack any produce—and because there’s no comma to separate that activity from “distribution”—they argued the exemption did not apply.

        But you might achieve the same effect by forcing them to somewhat learn a myriad of different languages, instead of mastering just one.

        I disagree with this. There is a value to learning other languages. I am multi-lingual, and learning other languages just makes me appreciate the quirks of my language more. But learning one language deeply allows you to read and enjoy texts of great complexity.

        • AG says:

          Following arbitrary spellings (UK or UK?) is not a useful sink of time. In the majority of cases, I can differentiate what a person meant if they misplace they’re/there/their. And again, why should we reward the creation of inconvenient language rules? Let the market weed bad cases of prescriptivism out.

          Learning several languages tends to highlight just how arbitrary language structures are, and that most people don’t need a high level of mastery to communicate with another person who prefers another language.

          Your original case was about what topics the general public should overlearn. I don’t think super legalese or the enjoyment of complex texts falls under that category.

          • 10240 says:

            I can differentiate what a person meant if they misplace they’re/there/their.

            It takes me half a second more to figure out what they mean, perhaps a second or two if it’s ambiguous at the point where the word occurs and I have to backtrack later when I see that sentence doesn’t make sense with the word that was written. It shouldn’t take the one who writes it any extra time to write it correctly, and even if it does, if several people read it, they probably lose more time if it’s incorrect.

          • AG says:

            There may be some cases where learning the proper term is important. They’re/there/their may even be one. But I don’t think it applies in such a generalized case such that spelling and grammar overall need to be overlearned. Not that many people are going to lose time over piqued/peaked, alot/a lot, mispelled/misspelled, and even the flammable/inflammable clusterfuck is usually made immediately clear by context in the cases where it matters.

            I think I’m influenced by how uniquely bad English is in this respect. No amount of overlearning is going to help you with buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo. No amount of overlearning with a single language is going to help you the moment you move to a drastically different language, either.

            The tradeoff we are considering is “how much time does the individual lose deciphering a few mistaken words” vs. “how much time does the individual spend on overlearning these things when they could be learning something else”. Especially with the advent of software that can catch and correct spelling and grammar errors, I just don’t think the benefits are large enough.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Those that they do, they generally will overlearn. I’m not sure if targeted overlearning of commonly-used skills makes sense. Targeted overlearning makes sense for skills which may be used rarely but need to be automatic when they are used — emergency responses, for instance.

      Navigation (using the sun and/or landmarks) is one that would be useful for people to overlearn but which they don’t. I think this is because they don’t learn enough to reach the point where unsupervised practice helps.

    • Thomas Jørgensen says:

      That we do not already focus on in school?

      First aid. Most everything else important, people will keep in practice with by doing, if relevant. But first aid is not naturally maintained, so drilling it in hard is the only option.

    • Aftagley says:

      “Rule of three calculations (for example, estimate how much is the per kilo price of that 375 g package of tomatoes).”

      I have literally never heard of the Rule of three, and basic Goolgleing just gave me tips about writing comedy. Can I get some more details on this crucial life skill?

    • Machine Interface says:

      I’ll overlearn English orthography when it will have been rationalized to be on the level of complexity and consistency of German orthography. Until then, I see no problem with googling/dictionary-checking the spelling of a word in every other paragraph. The huge extra investment to master a system this complex isn’t worth the small gain of time.

      (Or since I’m not a native English speaker anyway, same argument with French/Portuguese).

      • ana53294 says:

        English is a language that is hard to spell. Knowing the spelling/pronunciation of a word does not mean you know the other. In Spanish, there are rules about spelling (very strict rules about the accentuation). It is trivial in Spanish to know how to pronounce a word or to spell it by the sound (if it is pronounced correctly).

  24. bean says:

    Naval Gazing looks at mission kills, things that can take a ship out of action without actually sinking it.

  25. Luke Perrin says:

    It occurred to me that fibrillation and seizures are dual conditions. Fibrillation is asynchronous electrical activity in the heart, when synchronous activity is needed; a seizure is synchronous electrical activity in the brain, when asynchronous activity is needed. Perhaps this is what people mean when they tell you to think with your head and not your heart.

  26. baconbits9 says:

    Business Idea:

    Actual parenting classes where soon to be first time parents can come and learn the for real basics. Like how to soothe a crying child and how not to lose your shit after being unable to soothe a crying child for half an hour. Classes will be unplanned just like parenting is, you show up, we give you a baby and you deal with whatever issues it might have (under supervision) for the duration.

    Besides all the legal obstacles and convincing soon to be parents that they need the class finding the babies is the major issue. I’m thinking starting a good relationship with a low income/high fertility religious/ethnic minority so that classes could keep rolling along.

    • bean says:

      The obvious place to get babies is from parents who previously took the class. They’ll have seen the supervision and presumably it will be good enough that they’ll trust you with their babies. As for why, the elevator pitch is very simple: free babysitting.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I don’t think this would work well, the people most likely to pay for a class on parenting are less likely to offer up their child for a cash payment after they have it (and you also have the initial problem of finding the first round of babies but that is solvable).

        Free babysitting for an hour where you have to bring your infant and then pick them up isn’t much in the way of value, especially if the infant is going to be somewhat stressed during that period.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, “hand your baby over to people who lack even the most basic parenting instincts” seems like trouble, and I can’t imagine the sort of person who might be willing to go for it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It’s not nearly that bad, they don’t lack the basic parenting instincts as they are soon to be parents. This isn’t like handing your kid over to people who hate kids trying to convert them, its giving a baby to someone who wants a baby, but is inexperienced but also is willing to pay t feel more comfortable with it.

            The type of person willing to go for it would satisfy 3 basic criteria.

            1. Would enjoy the idea of helping soon to be parents.
            2. Understands that short periods of discomfort for babies aren’t tragedies.
            3. Could use some extra cash.

          • albatross11 says:

            Parents in the real world routinely use teenagers to do babysitting, so it’s not like letting your baby be watched by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing is outside the realm of possibility.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My experience is that parents will use teenagers for kids who are older than 2, I don’t know any who use them for kids younger than 9 months.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t recall observing any instances of parents letting teenagers babysit literal infants. Isn’t the teenage babysitter typically for like, kids aged 6-10 or so who are expected to be reasonably capable of caring for themselves without too much complication?

          • Jaskologist says:

            The standard thing to do is hand your baby over to young teenage girls for a few hours. I was already sold when I saw the words “free babysitting.”

            Babies are not fragile. They just need someone watching them constantly to amuse them and make sure they don’t kill themselves by crawling into the road or swallowing something. Anybody can do it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Personal anecdote, we have a teen aged babysitter for our current 5 and 3 year old and she sat for the younger one at a little over a year old, but we also broke her in slowly, having her entertain the kids for a few hours while we were working on projects at home for multiple months before she was left along with both kids and putting them to bed.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Jackologist

            The class would be aimed at helping parents be better prepared for the very young babies, 0-3 months in particular, which is a simple, but often more frustrating time, for new parents.

          • INH5 says:

            How many teenage babysitters are older siblings, and thus have some pre-existing experience in looking after younger kids?

            I don’t have any statistics at hand, but my guess would be most, if not almost all.

        • bean says:

          Free babysitting for an hour where you have to bring your infant and then pick them up isn’t much in the way of value, especially if the infant is going to be somewhat stressed during that period.

          Why only make it an hour? Even leaving aside making the classes longer (which may or may not be a good idea, as I’m not sure what a typical baby’s care schedule is) you could run more than one in a given evening.

          And I doubt the infant will be too stressed. The sort of people who sign up to take this kind of class are likely to do a decent job of parenting, and I’d think being the focus of attention from two people for an hour or two is probably less stressful than being tended by a sleep-deprived parent at 2 AM.

          Oh, and to seal the deal, you hire a babysitter for parents who are former clients and having multiple children. That way, they can get rid of the baby and the older ones all at once.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The other issue with using graduates of the class is that you probably need a 2:1 baby to parent ratio as some of those infants are going to be asleep and the parents don’t need practice reading a book while a baby naps.

    • Randy M says:

      My wife teaches Bradley Birthing classes, which run 12 weeks. The final week is the “what to do now that you have a baby” class. She’s also a labor doula which includes a follow up visit which would help address newborn concerns.

      Classes will be unplanned just like parenting is, you show up, we give you a baby and you deal with whatever issues it might have (under supervision) for the duration.

      This is, uh, not at all how it’s done, though.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Which is backwards (in my view).

        11 weeks of preparation for an event that will be attended by between 1 and many licensed medical professionals and will last less than 72 hours (and hopefully a lot less), and 1 class of preparation for months worth of issues when the parents are frequently alone, stressed and sleep deprived.

        This is, uh, not at all how it’s done, though.

        I know, but I also know how to hold a plastic doll that makes crying sounds!

        • Randy M says:

          Which is backwards (in my view).

          Perhaps given our current demographics (many fewer families with multiple children and cousins) you are right, but I think a lot more young adults tend to have some experience with even young children than they do with labor. Also, this is a class on natural childbirth, which some doctors have little to no experience with and in any case the mother is the one who is actually doing the delivering–the doctor is there for emergencies.
          Also, the class covers prenatal nutrition, exercises for pregnancy, emergency/unusual situations, first stage labor (when doctors aren’t likely to be present), lactation, and, as mentioned, the “how to handle a baby” class, so the actual labor is about 8 of 24 hours, including practice.

          I know, but I also know how to hold a plastic doll that makes crying sounds!

          I mean, “Here’s a baby, let’s see what happens over the next hour” is unlikely to give the prospective parent insight into many of the situations they might encounter, with the experience skewed towards “How to treat a newborn who is agitated at being separated from it’s mother”.

          Which is backwards (in my view).

          But, this is basically my critique of the wedding planning industry and the mindset of certain young brides with much preoccupation on a wedding and little on planning a life together.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m not intending to imply that those classes add nothing, only that the ratios are backwards, our 2 kids were natural, at home with a midwife and our next (today is the “due date” in fact, probably why I’m thinking about it) will be as well.

            I mean, “Here’s a baby, let’s see what happens over the next hour” is unlikely to give the prospective parent insight into many of the situations they might encounter, with the experience skewed towards “How to treat a newborn who is agitated at being separated from it’s mother”.

            At the very least it would be good for a lot of first time fathers as their experiences have a tendency towards this problem. It would also be good for mothers who end up having issues feeding (a decent fraction) for how to deal with a child that they can’t calm with them boobies. My personal opinion is that to many women lean a little to hard on the “I’m your warm, comforting mother, here is some milk” routine and end up having to break the “feed them to get them to sleep” cycle as late as 3 years old (people I have known) and that some could have benefitted from this.

            Perhaps given our current demographics (many fewer families with multiple children and cousins) you are right, but I think a lot more young adults tend to have some experience with even young children than they do with labor.

            My target audience would be DINK couples having their first kid in their late 20s/early 30s.

          • Randy M says:

            today is the “due date” in fact, probably why I’m thinking about it

            Oh that’s right, we discussed elevated fetal heart rate sometime within the last nine months, didn’t we? How’d that turn out?

            My target audience would be DINK couples having their first kid in their late 20s/early 30s.

            Right, and many such people in 2018 grew up not looking after younger siblings or cousins–making that content less critical to include–whereas I suspect even back 20-30 years ago, when this curriculum was developed that wasn’t the case. But at the time most labor was done at a hospital without sometimes even the father present, let alone children or siblings, so few people had first hand experience observing labor.

    • Salem says:

      How would this differ from, let’s say, NCT? Is it just that there’s a real baby?

        • Salem says:

          They’re a charity who’ve been running incredibly popular antenatal courses for over 60 years. It definitely includes how to change a nappy, how to soothe a crying child, how to stay calm, etc. When I posted, I didn’t realise NCT wasn’t worldwide, so it’s understandable you haven’t heard of them, so let me rephrase:

          How would your course be different from the antenatal courses that already exist? Is it just that there’s a real baby?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Having a real baby is the main difference, changing the diaper of a squirmy baby is different from a calm one, and every child I have soothed has its own preferred way which actually shifts from who is doing the soothing (I’m top X% as a baby soother, just saying).

    • dodrian says:

      I believe this is an excellent idea. I am willing to offer my baby for the first class.

      It will take place from 10pm-3am tonight, and if this past week’s experience is any indication it will be the perfect opportunity for prospective parents to learn the many different soothing techniques for 4-month olds and why none of them actually work. SSC readers in West Texas may join in this unique learning opportunity by replying to this comment.

    • Well... says:

      The problem is, being the parent of a baby just isn’t that hard, despite how much first-time parents complain about it. (Provided the baby is basically healthy I mean. Serious health problems undoubtedly make it WAY harder. Presumably having multiples is harder too.)

      What would be really valuable is a class that teaches you how to KEEP being a good parent once your second kid is born and your first kid acts all jealous and resentful and does things that make you want to explode with violence.