Open Thread 6: Open Renewal

The research I’m doing now seems to be funging against blogging more than my usual work, so expect it to be quiet around here for a while. Here, have an open thread.

1. Comments of the month…let’s see…no obvious winner this time, but Irenist tries to expand my color-tribe set and Gingko gives a story about Italian mercenaries I would love to have a better source for. Also, Jim (not that Jim) confirms a version of my Thatcher/Osama story but also gives me an alternate hypothesis. What if celebrating the deaths of people like Margaret Thatcher or Joan Rivers is more acceptable than that of Osama precisely because people feel the celebrations of the former aren’t serious, but the celebrations of the latter are?

2. I mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it again: Raemon’s having a Kickstarter for the Secular Solstice celebration.

3. I confess that my attempts with advertising on this blog have failed miserably. AdSense was giving me fifty cents a day for 10,000 page views. Amazon has been a little better, but its much-touted AI recommendation engine believes that visitors here want to buy like three hundred different versions of Thrff Jub’f Pbzvat Gb Qvaare (rot13d so it doesn’t take this as further evidence that it’s on the right track), and nobody clicks on the affiliate banner. This annoys me, because when I can make people click on Amazon links for some other reason (like to see a funny textbook cover), they buy a bunch of things that day which I get credit for, but those same people who are reading my blog every day and buying things from Amazon every day don’t use the affiliate link. I will try to forgive y’all.

So, offer. If any of you are experienced in blog advertising, I’ll make you a deal. Figure out how to get me more money (not through obnoxious popup ads or spamming product reviews) and I’ll give you some percent of it we can negotiate.

4. I will be starting a new Less Wrong Survey soon and want to get you guys in as well (don’t worry, I’ll make sure to keep it separate so as to not contaminate results). I’m most excited about the idea of asking digit ratio on the survey to see if I can replicate some of the weird results that have been coming out about that linking it to different kinds of intelligences, political positions, et cetera.

I think we’ve had a history of getting some interesting results on the survey (for example, we found a REALLY strong oldest-child bias last time, which flies in the face of some supposed disproofs of birth order theory I’ve read) but I’m not sure how I would get them out to where they could help anyone besides bloggers. I am under the impression I can’t get any of my data published, even if I had publishable results, unless I got an IRB somewhere to approve the survey. Is this right?

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426 Responses to Open Thread 6: Open Renewal

  1. Anonymous says:

    The topic of sex differences in online harassment has come up several times. Here is a Pew survey (or pdf) of self-reported harassment, which breaks things down by sex.

    Note the interaction between sex and age. Youth predicts harassment, but much more so for women than for men. Women are 50% more likely to be stalked and men are 50% more likely to receive physical threats, but if we restrict to young people, women are 4x as likely to be stalked and men are 10% more likely to receive physical threats.

  2. Douglas Knight says:

    Hey, people obsessively following the changing tagline (not me — I just stumbled on this), did Scott remove the exclamation point in the past day? 1 2

  3. megazver says:

    I’ve spent the last several days reading through your archives and I am nowhere near done but I’d like to second the call for a Patreon. I consider it a flexible subscription platform rather than donations and I strongly feel this is the ideal way to monetize this blog.

  4. Sniffnoy says:

    I suddenly remembered what the “dark matter universe” bits of “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup” reminded me of: Adam Cadre’s review of “The City and The City”. (It seems I’m bad at remembering this sort of insight, seeing as I remember thinking of the whole Blue Tribe/Red Tribe dark-matter-universe sort of thing in terms of Ul Qoma and Beszel quite a while ago, and seem to have entirely forgotten about it until now.)

    I was going to post this in the “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup” comments but those are closed.

  5. k, so, queso says:

    Today I saw someone post an article about a study that found that men felt bad when their female SOs did well (e.g., in their careers), although they didn’t consciously admit it during the study. Link:

    The interesting part to me (besides being male and experiencing the opposite effect in my own personal life) was that all the associated comments were along the lines of “Well sure, if you only study douchebags!” and “The real men don’t do this!” There were other problems with the study, but I thought it was an interesting reaction for commenters to assume that the people they studied must have been uniquely awful as the best explanation for the results.

    I know there are many interpretations of this reaction, but it made me realize that tumblr-style crusaders and naive folks who assume intentions are good enough may be making the same category of mistake in their outlooks on life.

    Let’s say you start with two beliefs:
    1) Most people are decent.
    2) You’d have to be a jerk to be sexist.

    I would guess that these are two very common beliefs and frequently held simultaneously. Under the just world hypothesis, this is sort of what you’d arrive at. Now let’s say that, in the course of your further education, you encounter a third belief:

    3) Most people are kinda sexist.

    This creates some obvious cognitive dissonance: you can’t consistently hold all three beliefs at once. I think in the “average folks” scenario, people reject belief 3), and continue believing people are generally decent and if you’re not a jerk, you’re not sexist. Meanwhile, in the “tumblr” scenario, people reject belief 1), and believe that the world is an oppressive nightmare full of evil mutants, for whom ignorance is no excuse. I think that 2) is the most likely to be false, given things like association tests, involuntary exposure to existing culture, etc., and it also seems like the most useful in getting people to realize that they too can be unconsciously sexist without being evil. It seems to generalize to unfair bias in general. Does anyone see any interesting properties/flaws of this model?

    (Apologies if this qualifies as “gender on the open thread”, feel free to remove it)

    • Matthew says:

      Please move this to an appropriate thread rather than destroying it if it doesn’t belong here; it was interesting.

  6. Coscott says:

    Can someone send me a link to the interesting oldest-child bias information. I could not find any discussion of it.

  7. David says:

    Find your writing on mental illness really valuable.

    Any chance you could do an ADHD treatment one?

    I’m 30 and have just been diagnosed with it. I tend to oscillate between extremes of laziness and distractibility and extreme obsessive diligence. I’ve gone to grad school and I’ve fallen back into the first camp. Just cannot seem to motivate myself even though I’m passionate about the area I’m studying in. I’ve had some impressive academic and career achievements (from the times I managed to focus) but risk destroying my life unless I get my focus back now.

    I’m particularly worried about this paper finding that stimulant medication does not help academic performance on average

    Sorry if this was an inappropriate comment, many thanks for your time and consideration.

  8. AJD says:

    Equivalent complaint about motte-and-bailey discourse, kind of, from a Tumblr feminist:

    People have a knack of really over simplifying feminism like “feminism: the radical notion that women are people” or “feminism is literally just believing in equality” like… no its not its so much more complex than that ask any dingus if they think women and men should be equal they’ll probably say yeah but their actions and thoughts probably majorly contradict that so quit acting like anyones a feminist if they vaguely believe women are ok humans

  9. MugaSofer says:

    (I know there’s no “race and gender never help” disclaimer this time around, but still, hopefully this doesn’t count. It’s skirting the edges a little too much for my tastes.)

    Anyway: there are a lot of neoreactionary commenters here; and obviously we’re all much more likely to have read neoreactionary stuff.

    I recently had someone tell me this:

    “If there were any real examples of violent feminism, then anti-feminists would not have to resort to crying “misandry” … I therefore deduce that no death threats against misogynists have ever happened.”

    I said that I have, in fact, seen quite a few neoreactionaries talk about feminist death-threats. I’m sure you’ve all read them.

    But it turns out that it’s impossible to Google such a thing, because it’s swamped by high-profile articles about #GamerGate.

    Does anyone have links to such a post?

    • Anonymous says:

      When you talk about death threats, you mean anonymous threats via phone or email, right? So perhaps you should ask for harassment condemning misogyny, not harassment by feminists. The Duke Lacrosse coach and team received violent threats, although maybe not death threats. But there was physical vandalism, which adds a touch of reality.

      Kerri Dunn is a feminist who made violent threats. But they were directed at herself as a hoax.

    • Anonymous says:

      speaking of gamergate, eron gjoni claims to have received death threats

    • Matthew says:

      Scott’s tumblr had a response to a comment to that effect by Wil Wheaton where Scott gave several examples of such threats. Will edit to include link if I can dig it up.

      EDIT: Plenty of material

  10. 27chaos says:

    I will take the deletion as evidence that the disclaimer is always in effect, though I wish it weren’t. Consider me sufficiently warned for the future, I won’t start such a conversation again.

  11. Does anyone ever feel like they were part of a happy death spiral around Eliezer Yudkowsky? Because I feel like I’ve got one around Slate Star Codex right now.

    • Zorgon says:

      … am I right in thinking that “happy death spiral” is a Yudkowsky-invented term, and that you’re using his thinking regarding the phenomenon to describe your interaction with… his thinking? Including about the phenomenon?

      We might need a trigger warning for recursion here.

    • Vulture says:

      Definitely. Eliezer Yudkowsky happy death-spirals are a young man’s game, for when you’re just figuring out your epistemology. As you wizen and grow wiser, politics beckons; in a desperate grab for sanity, you find someone else worth worshiping. Someone more human. More… flawed.

      That man is Scott Alexander.

      (But seriously, I have noticed that I’m slavishly lifting all my political/meta-political opinions from Scott in exactly the same way I used to get all my philosophical opinions from Eliezer. Not sure how to feel about that.)

  12. 27chaos says:

    On your Who By Very Slow Decay post, there’s an Amazon advertisement on the side of the page for a fake Em*a Wats*n nude poster. You might want to remove her name entirely from the post, if that is possible.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you care if the image is fake? Why did you mention it?

      By “fake” do you mean “pirated”? Perhaps you are decrying the false claim that it is “nude”?

      • Vulture says:

        I don’t think anyone uses “fake” to mean “pirated”. But if you see a banner saying “Emm* W*ts*n Nudes LEAKED”, with some five-year-old photoshopped picture of her in a towel or something, how else would you describe that besides “fake”?

        Also, with regards to the grandparent, I personally would much prefer that Scott not start editing his posts to remove mention of anything which might then be advertised in some manner; better just to weather the advertisers and leave the posts alone.

        • Anonymous says:

          The other pictures sold by the same seller appear to me to be pirated but not photoshopped beyond what is usually considered “real,” so that is my guess for this one. Maybe if I had been paying more attention to EW five years ago I’d have other sources of information.

          • Vulture says:

            I haven’t really seen the ad in question; I was somewhat snarkily referring to a common kind of banner ad because I hadn’t read your comment carefully. Nonetheless, I think my point (that there any number of scam-type celebrity photo things which might reasonably be referred to as “fake”) still stands.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I agree that I can’t edit all posts that Amazon might connect to unsavory advertisements. But I also agree this is a problem and will annoy a lot of people and I don’t want it connected with this blog.

          The real solution is probably going to be that no one clicks on those things anyway and I should just delete the ads entirely and replace them with something better. But give me another week or so with the banners so I can get good data to confirm that intuition and figure out a better plan.

          • Anonymous says:

            Does Amazon tell you when someone buys something whether it was something that Amazon chose to advertise vs something they picked out? (Actually, what you want to know is if they clicked on the ad vs the generic referral link, not whether they bought something advertised, but I doubt it tells you that.)

          • aguycalledjohn says:

            If it works like the one I use you can ask it to exclude certain words

  13. Murphy says:

    This isn’t exactly what was described but it’s the closest I can find:

    >”Battles were rare and mostly indecisive, with commanders avoiding head-on attacks while attempting to lure their adversaries into traps and ambushes. This avoidance of battle led to an unwritten mutual agreement whereby once realising that the odds were against them soldiers would surrender rather than fight:

    Victors usually released rank-and-file prisoners after taking their weapons and horses, which saved the cost of guarding and maintaining the captured soldiers, who would be useless until they had found new equipment. This attitude, like the soldiers preference for becoming a prisoner rather than fighting against great odds, led to criticism of the whole system, including the “scientific” strategy of maneuvers, marches, entrenched camps, and battles in which prisoners predominated among the defeated casualties. But when both sides had the identical culture and followed similar rules, essentially the same stalemate resulted whether or not the combatants had observed a more or less sanguinary mode of warfare. It matters little to the outcome of the conflict, for example, whether both sides release, imprison, or kill prisoners, but, to some contemporary critics, the Italian method seemed unmartial.”

  14. Anonymous says:

    The last lesswrong survey says:

    Academics (teaching)
    For-profit work
    Government work
    Independently wealthy
    Non-profit work
    Did not answer

    Where is “RETIRED”?

  15. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    This was going to be a reply to the Columbus/Crusades debate, but it’s more general than that:

    I think 99% of moral judgment of premodern history is silly.

    This is because pretty much everyone conquered everything they could conquer, so since modern morals are anti-conquest, we just end up condemning whoever had power. Put another way, your moral worth is a function of your algorithm, not your actions, and everyone was running “If stronger than x conquer x”.

    There are two kinds of judgments we can still make. One is to morally praise or blame given evidence of someone running a better or worse algorithm than most. The other is to judge nonmorally, that is, to say that it was unfortunate that Y conquered X, however typical the algorithm that led Y to do so.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Put another way, your moral worth is a function of your algorithm, not your actions,”

      Not if you are a consequentialist it’s not.

      But yeah, I agree with you – we shouldn’t care and, I suspect, most people don’t. They mainly just pretend they do to win signalling points. i.e. Oh, my tribe needs a reason to rationalize hate of your tribe, let’s dredge up some random massacre or historical injustice from x amounts of years before and claim that our hatred is moral because of that.

      • Aris Katsaris says:

        “Put another way, your moral worth is a function of your algorithm, not your actions,”
        “Not if you are a consequentialist it’s not”

        Surely for consequentalists too? Consequentialists just say that your algorithm must take as input the expected consequences of your actions.

        • Vulture says:

          Consequentialists just say that your algorithm must take as input the expected consequences of your actions.

          This is true enough. But the point is that consequentialism, unlike (say) virtue ethics, does not have a built-in evaluateGoodness(Person) function, and usually when a consequentialist talks about a person’s ‘moral worth’ they mean something completely different: the weighting of that person’s life (or desires or something else, depending on context) in an ideal utility function.

  16. Dude Man says:

    So I have a question about neoreactionaries that has been bugging me for a little while. It seems that neoreactionaries like to use Victorian England and turn of the century America as arguments in favor of monarchy. However, neither of these are great examples of monarchy in the first place. Victorian England was a monarchy, but it was a monarchy in the same way that the present day United Kingdom is a monarchy; the queen was a figurehead and parliament held the real power. Meanwhile, turn of the century America was obviously not a monarchy, since America has always been a republic since it was founded. Even if these time periods were better than today (and I would argue they aren’t), you can’t use them as arguments in favor of monarchy. So why do neoreactionaries keep bringing them up?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      On the object-level, turn of the century America had much better policies than modern America. But on the meta-level, turn of the century America was still a democracy, which means that it was inevitably doomed to adopt the policies of modern America. The argument for monarchy (or monarchically-inspired systems like neocameralism) is that it can resist this sort of decay.

      • Dude Man says:

        However, this sort of decay, if it exists, is not limited to democratic governments. Surely the policies of the Russian empire were better under Catherine the Great than Nicholas II and the Qing dynasty was in better shape in 1700 than 1850 (though the latter has a lot to do with European imperialism).

        • Matthew says:

          Define “better.” For all intents and purposes, Russian serfdom became equivalent to slavery during Catherine II’s reign, among other things.

          The Russian Empire did rather well during the 18th century, but remember: a)There was a whole lot of sparsely populated land to incorporate to the East, with the previous potential threats from that direction no longer so threatening, and b)the Recz Pospolita had by this point developed an incredibly stupid system of government, making it easy pickings for its Prussian, Habsburg, and Russian neighbors. It’s easier to prosper when you’re surrounded by powers in decline.

    • Leonard says:

      I don’t think neoreactionaries are arguing that those two historical situations were monarchy. Just that (a) they were better governed than now, and (b) that was a consequence of being less democratic than we are now. Iterate, and it is (maybe) an argument for monarchy.

    • Anthony says:

      Queen Victoria actually had significantly more political power than does Queen Elizabeth II, though most of the difference was in informal power. Formally, most of the powers which Queen Elizabeth II lacks were stripped away before 1837, but the political consensus of the times was such that Victoria was able to exert much more influence than is Elizabeth.

  17. no one special says:

    Open Thread? Don’t mind if I do.

    I was watching the latest Doctor Who, and the opening stinger (before the credits) was (roughly):

    “People of Earth, we have a terrible decision to make; All of humanity vs one innocent life.”

    To which my immediate reaction was, “That’s no decision! Clearly the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and you kill one innocent rather than kill billions, no matter how much it turns your stomach.”

    So, thanks a lot for that, consequentialists.

    P.S. The actual episode made it much more unclear, as the danger to all of humanity was uncertain. Not sure if we want to spoiler here.

    P.P.S. I have been watching the LessWrong-o-sphere for a while now, not entirely sure if I agree or not. Clearly, I picked this one up pretty strongly.

    P.P.P.S My spell check changed consequentialists into constitutionalists, which would make this post totally insane.

    • MugaSofer says:

      I missed that stinger, and so the “innocent life” thing came out of nowhere for me. Surprisingly effective twist, considering.

      … kind of disappointed by the way they handled it, though. Stupid moon.

      EDIT: incidentally, I found the science in that episode surprisingly Scott Joke-ey. Apparently the internet did not approve.

  18. Re monetization: I think Patreon is a great idea. But if you don’t like that, have you thought about writing some short stories and selling them? Or selling merchandise (e.g., Moloch T-shirts)? (These also could be the extras for Patreon.)

    • Vulture says:

      As I recall, someone (maybe Scott?) tried to start selling “I broke my back lifting Moloch up to heaven / And all I got was this lousy Disneyland with no children” tshirts on Zazzle or something, but they were taken down because Disney is notoriously litigious about trademark stuff.

  19. CAE_Jones says:

    I hit 6/7 of the ADHD-PI symptoms from the DSMV, according to the Wikipedia article (it was formerly 7/7 but after more than a decade of effort I *think* people can tell when I’m listening now). >=6 months and >=2 environments are check, and if you want to see serious impairment in functioning, pick your domain. The only thing I’m uncertain of is if it isn’t better explained by any of the numerous other disorders (or my visual impairment not getting handled correctly screwing up my psychological development).

    No one has ever once suggested this might be what’s going on. Except me, once, 4 years ago. I was not especially impressed by how the necessary professionals responded but I got put on Focalin for two weeks before a crappy pileup in the second week convinced the doctor that we should focus on treating depression instead (the ensuing year of Prozac was not that amazing).

    I suppose it’s possible that, if my life suddenly stops sucking, I’ll suddenly stop having ADD symptoms and will actually be able to learn/work/actually matter. But since psychiatrists are doctors, not Messiahs, I’m given to wonder if trying to treat the problem as ADD in “I can talk to professionals without my parents again, round 2” is wise.

    Replies will not be considered medical advice, I’m planning on trying to get access to a meetspace doctor, etc.

  20. Panflutist says:

    I’d love to experience one of these secular solstice events and am seriously considering organizing one here at CERN, but I fear that no one would be interested. Cynicism seems to be rife among secular people. Now if I had a co-conspirator here, that would change the game…

  21. Anonymous says:

    In a way that is not meant to be disparaging or contemptuous, I would be interested in knowing whether NRx/red pill/manosphere ideas of race and gender correlate in any way to a cuckolding fetish. I don’t really expect to get much of a response, but it is something that interests me.

    One of the things that bothers me about my kink is that it lacks a counterbalance in terms of opposition to the ideas the fetish portrays. Non-con fetishists have a strong pro-consent aspect of feminism to get behind, and sex positive culture in general is a good place for accepting kinks that can violate actual beliefs regarding that sort of thing, but cuckold fetishism seems to lack such a support system.

    Feel free to remove this if it isn’t what you want in your comment section, Scott.

    • Nita says:

      I feel like the point you’re trying to make is a little unclear. In one sentence, you’re talking about “counterbalance” and “opposition”, but in the next one seemingly the same ideas turn into something fetishists can “get behind” and find acceptance?

      Anyway, on Red Pill and cuckolding. My impression is that the fear of being cheated on is one of the strongest driving forces of the movement / ideology. For example, Athol Kay, possibly the “nicest” redpill-ish blogger on the web, seems to base the entire edifice of his advice on something like this: if you behave in the wrong (“too beta”) way, your wife will become less attracted to you and run off with the nearest “alpha” guy.

      • Zorgon says:

        I got the impression that Anon was giving us examples of kinks for which there were examples of existing belief systems which can provide a framework in which the kink-behaviour was sufficiently granted context in order to make it seem “OK” in a way it might not be in isolation. For example: Non-con fetishists can place their fetish in a sex-positive feminist context which legitimises it in a way that bypasses the potential “ick factor” it would have without it.

        I agree about the general link between redpillers and cuckolding/abandonment fear, btw. They seem to talk about that an awful lot IME.

    • social justice warlock says:

      Someone once came to my blog from something like “ darkenlightenment gop conservative neoreaction incest,” which I assume combines the interests of exactly one person, but hey, you never know.

  22. AR+ says:

    Saw this article on Twitter: This Is What We Are Celebrating on Columbus Day. It’s Ghastly.

    Two thoughts. One: The opening line laments the Crusades in an article lamenting the conquest of the New World. My objection that the Levant was rightful Christian-Roman land conquered by the Muslims prompted me to look up the numbers: Christian Jerusalem fell to Muslim conquerors in 637. First Crusade: 1096. That’s 459 years. Columbus landed in 1492, which was 522 years ago.

    So if Christendom is supposed to have accepted the loss of Jerusalem by conquest by the time of the first Crusade, then it is also long past time that anti-colonialists accept Hispaniola and almost all of the rest of the New World as native European land.

    Second: if the description of Columbus’s motivations are accurate, then he definitely deserved some credit for ambitious goal-seeking behavior, however many other failures of thought he may have committed. Faced w/ the failure of the Crusades and lack of political will to try again, he set out to try and make all of Christendom so much wealthier that it would be able to finance another Crusade, and win. We should all be so motivated, though ideally with less motivated reasoning.

    • veronica d says:

      The arguments over Columbus day are not about Columbus the man. Instead, they are a proxy argument for how we view and celebrate our shared history.

      • AR+ says:

        I wonder if there is some other event we could celebrate that also shouts, “European supremacy!” but w/o having to be about someone so completely Evil as Columbus.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          My mental model of the debates has the holiday defended first by Italian-Americans, since Columbus Day is currently the big celebration of that group, and second by general anti-SJism that bristles at this kind of change. The former motivation could be appeased by a substitute holiday, but the latter will fight any change that has the desired benefit.

    • Alejandro says:

      So if Christendom is supposed to have accepted the loss of Jerusalem by conquest by the time of the first Crusade, then it is also long past time that anti-colonialists accept Hispaniola and almost all of the rest of the New World as native European land.

      I don’t think this analogy works. The modern analogy to the Crusades would not be decrying colonialism and refusing to celebrate Columbus’ Day, it would be actively launching a war on the Native Americans’ behalf to retake the continent from whites–something nobody would support, of course. In this sense, all anti-colonialists do “accept” by now the New World as European land. Conversely, the medieval analogy to revisionist attitudes towards Columbus would be Muslims acknowledging the fact that they stole land from Christians and not being proud about it, treating the remaining Christian minorities in these lands nicely, and so on. And of course we can consistently agree that they should have done that, without at the same time supporting the Crusades.

      • AR+ says:

        Well, if we’re comparing the eras like that, then there’s a few more changes that’d have to be made. If the native North Americans had managed to hold onto land west of the Rockies, and had formed an industrial Great Power, and the US still basically accepted Manifest Destiny as a divine directive even if they weren’t currently conquering more land just this second, you’d have an analogous situation. If, in that history, the natives had gotten it together when the Civil War happened and they took advantage of the situation to retake all land up to the Atlantic, how much of that would you be willing to call “reconquest” instead of “conquest?”

        I think I may have been unclear on something. I’m saying that the Crusades were a good idea, not that people aren’t still entitled to be bitter about colonialism or even to do something about it, if they can manage to. Sure, if the few dozen most radical individuals in Aztlan Nationalism were actually millions of committed people and they actually tried to make my hometown part of an independent Aztlan nation by revolting against the US, I’d fight to stop them. But I wouldn’t really be able to call them capital-E Evil in the way that most people conceptualize the Crusades to be Evil.

        • Matthew says:

          But I wouldn’t really be able to call them capital-E Evil in the way that most people conceptualize the Crusades to be Evil.

          There are a lot reasons people consider the Crusades to be evil that extend beyond the hypothetical no-ulterior-motives version of the Crusades that you seem concerned with. Setting aside the whole sacking-of-Constantinople thing in a later crusade, when the Crusaders of the First Crusade arrived in the Holy Land, the first people they encountered were Arab Christians. Whom they promptly slaughtered, because they didn’t bother to ask first and just assumed they were Muslim, being dressed like Middle Easterners. There’s also the inconvenient fact that over the course of the Crusades, they killed more Jews in Europe than Muslims in the Middle East. The Crusades as they actually occurred were pretty spectacularly evil in a wide variety of ways.

          • AR+ says:

            Certainly. Yet you can condemn the firebombing of Dresden w/o thinking that the liberation of Europe was a bad idea. Most opinions on the Crusades have no knowledge of any of that, and also (and I consider this the more important) w/o regard for any historic context other than “Europeans bad.” Not only do most people who would call the Crusades Evil not know about the Crusader sack of Constantinople, but neither do they know about the Turkish sack of Constantinople, which finally destroyed the last fragment of the Roman Empire once and for all in 1453, just 39 years prior to the reconquest of Granada and Columbus’ landing in Hispaniola.

            Yet, you still have people who think that this act is making a legitimate point about European supremacy, because apparently the past doesn’t become morally relevant to the present until the exact moment when Europeans really started winning.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            I think that probably the most common thing people would know about Constantinople is that it was sacked by the Turks in 1453.

          • AR+ says:

            Of the people who know what Constantinople is, yes, I’d guess you are completely right.

          • Anonymous says:

            The Church at the time explicitly condemned and tried to stop the killing of Jews, as well as the sack of Constantinople.

            Most importantly the Crusades weren’t particularly bloody for the standards of wars in history.

            I’m an atheist so I have no axe to grind, and I have always found it astonishing that a civilization that just recently took part in the immense scale massacres of civilians of WW2, including the atomic bombings of Japan – a quite unique contribution to the annals of historical atrocities – deems the rather unexceptional Crusades a timeless stain on its conscience. The medieval people themselves would probably find the carpet bombings perpetrated by the Allies shockingly cruel.

            All in all the Church had a humanizing and civilizing effect on the barbaric warrior class of Europe, and made the continent overall more peaceful, not more warlike. For example, the Viking ceasing their raids after christianization.

            It is precisely because I’m atheist that I don’t care for anti-clerical arguments based on Christianity itself such as “people who call for wars aren’t true Christian”. I see the church as a state-like organization, the ultimate authority of medieval Europe, and for the standard of historical states, this one proved particularly beneficial in many ways. It did make wars which I don’t necessarily approve of, but the thing is, all great states made wars and behaved horribly, so why single out the church.

          • MugaSofer says:

            @Anonymous: Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

          • Randy M says:

            Careful you don’t accidentally subscribe to all anonymous newsletters, though. That might be a bit much.

  23. Andrei says:

    Probably it’s irrelevant by now, but:

    A long time ago, you had another blog where you kinda reviewed The Last Superstition, and you mentioned that it breezes past the pre-Socratics, without any attempt to actually explain how they make sense in context, all while asserting that they do. This I know because I binge-read that blog this year. What I want to tell you is that I read a little “popular philosophy” book called Sophie’s World, which, surprisingly, while only talking about the medievals and the moderns in terms like “here’s what they believed”, when the subject is pre-Socratics it actually makes an attempt to show why they arrived at a particular (strange?) conclusion. I guess the book is quite known among philosophers and probably to yourself – I only dare recommend it because it’s never mentioned on any of your blogs – quite weak evidence, I admit.

  24. Re: monetization: how about a link to GiveWell/Against Malaria Foundation/MIRI/Elua? Pick an accompanying text somewhere between “Like this blog? I don’t need your money, but X does. If Slate Star Codex was a factor in your decision, I’d be delighted if you let me know?” and “‘acausally’ sponsor SSC by giving to X – tell me about your donation, and I’ll reduce my own by 10%. I promise to buy only moderately ridiculous things with this money.”

  25. RCF says:

    Another issue regarding Osama may be that Thatcher died from natural causes, so people who feel glee at her death do not feel responsible for it. On the other hand Osama was deliberately killed by the US government, so feeling glee at the death is ratifying this decision, and so there’s a sense of responsibility, and a feeling that we should have some sense of regret.

  26. grendelkhan says:

    Do you have opinions about TMS? It seems like a scaled-down version of ECT, in that you don’t have to be anesthetized and the side effects are much more tolerable, but the effect size is also smaller.

  27. D_Alex says:

    Scott – can I buy you a present?

  28. JME says:

    I think that the thing to keep in mind about the condottieri is a reluctance to fight in pitched battles characterized not just the mercenary warfare of the condottieri (although they perhaps took it the furthest), but Medieval warfare in general — a type of warfare of which the condottieri were at the late end. Weaker armies generally preferred to retreat from stronger ones, and they could usually get away, burning bridges, obstructing roads, etc, as they retreated.

    Things that later turned into pitched battles in Medieval warfare were often attempts at destructive raids that accidentally become battles when the sides blundered into each other due to poor intel.

    In short, you could go with the view that the condottieri had an aversion to pitched battle generally common to Medieval European warfare, but greater competence at actually enacting their preferred operational strategies.

  29. Curious: What’s the pun-basis of the title of this thread? Googling “open renewal” gives only 8,570 results that appear to be about all different things, and the first one is this page.

  30. Vilhelm S says:

    Apparently dogs learn to rely on their owners for problem solving:

    Monique Udell, an animal behaviorist at Oregon State University, Corvallis, says her own study of dog and wolf behavior, also presented at the meeting, supports Range’s contention that dogs are waiting for orders. To find out if dogs are “independent problem solvers,” she presented 20 adult dogs (10 pets and 10 from shelters) with sealed containers of summer sausage. Each animal was allotted 2 minutes to open it. Ten captive wolves were given the same test. Not one of the adult dogs succeeded; most did not even try. Meanwhile, eight of the 10 wolves opened the container in less than 2 minutes. So did dog puppies, indicating that dogs are no less capable of the task than wolves, but “as the dog grows and becomes more dependent on its human owner that [independent] behavior is inhibited,” Udell said.

    The Whispering Earring of Til Iosophrang, puppy version!

    • Hannah says:

      It might not be the problem solving aspect that causes the adult dogs not to try. We generally try to train dogs not to break things (except things marked as toys) and not to go after people-food (except when offered). Puppies and wolves don’t have this training, but (depending on the history of the shelter dogs involved) the adult dogs likely do.

      It’s an interesting study nonetheless.

  31. Tropylium says:

    Tangential commenting question that has probably come up before: is there something wrong with the Identicon system here? There seems to be one icon that repeats for a lot of different commentors — by my count, in this thread alone about a dozen named users and (judging how they talk to one another) at least two different anons. Including e.g. all three current replies to the previous top-level comment.

  32. guy says:

    I have a mental disorder–pedophilia.

    Sorry for polluting this blog by being here.

    But I just had to say that a good chunk of my political views exist due to this disorder–one important terminal goal being to make it easier for people like me to get what I like. Toward that end, I’m earning to give and helping folks with different motives but similar instrumental goals. Too bad I can’t be honest about my true motives because associating pedophilia with causes would probably sabotage them. In fact, even associating myself with causes is risky. Luckily, earning to give avoids that.

    Well, have a nice day.

    • Vulture says:

      Sorry for polluting this blog by being here.

      Don’t be silly. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would really appreciate hearing your perspective and seeing you around here some more 🙂 Niceness, community, and civilization and all that.

    • Bastomet says:

      In a previous thread, Scott said he doesn’t want people discussing this, because it could reflect poorly on him personally.

    • Deiseach says:

      So what is it that you want? A way to be integrated into society without triggering the “rioting lynch mob with torches and pitchforks” reaction when you admit to your condition? That is possibly doable.

      Legitimisation of sexual intercourse between adults and children? Seeing as how the age of majority seems to be creeping ever downwards, from 21 to 18 to (I’m seeing a push for) 16, this may come along. Downward age of consent laws? Depends where you are in the world.

      Trying to overcome the “ick” factor when a forty year old or older male is engaged in a sexual relationship with a fourteen year old male or female may be tougher, but again, I wouldn’t bet against the ultimate victory there.

      Wanting sex with very young children, ten years old or younger? I still think that there will be resistance on that front for a long time.

      You haven’t provided enough information to let us know what it is you want, or if you’re a chickenhawk, ephebophile, hebephile or ‘classic’ paedophile, or what you’re doing about resisting/indulging your desires.

      But definitely, being deceitful is not going to get you anywhere in the long run.

      • Matthew says:

        I’m going to avoid using the word per Scott’s earlier request, but note that the term the poster above used refers specifically to attraction to the prepubescent. I doubt society is moving toward acceptance of that. The term for attraction to adolescents in the 12-15 range whose bodies already display characteristics of sexual maturity is ephebophilia.

      • guy says:

        But definitely, being deceitful is not going to get you anywhere in the long run

        I mostly don’t like deceit. I wouldn’t make up facts or try to mislead someone against their own goals. But I would, sometimes, hide my motives.

        It’s true that I need some people to be open with to avoid going off the rails. Sometimes I can find people who share my motives to talk with, but I admit a lot of those are dumb or crazy.

        • Fella says:

          I think you’ll find some sympathetic folks in the LessWrong-sphere, or at least people willing to listen to you and have a real discussion. Private-messaging interesting people with questions is probably the way to go, since a lot of forums will probably want to avoid having any public record of such talk. In private, though, I think you have an extremely high chance of finding friends

          • Nornagest says:

            A community with absurdly high Openness standards and which prides itself on being free from the biases of conventionality, but which is bad enough at PR that it approaches pathology?

            Yeah, you could do worse. Unfortunately.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who are the “folks with different motives but similar instrumental goals”?

      In your place I’d simply wait for the development of the kind of sex robot or virtual reality experience that would satisfy you. I bet it will happen sooner than legalization of you know what. See if you can donate to that.

  33. Morgenstern says:

    Quick question for conworlders / gamers here;

    I’m finishing up the setting/rules document for an frpg campaign I’m running but realized my MS Paint map is trash. Usually that’s not an issue but this game has a strong hexcrawl element and detailed economic system so precise locations and geographical features are rather important.

    Is there a good low-effort program for making semi-detailed maps? I found a few mapping programs but they were all fairly onerous to use as a newb, and hand-drawing it will probably eat a weekend.

  34. A Cat in Ulthar says:

    For the next survey, can you allow writing in multiple mental illnesses and disabilities? The way you did it last year most likely under-counted every specific disability, given that co-morbidity is very common. I also recommend having a separate “Hispanic or not” category from race, given that Hispanics come in many races, not just white.

  35. Tab Atkins says:

    Re: advertising, give up and do a Patreon if you want to make up support costs. Tons of writers and artists use it now and have dumped their ads (which lessens my ad-blocker guilt a lot). It should be trivial to pull more than the $15/month you were getting from ads, and you do it without annoying anyone at all. (I’ll gladly throw you $1/month.)

    • Tab Atkins says:

      I hadn’t read the rest of the comments already suggesting Patreon (and suggesting that Scott doesn’t want to take donations), but seriously, just suck it up and do it. You can take utilons from a handful of us directly in the form of money, or from all of us all the time, in the form of annoyance with ads, or cognitive load of remembering to use a particular affiliate link (and feeling guilty when we forget).

      Plus, dude, you’re a psych doctor in a low population state (iirc). A good chunk of your readers are software engineers and other high-paying jobs. We make more than you. Don’t worry about it. Put a disclaimer about not wanting donations from people making less than $X if you want, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

  36. Dan T. says:

    Now I feel guilty… I just made a fairly decent-sized Amazon order a couple of days ago, and didn’t use your (or anybody’s) affiliate link to do it.

    I do use AdBlock Plus and Disconnect (a Firefox add-on that blocks a lot of intrusive stuff), but have (for now) disabled both of those on this site, though this could change if the site moves in the direction of annoyance as so many other sites have. Newspaper/magazine/TV-station sites are almost unbearable these days with their embedded autoplaying videos (even with all the blockers enabled), manipulative clickbait headlines, bogus pagination, slideshows, listicles, etc… and even some otherwise-decent sites (e.g., Snopes and TV Tropes) have gone too far in the direction of embedding lots of annoyances. Those sorts of sites (the ones that have an actual community rather than just being faceless corporations) will sometimes try to hector you into turning off ad blockers, making lots of guilt-arousals, but if you do you’re thoroughly assaulted (sometimes by actual malware; there’s a whole thread in the TV Tropes forum about the bad stuff that slips through whatever vetting the ad networks do).

    Try opening one of those sites with Firefox’s developer console activated, and you’ll see literally hundreds of HTTP requests and script executions (often with errors and warnings), going on indefinitely long after you loaded the page. It’s a real waste of bandwidth, and sometimes even crashes the browser.

  37. pneumatik says:

    I was recently involved in a mini-debate on facebook over the existence of the Christian God that evolved into arguing over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin as literally the shroud worn by Jesus when he died that was imprinted with a sort-of perfect image of him through some miracle. What I found interesting was how given a belief in the modern Christian God a believer can argue a lot of different things that support His existence. But the evidence is all secondary or circumstantial. In the debate God was like a hidden variable created to explain otherwise unrelated events. It feels related to variables like g or the proposed hidden variable control spooky physics phenomena.

    Does tactic of inventing a hidden variable that is difficult or impossible to directly test have a name? It seems like it would be a common tactic with deists in debates with atheists, but it’s also similar to a lot of scientific theory-building. There are a number of different models for how the human mind works, for example, that people argue over but that are very difficult to test. Is this just a normal outcome from humans applying their pattern-recognition engine to the world and then being pre-disposed to believe their engine’s results over someone else’s (a mix of Blink and Thinking, Fast and Slow, I suppose)?

    Related to Scott’s previous post, the process of writing this comment helped me develop my thinking on this topic.

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) The shroud was not worn by Jesus as he died, it was the burial cloth that the body was wrapped in after being taken from the cross, partially prepared for burial, and laid in the tomb. The argument that this is the imprint of the body as it laid in the tomb is that somehow, at the moment of the resurrection, the image was miraculously imprinted on the cloth. There’s interesting (if you’re interested in history of relics) links to the Sudarium and the Mandylion associated with the Shroud, and the appearance in art of the image of the Man of Sorrows and the motif of the Arma Christi.
      (2) It is not necessary to believe in the authenticity of the shroud as evidence for, or proof of, the resurrection. It is permissible to venerate it, in the same way as a crucifix or a statue may be venerated, but it is not Official Catholic Teaching that this is the real shroud.
      (3) I’m traditional (not Traditionalist) Catholic, and I’m agnostic about it. I don’t particularly believe it’s a fake, but I don’t particularly believe it’s genuine, either. There seem to be interesting anomalies about it, but I am utterly uninterested in the row between the ‘true believer’ Sindologist types and the equally ‘true believer’ Leonardo da Vinci faked it up in a spare ten minutes types.

    • NonsignificantName says:

      I’ve seen it called an x-of-the-gaps argument, with x being “god” in arguments about theism or “g” in arguments about IQ.

      • Anonymous says:

        Google hasn’t seen it called g of the gaps. With good reason, that the analogy is ridiculous. No one has ever isolated an ability and got g redefined to mean everything else that remains. The closest is hierarchical models that divide g into verbal-quantitative-spacial, or crystallized-fluid-reaction. But in those cases, g remained as the sum.

      • Jaskologist says:

        “X of the gaps” is “we don’t know how this works, it must be X,” not what pneumatik is describing.

    • Mugasofer says:

      I think that’s just, y’know, modelling the world based on partial data. (Although most religions claim some people have observed God directly, so maybe that only applies to your friend.)

      Re: the Shroud of Turin:

      The Lady 3rd was shaking her head. “You confuse a high conditional likelihood from your hypothesis to the evidence with a high posterior probability of the hypothesis given the evidence,” she said, as if that were all one short phrase in her own language.

      There’s clearly something odd going on there. If you assign a high probability to Jesus being God, then that’s the most obvious explanation and you should be somewhat surprised if it turns out to be something else.

      But if you don’t, then it doesn’t obviously imply that hypothesis. There’s nothing about a shroud with an anomalous picture on it that screams “this man was raised from the dead by an ontologically basic divinity”. (Although it is mild evidence for “miracles”, if you use a very broad definition of the word.)

  38. Anonymous says:

    And of course, the computer thinks that “schizophrenia, chronic, severe” is exactly as different from “schizophrenia, chronic” as either of them is from “sprained ankle”

    Those sound awfully like icd-9 labels, so the computer should think that the sprained ankle is 650 times as different. Maybe 6500. Sprined Ankle is 845. Schizophrenia is 295. Those two examples don’t exist, but “schizophrenia, paranoid type, chronic” is 295.32.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The spreadsheet I’ve got doesn’t have the numbers on it, otherwise it’d be easy.

      • Kiboh says:

        Are you still doing this, and are you using Excel for it? Because if so, you could use the formula ‘=IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“schizop”,F4)),1,0)’, which produces a 1 if cell F4 contains the string “schizop” (case insensitive), and a 0 otherwise. Then you can sort data by that cell, and/or sum the 1s and 0s to find how many [schizop*] patients there are in a given set.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          That would make sense, except that my data sheet includes entries like “Scz”, “Schizo”, and just “Residual type” with schizophrenia apparently assumed.

  39. Nestor says:

    I’ve had some luck with matomy seo, their ads are extremely unobtrusive, most of the time your readers won’t even notice them, and sometimes the advertisers are interesting kooks like biblical numerologists or the like. If you signup through my reflink you don’t need to give me a percentage since it should be done automatically by them. There’s a link on the sidebar of my site under the j-list ad, “monetize your site”. They have a plugin for wordpress so installation is fairly painless.

  40. Rachael says:

    I’m interested in, and not surprised by, the birth order result. An overwhelming majority of my friendship group (mainly geeky Cambridge graduates) are eldest children, to the extent that I was slightly concerned my husband and I would find it harder to relate to our second child (but now she’s no longer hypothetical, I’m sure we’re bonding with her well).

  41. Carinthium says:

    First, an apology regarding an earlier debate. University has been stressful regarding the realism vs anti-realism issue, so I’m going to have to concede my earlier debates.

    That being said, thoughts on scientific realism vs scientific anti-realism?

    • peterdjones says:

      1 There are more than two distinct positions,

      2. Broad metaphysical realism is a good explanatory hypothesis, that accounts for where data comes from.

      3. Projecting the posts of individual theories as being real is problematical for a number of reasons, not least the revisability/refutability of all theories.

      4. It’s not clear why simpler theories should be more realistic.

    • Troy says:

      If technically correct is the best kind of correct, is winning by default the best kind of winning?

      I think the terms in the scientific realist/anti-realist debate are somewhat ill-defined, as they run together epistemological, metaphysical, and semantic issues.

      I’m a metaphysical and semantic realist in that I think that science aims at describing the way the world is independently of our theories, and that when a scientific theory is correct it succeeds in doing so.

      When it comes to whether our best scientific theories are true, I think this is just far too general of a question to have an answer more interesting than: it depends. Some of them are probably true, for some others it’s harder to say, and some others still are probably false, whether because the relevant scientific field is very speculative or because it’s unduly influenced by non-rational (political, ideological) factors.

      • Protagoras says:

        One of the motives for anti-realism is a belief that epistemological, metaphysical, and semantic issues cannot be separated from one another as cleanly as realist metaphysics require. How do you talk about how the world really is, apart from our ways of talking about it? What sense can it possibly make to try to have theories about how the world is apart from our theorizing? There are distinctions to be drawn, to be sure; there are outright fictions, and so conversely things that are not outright fictions, there are things that we treat more like data and things that we treat more like conclusions, and some conclusions are supported by more data than others. But it is not at all clear how to turn those various practices into a single, sharp division between our theories and the things theorized about without either contradicting yourself, making silly Kantian noises about unknowable Dinge an sich, or both. People run together the epistemological, metaphysical, and semantic issues because there’s no way to avoid doing so. And then (my biased summary), they either pretend that they aren’t doing it and call themselves realists, or admit that they’re doing it and don’t.

        • Troy says:

          How do you talk about how the world really is, apart from our ways of talking about it? What sense can it possibly make to try to have theories about how the world is apart from our theorizing?

          This is just what speech and thought are: representations of things independent from them. Even speech or thought about speech or thought isn’t usually about itself (aside from the Liar Paradox and such examples).

          The question of how mental and linguistic representation are possible in the first place is a deep and fascinating one. But that they are possible is knowable upon introspection. Theories that deny this are just non-starters, in my view. Descartes was right: I cannot seriously doubt that I am thinking — and doubting that I am representing anything beyond myself would amount to that.

          Now, the existence of thought, representation, and “aboutness” may well furnish an argument against certain forms of naturalism or scientism. But so much the worse for those things, I say. Being a scientific realist does not require that one be a naturalist.

          • Protagoras says:

            Almost all realism/anti-realism discussions involve a considerable amount of mutual misunderstanding and talking past one another, and it’s vastly unlikely that we’ll clarify anything in a comment thread. I can give a link to my own views for anyone with way too much time on their hands.

          • Paul Torek says:


            The intro, which is all I’ve read, says

            The first form of immodesty insists that there must be ontological primitives. Insisting that some specified group of privileged items is definitely among those ontological primitives is especially immodest.

            In other words, you’re against what I like to call “metaphysical penis envy”. As you can infer from my vitriolic and dismissive term, so am I. I still consider myself a realist, but evidently a “modest” one by your definition. Oh well.

          • peterdjones says:

            “This is just what speech and thought are: representations of things independent from them. Even speech or thought about speech or thought isn’t usually about itself (aside from the Liar Paradox and such examples).”

            Using language to talk about things that are n’t entirely linguistic isn’t much of a problem — which should be a clue that it isn’t “the” problem. The problem is using language to talk about entirely non linguistic things. Languages slice and dice the world differently, so they don’t all carve it at the joints…but do any carve it at the joints.

          • Troy says:

            I’m afraid I still don’t see the problem.

            I paint a picture of Darwin. Darwin is not a picture, not even a little bit — he is entirely non-pictorial.

            I write a song about the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not a song, not even a little bit — it is entirely non-choral.

            I think a thought about my dog. My dog is not a thought, not even a little bit — it is entirely non-mental.

            Where’s the problem?

          • peterdjones says:

            You’re assuming that Darwin is a predefined lump of reality, and you just come along a paint a picture of that lump. You are assuming that reality is sliced and diced to match your definitionsn(and that the only problems must relate to representations, not to what is being represented).

            The correspondence principle is trivial if reality is predivided into lumps matching the categories of English… then correspondence either holds or not.

            But English is not the only way to categorize reality. “Rat” and “mouse” are the same category in Chinese: the English “river” is two categories in French, and so on.

            We don’t know whether reality is divided into categories at all. If it is , we still don’t have a theory that “carves it at its joints”. Believing in such a theory is strong form of scientific realism.

            The correspondence theory of truth is an eample of an area where you need to talk about reality separately from categoreal systems. What does “mouse” correspond to ?
            A mouse shaped piece of reality? That’s circular..or regressive…or disquotational..

          • Troy says:

            It still seems to me that you’re getting at a different issue than the one I’m taking a stand on.

            What I want to claim is that (probably) our best theories are true in that the world is the way the theories say they are. But “the concepts employed in this theory carve nature at its joints” is not usually among the claims made by a theory. A theory with non-joint carving concepts/predicates could still be true, but it wouldn’t be as deeply informative as one might want.

            Suppose that aliens look at some famous painting — let’s say the Mona Lisa — but have no idea how to “carve it up” because they have a completely different conceptual scheme than we do. So they carve it up into three sections that would make no sense from our perspective (e.g., one is a triangle consisting of half of Mona Lisa’s head and some random parts of the background). They can still say true things about those sections: e.g., “section A has predominantly green tones.” This proposition (expressed in alien-ese, of course) is true iff that section of the painting has predominantly green tones. It is not a requirement of that proposition’s truth that section A “carve the painting at its joints.”

            Now, I think that there is something more than truth we would like with our theories, which is something like informativeness, understanding, etc.; and that these have to do with (among other things) joint-carving. But I think it’s a tricky issue to spell out exactly how that’s supposed to go, and so while I’m inclined to lean in a “realist” direction there too for at least some theories, I think that’s a stronger claim than the one I’ve made above.

          • peterdjones says:

            The claim that there are true and false statements that can be made in some categoreal schema is not a realist claim at all. Scientific realism is realism about scientific theories, which is realism about the categoreal schemes proposed by those theories. “A true theory carves nature at the joints”is precisely the claim of scientific realism. It isn’t asserted by the theory itself, because realism is a philosophical, meta level claim.

            If the matter in the universe is not actually divided between bosons nd fermions, then the standard model is not realistically true, as a theory, even though you can make true statements within it, as you can within ptolemaic

            It’s not a quantitative distinction between different levels of informativeness, it’s aqualitative distinction between different notions of truth, A theory can be true,as in empirically accurate, without being true, as in corresponding to reality…ptolemaic cosmology again.

            And realism is all about correspondence.

            ” Now, I think that there is something more than truth we would like with our theories, ”

            There is something more than empirical adequacy we would like with our theories. You have already committed to a notion of truth which goes beyond empirical adequacy.

          • Troy says:

            It’s possible that you’re using ‘realism’ in a stronger sense than me, but I still think that you’re not accurately representing my position in your most recent post. I don’t think that our theories are merely empirically adequate; I think that some of them are probably true. By ‘true’ I do mean that they correspond to the world, but I don’t mean that they contain the most primitive concepts. So I disagree with you that, for example, the statements made with Ptolemaic cosmology are true in my sense of ‘true.’ Some might be true, of course — e.g., predictions about where the heavenly bodies will be in the sky in a month — but the crucial ones, like “the sun revolves around the Earth,” are false. As far as I can see, such a claim is false even if the concepts “the Earth” and “the sun” carve nature at its joints, and the claim that the Earth revolves around the sun is true even if those concepts do not carve nature at its joints — e.g., because some form of reductionism from the macro-level to the micro-level is true so that the only fundamental things are physical simples.

      • peterdjones says:


        he current terminology is quite imperfect, but that need not hold anyone back: the common currency of one generation of philosophers is the freshly minded coinungs if previous ones.

        ” I’m a metaphysical and semantic realist in that I think that science aims at describing the way the world is independently of our theories, and that when a scientific theory is correct it succeeds in doing so.”

        So are any theories correct….?

        ” When it comes to whether our best scientific theories are true, I think this is just far too general of a question to have an answer more interesting than: it depends.”

        You have pinned down the meaning of truth to correspondence. The problem with establishing which theories are true, the problem of knowable truth, isn’t about meaning, it’s about not having any criteria fir final truth.

        • Troy says:

          I think you are conflating two problems that I would want to keep separate. One is the problem of the nature of truth: what it would take for a theory to be true. The other is the problem of the evidence for truth: what it would take to know or have good reason to believe that a theory is true.

          On the former, metaphysical, question, I accept what I see as the only possible answer (which some people would call a correspondence theory of truth), on which a theory is true iff the world is the way the theory says it is.

          The latter, epistemological, question is the one I think is more challenging. I don’t think we can be completely certain of any interesting theory that it’s true. But there are particular theories which I think are very probably true; and I think it is even more probable that at least some of our theories are true (without saying which ones).

          For example, I think it is extremely probable on our evidence that humans evolved by natural selection from more primitive forms of life, and that the Earth revolves around the sun. (Does anyone — I mean, besides creationists or geocentrists — really think otherwise? I don’t know, but I’ll let anti-realists speak for themselves on this point.)

          • Protagoras says:

            What does “probable” mean? If it’s a way of referring to the evidence, the anti-realist of course agrees with you. If it means likely to be true, is that a different claim than a claim about the evidence? If it’s not different, then the anti-realist still won’t disagree with you. If it is different, how is it different? And why should anyone believe this different claim?

          • Troy says:

            Hi Protagoras,

            Following Keynes, Jeffreys, Carnap, Jaynes, et al., I understand probability (in this context) to be a logical or quasi-logical relation between two propositions, with entailment and contradiction being limiting cases of this relation. The “probabilifying” proposition is our evidence, and the “probabilified” proposition is our theory. So the claim that theory T is probable with respect to the evidence is the claim that the evidence bears a certain sort of relation to T.

            This interpretation of probability is (as you probably know) massively controversial, but I think there are powerful arguments for it. I’m fairly confident that most anti-realists would not endorse it.

            As for why one should believe it, well, I think that claims of the form “the probability of A given B is high” are a priori, just like claims of the form “B entails A” are a priori. The claim that the probability of A given our evidence is high, however, is a partly empirical claim, because its truth depends partly on what our evidence is. So, to rigorously argue for the claim that, say, heliocentrism is probable on our evidence, I would first have to say what our evidence is, lay down what I take to be the (a priori) criteria of logical probability, and show how those apply to this case. I have views about these matters, but (as I expect you can appreciate!) attempting this task would be slightly beyond the confines of this comment space. In large part, I think that this task is just what scientists do in arguing for their theories, albeit in less explicit and self-reflective a form.

          • Protagoras says:

            Hi, Troy. I think of myself as mostly a good Carnapian, including even his wildly controversial views on probability, but I read Carnap as an anti-realist. So one or both of us is misunderstanding Carnap, or we’re misunderstanding one another, or (perhaps most likely) all of the above to varying degrees.

          • Troy says:

            Hi Protagoras,

            That’s interesting. You likely know more about Carnap’s overall corpus than I do; and you may well be right about his overall philosophical commitments. I do know that he and other logical empiricists were generally anti-metaphysics, although I don’t know what Carnap in particular had to say about this. My own epistemology bears at least a family resemblance to the logical empiricists in that it is foundationalist with the foundations being directly observed facts, and the superstructure bearing logical or probabilistic relations to those facts. But I do think they were wrong about metaphysics.

            I should say that I don’t buy into all aspects of Carnap’s interpretation of probability. In particular, I think he was wrong to treat probability relations as a purely syntactic matter. I take this to be the (or a) lesson of the grue paradox: “This emerald is green” provides more support for “All emeralds are green” than “This emerald is grue” does to “All emeralds are grue.” So to perceive the probability of P given Q it is not enough to know the form of ‘P’ and ‘Q’; we must also know their meaning.

            This may, in fact, relate to the logical empiricists’ distaste for metaphysics. Purely syntactic relations are easier to get a grasp on. But logical semantic relations look kind of “spooky”; admitting that we know them looks like admitting that we have a priori knowledge of the kind that a logical empiricist would be uncomfortable with.

          • peterdjones says:


            You seem to seem to be making the standard objection to the Grue paradox

            “The most obvious response is to point to the artificially disjunctive definition of grue. The notion of predicate entrenchment is not required. Goodman, however, noted that this move will not work. If we take grue and bleen as primitive predicates, we can define green as “grue if first observed before t and bleen otherwise”, and likewise for blue. To deny the acceptability of this disjunctive definition of green would be to beg the question.”

          • peterdjones says:

            I thought I was pointing out the difference between the two things you say I was conflating.

            How do you marry a correspondence theory of truth to a probablistic theory of justification? Perhaps you end up being a 70% believer in the posits of theory A and and a 30% believer in the posits of theory B. As realisms go, that’s rather modest.

          • Troy says:

            Hi peter,

            Sometimes the standard objection is the correct one. Grue and bleen are not primitive predicates in our conceptual scheme. Could some other being, call him Schmoodman, conceive of them in such a way that they were primitives for Schmoodman, and green and blue were defined in terms of them? I’m skeptical that this is possible. Is it question-begging to say that it’s not possible? Not necessarily, if one has a story as to why it’s not possible. I think I do have such a story, which is basically that all concepts come through direct acquaintance and no one could be directly acquainted with grue or bleen.

            But set that aside. Even if Schmoodman were possible, Schmoodman would have different concepts than we do (even if they were concepts of the same properties), and so would (on my understanding of the metaphysics of propositions) express different propositions with “This is grue,” “All emeralds are green,” etc. (Just as “This is water and “this is H20” express different propositions even if, necessarily, water = H20.) So the probability relation between the propositions Schmoodman would use “This is grue” and “All emeralds are grue” might be different from the probability relation between the propositions I would express by those sentences. But I don’t think that’s a problem; we just happen to be using the same sentences to express different propositions.

            Anyway, I’m not sure I even need all this to make the point that probabilities are semantically and not purely syntactically determined. So long as you agree that replacing ‘green’ with ‘grue’ gives us different probabilities, you seem to be committed to this point. (Although you might then go further than I do, and say that, e.g., probabilities are purely subjective.)

          • Troy says:

            Just saw your second post.

            How do you marry a correspondence theory of truth to a probablistic theory of justification? Perhaps you end up being a 70% believer in the posits of theory A and and a 30% believer in the posits of theory B.

            Right, that’s exactly how you do it.

            As realisms go, that’s rather modest.

            As it should be! It would indeed be hubris to take ourselves to know with certainty that our theories are true. I think I know hardly anything with certainty.

            Now, I would assign a much higher probability than .7 to our best theories — for example, that the Earth revolves around the sun is plausibly well above .99999 probable on our evidence. That presumably makes me more immodest, but it is a difference of degree rather than of kind.

          • peterdjones says:

            Hi Troy

            I have a physics background ,and I am included to take the grue thing seriously, since it resembles basis issues in QM.

            “All concepts come through direct acquaintance”

            Acquaintance with what?External objects?Your own sensa?

            All concepts … including invisibility, inconceivability, paradoxicality…etc.?

            Grue: different probabilities judged how? If you want to say that the grue theory is less probable because it is more complex, then you are running on an unscientifically subjective notion of probability.

          • Troy says:

            Apologies for not replying; been on vacation.

            Acquaintance with what?External objects?Your own sense?

            Tricky question, but I’m inclined to broadly agree with Bertrand Russell about the kinds of things with which we are acquainted — properties, ourselves, our experiences, etc.

            All concepts … including invisibility, inconceivability, paradoxicality…etc.?

            I’m inclined to say so, in the sense that these concepts are derivative of ones we get directly through acquaintance (e.g., visibility) — so that these come through acquaintance indirectly.

            Grue: different probabilities judged how? If you want to say that the grue theory is less probable because it is more complex, then you are running on an unscientifically subjective notion of probability.

            Here I disagree. As I said above, I hold to a logical conception of probability. It’s not scientific in that it’s not empirical, but the same is true for logical entailment, which is no less objective for that.

  42. syllogism says:

    Instead of advertising, would you consider reviewing books for crowd-funded bounties?

    For instance, I’m curious what you’d think of Singer’s Practical Ethics, and would donate some money towards seeing a review of it. Other readers might have other books they’re interested in.

    The bounties would be non-binding — you could choose which to take up freely, depending on how much money it was, how busy you are, and how much the idea of reading and reviewing the book appealed to you.

  43. eanrx says:

    Posting this semi-anonymously for obvious reasons.

    tl;dr: I find both effective altruism and neoreaction interesting, and I’m wondering if anyone else feels the same way. I explain why I don’t think EA and NRx are necessarily mutually exclusive, although in practice they are.

    Quite a few rationalists identify as effective altruists, and quite a few others identify as neoreactionaries. I sort of identify as an EA and I don’t identify as a neoreactionary, but I find a lot of neoreactionary ideas interesting. I’ve never heard of anyone who likes both, though. I don’t mention my interest in neoreaction to effective altruists (or to anyone, actually), not only because it wouldn’t be well-received, but because advocating an EA approach for controversial causes could really damage the movement’s reputation.

    That said, I’m curious if the lack of apparent overlap is due to a true lack of shared members (there’s actually extremely few people who believe both), or because EA and neoreaction are unpopular enough in each other’s communities that no one who believes in both wants to bring it up. Is anyone here sympathetic to both EA and NRx?

    EA and neoreaction are quite different, but they’re not completely incompatible. A core value of EA is cosmopolitanism, and neoreactionaries aren’t exactly known for being cosmopolitan! Also, a lot of neoreactionaries dislike consequentialism, and pretty much all EAs believe in it. Cosmopolitanism and consequentialism seem universal among EAs, but they’re not completely absent among neoreactionaries, so it may be possible to be a neoreactionary and also identify with effective altruism.

    Some core EA/NRx beliefs that I think are more compatible than people realize:

    * Consequentialism: EAs really like it, and neoreactionaries are more skeptical (especially of utilitarianism). But I don’t think consequentialism and NRx are incompatible at all: a neoreactionary is just a consequentialist who values neoreactionary outcomes! Neoreactionaries are currently very divided on what outcomes they would like, and being systematically consequentialist (like EAs) are could help them agree. In this area, I think NRx has more to learn from effective altruism than vice versa.

    * Concern for the future: EAs call it “discount rates” and neoreactionaries call it “time preference”, but both EAs and neoreactionaries think we should care more about the future than we currently do. EAs think this can be achieved by being altruistic, and neoreactionaries think that progressive policies are bad for the future. I think neoreactionaries’ ideas on how to improve the future are something that EAs should pay a bit more attention to, because a lot of them make sense even according to perfectly cosmopolitan utilitarianism. One example from the distant past is colonial settlement: it’s probably not something that EAs of several hundred years ago would be in favor of, but looking at the results over a very long period of time, the initial costs to the natives seem very small compared to the eventual benefits to the colonists. There are far more people living in the Americas today than in 1500, so if each person’s moral weight is independent of their date of birth, the well-being of the current population is far more important than the injustices inflicted on past natives. (I don’t think this example is relevant to today’s problems – I used it because I think focusing on historical facts is less sketchy than speculating about the future.)

    * Social liberalism/conservatism: neoreactionaries are presumably much more socially conservative than EAs. I think neoreactionaries should definitely be more socially liberal. (Especially with LGBT issues – I can’t think of any good reasons for anti-LGBT policies…) As for EAs, I think they should be more open to the idea of consequentialist/utilitarian justifications for social conservatism. Giving people more freedom tends to make them better off, but you shouldn’t just assume that it also makes the future better! Besides the obvious exception of investing in children, a utilitarian can also care a lot about the number of people alive in the future. For example, avoiding a charity because they help girls in developing countries get an education sounds terrible, but if you think that every country will eventually become developed, less education and higher fertility now means that eventually, the country will have a larger population than it otherwise would but not be any poorer. This is a clear win if you’re a total utilitarian and care equally about present and future people.

    * Anything else?

    • anonymous says:

      Unfortunately I don’t know what a neoreactionary should think, because despite that I’m a conservative, the idea of advocating monarchy, or even being confident that monarchy could work in indusrialized countries, strikes me as the right-wing equivalent of anarcho-syndicalism in its sheer hubris and lack of empirical grounding. If you believe that, you probably could swallow anything. Political change should be on the margin whenever possible–we just don’t know enough for anything else.

      That being said, I probably would have never heard of neoreaction without this advocacy, so it’s great as a signal of values (kind of like AI at LessWrong, except that signal is for IQ). But I’m afraid its members do actually take it seriously.

      • Morgenstern says:

        We’ve had industrialized monarchies, they were known as the ‘Central Powers’ before they lost WWI. Technically still sort of do if you include Lichtenstein and the Arab oil states, granted that’s a stretch.

        Now obviously losing that war is a big strike against them, just like the English civil war plus French and Russian revolutions were strikes against their monarchies. In fact it points to a key weakness, one Clauswitz points out explicitly in On War and one Hoppe’s economic analysis implies; european monarchies were not very good at the sort of “war socialism” needed for total war, whereas ideological nations were. Ironic as it sounds monarchy died out because it wasn’t totalitarian enough.

        But yeah, my point isn’t so much “Monarchy f*** yeah!” as that this isn’t some wacky untried system. Arguing whether it’s tradeoffs are worth the benefits is fine but it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

        • Christopher says:

          Why is the past tense employed so much in these discussions when Spain, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway (among others) are all monarchies today? Am I to infer that you don’t regard them as industrialized? Do you require specific characteristics that they don’t display?

          • Morgenstern says:

            If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?

            Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.

            Those nations are monarchies in the same sense that the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea is a democracy or the Republic of Macedonia is Macedonian. Men might occasionally wear crowns but there are no kings to be seen.

          • The confusion here seems to be over definitions of words. Christopher is using “monarchy” to mean a system of government where there is somebody whose job title is “King” or “Queen”. Neoreactionaries use it to mean a system where that person is actually in charge. Today the former definition is the generally accepted one, but of course that’s not helpful when arguing over which way best; it’s better to just be explicit about what we mean.

          • peterdjones says:

            For instance by saying autocracy.

    • Morgenstern says:

      Speaking as an NRx fellow-traveller, you seem to be missing a pretty central difference which I’m not sure can be reconciled.

      EA is fundamentally a humanist project, justifying itself entirely in terms of human lives/welfare/rights. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were even Singer-esque “more humanist-than-humanism” animal welfare types involved at the periphery. With it’s quantitative rational stylings EA is unmistakably an Enlightenment philosophy.

      NRx is (mostly) antihumanist and anti-Enlightenment, defining value in entirely different ways and being more skeptical of concious ‘rational’ theory when it conflicts with unconcious ‘irrational’ intuition or recieved/revealed knowledge.

      It’s pretty easy to see why the two mesh poorly even given close proximity.

      • Vulture says:

        NRx is (mostly) antihumanist and anti-Enlightenment, defining value in entirely different ways and being more skeptical of concious ‘rational’ theory when it conflicts with unconcious ‘irrational’ intuition or recieved/revealed knowledge.

        Then why are there so many neoreactionaries in the rationalist-sphere?

        • Morgenstern says:

          Probably for the same reason so many were libertarians or other classical liberals. Pretty sure Anissimov and Moldbug have written about it plenty but my take is it’s running history in reverse chronological order, getting to the Ancien Regime by way of the Revolution if you follow.

        • nydwracu says:

          Because neoreaction is a cladistic descendant of libertarianism, and the rationalist-sphere is the sort of thing that attracts libertarians.

      • peterdjones says:

        ” NRx is (mostly) antihumanist and anti-Enlightenment, defining value in entirely different ways and being more skeptical of concious ‘rational’ theory when it conflicts with unconcious ‘irrational’ intuition or recieved/revealed knowledge.”

        That’s pretty much paleo reaction. A rationalist, texhnophilic philosophy should have no truck with revealed knowledge.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          It’s complicated. Some neoreactionaries are Christians who think the Bible is revealed knowledge from God. Others are atheists whose epistemology leans heavily towards the LWian. And while this may seem to imply irreconcilable world-views, what makes them all neoractionaries is that they pretty much agree with smaller, nearer, more practical models of reality which are in direct contradiction to official thought. Or, as the inimitable James A. Donald puts it:

          Search for Sunshine Mary commenting on Jim’s blog. They respect each other immensely and agree on almost everything, except for a few minor details such as that she thinks we are fallen angels, he thinks we are risen killer apes, he believes in Darwin, she believes in God, he hopes for the technological singularity but expects a lengthy dark age, she expects the life thereafter.

          But, agreeing on inequality, on the nature of man (fallen angels and risen killer apes wind up in much the same place), they agree on pretty much everything that matters. He brings the bad news of Darwin, she brings the bad news of God the father and sin, which sound remarkably similar.

          • peterdjones says:

            I’m not interested in what people succeed in believing de facto, I am interested in what makes sense. NRxs have stated how they differ from other reactionaries, and if someone doesn’t have those distinguishing features, they are not NRx.

            The reason that so many NRs are indistinguishable from traditional reactionaries is down to a failure to make the theory work. NRs can’t solve the problem of adapting social mores to rapid technological change by means of planning, because that would be some kind of progressivism. They cant appeal to their favoured mechanism of organic adaptation without slowing down technological change, which adds up to technopphobic conservatism. So they are left just abandoning the adaptation question, and bolting traditional mores onto modern societies and hoping for the best. But favouring unmodified traditional mores is paleo reaction.

          • Anonymous says:

            >I’m not interested in what people succeed in believing de facto … NRxs have stated how they differ from other reactionaries, and if someone doesn’t have those distinguishing features, they are not NRx.

            This seems like a great way to end up with a thousand wildly inaccurate maps of the political territory, all of which disagree with each other.

          • Jakob says:

            NRxs have stated how they differ from other reactionaries, and if someone doesn’t have those distinguishing features, they are not NRx.

            Therein lies your problem. “Neo”-reactionaries are not much different from other reactionaries. The reactionary mentality is remarkably consistent across time and place; only some of the superficial habiliments change.

            I think this is why I’ve never found NRx all that appealing. It’s the same delusional bullshit the right-wing has been peddling for centuries. Unfortunately, our education system nurtures historical amnesia. Lots of smart people are completely clueless about the history of the political right and what it really represents. I think Scott himself would’ve found NRx ideas a lot less interesting and a lot more trite if he had been exposed to right-wing ideology beforehand.

          • Anonymous says:

            Funny, I always found nRx to be obviously liberals in love with their own edginess.

            Just like teenage Satanists always nick stuff from fundamentalist-Christian nonsense about how rock music is going to send us all to hell; It’s a live-action caricature, pulled from the ramblings of people claiming to fight it.

          • peterdjones says:

            I don’t see much contradiction. If it’s a signalling game, then you’re not going to want to do the hard work of theory building, and if it’s an engine’s signalling game, you’re not going to advertise it as the same old shit. Result p: advertise the same old shit as something new and radical.

    • NonsignificantName says:

      I really don’t see why a utilitarian should care about sheer population size. I care about future people to the extent that I want them, should they exist, to be happy, but not to the extent that I will take actions that result in more future people , all else being equal. My standard argument against this is “then you end up with a bunch of poor, unhappy rather than a few happy people”, but you seem to have bitten that bullet before anyone fired it so, fair enough. I still think this is a tile-the-universe-with-hedonium-level failure mode.

      With regard to your point about colonialism, I hate to be the liberal explaining this to a neoreactionary, but just because the present is, on the whole, better than the past, that doesn’t mean that every past action was good. Colonialism didn’t introduce any new technologies to the New World that couldn’t have been introduced through trade, it didn’t allow Europe a sustainable outlet for undesirables( they eventually ran out of places to colonise), and almost everywhere that got colonised but didn’t murder sufficient numbers of natives faced long-term political strife. Oh, and let’s not forget slavery. It simply wouldn’t have been possible for Europeans to have as many slaves if European territory did not extend past Europe.

      • eanrx says:

        To be clear, I was saying that settler colonialism probably increased the average well-being of everyone who’s lived in the past few hundred years, considered as a group. I agree that the technologies it introduced would eventually be introduced anyway, but it would have happened much later (19th century at the earliest). Agriculture would have been introduced later, so the New World would not be as large of a fraction of the world population. Since the New World is wealthier than the world average, that would pull down global average income. Yes, colonialism caused a lot of bad things, but (1) the original natives were not that numerous, so it’s more important to consider colonialism’s impact on the present, and (2) settler-colonized countries are wealthier than the average country, so the good probably outweighed the bad in the long run.

        Of course, it’s not possible to know exactly how the New World would have turned out without European settlement. But without settlement, the New World’s average income would have to be substantially greater than its current income in order to yield the same global average income, since its population would be smaller. So we can be fairly confident that settlement increased present-day average income.

        • Fnord says:

          I’m not sure speculating about alternate-historical events is all that much better than speculating about future ones. You seem to be holding things some things constant (African poverty despite the lack of the transatlantic slave trade, and non-Anglo-European poverty despite the presumable lack of non-settler colonialism) when it helps your argument, which varying others that do help it.

          • eanrx says:

            Good point, the effect of the slave trade on West Africa can’t be ignored because of the relatively large population there (~337 million). Some back-of-the-envelope calculations for how bad the slave trade needs to be to offset the New World’s income:

            In 2013, North and South America combined had a per capita PPP GDP of $28k over a population of 964 million (13.5% of the world’s population). Global per capita GDP in 2013 was $14k per person. Suppose that without European settlement, the New World would still have the same per capita GDP ($28k/person), but half the population (482 million). Halving the New World’s population would reduce global GDP per capita by ~$1k. West Africa is 4.73% of the world population, so the per capita PPP GDP of West Africa would need to increase by $21k to offset this. The current per capita GDP there is $4k, so a $21k increase would be comparable to the difference between Ghana ($4k) and Poland ($23k), Russia ($25k), or Greece ($25k).

          • Fnord says:

            That hardly looks like a crushing case for colonialism. Even by straight, linear comparison of per capita GDP (and I’m pretty sure that per capita GDP has diminishing marginal utility).

            Throw in the direct harms of mass killings (etc), and I don’t think your case is particularly convincing.

          • eanrx says:

            My intuition here is that only a small fraction of the people living in the New World since its discovery by Europeans (maybe several million? I’m not sure) suffered from direct killings, and a much larger number of the people (hundreds of millions) experienced moderate gains (higher living standards).

          • Hainish says:

            According to this, the population of the Americas at time of contact was 112 million (and this was greater than the population of Europe at the time). Most were killed by disease.


          • Fnord says:

            “Several million” deaths is no mean amount of disutility, even by global standards.

            And, while virgin field epidemics and the consequent mortality was no doubt inevitable assuming any contact at all, I don’t think you can totally ignore the effects of colonialism in terms of contacting more groups faster. Look at perhaps the second most serious instance of virgin field epidemics in history. There was incidental/trade contact all the way across Eurasia, but the Black Death was still triggered by the population movements associated with violent conquest.

          • Anonymous says:

            ““Several million” deaths is no mean amount of disutility, even by global standards.”

            Counting all the mass killings of colonialism against it but ignoring all the mass killings both before and after seems a bit unfair. Africa, India, and so on before colonization were hardly wonderful and peaceful parts of the world.

          • Anonymous says:

            The Black Death was exactly like the Americas: there was contact at the edge, but the plague spread thousands of miles into the interior with no further contact with the outsiders.

    • lmm says:

      Many neoreactionaries are pretty anti-LGBT. Wanting a traditional society more or less requires it.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      BTW, Multi wants you to have nightmares about aliens eating your family(?!)

      • suntzuanime says:

        Please don’t help banned users evade the banlist.

        • coffeespoons says:

          They don’t appear to have been trying to evade the ban list – they posted it on their own blog and actually said that they are glad they can’t post here.

      • eanrx says:

        Well, it’s good that I posted this anonymously then…

      • Hainish says:


      • Matthew says:

        Sadly, I cannot recall either the title or the author, but I’ve actually read a sci-fi story in one of the magazines (probably back in the 90s) in which a woman of Native American descent is a collaborator with alien invaders who intend the equivalent of putting the human population on reservations while taking most of Earth’s resources for their own benefit. There was actually an intelligent point to be made here about the shortsightedness of the “screw the Indians, there are more of us,” but currently-banned-user is really bad about letting his emotions get in the way of making a coherent point.

    • Jack Crassus says:

      Effective Altruists are selling out the future and accelerating the world towards ecological stress that we are not technologically prepared for in order to maximize the number of homo sapiens mouths alive and being fed today. This is the result of sloppy first order utilitarianism – Africa adding 3 billion new people which the natives could not support themselves.

      Confronted with these facts, EAs comfort themselves by assuming that Africa will undergo the same demographic transition to low birthrates as the West in time to head off disaster. They will admit to gambling with the future of mankind in order to give themselves warm fuzzies about being the most rationally righteous people alive. Unfortunately so far African birthrates have been higher than expected by UN population models.

      I mention sub-saharan Africa because it’s pretty much all that matters, as it’s the only population of humans still undergoing exponential population growth. It’s also the population of humans that Effective Altruists are sinking their cash into in order to accelerate the growth. Maximizing lives saved per dollar is the metric of choice of Effective Altruists, and nowhere can you buy more people per dollar cheaper than SSA. Unfortunately SSA also contributes nothing to the science and technology that we will need to support a larger world population.

      I proposed that Garett Hardin’s Living on a Lifeboat be neoreaction’s official rebuttal to Effective Altruism. Neoreactionaries need to get smart about environmentalism and declare our opposition to the insanity of Effective Altruism. In the past miracle technologies have saved humanity from hitting Malthusian holocaust. They may yet do so again, but we shouldn’t rely on it. Humanity won’t survive to live among the stars with the short-term ideology of Effective Altruists.

      • Effective altruism might be discussed on this blog, but if we’re all willing to have a discussion on why international aid might just be an awful idea, let’s make it clear that ‘effective altruism’ isn’t synonymous with ‘literally all the biggest and riskiest movers of philanthropic dollars’ in the world. My prior for effective altruists updating away from saving lives in sub-Saharan Africa is higher than is my prior for the rest of the international aid community updating away from the same. That may be because international aid money mostly comes from sticky, bureaucratic democracies filled with politicians too self-obsessed to pay attention, and pivot policy initiatives as needed fast enough.

        Effective altruism espouses at least an ideal of cause neutrality. Whatever your doubts, and however difficult it may be for you to get your message across, you wouldn’t know if these ideas you’ve listed could or could not change the minds of an effective altruist until you start with just one. However, even if effective altruism puts its meta-analytic principles above its object-level concerns of the present, and railed against international aid, all the problems of Malthusian population explosion would still likely happen. The charities evoked by the small portion of aid money controlled by effective altruism isn’t enough to make or break the population explosion from happening. If effective altruism put all its effort into the somehow maximally effective way of trying to stop a growing population of the poor from leading to global catastrophe, I doubt that would be enough either. I mean, maybe if a billionaire got aboard that campaign, but that seems unlikely too.

        I haven’t encountered an environmentalist neoreactionary before. There are some concerned with a variety of global catastrophic risks, but you’re the first I’ve met prioritizing concern over ecological collapse.

        • Jack Crassus says:

          A movement is defined by what it is, not the best thing it could be. Effective Altruism as it exists cares too much for the social status and warm fuzzies it gets from maximizing the number of African children. In that criticism I include Give Well and the Gates foundation and anyone else that targets lives saved per dollar as a metric.

          How does our species prosper through overpopulating African slums and wiping out wild African megafauna? If I were a utilitarian consequentialist, I would be happy that more bags of meat were alive and feeling little occasional bursts of pleasure somewhere. But as I’m not, that’s not my terminal value.

          • Again, if the conversation is worth having, the subject of criticism should be broader than effective altruism. Effective altruism is only locally popular in this corner of the blogosphere. It’s a strawman for criticizing all international aid that might accelerate an overpopulation crisis. If thousands from within effective altruism read your comments, and changed their minds to agree with you, it would do nothing to change the negative impact of the outcome you fear, unless someone generated suggestions for what could be done to very effectively curb whatever are the consequences of international aid sent to Africa.

      • MugaSofer says:

        >They will admit to gambling with the future of mankind in order to give themselves warm fuzzies

        Do you seriously think overpopulation has a chance at destroying “the future of mankind”?

        You’ve been punked, mate.

        That meme was spread by liberals to encourage contraception; Malthusian predictions have *literally* never panned out. And I say this as a liberal in favour of contraception.

        Honestly, you had one job, nRx.

        • He’s been pretty clear that that’s exactly what he thinks. And that he thinks the reason Malthusian predictions haven’t yet come true is sheer dumb luck, in the form of technological advances like the Green Revolution coming to save us just in the nick of time, and that we can’t count on this to happen again.

          (Jack Crassus: Is this a fair assessment of your position?)

          I certainly don’t agree, but we should at least read what our opponents are saying.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          That meme was spread by liberals to encourage contraception; Malthusian predictions have *literally* never panned out.

          Yes, because we can always count on Norman Borlaug to show up out of nowhere like freaking Superman to save us from the consequences of our lack of foresight.

          I don’t think overpopulation of 3rd world countries (specially Sub-Saharan Africa) is an existential risk, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. Even from a purely utilitarian standpoint, subsidizing their population growth is basically embracing the repugnant conclusion; creating tons of lives which are barely worth living. Moreover, it’s completely unsustainable; the Western countries on whose aid they are dependent all have anemic fertility rates (the so-vaunted demographic transition). For the environmentalist out there, what do you think is gonna happen to the African megafauna when the bubble pops? Hope you weren’t too fond of elephants! And how do you think Western progressive politicians will react when presented with the prospect of billions and billions of potential voters immigrants to import into their countries?

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      For example, avoiding a charity because they help girls in developing countries get an education sounds terrible, but if you think that every country will eventually become developed, less education and higher fertility now means that eventually, the country will have a larger population than it otherwise would but not be any poorer.

      Not necessarily. Of babies born in bad current conditions. fewer will live to reproduce, than of those born later when conditions have improved. If the girls stay in school and become productive, and more current resources can be used for development instead of for childcare, then conditions will improve faster. The death rate will decrease faster, and eventually you’ll reach a date when the faster development timeline has as many babies as the slow development timeline, and a more developed, healthier condition. And the generations between now and then will have had healthier, happier lives.

    • >Also, a lot of neoreactionaries dislike consequentialism, and pretty much all EAs believe in it.

      The first annual effective altruism survey has been completed, and .impact, the distributed effective altruist volunteer task force, is analyzing the results. If you haven’t already taken the survey, I think you may be able to take it as data collection, and initial data analysis, are concurrently ongoing.

      Anyway, in conversation with one of the analysts, he remarked that apparently a majority of the effective altruists are not consequentialist/utilitarian. This was just an off-the-cuff remark, and the statistics aren’t available yet, but I believe it means the rest of the effective altruism that took the survey is divided across other moral ideologies. I myself don’t identify as any hard category of moralist at all, partly do to moral uncertainty, and partly do the my repugnance at the lack of both integrity, and self-consistency, in various moral systems. I don’t know if others are as divided as I am on meta-ethics.

      >Cosmopolitanism and consequentialism seem universal among EAs.

      I’d guess that cosmopolitanism is definitely more widespread among effective altruists than consequentialism is. However, there are some effective altruists who aren’t that cosmopolitanism. In the last couple of months, a couple of my friends have admitted to me that what initially drew them to effective altruism is the efficient methods for aiding who, and what, they care about in the world more efficiently, but that they’ve come to realize they don’t identify with the value of helping whosoever is in need no matter what. At first, I felt this repugnant. However, upon reflection, it makes sense given my worldview; I believe myself, and most others, including most effective altruists value the world not universally, at their cores. I believe this because to be purely cosmopolitan seems difficult for a human truly be, even if at some point in their lives that’s how they believe they value the world.

      Note that when an effective altruist says ‘I’m not cosmopolitan’, that may mean something different than what a neoreactionary means when they say it. In effective altruism, not being cosmopolitan might mean that you don’t value the lives of non-human animals, or the lives of future humans past a certain point, because of moral uncertainty. When a neoreactionary says they’re not cosmpolitan, this may mean that they want to only protect the humans of their own clade/thede/tribe, and not other humans. Discriminatory preferences for some human lives over others, all things being equal, across a trait any more arbitrary than discount rates or time preferences is something I’ve never observed within effective altruism.

      I believe that some effective altruists who are primarily, and mostly, concerned with the far future seem indifferent to neoreaction. Some neoreactionaries are concerned with existential risk, and both neoreaction, and effective altruism, seem like the sorts of groups that could put their differences aside over the long-term to ensure the survival of Earth-originating sapience into the far future.

      Also note that effective altruists are necessarily extremely progressive in all the policies they would support. I can imagine someone such as Jim Donald dismissing within moments effective altruism as a Left singularity holier-than-thou emasculated self-guilt movement for rich, white liberals, which was originally aimed for the right mark, but then veered off at some point, similar to libertarianism. However, I believe more well-tempered neoreactionaries would identify that effective altruism is something at least somewhat different than what’s going on in a realm of charity they may otherwise wholly cynical about. As far as I can tell, effective altruists are more economically literate on average, and ideally favor case-by-case evidence-based policies. Jeff Kaufman wrote a summary of policies which he believes would lead to a better America, and they’re ones that I’ve been reading discussed by effective altruists for the last year now. So, it seems at least in part he began considering these policies himself because of his involvement with effective altruism.

      Jeff Kaufman is neither an official leader, nor a spokesperson, for any section of the effective altruism community, or all of it at large. However, he has produced original research and insight that have helped the effective altruism movement grow stronger at a level on par with work being done at non-profit organizations. At least, that’s my opinion. Anyway, those policies he recommends aren’t neoreactionary, but they’re not all super-leftist either. For example, abolishing the minimum wage isn’t something that the social justice community would condone.

      Effective altruism seems to model being socially liberal in a common sense way, as you express above. I figure effective altruism perceives this as a logical consequence of cosmopolitanism. Of course, neither of us speak for either effective altruism, or neoreaction.

      Also note that much of both of effective altruism, and neoreaction, starts from within the rationalist community. Scores from each group got introduced to either by not only Less Wrong, but some posts here on Slate Star Codex alone. One other thing that neoreactionaries, and effective altruists, have in common, especially if they both started out from within the rationalist community, is reason as a memetic immune disorder. Rationalists, effective altruists, and neoreactionaries, are all the sorts willing to strongly consider very unusual, even taboo, beliefs if they seem to make more sense than the mainstream alternatives. This cross-pollination leads to more overlap.

      I don’t know what it means for me myself to strongly identify with a creed. Recently, I sort of accept the tide of identity because I feel like there is only so much I can shrink it if its social construction means that not even in my own mind may I be able to easily escape how others perceive me. I could shirk the social contact, and thus social pressure, both deliberate, and unconscious, of having an identity pushed upon me. However, I’m a social creature, and then I would lose the positive value that was integral to a social circle I joined in the first place.

      So, currently, I don’t mind being called an effective altruist. If I walk like a duck, and talk like a duck, even if I’m not utterly sure if I’m a duck, I’m not going to spend all my time convincing others I’m not a duck. However, I came to Slate Star Codex originally because of effective altruism, and rationality. Since then, I’ve found Xenosystems, and More Right, and Jim Donald’s blog. Although not with most, I find myself drawn to some of what I’ve read on the latter two. I don’t know how many beliefs from neoreaction I have to agree with to become a neoreactionary

      This blog is a nexus for all sorts of contrarians, and an incubator for memetic immune disorder. Ask yourself how you became both a neoreactionary, and an effective altruist, at the same time. Surely that has to do with the rationalist community, and there are others for whom this may happen. You may very well be the very first neoreactionary effective altruist, but you may not be the only one for long.

      • Anonymous says:

        One way in which neoreactionaries are more cosmopolitan than effective altruists is that they use words like “cosmopolitan” with the purpose of communicating with outsiders.

      • Great comment. I would say many people would call me a NRx and an EA. I perceive EAs as doing what the lousy social systems are supposed to be doing.

    • Oh, right, I might also add that even if they are at least in plurality consequentialists, effective altruists hail from across the political spectrum. I mean, that’s going to come out of the effective altruism survey results as well. I imagine most of us who took the survey will identify as liberal, but I’m aware that effective altruism runs the gamut from libertarian to centrist to conservative in portions.

  44. RCF says:

    Occasionally, all the text on the page will go down or up one line. Anyone know what’s going on with that?

    • veronica d says:

      It’s the little “edit post” control that appears beneath your posts. It displays the amount of time you have left, and sometimes the time splits over two lines, sometimes only one. This causes the text to bump up and down later down the page.

      • RCF says:

        Ah. Thanks. It was making reading a disconcerting experience. I’ll try opening a duplicate tab and seeing whether that gets rid of it.

        Edit: I guess a duplicate tab doesn’t work, but hiding the post seems to.

  45. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know if this is something that people actually do, but so long as the lw survey includes meyers-briggs I would be interested in enneagram results. For what it is worth, I think it encodes a lot more salient, situation-pertinent information than mbti. I think that a particular type (not mentioned so as not to skew, but likely apparent if one even goes through a brief description of the types) would be vastly overrepresented, but I would still be quite curious to see how the other types lined up on the margin. For information ( though I plan on responding to the lw survey) I am solidly a 9.

    • Anonymous says:

      You agree its surely INTJ? I am pretty sure this is followed by INTP? Idk what would be most popular after those. My guess is the extrovert versions ENTJ/ENTP but I am not confident.

      I agree this would be interesting to see

    • The MBTI is not a scientifically respected personality test. One of its problems is low test-retest reliability, so that the same person will often be classified as a different type if they sit the test at different times. Personality tests that are based on continuous traits rather than dichotomous types have much more scientific support. As far as general personality goes, the Big Five model has the largest evidence base. The 6-factor HEXACO model has also accumulated considerable support since it was introduced. Using traits tests, such as ones based on the Big 5 would also enable statistical analysis based on correlations, which could produce some interesting results.

      • Dan T. says:

        I’ve been very consistently INTJ whenever I take one of those MB quizzes, though with the I and T very strong but the N and the J relatively weak (closer to the center).

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t know about the enneagram. It was awfully trendy back in the 90s, particularly in religious discernment and formation (the Jesuits, or some of them anyway, loved it).

      It’s a little bit too hippy-dippy for me (speaking as a Type 5) 🙂

  46. Andrew Wilcox says:

    My impression is that it’s much easier to make money with a blog through sponsorship (see for an example) or product recommendations (see for an example). Which can be done honestly and ethically by only mentioning products or accepting sponsorships that you think are truly deserving (that e.g. you’d actually recommend to a friend), and disclosing the sponsorship or product affiliate deal (which both of the examples I mentioned do clearly and up front).


  47. a person says:

    I just learned about this today, it’s very interesting. There’s a thing called “post-surgery depression”, it can last for six months after a major surgery, and no one knows what causes it. Some people think that it’s related to effects of anesthesia that we don’t understand, and that the longer you’re under for, the more depressed you will be afterwards. Apparently doctors don’t really care about this because they know it will fade in time, and they find it somewhat convenient given that it means the surgery patients won’t be too active in the following months.

    Scott, I was wondering if you have an opinion on this?

    • drethelin says:

      Maybe the causality there is backwards, and not being about to be up and about doing all the things you would normally do for 6 months makes you depressed.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t know much about that, but there are a bunch of little-understood links between depression, inflammation, and immune function.

  48. Oldman says:

    Hello hive mind : does anyone have any experience of shin splints. I’ve been getting them whenever I run and I’ve tried the usual methods (lots of trying new shoes, lots of stretching, adjusting my running style, only running on grass) all to no avail. If anyone can give any useful suggestions of what else to try they will have my eternal gratitude.

    • zz says:

      If you just want suggestions, consider running barefoot.

      If you want strong empirical backing, you’ll have look elsewhere.

    • Anonymous says:

      In roughly decreasing order of importance:

      1. Dorsiflexion exercises. These are exercises that strengthen your dorsiflexors, which are the muscles that move your foot upwards from the ground (shin muscles). Often recommended exercises are sitting on the ground with your legs straight and doing static holds with your toes pulled towards your trunk as much as you can, heel walks, or sitting on the grand with a band tied from your foot to a post in front of the foot and doing pulls against that resistance. Usually people will recommend a suite of exercises that go both directions (plantarflexion and dorsiflexion), because it can help your muscles develop better balance. You can find many such lists of programs on google.

      2. Cut back on your volume. Most people get shin splints when they are beginning training for the first time or coming back after a long break.

      3. Check your running form. You want to have midsole contact and it should be light rather than slappy. This is more for your knees and IT band than your shins though, in my worthless opinion. There are videos on how to run safely.

      4. Minimalist shoes. These mostly help by encouraging 3, because it’s hard to run with a hard heel-contact gait when you don’t have as much padding. In my opinion this is most beneficial for knee pain as well, rather than shin splints.

      • Matthew says:

        Note: Do not use barefoot shoes if your “index” toe is substantially longer/forward of your big toe. I’ve snapped my second metatarsal barefoot running, and looking around the internet, discovered it’s a common problem for people whose big toe is not their longest toe.

    • RCF says:

      Do you also get shin splints from walking?

      • Oldman says:

        Yes, but only occasionally, thanks for replying

        • RCF says:

          So, you see the benefits of running over walking to be worth the increased shin splints? I guess the question is whether running without getting shin splints is the ultimate goal, or whether there may be other alternatives that get you your desired results. Have you tried bicycling? I hope my suggesting alternatives doesn’t come off as dismissive of your question; if your goal really is to run, it could be annoying to have me give responses discussing things other than running.

    • KJbGcX says:

      Try massaging your shins until the knots go away… read the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.

    • Anonymous says:

      Icing helps, 15 minutes is usually enough. Squats and clamshells will help strengthen the muscles that keep you from running with good form. If you can, try having someone take pictures/video of you while you run. You might realize that your foot lands in front of your body, absorbing momentum (which leads to shin splints) and slows you down, rather than pushing off of the ground behind you.

    • yli says:

      I stopped having problems with shin pain after I started following the advice to run at 180 steps per minute, using a metronome. It’s a bullshit magic number for sure, but it worked for me.

  49. Doug S. says:

    My adblocker was hiding the Amazon banner.

  50. Jai says:

    We’re trying to put together a Seattle Secular Solstice. Email to get involved with candles and music and celebrating humanity and togetherness 🙂

  51. Kiboh says:

    >for example, we found a REALLY strong oldest-child bias last time, which flies in the face of some supposed disproofs of birth order theory I’ve read

    Isn’t that the exact opposite of the way birth order biases are supposed to work? Like, the non-firstborns are the ones more willing to upset existing hierarchies and give unusual ideas/movements a fair hearing?

    I dunno, maybe I’m wrong, it’s been a while since I read the relevant thing.

  52. James Miller says:

    Think about doing some YouTube videos. I hear from a friend of mine in advertising that they can pay well if you get a lot of views.

  53. Thecommexokid says:

    PS: It appears you’ve solved your Thrff Jub problem with this post: now almost all the ads I’m seeing are for Joan Rivers stuff!

  54. Princess_Stargirl says:

    Adblock blocks your affiliate links. So if someone is using a blocker (and they make life much more pleasant) they cannot use your links without disabling adblock on your page. Obviosuly this is not asking alot but making something even slightly harder will frequently dramatically reduce the percentage of people who do it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I assume by “affiliate link” you mean the image in the sidebar under “advertisements,” not the link to the particular product, like the Two-Income Trap here. If so, he could add a plain-text link right under that image.

      • Princess_Stargirl says:

        My adblockers block everything. I cannot see:

        -The shop/connect/enjoy on the sidebar (it says “if you click through the link above).
        -The ads for specific books on the sidebar
        -If there are other links, say in the text of scott’s articles they are blocked too

        Maybe I am just stupid. I can surely see hyperlinks. Did scott put hyperlinks that are affiliate links in his blog posts. I do not remember this but maybe I am wrong. ‘


    • Vulture says:

      I disabled adblock for this domain and I still don’t see the affiliate link in the sidebar like I did from my phone.

      • Anonymous says:

        Reading this + the other comments + my own experience has me very confused. Idk whats going on with affiliate links on this blog.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why not just post the hyperlink? Why does the ad-blocked link need to be posted?

  55. Protagoras says:

    A few of the discussions here of late have reminded me that I tend to think that one of the (many) purposes of friends is to pressure me into doing things I’m not completely comfortable with and wouldn’t do on my own, and so providing me with experiences (sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes educational; results vary). I suppose considering this to be a good thing is connected to my background of having friends that wouldn’t go too far, as well as my confidence in my ability to stand up for myself and say no if I really had a serious problem with something as opposed to just being mildly uncomfortable. I’m kind of curious what the ranges of attitudes are about this, and what aspects of the phenomenon I might have missed.

    • pneumatik says:

      I think humans prefer to form cohesive social groups (for whatever evolutionary reason). You having friends is how you form and identify your social group. Their peer pressure on your is how the entire social group self-reinforces. Your friends want you to do stuff that they do because if you don’t you’ll eventually fall out of the social group, and social groups generally want to preserve themselves.

    • Liskantope says:

      I too have been thinking of this a lot lately, although I was not spurred by discussions on SSC. Out of curiosity, which discussions here reminded you of it?

      I have a similar attitude, in that one of the things in my life that I’m grateful for is that I have friends who make a point of trying to push me out of my comfort zone. This situation has some downsides for me, however, in that I do see some risks in stepping out of my comfort zone in certain situations, beyond the risk of having an unpleasant experience — for instance, facing my worst phobias in the wrong way might result permanently in some kind of traumatic associations with relatively innocuous things that trigger them. So from time to time I’ve felt the need to push back against my friends in these situations.

      • Protagoras says:

        The thread about cuddle piles is one of the discussions that brought this to mind. It does seem that people have differing attitudes about this sort of thing (no doubt partly due to differing experiences/environments).

    • blacktrance says:

      In general, I tend to do the opposite – to have friends what won’t try to push me out of my comfort zone, as it’s something I neither enjoy nor want. On the other hand, if I already want to do something, having a friend who wants to do that thing too makes it easier.

  56. Thecommexokid says:

    Re: Affiliate link.

    Recently, I was trying to clear off some space on my browser’s bookmarks bar so I could add a few new sites I frequent, and eventually deleted the Wikipedia link. I realized that, despite all the time I spend on Wikipedia, I basically never go to the Wikipedia site and search for things there, I just Google stuff and the Wikipedia entry is predictably the first result.

    Similarly, on reflection, it turns out my online shopping model doesn’t actually involve going to Amazon and searching for a product—I just type whatever I’m looking for straight into my search bar. 95% of the time Amazon is the first result to come up and that’s what I click on, but I almost never consciously decide to go to Amazon and search for something there.

  57. zz says:

    In chapter 7, Harry references a social psych experiment in which a $5 unconditional gift got more surveys filled out than a $50 conditional offer. Can anyone point me to the actual study?

    • gattsuru says:

      I don’t know if this is the specific study, but there’s a very good meta-analysis of these works by Church (1993) “Estimating the Effect of Incentives on Mail Survey Response Rates: A Meta-Analysis“. I’m unaware of any openly available copies, but JSTOR has it here.

  58. zz says:

    Re: monetizing: just put a uniform addendum at the end of each of your articles, clearly blocked off so everyone knows it’s not part of the article, saying something along the lines of:

    Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this post and want to help support Slate Star Codex, please consider changing your Amazon bookmark to one with my affiliate code so whenever you shop on Amazon, I get a commission. [It really helps/I really appreciate it.]

    Then, under your amazon post, do a better job making it easy for us to do so:

    1. Fix the banner so adblock doesn’t suppress your affiliate link.
    2. Make affiliate links for international readers.
    3. Talk about changing bookmarks. That’s important, especially since the problem is that readers aren’t using your affiliate link when they buy other stuff.
    4. Maybe include a link here somehow. I already bought nearly everything I could off Amazon, and it convinced me to buy even more from there.

    (See Linus Media Group for examples.)

    Anyone who reads at least semi-regularly won’t even notice after a few posts (intrusiveness near 0) and I have no clue how much money it’ll make, but judging from Linus Media Group, it should be better than what you’re apparently making now.

    Also, willingness to support you (by undergoing the trivial inconvenience of adding the affiliated bookmark) is going to be approximately proportional to how professional you come across. You do a pretty good job as is, but I will repeat my offer to beta your posts and, regardless of the money thing, I strongly suggest you consider it. I already beta a Yudkowsky-recommended story; the author can be a reference. (Yes, my writing here is crap, but comment box really isn’t the best editor. I work well with fully-powered text editors! Really! I have a reference! They’ll tell you!)

    Also, telling readers how they can get emails whenever you post something new can’t hurt; more readers = more potential revenue sources. This is something I don’t currently know how to do, but would do it if you made it easy.

    • g says:

      Am I the only one who thinks “monetizing” should mean “presenting in the style of a French Impressionist painting”? Changing the page background to be shimmery pictures of waterlilies, perhaps.

    • Error says:

      Talk about changing bookmarks. That’s important,

      I just had a thought: How many people do in fact use their bookmarks for reaching amazon, as opposed to Googling for a product or typing it in the address bar? I use the address bar. Even an appropriate bookmark may not do much good, if people don’t use them anymore.

      (also, I note that my search bar has an Amazon option that I never use; I wonder if I can configure it to explicitly use SSC’s affiliate option for amazon searches. That might get me off google or address typing.)

      • Vulture says:

        I use this extension, which allows you to add arbitrary text fields to the search bar by right-clicking on them and selecting “add to search bar”. I bet that if you visited Amazon through the affiliate link and then added the search field there to your search bar, it would keep the affiliate stuff – heck, as of right now if I just hit return on the LessWrong search option that I added, it take me right to the exact LW comment chain I was on when I added it.

        • Anonymous says:

          No, if you click through and search, you just get an ordinary search. If you knew how to manually edit the code for the added search, you could add &tag=slastacod-20 and it would probably work, or maybe you’d have to add the whole thing.

      • zz says:

        I use bookmarks about once a month. Maybe. However, if I could channel 2–8% of my purchase to Scott in one click every time I bought something from Amazon, I’d use bookmarks… x + 1 times a month, where x is the number of times I buy something from Amazon every month.

      • Army1987 says:

        I mostly access websites by letting Firefox autocomplete what I type in the address bar — but the autocomplete thing does look in the bookmarks as well as the history.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you for the advice. I’ve already taken some of it and will consider the rest.

      (except for professionalism. Screw that)

      • zz says:

        Professionalism may not have been the best word. Is there a blog analogue of production values? No typos, grammatical English, clear sentences. If you’re ambitious, maybe even omit needless words.

        • Rachael says:

          This blog already has very high production values in that sense IMO. Better than many professional websites.

          • suntzuanime says:

            In the Molochian abyss that is the modern internet, most professional websites are now unedited blogs, so SSC doesn’t really stand out as bad among them.

          • nydwracu says:

            If Scott knows the difference between “rein” and “reign”, he’s already ahead of literally the entire news media and all its paid editors.

          • zz says:

            I find mixing up “discreet” and “discrete” is often even funnier since the results tend to parse just fine.

            I actually keep a list of mistakes I’ve that still parse just fine. I hesitate to share, because then you’ll know what kind of fanfic I read, but I think Rule of Funny’s going to take the day here.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Profound” is a perfectly standard medical term. Although I can find only one use of “profound bleeding”.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Nydwracu: Have I ever told you the story of how I got an ad in the mail from a candidate for Congress who promised to “reign in spending”?

          • Morgenstern says:

            He’d get my vote, if only for the novery of a congressmammal showing honesty even unintentionally.

  59. Douglas Knight says:

    It seems to me that both google’s and amazon’s ads are based on the text of the page and never learn about the readership of the particular blog. Learning that base rate seems to me like it would be a better strategy.

    But it can only be a good strategy if you have a consistent reader base. For some blogs, most of the readers come from google, so they’re much more focused on the particular keywords that google thinks the post is about. And that may be the kind of blog that sells the most advertising, which may be why advertisers use this strategy.

    Trying to learn about the blog’s readership might require experimenting with what they’ll click on. If people abandon the advertising platform before that learning is done, there’s no point.

  60. My digit ratio changes depending on whether I am holding my hand horizontally or vertically.

    • Vulture says:

      Woah, this seems to be the case for me, too. Is it some kind of optical illusion? Or some weird muscle-interaction thing?

      • Matthew says:

        I’m almost certain this is an optical illusion, since I can slowly rotate my hand from one position to the other and notice the result, without feeling any sub-surface changes.

        • Vulture says:

          If this is the case, then the survey should just require you to measure with a ruler, no need to specify position.

        • RCF says:

          It seems to me that if it is not an optical illusion, then photographs of hands should be distinguishable based on orientation.

      • Army1987 says:

        Mine also depends on whether the palm or the back of my hand is facing my face.

      • stubydoo says:

        It may change depending on whether your wrist is bent or straight, since the muscles you use for bending your finger segments run all the way up your forearm to almost your elbow (perhaps if you carefully made sure to keep the same pitch on your first knuckles you’d avoid it, but that may not be so easy in practice since by bending your wrist you are necessarily flexing your knuckle muscles). If you maintain the same wrist pitch and move your hand only by rotating your elbow (or even better, shoulder) then there should be no change.

    • ShardPhoenix says:

      I’m not sure what you mean by that, but it does seem like something that’s a bit tricky to measure accurately. The survey would need to define it very clearly.

  61. Scott,

    Re: making money off advertising, I could pitch your blog to the Patheos network. Potentially downsides: your readers might hate the branding, and they might hate the Disqus commenting system. OTOH they pay very well for page views. There’s also the issue of whether they’d think you’re enough of an “atheism blog” to be let in, but my blog doesn’t resemble a traditional atheism blog much either anymore and no one’s gotten mad at me.

    • Anonymous says:

      The ads would certainly sell for more money if sold by professionals, as at patheos, than if he tried to sell them himself, but Scott is specifically avoiding such intrusive ads. Well maybe not, here’s what he said.

      No, I take that back. If Scott wants to be paid like you, he can sell ads to Adblade (or taboola, or whatever) and cut out the middleman. Here’s what your blog looks like, right now.

      • Vulture says:

        An aside: I like how on Adblade’s website they describe themselves as “the world’s only ultra-premium ad network”. Which I’m sure is true in a sense, but… oh, what’s that HPMoR quote I’m thinking of? Oh yeah:

        No, of course they were not in this new reference class which you have just now constructed in such a way as to contain only yourself.
        – The Sorting Hat

      • Yeah–I admit the ads on my blog are kinda awful, but Scott only explicitly ruled out things like popups and autoplay sounds. So it’s not clear to me whether he’d be adverse to ads that are only kinda awful.

        Honestly, though, I think all profitable ads are going to be at least slightly awful. I guess that’s Moloch at work?

        • suntzuanime says:

          If given the choice between forgoing profit and joining Moloch in his foul work, I hope I know which side Scott would be on.

        • Anonymous says:

          Sorry, I got snarky and lost some of my point.

          Patheos is using off-the-shelf advertising that Scott could set up on his own blog (without disqus!). If they were selling ads directly, that would require exotic skills and might be lucrative. But they’re just using sizmek, googleads/doubleclick (images, not the text Scott tried), chango, and adblade. Maybe he should try one of the first three. They’re a lot less offensive than the adblade ads, which are at the bottom, suggesting that patheos doesn’t think so much of them.

          Sometimes sizmek serves up flash on patheos. I disapprove. I disapprove so hard, I do something about it and it won’t affect me regardless of what Scott does.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I really hate the Disqus comment system. I don’t understand why anyone would write something like that.

      Also, FWIW, the comments on Patheos blogs seem to me to be less focused on substantiated arguments and more on emotion and rhetoric, as compared to SSC (though they are still pretty friendly in absolute terms).

      • RCF says:

        What do you dislike about Disqus?

        • Matthew says:

          Don’t know about Bugmaster, but Disqus is very slow-to-never loading comments for me when browsing with Chrome.

        • Vulture says:

          I can’t speak for Bugmaster, but I find Disqus irritating in various superficial ways and feel quite resistant to signing up for it or using it to comment. It also feels much less like to stick around or be accessible 5 years down the line than whatever minimalist wordpress/html thing is going on here right now.

          Weirdly enough, I see that Gwern(!!!) of all people, seems to use Disqus commenting on every page of his website. I’ve always found this really weird and counter-intuitive, especially since I’ve never seen him explain it anywhere and that Disqus seems to be in every way the least Gwern-like possible thing to do. If he has a good reason for using it, my opinion on the matter is liable to flip-flop entirely (modulo specifics of course).

          • Anonymous says:

            I think Gwern runs a minimal http server and doesn’t want it to do anything like database lookups to load comments. So he offloads all that processing to disqus. Also, he cares about his pages lasting, but probably doesn’t care about the comments.

          • Vulture says:

            Ah, okay, that makes sense, thanks! And I guess it’s sensible that he doesn’t care much about preserving the comments, given that there’s rarely much commenting there besides “hey bby u wan sum m0d@f1n1l” etc. and some confused people.

        • nydwracu says:

          Disqus is slow, bloated assware of exactly the sort that’s taken over the internet in the last few years.

          Comments should load when the page does, and Javascript should only be used for things that can’t be done without Javascript. Then there’s the fact that you have to log in instead of plugging in a name/URL and letting your browser save it, and the useless notifications it spams you with in the field that ought to be reserved for notifying you of replies to your comments.

          (Speaking of notifications, I keep getting them when someone likes a comment I wrote months ago, which is not something I care about.)

          Disqus also makes it easy to get a list of all the comments someone has ever written — which you’ll think is bad if you’re interesting, because interesting people don’t want to be legible. And it’s a centralized platform that can, to pick an example completely at random, get hacked by Swedish communists.

          • gattsuru says:

            Disqus also puts comments outside of the the blog maintainer’s focus. Even closing down a website doesn’t necessarily remove the Disqus comments, although it’ll make them a little harder to follow the context.

            On the other hand, it offloads a large degree of complexity, so if you don’t actually care about comments it may be meaningful in that sense.

            On the gripping hand, Disqus comments aren’t usually indexed by search engines for the same reason that they’re a pain to read, which has both advantages and disadvantages.

            The terrible performance is enough, even before the security issues (like Facebook, but for political targets!).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The Swedish hack merely reduced the security of disqus to the security of gravatar. Indeed, the “hack” was simply noticing disqus always uses gravatar, though invisibly.

            You have a gravatar account, which means that at least you know that you’re using it, but most people don’t even notice that they’re using it, putting them in the situation of disqus users.

          • Deiseach says:

            If Swedish communists hack Disqus, that makes me approve of Swedish communists (that tells you how much I hate the damn thing).

        • Deiseach says:

          Short answer: it’s terrible.

          Longer answer: it’s slow, it takes forever to load, it often never loads, it just is generally terribly intrusive and clunky.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I never comment through Disqus. I used to have an account there, but it got harder and harder to log in, and other bugs showed up. The comment section won’t even come up. There may be some applicable hacks or hoops, but even if I felt like learning them once, I expect that something would change and I’d have to keep updated.

            So, no. Vanilla WordPress here and at other blogs is much the best.

      • James says:

        Wait, what comment system does SSC use at the moment? I thought it was on Disqus. Is it?

        I’m interested because I’m planning on starting a blog-like website with static HTML pages, and was thinking about adding a comments section. Doing this with Disqus seems fairly easy (dropping a little js snippet into one’s HTML), so I was considering using that, but I’d be interested in any suggestions for better systems.

        • Anonymous says:

          the comments here are vanilla wordpress. you can tell that the comments come direct from the server by viewing source or turning off js.

          steve hsu has comments from disqus. w/o js, they just don’t load. robin hanson also has disqus comments, but the server gets them from disqus, so they are readable w/o js, though ugly. and people can’t leave their new comments w/o js.

      • lmm says:

        There are two simple things I want from a comment system. I want threads, and I want to be notified when people reply specifically to one of my comments. This should be hard, but apparently it’s beyond wordpress, so I continue to advocate disqus. Not having to have an account everywhere is a bonus.

    • RCF says:

      I’ve noticed that on at least some of the patheos blogs, they do that thing where if you cut and paste anything from a post, it adds a link to the page. D you know anything about that? There’s also some blogs that have a bunch of social media icons on the left side that block the text.

      • Anonymous says:

        Tynt is a company that does that. But there are others.

        Chris’s blog does not do that. Nor do the 6 posts from 6 different blogs currently promoted on the front page. Probably the site doesn’t do it. If it used to, I expect it was the whole site, not just some of the blogs. The examples in my link don’t do it anymore, either.

      • Anonymous says:

        Both functions you mentioned are annoying. The first is much more annoying than the second. Seeing either of those “features” on a website causes me to mentally demote them.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks. I’m not going to go the Patheos route for now, but I might look into some of those networks.

      • Edit: Oh, nevermind. I just read the comments posted immediately above mine, and apparently there are several reasons to hate Disqus.

        Do people not like Disqus much? After comments systems powered by Reddit, Disqus is my favorite. I mean, on, e.g., Unequally Yoked in particular there’s a bug that won’t allow me to post comments even after I tried correctly verifying my email multiple times. However, Disqus is on Overcoming Bias, and it’s always been handy for me there. I like Disqus better than the comments systems here powered by WordPress.

        • I’m another person who doesn’t like Disqus. Not only does it load slowly, it doesn’t load the whole thread, which makes it inconvenient to search for comments I want to check on or reply to.

    • Heck, I feel like there ought to exist a Patheos for politics, socioeconomics, and/or American intellectual culture, and Slate Star Codex would be the sort of blog belonging there. I mean, the comments sections here have hosted enough debates with between neoreactionaries, and social justice activists, without imploding that it deserves some sort of symbolic recognition from an outside authority about how ‘just sane enough’ they are.

      Unless Slate Star Codex, the best bloggers from the readership, and other random great bloggers formed some sort of politics/culture alt-Patheos, it might be difficult to do.

  62. Will says:

    To publish in an academic article you need IRB approval and a consent form in the survey somewhere.

    Lots of rules on any research that has to do with people. If you go to the trouble of making it social sciency, I’d suggest playing some tricks (multiple survey versions,different worded questions,etc) to try to get a measure on the biases in the survey (i.e. I’m still pretty convinced the IQ number is just because people are over-reporting their scores).

    • Quixote says:

      For what it’s worth I wasn’t overstating any of my scores. And LWs number is high for the general population but it’s not that high for a self selecting group. The Top AP physics class at a selective math science high school would have higher numbers, as would a self selecting Mathy club at a good college.

      • Will says:

        You are talking about situations where people are literally selected (i.e. magnet schools, good colleges), not just self sorted. The survey numbers are comparable to the medians for matriculations into the top colleges in the US, which seems somewhat improbable. After all, we don’t require an SAT score to read the surveys.

        Also, given the well known survey effect of social desirability bias my prior was that it would be reported high.

        • KJbGcX says:

          I dunno, I went to a fairly top US college and LWers strike me as substantially smarter than the students I studied with. Not Ivy League, but my impressions aligned with those expressed here:

          For example, this is a very basic article on LW, but unless someone has at least some genuine curiosity about statistics they likely won’t bother to finish it: Most people are not curious about statistics.

          • Will says:

            I think you are confusing intelligence/IQ with “interested in the same things I am interested in.” Yes, you are more likely to find people who are interested in statistics among the Less Wrong crowd.

            Use your Bayes- social desirability bias is a well known effect, and your prior should be very high that any trait the group views positively will be over reported.

          • Anonymous says:

            KJbGcX, you go from “smart” in the first paragraph to “curious” in the second. They aren’t the same.

            Will, it’s not about being interested in particular things, but about being interested in anything, as in the gnxp link.

          • Will says:

            @anon- sure but I think Razib’s point was that ‘the average Harvard student might be smart but not interested in anything but signalling’, after all Ivy league schools have similar SAT scores to Less Wrong.

            I’d also note my experience at an ivy league school as an undergrad was very different than the link, so its just dueling anecdotes, really.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sure, you can deny the claim, but there are three very different claims on the table: (1) that k (and razib) are wrong about ivy league students; (2) that k is confusing smart with interested in statistics; (3) that k is confusing smart with interested in anything, whether statistics or history.

          • Will says:

            Razib never said ivy league undergrad weren’t smart, he said they were mostly interested in signalling that they were erudite, instead of actually being erudite. He notes its somewhat orthogonal to test scores, because Harvard students obviously have high test scores.

            K used as “not being curious about statistics” as his main example, which leads me to believe he was also talking about curiosity more than IQ.

            I’ll stipulate that Less Wrong creates self-selection for people who are curious about statistics. My point is that doesn’t mean it selects for people with high IQs.

            Also, again, social desirability bias is a big thing, so we should, before measuring, assume the IQs will come back exaggerated.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Self-sorting can be plenty powerful. It’s powerful enough to create a severe gender imbalance, for example, and a harsh political skew. Why couldn’t it create similar effects in the realm of intelligence?

    • Eric Jorgenson says:

      Many journals will require IRB approval, but many (particularly non-US based journals) will not.

      For example, here is an article about autism published by a random computer programmer dude based on a survey he ran off of his personal website: (“As the study was performed independent of an institution, there was no institutional review board available. To comply with applicable ethical requirements on research on human subjects, the study was constructed in such a way that participants could not be identified.”)

  63. lmm says:

    My fringe-physicsy friends tend to just put a paper on arXiV and see what happens – there are at least a few people out there who figure that if you can use LaTeX properly you probably have something interesting to say. But I don’t know if that’s a model that exists for social science.

  64. Mason Hartman says:

    If you’re looking for ways to monetize SSC, you should definitely look into Patreon.

    • Aris Katsaris says:

      Seconded. Seriously, Scott, open a Patreon account so that we can give you our money.

      • JRM says:

        Patreon generally sets up a money-for-bonus-stuff thing. Also, it’s ongoing. This is good for lots of people, but I think not our host.

        I vote for the other suggestions above that a warning (“Please don’t give money to me if you are a starving grad student. I intend to waste your money terribly compared to how you would use it.”) and a PayPal button. But I think we’ve lost.

        I oppose joining Patheos. But I’d follow the blog where it goes.

    • Bugmaster says:

      FWIW, I wouldn’t mind donating via Patreon. I do, however, run AdBlock as a matter of policy. Sorry.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        You know AdBlock lets you whitelist domains so that their pages will not have their ads hidden, right?

        • Bugmaster says:

          I should have clarified: it is my personal policy to avoid as many ads as possible. AdBlock is just one tool that helps me achieve this goal.

          • Error says:

            Bugmaster: What other tools do you use, if you don’t mind me asking? I have a similar policy. I consider advertising a form of mental assault and treat it accordingly.

            That gets me labeled as ridiculous on a semi-regular basis. 🙁

          • Bugmaster says:

            I use NoScript to filter out analytics scripts, ad-matching scripts, inline linking scripts, “omg share this now” scripts, and pretty much anything else that is not directly related to the functionality of each website. I also have a custom hosts file to block some of the more obnoxious actors, but it’s pretty old, so I guess that AdBlock and NoScript are taking care of it by now.

            I also use Readability to make long articles more, well, readable.

          • nydwracu says:

            Another tool is Privoxy. It doesn’t have the performance issues of NoScript (because it’s not a browser plugin), but it’s slightly more annoying to run. Tradeoffs.

          • no one special says:

            I use AdBlock, and I also use Ghostery, which blocks tracking tools. I started this when I realized that every news site with a “like” button was a load from Facebook, so Facebook could tell you almost everything I’d read on the internet. Same with Google Analytics.

          • Anonymous says:

            google analytics is not as bad as facebook. facebook tracks you with cookies, so it knows exactly who looked at the page. google analytics doesn’t have its own cookies, so it doesn’t know who you are, just what ip address you come from. but a google plus like button is just like a facebook like button.

          • Anonymous says:

            Let me rephrase that. There are three tiers: facebook that knows exactly who you are and tracks you across all websites; advertisers, who create a profile based on visits across many websites; and google analytics, which tracks visits to all websites, but doesn’t quite know that they are the same visitor.

    • Anonymous says:

      He doesn’t want donations.

  65. Anonymous says:

    Wikipedia, citing Mallett and vaguely citing Machiavelli, says

    The earlier, medieval condottieri developed the art of war (strategy and tactics) into military science more than any of their historical military predecessors —fighting indirectly, not directly— thus, only reluctantly endangering themselves and their enlisted men, avoiding battle when possible, also avoiding hard work and winter campaigns, as these all reduced the total number of trained soldiers available, and was detrimental to their political and economic interest.[Mallett] Niccolò Machiavelli even said that condottieri fought each other in grandiose, but often pointless and near-bloodless battles. However, later in the Renaissance the condottieri line of battle still deployed the grand armoured knight and medieval weapons and tactics after most European powers had begun employing professional standing armies of pikemen and musketeers —this helped to contribute to their eventual decline and destruction.

    which might be what Ginkgo was referring to.

    • Anonymous says:

      The condottieri are nothing unique.

      It is rather common in history, in times of comparatively high trust between kindred nations, to fight according to rules in order to minimize bloodshed, and sometimes this reaches the point that wars end up being almost like a ritual or a sport.

      Even today, we have something vaguely like that in the geneva convention, but it’s nothing compared to the warfare full of rules of particular eras, such as the Italian renaissance.

      The extreme point of this is when two champions, each representing one of the armies at war, fight a duel against each other, and the loser’s army has to retreat. This seems to have been the way wars between Gallic tribes were fought.

      That state of thing, not rare in history, gets close to the kind of “giant hole agreements” Scott dreams of.

      • Nestor says:

        And interesting things happen when two armies meet who don’t share the cultural expectations. When Cortes was traversing the Tlascalan territory, he was repeatedly attacked by them. The Tlascalans then decided to be sneaky and mount a night attack on the Spanish camp. Since mesoamerican rules of war did not allow for night fighting this was extremely sneaky of them, but the Europeans had no such preconceptions and of course had sentinels and were quite ready for a night attack…

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          That’s an amusing anecdote! Outside context problems do not grade on a curve…

        • Matthew says:

          The feudal Japanese used to start battles by declaiming the martial exploits of their ancestors to one another. The samurai stopped doing this (even among themselves) in the late 13th century when they discovered that the invading Mongols would skewer them before they finished speechifying.

  66. Austin Frisch says:

    Have you considered taking donations? I would happily send .01 BTC or whatever your way, every now and again.

    • JTHM says:

      I think Scott mentioned that he didn’t want anyone poor to give him money, so he wasn’t soliciting donations.

      But I think that just asking everybody whose income is below some threshold to kindly not donate would suffice. This community seems pretty forthright, and I think that if Scott made each donor personally promise that they were financially secure before they donated, few if any people would lie about it. And aren’t we rationalists familiar with clever ways to keep people honest? (Like, say, just showing a picture of a pair of eyes with a stern gaze over the little form where you pledge that you’re not poor.)

      Actually, I just had an idea: can we use this subthread to list mind hacks that promote honesty, in particular those that could work over the internet?

      • I can’t find the link to it right now, but the .impact, the effective altruist distributed volunteer task force, has taken it upon themselves to implement Gratipay.
        ‘weekly payments, motivated by gratitude’.

        This is how, for example, effective altruists with more money, who are earning to give, want to give token sums to projects being done by other effective altruists to try things out. I suppose those other effective altruists are brilliant students who can’t fund themselves yet.

        Anyway, that’s just what the explanation of it is. There’s no reasons that other communities, including the rationalist one, can’t have one, too. I was thinking of polling Less Wrong on some open thread about what they think about setting up a Gratipay payment system for itself. This is one way we could fund Scott’s blog. I feel as if Scott would like it because a payment system ‘funded by gratitude’ is the sort of payment system in favor of nicenenss, community, and civilization he would appreciate.

        • More Thoughts on Gratipay:

          I don’t have enough money to donate to Scott right now out of gratitude, but considering I posted a long comment in the last open thread in this regard, I’m willing to take the time to get it up, and running. I’d be happy to spend the time to give others the means to send the money. Of course, we’d need to ask Scott. Either way, though, I believe it’s something that could generate lots of positive value for the rationalist community.

          Just so we as a readership can gauge interest, please reply to either of comments in favor, or against, trying to institute such a policy as Gratipay.

        • There was yet another sub-thread which linked to the post about ‘The Other Codex’ (Codex Seraphinius) in the comments of which Scott emphatically expressed that he doesn’t want donations from his readers, especially because he may more money than the rest of us. As an effective altruist inspired more by Scott’s essays on the subject of efficient charity to donate my money more than any other charity, what will be better for me, and the world, and what would make Scott happier to boot, is for me to give that money to an effective charity.

          However, that doesn’t mean there cannot be a Gratipay network for the rest of the rationalist community. I will see the rest of you back on Less Wrong.

    • Error says:

      I’d do the same, but I’m pretty sure JTHM is right about Scott’s attitude towards donations.

      I’d forgotten about the affiliate link. It looks like adblock catches it. Maybe I can unblock it, or configure my amazon bookmark to always look like it’s coming from here. Since it’s not really advertising it’s probably okay.

  67. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    The rot13’d title was mentioned in the “Outgroup” article, so at least I can see where Amazon is coming from. Speaking of which, I think I have made one or two Amazon purchases since you started the affiliate program, and I made sure to click one of your affiliate links both times. Hope that helps.

    Athrelon of More Right recently responded to basic income proposals in general and the SSC graduation speech in particular. His thesis is that support for basic income comes from highly intelligent intellectuals who despair that all alternatives to the rat race have disappeared, and that is why they paint a picture of people using the money to live an idyllic life of learning and self-improvement rather than what the average person would actually do if he didn’t have to work for a living.

    Finally, since you forgot the prohibition on race and gender again, I feel safe sharing this link. Basically, it’s about a neoreactionary who watched a few episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and wrote down his impressions of the political and gender themes of the show.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I was amused when I happened to stumble (via r/TumblrInAction) over: which is literally someone explaining how MLP:FIM is actually crypto-white nationalist propaganda. Poe’s law and all, but they seemed pretty serious.

      • Anonymous says:

        I assumed you meant condemning it as crypto propaganda, but now that I’ve looked at it, I think it’s in favor. But I’m not sure.

      • no one special says:

        That blog hurts my brain.

        Probably because I don’t know enough about white nationalism or My Little Pony to make any sense of it.

      • veronica d says:

        Ah, yes, the white power bronie guy.

        He seems entirely sincere.

      • Vaniver says:

        I’ve talked to him over Skype. He’s 100% serious (but also kind of a troll?), which I think is kind of awesome.

        • Vulture says:

          100% serious (but also kind of a troll?)

          A lot of people with extreme political opinions seem to be like this. Maybe it’s a selection effect; i.e., you have to have a somewhat trollish personality to persistently broadcast extreme political opinions on the internet. (Probably related)

          • Anonymous says:

            Usually if I want to troll I simply voice an unpopular opinion I actually hold with no respect for inferential distance in the audience. That bit of self-awareness comes through somehow. I assume forum moderators who through out bans for “asking to be educated” are in on the joke? God I hope so.

        • suntzuanime says:

          100% serious trolling is the best kind of trolling and the best kind of being 100% serious.

      • AR+ says:

        Ahh yes, I remember that guy. I really liked him because his arguments seemed to be at least passably justified and I’ve always thought of trying to come up with interpretations that are far detached from common interpretation and almost certainly artistic intent, but which can still be fully justified from the text itself to be a really fun game. (Only in late high school did I learn that some people actually take literary analysis seriously, hard as that may be to believe.)

    • Nornagest says:

      Wow. It’s like reading radical feminist media analysis in the Bizarro World.

    • Vulture says:

      I liked that More Right post, because it seemed accurate* and insightful, but even more so because it was the first post since I started following that blog that wasn’t a meta or internal NRx thing that I had no context for or interest in. If they somewhat regularly post interesting stuff like that, then I might not actually unsubscribe from the feed.

      * as far as it went – probably a correct analysis at least of Scott

      • veronica d says:

        I dunno. I’m basically in favor of a guaranteed basic income, but I have no intention to stop working. Instead, I genuinely think it would help young people and poor people live decent lives.

        Note that a fair number of my friends are genuinely poor. They live pretty rough lives and I hate to see this.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t get it how it would help poor people. The guaranteed basic income means, everybody is handed the same amount, poor people, rich people and everyone in between. Comparing with current system, under which poor people get a certain amount and the rest don’t, and assuming the total size of the pot stays the same, that pretty much means taking some money out of a poor person’s pocket and giving it to a bored software engineer. You can of course say that you also want to increase the size of the pot, but that seems rather orthogonal, you can increase the total amount of handouts but still restrict them only to actually poor people. And you can’t increase the total by too much, since there’s a hard upper bound on tax rates of 100%.

          • Anonymous says:

            UBI combines two ideas. One is to pay in cash, rather than in kind. That has two benefits. The other is to get rid of steep marginal tax rates. That has a third benefit. The two ideas are logically independent.

            One is that it could eliminate a lot of bureaucracy, people whose job is just to check that people qualify for welfare programs. And a lot of work social workers do is telling poor people how to jump through the hoops to get what is nominally owed to them. If you think that’s a good thing, if you think the purpose of social workers is to pick and choose the deserving poor, well, you’d better hope that the social workers make the same decisions you’d make.

            The second is that if you give money to the poor, they will spend it differently than if you pay them in kind. Of course, that is exactly why things are given in kind in the first place. But if, as claimed elsewhere in the comments, people sell their food stamps, the food stamps have limited ability to curb their judgement. If you don’t want them smoking, taxing cigarettes might be more effective. Housing and school vouchers are a middle ground, a way to prevent funds from being diverted from essential needs, while still letting the poor vote with their pocketbooks about the quality provided by government monopolies.

            The third is effective marginal tax rates. If getting a thousand dollar raise makes you lose your free housing and have to pay a lot more than a thousand dollars a year for shelter, maybe you’re not going to work very hard, even if it is the first step to a long run that is worth so much money, it’s worth losing the free housing. Welfare benefits don’t usually cut off that abruptly, but they are the steepest marginal tax rates in the world. People are less likely to make this mistake with UBI. However, American EITC, a real-world negative income tax that is the result of lobbying by Milton Friedman, has a pretty steep effective marginal tax rate.

            If you want to analyze the effects of UBI, I suggest breaking it into three steps. The first is to switch from in-kind to cash transfers. This is costs no money and could save bureaucratic costs. The second step is give everyone a lump sum. This is achieved by raising taxes to offset the cost. This would be done in a revenue-neutral manner. It could be done as purely a bookkeeping maneuver that wouldn’t affect anyone’s net taxes, and theoretically shouldn’t affect people’s behavior. However, it would probably be done by raising marginal taxes on the rich. There is some level of income at which people’s take-home pay wouldn’t change, but their marginal tax would go up. This could be bad for their incentives, not to mention those who received a real tax increase. The third step is to smooth things out so that the effective income taxes of coming off of welfare aren’t so steep. This requires new money to give to the poor-but-not-that-poor. Maybe this could come from the savings in step 1, but probably from higher taxes. Or you could just reduce benefits to the very poor.

    • blacktrance says:

      In my experience, supporters of UBI fall into two somewhat overlapping categories. The first group is the market-oriented utilitarian progressives who want a welfare state, and see a UBI as more efficient than the hodgepodge of programs we have now. The second group is reformist libertarians who would like to reduce the welfare state, but see a UBI as a second-best alternative or at least an improvement over the status quo, because it involves less top-down control over people’s choices. Both groups are concerned with the potential effects of UBI on the incentive to work, but as long as someone isn’t working, neither of the groups tends to care particularly much about what they do, or make that a central point in their arguments.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        The biggest problem with libertarians is that they tend to be uncompromising, which means that they always lose because they are incapable of making deals with people whose ideals differ from theirs in order to accomplish common goals.

        A sensible libertarian would realize that of the following two scenarios —

        A: The government steals $1000 from me and gives it to Joe Poor-Guy;

        B: The government steals $1000 from me and gives it to Joe Poor-Guy, and then steals another $1000 from me and uses it to pay Willie Welfare-Agent to spy on Joe and make sure he isn’t doing anything politically incorrect like shooting up heroin.

        — situation A is substantially more liberty-preserving than situation B, both for Joe and for me. I get to keep more of my money, Joe gets to keep his privacy, and Willie has an incentive to go into an honest hardworking trade such as dealing heroin instead of spying on poor people.

        • blacktrance says:

          Scenarios like yours are why many libertarians do support a basic income or some other kind of simply redistributory measure as improvements over the status quo. When a policy is genuinely an improvement (according to libertarians), they support it. But, at least in my experience, when libertarians are labeled as uncompromising, it’s done because they don’t endorse policies that make things worse (from their perspective). Maybe non-libertarians assume they have more common goals with libertarians than they really do.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        At least two other groups:

        People who want to protect the working poor without dictating values. Under the current system, employers of unskilled workers are pretty free to say “put up with this or starve”. The workers are protected by regulation, but it’s a hodge-podge. Workers are protected against low pay, most physical dangers, and anything sexual. They are not protected against emotional abuse or physical dangers that OSHA hasn’t gotten around to studying yet. And often they chafe under these protections, wanting to accept a danger they don’t mind as much in order to increase pay or employability. A UBI would give unskilled workers the practical ability to walk away from really sucky jobs — based on *their* definition of sucky.

        The other big pushers of UBI are people who are concerned about long-term technological unemployment. Our current welfare system is based on the ideal that basically everybody *should* be working. Welfare is described as “a second chance”. But if we get AIs roughly equivalent to IQ 115, most of humanity *shouldn’t* be working. And, no, that doesn’t FOOM, because making AI breakthroughs is at least an IQ 130 task. Sure, you *could* employ all those redundant people with clunky make-work or in negative-sum status games, but a world that didn’t do that would clearly be a better one. LTTE probably isn’t here yet (though even that’s debated) but if not it’s clearly coming.

        • blacktrance says:

          But if we get AIs roughly equivalent to IQ 115, most of humanity *shouldn’t* be working.

          The existence of high-IQ AI doesn’t repeal the law of comparative advantage.

          • Daniel Speyer says:

            Yes it does.

            Comparative advantage is based on the principle that everybody wants something and looks after their own interest. But AIs *don’t*. They just do their jobs.

          • blacktrance says:

            AIs want something too – they want whatever they’re programmed to want. For example, Clippy wants paper clips.

          • Susebron says:

            But would an AI necessarily want something? I think we may be overly anthropomorphizing the hypothetical AI.

          • Jaskologist says:

            An AI which wants nothing will do nothing. It will not be intelligent for all practical purposes.

          • Susebron says:

            I think we need to define “want”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m pretty functionalist here. “Wants” are whatever it applies its smarts to accomplishing.

          • DavidS says:

            I would give a different explanation of why AGI would (probably) eliminate comparative advantage in intellectual labor: An AGI would presumably be able to fork itself and acquire additional computing cycles at near zero cost.

            A standard example of comparative advantage is a lawyer hiring a secretary. The lawyer might be able to do a better job reading and answer routine correspondence than the secretary would, but it is more efficient for them to spend all of their time lawyering.

            But this is because time and attention are limited. An AGI lawyer would just fork off a child process and buy a few more cycles in some computing center to run it on. Why ever go with an imperfect human when computation resources are essentially unbounded?

            Assumptions here:

            * Moore’s law will keep running for several generations after AGI is reached, so that whatever computation an AGI needs in 2050 will become dirt cheap in 2070.

            * Quantum effects are unimportant for thought, so the no-cloning theorem is irrelevant.

            * I am talking about comparative advantage in intellectual labor. I can easily believe that evolution has done such a good job teaching humans to walk or pick objects up that it would still be worthwhile for an AGI to hire us to do those tasks, to the extent that it needs them done.

          • Whateverfor says:

            If it’s a properly designed AI, then what it ‘wants’ will be to serve people, and the service that the humans will provide is to consume the fruit of the AIs labor. If that seems radical and far fetched to you, talk to someone who owns a cat.

        • veronica d says:

          I’m an advocate of UBI for more or less the first reason. I want the working poor to have real bargaining positions. Long-term tech unemployment is also an issue I care about. I want people to thrive.

    • Charlie says:

      Your last link was great. Props to the author for giving it a fair shake. Probably should have avoided the movie, but hindsight 20/20 etc.

      One comment I found too hilarious to avoid pointing out:

      This episode would be impossible among males. There is too much status-seeking and social jockeying in it.

      This is a critical imagination failure. If Jerry Seinfeld won a contest whose prize was two front row tickets to Michael Jackson, the episode practically writes itself. In fact, maybe that episode already exists – anything that writes itself has probably already been written.

      • Luke Somers says:

        Yeah, and
        “Speaking of which, do any of these ponies besides Applejack have, you know, a job?”

        Of the six: two business owners, two government employees, one private-sector employee, and one participant in a… nonstandard economy, but she definitely works. I wonder whether the question was serious or not.

    • Anthony says:

      Antidem and all y’all need to read

      For those of you not familiar, Taki’s magazine is for reactionaries who aren’t into that newfangled “neoreaction” stuff. And it is a serious defense of the brony phenomenon.

      • veronica d says:

        Heh. That article reads like a decent person in the grips of a terrible philosophy. Of course, I doubt the majority of bronies are NAT. That is not much more than muddle-headed stereotyping.

        • Nornagest says:

          NAT? I’m guessing that’s “neuroatypical”?

          • veronica d says:

            Yes. NT versus NAT.

          • Nornagest says:

            Odd that a reactionary, neo- or otherwise, would rationalize his way out of bullying bronies by imagining that they’re all autistic. It’s not uncommon to justify tolerance for a social condition by medicalizing it, but I usually think of that as a modern meme.

          • veronica d says:

            Well, I doubt he thinks of it so much as medicalizing. Instead, it is probably more ha! aspies! what freaks! Which is pretty gross, but a predictable expression of toxic masculinity.

            The reason I nevertheless suggest that he is (perhaps) a decent person at heart is this: he can see past his broken social model and find a place for kindness.

            He’s still completely daft.

          • Nornagest says:

            Reason I say “medicalizing” is that “ha! aspies! what freaks!” doesn’t work against bullying by itself, and he seems to realize that. Rather, he deliberately seems to be talking about autistic traits — with OCD thrown in there for some reason, but never mind that — as (a) unchosen attributes, (b) which lead to certain predictable dysfunctions, but (c) which don’t impinge on moral worth. Which is a decent working definition of medical stuff as a social category.

            He’s going out of his way to use loose, unintellectual, good-ol-boy language to talk about it, but that doesn’t change the underlying approach.

          • Anonymous says:

            He is not justifying tolerance on the grounds that they cannot help it. He is justifying tolerance on the grounds that they are improving themselves.

          • veronica d says:

            @Nornagest — Okay, I’ll buy that.

  68. Daniel Speyer says:

    If you’re doing a detailed gendered question on the survey this year, can you split “affirmatively cis” from “cis by default” (maybe with a “cis, not sure” option as well)? I’ve heard guesses at the ratio that are all over the place. I don’t expect our community to be representative, but I’d still be interested in the result.

    • veronica d says:

      Well, I would suggest separating out “are you trans or cis or in between” from “do you feel a strong sense of gender identity.”

      Of course, Scott would have to use his psych expertise to word those questions in a way that works.

      • Vulture says:

        Between the psychiatrist and the Gender Studies major, I bet Scott and Ozy can work something out 🙂

      • vV_Vv says:

        “do you feel a strong sense of gender identity.”

        I’m afraid that this question would actually become a proxy for “Do you have strong normative beliefs about gender identity?”

        I mean, If never desidered to change my genitals and secondary sexual characteristic or to be socially recognized as belonging to a gender different than my biological sex, how I’m supposed to answer the question “do you feel a strong sense of gender identity?”

        Frankly, that question sounds to me as silly as “do you feel a strong sense of eye color identity?”

        EDIT: on further reflection I think there is probably a way to pose the question so that it can be answered by doing introspection on one’s own preferences:

        “Suppose there was a way to change your gender without any health costs (including infertility), social costs (including romantic relationship incompatibilities) and other hurdles. Let X be your monthly personal expenses. Would you accept to change your gender if somebody offered to pay you:
        a) Nothing
        b) X
        c) X*10
        d) X*100
        e) X*1000”

        • Anonymous says:

          This is a good question. hough maybe -X, -10X, etc should be included.

          I like phrasing it as “no medical consequences” though.

        • Anthony says:

          For me, the barrier would be reversibility. I’d be willing to spend up to a month’s income to live in a female body for a while – say 1 to 6 weeks. Though like Tab below, I’d probably cope if I suddenly woke up female with no way to go back.

        • Matthew says:

          I think it would be more informative to ask people how much they would pay to avoid involuntarily having their sex changed irreversibly.

          I’m decidedly not cis by default, and the answer for me, is “the maximum I could possibly afford, followed by violent revolution rather than surrender.”

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            That wouldn’t measure how willing they are to get their sex changed, that would measure how willing they are to get their sex changed, relative to how willing they are to lose money.

            Someone for whom $200 means not starving may be unwilling to pay $200 and someone for whom $100000 means owning a 99 floor building instead of a 100 floor one might be willing to pay that, but the second person isn’t 500 times as attached to his/her sex.

            Also, any question about changing your gender mixes up the question of being another gender and changing to one. Changing raises questuons like “suddenly none of your friends know how to treat you you”.

        • Nornagest says:

          That’s a good question. I feel like I’m cis by default, but I’m aware that there are situations where transparent-to-you assumptions can get you in serious trouble if they’re unexpectedly violated. X is too low to hedge against that possibility; I don’t think it’s very probable, but judging from the testimony of actual trans people, we’re talking potentially very serious consequences for failure. Even X*10 might not be enough, although it’d be enough to get my attention. I wouldn’t hesitate long for X*100, though.

          If it was reversible, I’d do it for free.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        Gotta phrase things right, though. Until I heard the phrase “cis by default”, I’d have answered yes to “do you feel a strong sense of gender identity” – I definitely feel like a dude, yes. But per Scott’s old post, if I woke up tomorrow as a woman, it wouldn’t be at all traumatic for me, mentally.

        • AR+ says:

          I think a big problem w/ this whole conversation is HOW DO YOU KNOW?

          If people who end up w/ phantom limb had imaged ahead of time what losing that limb would feel like, would they have been able to predict that problem? Conversely, I don’t think that anybody can confidently say they wouldn’t have a problem w/ a differently sexed body, because their imagination may not be correctly provoking whatever process is responsible for severe body-dysphoria in the same way that an actual body/body-map mismatch would. (Or whatever other mechanism actually causes it)

          I don’t see myself having any problem w/ a differently sexed body that I can predict here, from within my current body. But given that constantly feeling that your own body is fundamentally wrong can happen, I wouldn’t risk trying the experiment if it wasn’t reversible.

          • veronica d says:

            It’s a good question. I think it takes an amazing effort of both imagination and empathy to get what it is like to experience gender dysphoria. But I don’t believe that knowing is impossible. What is impossible is to have perfect confidence in your knowing.

            But I think curiosity and a willingness to listen can get a cis person pretty far.

    • RCF says:

      It would also be nice if the results were formatted prettily.

      Like with

      Female: 161, 9.8%
      Male: 1453, 88.8%

      It would be more readable as

      Female: 0161, 09.8%
      …Male: 1453, 88.8%

      • Nornagest says:

        If anything that strikes me as less readable. It would be more readable with proper alignment, but skipping the zero padding would improve it if it was properly aligned, too.

        • RCF says:

          Yes, spaces are arguably better than zero padding, but I couldn’t figure out an easy was of doing spaces. &nbsp doesn’t seem to work with WordPress.

          • Anonymous says:

              works, as long as you remember the semicolon.

            Also you should definitely be using <code> to get a monospace font

            female:  161,  9.8%
              male: 1453, 88.8%

    • Emile says:

      “affirmatively cis” from “cis by default” (maybe with a “cis, not sure” option as well)?

      Seems a bit too fine-grained to me, or it would require a lot more explanation (I’d reply “not sure” but in the sense “I’m not sure what those labels refer to and I probably don’t really care”. Even “cis” is not a word “normal” people use, expecting everyone to be familiar with all those nuances is a bit like having a big sign saying “OH BY THE WAY IF YOU AREN’T FAMILIAR WITH SOCIAL JUSTICY JARGON YOU’RE NOT REALLY WELCOME HERE”.

      My preferences for a question like that would be:

      Simple explanation, no jargon (e.g. “cis with a strong sense of gender identity”) > stick to just having a “cis” category > jargony subcategories (“cis by default”) with explanations > jargony subcategories only.

      • stubydoo says:

        I’m with the other people who can’t really get a proper response out of the options in the gender identity question. I don’t go around in my day-to-day life trying to be a man, I go around trying to be Stubydoo, a person who happens to be a man and has any number of characteristics that are associated with manliness and any number of other characteristics that are not associated with manliness, and any of these characteristics can be a “strong” part of my identity whether or not they have much association with my gender. So I am definitely “cis” but I don’t think this is “cis by default” – if I switched to a different gender identity I would no longer be me and thus would never do it; but I don’t think it means I have a strong gender identity either – I have an equally strong personal identity for other traits. I think this is the basic situation for a large portion of the population.

    • Deiseach says:

      But what does that even mean “Do you feel a strong sense of gender identity?”

      If I don’t have dysphoria, don’t feel that I wish or would be better suited as another gender, and am pretty much content to be the gender assigned at birth, yet I could still disagree with statements that “Gender A is pink and likes sparkly things and wears makeup and Gender P is blue and likes sports and Gender ZA likes orange and chops down trees for a hobby!”

      Do I identify with the gender I am? Yes. Do I identify with all the stereotypes, assumptions, attributions and general ideas both in lay society and in medicine about my gender? No, I don’t.

      So do or I don’t I feel a strong sense of gender identity? How do I answer a question like that?

      • veronica d says:

        This is based on this post. To me it seems an interesting thing to try to tease out.

        That said, reading this and the other comments, clearly Scott would have to find a way to ask the question that gets to the heart of the matter.

        Short version: “gender identity” is a thing that is only partially related to “gender expression” — there are butch-as-fuck trans women and swishy-femmy trans men aplenty. In fact, an older name for the phenomena was “psychological sex,” which pointed more to a person’s relationship with their body.

        Now, the big-interesting question to me is why they so frequently align? That is, why do trans folks so often want to change both their body and their social identity?

        The answer to that question would teach us much about ourselves.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Ah, but when you say you “identify” as your current gender – how important is that identity to you?

        Would you be horrified if someone zapped you with a magic sex-change ray, for example?

        • Deiseach says:

          I have thought about it (puberty is a great way of making you think “What’s happening to me and how do I feel about it?”)

          I’m happy as I am, which is not to say that I don’t occasionally rear up on my hindquarters about “All X like /must be/want A, B. or C”. On the other hand, I get equally offended by “If you don’t do/act/want E, F or G, you’re not really X”. I mean, there are males out there who look and/or act a hell of a lot more femme than me, but that does not mean I don’t feel that I’m every bit as much a female as [insert example of really girly girl of your choice here].

          So if I got zapped with a magic “Now you are opposite gender/bigender/genderfluid/agender/nonbinary ray”, how would I feel?

          I don’t know. I’d be interested if it was a short-term thing, certainly; it’s always interesting to see how the other half lives. If it was permanent, I’d have to suck it up and find some way of dealing with it. How well or how badly I’d do, I have no idea.

          So I suppose I do identify with my gender strongly enough not to want to change it voluntarily. If that fits in with the question, then it would be a “yes” answer. But if the question implies or involves “Do you identify in every essential or think that there is a list of particular attributes that define your gender and only these select attributes are a proper definition?”, then it would be a “no/maybe”.

        • veronica d says:

          I notice we’re talking about gender here, which is pretty hard to pin down. Does it mean skirts versus slacks, makeup versus a bare face? I dunno.

          How about these questions: What happens when you imagine having and using the other kind of genitals, having or not having breasts? Do you like your skin soft and rough, hairy or smooth? Do you like your hip-to-waist ratio? When you picture your ideal physical self, what do you look like?

          This is the different between transgender and transsexual. There isn’t a bright line between the two, but they seem like different things.

          • Nita says:

            Do you like your skin soft and rough, hairy or smooth?

            Wait a second. Are you implying that female-identified humans are supposed to have no body hair? Or to hate their body hair? That seems a bit unnecessary.

            I’ve never noticed men having rough skin or trying to make their skin rougher either, to be honest.

          • CAE_Jones says:

            Replying to Nita:
            I get the impression the question is designed to see how the person feels about stereotypically gendered traits, in sort of an attempt to place them on something of an axis (or even to see if the axis model hold sup under scrutiny).

            (BTW, I’m male and would be willing to pay several thousand dollars for smoother skin had I thousands of dollars to spend.)

          • veronica d says:

            @Nita — Skin texture is a very subtle but nevertheless important aspect of bodily dysphoria.

            But no, I do not mean to suggest than any one of these things alone is the whole of being female. But they each contribute in various ways to the feelings of being female.

            But then, I’m setting aside the whole issue of how hormones affect one’s brain. That is very hard to discuss.

            Edit: let me add, obviously females have body hair. However, it is rather different in texture compared to male body hair. I mean, typically. A notable aspect of gender transition is the changes in these properties. The softening of the skin. The changes in body hair, both amount and texture. These are big deals.

          • Nita says:

            OK, I’ll admit that a male version of me would be even hairier. But even now, I’m hairier than a lot of manly males (either naturally or due to their shaving preference).

            I don’t know. It just seems like we’ve been fighting for this notion that there’s no “right” way to be a man or a woman, that having small breasts or broad shoulders or whatever doesn’t make you any less of a woman, that it’s OK to love your body even if it doesn’t live up to the stereotypes… And then some folks come along and say, “Noooo, a real woman would pine for bigger boobs, smoother skin and larger hip-to-waist ratio, ’cause that’s what being female is all about!”

            Personally, I don’t think I have an “ideal physical self”. To me, a perfect body is, in the order of importance: 1) physically functional — strong and healthy enough to do stuff, 2) socially functional — somewhat attractive and not too unusual, and 3) pleasant for me personally to look at. Obviously, very different bodies can match those criteria. So what does that make me in your system? Until now, I thought I was female, but if you’re (re)defining sex based on preferences, I’d rather not vanish into a non-existent category.

          • veronica d says:

            Nothing I say should be taken as a model of what a “real woman” is, nor a “real man.” Instead, why I am trying to do is (maybe) give readers some sense of what it is like to be trans. Which is really hard to do, since sex and gender are really hard to talk about. We have no words for “what it feels like to have a vagina.”

            This might be a hopeless task, similar to explaining “wetness” to a fish, or color to someone who sees only shades of gray. I dunno.

            There is a further problem, one that I have not even brought up in this thread. It is this: even if I manage to communicate what bodily dysphoria feels like, its wrongness, that does not show the long years, the sadness that never quite ends, the hopelessness, the creeping time that is an unlivable life.

          • Nita says:

            Yeah, I understand it must be frustrating — apparently some of us just have some murky pragmatic apathy instead of a sense of gender or sexual identity.

            Oh well. I don’t really get strictly gay or straight orientation, either.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          My first response to the ‘magic sex-change ray’ is to nitpick the hypothetical to death (“Does this mean I’ll have to spend my life being studied to try to figure out how magic works? etc.”). I take this as a sign that I’m cis by default.

          • Hannah says:

            That sounds like avoiding the question or looking for excuses ahead of time, and I don’t think having that first response is actually good evidence for being cis by default. Sure, it’s a way you might react if you were so indifferent that you had to fight the hypothetical in order to make a decision, but it’s also a way you might react if imagining the scenario in detail threatened to make you uncomfortable.

    • Elissa says:

      I seem to think of “girl” and “woman” as two different genders and identify as the latter but not the former. Figure that one out.

      • CAE_Jones says:

        I’m OK with admitting I’m “male”, but if the choices were “man/woman/other” I would go with “other”.

    • RCF says:

      Some notes on the survey:

      Interpretations are neither true nor false. That’s why they’re called interpretations.
      Perhaps you should ask whether people have read HPMOR up to the current chapter?
      You wrote “Use a ruler of calipers”.

  69. Vulture says:

    Speaking of annual online community surveys, apparently the brony community conducts a quite extensive one. This year’s “State of the Herd Report” is 87 pages of clean, nice-looking visualizations and reasonably solid analysis, and it’s well-written to boot. I’m actually kind of disappointed that I don’t have any use for brony demographic data right now.

    The only thing that really struck me as odd is that they call it a “census” and present counts as absolute (e.g. “There’s one brony in Greenland, and he’s not a native”), but it looks like it’s just a survey that they pass around by word-of-mouth or whatever (and which probably drastically undercounts even those who get it, since it must be loong). But it’s a fun read, and I’m sure there are some interesting things one could do with the data (they even included a Big Five inventory!)

    • gattsuru says:

      I find it surprising their removal of obviously bad data only removed 115 / 383 records out of 18,000+, which is a lower “obviously bad” value than even the LessWrong survey. Maybe they just set a low threshold, but I’d honestly expect Bronies to be trolled pretty heavily. On the other hand, their methodology looks pretty good, or even strong even to possibly wipe out some ‘good’ data (ie, people who don’t like personality tests, but answered the rest honestly).

      The transgender identity questions and slightly related pegasister question are surprising as well. I wonder if this is specific to the demographics of the brony community — especially with the increasing number of furries, given the often nonstandard views on gender that are more applicable in the furry fandom — or if it’s a meaningful data point about the general public that’s not often-presented in more overt discussion in the wider scholarship. Or it could just be a term loading matter specific to these cases, or even (in the trans identity question) confusion.

      • Vulture says:

        If they’re omitting people for non-completion, then it’s probably the rare troll who has the patience to wade through the whole survey just to get in a data point claiming to be a transgender basement-dwelling furry or whatever.

    • Luke Edwards says:

      I wonder the average fertility rate of bronies. I bet it’s low.

      • Moshe Zadka says:

        As a data point, this brony has a child and is expecting the second in October. I’m not planning any more kids, so this would put me at slightly below the average in the US but veeeery close. I realize this is an anecdote, but it’s better than your non-data 🙂