Open Thread 7: The Hunt For Thread October

I’m spending today being anxious and intimidated and shouting at my brain “QUICK! SAY SOMETHING INTELLIGENT! FAMOUS PEOPLE ARE LOOKING!”. But nothing is coming out except, as always, terrible puns. So probably time for another of the semimonthly open threads. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. The fifth annual Less Wrong survey is up and running. I’m deliberately not linking to it because I don’t want a bunch of SSC readers who don’t identify with the site going and taking it just cause it’s there. But if you’re a LWer, you probably know where to find it and should take it before the end date in mid-November.

2. Ozy’s thinking of starting a blog again, but can’t think of any good blog names. I told them to wait, lest they end up like me and be stuck forever with a failed anagram as a blog title (darnit, I should have gone with Astral Codex Ten) and promised I’d ask you guys for suggestions. Topics are…predictable if you know Ozy, and likely to include rationality, effective altruism, and social justice issues. Figure something out.

3. Thanks to everyone who helped me with advertising last month. I’ve added a text explanation and link to Amazon on the sidebar, included a suggestion that readers change their Amazon bookmark, and gotten a little more success.

4. Comments of the month: Daniel tries to patch up the schematics for socialism, JRM is always interesting and knowledgeable when he talks about law and needs to start his own blog, and Jaime Astorga on the effect of tech progress on different goods.

Also, seriously. Sometimes I forget to add “no race or gender in the open thread” at the end of these, and then people joke about how they’re going to post the most controversial things about race and gender they can think of, which is fine, but then they actually do that, which isn’t. Talking about really controversial race and gender stuff is sort of tragedy of the commons-ish. If one person does it, they get to have a fun, rambunctious discussion on tribal politics. If everyone does it, it crowds out everything else, this becomes a Race And Gender Blog, everybody who is freaked out or offended by that kind of thing leaves, and we get evaporative cooling down to only one of the many demographics who could be a good audience here.

Not only is that bad for the people who don’t hold controversial opinions about race and gender, but in the long run it’s bad for the people who do, because there’s less of an interface between them and the general public, and they have less ability to spread their views in a neutral and trustworthy space. And it’s also bad for me if someone discovers I run a blog where everybody is saying scary offensive things all the time. There is room for blogs that are totally about race and gender, and some of them are good blogs. This is not one of them, and I would prefer these topics be kept to a minimum (unless I start it, because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak).

Once Ozy has a blog again, you can offload all of your terrible gender discussion there.

[EDIT: This happened]

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

645 Responses to Open Thread 7: The Hunt For Thread October

  1. suntzuanime says:

    I guess I’ll plug one of my favorite webcomics, which recently was rescued from webcomics hell and has resumed daily updates, Cowbirds in Love.

    It’s a gag comic with little continuity, but it’s sort of hard to sum up. Like a more optimistic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal that’s less totally up its own ass all the time? There isn’t enough media that’s simultaneously happy and intelligent, so Cowbirds in Love is a nice ray of sunshine in amongst all the smart cynics.

  2. suntzuanime says:

    I wrote up a post for the open thread but it didn’t post. Did I annoy the spamfilter somehow?

    • suntzuanime says:

      I recognize that fussing with the technical side of the comments section is the least interesting thing about blogging possible, but it’s really frustrating to have written up a post in the comments section that is for posting in and then it disappears into the aether without any explanation.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If it was the Cowbirds in Love one, I think so. I’ve unspammed it for now, let me know if any problems.

  3. AspiringRationalist says:

    Even with your note about how people who don’t identify with LessWrong shouldn’t take the survey, mentioning it here probably makes LW readers who also show up here frequently more likely to take it, which still introduces some bias.

  4. Sniffnoy says:

    Wait, does Ozy want a blog name that’s *not* an anagram? Because some of the anagrams are pretty good.

  5. oneforward says:

    It’s been too long since the puns thread.

    “Scott and his attending are looking queasy downwind,” Tom said paradoxically.

    (I think this is an improvement.)
    “Good thing the Leviathan’s on my side,” Tom said superficially.

    “Polly! Over here!” Tom said comparatively.

    “Gur yrnfg unccl fubhyq or oheag ng gur fgnxr,” Tom said charmingly.
    (Censored for Tom being a terrible person. Not true, not necessary, not kind. Tom is banned from the rest of this comment.)

    “Bye Tom.” said evenly.
    “We got rich from Apple’s voice recognition system” Lee said ceremoniously.
    “Yep. That’s how we paid for this cabin,” Eve said biologically.
    “I hid the rest of the cash in the couch cushions,” Lee said philosophically.
    “I’m hungry. Are you?” Eve said eventfully.
    “No. I made a nice map of California though,” Lee said calligraphically.
    “You never eat. You’re thin as a twig,” Eve said heuristically.
    “I eat! I’m bigger than I was yesterday,” Lee said gruesomely.
    “Whatever. I’ll make a plain omelette so we can practice our haruspicy,” Eve said allegorically.
    “Yay!” Lee said happily.

    • zz says:

      In an alternate universe, Montgomery bus companies decided it would be a bad idea draw the ACLU’s wrath by arresting Rosa Parks and instead opted for an economic solution.

      The next day, when Ms. Parks stepped onto the bus and paid $0.15 like everyone else. The driver stopped her.

      “That’ll cost you $20.”

      “But that’s not fare!”

      • If we’re doing puns in general, I just ran across “If you’re attacked by a bunch of clowns, go for the juggler.”

        • peterdjones says:

          Clowns are vicuiusm but jesters are harmless.

          In fact, they are jesters of good will.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          You know, I’ve recently started getting into dumpster diving, and it’s amazing what you can find that people will just throw out. And like there’s this sorcerer who lives nearby, and the other day I found a magic lamp, some sort of shapeshifting clay, and little mechanical gnomes that seem to automatically repair any devices I leave them around. But I will admit it is dangerous. You always have to be prepared for a cursed waste scenario.

          • Zorgon says:


          • Anonymous says:

            Could someone explain this one?

            I’ve been thinking for two days but can’t get it.

          • Andrew G. says:

            cursed waste scenario / worst case scenario

          • RCF says:

            Reminds me of the Doctor Who episode where some alien repair nanites arrive on Earth, and the first human they come across has a gas mask, so they decide that every human that doesn’t have a gas mask is “broken”, and proceed to “fix” them.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Hm, I just meant the gnomes to be part of the setup, as an example of the sort of wondrous artifacts a sorcerer might have; they weren’t supposed to *be* the cursed waste…

    • Nathan Cook says:

      Is there something wrong with my brain today, or are these just not very punnish?

      My ‘contribution’:
      “Good luck Ebola-chan!~”, Mary said infectiously.

      • Hainish says:

        I was a little lost on these, too, and I’m normally good with puns. I think the trick is that the last word is made up of a set of sounds that ties into the quote, plus -ly.

        “No. I made a nice map of California though,” Lee said calligraphically. –> Cali graphic + ly

        “You never eat. You’re thin as a twig,” Eve said heuristically. –> You’re a stick + ly

        “I eat! I’m bigger than I was yesterday,” Lee said gruesomely.–> grew some + ly

  6. social justice warlock says:

    Reactionaries, if I were to read only one book by Evola, should it be Men Among the Ruins, Ride the Tiger, or something else? Are there any secondary works on Evola that have acquired something like canonical status among his admirers? Thanks in advance!

    (Scott, I don’t believe this violates the spirit of not making everything into a big tribal discussion, but if you disagree, please accept my apologies.)

    • Anonymous says:

      do reactionaries around here read evola, or is it just anissimov?

      • nydwracu says:

        It’s not just Anissimov; there might be two or three other people. But Evola isn’t very important, and is probably mostly used by insiders for shock value and outsiders because he’s easier to laugh off or discredit than Carlyle, Hoppe, Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Lasch, etc.

        I keep trying to read Evola, but I can’t get past how he writes. He never develops anything. It’s like reading two hundred pages of outlines. Are there any books where he goes into actual detail? Or is there anyone who picks up his ideas and actually develops them?

        • James James says:

          Do you mean Christopher Lasch? Which of his books should I read first?

        • James James says:

          Many books recommended by Moldbug have to be read with Moldbug’s exegesis. That is, you have to read Moldbug first. E.g. Hoppe is a libertarian; you have to read him in the light of Moldbug (and Nick Szabo) to get see why the libertarian reading is silly but the neoreactionary reading is not.

          Same goes for Carlyle, Fitzjames Stephen, Lecky, Maine. People have commented that they couldn’t have got much from Carlyle without Moldbug as a guide.

          • James James says:

            And of course Froude.

          • nydwracu says:

            I disagree about Carlyle. Moldbug’s exegesis is mostly a clarification of Past and Present; I’d recommend reading him without having any idea what to expect — start with On Heroes or Latter-Day Pamphlets, then read Past and Present, then read Moldbug.

            (Disclaimer: I haven’t read Chartism yet. Also, is Sartor Resartus relevant at all to Moldbug? I never finished it, but it didn’t seem like it.)

          • Matthew says:

            Some people read Thomas Carlyle as a libertarian?

            I’ve never read much of Moldbug, but Past and Present and Sartor Resartus were things I was assigned to read in college (at a Northeastern liberal arts university you’ve probably heard of — admit it, NRx, your minds are blown) and he was very definitely explained as a reactionary, not a libertarian.

          • James James says:

            To clarify, I was referring to Hoppe as a libertarian, not Carlyle, Stephen, Lecky, Maine or Froude.

            And yes, I am surprised and impressed you were assigned Carlyle at university. He is of course an essential part of any liberal-arts education: the “Sage of Chelsea” was one of the most widely read writers of his time, though little read now.

    • Morgenstern says:

      Revolt Against the Modern World is the best starting point, it’s where he articulates his philosophy. Ride the Tiger and Men Among the Ruins are basically manuals for applying those ideas for the goals of apolitical personal development and political organization respectively.

      (Of course when I say “articulates” that doesn’t mean it’ll be particularly easy to understand. Evola loved Nietzsche and unfortunately picked up a bit of his opaque style, not to mention the ideas themselves are a bit difficult to grasp from a modern perspective. I inadvertently prepared myself by reading it back-to-back with the Bhagavad Gita and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but really anything to narrow the inferential gap should help just as much.)

      Nydwracu is right though that NRx largely ignores Evola. Landian accelerationism is very nearly the precise opposite to perenial Tradition, Trad Caths and other Christians are unsurprisingly not fond of the esoteric and occult aspects, and the HBD / Identitarian wings desperately want to avoid connections to ‘fascism.’ Evola is central to Reaction, especially in Europe, but Neoreaction is it’s own weird little clique seperate from that.

      • social justice warlock says:

        Revolt Against the Modern World is the best starting point, it’s where he articulates his philosophy. Ride the Tiger and Men Among the Ruins are basically manuals for applying those ideas for the goals of apolitical personal development and political organization respectively.


  7. JME says:

    What would you think of an electoral system in which all candidate delegates from a district go to the legislature (at least so long as their votes exceed some reasonable threshold), but rather than each delegate having one vote on the floor of the legislature, they have a number of votes equal to the number they received in the popular election?

    E.g., if Alice and Bob are both candidates for the legislature in a district, and Alice gets 60,000 votes and Bob gets 40,000, they both become legislative delegates, but when a bill comes up, Alice can vote for (or against it) with 60,000 votes, while Bob only gets 40,000 votes.

    I haven’t really figured out so much about how this would work with non-floor votes, e.g., votes in committees and such. With a floor vote, so long as there’s a reasonably large number of districts (100+ range) of roughly-even population, no delegate will have excessive power (or at least, not by virtue of votes), but in a committee with 11 people or something, it seems like it might be stacked so that you have a dictatorial or almost-dictatorial committee. My proposal is to kick the can down the road and say that the legislature’s bylaws must be approved by both a majority of delegated votes (i.e., with Alice voting 60,000 times) and by a majority of individual delegates (with Alice voting once), so that rules for committees, etc, are written to balance these factors somewhat.

    Another question is the whole “threshold to go to the legislature” issue. I’m inclined toward a 5% vote floor, maybe, but I don’t know. Depending on how friendly you want to be to fringe candidates, some sort of IRV system could be incorporated so that people could designate someone else get their vote if their first choice doesn’t break the threshold.


    • Anonymous says:

      What’s the point? Are you trying to accomplish something?

      Most of Europe uses proportional representation, that has much in common with this system. Coalitions of parties are like this, a level higher up.

      • JME says:

        It allows people to vote for individuals rather than parties, and doesn’t require (although it doesn’t prohibit) strong parties or strong party discipline.

    • Anonymous says:

      That sounds like a sort of discretized form of liquid democracy (, no?

      There’s probably a fair amount of discussion about exactly that sort of scheme (delegative democracy in which there is some minimum number of delegated votes > 1 required to actually vote) in the literature.

    • jsalvatier says:

      You’ve invented Direct Representation which is the best kind of representation. That link is my blog, but others have invented it before and even called it the same thing. It seems to be the most direct and representative kind of representation (hence the name), but frankly that seems like a minor benefit since the problem with governance systems is not insufficient representation of the people’s will but that the voters’ will is kind of stupid (rational irrationality etc. etc.).

      • Lambert says:

        It’s only halfway there. The candidate for whom one voted can still U-turn when after election and screw over all those who voted for them. (In practice though, with automated siding with certain individuals or party/thinktanks, the situations would be similar.)

        • Lesser Bull says:

          So adopt the direct representation proposal but have a vote registry where properly authenticated voters can re-deed their vote at any time?

          • Randall Randall says:

            If votes are only worth as much as the total delegated from those who voted for a representative, then the only reason to keep the minimum vote count would be technical, but modern technology would seem to have solved that. So, anyone who wished could vote in the legislature, themselves. It seems that perfectly proportional representative democracy is no longer very difficult. If we add a requirement for unanimity (a la the North American Confederation of L. Neil Smith’s novels), we can have a system which is at once both a representative democracy and functionally anarchy. Of course, the starting set of legislation then becomes quite important. 🙂

    • Deiseach says:

      Ireland uses the system of Proportional Representation by the Single Transferable Vote, as explained here.

      NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: Just because I took the article from “An Phoblacht”, rather than Wikipedia, please don’t start guessing about my politics or views. It was simply that this is a neater explanation of the system.

      • speedwell says:

        As a new resident of Ireland (I’m a US expat), thanks for this. I felt weird, when they told me I could vote in local elections, not knowing how it worked.

        • Deiseach says:

          Nobody knows how it works, except that at election times you can get rid of all the canvassers by promising their candidate your Number One 🙂

          When it works, it’s fairly flexible and responsive – because it’s not “first past the post”, it gives the voter the chance to choose several candidates they think will do well, or vote No. 1 for Candidate X and No. 2 for Candidate Y as a check or balance to Candidate X’s party.

          That’s why we’ve been ending up with a lot of coalition governments recently.

          Of course, it’s not a perfect system, and because it allows small parties/independent candidates to get elected, you could argue it dilutes the vote so that Party Z will always be in power simply because they can scrape together enough support to form a government, while your local Candidate Crusader who got elected is ineffectual since they don’t have the power of a national party behind them.

          But I do think American politics could use at least a third party, even just as an alternative to the Red versus Blue/Blue versus Red – though we can’t talk in Ireland, since all our parties are jostling for the centre (except maybe what’s left of the United Left Alliance).

  8. Paul Goodman says:

    What’s the threshold for being a “LWer”? I’ve read the sequences and I have an account, but I don’t visit the site regularly. Should I take the survey?

    Also it’s weird seeing this thread the day after I finish reading The Hunt for Red October

    • zz says:

      Was discussed here. Consensus seems to be “ain’t no such thing.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If you’ve actually read the Sequences, you’re doing better than a lot of the survey takers.

      • Typhon says:

        I have tried a few times to read the sequences, but they didn’t strike me as incredibly insightful.
        It occurred to me that it’s likely because I have been reading your blogs for so long that I have absorbed much of the interesting ideas in them already, and maybe I’d get more out of them if I tried to read them backward.

        • Clockwork Marx says:

          I’ve never gone through the sequences in any kind of order, nor do I see much benefit in doing so. I prefer a non-linear approach where you jump around from blog to blog, comment thread to comment thread, etc within the “rationalist” community, occasionally reading or rereading sequence posts relevant to the topic at hand.

          I find this is the best way to learn almost anything. For example, listening in on/talking to people who have already learned and applied the optimal strategies in video games on message boards is far more efficient (for me) then going through arcane game mechanic FAQs and strategy guides.

          The FAQs function best as a common reference point for discussion. You can’t participate without being familiar with them (otherwise you’ll ask dumb questions and be told to “read the FAQ”), but it is possible to become familiar with them without necessarily needing to read them.

        • peterdjones says:

          There are some real gems combined with a lot of waffle and some mistakes. The cost benefit ratio is hard to calculate and depends a lot on where you overcoming from.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you can shoehorn in at least four links per post.

      • Anonymous says:

        Socialist or NRx, LW is united in linking.

        I actually saw a blog post a few days ago where the majority actually thought the author held the opposite position because of the amount that was to be inferred from the writers linked. Scott’s pretty outsider-friendly (got me in to reading LW stuff), but a lot of folks need to reread the bit on inferrential gaps. Or just keep playing to your audience and hope no one else wants to read it.

    • Ben says:

      My favourite thing about that book is the presence of a mostly imaginary Sean Connery.

  9. Liskantope says:

    Hi, I’m fairly new to this blog and the LWer/SSC-commenter community, but you may have noticed my comments occasionally popping up on SSC since July or so. Anyway, I thought I’d use this open thread to ask if anyone had any advice on how to become more involved in the online rationalist community. I realize that’s a very broad question, so let me try to be a little more concrete.

    I discovered SSC only a few months back, which in turn led to my discovering the existence of Less Wrong and what’s referred to as the rationalist community. I have never been much of an online person (apart from Facebook), am bad enough at technology that I’ve barely been able to maintain a basic homepage, and have never previously run across an online community that I liked enough that I wanted to become a regular blogger or commenter on any forum. This is exactly the kind of blog that I always imagined myself keeping up — if only I had somewhat more time, energy, and prowess when it comes to intellectual / philosophical writing. I feel that I’ve always been very much a rationalist at heart (in the sense that “rationalism” is practiced among members of this group), but have never gotten around to putting much deliberate effort into honing the necessary rhetorical skills.

    So how do people here manage to gain a foothold in this online community? One way seems to be to start posting on LW. As a lot of the terminology used there is still somewhat alien to me, I’m guessing that I’d have to lurk there for a while before being able to write anything that doesn’t get massively downvoted. And I’ve tried checking in there from time to time, and don’t tend to find much that I find particularly engaging or accessible, and have noticed some remarks to the effect of “LW discourse is falling by the wayside; in fact, the comment threads on SSC are better”. So probably I haven’t tried to follow nearly enough of what goes on in the LW forums, but I’m sort of wondering how worthwhile it is. What are your opinions on that? (I’m trying out the Sequences, but am finding that a bit overwhelming as well.)

    I notice that a number of folks here also have their own blogs on WordPress and/or Tumblr. I’m mostly unfamiliar with both of these, but see some apparent advantages and disadvantages of both. WordPress seems more ideal for longer, more carefully written blog posts, but I don’t know how well getting my own blog there would facilitate my interacting with the group. Tumblr seems great for meeting and interacting lots of online rationalist bloggers, but (1) the interface seems kind of irritating in a number of ways (maybe I would just get used to it), (2) it seems like a bit of an awkward medium for longer posts (I can be pretty long-winded — just look at this comment!), and built more for back-and-forth (sometimes hostile) debate, gifs, etc. (A few days ago I did get a Tumblr account, because I figured I might as well start following rationalist_tutor’s tutorial on rationalism.)

    Right at the moment I can’t justify putting any serious amount of energy into it anyway — at least, not until my thesis is written, which probably won’t be until sometime in the spring. However, I’m looking ahead to some months in the future when I may have some one-year postdoctoral position somewhere where I don’t know anybody, and may perhaps have more time to spare for online intellectual pursuits. For now, I’m just commenting on SSC posts every so often when I can, and otherwise just reading and thinking over the posts here as well as the opinions and arguments of other commenters.

    TL;DR: How should someone who only discovered the existence of this rationalist community a few months ago, who has never really been involved in any online community, start to become more involved?

    • Nornagest says:

      Tumblr is built very specifically for propagating short-form media, especially images and brief text commentary. It’s not a social network in the conventional sense, and it’s definitely not set up for facilitating or tracking discussion. A lot of the reason debates on it are so awful (and, as a corollary, a good bit of why its culture is so awful) is because its architecture makes it easy for clickbait-type stuff to explode and for innocent-at-the-time comments to go off the reservation, but hard to ensure that follow-ups — like, for example, apologies or clarifications — end up in the same places as their originals.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The lack of good introductory material is a problem and probably should get taken care of at some point.

      There’s an IRC channel at #lesswrong if you want to talk, though they’re not always the most interesting or accessible.

      I don’t know if there’s a meetup group where you are, but there are megameetups in a few places every so often you’d probably be welcome to attend. And you can see if there’s still room at this year’s Solstice in NYC, which usually has a couple of days of hanging out and talking afterwards.

    • Brian says:

      This is something I’ve been asking myself, too.

      I’ve been familiar with the LW community for a while now, and reading Scott makes me want to finally start blogging. This is something I have trouble doing, though.

      Scott, what is your process for blogging? How do you maintain motivation to create so much great stuff so frequently? Do you have any tips for aspirants?

      • Liskantope says:

        How do you maintain motivation to create so much great stuff so frequently?

        It seems to be generally agreed upon that Scott operates via some mysterious phenomenon where significant quantities of time and energy for blogging are created where there should be none. Scott addresses this himself in this post.

        • Anonymous says:

          I experience the same phenomenon, but instead of making time for blogging I make time for doing aimless bullshit.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Some day I should write a list of blogging tips, but I should probably do it on some anniversary of the blog or something so it doesn’t look too apropos of nothing.

        But basically, I find that I mostly get ideas reactively. I see something that annoys me or that I disagree with, and then I try to figure out why. I find that pretty motivating, and the universe obliges by providing me with endless annoying disagreeable things.

        The other motivating thing is knowing I have a big audience who care what I have to say and will provide positive comments. That’s hard to get, but it is an argue in favor of at least starting your blogging on Less Wrong (or some similar community blog) and then moving somewhere else once you have enough people who like you and will follow you over. If LW itself doesn’t attract you, maybe find another group blog that’s interested (Carcinization comes to mind, though I don’t know if they’re accepting new writers).

        If you want, you can email me a few of your most interesting ideas (just a couple sentence summary) and I’ll tell you whether they sound obviously like something that’s been covered on LW before. Or you can post them here and let the hive mind do that. Or you can post a thread on Less Wrong Discussion which is “Post your LW post ideas so people can tell you if they’ve been done before”, which might inspire other people.

        (I don’t think that particular post idea has ever been done before, although I could be forgetting)

        • Anonymous says:

          Is cross posting from blogs considered acceptable on LW? I know a lot of places hate that.

        • Hiding out says:

          Scott, much as I like your blogging, the thing that strikes me as remarkable is that you read and think much faster than most people. Do you have any thoughts about what might be the cause and whether any of your ability is learnable skills?

          • Hainish says:

            Speculation as to the cause: He majored in philosophy (IIRC). It *really* forces you to spit out your thoughts in a coherent way (usually after having analyzed some source material).

    • also a lurker says:

      I feel similarly, though I wouldn’t say that I’m bad at technology or anything like that; I’m quite good at technology, but inept at the social aspect of it.

      I’ve been lurking around the LW community since 2009, I don’t live in a city with meetups (and I think I’d be too intimidated to attend even if I did). I do feel like SSC resonates more with me than LW did, but I felt that LW was somehow easier to participate in back in the day. I dunno. I have a handful of karma on my LW account, but no one would recognize me. I’ve never posted.

      Do any of the more socially skilled folks in the SSC-LW periphery have any ideas for those of us that want to be part of the group but don’t really know how?

      • Liskantope says:

        Another thing that inhibits from posting at LW (which I forgot to bring up in the parent comment) is the worry that, even if my input is coherent by their high standards, the idea may have been posited long ago and already well known to most LWers. I suppose this would be less of a potential issue for you, since you’ve been reading LW posts since 2009. Does it happen from time to time that different people post arguments that are roughly the same as arguments posted a while back? Or are LW posters mostly comprised of long-time members who have followed a steady progression of rationalist ideas that have accumulated over the years?

        • also a lurker says:

          I’ve been reading LW posts since about 2009, but I haven’t been anything close to active for a few years now. The time when I stopped paying close attention was around the time that lukeprog took over SIAI/MIRI (though that’s not the reason I stopped paying attention, it just happened contemporaneously). I would say that the majority of people that I found interesting stopped participating as often and moved to their own blogs, and I think a lot of interesting conversations moved offline as well since the Bay Area rationalist community seemed to get together frequently. Which is great for those in the Bay Area…less great for those of us who aren’t and are now left out of a lot of the general conversation.

        • Hiding out says:

          I suggest posting a list of your ideas (either on the open thread or as an article in Discussion) and asking whether they’ve been written about recently enough that there’s no point writing articles about them.

      • nydwracu says:

        If you want to be part of the group, get a Tumblr. If you want to contribute, start a blog (WordPress is better than Blogspot, and Tumblr just isn’t serious) and start writing, and make a Twitter account.

      • CAE_Jones says:

        I’m about the same as AlsoALurker, except I only showed up around 2012.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      (A few days ago I did get a Tumblr account, because I figured I might as well start following rationalist_tutor’s tutorial on rationalism.)

      I made a couple of posts (Questions?) there but haven’t found any replies to them, and no coversations (which is how I learn — watching ideas get batted back and forth till the terms start meaning something to me).

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        PS. I meant to use the Edit window to add that seems to have even less. I have seen some good discussions at other WordPress blogs, though linked comments are better. LiveJournal and DreamWidth have linked comments and were used for a lot of long, thoughtful stuff.

    • Anonymous says:

      I like LW comments more than I like SSC comments. LW has much less noise. Every SSC post gets something like 300-500 comments, and nowadays it is becoming harder and harder to sift though all this pile to find really good ones. I am not saying that average comment quality is bad – it isn’t. I’m just saying that often I have no time to wade through 400 comments (many of which are simply trying to push a certain viewpoint instead of actually engaging the argument) to find really worthwhile ones.

      LW has a bit fewer comments, but it also has fewer low quality comments.

    • Liskantope says:

      I appreciate the helpful responses and advice. Here is my (vague, tentative) plan:

      1) Start using Tumblr (which I recently got an account on anyway) to get to know some of this group a little better.

      2) Make a point of posting one of my ideas (that I’m not sure would be new to LW, or is even fully developed enough to post there) on SSC each time there is an open thread. I’m not doing that today, since this open thread is already growing old, but I’ll start with the next one.

      3) Depending on how #2 goes, as well as a number of other factors, become active on LW or at least try to get more involved as a lurker.

      4) Long term goal: start blogging using WordPress. Since this requires an audience, and more energy for writing than I have at present, it’s not clear if / when this will be feasible.

  10. You mentioned in the thread on the site that the Less Wrong survey is starting to get unwieldy. Here’s a question: If you could have it work however you wanted, unbound by the limitations of Google Docs, what might you do?

    Things I can imagine: Including ALL the questions and asking people a random selection of them. Including questions that depend on one another. Grouping them into sections and explicitly asking things like “do you want to go through the questions about politics?” (though that might introduce bias). Letting people go back and answer more questions later. I’m sure other people could come up with ideas that are better than these.

    If you’re interested, I volunteer to set up anything you’d like to do for next year’s survey. (I’m a programmer.)

    • Best idea I can think of is: have multiple pages. When you finish a page, it gets sent to Scott, and you get a code that will let your results in the next page get identified with your previous page. This seems like a great way to address ‘the survey is getting too long’ and test new questions, as well as a great way to address the problem where people fill out half the survey, never get around to finishing, and you wish you had at least an incomplete set of answers from ’em.

  11. Shmi Nux says:

    Very happy for you, Scott. Many of your ideas, insights and analyses deserve a wider exposure and now they will hopefully get it. And, for better or for worse, so will you.

  12. Mr. Eldritch says:

    Ozy’s Blog:

    Mandy Asking Of Kings.

  13. DrBeat says:

    Scott, I am working on a project that’s meant to be a therapeutic tool for teens/young adults / kids. So I am kind of split between asking your advice, and being terrified of asking your advice because you’ll tell me it’s all pointless and meaningless.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You can email me if you want to talk. I…guess I do tend to think lots of things are pointless sometimes, but a lot of things aren’t and I promise to be nice.

      • DrBeat says:

        But even if you are nice about it, you might still convey that same information, that it is pointless and useless. That is a bad thing to learn no matter how nicely it is conveyed, and if not conveyed, I could still have plausible deniability.

        • Adam Casey says:

          > That is a bad thing to learn no matter how nicely it is conveyed,

          Depends, is your aim to help people, or just jump through the hoop. If latter, yeah, don’t look into it too hard.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The problem is that your brain wants to help people and your heart wants to feel good about itself. So you’re terrified learning that you’re not helping people even if, in some sense, you earnestly do want to help them.

          • DrBeat says:

            My aims are to help people and also not be so consumed with despair and feelings of uselessness that I spend all my time staring at the ceiling wishing I had the courage or basic agency to kill myself.

            Also, psychiatry, especially for youth, is so squidgy in general that the psychiatrist feeling like something works may be the most important factor in determining if it works, but me “knowing” it doesn’t would mean I wouldn’t be able to tell them it did without lying and thus would be making it ineffective.

        • roystgnr says:

          That is a bad thing to learn? If you want to do useful things, then learning that what you’re doing is useless and you should switch is invaluable.

          If you just want to feel like you’re doing useful things, video games are great. Why bend your superego into knots trying to trick your id into not worrying whether a task is pointless, when there are huge teams of full-time professionals willing to do that for you for a minimal price?

      • DrBeat says:

        Well, either way, I emailed you; the subject line was “Therapeutic Thing for Teens/YA”

  14. Chris says:

    Your daily dose of questionable epistemology, courtesy of the Harvard Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab: “Failed replications do not provide meaningful information if they closely follow original methodology; they do not necessarily identify effects that may be too small or flimsy to be worth studying; and they cannot contribute to a cumulative understanding of scientific phenomena.”

    And: “Null findings cannot distinguish between whether an effect does not exist or an experiment was poorly executed, and therefore have no meaningful evidentiary value even when specified in advance”

    • suntzuanime says:

      I keep waiting for all the scientists to get together and announce that they’re taking away his Science License, and it keeps not happening. How do you screw up that badly? How do you get to be the head of a science lab at Harvard and not know what science is?

      • US says:

        Wow, that’s pretty terrible [edit: this was supposed to be a reply to Chris’ comment, not suntzuanime’s – nothing terrible about that comment…]. Also, this one:

        “Replication efforts appear to reflect strong prior expectations that published findings are not reliable, and as such, do not constitute scientific output.”

        …”as such”? Strong priors are disallowed in Bayesian analyses? Or perhaps Bayesian methods aren’t scientific? (on second thought bringing Bayesian methods into this is not necessary and may confuse the issue to people unfamiliar with them. Perhaps a more basic observation is even more important: How is science supposed to work its error-correcting magic if nobody ever gets to test questionable findings – and how are the results of such tests not scientific output?).

        If a guy like that is in charge of a science department it at the very least gives said department an image problem. If he did not work at Harvard, I’d also tend to think the situation would give the university employing him an image problem. As it is, he can probably free-ride on the high-quality research conducted in other departments or by his colleagues in the department and know that as long as all the others are doing good work, it’s hard for critics to question his credentials because, hey, Harvard.

        But it does seem to me that if Harvard wants to retain the image the public has developed of it, the ‘Harvard institution’ would benefit from limiting this kind of free-riding.

        …not that the free-riding is the only interesting aspect here, of course – I’d also very much like the answers to suntzuanime’s questions as well..

      • Vaniver says:

        This came up on LW; my comment.

        How do you get to be the head of a science lab at Harvard and not know what science is?

        It’s almost as if doing science is a handicap to advancing at Harvard, especially in the psychology department.

        • Anonymous says:

          Of course doing science hinders impressive results and thus advancement. But what’s surprising here is that he’s saying no to science.

    • JME says:

      It almost seems like he’d be better off saying “look guys, science isn’t really a reliable path to knowledge. You need a certain ineffable knowledge of the right techniques, etc.” than trying to redefine science so much. He could make a sort of Nassim Nick Taleb-style case about science being too platonified by Dr. Johns even though the practical Brooklyn Tonys of the world implicitly understand reality better.

      Not that I’d agree, but it seems like it would be better than the redefinitions of science he’s trying to pull here.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Yeah, his comments make sense if his position is that science doesn’t actually work and he’s is kind of exasperated at the naiveté of the replicators who are tearing everything up in the name of their false religion. This is a totally legitimate position to take, the only problem is that he’s a bishop of that false religion and no one seems to notice that he’s preaching that God’s not real.

    • GMHowe says:

      I’m sure some replication attempts may fail due to experimenter error and I understand the need to be cautious not to overstate the evidentiary value of experiments; but if failed replications have no meaningful evidentiary value then that has to undercut the evidentiary value of all experiments not just failed replications.

      He does attempt a defence by invoking an asymmetry between positive and negative evidence. His argument seems to be that once something is detected failures to detect it on future attempts count for almost nothing.

      He illustrates his point by analogy, “Prior to the turn of the 17th century, Europeans did indeed assume that all swans were white. When European explorers observed black swans in Australia, this negative belief was instantly and permanently confuted. Note the striking asymmetry here: a single positive finding (of a non-white swan) had more evidentiary value than millennia of negative observations.”

      Sticking with the swan analogy; if today all credible attempts to observe black swans failed, I’m pretty sure that actually would be evidence against the existence of black swans.

      There is an asymmetry here though. But it seems to me it is between strong evidence and weak evidence not positive and negative evidence. Negative evidence can actually be quite strong provided you limit the scope.

      Prior to the observation of black swans the Europeans had no evidence of their existence. Once they were observed all those non observations didn’t need to be discarded they were easily explained. They failed to observe black swans because they were in the wrong place. Black swans did not exist in Europe at the time.

      My understanding of attempted replications is that every effort is made to replicate the conditions of the experiment that detected the effect. So it seems quite far removed from trying to observe black swans but failing at it due to being on the wrong continent.

  15. Your blog should totally be called ‘Stern Atlas Codex’. Or ‘Slant-Tear Codex’.

    For Ozy: ‘My Works’. (Or ‘Ozy’s Works’, for something googlabler.)

  16. JP says:

    For Ozy:

    Look On My Twerks, Ye Mighty, and Despair!

  17. blacktrance says:

    This is my current impression of the political tribes’ views of each other. I had some difficulty describing Blue-Violet interaction – I’m open to suggestions for improvement.

    • Loki K Zen says:

      What does the Violet tribe refer to here? I think I must have missed where they came in.

      Though it does make me want to make a version for my idea of British politics and its Red-Blue-Yellow system. (The Greys, in this case, would be a definite offshoot of the Yellows).

      • Kzickas says:

        Demographically blue with red beliefs.

      • Alejandro says:

        Highly educated people who despite being mostly immersed in the Blue culture are religious and socially conservative. Ross Douthat is the paradigmatic example-to-go. It is a much smaller tribe than the others, has little-to-none influence politically, and is included in a list of “main tribes” only because it provides a useful and illuminating contrast to the other ones.

      • kaninchen says:

        I’m not certain how much of a coherent yellow identity there is. Remember how unpopular the coalition has been among many of the former-SDP type Lib Dems. Also, you can’t do a serious model of modern UK politics without including UKIP supporters, and they’re a rather mixed bunch of working class whites (violets? I don’t really understand this colour either), eurosceptic former Tories (ultra-reds), and libertarians (not all of them grey) who refuse to accept that UKIP no longer represents them.

      • kaninchen says:

        Long comment warning:

        A first pass at identifying the different political groupings in modern British politics

        Shire Tories: The UK equivalent of mainstream Republicans, typically being socially conservative, pro-business, and Eurosceptic. Traditionally Conservative, but increasingly moving towards UKIP. Powerful within the Conservative party, but have not actually led it in a long time. In Scott’s terminology, firmly red-tribe. Standard bearers: John Redwood, Mark Reckless.

        Managerialist Tories: More liberal than the Shire Tories in most ways. Were the “party of organised retreat” during the post-war era. Have tended to lead the Tory Party. Some of these are pro-Europe. Red tribe, but less firmly so than the Shire Tories. Standard bearer: Ken Clarke.

        Fabian Leftists: The kind of educated leftists who one tends to meet in universities. Started out very collectivist – were advocating eugenics and denying the Holodomor in the 1930s – but gradually moved rightwards until 2007, since when they have jumped back to the left. Have always had a major role within the leadership of the Labour party. Very much blue tribe. Standard bearer: Ed Miliband.

        Blairites: An offshoot of the Fabian Leftists, who have resisted the move towards the left. Standard bearer: Andy Burnham. Blue tribe.

        Far Left: A mixture of trade unionists, Marxists, and environmentalists. Very much blue tribe. Nowadays have significant overlap with Fabian Leftists. Standard bearer: Owen Jones.

        Old Liberals: descendants of the former Liberal Party. Centrist on most issues, except very pro-European. Yellow tribe. Standard bearer: Jeremy Browne.

        Social Democrats: descendants of the former Social Democratic Party. At a policy level they are pretty much identical to the Blairites; however, whereas Blairites are rightist agitators in the Blue tribe/opposition, these are leftist agitators in the Yellow tribe/government. Standard bearer: Vince Cable.

        White Malcontents: working class whites. Tend to be economically left-wing but socially conservative, and very concerned about immigration. A mixture of Blue and Violet tribe. Part of their resentment is at their lack of real representation. Have some overlap with Shire Tories, and share their euroscepticism.

        Working Class Ethnic Minorities: generally left-wing. Blue tribe. Standard bearer: Diane Abbot.

        Regional Nationalists: disappointed to have lost the recent referendum, and are now pushing for as much devolution as possible. On a policy level, left wing and closer to the Far Left than the Blairites. Blue tribe rather than red tribe, but would strongly resent inclusion in the same tribe as English blues.
        Standard bearer: Alex Salmond.

        Right-Libertarians: A sort-of libertarian offshoot of the Shire Tories and the White Malcontents. Generally Eurosceptic and anti-immigration, but libertarian on many other issues. Closer to red tribe than grey tribe. Standard bearers: Douglas Carswell, Steve Baker.

        Greys: politically libertarian, but tend not to be great fans of natural rights. Very consistent overlap with British fans of this blog. Most important policy stances are pro-Open Borders and pro-NGDP targeting. Standard bearers: Sam Bowman and Ben Southwood.

        The Conservative Party draws its support from Shire Tories, Managerialist Tories, White Malcontents, and Right Libertarians.
        The Labour Party draws its support from Fabian Leftists, Blairites, the Far Left, Social Democrats, Working Class Ethnic Minorites, and White Malcontents.
        UKIP draws its support from Shire Tories, White Malcontents and Right-Libertarians.
        The Lib Dems draw their support from Blairites, Old Liberals, and Social Democrats. They were briefly popular among White Malcontents, but that evaporated when they went into government.
        Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party (SNP) draw their support from White Malcontents, Working Class Ethnic Minorites and Regional Nationalists.
        Back around 2010 it looked like UKIP might turn into the UK Libertarian Party; however, they have moved to oppose immigration, which has driven off some Right-libertarians and most Greys.

        • BenSix says:

          I fear that “white malcontents” will be (and, indeed, are) defined solely by their resentments, when there is a respectable tradition of left wing economic and social conservative thought, but otherwise this is really good.

    • lmm says:

      Can we drop the cool-kids colour scheme and just use the normal names for these factions? It’s pure obscurantism.

      • Lambert says:

        I second this, not least because in the UK, the Conservatives are blue and Labour (left wing) are red.

        • kaninchen says:

          This is in fact the case in most countries. Red has traditionally been the colour of the international labour movement (hence during the Cold War the Russians were referred to as “the Reds”). It’s only the other way around in the US, and even that’s only since 2000.

      • social justice warlock says:

        I believe Scott’s original intention was to separate out cultural folkways from political ideologies, but everyone pretty much started using them to signify the latter from post 1.

        • This is deeply unfortunate, but unfortunately true. Even though I called myself Violet below, I don’t think that Violet actually constitutes a tribe in the original sense, and neither does Gray. Rather, both Gray and Violet are non-dominant political affiliations within the Blue tribe, and not quite tribes in their own right.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Grays are Blues tribers who have realized that Blue ideas aren’t working out as sold, but are still sufficiently in thrall to their Blue conditioning that they don’t want to associate with icky Reds.

            Violets realize that Red should be their tribe, but their Blue conditioning makes them feel the need to constantly apologize for that fact.

            he says, surveying the scene with a Red eye.

          • Izaak Weiss says:

            Violet was in fact expressly coined for republicans/conservatives (political ideology) in the Blue Tribe, and Grey is very similar.

          • nydwracu says:

            Nah. Blue-spawned Greys are the default, but there are Red-spawned Greys too. They tend to be older, and they tend to be engineers.

        • Dude Man says:

          This is probably another reason to drop the color coded names. The moment you start discussing things in terms of red and blue, people start thinking of politics.

      • DrBeat says:

        But the color scheme naming highlights how what team you are on is far more fundamentally important than upholding any values espoused by the team.

        calling them the Purity Tribe and Equality Tribe doesn’t get this across as well as Red Tribe and Blue Tribe (which is worse than Red Team and Blue Team)

      • blacktrance says:

        What would you suggest for “the normal names”? Communitarians, libertarians, progressives, and conservatives, or Christian nerds, atheist nerds, Brahmins, and Low Vaisyas? The problem is that they’re cultural tribes, not political factions, though there’s correlation between the two.

      • To a certain extent, in contemporary American sociopolitical discourse, “blue” and “red” are the normal names for those groups. “Gray” is a bit less standard but I think most sociopolitically literate Americans would understand the analogy.

        I agree that the various attempts by people who don’t think of themselves as any of those three to make up additional colors, are failing to provide illumination and should probably stop. (Like, I get that many of us would rather think of ourselves as “purple” than as any of the regular tribes, but the problem is that purple is not a real tribe.)

        • nydwracu says:

          Purple = Dreher’s ‘crunchy con’, right?

          I’m still not sure if they exist as anything more than a test to see if columnists can talk a new tribe into existence. I’ve never met any. But I might be too prole to have met one. I don’t know.

        • Nick says:

          I agree that the various attempts by people who don’t think of themselves as any of those three to make up additional colors, are failing to provide illumination and should probably stop.(Like, I get that many of us would rather think of ourselves as “purple” than as any of the regular tribes, but the problem is that purple is not a real tribe.)

          This is an interesting point (I feel bad for not thinking of it earlier when I endorsed the category Violet), but I’m not actually sure it’s true and would like to see a good argument about it. The first objection that comes to mind is that these hypothetical groups do seem to select for ingroup the way that Scott says Blue and Red have done so well, and it seems that insofar as they don’t it’s only because the population just isn’t there to pick from (e.g., Violets choose to socialize with Blues and Reds not because they’re actually Blues or Reds, but just because they can’t find any other Violets. I’ve run into maybe two people and no more whom I would consider Violet out in the real world but plenty online, and I really like interacting with those I do find, so I think this is plausible). Is there something here I’m missing?

          A last tangent, partly in response to nydwracu: these colors would actually be really useful and self-explanatory if we had directional color words or something in English. Like, if violet meant red that was mixed into what was blue, whereas purple meant blue that was mixed into what was red. And more generally for metaphor purposes it could indicate primary and secondary components of some mixture. But that’s just my inner conlanger talking.

        • Nornagest says:

          I agree that the various attempts by people who don’t think of themselves as any of those three to make up additional colors, are failing to provide illumination and should probably stop.

          [smartass] If we need a word to describe a color that only exists in your head, how about “octarine”? [/smartass]

      • Anonymous says:

        Not until you tell us the normal names.

        • Nornagest says:

          My first impulse is to say that Blue equals [American] “cultural liberals”, Red “cultural conservatives”, and Gray “geeks”. Violet doesn’t have a conventional name as such, although I could be a smartass and say “readers of G.K. Chesterton”.

          That doesn’t quite capture it, though. The bulk of the US Democratic Party isn’t Blue as Scott describes it; inner-city blacks and Hispanics aren’t well covered by any of Scott’s colors, for example, and neither are the dwindling group of labor unionists that used to make up the Democratic core constituency. Blue here is educated, culturally middle-to-upper class though not necessarily economically well off, mostly white, and primarily interested in social justice topics — though SJWs proper aren’t core Blues but rather a fundamentalist offshoot.

          Red does form the core of the American Republican Party: mostly rural, culturally working-class though it includes a lot of small-scale entrepreneurs, possibly educated in the vocations or TEM (generally not S, that’s a Blue or Gray thing) but usually not the liberal arts, and again mostly white. But there’s more diversity in that party than the color scheme captures. Some of the main communities being excluded: right-libertarians (who seem to exist on a spectrum between solid gray and some other color that this scheme has never heard of), big-business conservatives, and a few insular religious communities like the Mormons.

          • eqdw says:

            I think one of the big distinctions that Scott was trying to get to with the colours was to represent the cultural shibboleths that are common to the US political factions. Like you say, inner-city blacks and Hispanics are not well-represented by ‘blue’ even though they align with “Democrat. But at the same time, the representative example of “Democrat” that you read about in the paper or see on the news, isn’t going to be an inner-city black. It’s going to be a Blue.

            I recently learned a term for this which I think also captures the implication, albeit with a generous helping of ad-hominem. It’s Champagne Socialist. Or, if you prefer, “Limo Liberal” or “Bourgeois Bohemian”.

          • Anonymous says:

            That doesn’t quite capture it, though.

            I don’t see any disagreement between your first and second paragraphs. It just goes into detail why you said “cultural liberal” rather than “Democrat.”

          • Nornagest says:

            I would call e.g. old-school labor unionists cultural liberals, but I would not call them Blues. And I’d definitely call Mormons or Mad Men types cultural conservatives, but they’re just as different from core Reds.

          • blacktrance says:

            I wouldn’t call old-school labor activists cultural liberals, I’d call them economic progressives who are allied with cultural liberals out of the convenience of coalition politics. They aren’t particularly culturally liberal themselves, and if anything are more culturally conservative.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nornagest, what do you mean by “cultural liberal” that it includes old-school labor unionists?

          • Nornagest says:

            what do you mean by “cultural liberal” that it includes old-school labor unionists?

            Cultures that are: collectivist as opposed to individualist or communitarian; skeptical of hierarchy but okay with institutional authority; historically skeptical of markets and incentive-based reasoning; long on welfare and other safety nets; sympathetic to socialist and syndicalist aims if not necessarily identified as such; inclined more towards negative than positive consequentialism, insofar as they’re consequentialist.

            Suppose that’s more “culturally leftist” than “culturally liberal”, though. Blame America.

        • Fake Name says:

          How about we call the Reds the Proletariat and the Blues the Bourgeoisie?

          • Matthew says:

            Those are both urban designations; Scott’s Red Tribe is rural. Peasants, or realistically, rural petit-bourgeoisie, not proletariat.

          • nydwracu says:

            Aren’t even most Blues part of the proletariat? I’d guess more Blues than Reds.

            (Where do bureaucrats fit into the class system? They’re usually called bourgeois, I think, but why?)

          • blacktrance says:

            The Blues are the equivalent of Moldbug’s Brahmins, and therefore not proletarian. What tribe you belong to depends on your culture and values, not just political orientation.

    • As a Violet, these seem just right to me (though of course my ability to evaluate the self-perception of the Gray and Blue tribes is relatively low).

    • rsaarelm says:

      Do the grey tribers (STEM-background, atheist, techno-progressive, etc) actually start out thinking that the blue tribe is “the main opponents”? My impression is that the grey tribers are politically disinterested and more or less start out seeing themselves as blue tribe members. The distinct identity separate from the blue tribe and seeing the blue tribe as opponents only comes to play when grey tribers run into politically active blues, don’t have the good sense to not go picking and choosing politically dissenting viewpoints just because they look more correct to them, and experience being suddenly and incomprehensibly attacked by what they thought of as their own people.

      • blacktrance says:

        In my experience (caveat: I grew up in a Red area), Greys don’t start out thinking of themselves as Greys, they think of themselves as Blues until they run into archetypal Blues and clash because of the differences. After some time, they recognize the magnitude of the differences and no longer identify as Blue.

        • nydwracu says:

          This generally fits with my experience, though with the caveat that a minority of Greys pattern culturally with Reds.

        • Anonymous` says:

          That fits me pretty well, including growing up in a Red area.

        • Wirehead wannabe says:

          This is me in a nutshell. My parents and a significant number of my friends are hardline Blues, and over the past year or so I’ve come to realize the flaws in my former tribe, mostly from hanging around LW and here. Now Blue rhetoric seems like obnoxious signalling when I read it.

          That being said, I also dislike the more idealistic libertarians, so I haven’t gone full grey yet.

        • mayleaf says:

          This matches my experience as well, and I grew up in an overwhelmingly Blue area. I was politically disinterested but generally Blue-aligned throughout high school; it wasn’t until I started engaging more in political/social discussion in college that I noticed that my viewpoints often clashed with standard Blue ideology. At the same time, I got more exposure to “activist” Blues, which made me identify less as a Blue myself.

    • Liskantope says:

      I’m not sure how I feel about your depiction of Red-tribers as seeking a simple, old-fashioned lifestyle. Maybe this is more true of older members, but a lot of Red-tribers seem comfortable with the complexities of modern life to me. A good number of them also seem intellectual enough in a certain sense (and definitely view themselves as intellectual, and value a certain flavor of intellectualism).

      Then again, I haven’t actually known any members of the Red tribe very well for quite a few years now, and no longer feel much in touch with the trends among them.

      • blacktrance says:

        What constitutes a “simple, old-fashioned lifestyle” changes every generation, but the Reds are characterized as being drawn to what they think of as simple and old-fashioned even as the specifics of that lifestyle change with time.

    • Anonymous says:

      We are taking this whole color business way too far.

      • Matthew says:

        Seconded. Map has been diverting farther and farther from territory the more people discuss this in these terms.

        • Anonymous says:

          If Scott had wanted to discuss US-style liberals and conservatives, he would have referred to them as “liberals” and “conservatives”. Blue and Red weren’t cutesy nicknames, they were to distance the example from the real world. I hate unnecessary jargon and the use of color names outside that specific post leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          To abuse a phrase, people have taken the finger pointing at the moon and started talking about the rest of the hand.

          • Matthew says:

            I’m not objecting to the names. I’m in outright disagreement with the framework.

            (Context — I’d same I’m blue, but I’m anti-SJW. I consider sexism and racism to be real problems, but the current situation to me looks like this:

            Scene: There is a tumor on the hand of the body politic.

            Conservatives (obliquely)/reactionaries(openly): “That’s not cancer, it’s a beauty mark. We should flaunt it.


            Me: Um, perhaps we could perform a biopsy and choose a targeted chemo treatment?

            I don’t think this makes me a Gray. Nor do I think Yglesias, Drum, et al. are grays. Freddie Deboer is definitely not a gray.)

          • Zorgon says:

            You forgot the bit where the SJWs call you pro-tumour because you don’t want to hack the entire arm off, and once the dust has settled from that the conservatives claim this whole thing is evidence why the body politic needs more tumour.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            (If Scott had wanted to discuss US-style liberals and conservatives, he would have referred to them as “liberals” and “conservatives”. Blue and Red weren’t cutesy nicknames, they were to distance the example from the real world.)

            I agreed up until your last clause. Aiui, the terms are to distinguish ‘culture including political views’ from ‘culture not counting political views’. Thus making it possible to talk neatly about [‘people who drink beer and like Nascar’ but vote leftwing] vs [‘sherry drinkers who like opera’ but vote rightwing].

        • mayleaf says:

          Has it? I think the main issue is that “Blue Tribe” and “Red Tribe” don’t actually correspond to “most liberals” and “most conservatives” — they refer to two specific American cultural groups (of many). As long as all discussion of Blues and Reds maintains an awareness of that fact, I don’t think the map is diverging from the territory.

          Specifically: Blues are urban, college-educated, atheists or lukewarm theists, politically liberal, and generally communitarian. Reds are less urban, more deeply religious, politically conservative, and also generally communitarian. Both groups are predominantly white.

          This clearly does not represent all of America.

          “Red” and “Blue” represent two common clusterings of beliefs— there are plenty of people who don’t fall close to the center of either cluster, and there are plenty of other belief-clusters – for example, the belief-clusters of many poorer racial minorities (politically democratic, committed to fighting racial inequality, but also generally religious and family-oriented). As long as we don’t claim that Blue and Red categories neatly partition America, I think these terms remain useful for discussion.

    • T. Greer says:

      I take it you are not Red. Perhaps it is what reds think about violets, but the rest all come off as cartoon versions of Red positions.

      I don’t know if I am Red, Violet, or Grey–but I have enough close Red friends and family to see that this is flawed. A few thoughts:

      “Traditional order” is not the way they talk. The intelligent ones say “Civilization.” The less sophisticated ones might say “everything that has made America great.”

      Anyway, three resources hat might help you out:

      Arnold Kling’s cheap E-book, The Three Languages of Politics which uses some of ideas that parallel those in Scott’s post, including the tripartite division between progressives, conservatives, and libertarians.

      Joel Koetlin, “Watch What You say: New Liberal Power Elite Won’t Tolerate Dissent,” Daily Beast (7 June 2014) and “Look Out For Obama’s Legacy,” (20 October 2014) are fairly good summaries of how Republicans actually articulate their vision of the left. Angelo Codevilla’s The New Ruling Class” is another good summary of those themes.

      I also strongly recommend this Democracy Corps memo where they formed focus groups with Republicans of different stripes (clans?) and sat down with them to see what the underlying assumptions behind their politics were.

      Takeaway from the above three: if you don’ have words like ‘dependent,’ ‘ruling,’ ‘agenda’, ‘subvert/pervert’, ‘mainstream America’, ‘snobbery’, or ‘elite’ in your boxes then your boxes are probably wrong.

      Also, they do not see things as ‘anti-Christian’ so much as ‘anti-religion’ or ‘anti-God’. God is a Christian. (For them at least).

      Notice that libertarians don’t really show up in any of this. This is because for most mainstream conservatives, the grey tribe is invisible. Successful people in the grey tribe are lionized as examples of American ingenuity and enterprise; its less well off members are are indistinguishable from the blues. Real reds–especially those that do not live on the internet or have never heard of Tumblr–are much more aware of divisions between Reds (say, between evangelicals and tea party clans) than they are the division between grey and blue.

      See the Democracy Now memo for more on that.

      P.S. I also strongly recommend–and this recommendation goes out to all SCC folks–the book America 3.0. Intelligent reds exist, and some of their proposals are top notch. This book is perhaps the best presentation of ‘red’ ideas I’ve seen in a long time. To quote my review:

      It is unusual for me to read a book aimed at popular conservative audiences. I am something of a disaffected conservative. Crony capitalism and government overreach have proved to be bipartisan endeavors, and I have long lost faith that the Republican party can ever be more than an organ of America’s governing elite. [1] Outside of the beltway the broader currents of mainstream conservatism are so full of angry sound and righteous fury (and nothing else) that I have long stopped paying close attention them. The movement is in desperate need of a clearer vision and more compelling purpose.

      America 3.0 is the book to provide it.

      James Bennet and Michael Lotus get everything right that all of the other popular commentators get wrong. In contrast to pundits incessantly focused on the character flaws of the opposition and controversies of the hour, these authors focus on the broad political principles and broad political context – “centuries into the past and decades into the future” (xxv). Where most popular political creeds are shallow, filled more with hype and platitudes than meaningful evidence, America 3.0 is both respectful in tone and deeply researched (and none the less readable for it!). Few popular political works have any real historical grounding; America 3.0 possesses this in spades. Even more impressively, the authors manage to convey both their sense of history and their firm belief in American exceptionalism without any of the reflexive chest-pounding sometimes mistaken as patriotism in conservative corners. (As they write in the introduction, “We are attempting to avoid sentimentality in this book, and look at the record in a cold light. As we write things are not good in America. Being realistic is a matter of urgency (xxiv).”) Most impressive of all is the political platform they lay out. In age where conservatives are too often defined by what they are against, America 3.0 paints a compelling picture of what they should be for.

      All in all, a breath of fresh air.

      When liberal friends ask me for a book that might convince them to switch sides, this is what I give them. As my review says, it gives the reader a grand vision of what a 21st century red tribe is for — and by extension, what they think about themselves.

      Hope all that helps.

  18. Anonymous says:

    How do people deal with this problem? (Being unable to bring oneself to focus on important work/obligatory tasks, even when the alternative is just staring into space.) It’s pretty crippling for me and several other people I know (I currently struggle to average five minutes of real work per day, though it’s worse for some tasks than others). All the suggestions I’ve seen for internally-enforced systems to solve this (GTD, beeminder, etc) seem to have failure modes equivalent to the “you can’t have any chocolate chips until you do the thing” “I can though” exchange. Externally-enforced systems seem like piling on more guilt and risk of “ruining everything”, which is plenty present already. And of course once can just handwave that I need to apply more willpower, which is a useful model sometimes, but is kind of begging the question; notwithstanding that I’d expect plausible gains from more willpower/”just trying harder” to be more like doubling of time spent working (to 10 minutes per day) and not the 20x+ increase needed to actually achieve my goals. What is your advice? Could e.g. psychopharmacology or therapy be helpful? (My impressions are to the contrary but I have little data on either.)

    • Setsize says:

      The mental health clinic at my university ran a support group around procrastination and perfectionism, and I found it helpful. The group was focused on mindfulness practice, though I expect that other therapeutic frameworks like CBT would work just as well. (As far as I understand them both mindfulness and CBT amount to trying to notice when system 1 is running away with your thoughts, then responding by engaging system 2, with the dials set to extra-charitable, when you are thinking about these things.)

      Some other lessons I picked up:
      * You probably know this but trying to pile more willpower on just doesn’t work and leads to a death spiral when you start guilt-tripping yourself about not being able to. The mindfulness-style answer for this is to practice a form of meditation where you dispassionately notice whatever your thoughts and flights of attention are while you are staring at the wall, and when you notice distracting thoughts, accept them but then return to staring at the wall. You then apply that practice to dispassionately noticing when you are becoming self-critical over procrastination. Then maybe try just… accepting the fact that you are procrastinating, because you need to disconnect that emotional death-spiral before you can make other gains.

      * GTD and beeminder and blocking all internet attention sinks and so on: all of these work until they don’t; it is normal for all these coping strategies to fail after a while. A natural tendency is to seize on these failures as an opportunity for self-criticicism; a more system-2 answer is to dispassionately notice that the strategy has stopped working, gleefully abandon it and maybe think about trying a new strategy this week. (Ex: eventually I started noticing that going to the support group itself had stopped working. I stopped going to the group, floundered for a bit and then got on bupropion and by the time that stopped working I had finished my thesis.)

      * Probably the most helpful thing was just being able to sit in a room with other grad students who were having the same struggles.

    • Richard says:

      I’ve tried lots of stuff to sort this, but I keep running into a couple problems:
      * I don’t do well with support groups, or indeed any kind of groups, so that bit is out.
      * I am terrible at tricking myself so the whole rewarding the inner pigeon track doesn’t work.

      What does work (to some degree, going from 5 to 10 minutes would work, going from 5 minutes to 8 hours, probably not) is exercise.

      It is totally unrelated to what I’m supposed to do, so putting it off because it means putting the important thing off doesn’t happen and the endorphin jolt pushes me over the hurdle so I get something done. My problem then becomes limiting the workouts to a reasonable level, but I find that to be somewhat easier than actually getting started on something without the workout.

      Exercise is also a Good Thing ™ so that the whole guilt trip death-spiral mentioned by Setsize seems to be less of a problem, though does not go away.

      No guarantees, but may be worth a try.

    • Zorgon says:

      After being very unwell in a “concentration and focus almost impossible” kind of way for a long, long time (more about that down the thread later, I think) I’ve been trying to climb the steep slope back up to functionality, especially in terms of Getting Shit Done.

      The only two things that have had any meaningful impact on my output have been:

      1) The Chrome plugin Momentum (which switches the standard Chrome “GO LOOK AT THESE SITES YOU SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON SOME MORE” home page to a pretty picture, a weather widget, a main goal and todo list, thus neatly priming you to Get Shit Done)

      2) Hedonic awareness games. Most pointedly, I started buying custard slices and other sugary treats on the way home from the morning school run, then sat them there until I was working. Note, not until after I had worked, but until I was actively doing work. Pretty quickly I’ve managed to train my brain to associate Doing Shit with Delicious Sugary Goodness and reduced the amount of sugar from custard slices to a cup of tea with a spoon of sugar in it.

      It’s not an ideal situation, and I’m still procrastinating rather a lot, as the panicked night-before-my-interview activity would seem to demonstrate. But it’s definitely gotten me off the starting blocks.

      (Caveats: Worked for me, may not work for you, the management bears no responsibility for spleens ruptured by cosmic rays as a result of this advice, please eat custard slices responsibly)

      • Anonymous says:

        When I start working, then give up in frustration after five minutes, do I stop eating the custard slice? Indeed the very act of eating it means I’ve stopped focusing on work.

    • Liskantope says:

      I am a graduate student nearing the end of my thesis research (a.k.a. the ultimate test of one’s success at Avoiding Tempting Distractions To Do Actual Work Via Pure Willpower). So while the following couple of suggestions may not be especially applicable to your particular battle, they arise from my own struggles with at least vaguely similar issues.

      1) The decision to return to work is the hardest part. That is, whenever I get distracted (I notice this particularly when I succumb to the temptation to play semi-mindless games on the computer, so I’ll use that as an example), the biggest hump I have to get over is my inhibition against making the decision to turn off the game and get back to work, rather than the return to work itself. As soon as I actually see myself starting to go through with this transition, I immediately feel much better and have at least some temporary willpower for concentrating on the work. The “disappointment” at not getting to play one more game is actually momentary. So I’ve begun to learn to anticipate that the unpleasantness involved with choosing to return to work will last only seconds, and that helps motivate me to actually make that choice more often.

      (Hmm, sounds an awful lot like an internally-enforced system which you said haven’t been working, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to relate my experience with it.)

      2) Under certain circumstances (an otherwise mostly clear schedule), I’ve found that getting involved in a regular non-work-related evening hobby sometimes increases my overall academic productivity. For me, the best example of this has been getting involved in community theater, which would keep me busy for a few hours many evenings a week. I think the idea is that every day I would know that I’d get at least a couple hours of guilt-free non-work later on, and somehow the anticipation of this would make it easier to summon up the energy to work during the day.

      I can think of more, but I should probably be working on submitting my paper right now rather than distracting myself with SSC comment threads 😛

      • Anonymous says:

        The decision to return to work is definitely a major source of difficulty, but I can manage it sometimes (about once a day at the moment). The trouble is that my willpower will then be so exhausted from making myself return to work that as soon as I encounter any frustration or confusion (usually within about five minutes with my current top-priority task) I’ll give up and go back to procrastinating. Over time I suspect this is strengthening my negative association for the task and the act of returning to it, without actually yielding any meaningful progress.

    • speedwell says:

      This is not what you want to hear, but I suspect the actual answer is “give up”. No, wait, hear me out. I suffered from this same thing all my childhood. When I was seventeen and was at my twentieth piano lesson where I played the same thing in the same way, my teacher guessed I was not practicing, and believed me when I showed her that I was distressed about it. Her answer, discussed beforehand with my parents, was to tell me, “This is just not for you anymore. Maybe you’re gone as far with it as you can go. I know you love music. Why don’t we get you ready to do a voice major instead of a piano major in college?” Not only did I embrace this wholeheartedly, but in one short week I had caught up and memorized my entire piano repertoire as well. The pressure to do it had come right off. I had been resisting the pressure to do it, not the actual doing of it.

      I still suffer from this today. I’m unemployed, need a job, and have terrific skills and great charisma (where did THAT come from; I honestly don’t have a clue). But every time I think about going back to work, I start to have what I can only describe as a mini-anxiety attack. Again, I have nothing against the doing of it. I am good at it when I screw my courage up to the task. It’s applying the screws that gets me every time.

    • Doug S. says:

      Joke answer: Structured Procrastination. Find something you want to do even less than “work”, then do work to take your mind off of not doing that other thing!

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      I was in a similar situation some months ago – on the worst days, getting about fifteen minutes of work done during a whole working day, or when I had days off, frequently having to just go lie in bed feeling bad because I wasn’t capable of doing anything, including anything entertaining.

      Eventually I spoke to a psychiatrist about it, got prescribed antidepressants, and they’ve worked wonders. Still have occasional problems with motivation, but nowhere near as bad as what I used to have.

      • Anonymous says:

        It seems counterintuitive to me that antidepressants would be very helpful, since I don’t generally feel very unhappy when I’m not panicking about a particular deadline, and such panicking is correlated with the rare occasions when I actually get work done. I can spend the rest of my time happily reading blogs, socializing, or working on personal projects, and while these things occasionally suffer from spill-over guilt they seem to provide genuine enjoyment. (Unfortunately motivation to work on personal projects seems to decline quickly as obligation/significance associated with the project increases.) I definitely don’t experience the “have to spend all day in bed feeling bad” thing. Do you think trying antidepressants still makes sense?

        • Hainish says:

          IANAD, but I suspect any benefit you’d see is because anti-depressants help with drive, as well as mood.

        • Setsize says:

          I sought out antidepressants because I was definitely experiencing a major depressive episode with attendant staying-in-bed-all-day-unmotivated signs. However my self coming out of the MDE on bupoprion was more productive than my self prior to the MDE.

          As I mentioned above I did find bupropion helpful — aside from it being a stimulant in addition to an antidepressant, one of the things that that characterizes depression is not just the affective state but the excessive rumination around it, which strike me as very similar to the thought-spirals that I experience with procrastination.

          My earlier mental model of what was wrong had revolved around my perceived inability to focus on work, so I had an stint trying out ADHD drugs, and these turned out not to work for me.

        • Anonymous says:

          My internal experience was also like this: I did not literally spend days in bed, I just stared at the computer all day and only really got maudlin at midnight. Also, some things provided enjoyment, just not the “apparently important” ones.

          Antidepressants actually helped with this. You might want to look up atypical depression.

          • Anonymous says:

            Further note: The Wikipedia page on atypical depression notes that modafinil can help on a semipermanent basis, so it’s possible that at least some of the effects of LW-types experimenting with modafinil could actually be this effect…

          • Hainish says:

            I have to wonder how many cases of atypical depression are actually cases of high sleep needs that aren’t being met.

          • Anonymous says:

            The symptoms on the Wikipedia page for atypical depression don’t particularly seem to fit my experience (though they are rather vague). My schedule has been flexible enough lately that I don’t need to set an alarm, and I wake up anyway after about 8 hours feeling reasonably rested, which seems inconsistent both with hypersomnia and with Hainish’s hypothesis. Also, my very limited experience with modafanil was that it didn’t make a huge difference to my mood or behaviour (aside from decreasing apparent need for sleep).

        • Kaj Sotala says:

          Do you think trying antidepressants still makes sense?

          Maybe? That does sound somewhat different, but I’m not a psychiatrist, so I don’t really know. (For me, the biggest help seems to come via a general increase in mood as well as mental energy.)

  19. “Ozymandias’s Thing of Things”


    (Not actually sorry)

  20. Oscar_Cunningham says:

    Is there a UK version of the Amazon link?

  21. James James says:

    I’m very surprised Daniel’s comment proposing a wealth tax made comment of the month. I don’t want to sound like a stuck record but this is a terrible idea. Wealth taxes are just deferred income tax. This problem was solved a long time ago and the answer is land tax.

    • suntzuanime says:

      If you can’t distinguish between a wealth tax and an income tax it’s hard to trust you when you say that land tax solves everything. You’re giving your beloved Georgism a bad name, here.

      • James James says:

        There are differences but the differences are not sufficient to make a wealth tax a good idea.

      • Salem says:

        There’s a sense in which a wealth tax is a deferred income tax, in that wealth is deferred income. But as not all income is deferred, they are crucially different.

        That’s why a wealth tax is much worse than an income tax – it discourages savings and investment, and encourages immediate consumption.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Whether something is good or bad depends on your point of view! The original post was from a socialist point of view, and the whole point of the wealth tax was to drive out (private) savings and investment. Private savings and investment are damaging to society because they let people build up fortunes and become unfairly powerful and so on and so forth. The explicit goal of the wealth tax was to nationalize investment, so I don’t think it’s fair to criticize it by saying it would be successful.

          • Salem says:

            Daniel never said he was trying to drive out private savings and investment. In fact, his comments explicitly state that new companies will be formed in the same way they are at present, by private entrepreneurship. But regardless of that point, he seems to expect the wealth tax to make the government very rich, as it accumulates all private wealth – that is the basis on which his citizen dividend is to be paid. He does not seem to expect the wealth tax to make us all very poor, as, rather than pay the tax, everyone eats their seed corn, never to be planted again.

            EDIT: To put it another way; I am not objecting on the grounds that his wealth tax would lead to a form of socialism (which I agree is his intent). I am objecting on the grounds that his wealth tax would lead to extreme poverty (which I assume is not his intent).

          • suntzuanime says:

            I assumed that the Basic Income fund he describes would be investing in stuff. Surely you aren’t literally just piling the money up in a vault. Companies will be formed by entrepreneurship, but there’s no rule that says the entrepreneur has to be the one providing the capital.

            The Basic Income fund can plant the seed corn it takes from people. Once the initial dispropriation is done, I agree that people will prefer to eat their personal corn, but again I view this as sort of the point. The government’s job is to plant corn, the people’s job to eat it.

          • roystgnr says:

            Is there a distinction in principle between “the government’s job is to plant corn” and “crony capitalism”? I’m doubtful there would be a distinction in practice.

          • James James says:

            “Companies will be formed by entrepreneurship, but there’s no rule that says the entrepreneur has to be the one providing the capital.” Indeed, entrepreneurs often don’t provide their own capital under capitalism either. The question is, should the capital be provided privately, or solely by the state? Should entrepreneurs have to convince a venture capitalist, or should they have to convince a state committee? Should the entrepreneur have to convince someone whose own money is on the line, or an unhelpful bureaucrat? The Soviet Union tried the latter and it was not a success. At least if an entrepreneur gets turned down by one VC, they can try another one. Under socialism, if you get turned down by the state, that’s it, there are no other options.

            It’s like the Soviet Union having writers’ unions, where you had to get the approval of other writers or bureaucrats before you’re allowed to publish books. If the state owns all the capital, you have to get the approval of the collective to do anything. You shouldn’t have to do this. Timothy Sandefur calls this “the right to earn a living”.

            I have no problem in principle with sovereign wealth funds, as long as they compete “on a level playing field” with private capital. Pluralism is important. Government monopolies on business are just as horrible as private monopolies.

            However, sovereign wealth funds don’t have to be created by wealth tax. They can be created with revenues from any tax. Wealth taxes are damaging but land taxes aren’t.

            “I assumed that the Basic Income fund he describes would be investing in stuff.”

            Basic Income can also be funded directly out of tax revenue (land tax or wealth tax etc).

            I struggle to believe a sovereign wealth fund could not big enough to fund a basic income and remain viable. It would be one organisation owning at least 25% of the capital in the whole country, probably more than 50%.

            Whereas tax revenues already do raise enough to fund a basic income.

    • gattsuru says:

      This problem was solved a long time ago and the answer is land tax.

      I’m not much a fan of wealth taxes for a variety of reasons, but this isn’t an obvious fix, especially in the modern day. It’s very, very hard to actually associate land value with non-regressive taxation, and most jurisdictions don’t handle the necessary legal aspects well.

      And that’s before we get to regulatory capture of whoever’s in charge of estimating land value, which would be about five minutes.

      • Blogospheroid says:

        The way to run around subjective evaluations involves a variant of compulsory sale. It goes like this.

        Property owners self-assess their land values.
        Building values are provided by the insurance company which has insured it. (Building insurance is compulsory)

        All values are publicly listed. Owners are compelled to sell to anyone who publicly offers 110% of the assessed value. Land tax is a standard percentage of the land value.

        • suntzuanime says:

          What keeps the insurers honest in this scenario?

          • Blogospheroid says:

            If the insurers insure the building for a high price (which is basically the concern in a land tax regime), then statistically, they lose when the building catches fire.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Generally the price you pay for insurance is proportional to the insured price, so they would make out if the building didn’t catch fire.

        • Jaskologist says:

          That’s a great way to troll people you don’t like. It also makes gentrification a lot easier. Not happy with the poor/loud neighbors nearby? Force them to move! Did that guy on the internet commit thoughtcrime? Let’s crowdfund an effort kick him out of his house!

          You’ve basically eliminated property rights and made everybody a serf to the rich.

          • OldCrow says:

            I’m okay with being punished for my thoughtcrimes by being paid a bunch of money.

            A real sociopath could manipulate the system in the other direction, by declaring their land to be worth 120% of its realistic value. Then they act like such an enormous asshole that the neighbors band together to buy them out at the inflated price.

          • Matt C says:

            > Did that guy on the internet commit thoughtcrime? Let’s crowdfund an effort kick him out of his house!

            After I sold my fourth house that I self assessed at 300% of its actual value, this plan might lose some steam. But I would enjoy it while it lasted.

            (Update: whoops, replied without refreshing. OldCrow beat me to it.)

            Seriously, I would guess that if everyone has the same kind of skin in the game, a system like this would settle down to a reasonable equilibrium. I’m not sure but I think that Blogspheroid is describing a system that actually existed somewhere in history.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m going to have to pull out my old man hat and say that you all sound young and childless. Moving is a huge undertaking for anybody established, both in time and expense, and houses are not very fungible (what do I do with those fruit trees I planted 5 years ago with the expectation of a crop in 7?). Forcing somebody off their land is a major and raw assertion of power, and it rightly grates against people, no matter how much the forcer self-certifies that they paid a fair amount.

            (Declaring your fourth house to be worth 3x as much is not a work-around. You’ve locked yourself into 3x the taxes if they don’t take the bait.)

          • Matt C says:

            I’m a middle aged homeowner with kids, actually.

            I wouldn’t be in favor of a system like this if there were a lot of forced sales. I agree that’s not a fun prospect for homeowners. I imagine you could tinker with the details of a self assessment system to make forced sales unlikely in most situations while still ensuring the property owner has skin in the game.

        • gattsuru says:

          Transactional costs are fundamentally regressive and only become more so as technology advances : anything involving human evaluation of costs invokes Baumol’s cost disease to at least some degree. Realtors have not historically become a. Transaction costs of residential transactions aren’t as regressive as you’d expect, but moving physical goods is likely to remain subject to Baumol’s cost disease until we have automated robots.

          ((Building insurance will be mildly regressive for similar reasons, even if actual risk were identical across class. This might not matter since the practical benefit during disaster matters enough.))

          This also operates better if the vast majority of capital were manufacturing or agricultural, just as pure land taxes made a lot more sense with the vast majority of capital were agricultural. If much value exists outside of lands or buildings — say, software — then you’ll miss that tax. If that value tends to exist in the hands of the rich, expect it to be regressive.

          This is before we start looking for intentional exploits.

          I’m also not convinced how this actually avoids regulatory capture, as opposed to making it very very .

      • James James says:

        “It’s very, very hard to actually associate land value with non-regressive taxation”

        One insight of land tax is that land rent is economic rent, and economic rents and taxes are the same time. Land tax is nice because it is in a sense somewhat “voluntary”. If you want to pay less land tax, move to a cheaper location. Rents are set by the market, so rent/land tax is by definition what people are willing to pay.

        This is more “voluntary” than income tax: “if you want to pay less income tax, move country”.

        “regulatory capture of whoever’s in charge of estimating land value, which would be about five minutes.”

        Actually this does not happen. In the United Kingdom we have a small land tax. For residential property it is capped (i.e. regressive) and called Council Tax. For business property it is uncapped and called Business Rates. In both cases the property assessments are performed by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

        Assessing property values is quite easy. You could also incorporate price info from sale values.

        • gattsuru says:

          One insight of land tax is that land rent is economic rent, and economic rents and taxes are the same time.

          That transitive property only works if we’re land tax is vast majority of economic rent, which doesn’t really apply.

          In the United Kingdom we have a small land tax. For residential property it is capped (i.e. regressive) and called Council Tax. For business property it is uncapped and called Business Rates. In both cases the property assessments are performed by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

          The UK Council Tax is small, and yet political attempts to freeze valuations are regular events. In the United States, we have a pretty good case study.

          The problem is less coming up with accurate prices, and more actually applying these.

  22. Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

    Why is economic growth good?

    The usual answer is that it gives more people the means to get more of what they want. But it also seems that what people want is often to harm others, e.g. wage war against outgroups, inflict pain on animals, create better propaganda immune to all reason, and ultimately create virtual worlds full of torture and pain. (Compare the degree of violence in fiction now, and you can see where this trend is going)

    Knowing all this, shouldn’t people say, “My wealth is good for me, but overall it’s sad that I contribute to the empowerment of the other violent primates”? And economists, “Our enemies have gotten richer again because of reasons X, Y and Z – darn!”

    • suntzuanime says:

      If people want to help themselves more than they want to harm others, giving people what they want is a net gain even if sometimes people want to harm others. I think this is a low bar that is generally met except in times of extreme social breakdown (and even then it’s arguable that people aren’t actually getting what they want but that they’ve been roped into negative sum games that are rough on everyone).

      Your accounting may be different from mine, though, if you’re wringing your hands about hurting animals and writing stories that have violence in them.

      • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

        It’s not about writing stories, it’s about the future implementation of those stories as simulated realities. Pretty much every character in fiction – and arguably in reality – will be simulated in detail by someone with the technology and wealth. Since most stories contain far far far more violence and torture than fulfilment and… whatever else you want to call the positive side, this is an obvious negative externality. Same for other forms of harm that people actively want; sadists want infliction, domineering personalities want as many submissives who can’t say no as possible, nature-lovers and burger-lovers both want various animals to suffer in various ways, all non-consensual of course.

        It should be common sense that there are going to be more of such victims who are harmed than beneficiaries of economic growth. So it should be “good for me, but too bad for others”

        • Robert Liguori says:

          I think there’s a lot of disagreement on whether or not simulated victims count as victims in a meaningful moral sense. Did you just increase the suffering in the universe by simulating the simulation of victims?

        • suntzuanime says:

          I think you’re borrowing a lot of unnecessary trouble from the future here. Rather than shut down the economy to keep people from torturing people, you could just, like, not let them torture people? Rich sadists right now have in principle the resources to kidnap and torture people, but they don’t, because there are laws against that, and also maybe they have moral compunctions or whatever. It’s not clear why this would not continue to be the case in the future when we’re all rich enough to torture people.

        • Eli says:

          It’s not about writing stories, it’s about the future implementation of those stories as simulated realities. Pretty much every character in fiction – and arguably in reality – will be simulated in detail by someone with the technology and wealth.

          OR we could just pass laws against the arbitrary creation and destruction of sapient, morally-significant minds, AND against the costumized construction or control of morally-significant minds. Then we can charge you with assault, cruel torture, enslavement, and first-degree mind-control for constructing any such simulation, and chuck you in future-jail.

          Seriously, that’s easily one of the most clear-cut cases I’ve ever seen of uses for future technologies that should plainly be illegal.

          • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

            I’m not quite as optimistic that there is this thing called “we” that can “just” pass laws and ban technology like this. That would require enforcability (with acceptable cost) and political will.

            To compare, “we” could “just” ban all procedures that inflict pain on animals, but there is clearly no political will to do so, because people want the products – this could be true for simulated life as well.

            Also, “we” have “just” banned torture against humans, the use of chemical weapons, and so on. And yet they persist, because they can be hidden and/or they are useful tools/weapons.

            With digital simulations, there are additional problems with encryption and privacy. Digital torture can be hidden unless computation is monitored. The flip side brings the risks of the surveillance state whose benevolence is a single point of failure – it could protect againt power abuse but is itself the worst risk and attractor for power abuse.

        • pylon shadow says:

          As the last westerners to experience the carnage of the world wars die out, I sense the the rise of a glib eliminationism happening all around. It’s like the moral status of murder is headed for a tremendously ill-advised reset. You can feel the argument for the disposability for certain humans coalescing…tough shit…poor choices…not my problem. The way libertarians and other social darwinists posture with such absolute certainty about what they cannot possibly know is discomforting to say the least.
          Don’t just shrug your shoulders and say you don’t have much experience with american conservatives in your day to day life. If you’ve got a car turn on the AM radio. Otherwise you’re just choosing to ignore the fact that millions of armed americans are being pumped up and incited to hate on a scale that makes SJW twitter wars look like what they are: chickenshit micropolitics.

        • Mugasofer says:

          >it’s about the future implementation of those stories as simulated realities. Pretty much every character in fiction – and arguably in reality – will be simulated in detail by someone with the technology and wealth.

          This is a very strong claim. Do you have evidence for it?

          Historically, people with no power don’t get rights, and it seems quite plausible that this would include ems. This is honestly a serious concern for me. But … we seem pretty worried about this now, so we’ll try and stop it; and if they can pass the Turing Test, the ems will help.

          Simulating everything that has ever happened in fiction seems too specific to be based on realpolitik arguments, so maybe you have something more concrete to bring to the table.

          • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

            Do you have evidence for it?

            Weak evidence, yes: The current trend to turn more and more past fiction into movies, TV shows and computer games and persistent MMO worlds. The natural interest already exists, it’s easy to see why, and we can extrapolate from the current status quo. Add to that the increased capacity of a richer, bigger world to do so.

            With many more people, having much more technological power and wealth, the probability of any one currently existing story or character being simulated is very high, typically more than once.

            (Also the observation that peace is boring, conflict is attention-grabbing.)

    • nydwracu says:

      Here are some potential explanations that I can think of:

      1) Economic advances power medical and policing advances, which will make it less likely that some thug will kill me — and I’m more worried about thugs than invading armies from Painistan. (In that particular sense. Invading armies from Painistan are here — well, occupying armies — and they entertain themselves by making people like me lose their jobs just for being elthedish to them.)

      2) Technological advancement and the resulting economic growth happened to begin at about the same time that a political faction based on building institutions and social norms to negotiate a series of interthedish armistices started gaining serious power, and given the peculiar religious environment of Britain, industrialization and the resulting incentivization of the population toward moving to the cities created conflict that that faction could gain further power by negotiating away. However, they are not always very good at that negotiation, and they haven’t cleanly separated themselves from another faction that arose at about the same time as them. That other faction wants to shred all the armistices that the first faction negotiated, and as a result, it has attracted sadists who want to use it as a justification for their sadism. The sadists have pretty much eaten it by now, and it’s gaining power. So the consequences you’re talking about just haven’t come yet, not anywhere near as strongly as they could.

      3) Economic growth powers technological advancement, and some technologies that have been developed make it harder for people to wage war on outgroups, inflict pain for fun, and so on, or provide substitutes (see: porn and rape) that lower the rates of those behaviors.

      4) There was an author, I can’t remember who, who would explain this as a manifestation of the same uniquely European mindset that led to the development of the sciences and the exploration of the world. But I won’t try to summarize him, since I can’t remember who he was.

      5) Status is entirely positional, and is caught up in economic position. Disapproving of economic growth makes you vulnerable to status hits: if you don’t personally act in the ways that people would be likely to assume are logical implications of disapproving of economic growth, you’ll be called a hypocrite, and if you do, you’re burning status.

      6) Those effects aren’t visible to people, either because they’ve ratcheted up too slowly over time not to fade into the background and be assumed as inevitable/inescapable (cf. two-hour commutes, suburbanization, paying out the ass for “good schools”, the entire American ‘higher education’ system) or because you only see them right before they kill you / damage you sufficiently to shut you up.

      7) Most people don’t believe that simulations factor into the moral calculus. (This one is almost certainly true.)

      • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

        Good points.

      • Lambert says:

        Please define elthedish.
        A cursory STFW reveals no definitions.

        • Jaskologist says:

          “Thede” means “my tribe/my people/the good guys.” “Elthede” is the opposite.

          LessWrongers, and the Neoreactionary offshoot, have a lot of obscurantism, where new terms are made up to cover concepts that were really already covered pretty well by old terms. Sometimes they also do the reverse, taking old terms and giving them a different meaning. This helps them look and feel smarter, which ’round these parts is called “signalling.”

          • Anonymous says:

            LW makes up phrases, while NRX takes old words (like thede).

          • Alejandro says:

            Side note: thanks to nydwracu, whenever I now open Andrew Sullivan’s blog, I can’t help seeing the title as one word.

          • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

            Thanks for clearing it up. I thought it was a reference from Warhammer or something.

      • Anonymous says:

        5) Status is entirely positional, and is caught up in economic position. Disapproving of economic growth makes you vulnerable to status hits: if you don’t personally act in the ways that people would be likely to assume are logical implications of disapproving of economic growth, you’ll be called a hypocrite, and if you do, you’re burning status.

        Economic growth allows you to be better off than you parents were when they were of the same age. This relative wealth (relative to the already non-existant past) is like a workaround to soften the zero-sumness of status of relative wealth.

    • lmm says:

      If you think what people want is negative-sum then giving them more of it is bad. But IME people mostly want positive-sum things; if more of our lives was like the Sunday afternoon barbecue with friends and less of it like the Monday morning struggle to earn wealth to support ourselves, that sounds like an overall improvement. And concretely it seems that economically wealthy countries are e.g. less likely to go to war.

      You are aware that fictional violence seems to displace at least some real violence, yes?

      • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

        Again, the fictional violence part is not moralizing about fictional violence, it is a prediction about the implementation as a form of actual violence. So far, we don’t have the technology to make virtual victims really feel pain, but one day we probably will, and we can see from today’s attitudes towards animals and attraction towards fictional violence that there is a high probability of actual violence behind it.

        I also don’t see that much evidence of preferring positive-sum over zero-sum as you imply, I see a lot of motivation allocated on hating the outgroup or reducing the choice sets of strangers for ideology. A lot of religion has that, a lot of national identity has that, just to name two sources, and I think it scales.

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          The state can just ban AI torture. And that far in the future an all-seeing surveillance state is inevitable, so it’s not like you could hide that you’re doing it.

    • Eli says:

      (Compare the degree of violence in fiction now, and you can see where this trend is going)

      Please, go read Grimm’s Fairy Tales, or absolutely anything from a few hundred years ago. Our culture is getting a whole lot less bloody over time.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Less bloody, maybe. Less violent? It may not be shown on-screen, but it’s there in the background. How many Narns were killed in the Shadow War?

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          I think when people talk about violence in media they are usually referring to “up-close” depictions of it, under the probably mistaken belief that seeing such things drives people to do them. Off screen or “distant” mass death is usually not included. If it is, it leads to the interesting point that Civilization is a far more violent game than Grand Theft Auto.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I agree, but if we’re concerned about people turning those stories into simulated realities (as the OP was), background deaths matter a lot.

            Unrelated, but personally, I’m not even sure it is preferable that depictions of violence get sanitized/hidden. If shooting somebody causes blood to spurt everywhere, it’s probably better to depict it that way, lest people get an unrealistic idea of what is really entailed in those acts.

  23. Steve Reilly says:

    For Ozy’s blog name, I’d go with “Look On My Works”. (OK, I’ve never read the last 3 lines of that poem. It ends happily, right?)

  24. Eric Hamell says:

    On the Political Spectrum Quiz, a comment on the Nazi march/Dalai Lama key-to-the-city questions: I was surprised that no commenters mentioned the fact the Dalai Lama is a religious leader and not an elected official, raising an obvious church/state entanglement question. It instantly reminded me of the platform the City of Philadelphia controversially built for the Pope in 1980 (IIRC).

    I’ll repeat here my view that you should put a “Comments closed” message on closed threads so people don’t fruitlessly hunt for a commenting tool and then for an explanation for its absence somewhere else on the site.

  25. anodognosic says:

    I’m currently reading David Graeber’s “Debt: The First 5,000 Years”, and I am finding it an astonishing book. It upends and sheds significant light on a lot some pretty basic assumptions of economics. It also incidentally builds one of the most powerful arguments against libertarianism. The gist of it is that unregulated markets predictably end up with a significant proportion of the population in a condition of debt peonage, thus leading not only to one of the most unfree systems possible (the road to serfdom apparently cuts right through the libertarian utopia), but also to severe political instability which regularly led, in the past, to popular insurrections and regime change.

    • Vaniver says:

      It upends and sheds significant light on a lot some pretty basic assumptions of economics.

      I haven’t read Graeber, yet, and this comment could be totally off base, but ensure that you understand the basic assumptions of economics before you take his word for it that he’s upending them.
      If I remember correctly, I was in a conversation with one of his readers who claimed he represents Adam Smith as taking barter for the ‘prototypical economic action’ and then extrapolating from there, but Adam Smith takes ‘exchange of goods for currency, which is typically metal for practical reasons’ as the ‘prototypical economic action’ and extrapolates from there. If a culture uses ‘promises’ instead of ‘metal’ for their currency, the same logic goes through.

      The gist of it is that unregulated markets predictably end up with a significant proportion of the population in a condition of debt peonage, thus leading not only to one of the most unfree systems possible (the road to serfdom apparently cuts right through the libertarian utopia), but also to severe political instability which regularly led, in the past, to popular insurrections and regime change.

      It’s not obvious to me that there is any system that doesn’t have a significant proportion (if not the majority) of its population in peonage of some form or another; the question then seems to be how many you can get out of peonage, and what byproducts you produce as a result of their liberation. (For example, if someone gets out of peonage by being born to the right parents, that doesn’t produce as many useful byproducts as someone getting out of peonage by making a significant work of culture.)

      • anodognosic says:

        “Upending” might have been a little strong, but I’m well-read enough in economics that I’m confident in saying that the book strongly challenges commonly assumed points of view in economics, to the extent that it has probably permanently altered how I approach my understanding of economic issues.

        The barter issue is one of them. I haven’t actually read Adam Smith, but certainly introductory microeconomics textbooks do take barter to be the prototypical economic transaction, and that is indicative of the assumption that impersonal markets are the natural state of human economic activity–which would be okay if it were a simple simplification fit only for first-year students, but this assumption goes to the heart of contemporary microeconomics.

        The thing about peonage and libertarianism is this: in a “pure market” in which people have total freedom to enter into contracts with one another, it is nigh inevitable that a critical mass of the population will enter a state of inescapable debt peonage, extending, law permitting, to subsequent generations. In fact, creditors or would-be creditors consistently conspire to make this happen. Graeber makes a powerful case of this nearly irresistible tendency, and that it almost invariably ends in popular uprisings–that debt is in fact one of the greatest motivating factors behind civil unrest.

        The significant shift in my understanding stemming from this is that preventing this critical mass of debt peonage is a crucial function of government, absolutely necessary to longer-term political stability–and that this has significant implications for policy today.

  26. Anonymous says:

    tl/dr version: I’m looking for advice for how to help a child in elementary school who has so much anxiety (or something else, but we thing anxiety) that they act out to the point that they have to be picked up from school and taken home. If anyone here dealt with similar problems, either personally or with others, what worked for you?

    Posting anonamously, at least for now, to try to protect other people’s privacy.

    I have a close family member in elementary school who is having difficulty participating in class at all. We believe this is because they have high levels of anxiety in general and especially for larger groups of people and new experiences. This anxiety is also fed by ADD/ADHD type cognitive deficits and stimulus processing deficits. They also have some physical disabilities that are enough to make it obvious that they’re different from the other kids, though the physical disabilities are not their biggest problem. Sitting in the classroom with the other students is clearly very difficult for them. This leads to them getting agitated (my word for it – they recently called it being “irritated”). The school can’t de-agitate them so eventually it can escalate to them being being physical. This isn’t necessarily physical action against other people, but you can’t stay in school if you take all the cushions off the couch in the school office or start ripping things off the wall in the hallway.

    They’ve done well in school in earlier grades. Their problems are likely cropping up now because they’ve matured to the point where they have more social emotions and awareness to make school more challenging. Despite these problems they’re learning to read and do math and the other random facts you get taught in elementary school. At home they do math and reading homework with adult support without acting out like at school. Other behavior outside school isn’t perfect, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it is at school.

    The school is positive and supportive and wants them to learn but doesn’t seem equipped to handle them any more. The school district is large and well resourced so there are options for their educational environment, as long as someone can articulate a particular need and why that need will help.

    They take drugs for attention-focusing and anti-anxiety. Other medical interventions for behavioral issues have not produced any useful recommendations, despite seeing a large number of different medical providers.

    I’m hoping that some of the people at Scott’s blog have helpful advice. If you’ve had experiences related to anxiety when you were younger, what helped you? If you know someone or cared for someone who had anxiety challenges, what seemed to work for them? I’m especially interested in what helped with learning and education, but anything that helps would be appreciated.

    • Troy says:

      Different children have different learning styles, and in my experience children like your family member do much better in homeschooling. (Homeschooled children can, for example, get up every 15 minutes and run around the table five times.) However, homeschooling is a big step and I’m guessing the child’s parents do not want to do this.

      My only other suggestion is to check out Education Realist’s blog and ask your question there; you may find EdRealist or his commenters more helpful on your question than people here.

    • Deiseach says:

      Are there comparable jobs like Special Needs Assistants in American primary schools?

    • speedwell says:

      At home they do math and reading homework with adult support without acting out like at school.

      It’s tempting to crow, “you answered your own question”, but I know things are more complicated than “just homeschool”.

      Whenever I hear about a kid having trouble with school itself rather than with learning, I always want to ask why the kid can’t learn in some other way. Does the child themselves have any insight on what interests them and what they wish school could be like? Is it really so necessary for the child to conform so strictly to the school’s material in the school’s way?

    • Hainish says:

      Anonymous, I highly recommend this blogger, who homeschools one child and had to find a more accommodating school for her other child, who is autistic. Her older posts may be particularly useful to you. (She is the author of Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain world.)

      Aside from that, you could try pressing for a 1-to-1 aid or a “shadow” who will be alongside your relative in the classroom (I’m not sure what the exact terms are, but I know these people exist).

  27. Zorgon says:

    Here’s something that I’ve never found the right opportunity to ask.

    I’ve been what someone once called a “harsh advocate of pretty much everything” for a long time. I’ll not sugar the pill – I like arguing. A lot. Pretty much constantly, in fact. I’m known for fairly long rants in person, and online I spent years raging at pretty much anything that didn’t make sense.

    Then I got ill. Quite horribly so, and in a way which was apparently impossible for the medical profession to diagnose or do anything about*, and as a part of trying to reduce my stress level, it was suggested I step away from arguing online as it was probably not helping.
    Funny thing was, to begin with, it did help rather a lot. I think I was using up a surprising amount of spoons yelling at people online, and recovering that spoon expenditure was a big help. Physically, I got worse, but I was doing better mentally than I had in years.

    So yeah. Not getting stressed is good. I like it. But as the last year or so has gone by and I’ve gradually started getting better, I’ve noticed I’m getting increasingly stressed by the act of not reacting to what to me seems like an increasing tide of really annoying crap online. Most notably, I’ve had to seriously consider completely cutting off social media recently due to various waves of dehumanising rhetoric from what seems like everyone at once.

    A gradually worsening realisation that I don’t have the same beliefs or priorities as those being powerfully signalled by pretty much my entire social group is bad enough, but as political firestorms and the hagiospheres that create them grow hotter, it’s starting to get to the point where people in my own friendship circles, people I genuinely trust and respect, are repeating what can only be described as eliminationist rhetoric.

    And I’m sitting here, avoiding conflict, not saying anything. And it’s driving me mad. Not saying anything in the face of this is as bad or worse as starting arguments all the time.

    But then I consider it some more and I realise that only a small amount of the stress is coming from the act of not speaking out; most of it is from the natural stress that comes from seeing my own personal sphere become radicalized, arguably against me.

    All the while I’m delving deeper and deeper into rationalism and feeling more and more removed from, well, all of them. The sheer amount of willpower it takes to not post “Well, you’ve signalled your virtue, and that’s what counts, right?” to pretty much EVERYTHING is unbearable.

    I guess what I’m asking is this: How do you avoid becoming a complete arsehole when you’re turning rationalward and everyone around you seems to be streaming in the opposite direction?

    (*inasmuch as they tried anything besides handing out antidepressants like sweets, since if you develop a fatigue and focus condition the chance of most doctors reading past the “depression” line in your history is close to 0 no matter how crippling your symptoms or how many others you have. But that’s beside the point.)

    • anodognosic says:

      I’ve also found online rage to be extremely unhealthy for me. In many instances, ignoring helps. The “unfollow” button is your friend here.

      If you want to maintain a presence in social media, as I do, I find two things can help. One is to take it to the meta-level (like your virtue-signalling comment), except instead of replying to a particular post, you might post it on your wall, in general. The other, and more important, strategy is to cultivate a sense of humor about these things. This involves reorienting your goal away from winning or engaging in arguments and basically reprogramming yourself so that your reaction is no longer the indignation that “someone is WRONG on the INTERNET!”

      This involves the same sort of 5-second-level intervention, but instead of “I notice that I am confused”, you start with “I notice that I am angry”. Then you trace that back to the expectation that people will agree with you/think rationally about things. Then you laugh at your own unreasonable expectations.

      EDIT: Also remind yourself that the point of friends and family is not for them to agree with you/be right about things.

      • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

        The laughing part only works if you don’t feel threatened by physical violence (either yourself or by extension violence against others you care about).

        Reasoning with people is not a sport for its own sake – these are people who can make you, and/or others, suffer severely.

        Believing in the law or democracy, or justice, doesn’t help either, since those require a critical mass of violence allocated to the prevention, rather than infliction, of suffering and other harm.

        The point being that winning an argument is about more than just being right, it’s extended physical self-defense.

        I no longer trust my “society” not to make me suffer against my will.

        • anodognosic says:

          Nikias, argumentation and rants are not optimal for changing minds. In this case, the actual best way to change people’s minds is probably humanization and nonconfrontational explanation, which is different from Zorgon’s experience and requires a fair amount of sense of humor and patience.

          • Zorgon says:

            Quite. Particularly when the people who I’d be engaging are themselves regurgitating rhetoric which varies between “arbitrarily unpleasant”, “dehumanizing” and “outright eliminationist”.

            There just doesn’t seem to be a good way to positively engage, and yet not engaging feels like tacit approval of this crap.

          • Protagoras says:

            One sadly not easily implemented strategy is to be high enough status that people are unwilling to risk being arbitrarily unpleasant, etc. toward you.

    • Emily says:

      I’ve found a few things useful:
      1. Engaging friends/making new friends around non-political interests. Having a kid has been great for this.
      2. Cultivating empathy for my friends with stupid politics. I do this by reminding myself that I’ve in the past had politics that were just as stupid (probably more stupid!), and that there are probably things about my current politics that are pretty stupid (possibly more stupid!)
      3. Not engaging regarding politics. Being really boring when people try to engage with me about it.

      • Zorgon says:

        The politics is invading my friend circles, most of which were formed around non-political interests. (Entryism: the gift that keeps on giving.)

        • Hainish says:

          It’s more likely that the politics was there from the beginning (since few people are apolitical). What you’re objecting to is knowing the specifics.

          • Zorgon says:

            Incorrect. The willingness of individuals in the specific groups to make their (often aggressively specific) politics known has increased exponentially in the past 4-5 years. “Knowing the specifics of others’ politics” has never been a problem; “People actively attempting to ostracise and exclude others from group activities because of political differences” certainly is.

            I also suspect you’ve incorrectly guessed my personal politics.

          • Hainish says:

            I also suspect you’ve incorrectly guessed my personal politics.

            Why? Because I don’t agree with you?

          • Zorgon says:

            No. Because you assumed I didn’t already know the specifics of other people’s politics. That suggests you believe there is more inferential gap between me and the people causing this problem than actually exists.

          • Hainish says:

            That suggests you believe there is more inferential gap between me and the people causing this problem than actually exists.

            I’m not sure how this is related to my being unable to guess your personal politics? (Speaking of inferential gaps…)

    • Unfollow, unfriend, and block. Seriously, I had to unfollow my sister due to a continuous stream of tribal-signalling clickbait in her stream, and the mental distress of seeing it far exceeded whatever small value I got from keeping up with her Twitter. (Our IRL interactions are uniformly positive, but online was a different matter.)

      Take a zen approach to the rest of the world.

      Find one or two places that you like and can participate. Basically SSC and one other place are the only online social sites where I’m active, SSC because the commentariat here is amazing, and the other because it’s a focused forum where the sorts of aggravating tribal signalling you complain about is explicitly disallowed.

      • Zorgon says:

        I think this fits in with what Jask says below. I’ve got two primary options with which to respond to the social manipulation being used around me:

        1) Use social manipulation tactics in turn to counter it. Ignore my immediate disgust at that idea and recognise the available utility to be gained from minimising dehumanizing rhetoric in the public sphere.

        2) Acknowledge my alief that said counter-tactics would be ethically untenable for me and disengage from the people doing this.

        (Outright counter-assault is unavailable due to eliminationist thinking – being The Enemy just means they can ignore you as you’re not really a person, and full disengagement is not going to work as I’m still recovering from being ill and therefore offline relationships with most of these people are currently difficult to maintain more than every so often. Also I don’t want to enter my hermit phase just yet.)

        So essentially this boils down to a battle between my ethical deontologist and utilitarian impulses.

        I KNEW THIS DAY WOULD COME! *shakes fist at sky*

        • Hainish says:

          2) Acknowledge my alief that said counter-tactics would be ethically untenable for me

          For me, this isn’t even an alief. Social manipulation *is* unethical, and when I see others doing it, I automatically think less of them.

          • Nornagest says:

            My first impulse is to say “bullshit”, but that wouldn’t be helpful. So instead I’ll ask this: how do you draw the lines around social manipulation (as opposed to e.g. persuasion, or untrained charisma), and why do you believe it’s unethical?

          • Hainish says:

            I’m not sure I have a great answer to either question, but social manipulation often involves other people in addition to manipulated/manipulator. It tends to involve sarcasm and/or a total failure to engage with arguments (whereas persuasion involves *some sort* of substantive argument). I believe it’s unethical for much the same reasons that stealing or cheating is unethical: it’s an attempt to achieve a result without doing the work required to get there legitimately.

            I’m not sure that untrained charisma is quite in the same category, since I perceive it as both unintentional and ineffective.

          • Zorgon says:

            It has been abundantly clear that not only are a lot of the people using eliminationist rhetoric willing to use social manipulation of the kind described, they clearly believe themselves to be doing the right thing by doing so.

            This leads me to believe that the use or non-use of these tactics is not in itself possessed of object-level ethical qualities besides those I or they grant it.

            My strong alief that doing so is unethical is just that; an alief. I suspect others either do not possess it or possess a- or beliefs regarding their use in specific “greater good” circumstances that override it.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree with that approach, but it is hard. Seeing how everyone around you not just disagrees with you, they take for granted that people like you are evil or crazy, and themselves they sometimes sympathize with people who in your mind are evil and crazy. And you say nothing.

        And then you disagree with something someone says online but you say nothing because you’re kind of out of practice saying something. And sometimes you try to say something but you really are out of practice and they will make a fool of you and make snide remarks.

        And then you think something not even in connection to anything anyone said online, just a thought you think is interesting on some non-triggering non-political topic. And you don’t even bother sharing it with anyone because you’re so good at saying nothing at that point.

        And all that brings the stress level down and makes you waste less time online, but sometimes you have this nonsense thought: “If nobody hears anything that I have thought, it is just as if I didn’t exist at all?”

        • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

          It gets worse. If reasonable/nonaggressive people do this, the unreasonable/aggressive people get to dominate the memetic landscape. There are different equilibria where dehumanization/cruelty etc. are acceptable vs. where they aren’t.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Your mistake is trying to engage rationally. This is not only ineffective, it takes a lot of time and energy.

      Instead, you should reorient around the Jon Stewart model. The goal is to avoid intellectual engagement at all cost, replacing it with snark. Usually the best way to do this is to pose as a caricature of the other side (the Colbert variant of the Stewart model). For an excellent, if long-winded, example, go to just about any Megan McArdle article and look for comments by blighter. With practice, you’ll be able to boil this down to just a few snappy sentences.

      This is more enjoyable than rational engagement, so it will be better for your health. Your allies who might otherwise keep their heads down won’t feel as bashful about liking a humorous comment. Your opponent will look stupid, and if they try to respond, they’ll look even stupider for responding to an obvious parody. They may not change their mind, but they will get negatively reinforced for posting about politics, which will probably result in them doing it less.

      Master this, and Solomon himself will be unable to stand against you.

      • no one special says:

        Please don’t do this. And please don’t encourage others to do this. Snarky dismissal of the outgroup is, like, the worst thing ever. It’s like ad homenim attacks with a sprinkle of humor. Well, sorry, but I’m not going to eat the turd no matter how much sugar you put on it.

        • Robert Liguori says:

          I think that the above might have been a self-referential post, showcasing both how the technique works and why it’s a bad idea in and of itself. I could be wrong, however; there’s a reason so many people make use of the fake sarcasm HTML tag.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This would be a case where even I’m not sure how sarcastic or serious I’m being.

            It’s worth pointing out that Zorgon would not be snarkily dismissing the outgroup; he is the outgroup. Sniping from the sidelines really is his only effective weapon; rational argument would not change minds, and it would further get him labeled as evil outgroup.

            I don’t like this situation, and I think it is hideously corrosive to the body politic, but I do think it is real. Do you have a better solution than ordering up 100 serpents for the Garden of Eden?

            It’s like when someone complains that all the doxing in #GateThatShallNotBeNamed is making people afraid to speak their minds. You’re completely right, and that is a very bad thing. And if you’d said something back when blacklists were being normalized vis-a-vis Chick-Fil-A or Brandon Eich, maybe it would have mattered, but you didn’t and now it doesn’t. The avalanche has already begun; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.

          • eqdw says:


            I’m trying to get the term “PCPortcullis” (PC as in Player Character, not as in Politically Correct) into the lexicon, as a way for people to refer to this event without invoking it.

            Feel free to use it.

          • no one special says:

            Jaskologist, eqdw:

            Clearly, this is relevant to my interests, but I lose track of the metaphor around 100 serpents, and by the time we get to PCPortcullis, I’m so hopelessly lost that I don’t know what you’re talking about anymore.

            Can you explain slowly, for a guy who just doesn’t quite get it?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @no one special:

            I was just making scifi references:

            100 serpents for the Garden of Eden

            The avalanche has already started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote.

            Since being roundabout was counterproductive here, #GateThatShallNotBeNamed (and presumably PCPortculis) refers to #GamerGate. I don’t know where to point you for a primer on that one; all the ground is thoroughly scorched. Maybe Popehat (Link1, Link2)?

          • no one special says:

            Ah. I failed the references. and PCPortcullis is obscure enough that I didn’t manage to track it back the the gate that must not be named, which I am unfortunately all too familiar with.

            Thank you.

    • Troy says:

      Embrace Stoicism: learn that you can only control your own opinions, not others.

      (This advice is largely serious, and is my own approach to this problem.)

      • Troy says:

        Becoming deeply engaged in other projects also helps. I’m a teacher, and spending a lot of time focusing on that both gives me less time and makes me care less about correcting people online.

    • Jim says:

      A gradually worsening realisation that I don’t have the same beliefs or priorities as those being powerfully signalled by pretty much my entire social group is bad enough, but as political firestorms and the hagiospheres that create them grow hotter, it’s starting to get to the point where people in my own friendship circles, people I genuinely trust and respect, are repeating what can only be described as eliminationist rhetoric.

      Can you give us an example of the sort of thing you’re seeing from them? When you say “eliminationist rhetoric” I’m not sure I have a good mental picture of what you’re talking about.

      • Zorgon says:

        I’m deliberately attempting to stay away from the actual issues for obvious politics == badwrong reasons, but here’s a fictional example of what I mean. Let’s imagine that there’s a ginned-up controversy involving dairy farmers.

        “Here’s an article that explains why all these dairy cow farmers are really just cattle rapists:

        “How long are we going to let these people keep raping cattle? These so called “dairy farmers” are a menace.”

        “Why isn’t there a law against dairy farming? This anti-cow bullshit has to stop”

        “Dairy farmers are a menace and I am not afraid to say so.”

        “I read in AngryCow just last week that dairy farming is literally the same thing as murdering babies. Murdering babies! How can they continue to defend this?”

        Then comics depicting all dairy farmers as duplicious vermin, and so on.

        When I say “eliminationist rhetoric” I mean in the same sense that the term was originally coined to mean, albeit not necessarily at the same targets: people who seem to believe that their political opponents are some kind of inhuman cancer who need to be cut out of society entirely.

        • Deiseach says:

          I wish your “dairy farmers are cattle rapists” fictional example was only a joke, but the kinds of things my vegan brother finds and posts online are all too similar 🙁

          This is even worse for someone who comes from a country background and knows, for instance, that it’s not as simple as (real example of the kind of thing) “cow milk yucky filled with growth hormones and antibiotics! almond milk simple delicious goodness from sunlight and rain!” because they damn well know what intensive agriculture involves and if you imagine commercial nut crops are grown by relying on sun and rain… let me disabuse you of that notion.

        • Hainish says:

          Would it help if you tried taking a charitable approach, e.g., by assuming that they truly do believe Thing About Dairy Farmers is real?

          (Also, they may see eliminationist rhetoric coming from the other side, too. I certainly see it everywhere.)

          • Zorgon says:

            It doesn’t take a charitable approach to believe that they think cow-rape is real or that it is bad.

            The problem is not that they think dairy cow farming is cow rape; that’s either an object-level error or a mistaken belief system.

            The problem is that they think it is OK to condemn the entire group of cow farmers because they’ve been told that they’re Bad People.

            And yes, I suspect they see eliminationist rhetoric all the time if they go to the right places. (I can be pretty sure I’ll see rhetoric claiming that my disabled wife is outright subhuman with a few minutes on I also suspect they’re not surrounded by it constantly from people they consider friends, and I strongly suspect they don’t suffer from the same problem of being continually stressed by inability to respond without creating the mother of all flame wars.

            But most of all I remember that I’ve been against eliminationist rhetoric in all forms from everyone, including people I consider to be on “my side” and nothing makes it OK. No amount of charity fixes that.

          • Matthew says:

            If this is a Facebook-related problem. I recommend, if you’re going to deal with these things at all, doing it on your own timeline rather than as a response on someone else’s.

            One thing you might try, which I personally do not consider to be an unethical form of manipulation:

            Write a post about how awful it made you feel when you read an article about how all vegans are actually monsters motivated by the desire to murder as many plants as possible, and thus vegans should be wiped out as a threat to biodiversity. Then, at the end, as all your vegan friends are nodding along in agreement, you say, “Oh wait, I got some details wrong in the article. Actually it was a vegan saying we should get rid of all dairy farmers because they’re all cow rapists. Uncomfortable how the structure of that argument is exactly the same, no?”

            People can’t really accuse you of being “on the other side” when you’ve just portrayed the other side (possibly accurately) as just as horribly eliminationist as your friends are being.

        • pylon shadow says:

          Just remind yourself that most of the money and all of the guns are allied with you. Unless you foresee a holocaust of ostracism you should be alright.

          • Zorgon says:

            That’s just it, though. They aren’t. It might look like they are from inside your tribe, but it’s not the case.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it pretty much the core purpose of political organizations to define their political opponents as “some kind of inhuman cancer who need to be cut out of society entirely” ? This way, they can energize their base, gain more supporters, and thus acquire more political power to accomplish their goals (which may have little to do with cows).

          I’m pretty sure that politics can’t possibly work in any other way, and thus I am neither surprised nor angry when some political faction or other engages in this kind of behavior. I might as well get angry at the sun being hot, or at the rain being wet.

          • Matthew says:

            He’s not talking about a “political organization.” He’s talking about his friend group.

            I doubt many people object much to TV ads that demonize the other side. Making the political personal, on the other hand, is a choice.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Yeah… I don’t have a ready answer to that. Probably because I personally have virtually no friends anyway…

      • social justice warlock says:

        I pretty frequently see eliminationist rhetoric directed at nerds in my feed, and occasionally I participate in it as well, as I’ve been known to do here. (I only ever see this from nerds themselves, however; no one else should, or does, give a shit.)

    • no one special says:

      The sheer amount of willpower it takes to not post “Well, you’ve signalled your virtue, and that’s what counts, right?” to pretty much EVERYTHING is unbearable.

      I am also suffering from this problem. It’s very frustrating.

      (In my case, this frustration is exacerbated by a suspicion that LW-style rationality is subtly broken on purpose. As I learn more about it, I find a rationalist subsystem inside my head making comments, and I don’t know if I should trust it. This goes together with the other problem like peanut butter and chocolate, if peanut butter and chocolate were both crippling social failures.)

      • Nornagest says:

        In my case, this frustration is exacerbated by a suspicion that LW-style rationality is subtly broken on purpose.

        Cui bono?

        • no one special says:

          Cui bono?

          (Conspiracy hat on.)

          Eliezer Yudkowsky and MIRI, of course.

          I thought I had seen a post where he said that the reason he started teaching rationality is because people couldn’t understand his arguments about friendly AI. But I couldn’t google it up in a few minutes, so I gave up.

          Also, I’m very suspicious of small nonprofits, whose alleged output is “awareness”, but their real output is “jobs for the founder.” MIRI seems similar to these.

          The Cui bono is the easy part; The hard part is asking if LW-flavor rationality is actually broken or not. I mean, if you go to a psychologist, who benefits? Well, the shrink, because she gets paid, of course. But hopefully you do too. It’s only bad if you’re going to a quack and not getting the benefit you pay for.

          I fear that the LW-memeplex is designed to make you susceptible to a Pascal’s mugging on the topic of AI, and that there are important rationality techniques that are left out which would protect you from this mugging. But that verges on the paranoid.

          It _could_ be that FAI concern is legitimate and important, and once you learn to be truly rational, it will be obviously clear that this is the most important thing. But I don’t see a lot of people saying, “I am totally Bayesian, and I think FAI is not important enough to talk about.” But then, if it’s not important enough to talk about, they wouldn’t say that, would they? Maybe there’s a silent majority that says “oh, _another_ AI thread? Skipped.”

          The huge correlation between avowed Bayesians and Singularitarians is troublings, and makes me worry that the LW package is a trick.

          Dianetics: Xenu :: Bayesianism : MIRI

          Please note the word “suspicion” in my original, as well as my explicit mention that this is a conspiracy theory. To put this in Bayesian terms, given a group claiming techniques for self improvement that lead to better thought, there is a probability of said group being a scam of some sort. I have a higher prior for this than you do, so I remain skeptical as to the quality of the claimed techniques. It is not so high that I can reject it outright though.

          Oh man. I feel like I out to post the link to the cult danger evaluation thing again, but I’ve already posted it on two threads. (AA and Links.) So I won’t.

          • Creutzer says:

            But I don’t see a lot of people saying, “I am totally Bayesian, and I think FAI is not important enough to talk about.” But then, if it’s not important enough to talk about, they wouldn’t say that, would they? Maybe there’s a silent majority that says “oh, _another_ AI thread? Skipped.”

            I think this is exactly what’s the case.

            At least whenever the topic comes up explicitly, there seem to be plenty of people speaking up saying (rightly, in my opinion) that the singularitarianism isn’t at all central to LW-style rationalism, nor a necessary consequence of it.

          • Troy says:

            I am an avowed Bayesian and didn’t even know what “FAI” stood for until I looked it up. There are many Bayesians who are not in the LW-sphere and don’t think much at all about AI — e.g., professional philosophers and economists.

          • Nornagest says:

            This is a little tangential, but I don’t think the Cult Danger Evaluation Framework is very useful, either here or in its original habitat of small-scale neopagan and reconstructionist religious movements. (Which I actually know reasonably well, thanks to being college friends with a bunch of people who are or were into witchy stuff.)

            The problems that sink it are asymmetric information and motivated reasoning. From the outside you might look at an Asatru circle, say, and notice that its founder has a habit of making weird, grandiose philosophical statements which don’t see a lot of criticism. And then from the inside you find that half the circle thinks the guy’s an asshole and doesn’t believe a word he says, but tolerate him because they just want to worship Thor (because that’s totally metal and you get to drink a lot of mead), this is the only game going, and it isn’t worth the drama. Does that count for points by the CDEF’s standards? Well, it depends who’s asking.

          • Anonymous says:

            Very much agreed with this. The problem with the CDE setup, along with most similar checklists, is that it’s presented as being prescriptive while being designed as inclusive. That is to say, they try to include as many potentially cult-like groups as possible rather than distinguish between “cults” and “groups that could be mistaken for cults in a poor light”.

          • no one special says:

            Troy: Where do you find the non-LW Bayesians? It would be interesting to see their perspectives. Would I have to go back to school?

            Nornagest, Anonymous:

            I think you’re right that the CDE is designed to make sure small neopagan groups are “not cults”. And that asymmetric information is a real issue. Unless, you know, you join a whole bunch of cults so you can compare them. Hmm…

            Speaking of the Asatru, what’s a polite way to ask a Norse-ish neopagan friend if they’re a neonazi? Asking for a friend. 😉

          • Nornagest says:

            Speaking of the Asatru, what’s a polite way to ask a Norse-ish neopagan friend if they’re a neonazi? Asking for a friend.

            “Are you folkish?”

            “Folkish” means, roughly, that you think ancestry is significant to whether your worship is legitimate. There are folkish groups that claim not to be racist (YMMV on whether this is bullshit or not), and there are definitely folkish groups that aren’t linked with the Nazis, but it’s about the strongest polite way of differentiating that I know about.

          • Jiro says:

            I suppose technically I’m a Bayseian, although I certainly don’t identify as one. I don’t buy any of the LW-central dogma like FAI and cryonics and either ignore posts about such things or snipe at them. (I once pointed out that by the same reasoning used for cryonics, a dying person could intentionally lock himself up in a vault so that time travellers could rescue him without changing the past.)

          • Troy says:

            Troy: Where do you find the non-LW Bayesians? It would be interesting to see their perspectives. Would I have to go back to school?

            You’d certainly find them in some academic departments. I’m most familiar with philosophy departments in this regard, but I expect that there are also economics and statistics departments where you’d find some.

            If you’re looking for online communities I’m not as sure. EconLog?

            If you want reading material from Bayesians having nothing to do with AI stuff or the Less Wrong community, the annotated bibliographies on Tim McGrew’s webpage ( are very good. Most of the academic material on those bibliographies is in the philosophy of science; but you can still glean “applied rationality” insights from it, I think.

          • Jadagul says:

            Depends on what you mean by “Bayesianism.” If you mean “Statisticians who think Bayesian modelling and updating is often superior to other forms of statistical modelling,” then they’re common in all sorts of stat departments, and I recommend Andrew Gelman’s blog. If you mean philosophically Bayesian, well, lots of people are, but there are also some issues with philosophical Bayesianism; su3su2u1 on tumblr has been talking about this a lot lately, as has nostalgebraist (just people whose tumblrs I happen to follow and who know more about this than I do).

            If you mean “believes that thinking in terms of probabilities is often useful,” almost anyone who’s thought about decision theory qualifies. And then LW sometimes adds extra baggage on that doesn’t really have much to do with Bayes particularly and just uses Bayes as the catchall. But if you wanted “all the LW baggage” you wouldn’t be asking your question in the first place.

            And then there’s “how do I make good decisions in real life?” And the answer to that is “the entire self-help industry,” but I don’t have a lot of good recommendations there. Though “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is never a bad book to read.

          • Troy says:

            Ah, of course, Andrew Gelman — how could I forget.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Anecdata: I love LW, love HPMoR, and identify as an LW-style rationalist, and I’m not especially confident in the importance of FAI. I suppose I do accord some respect to those who work on it, but I don’t contribute anything to it myself, and I don’t anticipate any benefit from my reading an FAI post except my own entertainment.

          • Alan Crowe says:

            I ‘m totally Bayesian and I think FAI isn’t worth talking about. Not yet anyway. Wait until the Linux kernel is rewritten in Idris. In 50 years time computer programming will be much more sophisticated and we can have a sensible discussion about whether the issue of FAI is ripe. I skip the AI chit chat on LessWrong. Its the lamest kind of arm chair theorising. No-one gets as far as downloading ACL2 and getting a feel for the cutting edge.

          • taelor says:

            Where do you find the non-LW Bayesians? It would be interesting to see their perspectives. Would I have to go back to school?

            Probably the most high profile one I can think of is Nate Silver (though he does appear to be at least aware of LW, e.g. interviewed Robin Hanson, and the title of one of the sections of his book seems to be an allusion to Less Wrong.)

          • “I fear that the LW-memeplex is designed to make you susceptible to a Pascal’s mugging on the topic of AI, and that there are important rationality techniques that are left out which would protect you from this mugging. ”

            What are those important rationality techniques?

          • no one special says:

            Mass response to all the overnighters.

            Nornagest: Thank you! I did not think that there would be such a simple way to ask the question. I may actually do so.

            Jiro, ADifferentAnonymous, Alan: It’s good to see that the most cultish aspects of LW are optional. I’ll make a Bayesian update away from “scam”.

            Troy: I am physically close to wmich; Perhaps there is an in-person group I can find. I’ll do some investigation.

            Jadagul: You are right that I am using the therm Bayesian in a sloppy way. I guess I really mean people who value rationality and are actively trying to cultivate it as a real part of their decision making in their everyday lives. That’s somewhere between philosophically Bayesian and all the LW baggage. I guess, ultimately, my query is: Is the system of rationality espoused by LessWrong used by any “normal” people, or only by singularitarians looking to justify their worldview as superior?

            taelor: Thanks for the recommendation.

            Nancy Lebovitz: If I knew what importnat techniques were missing, I’d post links to them in all LW-affiliated blogs I could, so that people would have the whole picture. I see that the LW-memeplex contains many useful techniques. I see that the LW-community contains many people who subscribe to FAI-Singularity ideas, which I think are 90% nonsense. I conclude that the LW-memeplex is missing some meme that would innoculate you against that nonsense. Paranoia tells me it was excluded on purpose. (Or perhaps demonized as a dark side technique?) The idea is that LW + MissingPiece would give you a set of rational (=winning) folks, who don’t fall into the FAI trap.

            Thanks everyone.

          • Jiro says:

            My theory is that LW would have been cultish with almost any other subject, but by stressing rationality, it’s actually being counterproductive. In other words, LW thinks rationality would lead you to agree on their weird ideas, so they stress rationality, and it turns out rationality *doesn’t* lead you to agree on their weird ideas, so their own attempt to spread the weird ideas ends up not doing so.

          • Illuminati Initiate says:


            If we had reason to think backwards time travel had a good enough chance to be even physically possible, then depending on how time travel worked that would be perfectly reasonable.

            The thing is we not only don’t have that reason, we have strong reason to think its impossible. Cryonics is different. I’m not completely familiar with the details, but it definitely seems MUCH more plausible than time travel rescue.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            In haste, apologies as needed….

            I see that the LW-community contains many people who subscribe to FAI-Singularity ideas, which I think are 90% nonsense. I conclude that the LW-memeplex is missing some meme that would innoculate you against that nonsense.

            That’s awfully strong, and I’m new to all these terms, but here’s my take. I choose to exercise my brain within the sets of things that I understand (and think likely) and can do something effective about. If you like, a close horizon both in time and space. Disease in Africa, dunno. Space colonies, hope so but dunno. Singularwhatsis, wtf pls don’t tell me, I’m busy. AI dunno.

            My family, yes. My town, yes. My state forests, yes. Larger environmental issues — important but not sure what I can effectively do, which puts it (with many things) in “Clearly more research is needed, so I’ll support research in general.” Imo there’s probably some Bayesian formula for this sort of triage.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            Chiming in as another person who read the Sequences and agrees with them* but thinks the FAI stuff is hooey. In the threads where they talk about it I’ve been tempted to call it out as such, but

            1) there are frequently disclaimers of the sort “we don’t want to have this fight again, so please accept the premise arguendo so we can have the discussion we want”, which request I sympathize with strongly


            2) I doubt I’m going to come up with arguments they haven’t heard before and rejected, which means it would be a waste of time and frustrating for both of us.

            So I just stay out of it because sometimes you just gotta let people be Wrong on the Internet.

            *Well, I read them up to the point that I hit an essay about how obviously one particular interpretation of quantum physics was correct, despite it being by definition impossible to construct an experiment distinguishing them, at which point I NOPEd out of there as I figured it was wasting my time. This essay may actually be post-Sequences though, I’m not sure.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Am I the only one who finds it weird when people say, “I strongly identify as a Bayesian and a LW-style rationalist” ? Whatever happened to “keeping your identity small” ? It seems to me that a truly rational person wouldn’t identify as anything; instead, he’d simply use whatever tools he’s got to make the best possible decisions he can.

          • suntzuanime says:

            “Keep your identity small” is a slogan for the Spock-like caricature of a rationalist in popular media, not for an actual practitioner of rationality. Identity is baked into your brain, trying to cut it out is going to work out about as well as trying to cut out emotion.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I don’t know about other people, but I personally found that life became a lot easier once I started making a deliberate effort to avoid identifying myself as, well, most of the popular labels. I’m not sure if this makes me a Spock-like caricature or what; but I can attest that, in my own case at least, the effort pays off.

          • Matthew says:

            I think there is a case to be made here for distinguishing between identity descriptivism and identity prescriptivism.

            Descriptive identity — this term is a convenient shorthand for explaining some facet of my character or interests, and I will employ it exactly to the extent that it seems useful to do so for rapidly shortening inferential distances.

            Prescriptive identity — this term conveys a set of required characteristics against which I must recursively measure myself, and discrepancies should be resolved by altering my character and interests rather than modifying or abandoning the term.

            I don’t see a problem with descriptive/contingent identity. Prescriptive/absolute identity is the danger.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s probably impossible to get rid of the categories of “one of us” and “hated other” baked into your head: they seem fundamental to human social thinking, and every attempt to get rid of them directly that I know about has only seen them reemerge in more complicated and usually more sinister forms. But that doesn’t mean that you have no control over how you relate to those categories.

            You can consciously stop identifying as part of a particular social alignment, though it’s not easy or painless. You can’t as easily get rid of your sympathy for its members or your antipathy for its enemies, and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do if you’re interested in anything but truth-seeking uber alles, but by the same token it’s not necessarily bad advice, especially if you’re in embedded in a social environment that features a lot of people exploiting others’ identities just as hard as they can. Which I, er, do see a lot of.

            The Paul Graham article strikes me as something you’d see from a deconverted ideologue of some sort. And in that context it’s perfectly acceptable; but the generalized version for instrumental rationalists is probably something more along the lines of identity is not your friend.

          • Anonymous says:

            Matthew, the whole point of “keep your identity small” is that descriptive always bleeds into prescriptive.

          • Kaj Sotala says:

            I guess, ultimately, my query is: Is the system of rationality espoused by LessWrong used by any “normal” people, or only by singularitarians looking to justify their worldview as superior?

            In last year’s LW survey, the answers to the question “Which disaster do you think is most likely to wipe out greater than 90% of humanity before the year 2100” (choose one) were:

            Pandemic (bioengineered): 374, 22.8%
            Environmental collapse including global warming: 251, 15.3%
            Unfriendly AI: 233, 14.2%
            Nuclear war: 210, 12.8%
            Pandemic (natural) 145, 8.8%
            Economic/political collapse: 175, 1, 10.7%
            Asteroid strike: 65, 3.9%
            Nanotech/grey goo: 57, 3.5%
            Didn’t answer: 99, 6.0%

            That suggests that the vast majority of LW does not consider AI to be the biggest risk around.

          • no one special says:

            Jiro: If LW-Rationality protects you against the LW-Singularity memeplex, they should be opposing memes, not fellow travelers. I don’t see that happening.

            houseboatonstyx: “90% nonsense” is a bad attempt at making a Bayesian likelihood estimate. I am not a skilled Bayesian, so take it will all the salt you can find.

            Alex, Kaj: Thanks; I’m seeing a lot of evidence in theis thread that you can follow the LW-Rationality memeplex without following the LW-Singularity memeplex, which makes me much more comfortable with it.

            (on Identity): Small identity seems to allow more degrees of freedom; You can ask yourself, “what do I think is right,” and not “as an X, what should I do.” Plus, you don’t have to defend toxic people who happen to share an identity with you! I believe the root comment is somewhat about the Gate that dare not speak its name, right? Some huge portion of that is about identity labels; It’s like a perfect example of why small identity is a good thing.

          • Jiro says:

            no one: I’m not suggesting that what they are doing is *overall* counterproductive. Clearly more people on LW compared to off LW believe LW ideas. But there are two components: cultishness increases belief in their ideas and rationality decreases it. By promoting rationality (because they falsely think that rationality leads to accepting their ideas) they are countering, quite unintentionally, the effect of the cultishness.

            It’s like having a crackpot who thinks that according to science, the earth is flat. He tells everyone who comes to his site to go to the library and pick up a science textbook. They all do, and surprise, most of them don’t end up believing the earth is flat. He ends up with a flat earth site where only 14.2% of the audience actually think the earth is flat.

          • no one special says:

            Jiro: Oh, I get it. I think it reveals something interesting about memes. Assume for the sake of argument that the rationality memeplex is correct and the singularity memeplex is wrong, and further, that the singularitarians push rationality because it improves uptake of singularity memes.

            That means that the singularity meme does something that deliberately weakens itself. One would expect it to be outcompeted by a singularity meme that does not also push rationality. However, it isn’t. Which means that the singularity meme is better equipped to survive in a hostile environment than other competing memes. This is equivalent to cockroaches starting a nuclear war because they can survive better afterwards than other creatures.

            The most obvious competitive memes would be religions. This means that in a world of religions vs singularity, religions win, but when big rationality shows up to crush everybody, religions get hurt harder, and more singularitarians survive the rationality-memepocalypse than do religious believers. This is the mine-shaft gap theory of meme warfare. Or, like populous (the game) when you’d trigger the Armageddon button because you have a higher population.

            No conclusion, other than “memes are weird”.

          • Jaskologist says:


            14% actually sounds like a pretty high rate of belief that “AI is more likely to wipe us out in the next 100 years than anything else.” I think we need some base population to compare against, or even better, a survey of what their answer were before they discovered the Good News of LW.

            I assume those numbers don’t exist, but my gut tells me that most of them would have gone with Global Warming. Peeling off half of those is impressive.

          • Jiro says:

            no one: That’s not necessarily so. If new instances of memes are constantly introduced or if there’s a mutation rate which produces instances of meme A from instances of meme B, instead of one meme becoming extinct, being outcompeted may merely reduce the frequency of the meme, with (given a constant mutation rate) the amount by which the frequency is reduced depending on how bad the competitive disadvantage is.

            I would also suggest that that has happened already. There are certainly memes with apocalyptic scenarios that are more prevalent than LW FAI.

          • Nornagest says:

            I assume those numbers don’t exist, but my gut tells me that most of them would have gone with Global Warming. Peeling off half of those is impressive.

            Thing is, “existential threat” is really quite a high bar. It takes a lot to literally kill everyone, or even 90% of everyone — a full-scale nuclear exchange at current stockpile levels probably wouldn’t do it from what I’ve read, though it’d kill about half the people on earth (mostly through disruption of trade in food and other essential supplies) and make the planet a much less pleasant place to live for the remainder. The only scenario in which global warming does is the Venus thing — which seems unlikely for a bunch of reasons that I don’t want to get into.

            That does not mean they’re not threats worth addressing; but it does mean they’re not within the scope of the question.

          • Paul Torek says:

            I fear that the LW-memeplex is designed to make you susceptible to a Pascal’s mugging on the topic of AI

            The thing is, “don’t get Pascal-mugged” is near to a consensus position on LW. Different explanations are offered – some discount low probabilities, some discount high utilities, some invoke Knightian uncertainty… – but most seem to agree that low probabilities and high utilities should not blithely be multiplied together. So your fear rings especially untrue. Or maybe you just mis-phrased it.

          • Illuminati Initiate says:

            “Strong AI is the most likely way to kill 90% of humanity by 2100” and “Strong AI by 2100 is unlikely” are not mutually exclusive positions at all if you think ANYTHING wiping out 90% of humanity by 2100 is highly unlikely. Like Nornagest said, killing 90% of humanity is hard.

            My personal opinion on AGI is that it’s not really that important to discuss yet because its probably a long way off and we don’t really have any information on it yet, though it will be important in the future, so having some prior idea of what to do could be useful. I view MIRI as basically misguided and probably largely pointless. I do think talking about cryonics is important though because if it actually works (which seems to be somewhat unlikely, but a still a decent enough chance to be worth the cost), its relevant right now. Life extension research is also something I think is immediately very important, but is rarely talked about.

            I’m not really a LWer though, but I have read alot of posts there and agreed with them.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @Paul Torek: But LessWrong consensus is also that even skeptical claims of the intelligence explosion and the orthogonality thesis cannot honestly assign them non-trivial probability like 0.000000001%. Neither is ridiculously large utility in the form immortal, hedonic life for everyone necessary for the argument to work; avoiding existential risk is enough. So if you assign the paperclipper scenario e.g. a 2% probability, and you think the difference between humans existing and not existing is pretty important, that’s enough to support MIRI; no need for Pascalian-type reasoning.

          • no one special says:

            Paul Torek:

            The thing is, “don’t get Pascal-mugged” is near to a consensus position on LW.

            I know! That’s why it’s so ironic!

            How do you balance “shut up and multiply” against Pascal’s mugging? It seems important to do so, but there doesn’t seem to be a community accepted best practice on how.

            I mean, you can always fall back on “screw that LW crap, this is serious,” but then what you’re really saying is that your intuition is better than LW’s ideas.

            It seems (from the other comments) that accepting FAI is not a guaranteed outcome of adopting LW-Rationality. So if this is an issue, it’s smaller than I had originally feared.

        • libra says:

          I see that the LW-community contains many people who subscribe to FAI-Singularity ideas, which I think are 90% nonsense.

          Sure but

          1) It has a lot of really smart people

          2) I’ve gone to other communities but I’m turned off because of their simplistic visions, intolerance and bias

          3) I *do* strongly subscribe to having a zero rate of pure time preference even if I’m not sure what practical consequences that leads to

          4) None of this implies LessWrong is a good use of your time, especially if you’re sick of politics/causes in general like me

    • eqdw says:

      Zorgon, I have been in exactly the same boat as you for a while now. The stress and frustration of all this bullshit was getting to me to the point that I routinely taking mental health days from work. After exhausting all of my other options, I did what many in these comments are saying: I disconnected and made a point of not (publicly) engaging. I deleted my Reddit account, made a fresh start, and subscribed only to local community and very apolitical special interest subs (cooking, nature photography, hobbies, etc). I turned my facebook feed into nonstop puns and cats, and in the moments where I absolutely had to share an opinion, I built up a list of “people it is unsafe to say things to” and blacklist them from seeing those posts. This worked….

      … For a while. Then,

      But as the last year or so has gone by and I’ve gradually started getting better, I’ve noticed I’m getting increasingly stressed by the act of not reacting to what to me seems like an increasing tide of really annoying crap online.

      Except in my case, it’s not staying online where it belongs. It’s intruding, quite blatantly, into my personal life. It’s seeking me out. Coworkers spout this stuff to me, to the point that I spend evenings at home crying to my girlfriend about how I don’t want to go to work. How I wish I could take it to HR, but they won’t take me seriously. Family members as well.

      It gets worse. I live in a place that politicizes everything so much, that they proudly self-identify as a politically polarized location. As it is, every day for the past two weeks, there have been people standing at my transit stop yelling at me and calling me a corporate shill because I won’t sign their petitions and ballot initiative things.

      Further, this decision has effectively cut me off from any social group I may have had. I’m a mid-20s fellow working in a pretty stereotypical yuppie job. Most of the people I see on a daily basis are young folks who make a decent income, and waste most of it on bullshit social signaling games. So now I can’t hang out with them, because it eliminates the whole point of this exercise. I have had minor success with going in on non-politicized hobby groups, like Emily suggests, but my options for that are few and far between. Because of my demographic and location, most of my hobbies tend to already be filled with this sort of politico-cultural signaling, and at best I can ignore it and never forge any meaningful human connections with everyone in these hobby groups. The gift that keeps on giving, indeed

      And it feels unsafe to ignore this. It is extremely distressing to sit back and say nothing while “my own personal sphere become radicalized, arguably against me”. Aside from the social fallout of self-exiling, there is a very real risk of reprisal to me. Nothing threw this in sharper relief than about a month ago. Many of my coworkers, for reasons unknown to me, think LessWrong is a terrible place. I made a pun on its name and that got them to crapping on it. And my one coworker said (non-jokingly) that he would veto any self-identified LessWronger on culture fit grounds, if we ever had one come in as an interview candidate. So again, it feels unsafe to ignore this. At minimum, I have to simultaneously ignore this and actively hide my opinions . And I don’t think I have to argue about the harm of staying closeted in this manner to this audience.

      This is driving me crazy. I don’t have anyone I can trust to talk to. I feel actively beset on in my day to day life. It’s gotten to the point where I have talked to my boss about transitioning to full time remote work, because the ‘fuck all y’all, I’m moving to a shack in the mountains’ has moved beyond mere fantasy at this point. I need a safe space and I feel like I don’t have one. Hell, this site is probably the closest to one that I have. Repeat: the comments on Slate Star Codex are less inflammatory and threatening than the comments I regularly hear *in the real world*. That never happens with internet comments.

      You seem like a pretty cool person. If nothing else, you seem like you know what I’m going through, and I empathize with you as well. People like us need to stick together. Fire me an email if you’d like to chat more. And if by any chance you happen to be local to the SF Bay Area, I’d like to buy you a drink of your choice.

      • Jaskologist says:

        The phrase is “you will be made to care.”

        Bonus thought: Was anybody for a second unsure which tribe was harassing eqdw, before he gave away his location at the end? Does anybody doubt that it is the same for Zorgon, even though he avoided giving any such specifics?

        • gattsuru says:

          Signalling of location came far earlier than that : you don’t see transit stop petitions much outside of Blue Territory because of the transit stops, rather than because of the petitions.

          The Red Tribe has its own exclusionary fields, although for some demographic reasons they’re a little less overt in public. And, uh, some of us have been or (in my case, largely are) closeted in the more conventional sense in Red Tribe space.

        • no one special says:

          I’m noticing a trend that everyone who tells me things are terrible, regardless of red or blue tribe, lives in “the bay area”. Maybe you should move to Michigan?

          Warning: midwestern conflict avoidance causes an entirely different kind of drama than whatever it is that California has.

          • Nornagest says:

            Heh. A while back I noticed that everything Moldbug likes complaining about is exactly the stuff San Francisco’s really bad at. Guess where he lives?

          • eqdw says:

            I’m from the midwestern part of Canada; Manitoba or Minnesota, they’re pretty much the same.

            But in all seriousness: my two year life plan is to stay here long enough to bank enough money that moving is not as disruptive as it was when I came here. And then to leave. I’m fantasizing about cashing in on my citizenship and going back north of The Wall. But Michigan is tempting too; it’s close to Toronto, and my partner’s dad lives there.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, SF seems especially culty. You don’t even have to move to flyover country; I live in the Boston area, which is just as blue-slanted, but the only people who scare me are the ones from California. Something about all the nice weather and sunshine turns people’s thoughts to signaling of virtue.

          • veronica d says:

            @suntzuanime — Heh. I wonder if we know each other. 🙂

          • Brian says:


            Oh damn, I am also in the Boston area. Waltham, to be particular.

            How much interest is there among Boston folks for an area SSC/LW meetup?

        • Quixote says:

          Of course there was no doubt. Liberals being marginalized leave and go somewhere awesome (example NY or SF). If you are being marginalized and can’t just go somewhere better then it means liberals are the ones marginalizing you.

      • Troy says:

        Having like-minded friends who you can talk to really helps. This is very, very difficult, I know, because you don’t want to risk “coming out” to someone unless you’re very confident that they’re like-minded. But, for what it’s worth, my experience has been that people are more open-minded and un-scandalized in personal one on one conversations than in group settings (either on the Internet or in real life). If you can talk to someone who seems open-minded in that kind of a personal setting you might be surprised how fruitful those conversations can be.

      • Hainish says:

        And my one coworker said (non-jokingly) that he would veto any self-identified LessWronger on culture fit grounds, if we ever had one come in as an interview candidate.

        Couldn’t/Shouldn’t this be illegal? (I was once asked, during a job interview, what type of music I listen to. Trust me, it’s not relevant to my capacity as an employee.)

        • Matthew says:

          Unfortunately, since LessWrong is not, in fact, a cult (which would be a subset of religion), it’s not a protected class. Putting aside the “should,” discrimination is perfectly legal on any criterion not explicitly recognized as a protected class (race, gender, age, religion, national origin, and in some jurisdictions sexual orientation and family status [i.e. anti-parent or anti-single]).

          • Hainish says:

            Putting aside the “should,” discrimination is perfectly legal on any criterion not explicitly recognized as a protected class

            Right…and I’m suggesting perhaps we ought not put aside the should. (It’s just puzzling that others haven’t come to the same conclusion.)

          • Zorgon says:

            I think we definitely agree on this one, Hainish. I’d consider it politically-oriented discrimination, which I don’t think is acceptable (as should be obvious by this point).

            Unfortunately the law doesn’t agree in the US or UK, governmental positions aside. Grumble.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wow! Thanks! I had no idea that marital status was not a federally protected class. So many people have falsely told me that it is.

            Interesting that MA does not directly ban employment discrimination on marital status, but it does require the same distinction must be applied to men and women (although that would seem, at first glance, to be required by federal law).

          • veronica d says:

            It’s not illegal, but definitely fucked up.

            For what it’s worth, I’m solidly on the blue-SJW side of things. But if I heard someone say that I’d call them out.

            (Actually I’d point out that I’m a queer leftie who reads LW. Cuz it would be funny.)

        • eqdw says:

          Regardless of legality, it is super common for “culture fit” to be used to veto people as it is. My current employer is actually pretty good about this, but some of my past employers, and some of the other companies friends have worked for, abuse this pretty badly.

          The worst one, imho, and one that is actually straight up illegal, is that I’ve seen and heard of openly Christian software engineers get vetoed on ‘culture fit’. Usually it’s not directly because of their religion, but for softer, more grey-area things: “They’re boring” (because they don’t like drinking and partying). Or they’ll make some not-popular-in-deep-blue-SF comments about politics (eg. something about welfare maybe) and they’ll get vetoed because the existing engineers “don’t think [they’d] enjoy working together”. In fact, as anecdata: I only know a half dozen Christian software engineers, and all of them both a) skew upper-middle class liberal moderate democrat leaning Christian; and b) actively try to hide this from coworkers, never talk about it, refer to ‘community groups’ instead of churches

          Discriminating against a candidate based on religion is Explicitly Against The Law. But discriminating against a candidate based on certain social habits that just happen to strongly correlate with certain demographics, apparently totally ok. And this is with something that is actually legally protected. Something like LessWrong? Nobody cares.

          • veronica d says:

            Oddly, “culture fit” is widely criticized among the pro-diversity crowd as one of the more insidious tools of unconscious bias. For example, this article.

            For years, Silicon Valley’s meritocratic ideology has shut out [certain not-to-be described] applicants, as hiring managers dismiss them because they “don’t fit the culture.” This indistinct sense of a “culture fit” has been come to be known as an unconscious bias that pervades the tech industry.

            There is a great deal written about this.

            (We cannot really discuss this in detail without crossing the gender-race boundary, but I just wanted to show this conversation has two sides.)

          • Anon says:

            veronica, the way you’ve phrased your comment suggests you’re disagreeing with someone (“this conversation has two sides”), but for the life of me I can’t see how. Am I misreading something?

          • veronica d says:

            @anon — eqdw was stating how “culture fit” was being use to exclude Christians. I was pointing out how it was also used to exclude women and minorities — which I guess is pushing pretty close (if not over) to the gender/race thing. But I only wanted to point out that “culture fit” is an issue that gets talked about in many contexts. This is an issue across the tribes.

          • Anon says:

            Ah, ok – I read the sides as being pro- and anti- “cultural fit”, not blue-ish vs red-ish. Thanks for the clarification.

          • AR+ says:

            Ok, but, is it actually wrong to want to work w/ people who are similar to you?

            I note that start-up partners really, really DO have to be picked on the basis of culture fit, or it won’t work. Paul Graham says this is important enough that sacrificing the ability to work with the most technically skilled potential partners available is worth it if the alternative is people who don’t work well together. The difference there is that it’s at a small enough scale that it gets call “personality” rather than “culture,” but it’s not hard to see the same dynamic applying in sub-units of a larger company, is it?

            The military comes immediately to mind as an example of a place where people work effectively together regardless of all sorts of differences, but that also involves an intense multi-month course of mutual physical and emotional hardship of the sort well-established as able to forge a common identity. Not something you get when you’re hired in most places.

            Baring that, selecting for prior commonality sounds like a sensible alternative in getting people who will mesh. Whether it is effectively implemented at most places is another matter, but I don’t think we should say, “This policy departs from perfect and total social atomization, therefore it is bad.”

            In a roundabout sort of way this reminds me of a comment on the recent Hobby Lobby health care case, “The question before the court comes down to whether corporations are allowed to act morally or must be strictly greedy.”

          • veronica d says:

            @AR+ — Well, honestly my side is winning the culture war, so sure. Fine. Let’s use “culture fit.” Sounds great.

          • eqdw says:

            @veronica I hope you don’t get the wrong impression of me. I wasn’t trying to paint some “WE’RE OPPRESSED TOO” narrative (which, if I was, would have been hilarious. My family told me variations of ‘I wish you were dead’ when they found out I was a nonbeliever). It was more “This is a blatant violation of the law, that would also be politically inciendiary if it was picked up in the mainstream media, but they do it and get away with it and nobody cares. If they do this to *Christians* (one of the most privileged groups in this country), imagine how much more they get away with against other groups (in my original argument: LWers, in your post, presumably, GSMs

          • veronica d says:

            @eqdw — Okay 🙂

            For the records, I think it is very wrong to reflexively exclude Christians.

            I don’t know what to do about people who just cannot accept a company’s diversity policy, such as folks who are angry and bitter about it. Which, I have certain coworkers who I kinda suspect are in this space. They cannot quite hide their contempt for me, even if they know better than to say anything plainly. But at some point there has to be a boundary of culture. Not sure exactly where.

            On the other hand, such people are rare enough these days, at least in bigtech.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Ok, so in this case, how can I exclude a guy who is qualified, smart, hard-working — but also a total asshole who would be impossible to work with ? We made a mistake of hiring a guy like that a while ago, and he rage-quit a few months after, to the relief of literally the entire team. Since then, we have become a lot more careful whom we hire… If that’s not “culture fit”, then what is it ?

          • veronica d says:

            @Bugmaster — There are two directions the variable can go:

            1. Toward the jackass side.

            2. Toward really cool to hang out with side.

            Yes, avoid #1. If someone is a prima donna or a toxic jackass, then sure, you do not want to work with them.

            However, we are talking about #2, how it can exclude certain kinds of people.

            An example: there are cases where startup employees have claimed to pass over a candidate because he arrived to the interview in a suit.

            Which, OMG! a suit. Obviously not a “good fit.”

            Other examples include interview that involve alcohol and socializing, which exclude those who do not drink or are not comfortable in those spaces.

            I once had a “job interview” that involved going to a pub for chicken wings and then to a friend’s house to watch some UFC event. Cuz that’s what the CTO wanted to do.

            I got the job, but seriously!

            Another “interview” involved board game night at a friend’s house. (Although that was kind of a ruse to create plausible deniability around a non-solicit. Since, my friend couldn’t be blamed if I met his new CTO at a game night party. ’Cept it was just us three and we talked a lot about how great LISP was. But who’s counting?)

            I like to think I’m fun to hand out with. (Plus I have purple hair!) But what about people who are not? Does that mean they will make poor software engineers? Should SV-startup job interviews involve hanging with the bros as a pub? Who will be excluded by that? Should it involve dropping everything and grabbing a Lyft to go hang with the tech dudes as some “event” — at the last minute cuz whims? Who can do stuff like that? Who cannot?

          • Zorgon says:

            This is why tribal signalling sucks, veronica. I’m now at the point where brightly-coloured hair signals “I’m going to be nothing but a source of relentless anguish and drama to everyone around me” loud and clear every time I see it, so I’d have to think long and hard to overcome that alief before employing someone who looks like you.

            And that’s a shitty state of affairs, because by not only is discriminating against potential employees on the basis of their hair colour pretty clearly something that belongs in the very useless ideas recycling pod, but you also seem from your comments here to be pretty much nothing like that at all.

            Stupid fat hobbitsaliefs.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @veronica d:
            Yeah, picking a team member on the basis of how cool they’d be to hang out with, is like picking a racehorse based on… how cool it would be to hang out with. It’s just not relevant at all.

            That said though, I can’t quite claim that I am free of subconscious biases for or against people based on their appearance and lifestyles; I don’t think anyone human can claim that…

      • pylon shadow says:

        Have you thought of approaching Michael Savage?

      • Hiding out says:

        I do have people I can talk to, but I’m horrified at how nasty and polarized the political atmosphere has become. The weather is political! Third person pronouns are political!

        I’m on the side of people who want appropriate third person pronouns, but I still feel as though I’m living in satirical science fiction.

        I feel as though, if I want a social life, I need to be very cautious about what I say to who, and where I say it. I didn’t used to need to live like this.

        A large part of the problem is that people on at least two sides have placed a high value on being verbally abusive, and one bunch (tragically, one where I have some agreement on the facts) has developed a nasty bunch of tools for shutting people up. Gee, you can’t even tell from that which side I’m talking about.

        I’m not seeing any social tools yet for calming things down.

      • Anonymous says:

        Damn. San Francisco sounds like a really scary place. It’s such a shame that a SV happens to be situated so close to it. SF benefits from it like Saudi Arabia benefits from oil, and that enables them to hide their horribleness.

        • Anonymous says:

          In the case of SF, it’s probably causally related: it’s the epicenter of social media.

          • Anonymous says:

            Which, when you think about it, is disquieting: If SF Bay Area got this way because people there use the Internet a lot (since they’re techies or employed at tech companies, ie the early adopters), then in ten years time, when people in Minnesota catch up on the Internet usage, will the political madness amplification by social media become a country wide phenomenon?

          • Anonymous says:

            Now that is even scarier.

        • Anonymous says:

          SJWs are Wahabists of liberalism

    • rsaarelm says:

      An Ask MetaFilter post about a grey tribe versus blue tribe value conflict from some years ago.

      • Anonymous says:

        Metafilter once was quite an interesting place. Nowadays it suffers from extreme blue tribe signalling contests and is more hivemind-y than Reddit, especially in all things political

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      I tried to avoid any discussion of “gamergate” for a while because I knew the whole thing would be rage inducing as soon as I heard of it (I assumed it would go down like the Anita Sarkeesian thing*, and I was right). This did not really work.

      *step 1: someone says something about sexism in a subculture
      step 2: Misogynist trolls say misogynist stuff
      step 3: petty bullies use trolls as an excuse to demonize and shame entire subculture
      Unfortunately, I fear this might become a common pattern.

      • alexp says:

        Out of curiosity, because I don’t get too much exposure to gamergate form the geeks side of things, are you claiming that in step 3, feminists and allies and petty bullies using SJ as a shield are attacking gamergate or all people who can identify as gamers or geeks?

        I’ve seen some pretty vicious attacks on gamergate (which I think are warranted), but outside of a stupid joke by a gawker writer and a few random forum or comment trolls, I don’t see too many attacks on all geeks or gamers. In fact a lot of the people making the attacks are gamers themselves

        • veronica d says:

          I’ve seen some pretty gross attacks on geeks-in-general, lots of “fat loser virgin” stuff, lots of “neckbeard” comments. It’s unfortunate.

          There are important critiques my side can make against those parts of geek culture (which I cannot make here, cuz gender), but “neckbeard” is not a critique. It is a slur that poisons the conversation.

          • veronica d says:

            Just to add a hilarious note: evidently someone on the GG side has coined the phrase NERF.

            You can guess, right?

            Which, OMG that is too much!

            I would like to officially state I am a nerd-positive feminist.

        • Cauê says:

          People have been avoiding the subject here – out of fear of a comments supernova, I suppose. But there are definitely some interesting angles to look at (for instance, I don’t think I have ever seen such massively disparate perceptions of the most basic facts about an event among people who care about it). Besides, Scott *did* make me read that MsScribe thing…

          Anyway, I’ll second what Veronica said (also I’m curious about your reading of the August 28 articles).

          • alexp says:

            I’m not sure what your talking about with the August 28 articles. I checked SSC for articles in August, and maybe Radicalizing the Romanceless is relevant, but it wasn’t posted on the 28th. Do they refer to the articles that kicked off Gamergate?

            If the latter, I don’t care about them. To me, the question of what happened between Zoe Quinn, her ex boyfriend, Kotaku, and Polygon are less relevant to the current state of Gamergate than the question of how much the Serbian government supported the Black Hand was to the state of WWI in 1917.

            Gamergate cannot function to bring ethics to gaming journalism because to most people in the public, the hastag is solely about harassment, doxxing, and rape threats. Those who want to do something about journalism won’t be able to disassociate themselves from the worst elements.

            On a side note, lack of ethics in gaming journalism has been a widely known issue since at least 2007. (

            Why has the issue not exploded until it was tied into a women’s sex life?

          • Anonymous says:

            Alex, if you don’t care, why did you spend so many word expressing your (false) beliefs about the contents of those posts?

          • Cauê says:

            I meant the “Gamers are Dead” articles, 14 in the same day, which basically turned gamergate into this thing capable of breaking 3 million tweets.

            I’m uncomfortable talking about it here, because apparently people don’t want it. But I’ve been following it pretty closely since I think Aug 29 (not especially proud of this), and my hyper-summarized take on it is “the last time the most widespread narrative got quite this close to being 100% false was perhaps during the satanic abuse panic of the 80’s”.

    • James says:

      Observation: I deactivated my facebook account at least a couple of years ago. I occasionally (this week, for example) have cause temporarily to reactivate it to retrieve some specific piece of information or contact some specific person.

      I’m struck by the difference in tone between my facebook feed as it exists now and as it did two or three years ago. My recollection is that, by volume, it used to be primarily composed of status updates, pictures, and other forms of, ahem, “user-generated content” (bletch). Now this sort of thing seems to be in the minority, pushed aside by a drastically intensified avalanche of clickbait link-posting/tribal signalling. (Going out on a limb, I dare say that what I saw overlaps significantly with what you see.)

      This change presumably comes from some combination of the following two factors:
      i) facebook deliberately optimizing towards this kind of thing due to its being in some way higher revenue. (If this were the case, I’m sure it’s well within facebook’s means to devote hundreds of specialist man-hours thereto and to become *really very good* at it.)
      ii) The development of a kind of clickbait ecosystem, then only in its infancy but now in full swing, optimized to soak up all that potential ad revenue as ruthlessly and efficiently as possible.

      It’s an interesting study in the way of these things, I suppose, but the resulting feed is really quite horrible – much worse than when I quit originally.

      • Nornagest says:

        One recent development on Facebook that I’ve found encouraging is a “hide all from [domain]” button. Swatting down clickbait domains is kind of like playing Whack-A-Mole, but at least I no longer have to read anything from Buzzfeed or anything on the Gawker network. It’s cleaned up my feed substantially.

        (I’m not totally sure that this is a Facebook feature, though. It might be a Social Fixer feature.)

        • eqdw says:

          Nope. That’s built in to Facebook. Discovered it back when Farmville was a thing; “Block all from ” led me to find “Block all from ” and once I set up a good blocklist, my feed got more manageable.

          Sometimes Facebook sees fit to unblock things without warning though. It’s mildly annoying, though they may have fixed this bug a little while ago because I haven’t noticed it in the past month or so

      • Jadagul says:

        Pretty sure it’s mostly number ii. I can’t find the articles I’ve been reading lately very easily, but if you search for “Facebook algorithm tweak” you’ll see piles and piles of them.

        Basically, Facebook drives such a large fraction of news website hits that lots of sites are just optimizing to do well on the Facebook rankings. But that doesn’t provide the articles that people actually enjoy seeing, so once a month or so Facebook tweaks its algorithm to try to push the clickbait stuff down in priority, and then all the clickbait-pushers scramble to try to push it back up.

        • James says:

          Interesting. A kind of red queen effect, at the risk of really stretching the “ecosystem” metaphor.

          • Jadagul says:

            Yeah. A lot of aggregators have this problem–it’s the same reason Google doesn’t publish the details of its PageRank algorithm.

    • Mugasofer says:

      I honestly suspect the – the? – solution is to become reasonably persuasive/charismatic, while simultaneously focusing as hard as possible on the existence of inferential distance. At least, that’s what I do whenever it gets annoying.

      It is, however, slow going. So I suspect my real answer is to get used to it, and that’s no answer at all, is it?

      • Zorgon says:

        I can definitely get behind the idea of trying to gradually reduce the inferential gap involved.

        I’m aware that at least one of my friends on the “other side” has been doing exactly that with a series of links chosen specially to appeal to people who see things the way I do. (She’s also a huge HPMOR fan, which no doubt helps a lot.) If I can find similar entry points, I might be able to tone things down at least in my own circles… which is pretty much all I can hope to do anyway.

        • veronica d says:

          I was going to suggest something like this. Which, specifically, identify folks on the “other side” who signal that they are reasonable and tired of the anger. Let them know how you are feeling, that this is literally hurting you.

          This shit isn’t going to get fixed overnight. But it seriously needs to get fixed.

          It might please you to know that I was talking to some pretty hardcore left-feminists last night. Unsurprisingly, we were discussing Internet misogyny, and we are looking for a way to get past this stuff. Anyhow, terms such engagement came up. Also the desire to avoid “evaporative cooling” subcultures was expressed. This seems promising to me.

          None of this means that shit’s gonna change today. Go on Twitter right now and you can find people calling each other “cunts” or “neckbeards” (according to their tribe), but some of us see how broken this is.

          • Nornagest says:

            Which, specifically, identify folks on the “other side” who signal that they are reasonable and tired of the anger. Let them know how you are feeling, that this is literally hurting you.

            I’ve tried that, with a formerly good friend of mine who drifted away from me politically when this SJ thing started getting traction, and with whom I was at one point getting into horrible painful hours-long debates every time politics came up. What happened is, first, that we stopped bringing up anything vaguely political around each other, because neither of us wanted to hurt the other; and, second, that we started talking to each other less in general, because it turns out that an awful lot of stuff can be cast as vaguely political, and treading on eggshells is not conducive to maintaining a friendship.

            I don’t think either of us substantially moderated our views, and the horrible fights still happen occasionally when information leaks through a side-channel of some sort. I’m not very satisfied with how it’s played out.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree with anodognosic about the unfollow button. Tumblr Savior is very good if you use Tumblr – it can hide all posts with certain keywords or trigger warnings (I TOLD YOU THOSE WERE USEFUL). FB Purity is a similar tool for Facebook, though a little less powerful.

      I find most people are pretty accepting of “I prefer not to talk about politics. It makes me too angry.”

    • ShardPhoenix says:

      Don’t have any great solutions but I just want to say I feel the same, for much the same reasons. I’ve been unfollowing and stuff but it’s pretty hard when it comes up everywhere. I barely look at FB anyway but I still got drawn into someone else’s argument recently.

    • moebius says:

      I decided to leave Facebook altogether, for that precise reason.

      To stay with your analogy (and probably stretch it to a monomolecular thinness), I am not even a dairy farmer — I just happen to be a near-exact match of the stereotype of one. Now that nearly my entire social circle (which was never large to begin with, and I happen to move in circles where militant veganism is widespread) seems to be locked in a contest about who can say the nastiest things about people who happen to wear Kansas workwear, smell like cattle and … uh, I don’t actually know that many dairy farmer stereotypes, which I guess is kind of bizarre given that I grew up in a rural environment.

      I was kind of used to daily reading low-level doses of hatred against people like me (pertaining to other things than resembling a stereotypical dairy farmer, although a few of those also just happen to be parts of that stereotype). The kind of things I’d probably call microaggressions if people who resemble dairy farmers happened to be an officially sanctioned oppressed groups. But when they started targeting dairy farmer stereotypes specifically, it started getting eerily personal. Logging onto Facebook meant revisiting a number of terrible memories of having spent a large percentage of my childhood being bullied, ostracized, publicly humiliated and subjected to various kinds of physical violence on grounds of resembling a dairy farmer.

      In the end, I couldn’t deal with it, and so I deactivated my Facebook account.
      That was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in my entire adult life. Who would have guessed that it’d make someone feel much better to *not* constantly be made aware that a large number of people that you like and trust seem to think that people like you are all evil bastards?

      And now I find myself wondering why I didn’t speak up about the low-level doses of hatred, and depressingly, I think I know why: I feared getting ostracized from what passes for my tribe. Although I’m still as sympathetic to its values as I always was, it is very hard to view it as “my” tribe when its members are currently demonstrating that they despise me and wish to eliminate my kind from the planet. I wrote elsewhere on why I was finding it hard to cope with this hatred, and writing that was *INTENSELY* unpleasant and frightening. I was constantly policing myself to try to avoid sounding like someone who could ostensibly be sympathizing with Big Dairy.

      (how does one reconcile being a staunch vegan who has spent a large portion of his life as a vegan activist, but who happens to get targeted as an object of hatred by vegans because he looks like and has the mannerisms and typical life story of a dairy farmer?)

  28. Attention people who believe in AGW. This is your chance to convince me. I’m a global warming skeptic, by which I mean skeptic, not confirmed-and-oathsworn denialist. Here is the extent of my understanding.

    Things which are virtually certain: Global CO2 levels increased dramatically during the 20th century. Almost all of this CO2 is anthropogenic. Global temperature increased significantly over the 20th century. In recent geological time, there is a close correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature, as measured by proxies such as ice cores and tree rings. There is a well-understood physical mechanism by which CO2 can contribute to global temperature.

    Things which are plausible but debatable: Atmospheric CO2 is a cause of global temperature fluctuations, rather than an effect. The effects of continued global warming would be overwhelmingly negative.

    Things which I think are probably false:

    (These are in more detail, since obviously this is where most of the discussion lies.)

    1) The effect of CO2 on global temperature is unbounded. That is, the more CO2 you put into the atmosphere, the warmer the planet gets. The problem is that we’re already way, way outside of historical norms for atmospheric CO2, and the global temperature increase has been modest. If the simple correlation between temperature and atmospheric CO2 that we observe in the geological proxies held, then we would expect the current global temperature to be much higher than it is now. It could be that global temperature merely lags, but if that’s the case then catastrophic warming is probably a few decades away, and stopping new emissions does flat nothing unless we massively geoengineer away all of the CO2 that we’ve already put out. (And I’m aware that there are people who actually believe this.)

    Much more plausible to me is some combination of the following: that CO2 is an effect, rather than a cause, of global temperature in the geological proxies, and that CO2’s contribution to global temperature is modest and cannot cause dramatic, runaway warming.

    2) Computer models provide useful predictions of future climate allowing us to determine policy. Now, I don’t know a lot about computer modeling of the climate specifically, but I do know a thing or two about computer modeling in general, and one of the things I know is: it sucks. Like, terribly. Models only give really useful predictions when the underlying system is thoroughly understood, and the global climate is not thoroughly understood. Under these conditions the predictions of the models largely just replicate the biases and assumptions of the modelers. Furthermore, available evidence suggests that the quality of the code which made the climate predictions is terrible (almost all code written by academics is terrible).

    A lot of noise has been made over the 15-year “pause” is global warming, and the most commonly cited counter is that right now the oceans, not the atmosphere, is getting warmer. Which is perfectly plausible, except, you know, maybe the model should have predicted that? Does the model even include ocean temperature as a variable? My impression is that ocean temperature is not actually modeled independently in these systems, and that the ocean-warming explanation is a post-hoc rationalization meant to cover the fact that the model’s predictions are garbage.

    All of which contributes to my conclusions that AGW in its current understanding is “plausible but far from proven”, and that the policy prescriptions tied to it are just a fancy Pascal’s Mugging.

    • Can you explain how atmospheric CO2 levels can be caused by increasing global temperature if almost all of the CO2 increase is anthropogenic?

      • The atmospheric CO2 in geologic proxies could be a product of global climate, rather than the cause of global climate, while atmospheric CO2 in the last century is anthropogenic.

    • Zorgon says:

      Without getting too far into the overall discussion, this is my favourite graph regarding the “pause”:

      I much prefer the black line, the 5-year mean, to the annual mean due to that spike in the late 90s that distorts the figures so much. From that, it’s impossible to tell if this is a pause indicating a long-term levelling or a temporary correction similar to that in the 1970s.

      I also note that the only sustained drops in the 5-year mean coincide with the aftermaths of the World Wars.

      • Anonymous says:

        “the aftermaths of the World Wars”?

        No, the declines long preceded the ends of the wars. The WWII drop starts with the war. The earlier drop starts in 1900, long before the war.

        • Luke Somers says:

          I agree about the 1900 drop, but WW2 started in 1939. The drop only really got going in 1944 or so, when the war was wrapping up.

          I’m not at all sure what the significance would be either way.

          • Nornagest says:

            1944 would have been about when large-scale strategic bombing of Japan started. Bombing campaigns in Europe had been going on for the entire war, but they might have grown more effective around 1944 as the Luftwaffe collapsed; that’s more speculative, though.

    • Wesley says:

      I’m with Taymon: you can’t simultaneously say that you agree with the point that most of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere is from human sources, and then turn around and say that you think the CO2 is an effect of temperature increases, not a cause. If we put CO2 into the atmosphere, and CO2 causes warming (which we pretty much know it does; the devil is in the details of *how much*), that’s causal. We (humanity) are warming the planet.

      Now, I’m with you on #2: most of the models are bad. In aggregate, they’re sorta-kinda-ok, which is why the IPCC uses many-model-averaging to do their predictions. Some of the models *do* include surface ocean temperatures as parameters, but to my knowledge none include deep ocean temperatures. That is obviously a problem, but there’s just no data, so no point in including them in the models. The latest research shows that *maybe* most of the extra heat from the last 15 years has gone into deep ocean and melting the ice. Certainly the ice thing is provable: the ice caps are shrinking, the glaciers are retreating, and generally the oceans are warming up.

      re: #1: no-one really knows what the bound is. Certainly it’s not unbounded in the classical sense: we’re not going to get surface temperatures of 5000C, for example. But looking at Venus, it appears clear that with the right atmospheric mix of gases, we can get surface temperatures well above 400C. And it doesn’t *matter*: we don’t really care about crazy, unbounded, million-years-from-now situations. What we care about is: will the planet warm 4+ degrees in the next hundred years? Because if it does, we are fucked (ignoring geo-engineering and science fiction developments in technology). Melt all of the polar ice caps, warm the seas, increase the acidity of the oceans to the point that the coral starts to die off in mass waves, and you’re looking at an extinction event. Humanity will survive, but not in any comparable form to our current civilization.

      And yes, this is a Pascal’s Mugging, in a way, but not really a strong case for one. You have to ask what you reasonably consider to be the probability that, given unchecked (or largely unchecked) CO2 emissions, we will see increases of temperature of 3 or 4C across the next century. The level of harm *that* would cause is so high that even an infinitesimal probability means you should be worried about it. And the probability is *not* infinitesimal, given everything we know about geophysics and the Sun: it might be small, but I’d put it above 1%.

      Side note: I’m a statistician, and have worked on some astrophysics problems. I know a number of people who study helioseismology. The Sun has been *wonky* for the last decade, like, in a way we haven’t seen in modern science. The irradiance has been low, the sunspots have been low, and generally, it’s been a super-weird solar cycle. Generalizing *anything* about the last 15 years of temperature without factoring in that the majority of the input has been wonky would be ill-advised. The last time we saw persistence of behaviour like we’re currently seeing, Europe had a mini ice-age. This time, we got a slowing in temperature increases, because we set up a solar blanket of 400 ppm of CO2, but no real cooling.

      • See my response to Taymon above. There’s no doubt that the CO2 increase in the last century is anthropogenic; but it’s possible that the CO2 levels for the previous 20,000 years are driven by temperature rather than the other way around.

        (May respond later to the rest of your post.)

        • Wesley says:

          I understand your point better now. Yes, you’re right: most of the CO2 in the historical record (say, pre-10,000BC) is driven by climate, not the other way around. There is a feedback loop effect that went on:

          1. The world warms up (ignore how).
          2. Permafrost melts, ice caps melt, CO2 is released from the ground and ice and whatever else was storing it as a sink.
          3. CO2 causes a positive feedback loop, warming the world more. At some point, this loop caps out: all the CO2 that is easily released has been released.
          4. All the extra CO2 in the atmosphere, plus the extra water floating around (melted ice) leads to an explosion of plant life. Plants eat CO2. Sinks start.
          5. Explosion of microscopic sea life, absorb CO2, sink to the bottom of the oceans, act as a carbon sink.
          6. Cycle goes back down, CO2 drops, temperature drops with it, eventually: Ice Age.
          7. Rinse repeat.

          I have no issues with that concept. And the geologic record is rife with cycles like that. Mostly, the warming-cooling periods corresponded to impulse responses from solar forcing, and the CO2 acted as a feedback amplifier on the forcing. You can certainly make the case that, geologically speaking, initial increases in CO2 were caused by temperature increases. Just don’t ignore the feedback loop effect which makes increased CO2 also increase temperature.

          *However*: accept all of the above. Feedback loops, CO2 causes temperature which causes CO2 which causes … (eventually capping out at some level equivalent to the easily accessible carbon in the permafrost/ice/surface oceans). *Then* add 200 ppm of atmospheric CO2 which we contributed from deep deposits: oil, coal, etc.. Stuff that normally wouldn’t be part of the cycle. *Then* add massive deforestation and erosion. And now … the cycle is borked.

          The big fear is that we’ve gone from a stable Milankovitch (~ 13,000 years half-life) climate cycle, something which explains the recent ice ages (pre-civilization), and gone to a situation where the cycles are more erratic, and where we’ve introduced so much CO2 into the system that the feedback loop will go nonlinear and destabilize, and VENUS, I TELL YOU, VENUS! This is likely an overreaction, *but*, as I said in my first post … all it takes is 4C, and we’re fucked. So it’s worth worrying about.

          Besides, what’s the down side? We stop polluting the atmosphere? We switch to renewable energies and slow down the constant increase in demand which has characterized the 20th century? We start working towards the idea of a sustainable future, before we use all the fresh water and destroy the rainforests?

          The current situation in California is terrifying if you read up on the actual water levels left in the aquifers. There’s a horrible joke which goes something like “The United States is an export economy. Primary export? Water from the Ongallala Aquifer.” Unless we get something rolling like fusion which can effectively desalinate massive quantities of salt and brackish water, many of the cities in the US are unsustainable. (I know, this isn’t technically climate change, it’s just humans being stupid. Climate change will make these situations worse.)

          • Tom Hunt says:

            I’ve not read that much on the subject, but it had been my impression that the cycle of glacials and interglacials was related to Earth’s orbital parameters and maybe the behavior of the sun, not anything to do with the greenhouse effect. (This, of course, is referring to the long cycles with periods of ten thousand years or more; whatever caused the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age and the 20th-century warming is presumably separate.)

          • Wesley says:

            @ Tom Hunt: you’re right that the Milankovitch and similar cycles are caused by orbital parameters and solar cycles (like the 104 year Seuss cycle). I’m not saying the cycles were *caused* by the greenhouse effect. However, the greenhouse effect has been observed to be *part* of those cycles. I likely mis-spoke on the final points about CO2 absorption causing a drop in temperatures. What *probably* happens is that CO2 is absorbed by plant and marine life simultaneously with a reduction in irradiance, so that the temperature and CO2 go down in lockstep, again reinforcing one another in a reduction feedback loop. Given constant irradiance, I don’t think “life absorbs CO2” is going to be enough to drop the temperatures quickly.

            The overall temperature forcing is solar. The amplitude and speed of the swing is greenhouse. A bit more heat from the sun, water changes state, some CO2 enters the atmosphere, the feedback loop activates, it accelerates to a point, then hits peak and start going back, again, due to solar forcing.

      • zaogao says:

        “Certainly the ice thing is provable: the ice caps are shrinking”

        If you told most people that antarctic sea ice was the largest ever in 2012, and then set a new record in 2013, I think most people would reject that as InfoWars style nonsense because it goes pretty strongly against the narrative we hear. Which is why I am somewhat surprised people don’t make use of the following (the clickbait appeal is obvious)

        • thirqual says:

          Sea ice and ice caps are not the same.

          Ice caps are on land and those near the poles are several kilometers high on average. They are long-term storage of water outside the oceans.

          Sea ice is floating on the oceans, with a lot of it melting during the summer without affecting the sea level.

        • Setsize says:

          In addition to the distinction between ice caps and floating ice, the most obviously relevant way to ask “how much sea ice there is” is to ask how much volume, rather than surface area. Volume is much harder to measure than area since you can’t see ice thickness from a satellite, but there have been some attempts to integrate the available data, such as this paper:

    • Jaskologist says:

      In recent geological time, there is a close correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature, as measured by proxies such as ice cores and tree rings.

      I realize I’m not the side you want to hear from, but wasn’t “hide the decline” about precisely the fact that in recent time, tree ring proxies have not matched/predicted actual temperature?

      • Luke Somers says:

        Tree rings establish how strong the limiting factors on growth was. In certain places, under certain conditions, it’s a good bet that the main one was temperature. Those conditions changed, and certain trees stopped being temperature-limited, instead being limited by something else.

        Tree rings do always constrain the temperature, though.

    • Jaskologist says:

      My related requests for the believers:

      1. A definition of “global temperature.”

      2. A graph of that global temperature over the past 500 thousand to 1 million years.

      3. A graph predicting global temperature for the next 20 years.

      • Wesley says:

        1. Global temperature needs to be land + ocean, otherwise it’s not going to track anything interesting. Some averaging needs to happen. The work Richard Mueller did for US land temperatures is a reasonable start, and given his funding and a priori biases, is the most truthworthy set. Probably as anomalies from a set basepoint, because absolute temperatures don’t mean a whole lot.

        (Note: he’s an interesting case. He was *sure* the data had been fudged, and after two years of work, had to retract that, because his results were almost identical to previous studies, despite starting from scratch with new methodologies. See:

        2. And where is this data supposed to come from? While we’re at it, I’d like a record of sunspot numbers for the last 500,000 years as well. And a pony.

        It’s unreasonable to want something as detailed as your request. No-one has it, no-one will ever have it. Tree rings will take you back a few tens of thousands of years, depending on age — some fossilized trees can add details that wouldn’t otherwise show up in living trees. Ice cores can take you back a few ice ages, so maybe 150,000 years, tops. And ice age precisions are wildly variable. There are no other mechanisms for temperature tracking. (The ice age tracking uses oxygen isotopes and air bubbles trapped in the ice as it froze – it’s not as good as radioactive decay for tracking.)

        So all we have is a few ice ages (via cores). Tree rings get us back to ~ 900AD, which picks up the “mini ice age” of Europe (most probably caused by solar forcing) in the 1600s+. Beyond that, no-one knows.

        3. The modeling that’s done for the IPCC is as state-of-the-art as it gets, and you can see the error bounds on those. We just don’t know precisely, and we won’t. In another 10 or 15 years everything from this past decade should settle in, and we’ll hopefully have answers for why / how the temperature increases slowed down. Maybe it was solar (this solar cycle was weird). Maybe it was ocean absorption. Maybe the CO2 amplification models are off. It’s science!

        • Jaskologist says:

          1. I agree that it needs to be land+sea temp, but I think the definition needs to get a lot more detailed than that. Do you use points evenly distributed across the globe? What time of year do you measure? How deep in the ocean? How much do we try to account for highly variable local conditions (whether urban heat island, or a tree growing up that shades our measurement station). The choices made here can add or subtract dozens of degrees from your reading just by themselves.

          2. I agree that we may not have the data; I do not agree that this makes the request invalid. Knowing what you don’t know is important, and beats forging ahead blindly. We need context for our data if we want to know if current trends are anomalous or not, especially since we know that earth’s climate has changed dramatically many times. 100 years of data is basically nothing in geological terms.

          3. I am aware of the IPCC models, and how they have failed the prediction game, hence my skepticism. Saying “oh, we forgot about the oceans which cover the majority of the planet” does not boost my faith any.

          • thirqual says:

            Point 1 has been discussed extensively in the scientific literature. About the ocean, see my post above. Your comments about the local conditions are puzzling. There are dozens of studies on urban heat islands, baselines, modifications in weather patterns behind those, etc. But only 3% of Earth’s surface is urbanized. Measurements are also not done wily-nilly, there are consistent procedures, and with large time series it is easy to catch outliers, even when subtle things are changed.

            Something that puzzles me : why would you want a evenly distributed grid of the globe ? You certainly want to have stations in as many places as possible, but there is no need for an homogeneous grid. Observations are weighted depending on station density (and high station density in places where it is convenient, like continental Europe, are useful to understand the local effects you also worry about).

            In point 2, you decide that we can ignore all the data we have because we do not have the data you want.

            Wesley is actually mistaken on this point, we have data from the thickest ice cores from 800,000 years ago (Jouzel et al 2007 if I’m not mistaken). So we have a record of temperatures for the last 800,000 years. Of course, the precision of the calculated global temperature is not as good as the data we have for the last 1,000 years, because, yeah, there is only one measurement station, Dome C in Antarctica. But we can’t do better (well, we can do clumped isotopes on paleosols, but the precision is not good and there are even more questions about how to go from those to actual temperatures).

            (for Wesley, we can do better than just O isotopes for ice ages thanks to ash layers from big volcanic eruptions, so we have good anchor points)

            Again, let’s state this : the rate of change in temperature in the last 200 years is unprecedented. The difference between a glacial and interglacial period is 4 to 8C, established over several thousand of years. What we experience is completely different (and we are already in an interglacial, by the way).

            Point 3 is incorrect. See the 2013 IPCC report.

    • Nornagest says:

      Furthermore, available evidence suggests that the quality of the code which made the climate predictions is terrible (almost all code written by academics is terrible

      I’m a crypto guy, not a climate guy, but I’ve run into my share of terrible code written by academics. It’s slow and unmaintainable and the side-channels leak like a sieve, but the actual crypto is generally solid. Which makes sense, since the academy’s job is to come up with good algorithms, not to write good code, and the two are much less closely related than you might naively expect. I’d expect an analogous situation in climate modeling.

      • Wesley says:

        This. Also, if you’re writing models which run on massive data sets and typically require a supercomputer cluster to execute, you’re going to have slightly better code than the average academic. At the very least, your team will include someone who knows how to write parallel algorithms.

        (I’m editing a 500-line “program” at the moment, written by an academic colleague. It’s a stream-of-consciousness pile of crap. But it works, and it does return correct results. That’s all that matters in academia: correct results, who cares about style, speed, or good programming paradigms?)

      • Setsize says:

        I still remember in the aftermath of East Anglia leaks, a Fox News report where someone scrolled through some code and pointed at a section that read (something to the effect of) “fake the data.”

        What was shown for a split second on the screen, was a section of commented out code, which fact was not mentioned.

        Now, if I were inspecting a complicated model, a test of the algorithm on fake data (i.e. data constructed to definitely-have-the-effect or definitely-not-have-the-effect) is exactly what I would want to see evidence of. I’ve done that myself, and wrote the exact words “fake the data” when I was doing so.

        Someone more deeply schooled in software dev would not do so in code that is later commented out; they would rather construct a set of unit tests parallel to the code. However, I had prior experience that the connunication between SW devs and academic scientists is basically zero, so no one in academia knows about unit tests. Consequently seeing that commented section raised, rather than lowered my confidence that the person who wrote the code was Doing Mostly the Right Thing.

        • Zorgon says:

          This was pretty much my exact response to the whole “The modelling code is FAKING EVERYTHING! This piece of commented-out code proves it beyond a doubt!” thing, right down to wondering why they’d gone down the high-school Computer Studies route of test code rather than unit tests.

          I came to understand all of that much better a year or so later when a close friend of mine, who had just finished his BSc in Physics, began a research PhD which was seemingly entirely composed of coding modelling systems in IDL, a language which seems to be completely unable to do anything useful at all.

          I spent the next few years fielding a vast range of questions from him regarding system design and program architecture, although those terms took him a while to pick up. Still, I think having a Computer Science graduate around to pick at regarding his course must have been highly useful, and he’s certainly the only person I’ve encountered using IDL who managed to construct something resembling a unit test system, not least since I checked the syllabus for the computing modules they do in his department and they don’t mention unit tests at all.

          All of this has brought me to the point where I increasingly think that not only is the provision of software for research projects woefully inadequate to the point of uselessness, but that it might actually be worth designing a structure for high-complexity/simulation/modelling research where the domain specialist researcher is in all cases paired with a fully-fledged software engineer.

          (Also, I totally need to go into the scientific software industry, because the existing products seem to be worse than useless.)

          • Setsize says:

            Heh. The only thing I know about IDL is that it appears vaguely similar to but probably worse than Matlab. (… says the guy who wrote a unit test framework in Matlab)

            As a dev-turned-Ph.D student I encountered incredible resistance when suggesting to scientists that there are some techniques to program not only more reliably but with less aggregate effort (including the effort spent to learn the technique). They almost universally react that they do not have time to learn these latest fashions in programming. It felt like this cartoon and makes me suspect that offering better-built scientific software products won’t get a lot of traction until more basic corrections to the incentive structures in science happen.

          • Jadagul says:

            I have a friend who did an applied math PhD (modelling uptake of cancer-treatment drugs) and she complains that it turned into having her just be a code monkey (in Mathematica), which isn’t really what she wanted to sign up for. I think a lot of academics would be at least interested in the idea of having an actual coder or two working with them.

            On the other hand, it’s hard to write some of that code if you don’t also have a lot of subject-area expertise.

          • Zorgon says:

            I definitely agree that it’s a problem of the incentive structure – although that said, I think if I offered the smart typed, modular plug-and-socket-function structured system (which is designed to enforce point-of-insertion and atomised transformations to maximise cache coherency in the backend; one of my friends has literally written a book about data-oriented programming) lurking at the back of my brain to the various hassled PhDs that endlessly complain at me about IDL and Matlab I might find it easier to convert people 10 years down the line when they’re the people making the purchasing decisions.

            Of course, by then I’d have gone bust.

          • Setsize says:

            Right, the baseline rate at which new practices overturn old is the professor-attrition-rate; a curious or productively procrastinating Ph.D. student picks up a new technique and propagates it to their students when/if they are successful enough to have their own students. Suggesting change to already existing professors is a lot harder.

          • veronica d says:

            Oh look, perverse incentives!

            But yeah, this has been a problem since forever, given how long it took to move past FORTRAN.

            But yeah. After this maybe we can get the finance people to stop doing everything in Excel.

          • Zorgon says:

            The only reliable way of circumventing it is to produce a product which is so superior it permits domain-specific aims that aren’t possible with the existing standard products.

            And as an added bonus, you get an opportunity to misuse the word “paradigm”!

          • veronica d says:

            @Zorgon — Right, but I think the cultural barriers are really deep, and it looks like folks have already taken a big plunge into SciPy space, or R space, or lots of other spaces, such that getting them to move again would be hard.

            Maybe. I dunno. I’m a Common LISP programmer, so by definition I am out of touch.

            I guess there is that Haskell-based thing that is popular among the Bayesian crowd (I forget the name, too lazy to Google). But anyway, change is possible.

          • Quixote says:

            @veronica d
            Excel has a lot of merits
            – it’s visual so the user can see everything at once. Also when working collaboratively of a problem other parties can look over the users shoulder
            – it’s very easy to debug since there aren’t hidden variables and each step is visible in a cell
            – the above feature also makes it very easy for third parties to verify. At a regulated bank the typical model is going to be looked at by 3-4 verification functions including a regulator and the time saved by making that process easy is immense.
            – the real time and spacial elements make it good for ‘casual thinking’ with number
            – for small to mid sized datasets (up to maybe 16,000 items) excel is fast enouph for most non automated applications that require human judgement in addition to program output

            And when you do really need the benefits of clean code that’s what gets written. No one in finance is doing high frequency trading from excel.

          • Anonymous says:

            1% of cells in spreadsheets have errors, leading to 90% of spreadsheets having errors.

            The cell structure means that it’s easy to hide the fact that one cell is different. As far as I can tell, the purpose of spreadsheets is give people plausible deniability as they fiddle till they get the result they want.

          • Army1987 says:

            @Setsize on October 30 at 10:01 pm:

            +eleventy billion

    • thirqual says:

      Disclaimer : isotope geochemist, but not working on climate change.

      Wesley gave a good answer about temperature forcing and feedback loops (see also the Permo-Carboniferous glaciation following from the burial of so much organic matter on the continents, which turned to coal afterwards).

      We know there is a coupling of climate and CO2, the question is what happens if you add a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere (we know we added it by burning fossil fuels because of the 14C/12C of atmospheric CO2), all else being identical. For the Phanerozoic, the apparent sensitivity of climate to a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere is 3 to 6 degrees (depending on the amount of ice sheets, glacial era = ice sheets = coupling of albedo changes and climate changes are enhanced, which impact your radiative budget a lot). Is it what you mean by the bounding of the effect ?

      There is a key factor which is not discussed directly in your remarks, or in most criticisms of the models, but that is really critical. The climate is a dynamic system, not a static one. The speed at which one parameter change (say, the concentration of one gas in the atmosphere) is important, not just the amount of change. The rate of CO2 addition to the atmosphere is (as far as we know) unprecedented in Earth’s history.
      Here are some highlights of the issues that creates :

      1) This is extremely important when you consider the coupling between the ocean and the atmosphere : the deep ocean does not exchange with the atmosphere on short timescales (decades) but on much longer ones (several thousands of years). We have some data about deep ocean temperatures, but we would never have the same data density as we have on the continents.

      2) The big difference between Earth and Venus is the presence of carbonate rocks. The rate at which you can trap CO2 in carbonate rocks depends on biological activity in the ocean, which is not limited by the availability of CO2, but by nutrients (Fe, N and P depending on where you are on the globe). This is not saying we are on track for runaway warming, but there is a limit to the rate at which you can bury carbon in rocks.

      3) Thermal inertia of the system. If T changes fast, ground temperatures have to catch up, ice sheets have to melt, etc. Extra CO2 in the atmosphere give you additional energy by unit of time, but the rate of increase is key if you want to link atmospheric temperature and CO2. That is the most likely cause of the discrepancy between current and previous sensitivity of climate to CO2 changes. We are not comparing the same timescales, there are reasons to believe that the temperature is currently lagging behind the already achieved increase in CO2 because of the short timescales compared to the ones necessary for the whole system to come to equilibrium.

      Yeah of course models suck. You know, all models are wrong but some are useful and all that jazz. But it is completely untrue that models give useful prediction only if the system is thoroughly understood (otherwise the notion of calibration would not even exist). Bad and useless are not the same. What you can do, however, is calibrate your model on data from 1900 to the 70s and check if the forward calculations from 1980 give results in line with the observations.

      We do not have a perfect and complete understanding of Earth’s climate. If we have one in the future, it will be extremely complicated in any case. But we do have a lot of lines of evidence that suggest we are having an impact. The comparison between Pascal’s mugging and the suggested policy changes that you draw stems from the fact you attribute a very low probability to climate change having a strong effect on our activities.

      • Wesley says:

        Good post, thirqual. I come at climate science from a statistics / time series / geophysics background, so my knowledge of the chemistry is limited to knowing a bit about ice cores, and having built models that link irradiance (something I know something about), CO2 levels (it’s just a time series) and temperature anomalies (I know people who put these together, and I trust their conscientiousness).

        I would extend your comment on Pascal’s mugging as such: the side effects of global warming on the 3-6 degree scale are incredibly bad. Humanity struggling to survive in a meaningful way bad. Where by meaningful I mean “still has international trade and food crops” meaningful, not necessarily “still has the latest iPhone”. Something like 50% of the world’s population lives in regions that would be under sea level if the caps fully melt. A huge portion of the arable land is also located around lakes and rivers which would swell in these situations. We’re talking about tens of trillions of dollars of damage and relocations, at a minimum.

        So we have a situation where the end result *could* be an civilization-extinction-level event, happening at accelerating rates as everything goes off at once. Foom. Is it as bad as paper-clip-AI? From the perspective of humanity as a whole, no. From the perspective of a single person, it’d still be pretty bad. Humanity would survive a 6 degree warming spike, even if only as tribal bands wandering the Arctic region and eating whatever animals and plants thrived under high-CO2, high-temperature climates. But civilization would be effectively over.

        But then we get to the probability. What’s the probability of foom? Pretty low, by most accounts. Maybe 0.1%. Maybe lower. It depends on us *actually* bootstrapping an AI to sentience, and there’s no guarantee that’s actually going to happen. But what’s the probability of getting 3-6 degrees assuming we do nothing, and keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere? At some point, it doesn’t matter *how* temperature and CO2 couple, it’s going to boost the temperatures. Not VENUS, I TELL YOU, VENUS levels, but hard take-off temperature climb. And then we’re fucked.

        So I take “not quite as bad as foom for humanity” and couple it with “significantly higher probability of failure-mode-activation”, and it’s less of an inverse Pascal’s Mugging (which relies on very, very low probability events with very, very high rewards/penalties) and more of an obvious utility problem. Cost of action? Not that much. Cost of non-action? Much. /fin

        Note: not saying you didn’t say this. I’m agreeing with you, disagreeing with OP.

      • Paul Torek says:

        What thirqual said. But also, @ Mai La,

        There is a well-understood physical mechanism by which CO2 can contribute to global temperature.

        This is what you want to focus on. If you also figure the water vapor feedback using an assumption of approximately constant relative humidity, you can almost do a back-of-the-envelope calculation of what a doubling of CO2 will do. You’re better off with an average of recent climate models, of course – but the answer won’t be radically different. So if you have absolutely no faith in climate models, go with basic science – and arrive at a similar answer.

        Regarding Venus, the pressure of Venus’s atmosphere is 90 (earth) atmospheres, mostly CO2. We’re never going to get there. At 10% concentration, CO2 would cause severe health effects, so there is no need to worry about any scenario with a partial pressure of CO2 greater than 0.1 atm. We’d be dead before then.

        • Matt C says:

          I’m quite interested in this back of the envelope calculation. It’s the sort of thing I’d like to see but never have seen. If you have a link, or can set it up easily in a comment, I’d appreciate it.

  29. Linked List says:

    I’d very much like this blog’s audience’s opinion on this.

    Is it possible to stop being shy and socially anxious and become a social person without therapy?

    • Jaskologist says:

      Depends on what you mean by “therapy.” It is not possible without practice.

    • speedwell says:

      I did it. I really did do it. I was painfully shy, nerdy, no friends, an indoor mouse, until I graduated from high school. That summer I got a job as one of those clipboard-holding survey people in the mall. (They must have been desperate for warm bodies, and I was desperate for money.) I did really badly, as you might expect, because I was terrified to approach people and “bother” them.

      A genius manager took me into a back room and made me practice my approach to him, over and over and over, probably a hundred times. He worked on my body language, my speaking volume and tone, my smile, even the speed and confidence with which I approached. Finally he pronounced it good. Then he made me perform it probably twenty more times. It all took a good few hours. He said, “Just go do that thing exactly the same way every time you walk up to someone.”

      I did it. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t me; it was a mask. It was an act. But people responded. They responded with smiles of their own, and my success rate shot up. After a couple weeks of practicing the act, I found myself making little jokes with the respondents. A week or two more, and I was OK with approaching people in public. A month or two more, and it didn’t feel like an act anymore. A year or two more, and I was speaking up in class in college and running a role-playing game.

      It gets even better. A decade or two, and I had become a software trainer in an international oil and gas company, traveling around the world and teaching people in many cultures. Part of the secret to my success is that I remember being awkward like that, and in fact some engineers have asked me, in a puzzled way, if I had Aspergers; not because I wasn’t functioning or communicating, but because I had made it so easy for them to understand and relate to me.

      I’ll tell you a secret. It is still hard for me to go out and “make friends”. I am not sure what that even is. But I do know that when I force myself to go out around people, it is easy now and they seem to like me and take me seriously, and every now and then I meet someone who I just fall into a comfortable sort of association with.

      • Gavin says:

        Well done. I have a cousin who had a similar experience–one summer as a clipboard survey person and now she’s comfortable talking to anyone about anything.

        I’m also someone who now feels fairly confident socially but still doesn’t quite know how to turn a friendly stranger or acquaintance into a friend.

        The sad thing, I think, is that it’s actually quite simple. How do you make friends? You invite interesting people to do interesting things with you. And the things don’t actually have to be that interesting.

        And yet somehow my brain isn’t quite ready to understand that yet.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          The sad thing, I think, is that it’s actually quite simple. How do you make friends? You invite interesting people to do interesting things with you. And the things don’t actually have to be that interesting.

          Not that simple! If you’re the one doing all of the inviting and they don’t reciprocate or value you as much as you value them* then its going to get draining and you won’t end up friends. Even if they find your company enjoyable, it might still not be enough to create that bond. Its a problem I don’t know how to solve. I’m almost willing to give up and believe that compatibility is either there or it isn’t.

          Anecdote: I have never made a friend in a deliberate fashion. Its always been a random process based on just talking to different people, realizing that I “clicked” with certain people and drifting closer to them as we talked more whenever we had the chance (the making plans to do stuff came later). I’d be curious to hear what other people’s experiences were like.

          *not because they are a bad person, maybe they already have a social circle they are content with; maybe you two just don’t “click”.

    • Hainish says:

      Yes. All you need is to pick up a bacterial parasite from a young kitten (outdoor only, no indoor cats) who is just learning how to hunt. Results may be subtle. Changes in the direction you desire occur only if you’re female (as it causes the opposite personality changes in males).

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve never before seen such specific claims about transmission of T gondii. The huge variance in prevalence between countries makes me skeptical.

        • Hainish says:

          All claims are from the linked article. Apparently, the effect is statistically robust but still really subtle (i.e., if you show the personality traits, you can’t necessarily conclude they’re due to T gondii).

          (And of course, it was tongue in cheek…I don’t really mean to suggest that Linked List should infect themself.)

    • Gavin says:

      It’s possible to make significant changes on the margins. You can absolutely become a more socially successful person than you are, with significant work. To make a completely random guess, I’d say that everyone is capable of moving a standard deviation up or down from their natural “social” comfort level, and be happy and comfortable. It may be possible to move further, but I suspect it would be more painful and unpleasant than it’s worth.

      I don’t know that therapy is necessary, but some sort of therapeutic experience may be important. Some sort of structured journalling may be the best option if real therapy isn’t an option.

      Here’s the basic formula:
      1. What a trait that I have that’s problematic?
      2. Where does it come from? What experiences in my past have created or reinforced it?
      3. How would things be different if I overcame that trait? Is this trait actually protecting me from something else I’m uncomfortable with?

      In my experience (AS SOMEONE WHO IS NOT A DOCTOR OR A THERAPIST OR LICENSED TO DISPENSE REAL MEDICAL ADVICE OF ANY KIND!) therapy is basically asking those kind of questions over and over again, every week. For me this has been extremely helpful, and has led to a transformation

      Socializing is a skill. For some people it comes easier and more instinctively than others. We could argue about why that’s the case, but it’s not too relevant to the situation. As with any skill, it only gets better with practice. The key is to do things that make you a little bit uncomfortable. This is basic Comfort Zone Expansion.

      The mindset that helped me be successful was this: If I notice that I am thinking about doing something and it makes me a little bit anxious, I choose to do it. I don’t weigh whether it’s a good idea or not. I force myself to go through with it specifically because it makes me uncomfortable. This short circuits the part of your brain that can use motivated reasoning to rationalize not doing anything that makes you uncomfortable.

      So cultivate “I noticed I am scared by this” in the same way Eliezer suggest that you notice that you are confused. And the correct response to being intimidated by something is to go ahead and do it. Just to flip the bird to the universe.

      Again, I’m not an expert in this. Just trying to share some things that have helped me. And I should note clearly that a good therapist (make sure it’s a good one!) can be invaluable, and was big part of my personal improvements.

      • CAE_Jones says:

        So cultivate “I noticed I am scared by this” in the same way Eliezer suggest that you notice that you are confused. And the correct response to being intimidated by something is to go ahead and do it. Just to flip the bird to the universe.

        I’m pretty sure this is a good idea in general. I’m also pretty sure this would lead to me posting more not-really-intelligible stuff on SSC and LW that will make me look like an idiot while I try to level up. I’d like a little more confidence that I’d be trading against the present in favor of the future (and not being *too* annoying).
        (I’m really not feeling good about posting this comment, either, but that’s kinda the point, I guess.)

      • Mugasofer says:

        >If I notice that I am thinking about doing something and it makes me a little bit anxious, I choose to do it. I don’t weigh whether it’s a good idea or not. I force myself to go through with it specifically because it makes me uncomfortable. This short circuits the part of your brain that can use motivated reasoning to rationalize not doing anything that makes you uncomfortable.


        I just tried this, and my brain helpfully suggested that I’m really uncomfortable with stabbing myself repeatedly.

        • speedwell says:

          Heh. As I pointed out below, the key seems to be cultivating and reinforcing positive experiences. 🙂

    • Ilya Shpitser says:


    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think I might have partly done this. I don’t necessarily enjoy social interaction unless it’s with people I really like, but I think I’ve become average-level good at it as long as it’s not a loud party.

      I think in my case the biggest factor was getting a series of jobs (teacher, then doctor) that required talking to people nine hours a day. More important might have been that it was talking to people from a high-status position, which helped me internalize this sense of “you can act high status and no one will call you on it”, after which social interaction was a lot more pleasant because I didn’t feel as nervous.

      Trying to think of easy ways to get the same experience – maybe volunteering to teach something? I got a volunteer position teaching immigrants English at some community center a while ago, and another one teaching old people how to use computers at a senior center. Those sound like they might have the same sort of effect. But this is all conjecture.

      • Linked List says:

        I noticed that I don’t have shyness problems in work contexts. In class, schoolwork, and in my jobs I can talk to people with no problem. So I don’t think the advice to get a job that involves a lot of socializing applies to me.

        What feels impossibly scary is talking to people at parties, initiating conversation with people on campus, things like that. Not to mention how inconceivable it feels to ask girls out, or even just approaching them.

        • Setsize says:

          In these situations there’s a strongly established context/program for the interactions you are having. It’s actually somewhat of a pattern that there are people who are introverted and shy in most areas of life but spectacular at giving speeches or other performances that happen in a constrained context.

          (every time I have had to give a Very Important Presentation I have despaired and wept and gnashed my teeth and hidden from the world for the preceding week, then completely nailed it in the moment.)

          What kinds of jobs are there that involve unscripted / open ended interactions?

          • Jadagul says:

            There’s also the alternative method, which is to find a culture where you have a structure for low-grade socializing. Swing dancing worked wonders for me: there’s a structure where you go to the lesson and meet everyone for about thirty seconds as you rotate through partners, and then there’s a period of social dancing where it’s considered acceptable to ask basically anyone not currently dancing with someone to dance, and they’ll usually say yes, and you dance one song and then thank them for the dance and then you part ways. Which is great because you (1) know when you can initiate interactions with people, (2) have something to do while you’re interacting if you can’t come up with anything to say, (3) have a non-awkward way to end the interaction, and (4) don’t have to worry about imposing too much because the interaction is capped at about three minutes.

            Not like there’s a rule against continuing to talk to people afterwards, but you can meet a lot of people very safely by following that algorithm, and after a few weeks at the same venue you start to know people and you can talk to them a bit longer. (Also, dancers are often super friendly. And cuddly, if you like that. Lindy Hop is the friendliest, blues and west coast swing somewhere in the middle, salsa probably-but-not-definitely below that, Argentine Tango dancers are not very friendly).

            Not that dance is the only activity with this sort of structure, but it’s the one that I’m familiar with and the one that solved this problem for me.

    • Doug S. says:

      I did this but I’m not entirely sure how. I think it had something to do with my experience in my small-town high school, which somehow ended up being an incredibly supportive social environment for me. Which is not how high school is normally expected to be for a fairly shy, unathletic, intellectual-leaning male student, but there you go.

      I know someone else who can describe her experiences in much more detail, though.

      • speedwell says:

        Reading everyone’s comments, and thinking about my own, has made something jump out at me. The common thread in the anecdotes of “what worked” has been that the successful individual was placed in a context where they received positive reinforcement. One or two of us find ourselves to be social performers only in the singular contexts in which we received positive reinforcement, and others (like me) found it possible to extend our success to other contexts.

        So, in sum, the trick seems to be this: Cultivate positive interactions in one context, if possible with the help of someone who understands that context well. This will be difficult, but will feel more natural as positive interactions accumulate. Then apply your new confidence and learned skills to other contexts.

        As for the making friends thing, just some thoughts… there’s a common-ish saying that I’ve been seeing on the kind of overly precious plaques and mugs you buy for gifts, to the effect that friends are not people you see all the time, but people you are glad to see when you see them (even if rarely). That rings true to me. I also place great value on the idea that you come to like people to whom you think you have been of value. Volunteerism can be frustrating, but just the knowledge that you have helped, or worked productively beside, someone is uplifting and contributes to positive reinforcement in context.

  30. Joe from London says:


  31. Kevin says:

    Scott, pretty sure you’ve already seen this, but if you haven’t, it’s about the effects of inebriation on utilitarianism.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe utilitarians just get more drunk. E.g. the religious are more deontological and less likely to go to bars?

      -Lambert (on a different computer, so it did not come up automatically)

    • AR+ says:

      Ad hoc explanation: Logic and straight-forward cost-benefit analysis is simpler and easier than status-game politics (in a computational sense, not a conscious effort sense) so the ability to consider the latter gets lost first when brain function is slowed. Hence people start saying things based only on the easier part w/o regard to how it might make them look like immoral mutants w/ no concept of the sacred.

      • Mugasofer says:

        I’ve noticed (and had people comment on) how they become more honest when they aren’t thinking clearly. Presumably because we can’t keep track of which parts of he truth we’re bending.

        (Not just In Vino Veritas, either; tiredness is a big one.)

        Perhaps it’s related?

    • Anonymous says:

      What percentage of people give Utilitarian answers under normal circumstances. If its less than 50% it could be that drunkards simply fail to understand the question and pick an answer at random thus making them more utilitarian.

    • DavidS says:

      People also become more utilitarian when questions are asked in a foreign language. I imagine the common thread is anything that makes the answerer think harder. (I feel like I had this discussion before on this website, but I can’t figure out where.)

      • AR+ says:

        That seems to be it, but to clarify it seems that “think harder” does not mean “think about the question more diligently” but rather, “be distracted from the question, therefore diverting significant volumes of Magic Think Fluid from the question to other things.”

  32. nk says:


  33. also a lurker says:

    SSC was also mentioned by Megan McArdle recently.

  34. eqdw says:

    Mild style request:

    Is there a way you could tweak the CSS to somehow signal the level of indentation of a given comment? Sometimes I find it hard to keep track of what is a response to what. I kind of emulate this by liberal usage of the show/hide button, but this feels hacky.

    • Hainish says:


      • eqdw says:

        Oh man! Comments already have css classes based on their depth. It should be easy for me to whip up a custom style using that

      • calef says:

        Thirded, something like vertical dotted lines showing indentations would be great.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      My workaround is to place the cursor at the left margin of the comment, then Up-arrow the text till the cursor reaches a comment that is further to the left. (Er, literally.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If somebody tells me exactly how to do this (ie writes the script and tells me exactly where to put it on the WordPress dashboard) I will accept their help. Alternately, if someone I trust wants access to my WordPress account to do it themselves, I’ll give it to them.

      • eqdw says:

        That I can do. Check your email later tonight, I’ll get to it after work

      • eqdw says:

        Shit. I forgot I’m terrible at UIs, and apparently my css-fu has also atrophied. 🙁

        Something like this is about the best I can do (though obviously with less garish colours).

        • Anonymous says:

          Looks good to me.

          You can use quite subtle colors for this purpose, since the main thing is to see the boundary between the colors. I suggest shades of light gray. (Also the colors in the corners on the right are ugly, but with subtle colors, it’ll probably be OK.)

        • Oscar_Cunningham says:

          Alternate light grey and white?

  35. MugaSofer says:

    Ideas for Ozy:

    Some gender-related pun on “King of Kings”.

    Ozymandias anagrams: did you know it contains “zany”?

    “moderation policies:” I’s A Zany Mod

    “vague philosophy:” A Zany Do-ism

    “self-depreciation:” Am Zany Sod I

    “a little too much self-depreciation:” A Zany Misdo

    “Om is short for Ozy now:” Said Zany Om

    I would *totally* read a blog by one Ozymandias called “And Despair”. Especially if there was a picture of that scene from LotR in the titlebar. Especially especially if it was awesome because written by Ozy.

    Of course, I would also read it if it was called “Ozy’s Thoughts” or something, because seriously I found your old blog like a day before it vanished and I’ve been Ozy-starved ever since.

    Riffing on Scott’s post above, “Terrible Gender Discussions” or something of that sort. Kinda limiting, though.

  36. Nornagest says:


    You’ve been waiting to make this pun all year, haven’t you?

    • Matthew says:

      Further Open Thread pun brainstorming….

      I Am Not The Thread Pirate Roberts
      The Thread-Crime Theory
      AI and other Existential Threads
      Where Angels Fear To Thread

      ETA: Thread and Circuses

      ETA, again: January or thereabouts should obviously be The Thread Of Winter

    • Scott Alexander says:

      No! Until last week, it was going to be on Halloween and titled “When Hell Is Full, The Thread Will Walk The Earth”, but at the last moment I realized I could use this one instead.

      Next year, next year.

  37. ShiggitySclow says:

    I suggest that Ozy make her new blog in such a way that it is impossible to trace it back to any of her existing online identities or her real one. This includes not referring people to it on unsecured channels (ie email).

    On general principle.

    • Anonymous says:

      This way they would have a harder time attracting a large audience. Linking it to SSC gives the new blog an initial group of readers.

  38. Jordan D. says:

    Whooo! Open thread!

    Okay, but let’s get down to brass tacks. Let’s talk serious, important stuff. Let’s talk about Beyond Earth.

    It’s not Alpha Centauri 2. I guess maybe it was never going to be, but the things its missing are the touches I really loved about that game. Diplomacy is awkward, the AI factions are even more absurdly predictable, unit customization is very limited, there’s no chasse system and fully FIVE of the six ways to win involve building a really big Wonder and funneling resources at it until God declares you the winner.*

    I know a few people who have said that it feels like a large mod for Civ V more than anything. That’s not totally wrong- if you liked Civ V, you’ll probably like this and vice-versa- but there are a few serious substantive changes. The ecosystem is a lot more important, harkening back to AC’s fungal patches, and the alien monsters are a bit more dynamic and varied than Civ V barbarian camps. The trade system is also a pretty cool thing, and it can offer a big advantage to someone who plots their trade routes seriously and evaluates their gains every few turns. The virtue trees are also pretty good.

    The new quest system is sort of varied. Early on in my first game I got contacted by a shadowy organization which wanted to help me establish an international spy system and would reward me if I helped fulfill their goals. That was cool. I also got a series of truly awful quests involving killing X number of alien monsters. What the hell?

    Satellites should have been done like this in Civ V. The orbital layer is the best layer.

    Finally, decision points are a good mechanic. Any time you build a new sort of building, you’ll get a little dialog box describing how that building’s resources could be used in society and asking you to choose between one of two permanent bonuses for buildings of that type. These choices seriously impact your resources and capabilities, and can turn buildings which seem so-so into sleeper powerhouses.

    That’s all!

    *In AC, one of my favorite parts was that certain really cool Wonders would play a little clip while the voice-over quoted something at you. In BE, you instead look at a crude psuedo-blueprint of the wonder. That bugs me a lot for some reason.**
    **WAIT. Even worse is that every time one of the NPCs calls you up to beg for free stuff they start with standard trade vocals. “No village, was ever ruined, by trade!” Okay, sure, but I’m not going to give you a hundred energy a turn for free because of that.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I thought it was a pretty bad game. Then again I also thought Civ V was a pretty bad game. But in particular, two of the things you mentioned being good about the game seem to be actually terrible from where I sit, so let me argue with you a little.

      Firstly, the trade system does “offer a big advantage to someone who plots their trade routes seriously and evaluates their gains every few turns”. But what that actually means in practice is that trade routes break the game wide open and are really tedious to deal with. In a game where most techs and buildings have really subdued effects, where a late game building might cost 400 production to produce +4 production per turn, the trade routes have insane effects. It’s not uncommon for a trade route to produce a total of +10 food and +10 production, and each city gets three of these. Trade routes dwarf everything else – you can spam cities all over the map, and the moment you manage to build a trade depot and a couple trade convoys, the cities will be instantly productive without having to build any other infrastructure. Even in built-up cities, it’s easy to have half your food and production coming from trade routes. This is a completely out of control mechanic. And the worst part about it is, once you have the trade routes set up, every N turns it prompts you to renew the trade route, which you can do by clicking on the same city you clicked on initially, for zero cost. There’s no option to automatically renew the routes, so if you’re taking advantage of this utterly broken mechanic like you should be and building infinite cities with infinite trade routes, most of your time in game is going to be spent telling the computer, yes, I still want +10 food and +10 production, thanks.

      Secondly, “decision points” are what makes a strategy game a strategy game, but for it to be a good game, those decisions have to be interesting. Beyond Earth seems to just think “more is better” and throws a decision at you every time you build a new building without making those decisions actually meaningful. Do you want +1 health or +1 energy? Do you want +1 production or +1 broken trade routes that’s worth +10 food and +10 production? The choices tend to be obvious, irrelevant, or both. It takes careful design to provide this sort of choice between bonuses and make it actually meaningfully strategic, and even if Beyond Earth’s designers were capable of such careful design, they wouldn’t have time to put the necessary amount of care into the decision for each of fifty different buildings. The building choicepoints were a huge design blunder IMO.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Hm. Well, let me back off from my stance slightly- I think those mechanics are good *ideas*. I won’t argue that they were well-implemented, but I think they could have been. Given patching they still could theoretically be, I guess!

        The trade system I still like. Is it overpowered? Yes, frankly, and it incentivizes a strategy of building a lot of colonies in order to throw caravans at your big cities. On the other hand, I think this is a minor sort of issue. If the numbers in the formula for trade were reduced in a way which cut things down, or perhaps capped trade bonuses, the mechanic would remain substantively the same and not too unbalanced. And darn it, I think it’s got a cool aesthetic.*

        The decision points are also an idea I still like, but you may have a point about them being impossible to balance properly and still keep interesting. And they are interesting, at least in some cases- like the ones where you choose between a military unit production bonus or a citizen happiness modifier. That could go either way depending on the state of affairs!

        I probably should have been clearer in concluding that I don’t really recommend the game, though. It’s not worth $50, and quite possibly not worth any amount of money if you don’t like the Civ V mechanics.

        *The system as a whole, that is. The trade units are really boring-looking.

        • DrBeat says:

          The problem is, Firaxis already had this kind of release with Civ V at release, to the point it makes me wonder why they made so many of the same mistakes again.

          Also: Holy SHIT the game is ugly and has no personality. The factions do not have historical cultural identities like in Civ, and the leaders do not have personalities to define the sides like in SMAC, so there’s nothing memorable or worthy of giving a shit about in any of them. The planets are ass-ugly and hard to discern features on, including miasma; the interface is awful and bland and lacks so much basic information it’s ridiculous. The tech web looks like they made it as hard to navigate as possible, cities don’t even tell you what they finished producing when you go to assign new production. Civ V at release was a bad game with a lot of polish, Beyond Earth has neither.

          • Jordan D. says:

            It is pretty ugly, yeah. The miasma blends perfectly into forests and marshes, there aren’t any really varied landscapes and the color palette is pretty brown. The thing is… Alpha Centauri was also a pretty ugly game, and I loved it anyway. There’s a certain feeling of satisfaction which you get when you start with vast uninhabitable desolations and slowly impose order upon them.

            The interface, I think, is mostly pretty usable. The only really huge problem is how awful the city controls are. At some point through my first game I just gave up on trying to manage cities at all and let the AI managers figure shit out.

            The tech web is unbelievably bad. Also; you can’t tell what technologies you need to accomplish any of the victories until you are actually to the point where you need those techs. ALSO, did I mention that most of the victories are of the dumb variety where you can lose without ever realizing that your opponent was winning?

            Despite all that, though, I still prefer the aesthetic of BE to Civ V. Maybe it’s just the idea of playing a colonist on an alien world appeals to me more? Maybe it’s just that Civ V is also incredibly bad.

    • Paul Torek says:

      Obviously, the game is a complete clunker and Scott would have much more fun posting more threads here on SSC. Just as I predicted before the game came out. And just like then, my comment is completely objective and unbiased by the implications for my ability to read cool stuff on the net. 😉

  39. Kevin says:

    I saw a great comment on Hacker News the other day, presenting what essentially seems like an alternative description of dust specks vs. torture. It begins:

    We can get really philosophical about this if you want. Is it worse to kill 1 person or dismember 100? Is it worse to bankrupt one person or steal $1 from a million? If the perpetrator is a single entity, then courts have precedents to punish appropriately. But what if it is a systemic theft where a million people are involved in making hundred million others suffer slightly? Is that somehow “less wrong” than 5 people killing 25?

  40. kaninchen says:

    An article on a Christian blog discussing current arguments over homosexuality and relating it to the Civil War, which might be of interest to people here. Choice quote:

    Let me be very clear: I think slavery is bad. I think slavery as it was practiced in the United States is horrible. But I realized that, had I been living in the United States in the lead-up to the Civil War, I would likely have been arguing that Scripture sanctions slavery. That is the side in that debate which seemed to hold a higher view of Scripture, and I think of myself as someone who holds a very high view of Scripture. The arguments made more sense. The hermeneutics were more sound.

    This makes me uncomfortable. If I put myself in historical shoes, I would be numbered among the oppressors (Race certainly plays a role here, too. I can’t deny that I have privilege as a white person, and that shapes how I think). In hindsight, it’s obvious that the abolitionists were in the right. But I was faced with the fact that, in an attempt to be faithful to the Word of God, I would have been deeply in the wrong.

    • Ben J says:

      “And then God spoke to me, and gave me three instructions:

      – Ask the hard questions, seek the truth.

      – Love people.

      – Be humble.”

      This person is like a rationalist, but instead of the rationalist subroutine giving advice from the back of the brain, it’s God.

    • Mugasofer says:

      This article weirds me out, because I’ve actually read Civil War pro-slavery arguments and they’re just … terrible, terrible arguments. Laughably bad. They are literally my go-to example of transparently motivated reasoning that looks silly after the fact but seems plausible to the poor sods who are caught up in it.

      Based on your excerpt, my model of the author is not arguing honestly. Specifically, they do not actually hold one of these premises:

      1. “a very high view of Scripture.”
      2. “The arguments [for slavery] made more sense. The [pro-slavery] hermeneutics were more sound.”
      3. “it’s obvious that the abolitionists were in the right”

      The quoted section had me leaning towards this being a stealth pro-slavery argument aimed at fundamentalist Christians, but reading it (I haven’t finished) I’m now fairly sure they’re actually arguing against the “high view of scripture” they feel lead to both American slavery and modern homophobia.

      ETA: And … yep, they’re calling for the Church to be more “humble” about their interpretation of Scripture .

      Well, I guess they’re right, so I maybe shouldn’t criticize. But it’s a very odd way of going at it – ignoring the actual, well, facts in order to treat this localized mistake as a black box.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Are scriptural arguments for slavery bad, let alone laughably bad? The Bible describes a society with slavery and has lots of rules for how to run it. Isn’t it that simple?

        I suspect that you’re equivocating between scriptural arguments and other arguments, particularly because scriptural arguments were not that popular.

  41. Anonymous` says:


    The next tweet was “#TweetsThatEveryoneWillAssumeAreAboutTheirOutGroup”. Are you suspecting people will think the smug signalers are their outgroup, or the virtue-condemners? I’ve had a lot of trouble in the past few years being a(n internal) virtue-condemner for reasons including the one in the tweet (also many reasons related to a Catholicism->Atheism transition), but I’m getting a better grasp on how virtue (and the light side in general) can be an actually utility::good thing now. (Largely related to PD cooperation & willingness to trade.)

    • My reading was that people who think of themselves as thinking of themselves as virtuous (yes, that was an intentional extra layer of meta there) would see the virtue-condemners as their outgroup, and people who don’t think of themselves as such would see the smug signalers as their outgroup.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My thought was that there was a rightist reading, where people had virtues like patriotism and respect for elders and stuff, and then annoying people like revivalist preachers made it into a signaling holier-than-thou thing, and so leftists in the process of condemning the signaling also threw away the virtues themselves.

      And there was a leftist reading, where people had virtues like tolerance and charity toward the poor, and then it became holier than thou in the form of political correctness, and then rightists in the process of condemning the signaling also lost those virtues and became actually racist and uncharitable.

      Both readings seem potentially pretty accurate.

  42. Carinthium says:

    Requesting advice. I’m trying to present a case to try and refute the beliefs of the Roman Catholics. It’s been years since I deconverted and I can’t remember the arguments that convinced me then as well as I do now. Can someone help me find the most convincing points of a rational argument?

    • Mugasofer says:

      Which beliefs? I live in Ireland, so I have a fair amount of practice.

      Some common topics:

      If you’re discussing homosexuality, you need to get them to taboo “natural law” immediately. It can equivocate between at least three different meanings without the user noticing, and it’s almost impossible to cut through the confusion while using the term.

      If they argue that the Church is better at discerning truth than they are, ask for proof (they might have some, though – I’ve known people who honestly were using Catholic doctrine as Ethical Injunctions.)

      If you’re discussing abortion, charity, or the Middle East … then they’re probably right, the Catholic Church has a great human rights track record.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        The Catholic Church has a great human rights track record on abortion? Seriously?

        • suntzuanime says:

          The Catholic Church has defended the human right not to be murdered, even when it’s been unpopular to do so.

          • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

            It has also murdered many humans in its bloody history.

          • Mugasofer says:

            Yup, Suntzu is right. I have many disagreements with the Catholic Church, but I can’t fault them on this.

            @Nikias: I’m pretty sure that executions and war are not considered “murder”, or grounds for contesting a state’s human rights track record; so this seems to be in the wrong place.

            But they do seem to flout Jesus’ instructions, and thus severely undermine the Church’s theological stuff; so this would be a good point for Carinthium to bring up.

          • Carinthium says:

            Mugasofer- The Catholic Church, naturally, has had hundreds of years to defend against those who accuse it of flouting Jesus’s teaching. Any advice on how to get around it?

      • Carinthium says:

        Should have made that clearer. Sorry about that.

        The primary topic is the existence of God, with secondary topics being the Church’s teachings on sexuality in general (such as the legitimacy of sex outside of marriage) and free will.

    • Anonymous says:

      My understanding is the the now-defunct was mostly dedicated to this.

      • Carinthium says:

        I’ll read through it to get more info.

      • Troy says:

        That site started out promising, and got progressively more obnoxious as Luke got progressively more arrogant. He did have some good podcasts, though.

        • Carinthium says:

          Requesting advice then. Which bits should I read for good athiesm arguments, and which bits should I avoid as having bad ones?

          • Troy says:

            As a Christian who thinks there are good arguments for Christianity and no on-balance persuasive arguments against, I’m rather a biased party here. At any rate, it’s been long enough since I looked at that site that I don’t remember many details. From what I recall Luke’s podcasts with Lydia McGrew and Mike Licona were both good (they are, however, both Christians).

            Luke did have some posts about “coming out” to your family as an atheist which might be of interest.

            If you’re just looking for good philosophy of religion from an atheist perspective, Mackie’s The Miracle of Theism is still the classic. (See Richard Swinburne’s corpus for the counterpoint, and the recent Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology for the state of the art in pro-theistic arguments.)

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) Why do you want to de-convert them? Are they causing you actual harm, or is it ‘the zeal of the convert’ on your part (“I have Seen The Light and now everyone else shall do so!”)

      (2) How Catholic are they? Culturally Catholic (e.g. probably the last time they were in church was when they were christened and for Cousin Mary’s wedding), average Catholic (e.g. Christmas-and-Easter attendance at church, in which case any crappy argument you make should work, since the state of catechesis in the past thirty-forty years has been dreadful and I would not expect the average Catholic to confidently be able to recite the Ten Commandments, much less know anything about their own religion) or committed Catholics (e.g. really do have some knowledge and understanding of the things they are supposed to believe)?

      (3) Just out of plain curiosity, why did you say “the Roman Catholics” rather than “Roman Catholics” or “these particular Catholics I know/interact with/who are my family”? Do you want to deconvert all Roman Catholics or was it just a slip of the pen, so to speak? You don’t really mean “I want to deconvert the Catholics but the Baptists and the Lutherans and the Mennonites can sleep easy in their beds, I’m not interested in them”? 😉

      Me? I’m a traditional-sense bad Catholic and have never managed to de-convert myself, so I have no idea how you go about it. I still cannot stop believing in God, no matter how many good arguments I hear against religion in general.

      • Carinthium says:

        I didn’t want to say this, but I figure you won’t be able to help unless you know the full details. Slight rationality misstep on my part.

        I am the son of two Roman Catholics, of the committed Catholic variety. They do slip on small things (they think it’s o.k to kiss your girlfriend), but not on the big ones (abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and even such things as a marriage with no intention of having children). I am living at home.

        It will be much harder to try and date with my parent’s Roman Catholicism in the way. Going against them openly would be a major fight, whilst going against them secretly makes me look weak. For sentimental reasons at least I want to try reasoning with them before the next step.

        I’d like to make my arguments a general anti-Catholic set because there are other Roman Catholics I would like to try and deconvert as well, but my parents are the main priority.

        • Andrew G. says:

          If you want to practice arguing the existence of God against Catholics specifically you could try the site.

          There used to be quite a large atheist presence there in the comments, and you can still see that in the older articles, but over the past year most of them (me included) ended up banned, and many now congregate at my blog at

          What I’d like to find – and haven’t yet – is some good references for arguing against Thomism or Aristotelianism in general. I found one useful review of Feser, but that’s all.

        • Randy M says:

          You want to deconvert your parents so it is easier to score at home?
          Wouldn’t it be easier to just get your own place?

          • Carinthium says:

            I’m very bad at personal independence skills due to having Aspergers. So no.

            EDIT: And to answer the obvious question, I plan to use Disabled Dating so I reckon I’ve still got a shot.

          • Hainish says:

            I agree with Randy that you may have better options than a full-on deconversion. Idk how many people deconvert as a result of a family member presenting convincing arguments, but the number has got to be teeny.

        • Joel says:

          Don’t try to deconvert your parents. You’ll just bring strife into your relationship if you take that approach. If you’re set on entering into the kind of relationship they will think is immoral, it would be better to focus just on that. Don’t try to convince them they’re wrong about morality; instead try to convince them that you sincerely disagree and that you’re at a point in your life where they shouldn’t be making decisions for you.

          • Carinthium says:

            The problem with that is that I tend to feel VERY awkward making an argument I know perfectly well doesn’t logically add up.

            IF the Christian God exists, it follows perfectly well that if I commit a severe sin my eternal soul is on the line. Therefore my parents refusing to accept it is the only course of action which makes sense for them.

            The idea that because I’ve reached a certain age they should stop trying to make decisions for me is a cultural convention, but on a philosophical level is almost impsosible to defend as a moral postulate. My parents are the sort of people who would pick that up, and even if arguing with someone who wasn’t I’d feel awkward making such a silly argument.

  43. Really like your commentary on political narratives. Also Arnold Kling’s Three Languages of Politics.

    It strikes me that the shouting narratives are working to undermine the accountability of US political institutions.

  44. Pingback: O hai let me wanna-be! pe Trilema - Un blog de Mircea Popescu.

  45. 27chaos says:

    So, I guess the Pope announced that God doesn’t have a magic wand, and that the Big Bang and evolution and all that are true. The Catholic Church’s stance on the Big Bang and evolution are old news, but the magic wand rhetoric seems close to damning for religion as a whole. At this point, how long do you think it will take for Catholicism and Atheism to merge entirely?

    I’m kind of hoping for an internal schism within Catholicism sometime soon where a significant percentage of the population perceives Pope Francis as an antipope, that could be fun to watch.

    The attempt to reconcile scientific fact and religion actually pisses me off more than straight fundamentalism. I think it’s because fundamentalism just seems mistaken or ignorant to me, while the progressive approach seems biased and almost intentionally disingenuous.

    • Zorgon says:

      Francis is making his play for Cyberpope, and I for one support him.

      • Deiseach says:

        I am constantly surprised every time I realise nobody seems to remember Pope Francis is a Jesuit.

        Honestly, have you people forgotten all your anti-papist propaganda? 🙂

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      I’ve always been of the opinion that the “moderate” religious people are the truly crazy ones. The fundamentalists at least follow their premises and are consistent, the liberals are pretty much all in blatant denial of what their religion actually says and engage in some fantastic double-think.

      Of course, this does not mean I LIKE the fundamentalists more. Because they are, well, much more evil to my morality.

      • Cauê says:

        This was pretty much my reaction when reading about the Clergy Project.

        At least some of the moderate religious *clergy* seem to outright not believe at all, and know it, and think it’s fine. Many others are almost there, but take labyrinthine mental paths to convince themselves they still accept the spirit of it, while deliberately avoiding the many, many points they can’t defend but don’t want to deny.

        (most interesting was the admittance of a conscious care to present a simplified and sanitized version of religion to the rank and file, who apparently have on occasion outright rebelled against priests who tried to bring in the more nuanced views they learned at the seminary)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Every single Catholic I know has been united in the opinion that this is such a non-issue, such old hat, that the only interesting story here is that the media bothered to cover it at all. From my limited knowledge of the Church, they seem to be right.

      See also.

      • 27chaos says:

        But the magic wand phrase, specifically, seems to knowingly reduce God to nothing more than an invisible dragon in the garage. If God doesn’t have a magic wand, then it’s really hard to see how Pope Francis can believe he exists at all. Having a magic wand is like the core necessary trait of a supernatural deity.

        • Deiseach says:

          That is because religion treats magic and miracles as different. If your idea of a miracle is an entity going “Shazam!” and pulling a rabbit out of a hat, then any sufficiently advanced technology (as the Clarke definition has it) will do as well. Magic can be unreasonable; you can turn a man into a frog, for instance, even though there is no reason to do so (other than the guy angered a magic-user who decided this would be a fitting punishment).

          On the other hand, there is the view as attributed to William of Conches, 12th century Scholastic philosopher and theologian (warning: I am relying heavily on someone else’s version of what he allegedly said because I haven’t read the Dragmaticon Philosophiae myself, even in the English translation):

          “[They say] ‘We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.’ You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.”

          — William of Conches, Dragmatikon

          But also the reason Catholics in general are shrugging over the over-heated coverage in the media is because, well, this is old news. Pope John Paul II spoke on the topic in 1996 when he was addressing the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, as Pope Francis was addressing them here. By the way, the fact that we have a Pontifical Academy of the Sciences since 1847 (not to mention the Vatican Space Programme Observatory) seems to be left out of this whole breathless reporting.

          Besides which, other popes have previously issued encyclicals on evolution, and Catholics have been involved in science.

          “Father of Genetics” with his pea-plants? Really was a father – Fr. Gregor Mendel, priest and abbot of the Augustinian monastery where he did the experiments with pea-plants.

          Proposer of the “Big Bang” cosmological model? Belgian priest and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven, Monsignor Georges Lemaitre.

          Even back in the dim and distant past when I was going to secondary school, my biology teacher was Sr. M. Angela. And we didn’t get any changes to the national curriculum as laid down by the Department of Education, and we didn’t get “I can’t teach you this, it is contrary to Holy Religion!” and we didn’t get in our religion classes “Ignore everything you learn in science class, this is the real truth of what happened.”

          For flip’s sake, even Hilaire Belloc didn’t see anything about evolution to get his knickers in a twist!

          As a non-American, this attitude of considering (whether you enthusiastically agree or equally enthusiastically disagree with it) that the beliefs or attitudes of a sub-section of your population going back only a relatively short time to be normative and representative globally and historically for all of Christianity (not to mention non-Christians) is tiresome; e.g. I never even heard of ‘The Rapture’ until I encountered American popular culture, yet apparently everyone who is an orthodox Christian is supposed to believe in this? You can blame the Anglo-Irish for this one; it was a doctrine developed by an Irish Protestant clergyman in the 19th century that had about the same appeal for the mass of people as trephanation until a version of it went to America and was popularised by one particular evangelist who tied it in to his translation of the Bible. You people in a relatively substantial minority went crazy for Dispensationalism while the rest of us went “What that?”

          • 27chaos says:

            I don’t see a difference between magic and miracles, despite this. William of Conches’ claim that God has never made a cow out of a tree doesn’t help, because God did turn water into wine. Is he claiming we shouldn’t believe in any miracles except ones God has done before? But then people wouldn’t have believed in the original stories! Also, that runs into reference class problems. What’s the difference between turning a cow into a tree and turning water into wine? They both seem equally magical.

          • I read a piece (probably by C. S. Lewis, might have been G. K. Chesterton) which argued that the Biblical (possibly just Jesus’) miracles weren’t arbitrary. They were speeding up natural processes. Water (plus a bit of this and that) does turn into wine. Fish multiply themselves.

            It’s not like turning anything into anything else the way a magician does.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Dead people do, eventually, come back to life. Wood always becomes serpents after a while. Most donkeys talk, we just don’t wait long enough to notice.

          • Mugasofer says:

            @27chaos: He appears to be saying that you shouldn’t use “God did it” as a mysterious explanation/semantic stopsign.

            It’s arguably heretical to use “miracles!” to explain every possible observation; because you have to explain *why* God did it.

            If God doesn’t have lawful reasons for His actions, then in what sense is he God? Might as well be a demon or a wizard or a Matrix Lord dicking with us.

          • Jaskologist says:


            The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in large letters too large for some of us to see. Of that larger script part is already visible, part is still unsolved. In other words, some of the miracles do locally what God has already done universally: others do locally what He has not yet done, but will do. In that sense, and from our human point of view, some are reminders and other prophecies.

            @Scott, The Christian view really is that dead people do, eventually, come back to life. Jesus’s resurrection is presented quite explicitly as a preview of what is to come.

            The wood->snake thing, not so much. I could make a circle-of-life style argument for it, but I wouldn’t really be buying it either.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            That’s probably Lewis’s MIRACLES, about half way through, ie at the beginning of Section 2. That’s soon after he cites iirc Hume for consistent laws of nature, saying “The disorderly universe we cannot stand to believe in, is a universe God could not stand to create. [quote from memory]”.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Learning that the Pope believes in evolution is equivalent to learning to that the Pope is Catholic. Catholics came up with the Big Bang, too, and got accused by the rationalists of their day of trying to smuggle “let there be light” into science.

          The magic wand phrase is indeed the big shocker- depending on how one is supposed to interpret it. Given that we’re talking about a translation filtered through a media lens, I wouldn’t jump on it just yet. He could easily have meant that God doesn’t act arbitrarily (this is one of the more significant differences between the Christian and Muslim concepts of God). I doubt he meant that God isn’t omnipotent.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Vatican webpage with its usual startling efficiency has the speech up – in French, Italian, Spanish and German. Not in English yet of course because why would anyone want an English translation? (Catholicism is not an organised religion, you can tell).

            Running the page through Google translate gives us this gem:

            Are you addressing the issue highly complex evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go at all, I understand well, the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question. I just want to point out that God and Christ walking with us, and are also found in nature, as stated by the apostle Paul in the Areopagus speech: “In God we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When we read in the Genesis account of Creation in danger of imagining that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand that can do all things. But it does not. He created beings and let them develop in accordance with the internal laws that He has given to each one, because they develop it because it arrived to its fullest. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time in which he assured them of his continued presence, giving being to all reality. Thus, the creation has been going on for centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, because God is not a creator or a wizard, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world is not the work of the chaos that has another of its origin, but is derived directly from a supreme principle which creates love. The Big Bang, which today stands at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine creator intervention but demands it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.

            If anyone who is fluent in Italian wants to give it a go at rendering this into proper English, here’s the link to the relevant page on the Holy See website.

            I have no Italian, but looking at the original I think I see the problematic phrase which in English is rendered as “creator” (and which apparently is giving some parties conniptions about “ZOMG the Pope denied God is the Creator!”) but which in Italian is “Demiurgo”:

            E così è la creazione andata avanti per secoli e secoli, Millenni e Millenni finche è quella che tata diva conosciamo oggi, proprio perché Dio non è un Demiurgo o un mago, ma il Creatore che dà l’essere a tutti gli enti.

            Well, Demiurge is a term which has a precise theological and philosophical meaning (think Gnosticism) and which is certainly not a denial of God as Creator but rather a refinement of what is meant: God is not the emanation or lesser being or sub-creative force of other philosophies but the true and sole Creator.

            I think I feel like doing further hair-tearing over “Does no-one have any kind of education about things beyond how to operate a smartphone nowadays?” 🙂

        • no one special says:

          (Kind of in response to Deiseach, I guess.)

          (Yes, and…)

          American non-practicing protestants don’t really understand Catholics. The underlying idea is that Catholics are people who are _super serious_ about Christianity. This is also the underlying idea about fundamentalists. Sprinkle in a little outgroup homogeneity, and people are shocked to find out that Catholics are not young earth creationists.

          • Deiseach says:

            Given that a lot of Catholics have no idea what the Official Line is versus the kind of folk-religion they practice (or don’t), I can’t get too mad at non-Catholics 🙂

            Though you get things like the recent post on Tumblr regurgitating (or mocking, I’m not quite sure which) the “Mary is Semiramis!” idea, using images which (to anybody with half a familiarity about art) are quite plainly from Cologne Cathedral and French mediaeval representations, and represent Mary as examples of “Statues of the goddess Semiramis look you can tell she’s the goddess because she wears a crown”, and comparing them with other images of Mary. That has me tearing my hair out, but less for the anti-Catholicism as for the sheer cultural ignorance of anything about art, history, or Things From Out Foreign And Long Ago.

            Don’t get me started on the recent craze for shows like “Supernatural” and “Sleepy Hollow” to use Purgatory as some kind of hell-dimension/home of monsters 😉

        • Deiseach says:

          Having a magic wand is like the core necessary trait of a supernatural deity.

          There are two ways to understand what you mean by this, and I’m not sure which you mean.

          (a) by “magic wand” you mean omnipotence
          (b) by “magic wand” you mean the necessity of creation

          As to the first, you can wade through what Aquinas says.

          As to the second, when I were a lad (or lass), we were taught that God did not need to create, since the Trinity does not lack any necessary thing, nor is there anything that the creation can give to God which is unique to it, but rather that creation was a free act arising out of love. God created the universe and all in it that it might be loved and love in return, not because He needs our love, but for love’s sake.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Tangent time (more of a bleg, really):

            God is a (the) necessary being. Can a necessary being make contingent actions? Wouldn’t all His actions be necessary as well? Wouldn’t it also follow that all created/contingent things are by extension necessary?

            I’m sure somebody has addressed this somewhere (probably Aquinas himself), but I have no idea how to find it.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Jaskologist, I don’t actually know Aquinas’ answer to this; I find myself unable to read Aquinas, because of the way his style of spending huge amounts of time responding to hypothetical objections works out in practice. I can’t stand to go through page after page after page of objections and problems I never would have thought of mentioning and nearly always discovering that the complaints I would have made never get addressed at all. However, I have seen at least one approach to this; William Lane Craig, if I interpret him correctly, thinks that God’s act of creation was a free choice, precisely because free choice doesn’t operate by the usual (or really any) rules. And he doesn’t seem to think his version of the story is particularly original, so since he’s more familiar with his tradition than I am, I think it’s likely he represents at least one strand of the traditional answer. It can work, I suppose, so long as you aren’t one of those people (like me) who takes “it breaks all the rules” as conclusive proof that you’ve defined freedom into something that couldn’t possibly really exist.

          • Alejandro says:


            That is essentially Spinoza’s philosophical system: everything that is and happens, follows necessarily from the necessary essence of God. He has in the Ethics some eloquent passages denouncing the folly of the ideas that God’s actions are not necessary or that anything in the world could have been otherwise. (At the same time, he contends that God is perfectly free. This is because he defines freedom as following your internal nature without external constraints; in that sense, he is perhaps the first compatibilist).

            According to Bertrand Russell, Leibniz believed the same and obfuscated it in his public writings to avoid getting in trouble. I don’t know if moderns scholarship supports this interpretation. I also don’t know what is the mainstream Scholastic theological counterargument to these views.

          • Deiseach says:

            Okay, I’m pig-ignorant of the subtleties but I think an answer or at least a possible answer is something along the lines of “God is necessary for us, we are not necessary for God”.

            In other words, that for anything in this contingent universe to exist, it is necessary that a creator exist. If you take that single thread of the tapestry, along with the concept that God is internally consistent*, then possibly you run into the idea that “If God is Creator, then it is necessary for Him to create and therefore it was necessary for the universe to be created etc.”

            That has run into some problems, or at least that’s the impression I get; what I do know is the row over the attempt to replace the baptismal formula (and other parts of liturgies) with “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” instead of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.

            This is invalid because it incorporates a faulty view of the Trinity, is open to charges of being a rehash of the heresy of modalism and misidentifies the Persons of the Trinity by Their actions (which, moreover, all Three Persons share in equally) rather than Their essences.

            That is, the action of God as Creator is not an attribute of God in the same way or manner as the being of God the Father as Father (or God the Son as Son, or God the Holy Spirit as Spirit).

            The Fatherhood (or Sonship) of the Divinity is essential in a way that creating is not. God-as-Creator does not compel God to create out of anything other than the freedom of His will, nor would God lack anything of the godhead if He did not create the universe or the angels. It is an attribute, the same way that if Scott takes up collecting butterflies, it is not a necessary definition of his being in such a way that Scott is not Scott unless he collects butterflies.

            *The internal consistency is sometimes expressed along the lines of “God is bound by His own laws”, which is not correct if you merely take it on face value (God is not “bound”), and which has led some (e.g. Classical Calvinism) to rebound so hard in the opposite direction and insist so strongly on the absolute sovereignty of God that you get things like double predestination.

            From the rows discussions I sometimes get into online with modern Reformed/Calvinists, they say that today’s Calvinism is nothing like that anymore, to which my own private opinion is that it’s only because they’ve gone wibbly on damnation 🙂

          • Troy says:

            Timothy O’Connor has a book on this subject, Theism and Ultimate Explanation. He thinks God can be necessary without everything being necessary. Whether he successfully establishes that I’ll leave you to judge.

  46. hibiscus says:

    This will get buried under the pile of comments, but if Ozy is reading, I just wanted to say how happy I am to hear about this upcoming blog. The old blog was one of my favorite things on the internet at the time when I found it, and was instrumental in showing me that not all social justice supporters were mean people and terrible thinkers like the ones at my women’s college (who were steadily turning me into a female anti-feminist. Shudder.) Ozy, thank you for saving me from that terrible fate, and I hope your new blog is wonderful and successful.

    • Alejandro says:

      Link is broken, I think you meant this one.

      • Secretariat says:

        (First time commenter — I love the blog Scott)

        There was a similar piece on vox a few months ago. Vox also references the Ahler and Broockman paper, but included enough from it for me to think that they overstated their case. Ahler and Broockman partitioned the political spectrum on a number of issues into 7 bins and then used any issue where the mode falls out of the middle bin as evidence of this theory, even if the distribution looked fairly normal just shifted a bin or two in either direction (e.g. guns). To me that just says that their perception of where the center is on these issues is wrong.

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      Interesting, if true it seems to contradict the red vs blue thing. A possible reconciliation is that educated liberals tend to be more “consistent” than the uneducated masses (did the study ask such things?).

  47. 27chaos says:

    Are meta discussions on whether or not race and/or gender should be allowed in the open thread allowed in the open thread? Or do you consider the risk of them being contaminated by object level disagreements too high? This is intended only as a request for clarification, but if even highly oblique references to race and gender are disallowed please just delete this comment and FWIW know my intentions aren’t to be annoying or controversial, I’m sorry if I am.

  48. 27chaos says:

    I want to understand complexity and chaos theory and system dynamics etc on a level that’s more detailed than knowing mere theoretical patterns which sometimes might emerge ocassionally. I want specifics – what happens to systems of class X if you tweak them in such and such way, that kind of thing. However, I’m not looking to get bogged down in details either – I’m looking for flexible yet speciifc heuristics in this area. I don’t know of any way to learn this kind of material, or even if much of it really exists, or how to find it assuming it does exist. Suggestions, anyone?

  49. Hardworlder says:

    I think Ozy should call the blog “The Level Sands”. It ties into the poem, it sounds kind of level-headed and even-handed, while also sort of zen-garden-y.

  50. Would it be possible to have a link to a longer list of most recent comments?

    Making Light has links for the most recent 1000, 2000, and 4000 comments, and they’re handy for keeping track if more than one article has current discussion.

    Is concentrating all the discussion into one or two current threads something that Scott and/or the SSC commenters want?

    • no one special says:

      This blog has a functioning RSS feed for the comments. All you need to do is get an RSS Reader that you like and subscribe.

      • Anonymous says:

        Do you do that? The RSS feed only contains 10 comments and people who do have complained in the past that they don’t like the results. (And in the past there were fewer comments.)

        • no one special says:

          Ah; Sorry, I used to use Google Reader, and now I use, both of which cache the RSS changes. I had not even noticed that it was limited to the last ten entries. A pure client RSS wouldn’t work unless you left it running all the time and set a low timeout. 🙁

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Again, someone offer to program this for me and I’ll probably do it.

  51. Shmi Nux says:

    > But nothing is coming out except, as always, terrible puns.

    What is it called when you publicly pretend that your puns are terrible, but in actuality love making them and love watching others cringe after reading them even more?

    • oneforward says:

      Doctors are required to do this. It’s part of the Hypocritic Oath.

    • Anonymous` says:

      It’s called “making puns”, right? Isn’t all that standard?

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      I keep being amused by this thread’s title, even after having seen it at least four times already.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why do some people dislike puns and cringe at them? Why puns are called “terrible”, while often being funnier than many other forms of humour?

      • Nornagest says:

        If I don’t see it coming at some level, hearing a pun feels like I imagine a segfault would. It’s not pleasant.

        If I do see it coming, it’s fine. Puns in the thread titles, for example, can be entertaining.

        • Anonymous` says:

          …I had no idea this happened. I thought people cringed at puns because stereotypical puns are pretty simplistic and low-talent, and that reaction spread to good puns too because it became a fun tradition or something.

  52. Morgenstern says:

    Hey Scott, not sure whether you check where people link you but looks like you’ve got a small cameo in the newest Anti-NRx hit piece and for once it’s not for the FAQ or the Nutshell.

    Not going to link directly, probably not helpful search engine wise, but Land linked to the article in his halloween post over at Outside In.

    I’m curious how the call for a ‘tech Antifa’ specifically directed against libertarians (including the cuddly ones) fits into the current zeitgeist. Will direct action like the attacks on Google buses in SF make a comeback or is the Eich / m00t era of soft power silencing here to stay?

    • veronica d says:

      So I found the article. I wonder this, is NRx really an outgrowth of libertarianism? It seems culturally plausible, but just — well — decidedly odd.

      • Zorgon says:

        I see what you mean. I suspect the author just dislikes libertarians and thinks NRx has a vague surface similarity in a bad light when you squint at it, so they can try to slate Thing They Dislike X with Thing They Dislike Y.

        • veronica d says:

          I dunno. Did you read it?

          It is not a perfect article. Early on he suggests that gender is a central issue in the NRx movement, which interests me. (Can we reference the fact someone else talked about gender?) But he fails to develop that idea. Which, well, I would knock off a letter-grade.

          But there does seem to be a cultural connection, by which I mean, the techno-libertarians and the NRx crowd seem to emerge from the same “gray” cultural substrate.

          At least that is the impression I get. Am I correct about that?

          • Zorgon says:

            It’s hard to tell exactly what the author’s thesis actually is, in amongst all the self-congratulatory definition games and shibboleth-hurling. But he seems to have reached a “tech -> money -> right-wing -> libertarians and NRx” chain somewhere out of the morass, and that doesn’t really seem to be the genesis of the movements as I understand them.

            But since he seems to think he gets to define someone as “right wing” by fiat, I can’t really see how we could expect him to examine the movements themselves rather than simply blaring moral judgements everywhere.

          • veronica d says:

            I dunno. I think the definition of “right-wing” as “believes in natural hierarchies” seems plausible enough. At least it is not a completely arbitrary definition. Now, it does end up linking the trad-EU right with the US-Libertarian “right”, which one might argue is a flavor of the worst argument in the world. On the other hand, a reasonable person might see them as two manifestations of a natural kind. For my part, I think it’s a defensible label.

            I can say this at least: speaking as someone from (a rather centrist region of) “the left”, the modern techno-libertarians feel rather right-leaning to me.

            On the other hand, I don’t mind techno-libertarians on a personal, social level. What I mean is, I have no problem hanging with them, being friends with them, etc. We might argue about the value of diversity efforts, or certain conversational dynamics (dealing w/ forbidden topics on this thread), but on the whole I feel safe around them. I feel like they will be at least fair to me.

            I feel very differently around the NRx crowd.

          • Morgenstern says:


            The silicon valley -> libertarian -> NRx chain mostly holds up, albiet not for the reasons his bulverism-meets-free-association reasoning would imply.

            The tech nouveau riche (and net culture generally) don’t have the same degree of top-down ideological control as the rest of the country yet so they’re more prone to going “off message” than other industries. And since rejecting any part of the narrative makes you a wrecker these days a lot of people are thinking they’d rather be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.

            Of course if you put your tinfoil hat on there’s also the “6 degrees of Peter Thiel” game most NRx critics end up playing. He’s becoming the Koch brothers of unsettling nerd subcultures.

      • veronica d says:

        Well, so I finished the article — the leftist one that mentions Scott. I think on the whole I agree with it. I don’t like the cheap shot its author took at Scott. Surely Scott is no more “confused” than I am. But yeah, calling the techno-libertarians “right-wing” seems correct to me. The connections he draws between the NRxs and the techno-libertarians seems on target.

        Regarding the NRx crowd, I find them frightening and ludicrous in nearly equal degrees. They certainly are not people I could ever feel comfortable around, nor would I ever want them to have power over me.

        The thing about culture wars, they actually matter.

        • Anonymous says:

          calling the techno-libertarians “right-wing” seems correct to me

          • veronica d says:

            I find it curious that folks around here insist that we be very careful when labeling things on the “right,” but will throw around labels such as “SJW” freely and with little sophistication. I wonder why this is?

            But yes, the author is doing the “let’s find this common element among these disparate things” game. Fine. The question then becomes, is this common element salient? Does it matter to the author in a meaningful way? Does it represent a valid point of view? Might I benefit from seeing the common element?

            Different people can arrive at different answers to these questions, depending on who they are, what their objectives are, and how they relate to the groups in question.

            In my own activism I work on diversity-in-tech issues, so the “hierarchy versus non-hierarchy” distinction is, to me, very important. This is not to beat up on techno-libertarians. Instead, it is to give me a conceptual tool when dealing with them.

          • Zorgon says:

            I do sympathise regarding the difference in criteria. That said, neo-reactionaries haven’t been invading my career and my hobbies recently, so I suspect I’m somewhat less likely to give a smeg about them than I am SJWs. But you’re right that outgroup homogeneity is a universal.

            What strikes me, though, is this idea that current mainstream leftism is anti-hierarchy. I’m an old-school economic leftist and social liberal, and to me, current mainstream leftism presents itself as immensely authoritarian. The primary aims are the transformation of legal structures to suit their own ends, the modification of educational systems to present their view of the world, and the removal of people who disagree with them from positions of power. That doesn’t seem anti-hierarchy, to me; that seems anti-non-SJ. They seem perfectly fine with the idea of inventing alternate hierarchies such as the progressive stack and so forth. There’s a theme of “hierarchy isn’t the problem, the fact that the people we want to be at the top aren’t is the problem”.

            I’m not into the idea of “natural hierarchies”, but the disruption of existing ones has one reliable effect – it promotes manipulative individuals to positions of authority over people they often consider it OK to victimize. And I’m against that phenomenon. “Down with authority that isn’t me!” isn’t something I can get behind.

          • veronica d says:

            @Zorgon — That’s a good point. I totally agree, and I do not believe anything is every truly non-hierarchical, at least not if it is going to last more than 32 seconds. Frex, what is more hierarchical than an HR department?

            This is an old conversation in left-wing circles, which seems to get rediscovered each generation. For example, This article originated in the early 70’s.

            Myself, I would prefer hierarchies to be visible rather than invisible, open and flexible rather than static. This is hard to do.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think out-group homogeneity bias is the right term to describe Graydon. He points out policy difference between libertarians and right-wingers and says he doesn’t care. He equivocates between “If you’re not with us 100%, you’re against us” and “libertarians are lying about not being 100% against us.”

          • veronica d says:

            @Zorgon — And, BTW, you might hate that guy’s politics, but did you see this: His blog is full of stuff like that.

          • Nornagest says:

            I find it curious that folks around here insist that we be very careful when labeling things on the “right,” but will throw around labels such as “SJW” freely and with little sophistication. I wonder why this is?

            “SJW” reads to me more like, say, “racist” than like, say, “Nazi” (if I may use those examples in the open thread). That is, it’s an intensionally defined group, defined by its (very general) aims, perceived attitudes, and to some extent tactics rather than its self-identity. There are of course SJWs of many stripes and some of them hate each other, but that doesn’t really matter to the people using the term.

            I’m not going to call someone a Nazi unless they have an 88 tattoo or something, but I’m much less careful about using terms that people generally don’t identify with (except as a semi-facetious oppositional marker).

          • Anonymous says:

            The key word in SJW is Warrior. The details of what they are fighting over is not important to the term. There are important differences of implementation, such as whether they are micro-aggressing their friends or organizing campaigns against public figures. And people do often mistakenly apply the label to everyone talking about SJ on tumblr.

          • veronica d says:

            But what happens is this: you can never target your critique on just the group you mean. In other words, when you start throwing around a term such as SJW, even if you personally are careful to only use it against those who (in your view) deserve it, if the term catches on, it will be used on lots of adjacent targets.

            For example, it will be used on me. These days it seems to hit most of us active on “the left.” (Which, I’m really more a liberal than a leftist, but that is a separate conversation.)

            Anyway, so yeah. The word is out there. It lands in my lap, and many people like me. So what do we do? Do we say, “Nope, not me. I’m not a SJW!”

            Nope. We own it, live it, take it on full.

            It’s actually a pretty cool label. Who wouldn’t want to be a warrior for social justice? (I prefer “Social Justice Techno-Mage.” But anyway…)

            And then someone says, “But no, we just mean that groups, those mean people on Tumblr.”

            But it’s kinda too late (she says while donning her thermoreactive catsuit with direct cyber uplinks) I’m totes ready!

            (It is interesting to speculate why some political labels drift a lot while others stay pretty narrowly defined. I’m not sure why.)

          • Nornagest says:

            you can never target your critique on just the group you mean. In other words, when you start throwing around a term such as SJW, even if you personally are careful to only use it against those who (in your view) deserve it, if the term catches on, it will be used on lots of adjacent targets.

            That’s a problem with vague political terms, yes. Especially ones subjectively defined and with unclear affective loading.

            Still, I take your meaning, and we probably could do better. If it’s witch-hunts and an attitude of smug moral superiority that we’re trying to point to, perhaps we should instead be discussing the Social Justice Inquisition (without any jokes about expectations, please).

        • Morgenstern says:

          Obviously fear isn’t something you can easily talk your self out of but there’s a pretty obvious solution to keeping ‘scary’ right wingers from having power over you, at least on a societal level. You can just let them leave.

          Imagine that tomorrow morning you heard that Peter Thiel had invoked his dark Seasteading gods and raised a new island continent out of the pacific, declaring himself the god-king of nerdlantis. There wouldn’t be time for the paint on the privately-owned roads to dry before the exodus of would-be rugged individualists arrived. And by the thermodynamic laws of conservation of conservatism every right-leaning American who leaves moves the culture closer to your personal ideal. Sure you might not like how their new society is organized but frankly at that point it’s not any of your business anyway.

          If progressives could allow a single conservative anglophone country, or even semi-autonomous region, to exist anywhere on earth all of the problems of the culture wars would immediately end. As they used to say “one law for oxen and lions is tyranny to both”; you can’t expect incompatible people to share a society peacefully.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think you drastically overestimate people’s willingness to leave cultures they find relatively unpleasant.

          • Morgenstern says:


            Maybe, but it seems that underestimation is more common.

            Seems like every era of American history some group or other is trying to put distance in between themselves and cultures they find unpleasant. Religious migration like the Puritans Catholics and Mormons, more mercenary settlement like the homesteaders and other pioneers, semi-voluntary flight like the abandonment of cities for suburbs, not to mention at least three wars (Revolutionary, Civil and Texan War of Independence). I’d argue it’s in our blood at this point.

          • Illuminati Initiate says:

            This would only work if people could easily leave conservative-land and were not coerced into staying. But then that’s not an independent country, its a commune under liberal-land laws. In other words, Scott’s Archipelago.

            You appear to be viewing rights/preferences as a group thing rather than at an individual level, and declare that conservatives are oppressed because they cannot enforce their conservatism on people. People are ideally allowed to act conservative in liberal-land. But there is no way conservative-land would let people act liberally.

            The Amish are free to be the Amish in America, but Iranians are not free to do non-conservative stuff in the theocracy of Iran.

  53. Lambert says:

    Happy Halloween!
    For those who haven’t randomly followed links from Thing of Things:

  54. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    There’s a current debate on tumblr about MealSquares, Soylent, and other such meal replacements. Basically, polycephalous feels that they might empower Moloch; a few people take them to improve their productivity, other people follow to remain competitive, it catches on, and soon there is scarcely such thing as a lunch break or a home-cooked meal, but rather the corporate expectation that masses of workers will consume their meal replacements at their desks, as inviolable as the expectation that workers be reachable at all times of the day through cellphone and e-mail. Of course, this is polycephalous, so there is also a bunch of stuff about how this is all capitalism’s fault, fuck the bosses, techie scum, yada yada.

    Anyway, I agree with polycephalous; the best case scenario is that meal replacements end up occupying a niche not unlike that of modafinil’s, but there is a very real danger that sufficiently cheap, convenient, nutritional, and palatable meal replacements cross a threshold of quality at which they can displace real meals out of our lives while still falling far short of satisfying our values (the lack of friendship and ponies certainly doesn’t help). However, I think his proposed courses of action (panels with unions, policy recommendations, etc…) are pretty much useless. So, too, would be a principled ethical choice on the part of an entrepreneur to abandon the idea, since one of the other companies would simply fill in the vacuum. The only meaningful choice I can see is to either deliberately create a substandard product in order to discredit meal replacements and delay their adoption for several years, or to plow full steam ahead and hope that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks (which is obviously what they are going to do).

    Also, I got a comment of the month. Sweet.

    • Alejandro says:

      Took me a minute to get “polycephalous”. Cute.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Unfortunately, the filter appears to eat any message containing polycephalous’s real handle. A regrettable side effect of his banning, it seems.

    • blacktrance says:

      I disagree with polycephalous. Leisure is just another form of compensation, and if we should be worried about a decrease in leisure, we would have a similar reason to worry about a fall in wages. If companies could unilaterally declare significant decreases in leisure, they could declare significant wage cuts just as easily, so if we’re not worried about the latter, we shouldn’t be worried about the former, either.

      • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

        This is largely correct. Products like MealSquares improve consumers’ choice set, which is virtually always a good thing.

        There are also people like me who are more bothered by the quasi-obligation to fraternalize with bosses and coworkers over lunch than the quasi-obligation to be more focussed on work during the workday.

        P.S. If the new foods are meat-free, it could be good news for animals. Moloch doesn’t just subdue humans.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          On the other hand, those of us who value eating meat, or who think an omnivorous diet is healthier than a vegetarian diet, would see this aspect of replacement meals as a reason for increased horror and despair.

        • Deiseach says:

          Sure. When we all become vegan and/or consumers of MealSquares, there will be no reason to raise cattle and pigs for meat or sheep for meat (their use for wool may continue?) or keep intensive battery hen production.

          So they’ll go extinct. Unless you fondly image herds of formerly domesticated cattle roaming over pastureland? No, the pastures will be ploughed up for crop cultivation to feed the vegans, and the cattle etc. which used to be worth the expense to raise will now be competing consumers of valuable resources, so there will be one last great slaughter and Sunday roast dinner, then no more moo-cows or baa-baas grazing in the fields where rice, cabbage or quinoa now grow.

          Sure, a few representative animals may be kept in zoos or as pets by those with the leisure/interest to maintain a very small population of certain breeds, but the hundreds of thousands of animals now currently being farmed won’t exist in the same numbers or anything like it in the brave new vegan future. And I wouldn’t bet on wild animals having too much more of a better future, either. We don’t eat wolves, but that hasn’t prevented them being deliberately driven to extinction in many countries.

          • Mugasofer says:

            >Sure, a few representative animals may be kept in zoos or as pets by those with the leisure/interest to maintain a very small population of certain breeds, but the hundreds of thousands of animals now currently being farmed won’t exist in the same numbers …

            And that’s … bad?

          • Illuminati Initiate says:

            I think you are confusing animal welfare with environmentalism, the former has nothing to do with the preservation of species but the well-being of individual animals. I’m pretty sure many vegetarians-for-ethical-reasons do not see a problem with what you described happening. I certainly don’t*. I’ve actually seen this argument before and found it rather odd, it just talks past its opponents actual beliefs.

            *I’m not technically a vegetarian, I would eat insects and clams and other things insignificantly sentient to matter. There are huge grey areas here but fortunately I don’t eat anything in them.

          • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

            We don’t have hundreds of thousands of farmed animals, we have many billions. These species will indeed be preserved, in fact we’ll probably see biotechnological species de-extinction.

            As for the farm land used to feed the vegans, it is now used to feed the omnivores’ food. If we value human life at least more than we value pig or chicken life, then surely this shift would be a good thing?

            Perhaps we can now put the myth of human overpopulation to rest also.

          • Hainish says:

            A vegan/vegetarian population also requires less land devoted to food production than a meat-eating population. Even assuming demand for grains and vegetables would increase, the farmland now used for feed corn could instead be used for all that quinoa, with some left over.

      • Alejandro says:

        But polycephalous claims that companies have, in fact, decreased leisure (by effectively requiring employees to do work through email on their nominally free time). So either you should provide an argument that this is not the case, or concede that wages and leisure are different in ways that your model does not account for.

        (One could also take the position that wages have in fact decreased–by being stagnant when measured against the baseline of economic growth).

    • I’m not sure if this helps, but we’re assuming that an alternate company filling the niche would not give money to FHI. We’ll be doing our first charitable disbursement by the end of the year (tax purposes, part of the reason we started the company instead of doing earning to give is to give tax advantaged dollars). We did consider the modafinil-red-queen question before we started. We’re not sure much can be done now that Soylent has gained traction, so siphoning some of that market off to research seemed the best course of action.

    • gattsuru says:

      I found his argument pretty uncompelling : MealSquares or Soylent may be more standardized, but they aren’t unique otherwise. We’ve had lunchboxes and on-site cafeteria for a while. They’ve not taken over, and many places don’t even have tools to store or eat a meal if you wanted to. Corporations currently discourage eating at the job, even in the large number of states that do not require meal breaks — in states with such regulations, many companies make eating on the job a serious employment risk!

      ((And if we want to do a “evil corporations” thing, I’d expect the rather sizable fast food lobby to fight any attempt to push them out of the running.))

  55. anon says:

    Does anyone have thoughts on using off-label sedatives? I don’t have any type of general anxiety, but I suffer from acute panic attacks (usually waking me up at night). I’m trying to cut back on my Xanax usage, since it can be addictive and there was a recent study that semi-convincingly linked it to Alzheimer’s risk. Instead I’ve been experimenting with over-the-counter drugs that happen to have a powerful sedative effect. In particular, I take Dramamine, which seems to be an even more powerful sedative than my low-dose Xanax (though doesn’t act as quickly). When taken in the recommended dosage, it doesn’t seem to have any side effects that I can find on the internet. I’m still a bit cautious though, because I’d think if it were safer, everyone would take Dramamine instead of Xanax.

    • Kava? No personal experience. Examine indicates it might be effective for some. Tolerance builds though, so intermittent use only.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Dramamine is diphenhydramine combined with a stimulant specifically to counteract its sedating effects, so if you want sedation you might be better off just getting diphenhydramine.

      I agree this is better for you than Xanax if it works, but be careful. I had a patient recently go completely psychotic from taking too much diphenhydramine (about 100 mg, 4x recommended dose) while also on some other meds that interact with it. Use it as per the label and you shouldn’t have that problem.

      [disclaimer: this is not official medical advice, does not constitute a treatment relationship, take at your own risk, et cetera]

  56. It appears that political belief is more polarising than race, and antipathy based on political beliefs is now more prevalent (and more intense) than that based on race.

    The link where I came across this:
    A link to the original journal article:
    A link to an NPR report on the article:

    (The focus here is, as should be clear from the links, on the political polarisation, not on anything related to race.)

  57. Anonymous says:

    “lets go explore these underground south american ruins” tom said incandescently

  58. Alejandro says:

    A relatively evenhanded article by Ezra Klein on Gamergate. Less on Gamergate itself than on it as a case study on politicization; some parts are so similar to Scott’s post on “Five case studies” that I was almost surprised not to see it linked.

    A fun fact it cites as an example of politicization of another nominally non-political topic: 53% of Democrats thought “12 Years a Slave” deserved the Oscar, 15% of Republicans did.

  59. Illuminati Initiate says:

    So this came up in the last thread on politicization and political tribalism; someone (who might be a neo, I don’t remember) brought up the “watermelon” meme of environmentalists being socialists in disguise, and I responded that to me it looked completely sideways; environmentalists look like right wingers pretending to be lefties. I decided to call this the “dragon-fruit” idea (pink on the outside, white on the inside).

    Anyways, I wanted to discuss this because it seems very odd to me that environmentalism has become so strongly associated with and accepted the left. It does not seem to fit in at all, either historically/tribally or by its actual beliefs/positions. pretty much the only thing linking them is distrust of capitalism, but well, fascism and traditional Christianity also share that, its not distinctly left-wing. Environmentalism seems like it would fit much more strongly into the conservative right-wing memeplex. Reasons why it looks this way:

    Environmentalism tends to claim that there are strong unbreakable bounds to how many people can have a high standard of living. See: talk of “overconsumption”*, “sustainable living”, etc. Left-wing ideology historically and generally wants to attain high standards of living for all humanity by better allocation of resources, this was pretty much THE leftist meme. Leftism in the 20th century (as far as I’m aware, correct me if I’m wrong) until the 60s “counterculture” movement had been generally pro-technology and pro-science, seeking to use them for the benefit of all. Socialists were generally in favor of Industry and the whole narrative of progress. (some early proto-leftish people were against industry because they saw it as hurting workers, like the original Luddites, but if i understand correctly Marx saw the potential for great good in the industrial revolution and automation as did many later socialists). Compare this to the right-wing, with rhetoric of modern decadence and hedonism and Romanticist horror at industry and veneration of nature.

    Speaking of Romanticism, environmentalism seems to be heavily based in it, while leftism was generally rooted in the Enlightenment. The almost religious veneration of a non-sentient quasi-mythical entity of “nature” over the well-being of actual people also does not fit well with left-wing memes. And here’s the historical part: most early environmentalist-ish people were Romanticist right wingers. You can see it today in stuff like Romantic poetry and Tolkien, but there were also little known today right wing proto-environmentalist movements; particularly in Germany where they were closely related to the origins of National Socialism. See here, ignore the politics and just read the historical stuff: Some environmentalist rhetoric also echoes Malthus, an aristocratic preacher who pretty much really did hate the poor, and used his arguments to criticize charity and welfare. Although now some have distanced themselves from him, talking about “overconsumption” instead (which I think is worse*).

    On a lower level, many policies favored by environmentalists are harmful to the poor, especially in third world countries. The anti-science attitude in some of the movement, particularly visible in anti-GMO and anti-nuclear stuff, also does not jive with the current left framing itself as scientific as opposed to the religious right (at least in America, don’t know how this goes down in Europe).

    I’m not trying to say here whether environmentalism is correct or not, just that its position in politics is very strange, though it should be obvious by now that I dislike environmentalism. I would like to see others’ thoughts on this. Oh and for clarification, environmentalism here does not mean things like “I think we should invest in alternative energy” or “anthropogenic global warming is real and is a problem we should work on”. But its not necessarily full on “technology is evil and everyone should live in agricultural communes” either. I can’t think of a good description but I think you guys (I mean “guys” in a gender-neutral way, because “you people” sounds like an insult for some reason) will understand what I mean.

    I think the traditionalist right-wing memeplex might have a similar outlier in its common current support for free-rein free market capitalism, but I’m not familiar enough with right wing memes to say.

    *When environmentalist talk about overpopulation at worst they generally just want to sterilize people. Meh. But when they talk about overconsumption they generally want to reduce the standard of living. And I’m not talking about just the 1% here.

    • Anonymous says:

      Haidt’s model says that the left is concerned about harm and fairness, while the right is also concerned about three more axes. Many people suggest environmentalism as a purity concern of the left. Perhaps it is the sublimated result of the left suppressing more basic purity concerns, and that is why the right is not as enthusiastic.

      You should distinguish environmentalism from conservation. Simple conservation was a right-wing program before environmentalism existed. It has since become entangled with environmentalism and thus left-wing. Other than simple conservation, environmentalism is generally about invisible threats and require complicated technocratic solutions. Centralized technocratic control of society is left-wing, but you could equally well ask what that has to do with the economic left.

      • Illuminati Initiate says:

        Hmmm yeah I was thinking about the Haidt thing and considered that maybe the reason for this is that environmentalism is the “purity”/”sacredness” of the modern left, and the reason it looked right wing to me is that I genuinely lack any such axes. I forgot to add this to the original post.

        I actually don’t think I was clear enough about what I was referring to though. By environmentalism I don’t really mean such things as greenhouse gas regulations and renewable energy programs, those seem like they would be fairly ideology-neutral positions as far as politics go, or to the climate change advocacy of some climate scientists. What I meant is more the mass movement of self-identified environmentalism, organizations like Greenpeace, apocalyptists predicting the collapse of civilization, the idea of “biocentrism”, anti-GMO activists, that sort of thing. Basically, if they are OK with GMOs and nuclear power then they are probably not who I was referring to, and I should have been more clear about the difference.

        Edit: And before anyone says anything I am well aware that the part about history is all just guilt-by-association. That part was not intended as a critique of environmentalism but a point about its anomalous position in tribal politics.

        • Anonymous says:

          OK, here’s a theory for extreme environmentalism. Conservatism is about maintaining the status quo. Left wing is simply defined as anything radical. But this doesn’t explain why different radicals ally with each other.

          And I don’t see why you are focusing on radicals. Moderate environmentalism is moderately left-wing, contrary to your expectations. This is something that surprises you, so you have to explain it, just as you have to explain the smaller number of extreme environmentalists who deviate farther from your expectation by being far left rather than far right. Since both point in the same direction, they are probably related.

    • aquila says:

      There may be an inherent conflict between policies like (1) banning abortion and contraception, which would increase population growth, and (2) ecosystem preservation. Both are in a sense conservative but the problem is that because science today is so much more advanced than in the past, we’re capable of sustaining GDP levels that produce huge ecological footprints and damage. And maybe these total GDP levels are closely linked to population levels.

      Does anyone see any practical way to be a right-wing environmentalist?

      • Anonymous says:

        American conservatives aren’t against contraceptives. Only Catholics.

        • aquila says:

          I guess I’m thinking here of abortion and contraception policy as a stand-in for fertility rates. There does seem a strong association between fertility and traditional values.

          I would tentatively assume that…

          1) Conservative policies thrive in low GDP per capita nations
          2) Reducing fertility will increase GDP per capita and so decrease conservatism
          3) The easiest way to reduce total future global GDP is to reduce fertility
          4) The easiest way to preserve ecosystems is to reduce future global GDP, because humans mostly don’t care about nature

  60. diversity trainer says:

    I’ve decided that I’d like to see more diversity among different societies around the world, and the main concrete representative of diversity I can see is income.

    Now you can see here some cool graphs on the global income distribution, especially Figure I.6. That curve is fat in the middle but narrows at the extremes, whereas for maximum diversity I’d like closer to a uniform distribution (within the bounds of societies that actually exist). Or basically we need more global income inequality.

    But I’m not sure what policies would best promote this. I’m a US citizen and it’s tempting to vote Republican. But I happen to think Paul Krugman is right about many things and Republicans actually would mostly sink the US economy and that would reduce diversity globally because the US is very rich.

    More diversity is not the only faction in my moral parliament–it’s less than half. But for this and other reasons I may vote Hillary Clinton.

    What do we really know about domestic inequality versus growth? Is there any relationship? Do Republicans happen to favor inequality in an especially incompetent way?

    What kinds of US policies will best promote global inequality without much cost?

  61. Randall Randall says:

    To your first paragraph, David D. Friedman, the economist and libertarian writer, calls you a modern Orwell over at his blog:

    Edit: Oh. If only I’d clicked through to those comments, I would have known that you probably know this.