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OT29: Popen Thread

This is the semimonthly open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Some argument around the vegetarianism article. Some people say we can’t be sure cows aren’t an order of magnitude or two more “intelligent” or “conscious” than chickens. Other people point out that cows emit methane which increases global warming. At first I figured a tiny increase in global warming was far less an evil than the amount of animal suffering that chicken farming produces, but when I calculated it out the amount of money it takes to reverse one cow worth of global warming via carbon offsets is more than the amount it takes to reverse forty chickens’ worth of suffering via animal charities. I’m not sure how to deal with that morally except to say that I am much more confident that charitable offsets are an important moral good than I am that eating cows instead of chickens is.

2. My post on Daraprim got linked on Overlawyered, which corrected my underestimates on how hard it is to get a new generic approved – according to him (with Wall Street Journal as source) it can take as much as $20 million and four years. And Alex Tabarrok suggests an elegant partial solution – have pharmaceutical reciprocity with trusted European countries, so that anything that’s okay there is automatically okay here.

3. Steve Johnson is banned for reasons of total personal caprice. Let it be known that he has not broken any rules and the ban is not his fault. Also, this is the beginning of a Reign of Terror. Govern yourselves accordingly.

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1,617 Responses to OT29: Popen Thread

  1. houseboatonstyx says:

    @ Ivlln

    (Hope this nests right. My system really can’t handle such length, nor edit.)

    I agree with you on most points here. I’m not critizing Scott for using the term that feels best to him. But I’m trying to invent some terms that other people on both sides might find useful.

    Thinking out loud here, before this thread completely outgrows my system. I only just read a little on the First, Second, and Third Wave thing. They’d call me Second Wave. I’m not sure I accept those divisions, though they’re an interesting starting point.

    I might call myself a ‘core-issues feminist’ or ‘classic feminist’, meaning that I’m still working on some of the same causes that the ‘First Wave’ wanted but didn’t finish getting. The Vote was only one of their causes; they worked for many but decided that “If we can get The Vote, then we can use it to get everything else.” The Second Wave continoued some First Wave things, did get some, or lip service to them, but did not get everything they wanted, so there are important Second Wavy things to finish. I’m sure some of the Third Wavers are working on some of these ‘core feminist issues’ also.

    A distinction I think more important (which runs through 1st, 2nd, and Third,) is between ‘hard issues’ and ‘soft issues’. As with ‘hard sciences’ vs ‘soft sciences’, the hard issues are definite, objective things that affect all women: such as right to vote, right to divorce, right to a credit rating in one’s own name, percentage of women in Congress, contraceptives/abortions, etc.

    ‘Soft issues’ are things like wearing clothes to express one’s individuality, presenting as non-binary gender, etc, and some social attitudes I’ll try to fill in later.

    Some issues have both hard and soft sides: jail or expulsion from college are hard things; details of customs that constitute ‘consent’ are soft things. Being able to get a job without high heels and pancake makeup is a hard thing (salary); what clothes express one’s feelings and how often they change is a soft thing (as is what the latest PC terms are).

    Another distinction is means vs ends. SJW type tactics that polarize many observers into rejecting all ‘feminism’.

    Of course I’d rather keep the plain unmodified term ‘feminism’ for us who work for the things we have in common with the Suffragettes and the Women’s Libbers and I’m sure some of the Third Wavers — and use a modified or special term for the ‘Radfems’ or ‘Berserk-hers’ or something like that.

    • Sastan says:

      Is getting a divorce or a credit rating really an issue in western civ these days? I mean, if you were talking about Saudi Arabia maybe, but I’ve found feminists strangely loathe to take the fight to where it might do any good.

      Basically, they’d rather whine that CEOs are overwhelmingly male (and so are homeless people, lumberjacks, fishermen, garbage collectors etc.) than push for policies and changes that might result in women not being convicted of their own rapes, or forced into marriages, or stoned, or being doused in acid.

      I wonder what effective altruism would say about that?

      • Linch says:

        As a card-carrying aspiring effective altruist (and with the usual caveats that almost nobody in EA has heard of me, my views may not be representative, etc.), I agree that the problems most feminists worry about do not seem to be the most pressing or cost-effective. That’s why I really don’t like talking to feminists about them, and would much rather shift the conversation to bednets. However:

        1)Scope insensitivity is a broad critique of American progressivism (and to some degree conservatism) in general. One could say the same thing about complaints about ableism, racism, gun control/rights, skilled immigration, most forms of trade, most forms of environmental protection, first world poverty, niceness in communication, etc. It seems odd to single out feminism in this regard.

        2)It’s easier to see how tumblr-in-action or a Twitter lynch mob can effect change for an unfairly fired female CEO or whatever. Much harder to imagine the effects of Western netizens on the Saudi monarchy.

  2. Carl says:

    Shireroth’s dying /and seriously considering dissolution/, could you please come back? 🙁

    • Echo says:

      Not my place to say this, but I _have_ been an administrative member of a dying hobby/work group before. It’s often difficult to tell from inside why a group is dying, and at least in our case reaching out to old members was not especially productive; each of them stopped participating for a reason, often unrelated to anything a group admin could control.
      Some of those who came back found “the spark” again, but most didn’t feel motivated to participate.
      Good luck, though! Micronations always sounded like a cool project. Even if the hobby has died down, it’s nice to see some people sticking at it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I just discovered your site and I’ve really enjoyed reading through your posts on political philosophy, etc. Genuinely outstanding stuff! I have to admit, though — and I apologize if you’ve already discussed this so much that you’re sick of it by now — I’ve really been getting stuck on the whole feminism thing. Truth be told, I actually didn’t pay any attention to this site at all when I first saw it because I’d only ever seen links to it in anti-feminist contexts. And it’s a real shame, because I’ve found a lot to like here. But I feel like it’s probably keeping away a lot more potential readers too, simply because the definition you seem to be using for the word “feminism” isn’t the traditional definition that most of us are familiar with. According to most dictionaries (as well as most of the people I’ve talked to in the real world), “feminism” simply means, “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” How could any reasonable person be against equal rights for both sexes? But from what I can tell, you seem to understand it to mean something more like “militant female supremacy.” And I think the fact that so many of your articles use the word “feminists” as if it’s interchangeable with “the most fanatical female supremacists on the internet” is really contributing to a lot of misunderstanding from people who are using the traditional dictionary definition and can’t understand why (from an outsider’s perspective) you seem so vocally outspoken against something as basic as equal rights for women. I know from your “Words, Words, Words” piece that you aren’t a very big fan of people using their own different definitions for words, since it can lead to people talking past one another rather than coming to a common understanding. But I feel like the way your articles use the word “feminism” can often lead to exactly this kind of confusion.

    For example, I remember one of your essays talking about how most feminists and social justice activists “don’t have the means to kill all white men, and probably there are several of them who wouldn’t do it even if they could.” Now, if you were saying this in regards to, specifically, the most militant female supremacists on the internet, then OK. Fair enough. But in the context of the actual piece, it seems very much like you’re describing feminists and social justice activists as an entire group — in which case… come on, man. There “probably there are several” feminists who aren’t genocidal psychopaths? Wow, how generous and open-minded. Maybe this was just a bad joke, but the fact that the whole paragraph was talking specifically about the failure of the “it’s just a joke!” excuse makes me think otherwise. And that kind of thinking really doesn’t do anyone any favors. As you yourself wrote in your Untitled piece: “How come it’s 2015 and we still can’t agree that it’s not okay to take a group who’s already being bullied and harassed, stereotype it based on the characteristics of its worst members, and then write sweeping articles declaring that the entire group is like that?” It really seems like a lot of your essays are doing exactly that with feminism. Maybe it’s some kind of sampling bias, I don’t know. Maybe you’ve been exposed to so much of the toxic, militant wing of the social justice movement that you genuinely perceive it as making up the majority of progressive/feminist thought. But if there’s any kind of actual polling data out there on this subject (not just possibly-biased internet polling), I somehow suspect that the vast, overwhelming majority of people who support feminism would NOT also support the persecution of white men. Something tells me that “equal rights for all” is what most people want and aspire to, and I really think that it’s crucial to recognize that fact rather than simply saying that most of the people who support feminism probably want to persecute men as well.

    Anyway, this comment has gone on longer than I intended, but I just want to conclude by reiterating that I genuinely love a lot of the essays on this site, and the only reason I’m leaving this semi-critical comment is because I want to be able to share those essays without feeling like I’m linking to an anti-feminist site. Again, I apologize if you’ve already addressed this a thousand times. But either way, thanks for taking the time!

    *EDIT: By the way, of course I obviously realize that you’re in favor of equal rights for women. You’ve made that clear in some of your essays. It’s just that the word that’s traditionally been used to describe that stance has always been “feminism.” Hence the confusion. Maybe it’s true that some of the more militant social justice fanatics have tried to hijack that word to mean “female supremacy,” but I’m just saying it might be useful for your essays not to go along with this conflation, but instead to refer to their ideology as some separate term like “militant female supremacy” or something like that. Just my two cents!

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @Anonymous – “But I feel like it’s probably keeping away a lot more potential readers too, simply because the definition you seem to be using for the word “feminism” isn’t the traditional definition that most of us are familiar with.”

      I am not Scott Alexander, but I might be able to provide some insight. I considered myself a staunch feminist up till about a year ago, and then the movement gave me a bunch of really good reasons to never, ever call myself one again, one right after the other. The movement is hemmoraghing, maybe even dying. None of that would be happening if the “traditional definition most of us are familiar with” matched the people claiming it. We are far past the point where the dictionary definition was a useful one.

      “Now, if you were saying this in regards to, specifically, the most militant female supremacists on the internet, then OK.”

      And I quote:
      “”Catherine Comins, assistant dean of student life at Vassar, also sees some value in this loose use of ‘rape.’ She says angry victims of various forms of sexual intimidation cry rape to regain their sense of power. ‘To use the word carefully would be to be careful for the sake of the violator, and the survivors don’t care a hoot about him.’ Comins argues that men who are unjustly accused can sometimes gain from the experience. ‘They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.'” ”

      And there’s ohoHO so much more where that came from on the Title IX front. Then there’s how low female participation in STEM is a crisis, while worse outcomes for males at every level of education from first grade to college graduation is just the way things are. Bullying of women online is a crisis, while the between 3x and 10x greater suicide rate for males is just the way things are. Obvious differences in criminal and family law outcomes. Obvious differences in health outcomes. Obvious differences in violence victimization. The “wage gap”. The bald fact that women themselves are less happy now than they were 50 years ago. And on and on and on it goes. Feminism’s problems are not a militant fringe. Feminism’s problems are Feminism as it actually exists. Those problems are systemic, fundamental, and very possibly fatal.

      “I somehow suspect that the vast, overwhelming majority of people who support feminism would NOT also support the persecution of white men. Something tells me that “equal rights for all” is what most people want and aspire to, and I really think that it’s crucial to recognize that fact rather than simply saying that most of the people who support feminism probably want to persecute men as well.”

      You are entirely correct about this. The problem is that most people who call themselves feminists do not have a good understanding of what Feminism actually is. They are operating off the “equal rights for all” model, while the actual core of the movement is operating off the “Social Justice/Patriarchy/Privilege” model. As people are confronted by the gaping chasm between the two, they stop being feminists.

      • I think you worded this very well and I found myself agreeing in several areas. Except for one sentence that I found weird: The bald fact that women themselves are less happy now than they were 50 years ago.
        This surprised me a little. Do you have reference for that? Are women less happy relative to men, or is everyone less happy? If it’s the case, can we establish causality? This period involves many massive changes that could be causal factors, I feel this is very flimsy evidence for anything. Otherwise I think you articulated your point well.

        • dndnrsn says:

          FacelessCraven is probably alluding to this study: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14969

          • NN says:

            I agree with Citizensearth that it is silly to blame this on feminism without more research into causality. Even if it turns out that this is primarily due to more women working outside of the home, we’d have to establish how much feminism is responsible for that, seeing as how economic development has resulted in more women working outside the home even in countries with very traditional gender roles like Japan.

          • drethelin says:

            Feminism doesn’t show the same reluctance to blame things on the patriarchy

          • NN says:

            Feminism doesn’t show the same reluctance to blame things on the patriarchy

            But shouldn’t we try to be better than them?

          • The whole problem with politics at the moment (?) is that each side thinks their deceptive, lying, scummy tactics are justified by the deceptive scummy liars on the other side, ad infinitum. Regardless of my stance on the issue, I think I’ll personally be sticking to rational analysis.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Citizensearth – “This period involves many massive changes that could be causal factors, I feel this is very flimsy evidence for anything.”

          @NN – “I agree with Citizensearth that it is silly to blame this on feminism without more research into causality.”

          I think it’s plausible that feminism is actually making women’s lives worse, but I would happily conceed to that being mostly speculation on my part. A stronger argument, I think, is that Feminism’s narratives and policies have failed to address the actual causes of women’s unhappiness. Less “Feminism makes women unhappy”, more “Feminism doesn’t seem to make them happier”. If the stats on women’s declining willingness to identify as “feminist” are accurate, that would reinforce the point.

          Either way, it seems to me that viewing Feminism as an unalloyed good that we just need more of is not a sustainable option. Something is wrong, and we need to figure out what and fix it.

      • Anonymous says:

        “The problem is that most people who call themselves feminists do not have a good understanding of what Feminism actually is. They are operating off the ‘equal rights for all’ model, while the actual core of the movement is operating off the ‘Social Justice/Patriarchy/Privilege’ model.”

        See, this is what I get stuck on though. By what standard are you defining what constitutes the “actual core of the movement”? To me, it makes more sense to define a movement by whatever the vast, overwhelming majority of its members actually believe, not by whatever its loudest and most disagreeable members believe. (Otherwise, you might as well say, “the Republican position is that Planned Parenthood employees should be executed,” or “the atheist position is that Christianity should be banned by law,” both of which I’m sure you would agree are unfair statements.) The “Untitled” essay I mentioned above seems to agree with this idea when it comes to men (specifically male nerds), but not when it comes to feminists or social justice advocates. That’s all I was saying. I actually agree with you that a lot of those other problems you mentioned are serious ones that also need to be addressed in a major way.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Anonymous – “See, this is what I get stuck on though. By what standard are you defining what constitutes the “actual core of the movement”?”

          The core of the movement are the people with actual power, control and influence. Movements exist to secure power, and they are judged by how they use that power. Bell Hooks’ views on feminism may differ from 85% of modern feminists, but that hardly matters if the 85% instinctively support the 15% who do agree with her, and who also have the majority of power, influence and control.

          That sort of split between members and leadership exists in every movement. Feminism’s problem, I think, is on the magnitude of the split, and the leadership’s efforts to paper over it. The “equality” version of feminism seems fundamentally incompatible with the “patriarchy/privilege” version, and as the leadership makes progress on the latter, the conflict becomes impossible to ignore. Like it or not, it’s the leadership who get to determine what “Feminism” stands for, because they’re the ones setting and promulgating actual policy. The Feminists who think that men accused of rape should be denied due process are the ones wrtiting editorials in Time, setting administrative policy on campuses and pushing codes of conduct for organizations and industry. The feminists who disagree are not, and have no way of stopping the former from using their movement’s name as a shield. Maybe that will change, but until it does, Feminism as a political movement is defined by those who play politics.

          “The “Untitled” essay I mentioned above seems to agree with this idea when it comes to men (specifically male nerds), but not when it comes to feminists or social justice advocates.”

          Nerds are a lot less of a “movement” than Feminism or Social Justice, for the moment at least. Do they have a unifying ideology, theory, an agenda, leadership? I would say no. Certianly some nerds are more prominent than others, and some have a moderate amount of influence culturally, but I think it would be hard to describe a “Nerd social agenda” on anything near the scale of the “Feminist social agenda”. That hasn’t stopped Feminism and Social Justice from engaging nerds the way they would a rival movement, and perhaps their hostility is helping to create one. In any case, I think there is a fundamental difference between the two.

          • Anonymous says:

            “The Feminists who think that men accused of rape should be denied due process are the ones wrtiting editorials in Time, setting administrative policy on campuses and pushing codes of conduct for organizations and industry.”

            I guess this is where we depart then. If you genuinely believe that such extremism represents a majority view among “the people with actual power, control and influence,” then I will simply disagree and move on. I’m sure it probably represents a majority view among the tweets and blogs and articles you’ve read in your own personal experience, but until some hard polling data is produced to back that up, there just isn’t any way to verify that it’s actually true and not sampling bias or confirmation bias. I’ll just have to agree to disagree here.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous – ” I’m sure it probably represents a majority view among the tweets and blogs and articles you’ve read in your own personal experience, but until some hard polling data is produced to back that up, there just isn’t any way to verify that it’s actually true and not sampling bias or confirmation bias.”

            What about college administrations? Professional organizations and conferences? Corporate HR guidelines? The things I’m talking about are official policy in many places, not rando opinions on twitter or some person’s blog. Obama cites the wage gap in his speeches, and there’s a pretty strong consensus that it *does not actually exist*.

            If you don’t have time or inclination to engage more, then by all means bow out. I know from personal experience how much time this site can eat. But please, don’t leave with the impression that this is some random minority we’re talking about. Last year there was a major push to change how we deal with extra-legal due process, more or less society-wide.

            It’s certianly possible that the mainstream of equality Feminists can take their movement back, but first they need to recognize the scope of the problem. For what it’s worth, I wish you well in the attempt.

          • walpolo says:

            “It’s certianly possible that the mainstream of equality Feminists can take their movement back, but first they need to recognize the scope of the problem. For what it’s worth, I wish you well in the attempt.”

            Agreed. Hopefully we can find effective ways to criticize and marginalize the unreasonable SJ feminists. But it’s difficult, because of the social taboo against attacking the people to your left.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Walpolo
            Hopefully we can find effective ways to criticize and marginalize the unreasonable SJ feminists.

            How have the reasonable >90% people done this in other groups (the NAACP vs the Panthers)?

            Where the <10% did take over the whole, or at least get their way, how did that happen? The hunger striking suffragettes did get the vote, and the offensive Vegans and SJWs seem to be having success too.

            I'm not sure that any of these terms (marginalize, take back) name the important factors, anyway.

    • Echo says:

      “the most fanatical female supremacists on the internet” who also have columns in national newspapers and their own TV shows, yes.

      Are you suggesting he shouldn’t address these… “people” when they attack his friends?

      • Anonymous says:

        Of course he should be able to respond to people who attack his friends. Why shouldn’t he? I just don’t think it’s helpful or constructive to conflate “nasty people who attack my friends” with “feminists in general,” that’s all. (Unless the actual polling data supported this generalization — but like I said, I don’t think it does.)

        • Echo says:

          It doesn’t matter what 90% of the members believe, because the other 10% are the ones producing and engaging with all the “content”.
          Silent majorities don’t count unless they speak up.

          • Anonymous says:

            But by that logic, you could just as easily say that it doesn’t matter if 90% of black people are decent and law-abiding; if there’s 10% of them committing crimes, we’d be justified in referring to black people in general as criminals because the silent majority isn’t out there fighting crime on their own time. Or that it doesn’t matter if 90% of political progressives want measured reform; if 10% of them are Occupy Wall Street hooligans breaking windows, we’d be justified in referring to progressives in general as rabble-rousing hooligans because a minority of them are acting outrageously and generating all the headlines and spreading all the incendiary hashtags. Come on now. The fact that >90% of feminists support reasonable, constructive dialogue and do not want to persecute white men IS relevant when we’re trying to decide how the word “feminism” should be used, for crying out loud.

          • Echo says:

            No… you don’t know the 90/9/1 rule?
            90% consume silently, 9% engage, 1% produce content.
            You’re the 99%, sure. Amanda Marcotte is the 1%, and she speaks for you because she and the ones like her have the newspaper columns.

            If 90% of X-ian people lived on Alpha Centauri VI, and the 10% here were all evil murderers, it would be pretty silly to say “but 90% of X-ians are perfectly nice people!”.

            What 90% of any group silently wants doesn’t matter if the other 10% are the ones setting the terms of the discussion.

          • Anonymous says:

            “If 90% of X-ian people lived on Alpha Centauri VI, and the 10% here were all evil murderers, it would be pretty silly to say ‘but 90% of X-ians are perfectly nice people!’.”

            On the contrary, it would be factually accurate to say that. And it would be crucial to say that, too, because otherwise we might decide to launch a missile into space and blast Alpha Centauri VI into oblivion because we failed to make the distinction between the evil invading X-ians and the peaceful X-ians. That’s kind of my whole point.

            Again, though, I’m just repeating myself now, so I’ll respectfully leave it at that if you don’t mind. I appreciate the conversation but I didn’t expect it to go this long (naive, I know) and I’ve got other stuff to do, haha.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Echo:
            I’m almost positive you would not apply that 90/9/1 rule to your own ingroup.

          • Echo says:

            I don’t have a blog or newspaper column where I get to broadcast my views on the issue, but I do (sometimes) engage as a commenter. I guess that puts me in the 9% here.
            I’m still an insignificant voice that would hardly register in a survey of, say, retweets. No matter what I say, a certain tweeting duck outweighs my contribution a hundred thousand times over.

            I am a 1% content creator in a number of art communities, and in those limited areas my opinions actually mean something. But outside of them I can’t claim to be a representative of any movement.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Echo:
            In-group, not merely group. (There was an inadvertent space above that I edited to clarify).

          • Echo says:

            What’s the distinction?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Echo:
            Are you prepared to take responsibility for everything the 1% of “conservatives” say?

          • Echo says:

            You seem to be talking to someone else here who is making different claims.

            I cannot claim to speak for conservatives, because I do not produce conservative content.
            Rush Limbaugh speaks for conservatism because he’s got the most(?) popular conservative radio show, just as the Vogons speak for feminism because they run the wildly popular “BitchMedia” and you don’t.

            You are claiming that #notallfeminists, and telling us to ignore the majority of content produced by your movement in favour of… your blog comments, which represent True Feminism written by a True Scotswomyn?
            I’m not telling you to ignore the various shocking deeds of Donald Trump the way you want us to ignore the mobbing of Tim Hunt.

            I’m not making the same claim to represent True Conservatism, or any movement other than “perspective composition in amateur art”, as that’s the only one I produce widely-seen and discussed content for.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Echo:
            Do you identify as conservative? Do you believe your conservatism is authentic? Does Limbaugh or Pat Roberson speak for you? Do you think Limbaugh’s speech is representative of most conservatives?

          • Echo says:

            Yes with a but.
            Yes.
            Not really. And if people criticize them, I’ll probably join in.
            Yes, as I’ve said several times, because they’re the ones speaking.

            So, does Amanda Marcotte speak for you? Do you get upset at people criticizing her and her movement?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Amanda Marcotte does not speak for me.

            She says some things I agree with, and many things I don’t. But I also don’t think she speaks for all of feminism.

            I honestly don’t believe that you would have said, outside the context of this conversation in this sub-thread, that you are not a conservative. Perhaps that is uncharitable of me, but it feels like some very short term motivated reasoning.

          • Echo says:

            I… just said “yes with a but” to “are you, or have you ever been a conservative?”
            The “but” is a 20k word spiel on the nature of conservatism and another (profanity-laden) one on modern movement conservatism, but it started with a “yes”.

            I accept that Marcotte doesn’t speak for all of feminism. But do you accept that she speaks on behalf of much, much more of it than the reasonable feminists who mostly post here?

            It doesn’t upset me that people criticize mainstream conservatism, as represented by bloviating talk radio hosts. Why do you seem personally offended by Scott criticizing feminism, as represented by scum like Marcotte?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Echo:
            The fact that you used the word “scum” has made me update in the direction of “not worth talking to”. This is perhaps not fair, but, especially here, that kind of loaded term doesn’t inspire confidence that discourse will be reasonable.

          • The Smoke says:

            The difference hear is apparently not obvious but crucial: “Nerdy white man” is a description of a person, just as “black”, “fat”, “charming” and so on. Those all specify more or less actual properties of an appearance or the habits of a person. Contrary to this, “feminist” describes an ideology, i.e. roughly describes which ideas someone endorses and also implies an identification to a specific group, just as “socialist”, “islamist”, “christian” if you want (though this is more subtle), “separatist”, “environmentalist” and so on. When 10% of your movement really cross the border of good taste you can just stop to associate with them. If 10% of nerdy white males are horrible people, well, what is one supposed to do if you belong to the rest?

          • Echo says:

            I thought placing destructive trolls like Marcotte firmly outside the realm of “reasonable discourse” was the one thing everyone here agreed on, and the problem was that you felt people were unfairly associating you with her?

            Rush Limbaugh is a mad druggie. Milo is the worst kind of narcissistic opportunist, and his hair isn’t really that pretty.
            People criticizing my “in-group” for perfectly good reasons doesn’t make me feel threatened.
            Why does it upset you so much to see Amanda Marcotte criticized, especially when putting her outside of your in-group would really help you?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Echo:
            It is dehumanizing language. I don’t think we should refer to Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Dick Cheney, Pol Pot, Stalin, [Godwin] or anyone else that way. There various spaces where I hang out less often than I used to, and the employ of dehumanizing language was a signifier of the overall tenor and quality of the conversation that could be expected.

            And this is especially true when the language is employed against ideological enemies. Dehumanizing language isn’t an argument. It’s essentially just ad hominem.

            I find it interesting that you both seem to say that one can only be a “true with no caveat” feminist if you support Marcotte and now say I could put her outside my in-group merely by using language like “scum” to refer to her.

            Calling her scum puts her outside my in-group, but disagreeing with actual arguments does not?

          • “Calling her scum puts her outside my in-group, but disagreeing with actual arguments does not?”

            I haven’t been following the thread, but that bit struck me because I think it is true. People routinely argue with other members of their ingroup, at least in a political/ideological context. I devoted a whole chapter in the third edition of _Machinery_ to arguing with Ayn Rand—possibly unfair, since she isn’t around to defend herself.

            Calling people hostile names, on the other hand, pretty clearly marks them as not in what you see as your ingroup.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The term “feminist” could mean so many different things, though, that it becomes very easy for a dozen different people to have a dozen different definitions, positive or negative, when they use the word. It should also be noted that Scott Alexander has admitted to getting freaked out by feminism, for personal history reasons.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “It should also be noted that Scott Alexander has admitted to getting freaked out by feminism, for personal history reasons.”

        I was going to mention this. Then decided not to, but as long as it has been brought up…

        It seems like it would be fair to critique Scott’s writings on “feminism” as suffering from coming from a place of personal harm. Some people, identifying as feminists, harmed Scott and he can’t (or, I suppose, won’t) put that aside when he analyzes feminist thought, at least not fully.

        His writing on other controversial topics can’t have this blind spot. I wonder how Scott would write on the topic of research if he was publishing (he doesn’t, does he?), especially if his research was subjected to the kinds of ideologically based criticisms that some of what he writes on does.

        Mind you, this in no way applies uniquely to Scott, nor is it any sort of blanket invalidation of anything he has written.

        • walpolo says:

          “Mind you, this in no way applies uniquely to Scott, nor is it any sort of blanket invalidation of anything he has written.”

          I don’t think it’s any kind of invalidation of anything he’s written, any more than feminist activists’ moral and emotional investment in their cause invalidates what they write.

          You have to take the arguments at face value. Not that I think you’re suggesting we shouldn’t do that, but then I’m not sure what you *are* saying.

        • Echo says:

          “suffering from coming from a place of personal harm”? I thought suffering personal harm made a person’s analysis infallible and unquestionable?
          What about listening and believing when he talks about his “lived experiences”?

          Funny how being emotional is only “liberating performative rage” when the right people are doing it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Oh, I don’t think Scott’s lived experience should be denied. Clearly he was harmed by an outraged mob and that story should be listened to.

            If that was all he was doing I would have no critique. But he also wants to analyze things from a completely sober and rational perspective. This is his stated goal. And I think he tends to miss that mark on this topic.

            I expect this answer won’t satisfy you, but, c’est la vie.

          • Echo says:

            Ah, I see what you mean. It hurts his argument by his own rational standards. That makes sense, and accounts for a lot of his frustration at his attempts to grapple with the issue.

            Although perhaps he should embrace post-rationality in an attempt to reach across the isle?

      • Anonymous says:

        “The term ‘feminist’ could mean so many different things, though, that it becomes very easy for a dozen different people to have a dozen different definitions, positive or negative, when they use the word.”

        This is all too true, which is why I think it’s best to err on the side of sticking to the dictionary definition, and making a note of the fact that it’s being used differently in cases where it is. Not just for feminism, but just as a general rule. Seems like the easiest way to avoid confusion and needless arguments over semantics.

        I wasn’t aware of the personal history stuff though. Thanks for letting me know. I’m really sorry to hear that; I hope things are getting better now.

    • walpolo says:

      I think I agree with your main point, as far as it goes. Scott might be better off using a term like “radical feminists,” “activist feminists” or “social justice feminists” rather than just feminists period. The unpleasant militants have become a bigger part of the movement than they used to be, but that doesn’t mean everyone else needs to be tarred with the same brush.

      • James Picone says:

        radical feminist‘ already means something, and while it has some overlap with modern internet feminism, it departs in some rather large ways – in particular, radical feminists tend to really, really not like trans people. They see male-to-female transitioning as “horrible rapist men pretending to be women to get into female safe spaces” and female-to-male transitioning as “selling us out to get some male privilege”.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      From “Radicalizing the Romanceless”:

      We will now perform an ancient and traditional Slate Star Codex ritual, where I point out something I don’t like about feminism, then everyone tells me in the comments that no feminist would ever do that and it’s a dirty rotten straw man, then I link to two thousand five hundred examples of feminists doing exactly that, then everyone in the comments No-True-Scotsmans me by saying that that doesn’t count and those people aren’t representative of feminists, then I find two thousand five hundred more examples of the most prominent and well-respected feminists around saying exactly the same thing, then my commenters tell me that they don’t count either and the only true feminist lives in the Platonic Realm and expresses herself through patterns of dewdrops on the leaves in autumn and everything she says is unspeakably kind and beautiful and any time I try to make a point about feminism using examples from anyone other than her I am a dirty rotten motivated-arguer trying to weak-man the movement for my personal gain.

      • Anonymous says:

        I just don’t see how “hey look, I can find a bunch of really nasty feminists out there” translates to, “therefore feminism is a nasty philosophy in general, and feminists are nasty people in general.” You can find a lot of unpleasant radical elements within just about every political or social ideology if you want to. There’s no denying that there are a lot of nasty political progressives out there, for example, or a lot of nasty black people out there, or what have you. And if you as so inclined, you can have very little difficulty finding “two thousand five hundred examples” of members of these groups — including “prominent and well-respected” ones — saying and doing really awful things. But does that therefore mean it’s correct to start talking about progressives or black people in general terms suggesting that their entire group or ideology is defined by these worst examples? I don’t think so at all. And again, neither does Scott in his “Untitled” piece regarding male nerds. These are all points he himself has specifically advocated for in defense of men. But that quotation you mention is almost exactly the kind of thing that Scott would accuse “the feminists” of saying when they dismiss his points about how male nerds aren’t villains. Just replace the word “feminists” with “male nerds” and it sounds exactly like the kind of thing Scott is expending so much energy trying to argue AGAINST.

        I promise, generalizing about an entire group of people based on their worst members — even if these worst members are trying to dominate the conversation — isn’t helpful or constructive. If anything, all it’s doing is giving them what they want by saying, “yes, the fact that you’re loud and aggressive does mean that you get to speak for your entire group, and I will respond to you under the assumption that you speak for your entire group.” It’s just counterproductive, you know?

        • Echo says:

          If Scott kept pointing out murderous cardiologists and nobody could present a counter-example who hadn’t murdered anybody, he would have a pretty good case.
          That’s exactly what he’s done in this situation.

          • Anonymous says:

            You’ve really never encountered a single example of a feminist who doesn’t want to bully or persecute men?

            If that’s true, then that explains your perspective quite a bit actually…

          • Echo says:

            We’re talking at cross purposes here, because you and Scott are talking about very different things.
            “I have no desire to” doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, but until you have a column in The Grauniad or even a popular blog, you’re not one of the people speaking on behalf of your movement, just as I don’t speak for mine.

            Remember how we were told Laurie Penny was the “reasonable one” in that whole Scott Aaronson mess? Apparently it’s perfectly reasonable to call us scum who should be afraid to walk the streets.

            If you can start pointing to sensible, non-evil ones with an actual voice, I’d love to listen.

          • bilmr says:

            ‘Remember how we were told Laurie Penny was the “reasonable one” in that whole Scott Aaronson mess? Apparently it’s perfectly reasonable to call us scum who should be afraid to walk the streets.’

            I must have missed the part in that Laurie Penny article where she called you scum, but you literally called feminists scum in this very thread. If constructive dialogue really is what you’re after, you’re not exactly helping your case here.

          • Echo says:

            I called Amanda Marcotte scum in this thread, simply because “Vogon in a skinsuit” has been overused.
            Are you saying that criticizing Amanda Marcotte is the same as criticizing all feminists?
            We can go with that, but it works against the claim that Marcotte is a vicious outlier who doesn’t represent Real Feminism.

          • bilmr says:

            ‘Are you saying that criticizing Amanda Marcotte is the same as criticizing all feminists?’

            No, YOU’RE the one saying that, that’s my point. You’ve been saying Marcotte represents feminists, and Marcotte is scum, so what conclusion are you wanting us to draw here other than that feminists are scum?

            Look, here’s the thing. You guys in this thread keep talking about how the nastiest feminist blogs are the ones most representative of feminism because they’re the most well-known or whatever. But I’d never even heard of “Pandagon” (Marcotte’s blog) in my life prior to today, and frankly I don’t think I’m alone in that. What I (and I dare say the great majority of other people who claim to support feminism and social justice) think of when I think of social justice activists are the people like John and Hank Green (around whom practically half of the internet revolves, and who also happen to be nerdy white males), and Anita Sarkeesian (who anti-feminists inexplicably seem to think is the second coming of Hitler for reasons I’m still not entirely clear on), and others like them. These are sane people expressing reasonable opinions, and you may not agree with these opinions, which is fine, but the point is that they aren’t coming anywhere even remotely close to saying that they want to persecute white men, or that all men are scum. And this matters, because it’s people like them who the great majority of us (i.e. the “normal” 90% of people who don’t spend all their time on angry blogs) think of when we think of social justice and feminism. They’re the ones who actually are popular and influential in a broader sense than the smaller echo chamber of a few extremist leaders and a bunch of nasty bloggers. I’m sure you disagree. That’s fine. But the central point, and that point that originally launched this whole comment chain in the first place, is that it’s not helpful or constructive to refuse to make any distinction between these different shades of gray at all. Simply crossing your arms and saying “feminism is evil” or “social justice is evil” is little more than a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that there is more to a movement than just its nastiest elements. Like Scott (and the original comment) said, “How come it’s 2015 and we still can’t agree that it’s not okay to take a group who’s already being bullied and harassed, stereotype it based on the characteristics of its worst members, and then write sweeping articles declaring that the entire group is like that?”

        • Sastan says:

          You miss the main point. These horrible feminists you don’t agree with have those columns and blogs for a reason. That reason is that so many of those silent feminists you claim don’t want all men to die in fires* apparently want to be told that all men should die in fires.

          Rush Limbaugh isn’t representative of every conservative, but he’s a pretty good bellweather of the middle course of conservatives, because he is the sort of guy most of them want to listen to. And if you take the average of Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity, you’re going to have a pretty good idea of the policies favored by conservatives.

          So too is Marcotte, Double X, and all the rest a pretty good average for feminists in this country. They wouldn’t have the platforms they do if people didn’t want to hear this stuff. Most feminists will SAY they don’t hate men, and that they “just want equal rights”. But the media they consume says something different.

          *exaggeration for effect, don’t go shouting “strawman” at me

          • brad says:

            @AmandaMarcotte has 38k followers. There are 57M Americans who self identify as feminist.

            The Rush Limbaugh Show has 13.25M weekly listeners. There are 120M Americans who self identify as conservative.

            It isn’t an apt analogy.

          • Echo says:

            Apples and oranges: followers vs content reach.
            According to The Guardian, 42 million people read their online paper that they’ve given Marcotte a column in.

            Limbaugh has 315k followers, which is a surprising amount, but compare the number of retweets he gets to Marcotte. Suspect his manager bought a bunch of followbots when they made the account.

          • Sastan says:

            Did you really just try to compare a twitter feed directly to a radio show?

            Man, debating feminists is easy, but it shouldn’t be this easy.

            If one wants to get granular, I’d say Limbaugh is an aggregator of opinion, mostly gleaned from others in the conservative movement. Marcotte is a generator, and her stuff is picked up by people like Rachel Maddow, who serves something of Limbaugh’s actual role for the other side of the spectrum. And yes, Limbaugh is bigger than any of them. He doesn’t kick people out of college, or send them to jail. The devotees of the likes of Marcotte do.

          • brad says:

            @Echo
            The newspaper where Marcotte had a total of 47 columns from 2010-13 in isn’t similarly situated to a 5x/week radio show entirely devoted to Limbaugh views. Also, it’s a British paper.

            Maureen Dowd has a better claim. But she doesn’t make as good a weakman.

    • Anonymous says:

      >How could any reasonable person be against equal rights for both sexes?

      As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. “Equality” is enough of a sacred cow that anything involving it is good by relation, but what’s good varies from person to person. If I’m for equal rights for both sexes, am I a feminist?
      For example, is equal rights meaning I should give women preference in job applications or college admissions? Or is equal rights meaning such preferences are bad? Would that inequality mean such preference are anti-feminist?
      Is it anti-feminist to select men over women because I have too many women?
      If I think women should have rights men don’t, am I a feminist? Or an anti-feminist?
      Am I a feminist if I want both men and women to have severely reduced but of course equal rights?
      If I want no living thing to have any rights, I’m a feminst?

      No two people will ever give you the same definition of “equal”, let alone “feminism”. Platitudes like “equality for both sexes” are great for showing others you’re a Good Person, but don’t you ever dare ask someone how they plan to implement it.

      Eliminate all inequality #smod16
      https://twitter.com/smod2016

      • Anonymous says:

        You’re right that these are complicated issues, but that’s really a whole other conversation. All I’m talking about here is whether it’s good and right to be equating the word “feminists” with “female supremacists who operate primarily through shaming and harassing their perceived enemies.” To me, it seems clear that doing so is counterproductive to the goal of constructive dialogue.

        I have no desire to persecute men, any more than I have any desire to persecute women. And again, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the vast majority of people who support feminism feel the same way. I just don’t get what’s so wrong with acknowledging this (as opposed to tarring everyone with the same brush, as walpolo put it).

        I feel like I’m just repeating myself now, though, so I guess I’ll leave it at that.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          true? kind? nescessary?

          Useful, even? Not everyone who disagrees with you is acting in bad faith.

        • Cet3 says:

          It would be nice if “(operating) primarily through shaming and harassing their perceived enemies” was a behavior limited to people espousing bad causes, but it appears in reality to be nearly universal. In this specific case, there’s certainly no shortage of anti-feminists taking the same approach.

        • Sastan says:

          This is a very simple tribal matter. We all have our tribe. If you are a feminist, then eventually, you will be supporting people, institutions or narratives that target men and non-feminist women for harassment, shaming, job loss, curtailment of civil rights and violence. You can protest the “equality” thing as long as you like, but as we have demonstrated so many times, feminist are only interested in “equality” which advantages women.

          No feminists are calling for a reduction in the workplace death gap, only the fake, false “wage gap”.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ anonymous
      It’s just that the word that’s traditionally been used to describe that [equal rights for women] has always been “feminism.” Hence the confusion. Maybe it’s true that some of the more militant social justice fanatics have tried to hijack that word to mean “female supremacy,” but I’m just saying it might be useful for your essays not to go along with this conflation, but instead to refer to their ideology as some separate term like “militant female supremacy” or something like that.

      As a real feminist, I agree that the SJW types are hijacking our flag. A new label for the hijackers is a good idea — maybe we should invent it ourselves. Several terms, start using them ourselves, and see which ones catch on.

      Anyway, brava and right on.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      @ anonymous
      Are you familiar with the terms “second-wave feminism” and “third-wave feminism“?

      The first wave of feminists mainly fought for women to have the right to vote. They won that battle. They won so decisively that if “feminism” still meant “women should have the right to vote” it would describe approximately everybody. We are all feminists now, if that’s what feminism means. But the battle line moved elsewhere, so “women should have the right to vote” is no longer what feminism means.

      The second wave of feminists (in the 1960s and 1970s) fought for equal consideration in the workplace and in college admissions. They won too. They won so decisively that if feminism still meant “women should be allowed to do any job they are capable of” or “most women should be encouraged to attend college and get a real job and support themselves” the term would describe approximately everybody in the US. But a term that describes everybody is not very useful, so once again the battle lines moved on.

      It’s true that most of the second-wave feminists are still alive today (albeit they tend to be in their 60s and 70s) and those people still believe approximately what they did then. But since everybody else believes it too, their beliefs no longer constitute a useful definition of what it means to be “feminist”.

      The third wave started in the 1990s with what was then being taught in “feminist studies” departments. This group takes for granted the progress already made and is no longer fighting those battles hence is not about those battles. Modern feminism is fighting a new set of battles. The battle lines aren’t terribly clear – that happens in war – and not all the new subgroups are even on the same side.

      The people holding the banner of feminism today aren’t fighting for equal voting rights or equal admission to the workplace or equal admission to academia – that ground is already theirs. They are fighting for new concessions on top of what has already been won. And some of the new demands seem unreasonable and based on weird or ridiculous premises. Some of the new tactics seem objectionable.

      So when you see “feminists”, try reading it as referring to “third-wave feminists” or perhaps “one of the noisier factions of third-wave feminists” – does that make your objection go away?

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ Glen Raphael
        So when you see “feminists”, try reading it as referring to “third-wave feminists” or perhaps “one of the noisier factions of third-wave feminists” – does that make your objection go away?

        Better the writers should try writing it that way.

        Offhand I call myself a ‘real feminist’ because I’m still pushing for real things: 51% of Congress being women, quotas for women as heads of state and CEOs, ‘equal pay’ rules with real teeth, equal outcomes in tech and other fields, accessible abortion on demand, free quality contraception, etc etc.

        Realz vs Feelz you might say. As anything called ‘Creation science’ isn’t real science, anything called ‘feminist studies’ isn’t about real feminism: courses about real feminism in the real world, are called ‘feminist issues’ or ‘history of feminism’.

        • Free Range Platypus says:

          [Edit: Damn ninjas…]

          How would a quota on the gender of elected officials work?

          If too many districts elect men does someone retroactively cancel enough of the elections to even it out? Or would there be someone who makes a list of allowed candidates for each election beforehand? Who is this someone anyway?

          I’m not trying to pick on you here, it’s just that you listed this goal twice, or three times if you count the CEOs as being “elected” by the shareholders. I have absolutely no idea how this could work within a democracy and it seems like an odd one to pick given that those kinds of ultra-high-powered jobs are very far from realz at leat as far as I understand the term.

          • Echo says:

            My favourite is that it’s 51%, rather than 50. As the population ages, the proportion of male voters will drop even further due to them suffering disproportionately from murder, worse health care, workplace accidents, ect.
            The obvious solution will be to remove even more men from office, to “ensure equality” with less male representation.

        • onyomi says:

          Do those pushing for 51% female CEOs push for 50% male homemakers/stay at home parents?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            More equitable distribution of domestic work seems to be a frequently discussed desire of feminists/feminism. Specifically asking men to stay home? I think that cuts against another stated goal, which is to make sure that household domestic needs are met while allowing for professional advancement .

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            49% 😉

          • Jaskologist says:

            They absolutely push for more men to do more chores. What they don’t push for is equal representation for men in the teaching profession, or among college grads, and they certainly don’t push for women to be equally represented among miners, garbage men, and those eligible to be drafted.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @jaskologist:

            Feminists have been working really hard to get women eligible for combat positions. Honestly, I don’t think the liberal position is in favor of the draft, male or female. (It also feels like something of a dead issue. The prospects of draft call up seem very slim to me, for a variety of reasons).

            And sure, they are going to try and push for those things where women are seen as on the short end of the stick, as they see a plethora of these opportunities, and believe that the weight of disadvantage falls far more on women than men.

            You can only fight one battle at a time.*

            *Obviously this isn’t true, strictly speaking. But opening a war on multiple fronts is generally ill advised.

          • What I’m curious about, on the proportional representation of women in congress etc., is why the rule only applies to gender. If 80% of the population are Christian, should Congress have to be 80% Christian? Italian American? Ethnic or racial classification? Do you want to generalize the approach, and can you seriously imagine approving of the result?

          • Echo says:

            Come to think of it… “Kick the jews and catholics out of the supreme court and replace them with protestants!” doesn’t sound very… good at all.

          • brad says:

            The Senate and Electoral College already disproportionately represent one minority, viz. those living in low density states. If not gender, eye color, etc. why that one?

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Mark Atwood

          I’d also like to see different space colonies put up by different nations and ethnic groups: SpaceSteading, Safe Space Colonies for everyone. Different groups would do different things differently at different times. What’s reasonable now is to support the general idea, and donate to people who are making tools to make the tools to make some tools that may come in handy.

          What’s reasonable to me now, is to support individual women like … well, I’d better not name names .., who are so famous for the Realz-world things they do, that few people count them as feminists (though I’m sure they vote that way).

        • Sastan says:

          Do you think that 51% of workplace deaths should be women?

          Do you think 51% of murder victims should be female?

          Do you think 51% of incarcerated felons should be female?

          Do you think women should suffer 51% of heart attacks?

          Or is it just the good stuff you want to make sure women get their share of?

          What percentage of the male standards do you think women should have to achieve to be allowed into a profession?

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Woops, looking up the thread, I see that it began by talking about our host, whom I certainly was not thinking about when I wrote this comment.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @ houseboatonstyx
          “Offhand I call myself a ‘real feminist’ because I’m still pushing for real things: [various things]”

          Okay…I guess my question is: why? What makes that particular set of weird beliefs representative of “real feminism”? Where did you get the idea that those particular goals were either (a) feminist, or (b) a good idea?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Houseboat:
            > > Offhand I call myself a ‘real feminist’ because I’m still pushing for real things: 51% of Congress being women, quotas for women as heads of state and CEOs, ‘equal pay’ rules with real teeth, equal outcomes in tech and other fields, accessible abortion on demand, free quality contraception, etc etc.

            Glen Raphael:
            > What makes that particular set of weird beliefs representative of “real feminism”? Where did you get the idea that those particular goals were either (a) feminist, or (b) a good idea?

            This is very interesting. Thinking them impossible or undesirable I can understand, but why do you think that they are not feminist?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            In asking the question you highlighted I was just trying to figure out who/what your influences are. Did you invent the set of ideas you call “real feminism” yourself or did you read them in a book or hear them in a speech or what? Knowing some context as to where you got these ideas from might make it easier to understand them. And possibly cut down on some of the need for clarifying back-and-forth discussion.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          I would like you to illuminate me in the specific ways how you would accomplish your anointed vision.

          If you’re asking how a quota system could work in elections, here are a variety of ways they do work in other countries.
          http://www.quotaproject.org/aboutQuotas.cfm#different

          If you’re asking how I personally work toward getting the US to adopt such a system for high-level offices, the answer is, “Not very hard; directly not at all.” For the US it would be one very far off and unlikely result of my kind of feminism — Realz Feminism? — a feminism which I lazily help by supporting certain women politicians who are already breaking glass ceilings by their accomplishments in the real world.

          As for your strawmen, if a nation wrote into its own election laws some provision about X, then violated its own law, the UN might have something to say about that. If a trade organization noticed that its woman-run companies were more successful, they might make some agreement among themselves that men should have at least 49% of the posts.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @houseboatonstyx

          If a trade organization noticed that its woman-run companies were more successful, they might make some agreement among themselves that men should have at least 49% of the posts.

          If woman-run companies were consistently more successful, stockholders would want ALL companies to be run by women. Given your premise, why would anyone stop at 51% female? Why not 100%?

    • Sastan says:

      I’m not Scott, and I don’t share his overdeveloped sense of fair play when dealing with defectbots. I don’t think Scott is anti-feminist in the general sense. I am.

      I’ll be sweeping, and correct.

      There are two kinds of feminists. Hate-filled female supremacists and well-intentioned folks who don’t know much about feminism. I’ll be as charitable as possible and assume you’re in the second group. Claiming to be a feminist in the presence of non-feminists is a bit like claiming to be Hamas in a synagogue, then wondering why people back away. You are claiming a terrible, terrible ideology that has adversely affected the lives of millions upon millions of people. Some of those people post here.

      Now, this is SSC, where NrX and communists can come together to create mathematical representations of moral dilemmas. If you want to come in, as a feminist, and debate the policies and principles of your ideology, by all means, pull up a chair. I’ll be across the table.

      But don’t attempt to shut off criticism of one of the most malignant cesspits of modern society. If you like, I can recalibrate your offense-meter for you, so Scott will seem positively bunny-like by comparison. Take it from me, we all have a story or fifty about how we came to this place. I called myself a feminist once too.

    • nydwracu says:

      Gee, that’s too bad for all those poor reasonable feminists, getting lumped into the same category as the loud maniacs with genocide fantasies who they make no effort to disassociate themselves from. Maybe if these reasonable people want to be taken seriously, they should put the slightest bit of effort toward differentiating themselves from Streicherite psychopaths who happily chatter on at length about such topics as how my entire family deserves to be brutally murdered? Just a thought!

      • Cet3 says:

        What if they don’t agree with your assessment of who the psychopaths are? Maybe they’re tired of listening to their ideological opponents blow every perceived slight out of proportion to maintain their righteous outrage buzz.

        • Sastan says:

          Wait……..the feminists are “tired of listening to their ideological opponents blow every perceived slight out of proportion to maintain their righteous outrage buzz”?

          You mean perceived slights like advocating our genocide and curtailing our civil rights?

          • Cet3 says:

            Yup. Both the left and right are tired of the other side’s persecution complex. Subjectivity is an amazing thing.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          Feminists (extreme or otherwise) are pretty much the last people on the planet who are entitled to be tired of that.

          • Cet3 says:

            Which is more or less the line of ‘reasoning’ used to dismiss any complaints nerdy white guys have about feminists.

    • At a tangent to the main point …

      You write “How could any reasonable person be against equal rights for both sexes?”

      The problem is that reasonable people can disagree about what rights people ought to have–not what rights women ought to have, but what rights everyone ought to have.

      I, for instance, do not believe that anyone has the right not to be discriminated against in employment, renting, and similar transactions. To me, the right everyone has is freedom of contract, freedom of association, which means that transactions such as hiring, selling, renting happen if and only if both parties are in favor. To me, the alternative approach, embedded in much current law, is a slide of the society a little bit in the direction of slavery, of people not being free to turn down offers unless the authorities approve of their reason for doing so.

      Am I in favor of women having the right not to be discriminated against in employment? No. But that has nothing to do with women, everything to do with rights. I don’t (in my view) have that right either.

    • lvlln says:

      As a feminist, I’ve never been bothered by arguments within Scott’s essays criticizing feminism, as it’s clear to me that he’s not using the term to refer to people like me, i.e. the so-called silent so-called majority of feminists who support equality without supporting the exclusive use of the privilege/victimhood model that the loudest, most influential people under the feminism banner such as Marcotte, Penny, et. al. support.

      Unfortunately, it’s hard to make this distinction in a concise and clear way, in a large part due to how the loudest, most influential people under the feminism banner have sought to obscure the meaning of the term through the Motte & Bailey tactic of defining feminism as equal rights for all genders while making under that banner political/societal moves that do not actually support equal rights for all genders. The 1st/2nd/3rd wave distinction doesn’t quite fit. I like to use the term Social Justice Warrior, but I know a lot of people have qualms about using that term as they perceive it to be derogatory. I know some people also use “equality feminism” or “dictionary feminism” (along with CH Sommers’s “freedom feminism”) to distinguish themselves from the SJW strain of feminism, but I find adding a descriptor to be an unreasonable concession. I’m a feminist. I don’t want to give away that word to SJWs.

      So in this imperfect state of terminology, I’m OK with Scott using “feminists” as short-hand for “feminists who use dishonest tactics and are the loudest/most influential under the feminism banner.” Just like I’m OK when some feminists use “men” as short-hand for “men who act as if they feel entitled to women’s bodies.” I have grounds to take issue with either case as both “feminists” and “men” accurately describe categories in which I fit, but within their respective contexts, I see no problem with extending enough charity to the author so that I’m not included.

      But maybe that’s a load of motivated reasoning to justify my own abuse.

  4. Daaaan says:

    This is extremely trivial, but maybe someone here can explain this: there are a series of Twitter users with handles such as ‘Content of Media’, ‘Deity of Religion’, ‘Allele of Gene’, ‘Hole of Black’, ‘Curl of Gradient’ etc. Most have a byline “{word/phrase related to handle}, THIS”. Most seem to be real people, but post extremely similar items: mainly cryptic, cynical rationalist soundbites. A lot of them of them are gimmicks, some are not. See any of these: https://twitter.com/ContentOfMedia/following. Their posts keep popping up on my Twitter feed, and it has been winding me up in an I-don’t-quite-get-the-reasoning-behind-this-meme way

  5. Ian Leslie says:

    I have a new question, something I’ve been kicking around in my head recently. Apologies for its vagueness, but here it is: is there such a thing as productive ignorance? If so, when and how (in art, science, everyday life…etc) does it apply? Can ignorance, strategically applied, make you happier/smarter/better at decisions?

    • dndnrsn says:

      Well, if there’s something you know 1. is likely to upset you but 2. is unlikely to harm you, ignoring it is a good option.

      Take social media If you don’t want to see posts by annoying people or posts by your ex or similar things, you can unfollow them, unfriend them, block certain tags, etc based on the platform and so on.

    • keranih says:

      Consider this:

      You have a question, for which the answer is knowable (ie, yes/no, or some point on a gradient.) You know the question. You don’t know the answer (ie, you are ignorant.) Finding the answer will require time/effort/money. Before asking the question, you ask yourself: “Will the answer to this change what actions I take over the next day/month/year/lifetime?”

      If your actions aren’t going to change, based on the answer, why go through the bother of finding the answer to the question?

      It is sort of counter to our emphasis on education and learning, but for the most of us, it really doesn’t matter if the earth goes around the sun or around and round the garden like a teddy bear.

      Accepting that you don’t know these things can free up all sorts of time.

      Alternatively: when we look up what experts have said about XYZ, instead of constructing our own research about XYZ, we are engaging in a sort of productive ignorance, in that we haven’t *learned*, but have accepted the statements of others.

    • ReluctantEngineer says:

      Can ignorance, strategically applied, make you happier/smarter/better at decisions?

      For some people, in some scenarios, absolutely. An example: I tutor people in math and physics, and I have found that with some students it is more productive for me to say (for example) that yes, Galilean relativity always applies, because these students don’t need to know anything about special relativity, and if I mention it at all they will get hopelessly confused and not learn how to add up velocities and fail their test.

      (I suppose it’s possible that I am simply bad at teaching, but I prefer to think otherwise)

      Edited, because I was thinking about this and I might not have made my point clearly and it’s a slow day at work:
      These students seem to have a really hard time with the idea that you can make approximations and can , for example, ignore relativistic effects when you’re talking about trains travelling at 100 kph. If they find out about special relativity, they’ll think they always have to consider it just to be safe and fail their tests, whereas if they don’t know about it they’ll happily add up the velocity of the train and the tennis ball and get the correct answer.

    • Echo says:

      Learning art is a lot easier when you simply ignore what you’re not ready to deal with. Break the task of learning into manageable parts and forget some of them even exist until you can actually address them productively.

  6. It seems to be the prevailing opinion on SSC that genetics have a stronger effect on human behaviours (and perhaps intelligence), relative to environmental factors, than is commonly held in public opinion. While I find it basically impossible to untangle people’s political agenda from this kind of topic, even in supposedly objective academic studies, I do have a casual objection to the genetic-heavy side of the debate that I’ve not been able to answer.

    The objection is this : gaining behaviours through genetics seems to be less advantageous from an evolutionary perspective than learning behaviours from the environment. This is especially the case for humans who, much more than most other creatures, experience rapidly changing environments (culturally and physically) in which a set of behaviours can go from useful to a deadly liability in a generation, or even over a few seasons. It seems that we could expect humans that were not very very attuned to adopting cultural norms of behaviour, albeit in novel ways, would probably be mostly extinct by now given the vast cultural and physical changes humanity has undergone since it has begun to live in large groups. If so, shouldn’t we expect most behaviours, apart from rare constants like wanting to court/mate, to be mostly matters of environment, because that is what is required for fitness in the human evolutionary environment?

    • I find it questionable how variable the environment actually was.

      Imagine a farmer in 5000BC and 1800AD. His life consists of 1) hard physical labor 2) family stuff 3) some community stuff incl. religion. The technology is different but generally both easy to learn but hard to do. Social rules are not so different: be reciprocally altruistic to people inside the village / tribe. OK, there is a difference, in 5000BC he can go raiding the other tribe, in 1800AD he is going to have only drunk bar fights with guys from the other village, at the very rare occasions they see each other. Sounds similar to me.

      I mean, let’s try to make an inventory of what actually changed in the environment. Technology, sure. Food available, sure. But wait – the basic genetic heuristic of go for high-calorie fat / carbs + get protein if you can worked well enough in 5000AD, 1800BC and broke down only recently.

      Or focus on raising kids. Since when is it so that most boys actually sit in a classroom all day? Depends on the country but hardly more than 200 years. Before that, 5000BC to 1800AD, it is usually the combination of hard physical labor and perhaps some fighting. The life of girls, before the classroom, was similarly unchanging – learning stuff like sewing.

      The variable LOOKING environment is only something a small elite cared about. Surely building cathedrals is different from building mud huts! But only for the engineers. For the laborers? They mostly just supplied muscle.

      You can look at it this way: everything boils down to engines for moving things. That is what work means on a basic level. What are the engines available? Animals, humans, machines. Before the steam engine, about 200 years, it was animals and humans. Most humans were meat machines for moving things and it did not change much.

      Beyond work, what is there? Social life, cooperation, competition, fighting, mating, raising kids and similar things. Social life is not about dealing with the environment, but with humans. A bar is a bar in Iceland and in Ecuador. Socializing in a bar is recognizable similar. In a church, too.

      So humans deal with the changing environment with work, and work used to mean being muscle machines up to about 200 years ago. The rest of life is social life, which does not depend so much on the environment.

      • In Ancient Minoa, trade was important. Shortly after in Ancient Mycanae, individual warrior prowess was important. Shortly after in Sparta, warrior comformity was important. Shortly after in the Hellenistic age, trade became important again, along with alliance making and then adaptation to foreign rule. All these things happened in what today we call Greece. I think environmentally dependent traits would have navigated those shifting sands better than genetic ones.

        In tribal societies, men often leave camp to hunt. In rural socities, family units work together at home as a team for production with some division of labour. In early industrial socities, men and women are often separated as men are away from home virtually all day. In today’s society, men and women both leave the home for most of the day to engage in economic activity. These things drive big cultural changes and attitudes that seem again to be better navigated by adapting to the environment.

        I get what you’re saying that there are certain constants, and I get the last century or so isn’t enough to count for a lot, but I don’t think you can look at human history and say cultural practice is mostly constant or even say its skin-deep unless you squint a whole lot when you look.

        • Free Range Platypus says:

          But those peoples, despite all living in the territory which roughly corresponds to modern Greece, were in fact different.

          The Minoans were displaced by the Myceans, likely former trading partners who eventually invaded and conquered Crete along with the rest of Greece. The Myceans were displaced by the invading Dorians and/or Sea Peoples who then centuries later became the classical Greeks. Except in, according to their own history and our best guesses today, Athens which maintained largely Mycean heritage and had a strikingly different form of society.

          And that provides a great example of what we’re talking about. The Minoans, Myceans and Dorians were different peoples and their civilizations developed along different lines despite having the same resources available and some degree of cultural continuity. They were all capable of adapting to their circumstances, but the nature of those adaptations were distinct.

          • You seem, if I follow, to be arguing not only that genetics are important, but they exist largely as racial/ethnic groupings. This seems to be a somewhat different claim again. It’s not clear to me how such groups would be rigid enough against individual or internal evolution to prevent change that undermined defining genetic behavioural qualities of a people. Regarding the fate of a narrower genetic line (eg. family), I think you have a fair point which does give me pause, but I also understand that mixing of racial/ethnic groups is common in the case of a long term civilizational change of power such as the types you mention. Again, wouldn’t adaptation to the cultural environment be quite useful in that case? Like adapting to a conqueroring culture or adopting the local culture in a occupied area? Almost every group was conquered or destroyed at some point in history, so rigid traits seem like they’d be really running the gauntlet.

          • Free Range Platypus says:

            Barbarian invaders who sweep in and kill very nearly everyone outside of a few pockets were reasonably common in prehistoric times. Invaders who set themselves up as a nobility and had limited intermingling with the natives due to assortive mating are something that you can still see today in many parts of the world. We have pretty genetic good evidence of both, I’d refer you to Gregory Cochrane.

            You are right that ethnic groups aren’t totally distinct or totally rigid. But that should be expected: we’re talking about different populations of the same species. Genetic drift and adaptation to different environments have a lot of opportunities to introduce or magnify differences.

            You should expect migrants from different areas to be genetically distinct from the natives to begin with. With enough close contact you might see them blend together or you might end up with castes stable for centuries or millenia or one might just wipe the other out.

          • IIRC neither the Romans nor the Angles/Saxons nor the Nords nor the Normans slaughtered most of the local Britons/Celts they conquered – genetic mixing occurred in each case. I’ll take a look at your hypothesis/G. Cochrane next but at the moment as I’m not even convinced that individual genetics are as powerful as say Scott feels they are, I feel that’s a prerequisite for belief in your hypothesis, and I haven’t been convinced as yet. My politics don’t really rely on this debate either way so I’m hopeful I can remain objective.

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            @Citizensearth

            I would look into the Harrying of the North. IIRC, contemporary writers describe about 5% of the population of England being killed in a year, by slaughter and famine. And the Doomsday Book records a 10% drop in the population between the reign of Edward the Confessor and the compilation of the book, concentrated in the areas wasted by the Harrying.

            Historians disagree about the accuracy of the figures, blah blah, but it was still a pretty significant extermination of the locals.

      • Cet3 says:

        Imagine a farmer in 5000BC and 1800AD.

        Hopelessly vague. What kind of farmer are we talking about here, and where?

        Social life is not about dealing with the environment, but with humans.

        Not by the definition of “environment” that is commonly used when people make the genetic/environmental distinction. Under that definition, social life is absolutely part of the environment. Perhaps even the most important part!

    • walpolo says:

      This argument seems reasonable, but I don’t think it should inspire any more confidence than other evolutionary psych just-so stories.

      In other words, if the experimental evidence seems to count against it, I’d go with with the experimental evidence.

  7. Iceman says:

    AntiDem activist is reviewing Friendship is Optimal. This whole situation is extremely lulzy. Given what he’s written so far, I say the chances that he realizes that CelestAI is unfriendly are about 25%.

    He mentions that this is a sponsored post. Which one of you glorious, glorious people put him up to this?

    I swear that whatever he posts, it won’t change the chances of me writing pro-monarchist, neoreactive My Little Pony fanfiction.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      He mentions that this is a sponsored post. Which one of you glorious, glorious people put him up to this?

      That would be me. You can see my name if you look at the previous post, which is a preview of the review. I did it partly to support AntiDem, who is one of my favorite neoreactionary bloggers, and partly because I genuinely wanted to see this. As for AntiDem’s reasons for agreeing, he explains his motivations a bit on his ask.fm account.

      By the way, I did not sponsor him to write a review of Friendship is Optimal. I sponsored him to write a review of the Optimalverse. That’s what the compilation I was putting together a while ago was for. So get comfortable; this is going take a while.

      Mind if I ask how you found out about this? I did not take you for the type who reads alt-right blogs. In any case, you are clearly enjoying AntiDem’s review, so I hope this makes up for that time I got a thread locked in the Optimalverse forum. Speaking of, do you want to be the one who makes a thread over at FIMFiction, or should I?

      • Iceman says:

        I did not take you for the type who reads alt-right blogs.

        Why would you ever believe that? My favorite TV show is a sympathetic portrayal of a God-empress monarchy and follows the adventures of the natural aristocracy!

        😀

        Mind if I ask how you found out about this?

        By being a kibozo. You can’t literally grep the internet anymore but Google restricted to sites changed in the last week comes close. I don’t read AntiDem’s blog but the name is familiar from Chaos Patches.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          hey. hey you.

          You wrote one hell of a story, sir.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Friendship is Optimal is the reason I started watching FiM, I figured there had to be SOMETHING to all the hype after reading that. <_<

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Friendship is Optimal is the reason I started watching FiM, I figured there had to be SOMETHING to all the hype after reading that. <_<

            I enjoyed Friendship is Optimal, but it is not much like Friendship is Magic. Equestria Online borrows the aesthetics of Equestria, but it’s organized along very different principles.

    • Murphy says:

      I got the impression that CelestAI was supposed to be *somewhat* unfriendly but far far more friendly than most of the possibilities.

    • Echo says:

      My hobbies keep overlapping in such strange ways…

  8. Carinthium says:

    I know people might not respond to this, but looking for a bit of help from a problem. Disclaimer: I’m emotionally a bit devastated right now so I might not be thinking straight.

    (SUMMARY: My questions are:
    -How objective are claims that what happened was due to horrible luck? The idea is good for my self esteem but I don’t want to believe a lie.
    -Should I give up and resort to prostitution behind my parent’s backs or not, given my utility or what is and is not worth it?
    -If I do give up, how do I stop my parents pressuring me into the December scheme to move out that is now pointless and get out of the university which is worthless? If I don’t, how do I bounce back now I’m banned from the Morroco speed dating club?)

    (NOTE: My parents are fairly rich, and in principle I could live off their money. They promised to have a fund aside as a contingency, and none of us dispute that if I fail to get a job that’s fine. I was planning to get a job, but all as part of my plan to ensure I was impressive enough to date one day.

    People will probably need clarifying questions, and I promise to answer them.)

    I tried speed dating at the Morocco club, but there was a bit of a disaster- I failed to get there and now I am suspended for six months. People assure me it was horrible luck but they might not be objective.

    The first screwup that happened was my fault- I was worried about brushing my teeth and took a little long. I can’t remember precisely when I got to the train station.

    The event was at 7:30. I missed a train which happened to be leaving as I walked into the station, then another one (which had a door open for some malfunctioning reason)- I remember because I wanted to tick my card off, press the button to get on, but it didn’t work because I didn’t know there was a time limit on that. If I’d just gone, the mechanics of Melbourne trains would have deducted more money but I would have gotten there.

    The train I actually went on left at 6:59, and I was assured by Mum (who thinks it’s just a social event) that getting to Prahan in that time would be easy. It turned out the Sandringham train I was going to use was nothing of the sort, and I was forced to give up (and cracked at the train station, almost getting kicked out by security because I’d spent the entire day preparing for speed dating only to be undermined by lateness) when I realized I would be 20 minutes late and probably couldn’t get in.

    My frustration with failing to progress has come through and I’m thinking of giving up. Honestly, the only two reasons that really motivated me were trying to get out of a Roman Catholic environment, possibly getting to drop out of university, and potentially being socially skilled enough to get a date on my own merits. Mum and Dad have promised me I don’t have to go to Church any more and accepted for practical purposes I’m an atheist, and dating is just looking unrealistic. This could be just pessimism but some studies say somebody is more objective when depressed.

    Mum and Dad are pressuring me to go through the scheme I had originally insisted on, to move into a friend’s place in December for a while. But now that dating looks unrealistic, pressure to stay on at Melbourne university exists anyway, and I’m assured I can be an atheist the whole scheme is pointless and feels, like Melbourne University, like a self-esteem crushing waste that shows how pathetic I am because my parents can pressure me into it.

    I need some realistic advice- I want people to ask me appropriate questions, so I figure out if I should just give up and go for prostitution behind my parent’s backs. I already know where and I know I can lie well enough to make it work. If I can’t get proper dating until I’m 30 then the idea is so shameful it isn’t worth trying. Even 26 or 27 would feel humiliating enough (I’m 23 now) as to not make it worth the bother.

    EDIT: I have Aspergers, and I am the same person as the now very unpopular Yadal once on Alicornutopia (and incidentally gave up on my fic ideas for that). I was stressed from being home alone and not coping well when I did what I did, but the way I see it I still don’t get how it’s supposed to make sense that ‘sexist’, which once was used against those who saw genders as having set differences, is now used against those who deny gender differences.

    In the real world I tend to be able to put on a superficial gloss of sociality when well-prepared, but it’s an act. The way I tend to act on the Internet reflects the ‘real me’ as judged by my subjective thinking a lot better, but I’m told people don’t see through my act easily unless I’m stressed and cracking.

    On that note, it is a major berserk button for me when people tell me to revise my goals and conceptions of what is and is not worth trying. This has always been so, not just when I’m stressed.
    Please don’t bother, and concentrate on the realism of achieving goals instead.

    • polymer says:

      I feel like I’m missing some context. Here is a stream of rapid-fire questions (I am honestly curious about all of these, no snark/sarcasm/etc intended, and yes I am a little sad I need to qualify my questions with that, I’m working on it).

      Questions:
      What is the significance of whether this was luck? If it turns out to be avoidable, are you somehow unable or unwilling to use that information to make a better attempt next time?

      By luck, do you mean “not reasonably foreseeable”? “completely out of your control”? “likely/unlikely to happen again”? “due to/not due to a general inescapable failure-causing trait”?

      You say you’re suspended for 6 months – from the club? If so, did you actually check? I only wonder because it sounds like you never made it to the club.

      Is the Morocco club the only one that meets your requirements for speed dating? If you could find another speed-dating location, would that be acceptable?

      Have you considered that university students often meet and date other university students? Or have you been attending for some time already and find that not the case in Melbourne?

      • Carinthium says:

        I hear you. I genuinely trust there is no sarcasm or snark intended, so we can go from there.

        1- Despite the rationality objections I know of, I tend to have less a moral right/wrong view of these things and more a pride/shame view of them. Intellectually I know it doesn’t make sense, but it’s more about how much I take it as a personal failure.

        2- I honestly didn’t think it that far through because I was feeling more emotional when I posted. But looking at it now I think the first one fits the spirit of what I was saying best.

        3- The club emailed me.

        4- No. But the Morroco club is one I’ve researched and heard of, so it’s a setback. It’s also the major one. I’m 23, so I’m worried I might be too young for most speed dating.

        5- The problem is how I operate. I’ll use an athleticism metaphor as I don’t know how else to put it- I’m as good or better than others at a sprint, but absolute crap at a marathon. It’s also true that my multitasking is crappy, and that I cannot multitask on matters of social skills for crap.

        Actually, maybe another way- my brain is tunnel-minded. I can’t focus on university work and trying to find a date simultaneously.

        • polymer says:

          In that case I’d put it as “moderately bad luck” – definitely foreseeable, but if you had time to miss two trains and end up only twenty minutes late, you probably allowed a reasonable amount of time for delays. Unless Melbourne trains are famously terrible or something.

          My experience is being a student gives you access to a lot of sprint-like events where you can focus on socializing. Clubs, parties, sporting events, etc. Are you saying the coursework keeps you too occupied to keep track of and attend those? If so, I understand how it would be much less useful for your implied goals. It does still keep you in contact with a large number of people your age, which is something, I suppose.

          If you haven’t lived away from home before, I strongly recommend trying to do that for a while (that’s what the December plan is about, right?). It’s significantly different from living with your parents in many ways that are not all obvious until you do it, and most people like it.

          I am unsure what values you have that make prostitution attractive, and so I cannot at present recommend it.

          • Carinthium says:

            For what it’s worth, I meant using prostitutes, not being one. Will clarify more a bit later.

        • James says:

          3- The club emailed me.

          It’s possible that they banned you because they inferred from your non-attendance that you weren’t taking it seriously, or something, and that if you explain to them that you did indeed make a good faith effort to get there, but were impeded (giving very brief details of your train troubles), they might revise their decision.

          I feel like just missing one train and something going wrong with another is bad enough luck that you aren’t obliged to feel ashamed of it (though you still might want to remember to allow sufficient time for such things when going to important appointments in the future).

          • Carinthium says:

            Thanks. I don’t think I have the tact to fix the situation myself, but I know somebody I can trust enough to tell about the speed dating who does. I’ll try that just in case.

    • Sounds like you’re going through a fairly typical if quite intense set of issues that occur around the time before leaving home, perhaps slightly sharpened by some kind of philosophical crisis. I don’t quite follow what your references to prostitution are, but I’d stay away from that above all else if you mean it literally (EDIT – seems like you’re talking about using, still not good plan I think). It may not seem like others have similar dramas but people you know often won’t let on about their problems in full, giving a false impression that most people are never in crisis. You’ll get a date no worries once you’ve got yourself in a stable situation, so focus on that. Honestly the best thing rather than trying to get answer on the net from us nerds (not exactly a bastion of good people skills to be honest) might be to talk to a councillor who knows what they’re doing (just the regular psychologist at uni might be an option because they shouldn’t have a philosophical agenda, and at uni I think its free), whose job should basically just be to help you work out your own preferences and develop your own realistic plan. I think you’re smart enough to make good plans but it sounds like the stress is making it hard for you to exercise your normal good judgement. A good councillor is good at helping you (especially if you’re honestly looking for answers) with this sort of thing without actually just telling you what to do, which is not what you need when you’re discovering your independence. Don’t stress too much its tough now but this is also a good challenge that will help you grow as a person and gain crisis skills that many people lack. Good luck.

      • Carinthium says:

        Agree with most of what you are saying. I’ll have to fight a bit with Mum about going to see the DLU psychologist (Disability Liason Unit, as I have Aspergers Syndrome, at Melbourne Uni), but by my calculations I can get my way.

        What I don’t understand is your belief I will get a date once my life is settled down. I’ve never even kissed a girl at age 23, I have Aspergers Syndrome, and judging by how unpopular I got on Alicornutopia as Yadal when I say what I actually think I get ostracised. This leads me to question your idea that prostitution is a bad idea.

        I’m not disputing prostitution has it’s flaws, as it doesn’t really fullfill intimacy needs. But I figure it has to be better than never getting a date ever, or the sense of humiliation of accepting involuntary celibacy even into my 30s.

        • Only 23? Plenty of time. The main risk is not running out of time, its getting anxious, errors, and not playing a long-term game. I’m guesssing you can solve the problem if you stay calm about it and work at it long term. Of course you have to decide that, no-one including me will have to live with the consequences of our advice to you, so take your time and choose wisely only when you feel calm and ready 🙂

          You’ve said living with your parents, who are very conservative on such matters, has specifically made it much harder for you in terms of relationships, so I think you should consider that your independence may give you new confidence and opportunities in time.

          If you’re taking your time to find someone for whatever reason (voluntary or not), its none of anyone’s damn business. Don’t feel humiliated. You can be guaranteed nobody spends serious time thinking about who you are or aren’t sleeping with, they’re too busy worrying about who they are or aren’t sleeping with, or why they’re in a divorce or at the STD clinic or whatever. Life is slapping them around too, they just try to hide it most of the time. Focus on playing your own hand the best you can.

          • Carinthium says:

            I noticed that after hearing comments and arguments therein to see a prostitute decreased but did not go away. Honestly, given how much Scott Alexander’s comment mattered I suspect it’s a social status instinct at least partially.

            I reflected on it, and although internal reflections aren’t exactly reliable this is my best self-understanding.

            There’s a difference between an entirely internal standard and fear of external humiliation. There’s some of the latter, yes, but there’s also the internal standard.

            Right now, I’m feeling frustrated and helpless. My life is like a cage- my parents still make me go to Church (we’ve agreed I can stop after December, but knowing them there will a barrage of a final attempt to persuade me otherwise and I can’t get away with not going until then), they still pressure me to go university (the most I’ve got them to do is agree to me deferring it next semester, but that’s difficult and they’re going to make me go back), and my attempt at speed dating got me banned from the club.

            Sure I’m moving out in December. But the cage is still there, and even if it doesn’t make sense logically my failure to speed date still feels like the cage locking in around me. Besides, it doesn’t help emotionally that Mum and Dad are pressuring me to keep to it whether I want to or not.

            In addition, I feel like I’m an artificial manchild and a pathetic little nerd. Mum and Dad pressured me to go to university, they pressured me to do it halftime when I wanted to get it over with (saying I’d get too stressed), they held me back on learning public transport, they pressure me to go to Church, and more. Due to my childhood I’ve missed out on so much, and that adds to the feeling of hopelessness and powerless.

            I’m unsure about the prostitute thing, but it’s feeling like the one thing I can actually do about all this because Mum and Dad won’t know. I want to do something, SOMETHING, to fix all this faster and I can’t bear to be patient for much longer.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Keep in mind that sex is not something you can “get out of the way.” Once you’ve kissed a girl, holding hands will no longer satisfy like it did. Once you’ve seen one woman naked… you want to see the rest of them naked, too. Abstinence post-virginity is harder than pre.

    • Mark says:

      How do you feel about physical contact with strangers/friends/family?

      • Carinthium says:

        Up until now, mostly like a normal person. I don’t have a touch phobia like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory, and although I am unusually reserved most of the time I’ve been force-of-willing so much lately I think I can manage this.

        • Mark says:

          Well… being honest – from the story above it seems that something as simple/everyday as missing a train (granted, to an event that was really important to you) provoked some kind of emotional break-down. I don’t know much about the practicalities of prostitution, but I suspect it is highly likely it won’t go exactly as you plan, and that if you end up getting overly emotional, it is possible you might be putting yourself in a dangerous situation (security for prostitutes less understanding than security for train stations). So, I would recommend you are really careful about that – check out what is going on, do some research, maybe ease yourself into it, make sure you are comfortable with what is going on. Find a friendly prostitute?

          Second point. I don’t think you should have sex with a prostitute for social reasons (“the sense of humiliation of accepting involuntary celibacy even into my 30s.”) unless you think that having sex with a prostitute is going to make it easier for you to have a normal relationship (I have no idea if it will or not – I would imagine that depends how hung up on sex you are).
          Is sex just something you need to get out of the way? Is it just a need you have to satisfy? I think these are basically good reasons to go to a prostitute – but I strongly suspect that going to a prostitute won’t really do anything to improve your self-esteem.
          Don’t feel it is something you have to do. (BTW your celibacy isn’t involuntary – a man presented with an unappetizing meal can’t claim he is being prevented from eating.)

          Now, apologies – talking about me time. When I was 23 I had a similar issue – in the end I decided that it would be wrong to have sex with a prostitute (it’s just something that doesn’t appeal to me on a personal level – I think it is wrong and I don’t particularly like touching strangers)…. and actually, that act of nailing my colors to the mast of life, so to speak, resulted in me having a better social time of it and getting a girlfriend. Since that’s where I’m coming from, it would be difficult for me to recommend that you have sex with a prostitute, but then your circumstances may be entirely different.

          So, my advice is to live beautiful.

          Sorry.

          • Carinthium says:

            I noticed that after hearing comments and arguments therein to see a prostitute decreased but did not go away. Honestly, given how much Scott Alexander’s comment mattered I suspect it’s a social status instinct at least partially.

            I reflected on it, and although internal reflections aren’t exactly reliable this is my best self-understanding.

            There’s a difference between an entirely internal standard and fear of external humiliation. There’s some of the latter, yes, but there’s also the internal standard.

            Right now, I’m feeling frustrated and helpless. My life is like a cage- my parents still make me go to Church (we’ve agreed I can stop after December, but knowing them there will a barrage of a final attempt to persuade me otherwise and I can’t get away with not going until then), they still pressure me to go university (the most I’ve got them to do is agree to me deferring it next semester, but that’s difficult and they’re going to make me go back), and my attempt at speed dating got me banned from the club.

            Sure I’m moving out in December. But the cage is still there, and even if it doesn’t make sense logically my failure to speed date still feels like the cage locking in around me. Besides, it doesn’t help emotionally that Mum and Dad are pressuring me to keep to it whether I want to or not.

            In addition, I feel like I’m an artificial manchild and a pathetic little nerd. Mum and Dad pressured me to go to university, they pressured me to do it halftime when I wanted to get it over with (saying I’d get too stressed), they held me back on learning public transport, they pressure me to go to Church, and more. Due to my childhood I’ve missed out on so much, and that adds to the feeling of hopelessness and powerless.

            I’m unsure about the prostitute thing, but it’s feeling like the one thing I can actually do about all this because Mum and Dad won’t know. I want to do something, SOMETHING, to fix all this faster and I can’t bear to be patient for much longer.

    • NN says:

      I’m going to break with the consensus here a bit and suggest that if you want to hire a prostitute and can afford to do so, go ahead. In the Australian state of Victoria, prostitution is legal and regulated. So unless I’m missing something, I don’t see how you have anything to lose by going that route. Even if it turns out that you don’t like it, at least you’ll get a chance to practice talking/flirting with a woman.

    • dndnrsn says:

      1. Was there context to this in a previous Open Thread, or something? If there wasn’t, a general rundown of your situation would be helpful. If there was, and if anything I’m posting is redundant, refer me to it.

      2. You say you’re better in person than online, but I’m going to rely on vast personal anecdotal evidence, and say that online dating is better than speed dating: less time and energy expended (you can do it on your phone on the bus) so lack of success stings less. Plus, a profile on OKC is a better way to say “look at me I’m interesting” than 3 minutes of conversation and move to the right. Just pretend it’s real life? If you’ve tried online dating, I don’t know, the first time I tried it blew and the second time was way more successful.

      3. I’m not sure how to give advice without either telling my life story or saying things that sound like platitudes when presented without context. Especially lacking (or not having seen) context on your end. Suffice it to say that the person I was shortly before I was your age would think that the person I am now is pretty nifty, and it’s only been a few years.

      4. What is your goal in this – what do you think that kissing a girl, getting laid, getting a girlfriend, whatever, is going to do for you? Why do you think that?

      5. OK, this is totally gonna sound like a platitude, but “impressive enough to date” and “impressive in general” have a lot of overlap. I don’t think anyone looks at someone who is a capable adult, has a job, is in decent shape, dresses nicely, etc and thinks “well but they’re not doing that to attract other people, so doesn’t count”.

      • Carinthium says:

        I noticed that after hearing comments and arguments therein to see a prostitute decreased but did not go away. Honestly, given how much Scott Alexander’s comment mattered I suspect it’s a social status instinct at least partially.

        I reflected on it, and although internal reflections aren’t exactly reliable this is my best self-understanding.

        There’s a difference between an entirely internal standard and fear of external humiliation. There’s some of the latter, yes, but there’s also the internal standard.

        Right now, I’m feeling frustrated and helpless. My life is like a cage- my parents still make me go to Church (we’ve agreed I can stop after December, but knowing them there will a barrage of a final attempt to persuade me otherwise and I can’t get away with not going until then), they still pressure me to go university (the most I’ve got them to do is agree to me deferring it next semester, but that’s difficult and they’re going to make me go back), and my attempt at speed dating got me banned from the club.

        Sure I’m moving out in December. But the cage is still there, and even if it doesn’t make sense logically my failure to speed date still feels like the cage locking in around me. Besides, it doesn’t help emotionally that Mum and Dad are pressuring me to keep to it whether I want to or not.

        In addition, I feel like I’m an artificial manchild. Mum and Dad pressured me to go to university, they pressured me to do it halftime when I wanted to get it over with (saying I’d get too stressed), they held me back on learning public transport, they pressure me to go to Church, and more. Due to my childhood I’ve missed out on so much, and that adds to the feeling of hopelessness and powerless.

        I’m unsure about the prostitute thing, but it’s feeling like the one thing I can actually do about all this because Mum and Dad won’t know. I want to do something, SOMETHING, to fix all this faster and I can’t bear to be patient for much longer.

      • Carinthium says:

        For what it’s worth, on a strictly logical level online dating seems to make sense. The problem is my own emotional issues- I tried it, and although logically speaking I know it would be different the whole experience of last time I tried makes it so tough to ‘get back in the game’ there that I have problems.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “If I can’t get proper dating until I’m 30 then the idea is so shameful it isn’t worth trying. Even 26 or 27 would feel humiliating enough (I’m 23 now) as to not make it worth the bother.”

      For the record, I was never able to get a date until age 27. I don’t think I was mature enough until then and I felt like there were very definite steps of my social progression that took about that long. Now I am better at it. There is no shame in it taking longer to reach the point where you can do this and once you reach the point it becomes easier. I don’t know how to speed it up but I think that you are doing the right thing.

      • Carinthium says:

        I noticed that after hearing comments and arguments therein to see a prostitute decreased but did not go away. Honestly, given how much Scott Alexander’s comment mattered I suspect it’s a social status instinct at least partially.

        I reflected on it, and although internal reflections aren’t exactly reliable this is my best self-understanding.

        There’s a difference between an entirely internal standard and fear of external humiliation. There’s some of the latter, yes, but there’s also the internal standard.

        Right now, I’m feeling frustrated and helpless. My life is like a cage- my parents still make me go to Church (we’ve agreed I can stop after December, but knowing them there will a barrage of a final attempt to persuade me otherwise and I can’t get away with not going until then), they still pressure me to go university (the most I’ve got them to do is agree to me deferring it next semester, but that’s difficult and they’re going to make me go back), and my attempt at speed dating got me banned from the club.

        Sure I’m moving out in December. But the cage is still there, and even if it doesn’t make sense logically my failure to speed date still feels like the cage locking in around me. Besides, it doesn’t help emotionally that Mum and Dad are pressuring me to keep to it whether I want to or not.

        In addition, I feel like I’m an artificial manchild and a pathetic little nerd. Mum and Dad pressured me to go to university, they pressured me to do it halftime when I wanted to get it over with (saying I’d get too stressed), they held me back on learning public transport, they pressure me to go to Church, and more. Due to my childhood I’ve missed out on so much, and that adds to the feeling of hopelessness and powerless.

        I’m unsure about the prostitute thing, but it’s feeling like the one thing I can actually do about all this because Mum and Dad won’t know. I want to do something, SOMETHING, to fix all this faster and I can’t bear to be patient for much longer.

        • Frank says:

          I’m in favor of doing something that your parents don’t know about just for the hell of it. Doesn’t have to be prostitution. It’s an important step to take in maturing as an individual IMO.

        • informed_source says:

          If you do decide to see a prostitute, do some research first; there are internet sites where clients of sex workers talk about what they’re like. That will increase your chances of seeing a good one considerably (and there are a number of good ones, who take their job, namely to make you feel good, quite seriously and are skillful at it). Though it is worth noting that they are expensive, and if you do see a good one you may well end up wanting to see her again, or wanting to see others, which could become a financial problem.

        • onyomi says:

          Sounds like your biggest problem is your parents. Seems you need to become as independent of them as possible as soon as possible.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I am going to second everyone saying that it sounds like the issue is your parents. The more independent you can be, the better. If that means relying on them for financial help while living on your own until you can fully support yourself, that’s better than being under their roof.

          Becoming more independent will help you get a girlfriend more than getting a girlfriend will help you feel independent. If you’re thinking of paying for sex because it’s secret and it will make you feel less dependent and less like a “manchild” and “nerd” as you put it, I don’t know if that will really work – I mean, presumably, you will be spending your parents’ money. Using your parents’ money to do something to feel more independent seems kind of self-defeating.

          It seems to me like you think that either attracting or paying a woman for sex will be the “something” that fixes everything, rather than things you want for their own sake. If you’re the main character in one of those movies with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, maybe.

          In my experience though, the reward of a relationship is being in a relationship (which can be not so much of a reward if the relationship is crappy), and the reward of sex is that it feels good, among other benefits – few of them existential. Trying to make these things into keys to other things has the potential to make things worse, and isn’t really taking the other person into account.

          It would also help all of us to have more context, if it hasn’t been provided elsewhere.

          • Anon says:

            I think that seeing a prostitute won’t really make anything better, but I think you should do it anyway. I think you’ll find that sex is not a huge life-altering experience – afterwards you’re still going to have basically the same issues, but you’ll be able to attack them more productively and patiently once you’ve got this hangup out of the way.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If someone goes into something thinking it’s going to be a life-altering experience, and it isn’t, that is potentially bad though.

            I mean, leaving aside prostitution, a person thinking getting a romantic partner will fix them could turn out to be … not so good. “You were supposed to fix me, you didn’t, you failed” is a potential reaction, and not good for a relationship.

            I mean, there are good reasons to do it (when he ends up hot and heavy with a girl, if she isn’t a virgin, being able to say he isn’t either* without lying would be helpful). But doing something for bad reasons is generally bad.

            *no expanding on how, any questions answered with something like “a gentleman never tells”, etc.

          • onyomi says:

            In support of this, gaining independence, confidence, etc. will help you find a girl faster than finding a girl will confer independence or confidence.

            The good/bad thing about being a man is that if you are successful and independent and confident women will come to you. If you are none of those things, you can go after the women, but they will tend to run. The good/bad thing about being a woman is that if you are hot, men will coming running even if you are an awkward, unsuccessful recluse; the disadvantage is that if you are not hot, no amount of success or confidence will make men substantially more attracted to you–at least not if they wouldn’t have been somewhat attracted without those things.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Being attractive doesn’t hurt a guy, though. And being in decent shape and decently dressed certainly helps with confidence.

            Additionally, independence, attractiveness, etc are “guaranteed” in a way attracting women isn’t. Working out and eating right will have a guaranteed payoff when it comes to looking better, as will dressing better. Becoming more independent is its own reward.

            In comparison, you cannot control the actions of others. There are all sorts of things that have the effect of making a person more desirable, but where being more desirable is not the only effect.

          • Carinthium says:

            O.K, maybe I need to clarify. Sex won’t change everything, but it will reduce my frustration in the short term, and make me feel better for the symbolic value of breaking with my parents one step further, plus not feeling so ashamed of being a pathetic little nerd.

            As I mentioned, if I’m going to be some celibate little nerd forever I may as well give up trying.

            Finally, noting that it is very hot here at the moment. Aspires are VERY heat sensitive. I had an emotional crack-it episode last night. I didn’t self-harm technically, but I scratched a plastic knife over my skin. I also screamed in frustration at the fact that not only could I not sleep I couldn’t even masturbate.

            Finally, I did try other solutions. I tried having wine or beer in controlled circumstances to feel less like a man child, but to my disappointment neither actually tasted any good. So that’s out.

            I feel powerless to address my own life, as until December I can’t do anything about anything. At least prostitution is a symbolic step. I’m going to do it.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Carinthium

            I was in the same situation as you six months. I’m not a pick up artist but I did lose my virginity and go on a few dates. My advice would be to either get an internet dating profile and/or simply approach more random women. If you get rejected, you won’t have to worry about any consequences and you’ll realize rejection sucks but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Getting rejected is far better emotionally than obsessing about someone and never doing anything about it.

          • onyomi says:

            “Additionally, independence, attractiveness, etc are “guaranteed” in a way attracting women isn’t. Working out and eating right will have a guaranteed payoff when it comes to looking better, as will dressing better. Becoming more independent is its own reward.”

            I would consider this part of the “working on oneself” which I think is attractive to women. My point is not that women only care about your career success, but that you can do more to make yourself attractive to women by working on yourself (getting in shape, pursuing your career goals and/or passions) than by specifically trying to pick up women (PUA, etc.).

            The PUA-type thing might yield some short term results, but I think it is less likely to lead to the sort of long-term results most men want. That said, the PUA thing can be helpful in terms of understanding attraction. I went through a period years ago of reading a lot about PUA. I didn’t put a lot of it into practice directly, but I do think it helped me indirectly become more aware of certain common male-female romantic dynamics.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Carinthium: Most alcohol is an acquired taste. I used to hate beer – thought it tasted like soap. Really got into it. I don’t drink now, but (good) beer is definitely the thing I miss most.

            I imagine that regardless of what you do concerning prostitution, you still want to attract romantic partners in the long run. It might help us/you out to provide some context – how much effort do you put into dressing, what is your physical appearance, do you or do you not even lift, etc.

            Onyomi: It appears we are in agreement. I suppose what I was saying is that even if somebody got independent, dressed nice, got into shape, etc, and it didn’t get them any individuals of their desired gender(s), well, they’re still independent, dressed nice, and in shape. Those things are good because they’re good in and of themselves. If I decided this afternoon that I was going to become celibate, I would still go to the gym, stick to my diet, and wear colourful socks.

        • brad says:

          If I remember correctly from the last open thread, you viewed university as a path away from your parents rather than as something unpleasant they were forcing you to do. And several people suggested you contact university counseling office for assistance in living independently. Why the about face?

          • Carinthium says:

            Either you misremember, or I misworded. I always viewed it as an imposition, but because of comments suggesting I could take advantage of it tried to go with such ideas.

            Actually, ideas from this very blog contributed to my decisions. University is good for employment I don’t need, and status which is useless in my psychological black hole.

            For what it’s worth, Mum has a tendency to put up a big fight about seeing the DLU as it’s more trouble which interferes with my studies.

  9. Mark says:

    Is there any way of testing how far the structure of reality is determined by the mind?

  10. Sylocat says:

    At first I figured a tiny increase in global warming was far less an evil than the amount of animal suffering that chicken farming produces, but when I calculated it out the amount of money it takes to reverse one cow worth of global warming via carbon offsets is more than the amount it takes to reverse forty chickens’ worth of suffering via animal charities. I’m not sure how to deal with that morally except to say that I am much more confident that charitable offsets are an important moral good than I am that eating cows instead of chickens is.

    Well, the solution is to donate to research into how to efficiently and scaleable-y cultivate insects as livestock instead of cows or chickens.

  11. sweeneyrod says:

    A question for advocates of donation to organisations such as MIRI to reduce AI risk.

    We are are a long way from creating AI that could do anything dangerous in the a way MIRI worries about (pursuing goals not identical to our own in a way that has disastrous side-effects).
    It seems likely that AI safety research will be much more efficient when AI is closer and we have a better idea about how it will be achieved.
    Therefore, wouldn’t it be much better to invest money in a fund to be spent on AI safety research when the consensus is that AI is, say, 10 years away, than to invest in current research that no-one knows the usefulness of?

    • drethelin says:

      It’s far from clear how far we are from AI. I think there’s already a non-zero chance of human level AI coming into existence within the next ten years.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        There is a non-zero chance of everything.

        By “when AI is 10 years away”, I meant “10 years away” in the same way that a mission to Mars is 20 years away – i.e. that there is a programme to achieve it that will take approximately 10 years to complete. I am not aware of any programmes like that currently.

        • drethelin says:

          I think AI is a lot more like the Manhattan project or Google or iPhones than it is like a Mars Mission. 10 years before iPhones, or even 1 year, the vast majority of people had no idea of the possibility or what it would entail. 10 years before google was founded, Search engines weren’t even a concept that people had. The nature of software and accelerating technological change, and the different incentives for secrecy vs publicity for NASA and private entities means both that AI projects may be kept secret until they come online (or indefinitely), and that new technology may enable AI well within a 10 year window.

          Related: DARPA is publicly (http://www.artificialbrains.com/darpa-synapse-program) funding a project to achieve cat level intelligence within THREE years, and I doubt most people have heard of it. I’m not particularly worried about this cat-bot being dangerously unfriendly, but it’s also a very clear step toward a dangerously smart and efficient kind of brain.

  12. birdboy2000 says:

    As a communist, my views could not be more diametrically opposed to Steve Johnson’s, and I’m sure he believes people like me are responsible for everything wrong in the world. (The distinction between Lenin and Luxemburg, and that I take the latter’s view, will of course be lost on him.)

    But annoying posters I can ignore. Mods and admins taking the “purge people I disagree with” route I can’t, especially when they’re making up the rules as they go along.

    Hearing about this is disappointing. Hope I’m not next.

  13. onyomi says:

    I like to simplify my life wherever possible. I’m interested in peoples’ experiences doing away with things commonly thought necessary. A preliminary list of some of my successes/failures:

    Really not necessary (to me):

    Underwear (for men, at least): I kept trying to find softer, more breathable, more flexible underwear that wouldn’t create uncomfortable moments requiring of adjustment until I finally just stopped wearing underwear altogether. At which point I was like… “why does everyone do this?” I can understand doing it for warmth, but usually we want testicles to remain relatively cool, which is why they’re outside the body in the first place. Why do they need to be constantly wrapped up? Maybe this means one should wash pants slightly more often, but the lack of underwear to wash more than makes up for it. Women are more apt to “excrete,” especially at a certain time of month, so it makes more sense for them, I guess. This may apply to bras, though I understand large, unsupported breasts may be a source of discomfort for some women.

    Regular Meals: people say you need regular meals to “keep your metabolism up,” that breakfast is the most important meal, etc. My personal view is that most people in developed countries already eat way more than is necessary for functioning or health, and many obviously eat so much as to be a detriment. I find I function perfectly fine on no breakfast, and that, in many cases, I can think more clearly without a bunch of food digesting. Moreover, I have found a lot of benefit to going on longer fasts, though those do necessarily slow you down somewhat.

    Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements: I’ve found they area usually mildly, temporarily helpful at best (with no real, longterm benefit), downright harmful at worst, and most just give you expensive pee.

    Fancy razors, shaving cream: I just use beard trimmers at various lengths depending on how I want to look. It can get closer than an electric razor, and offer other lengths in between. Admittedly nothing beats a real razor (ideally a straight razor) shave at a barber shop with hot lather, etc. if you want a super baby face look, but otherwise, it seems a big waste of time and money, especially buying all those “mach 3” cartridges and 120 dollar electric razors (when a good set of clippers is $50 or less).

    Not dispensable in my experience:

    Regular showers, soap: some people (http://abc13.com/business/this-man-hasnt-showered-in-12-years/972009/) say it’s better for your skin and microbiome not to wash so much and I’m sure it wouldn’t actually hurt your health not to do so, but if I want to smell pleasant and not have greasy hair, I need to wash regularly. Eating a vegan diet (which I sometimes but not always do), does seem to reduce body odor, but I also am broadly sympathetic to the aquatic ape hypothesis and like to swim a lot, so even if I weren’t intentionally showering a lot, I’d still be getting wet, stripping off natural oils, etc.

    Sleep: admittedly I’ve never tried modafinil, etc. and I do find I can get a lot done during short periods with less sleep, and there does seem to be a benefit of less sleep to some people with unipolar depression, but I find I eventually have to make up for it with more sleep later and/or reduced functioning now. I do find I can feel good on less sleep at times when I’m not exercising and/or meditating a lot, but the health benefits of exercise are clear, and, though meditation has other positive effects, it’s not really a time saver to say “you can get by on 2 fewer hours of sleep if you sit quietly in darkness for 2 hours every day.”

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Underwear:
      Given that Japanese style, wash and dry your nether regions, automated toilets are not available anywhere except Japan, this seems like just asking for embarrassment. In addition, using a urinal, their is always the risk of post put-away leakage. The wearing of certain pants or shorts will go right out, as most people don’t want have their business on public inspection. Finally, I hope you never experience a “zipper incident”, which is definitely more likely without underwear.

      Edit: And chafing/discomfort issue is also for men, probably especially the circumcised.

      Vitamins:
      I take Vitamin D for depression and it helps. I take Vitamin E because I am a fat bastard in my 40s and it has been shown to protect liver function against the damage done by fatty liver disease. My wife takes Magnesium in high does as a migraine preventative.

      Take them for specific things, not as an all purpose cure-all.

      Food:
      I get really, really, really cranky if I let my blood sugar get too low.

      Razors:
      Using a beard trimmer without a guard leads to irritated skin in my case. I found that, before I started wearing a beard, using Mach-3 or Mach-4 razor with a first coat of Noxzema and Edge shaving gel over the top lead to an far more comfortable day and eliminated 90+% of the nicks I used to suffer from. I think individual mileage is going to vary greatly on this front.

      Shower:
      I feel so much better if I take a shower. Otherwise I feel like I am oiled up for some sort of Roman wrestling match. My scalp starts to flake badly if I don’t wash it thoroughly ever day.

      Sleep:
      Eight hours of quality sleep (I now use a CPAP machine) has done quite a bit for my depression.

      • onyomi says:

        I think many of the objections to no underwear are based on the assumption that, when one removes the underwear which used to cling to one’s private areas, that same real estate will then be occupied by the inside of one’s pants. This is not really the case. What is usually adjacent to my private areas is air, not the inside of pants. Further, I feel it is gross to leave significant amounts of fecal matter on your butt regardless of whether wearing underwear or not, though I do really, really wish Japanese-style washlets would catch on in the US.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “Further, I feel it is gross to leave significant amounts of fecal matter on your butt regardless of whether wearing underwear or not”

          Yes, I’m sure most everyone agrees with this. Yet, just as one intends to fully empty the entirety of the urethra at every urination, but does not always succeed, so to do unclean butts happen, for a variety of reasons.

          But, it is not merely fecal matter. Take a sniff of your used underwear sometime. Unless you launder your pants everyday, the results seem likely to be pretty ripe. I’m going to assume there is some sort of pheremonal thing going on there, much as with the underarms.

          And I highly doubt that your pants and your skin do not meet even when sitting down.

          • onyomi says:

            I think the need or lack thereof for underwear may also depend somewhat on the degree to which one sweats a lot in that area. I rarely wear shoes without socks, for example, because my feet tend to get sweaty without them. The socks are, therefore, acting as mini sweat absorbers, in addition to cushioning my feet, preventing chafing, etc.

            I suppose, for those who feel the need for underwear, the analogy is feet:socks::crotch:underwear, but I don’t find my pants in such close contact to my crotch when I walk as my shoes are to my feet, nor do I personally find the latter area to be as productive of sweat in need of absorbing.

            Further, I find underarm smells to be more prone to wafting outward, and others are more likely to find themselves in somewhat close proximity to your armpit on, for example, a subway, than they are to your crotch in a non-sexual situation. In other words, if you are close enough to my crotch in public to smell it through my pants, you are either a dog, or else seriously invading my personal space (or both).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Sure. But there is a reason those who don’t wear underwear don’t wear them two days in a row.

            I might wear a pair of jeans for 10, even 20 days before I need to wash them. No way I get away with that if I don’t wear underwear. Now, even with an undershirt, I won’t wear a shirt more than a few times, so that part of what you are saying seems relevant.

            If you are lucky enough that you can detect no order on the inside of your pants after going commando for 16, 32 hours, good on ya, mate. But I’m doubting you are going 160 hours. And I ain’t going even 16.

    • anon1 says:

      Underpants: Most pants have a prominent crotch seam, and most pants cut to fit women have very little extra room in the crotch, so without underwear this seam can cause very unpleasant chafing. Underwear with skirts, when you’re not menstruating, is presumably only needed so that nobody sees your genitals if eg you have to climb a ladder. Either way I find these not dispensable.

      Bras: Increase comfort when running, obligatory at work for purposes of decency which I don’t fully understand. Usually uncomfortable though, and dispensable outside work and certain exercise. (I did have a proper bra fitting so fit is not the reason I find them uncomfortable.)

      Shoes: Uncomfortable and often dispensable, but required inside most businesses. Ideal solution is to carry a compact pair around and put them on only when needed.

      Smartphone: Dispensing with this has begun to be annoying but it’s still workable.

      • onyomi says:

        It is true that the inside of some pants can be chaffing, so there may be certain pants which are uncomfortable to wear without a layer of padding, but that does not apply to most pants, in my experience.

        Of course, for women there is the additional issue of privacy when wearing a skirt; if I wore a kilt I’d probably wear underwear for modesty’s sake too (though I hear that goes against the ethos of the kilt and I wish people were a little less worried about all that in general). In fact, if not for issues of modesty and fashion, the comando kilt would probably be my preferred version of pants.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          If you wear shorts, you may experience the same issue, depending on the matter of “shower” vs “grower” and state of “relaxation”

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, though boxers do not solve the problem, being, in essence, shorts you wear under your shorts. And briefs I don’t much care for for reasons stated above.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Hanes Boxer Briefs. Preferably the ones that have a small bit of Lycra in the weave.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      There is nice underwear for men that doesn’t have this issue, and indeed is significantly more comfortable than going without. Look for underwear that has a front pocket, into which you will fit (you may have to look on men’s lingerie sites) – it will prevent chafing/rubbing, and helps evaporation/coolness. It also has certain social advantages (many women do, in fact, enjoy looking).

  14. Deiseach says:

    I see that AI progress is right on track, at least to the level of a human four year old.

    Next headline to be “Researchers report full-blown tantrum throwing over not being allowed to watch cartoons, having to eat yucky vegetables instead of candy”? 🙂

  15. Many people like to base their moral positions on a group of things that include stuff like consciousness/suffering/happiness/rights etc. I’m wondering if there is anyone here who sees *biology* or biological processes as relevant to the normative part of their moral positions/philosophy? I exclude biology as a justifcation for amoralism in this question.

    For example, in seeing that there is a biological phenomenon of altruism or cooperation at work in humans, does anyone here hold views that there is logic connecting that with normative views on how we view the world or treat other people?

    • Free Range Platypus says:

      I endorse doing so in theory, although in practice my virtue ethics are much more arbitrary and boring.

      You can get a decent teleology from evolutionary biology. Niches aren’t exactly clean and neat but you they give a good sense of what the purpose / essential character of a given creature is. And since you can actually calculate fitness scores, this approach provides reasonably objective lists of virtues for any given species in its current environment.

      I haven’t done the work of actually going through the data to generate a set of contemporary human virtues properly but I would like to someday.

      • Interesting. Is there any writing that you’ve done or seen that expresses this idea in more detail? How would it apply to human virtue? Would we derive our virtues from our niche (part-time dominant apex predator part-time protector/sybmiant?) If I may, can I also pose a critical question on this method… If a cat gains evolutionary fitness points through behaviours that cause prolonged suffering to its prey, such as playing with its food etc, could that be judged as virtuous under this idea? I’m not so much disagreeing with you as prodding for more details 🙂

        • Free Range Platypus says:

          I haven’t done much writing online, aside from delurking every so often on SSC, but it’s not unique to me or even a terribly new idea. Aside from the bit about fitness scores anyway, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else take that tack. Anyway I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it elsewhere before, mostly with a Catholic spin on it though since they’re the last big group that cares about teleology.

          As for cats playing with their food and similar cases, I think this is a case of me defining things poorly. To me, virtue is closer to the Latin root “vir” meaning potency or the Greek word for virtue which meant excellence. Virtuous behavior isn’t something you do out of obligation or a desire to be nice, it’s about cultivating your best traits. If you read the Enchiridion or Meditations or even the Republic it’s pretty explicit that the motivation for attaining eudaemonia is fundamentally a personal rather than a social one. So I don’t see any contradiction between virtue and inflicting or enduring suffering.

          When it comes to actually figuring out which traits are virtues to be cultivated and which are vices to be overcome, that’s when understanding niches becomes important. If you know what strategy you are using then you’ll see pretty clearly what sorts of things are helpful or harmful. And you’ll also see when you’ve moved outside of the environment where your particular virtues are proven to be useful.

          • Interesting! IIRC all Ancient Greek philosophy sees it in a similar way regarding personal vs social. I guess the question I have now is: are we using “virtue” in a way that implies some sort of morality? It seems like the cat might be virtuous by this standard, but still amoral.

          • Free Range Platypus says:

            Well, if you’ll excuse a bit of Nietzsche, what you call amoral he might call “master morality.” You don’t need a concept of sin or a dichotomy between good and evil for a moral system, that’s just the most popular way to do it.

            Morality is supposed to be a guide to behavior. A guide that tells you to be something that you aren’t is useless. A morality that doesn’t allow cats to exist has no purpose.

          • Well the cat would be amoral, not immoral, and it would still exist, even if we prevented it from playing with its food 🙂

        • Psmith says:

          Nichomachean Ethics would be the go-to. Bernard Williams provides some useful meta-ethical background for us moderns; the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on him is good.

    • kerani says:

      anyone here who sees *biology* or biological processes as relevant to the normative part of their moral positions/philosophy?

      Yes. (But you’re not going to like it.)

      There is an innate morality to Creation. Biological processes, which are foreseeable (*) results of basic physical properties of Creation, reflect the will and purpose of the Creator, who created the moral underpinnings of the universe when God made atoms with the property of gravity.

      (*) to the Creator, who has a very unfortunate habit of not leaving adequate footnotes.

      • While I don’t share your view please don’t feel I “dislike” it. Few people share my own specific moral philosophy so I’m pretty used to that! Ok so does this mean that you feel your creator’s moral intentions for you can be inducted from patterns in nature as well as the common theist method of scriptures etc? Could that inform a moral decision that you make? I’m interested how?

        • keranih says:

          so does this mean that you feel your creator’s moral intentions for you can be inducted from patterns in nature as well as the common theist method of scriptures etc?

          Yes. I was taught that there were four broad schools of Catholic spirituality, roughly divided along methods for determining the Will of God. (Augustine, Ignatian, Thomasian, and Franciscan) Franciscan, following the example of St Francis of Assisi, emphasizes considerations of natural forces.

          Could that inform a moral decision that you make? I’m interested how?

          Yes. Poise a question, and I’ll give it a try – while acknowledging that the broad principles of natural forces under lie more specific guidelines for humans.

          • I’m not sure I know enough about it to construct a salient question. does it influence opinions of how non-human species ought to be treated? What about relationships and courting? Finally perhaps it informs economic or political opinions (I will avoid debating the specific opinions)?

          • keranih says:

            does it influence opinions of how non-human species ought to be treated?

            Treated by what – the sun? Other non-human species? humans? (I’m guessing the last one. 😉 There are frank statements in Scripture regarding a herdsmans’ care of their flocks, a farmer’s legal responsibility for their animals, and the overriding power of the Will of God to upset fundamental laws of nature, which are themselves forces beyond the ability of humans to fully control. Given these overt messages, I can only assume that they are in Scripture in order to prevent humans from drawing too much inspiration from nature, red in tooth and claw.

            What about relationships and courting? Again, there are overt statements in Scripture. In the Christian traditions I was raised in, relationship & courting were strongly related to “go forth and multiply” – and it’s very hard to find lessons in nature that counter that impulse. There are also some questionable lessons that one might decide are found in nature – that each sort of thing pairs with another of its sort, and does not pair with outsiders.

            Finally perhaps it informs economic or political opinions (I will avoid debating the specific opinions)? IMO, a study of nature leans towards a socially conservative, technologically-hesitant stance, which is largely the stance of the Church. In terms of economics, nature pushes both a competitive, selfish approach and an anti-materialistic stance (accepting the ebb and flow of resources with the season) and an acceptance of want and deprivation that is currently out of fashion in the world as a whole.

            I could go into particulars of reproduction, euthanasia, care for the impoverished, and the importance of agriculture, but I am not sure if that’s where you meant to go.

            OTOH, if you’re willing to listen to me blather more, ask me about transferon and the lion lying down with the lamb.

          • Ok thanks for sharing. It’s true that is quite different from my own perspective, which focuses on the trajetory of biological development from its starting point of unrestrained competition to increasing biological cooperation, which I see as desirable.

            I understand the concept of “stewardship” is also a Christian thing that drives a certain amount of conservationism within some Christian denomonations. Ie. looking after and respecting God’s creations. Is it a matter of focus/interpretation that determines whether that is prominent?

            By all means give me a quick summary of transferon and the lamb/lion thing. I had a quick look around for the latter, but found wildly different interpretations of its meaning.

            The economics perspective you mentioned, regarding all-on-all competition, is that something humans should follow or reject in your beliefs?

    • blacktrance says:

      No, because this commits the is-ought fallacy. Why would the existence of animal altruism mean that I should be altruistic?

      • Obviously I’d be mad to consider such questions without considering the is-ought separation 🙂 But I included the phrase “logic connecting that with normative views” as placeholder where people could offer their chosen solution to the is-ought problem or a reason why it wasn’t relevant.

        For example, given a subjective personal preference for morality, combined with an assumption that morality is not innately known in completeness, a factual investigation into morality would yield objective information that would inform “ought” style decision making. If an investigation concluded morality was a biological phenomenon, then maybe biology could inform moral reasoning.

  16. Konkvistador says:

    It is said among Neoreactionaries, that Scott has been in the business of banning anyone to his right. In effect it is said, this results in him being the most right wing person on his blog. Because the left usually thinks the right is plain evil and the right thinks the left is merely misguided, this results in consistently punishing one’s friends and rewarding one’s enemies. This it is said should have one of two conclusions:

    1. Eventually the punisher runs out of people to his right to hand over to his left. He loses ground and often their head. This would take the form of Scott being systematically denounced on other blogs for being unbearably right wing.
    2. The punisher pulls a Stalin. Since everyone to his right is already dead, one uses the excuse of killing more rightists, to kill the leftists who would tomorrow kill you. This fossilizes the moral system at about the place of the sovereign. This might take the form of the people most likely to punish the blogger to no longer visiting the comment section and eventually losing interest.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I think there are plenty of rightists around here who think the left is evil. I definitely don’t think the banned poster would remotely qualify as our host’s friend. I think our host does care a little too much for the opinions of mean Tumblr people who mistreat him, but I don’t think you need a whole big social dynamic to explain the banning of that poster. He was a no-good troll deliberately derailing threads, banning him is just a matter of good governance.

    • James Picone says:

      Checks out, SSC’s comments are completely empty of right-wing sentiment.

      • stillnotking says:

        They’re nearly empty of right-wing sentiment as it exists in mainstream American political discourse. There used to be a few non-NRx right-wingers hanging around, but they seem to have gone. (I’m terrible with names, but one dude — Mark, I think? — struck me as an extremely typical conservative Evangelical.)

        The “right-wing” sentiment on SSC is much more Grey than Red.

        • kerani says:

          I’m not sure if “rightwing on SCC” =/= “FOX” actually means much.

          IMO SCC is more tolerant of expressions of right-leaning values than any “inclusive” or “tolerant” platform I’ve been a part of.

          • TheNybbler says:

            Well, yeah, any platform which claims to be “inclusive” or “tolerant” has a high prior probability of being just the opposite. Think of it as the “fair and balanced” of the left 🙂

            I think “right-wing = FOX” is probably a decent 0th-order approximation (in as much as “leftwing = NPR” is). NRx, despite its name, comes from the left; you won’t find NRx in Peoria. And most of the libertarians around here are from the left (if you want to find libertarians from the right, try the Sad Puppy associated blogs).

            Mostly the right and the left simply do not engage in discourse in the US. The left has their strongholds where various left-wing factions fight among themselves (and often call each other “right wing”), and the right has their strongholds where right-wing factions fight among themselves (and claim the others are really leftists, or “Republicans In Name Only”).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “And most of the libertarians around here are from the left”

            I don’t match anarcho-libertarianism to “left” but I think it might be the most prevalent type here.

            Libertarian left, to me is all about eliminating criminalizing victimless behavior and combatting state oppression of “non standard” behavior. Privacy concerns yes, but not concerns about government providing free healthcare.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          For what it’s worth, I would more probably associate myself with the Reds than the Greys.

          I read just about every single post and all the comments, but almost never comment myself. My own observation is that SSC is vastly more tolerant of right-of-center ideas than most places on the Internet, yet the sort of thought that I would consider to be “mainstream” right-wing (exemplified by, say, NRO) is pretty much absent.

          Then again, mainstream left-wing thought isn’t exactly commonplace here either. Best just conclude that SSC’s politics are weird and move on.

        • dndnrsn says:

          To be fair, though, there doesn’t seem to be very much “mainstream left” either, as defined by, say, the left wing of the Democrats (admittedly, not very left).

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Yeah, that’s what I was getting at towards the end there, “Then again, mainstream left-wing thought isn’t exactly commonplace here either.” We have actual communists cheek by jowl with neoreactionaries, but probably not a whole lot of people debating the relative merits of Joe Biden versus Hillary Clinton or weighing the finer points of Carson against Rubio.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Vote for Jim Webb, guys, he’ll let you keep your guns.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Not sure how I missed that last paragraph of your post. Or maybe I’m just not hitting refresh enough.

            What strikes me is that, here at least, the communists and the neoreactionaries, for example, seem less antagonistic than I’ve seen very, very mainstream left and right wingers be.

            Could be that the standards here really are good, or that there’s no point in getting really vitriolic when not a great deal is immediately at stake.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I think there is a decent overlap between grey tribe and red tribe here. One thing I’ve noticed is that SSC has a very large number of people who were libertarians at some point. Some of those people are still consistent libertarians. Some of them are NRx. But there are some people(myself included) who are somewhere in between, who still have a libertarian mindset but are increasingly supportive of those conservative positions they used to scoff at.

          • Simon says:

            My overall impression of the SSC comments section, even though I don’t post here very often, is that it has a stronger right-libertarian consensus than it used to. Not only are a lot of the neo-reactionaries gone, but quite a few of the really strident left-wingers (e. g. Multiheaded) don’t post as often as they used to either.

            Probably also has something to do with Bryan Caplan and Glenn Reynolds linking to here more often.

          • brad says:

            Grays are subset or breakaway of Blues. Just because you are a libertarian doesn’t make you gray. It is a subculuture not a political stance.

            It is going to be very rare for someone from a middle America, church going, NASCAR watching background to morph into someone that drinks Soylent and calls American Football sportsball. It’s far more likely to start off from a background of drinking bottled water, eating arugula and “feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it”.

            On the other hand I can’t agree with the grandparent (great?) that SSC is all blue and gray. You only need to look at the gun control subthread to see people passionate about guns, and there’s nothing else that’s as strong a red tribe marker.

          • Lupis42 says:

            I disagree – I fit better under Grey than Red, despite the strong gun support.

          • John Schilling says:

            Grays are subset or breakaway of Blues

            The actual Libertarian Party, is rather explicitly a breakaway faction of the Republican Party. And while it is true that “libertarian” doesn’t map explicitly to “gray” or “republican” to “red”, those are certainly the way to bet.

            If you want to try and define grays to be a subset of blues, you’re going to need yet another identifier for the broadly libertarian-aligned people who are clearly ex-reds. And there are enough of us that, if you tell us all we can’t be grays, you’ll find there aren’t actually all that many grays for you to hang out with and you probably don’t need a separate tribal identifier for them.

          • brad says:

            @Lupis42
            Strongly supporting gun rights, with arguments and charts and statistics, is not the same thing as being passionate about guns. That’s more about lusting after the new model, spending time down at the range and/or hunting, CCWing, etc.

            Maybe I’ve missed what’s going on in that subthread, because I don’t care that much about the issue and so only skimmed, but it was my impression that there were at least some gun enthusiasts, not just gun rights supporters.

            @John Schilling
            I’m going by Scott’s definition in “I can tolerate anything but the outgroup”. The Grays as a subset of Blues point was made explicitly.

            As for libertarian leaning republicans or Libertarian party members, if they are part and parcel of red culture (football, church, guns, country music) then I don’t see any need for a different identifier. Ideology was only a subset of what the tribe thing was getting at (at least I understood it).

            —-

            Of course the world is messy and doesn’t fall perfectly into neat little categories. There are always going to be exceptions.

          • John Schilling says:

            Scott Alexander is not infallible. He described a group of people with a social and political identity distinct and cohesive enough to identify as a “tribe”, and asserted that they are primarily blue-tribe refugees. He was correct in the first part, and wrong in the second – likely due to sample bias w/re the tiny subset of gray tribe that he, as an ex-blue, hung out with.

            You can, I suppose, explicitly incorporate “ex-blue-tribe” into the definition of “grey”, but that’s as pointless (and pointlessly limiting) as saying that gray-tribe members must have blue eyes.

          • Lupis42 says:

            @brad

            There certainly are – I’m one of them. That’s kind of my point.
            The “gun nuts” circle overlaps heavily with both blue and grey tribes.

          • Simon says:

            Remember that in a previous Open Thread, someone expounded on the difference between Blue-spawned Greys and those spawned from Red.

            In my personal interactions with the more alternative libertarian right, I’ve encountered a similar culture clash, though I don’t think the American “political tribes” correspond that easily to other countries.

          • brad says:

            @John Schilling

            Scott Alexander is not infallible. He described a group of people with a social and political identity distinct and cohesive enough to identify as a “tribe”, and asserted that they are primarily blue-tribe refugees. He was correct in the first part, and wrong in the second – likely due to sample bias w/re the tiny subset of gray tribe that he, as an ex-blue, hung out with.

            So are you saying that there are lots of ex-red tribe members that are well described by:

            typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk

            ?

            Or are you attempting to rewrite the concept to just be about libertarian politics? If you want to throw out the whole sociological part and just talk about politics, why not just use Democrat/Republican/Libertarian?

            @Lupis42

            The “gun nuts” circle overlaps heavily with both blue and grey tribes.

            No there aren’t.

            The Blue Tribe is most classically typified liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

            There aren’t a whole lot of gun nuts in there. Though like I said there are always a handful of exceptions.

            There are some parts of the Democratic Party coalition that have higher rates of gun nuttery but they aren’t well described by the vignette above (e.g. blue collar union workers). Even with a strictly partisan definition, Republicans are more than twice as likely to live in a gun owning household than Democrats. That’s a larger gap than in weekly church attendance.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Brad: Yes. That is almost exactly what I am claiming, modulo a bit of obvious hyperbole – e.g. gray tribe whatever its origin has the general distaste for American-rules football, but calling it “sportsball” is too specific to be a good general marker.

            If it pleases you to deny our existence, whether because you don’t hang out with many of us or because you don’t recognize us when we’re right here talking to you, then go form your own damn tribe. A tiny, lonely one because even most of the bluish greys aren’t going to be joining you there.

          • brad says:

            Fair enough then. That’s not my experience. To pick one example from that list — Dawkins-style atheism — I find that many red tribe background libertarians are either themselves religious or at very least respectful of the religious. Hence the massive internecine fighting over the issue of abortion.

            But admittedly I haven’t really be involved in that scene for around 10 years. So maybe my experiences are outdated, or maybe they weren’t representative to begin with.

          • Lupis42 says:

            @brad

            I live in the liberal northeast. People like that aren’t a big percentage of blue tribe members, but there are enough of them that I recently saw someone proposing to open a gun range specifically catering to them. I’d estimate ~1% of the gun nuts (at least around me) are blue tribe, another ~30% are red tribe, and the rest are either grey or hybridized.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            FWIW: given the definitions I’m seeing here, I would probably qualify as gray tribe from a red tribe background. I grew up in rural Texas; learned to shoot guns and be fairly comfortable around them, but I dislike maintaining them enough to not shoot avidly (i.e., I am definitely not a “gun nut”); family is Roman Catholic, while I’m agnostic; I like classical, classic rock, and techno, rather than country; I don’t follow popular American sports, but I do enjoy playing volleyball and ultimate. I came here by way of Eric Raymond’s blog, LW, and Caplan; I never read Instapundit these days (no time).

            Gun control is a bit weird as a red marker. I have a lot of liberal friends, who are curiously pro-gun rights. (Admittedly, they tend to favor relatively subtle restrictions, such as background checks, mental health checks, clip restrictions, etc., and they have close friends who are very much for gun bans.) Lots of liberals seem to favor both general gun ownership rights and collectivist economic policies.

            TLDR: most libertarians I know are from the red side; I know enough blue “gun nuts” to treat RKBA as only a relatively weak indicator of tribe, although gun control advocacy is a strong indicator of blue.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m pretty sure a bunch of people here that haven’t been banned are well to Scott’s right, including, if I’m not mistaken, you. I might even put myself in that category, although I don’t think I’m very far to Scott’s right if so.

      And I’m also pretty sure that the left doesn’t have a monopoly on imputing evil to its opponents.

      • Anonymous says:

        “And I’m also pretty sure that the left doesn’t have a monopoly on imputing evil to its opponents.”

        I do think that it is much more prevalent among the left, though, for entirely understandable reasons. Consider that what ‘left-wing’ seems to amount to is things that are directly and obviously about being nice and making nice things happen; while ‘right-wing’ is things that are about making necessary sacrifices that serve to bring about nice things indirectly or in the long run. If a left-wing idea is wrong, it is probably because it does not take into account the consequences of the nice thing, does not notice that implementing it causes side effects that are more harmful than the nice effect it purports to create directly. If a right-wing idea is wrong, it is probably because the sacrifice it makes is large and the benefit it brings is either small or nonexistent.

        Wanting to do something nice, that in fact hurts more than it helps, is stupid. Wanting to do something that hurts short-term, and which you claim has positive effects long-term but doesn’t, is evil. Which I think matches the observation that the right’s usual complaint about the left is that it is stupid and naiive, while the left’s usual complaint about the right is that it is selfish and evil.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “I do think that it is much more prevalent among the left, though, for entirely understandable reasons.”

          OK, this is piffle. The right wing (in America) regular refers to the entire left wing as literal murderers and murder apologists (see, abortion). The strongest member of the right wing coalition is the evangelical, fundamentalist, Christian right, which regularly and without a scintilla of hyperbole refers to Satan and evil as driving forces of anyone who is not with them.

          Right wing thought on SSC does not model broad based right wing thought.

          • Anonymous says:

            I did mean to add that ‘right-wingers as stupid fundies’ seems to be an exception to this. I can’t speak for other countries, but this phenomenon doesn’t really exist in my country, the UK. The stereotypical right-wingers over here are seen as selfish rich people, not fundamentalist Christians. There is an undercurrent of “screw those stupid right-wing creationists!” here, but it’s almost exclusively the realm of a particular kind of science fans who have a general anti-American ire.

            Also, I think strong Christianity, and religion in general, fits my description of right-wing: short-term sacrifices (you don’t get to do things that are fun but sinful) with the justification that doing so provides long-term benefits (a healthy society).

          • kerani says:

            Right wing thought on SSC does not model broad based right wing thought.

            Baldly, I agree with this. However, I do not agree that broad-based right-wing thought includes regularly labeling political opponents “evil”. (The standard label is “idiots”, in my experience.)

            In my own experience, I have interacted with different cross-sections of the American socio-economic spectrum, based on political leanings.

            On the right, I have had the most interaction with rural farming/blue collar workers and families, and with military-associated professionals (ie, working adults, about 50-50 with college education.)

            On the left, I have interacted with salesmen, educators, writers, and academics (college students and professors, and researchers, both under-graduate and graduate).

            I have also interacted far more superficially with numerous impoverished people, and largely am unaware of their political leanings. Of the ones I know, they *mostly* self-identified as liberal.

            I have interacted with Christian and Jewish religious types on both sides, and with liberal atheists. I have been run off boards for being too liberal and off others for being too conservative. I have close friends who are extremely progressive and others who are markedly conservative.

            Based on this, it is my experience that left wing thought lends itself to demonization, bigotry, and prejudice against ideological opponents to a breath and depth not seen on the right.

            My only caveat to this is that imo the bias gets worse the more education the liberal has. It is possible that if (somehow) I met a number of academic conservatives, I might revise my opinion to find more of a balance of assholes.

          • Autonomous Rex says:

            “Based on this, it is my experience that left wing thought lends itself to demonization, bigotry, and prejudice against ideological opponents to a breath and depth not seen on the right.”

            I rate rightwing thought pretty high on demonization, bigotry, and prejudice against ideological opponents.

            Turn on your radio.
            Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Beck, Bob Grant, Mark Levin? And with guests like Ingraham, Coulter, Malkin, Palin, Drudge, Geller, Napoliatano et al?

            When they’re not pedaling gold or stroking listeners, they’ll pretty reliably be demonizing and blaming their ideological opponents, and its everywhere you go in flyoverland, and its non-stop.

            There just isnt that level of high-profile, day in day out, white-hot hate coming from the left.

          • keranih says:

            @ Aton Rex –

            1) If I made my assessment of the tone of different political groups based on media expression, I would have said so. Please go back and re-read my comment, where I emphasized that I formed my opinion based on lengthy interaction with everyday “normal” people.

            2) Media can be devastatingly poisonous, and I don’t recommend a steady diet to anyone. On the positive side, FOX and most talk-radio are frank with their biases, and have never pretended (unlike NPR, CNN, et al) to be “neutral” and “only reporting the news”.

            3) If you’re basing your assessment of different political groups on talk radio, then God help you, sirra, there is nothing I can do for you.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:
            I don’t think you will actually get most talk radio or Fox to admit to bias. They will say they are right, not biased. Heck, Fox News has “fair and balanced” as their tag line, and a frequently invoked argument is that they are the ones who are actually unbiased, unlike the “mainstream liberal media”.

            In addition, the existence of the media indicates a market for it. The left has tried to go with the white hot hate media route in the U.S. and that has been, mostly, a failure. The market seems to be not nearly the market that exists on the right. Not to say that their is no market, but evidence indicates it is smaller.

          • James Picone says:

            @Daniel Kendrick:

            Democrats as the party of Catholic social justice, traditional family values, the integrity of communities, the sanctity of life, the welfare of those displaced by capitalistic and technological change—protecting Judeo-Christian values from being swept away by the profit motive.

            The Labor party in Australia, which is the Standard Left Wing Party here (the right-wing party are, somewhat confusingly, the Liberals) started off life as a very Catholic organisation. Had a split in 1955 over communism that led to the Catholic wing breaking out into its own party, which has historically voted very conservatively.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Autonomous Rex: Turn on your radio.
            Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Beck, Bob Grant, Mark Levin? And with guests like Ingraham, Coulter, Malkin, Palin, Drudge, Geller, Napoliatano et al?

            I listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, and Levin, as well as Tom Marr (Baltimore area), for brief periods when I happen to be driving. They’re commentators, and highly opinionated. Levin seems most disposed toward vituperation, and is admired at least by Hannity (and I’ll assume by Limbaugh as well). Hannity’s views are only presented in light of something he’s witnessed on the left; he doesn’t come hateful out of the gate. It’s easy to tell Levin is taking a large body of the left’s wrongs for granted when he’s ranting. Limbaugh just seems bemused most of the time.

            In other words, most of what I hear from right wing talk radio isn’t prejudiced (it’s based on earlier events), and none of it is bigoted (I’ve heard all of them except Levin take on dissenting views without dismissing them out of hand, spirited though their responses may be – I’ve never heard Levin take callers, so I don’t know his deal). That leaves demonization, which I hear a lot, and I don’t like, though again I notice it’s based on past events.

            On the left: Randi Rhodes, Ezra Klein, Paul Krugman, Arthur Chu, and most of Salon, Slate, Huffington Post, DailyKos, Alternet, Firedoglake, and Jezebel are some of the mouthpieces I think of OTTOMH. Demonization is as rife here as in right-wing talk radio (and websites). Prejudice is in evidence – they believe things about right-wingers that I know aren’t true in many cases. And bigotry is in evidence here – there’s a pervasive assumption I see among the left that the right wing viewpoint is simply unserious, borne out of emotional “clinging to guns and religion”. This is particularly vexing to me when it comes out of professional news outlets such as NYT and NPR.

            In neither case is it nonstop; I see these voices write about other things. It can certainly feel that way though, when it’s all you seem to see on your Facebook feed.

          • keranih says:

            @ HBC

            I don’t think you will actually get most talk radio or Fox to admit to bias.

            Hmmm. What would it take to convince you otherwise?

            a market for white hot hate

            I would not describe most right-wing commentary as “white hot hate.” I would describe NPR as exceptionally disdainful and spiteful towards conservative thought. (It goes so very, very far beyond “dismissive”.)

            YM, of course, MV.

        • Jon Gunnarsson says:

          I think both the supposed fact you’re trying to explain and your explanation are false, or at least overstated.

          As HeelBearCub points out above, many people on the right do characterise their ideological opponents as evil. As an additional example, consider the Republicans who say that the GOP is the stupid party, while the Democrats are the evil party.

          I also don’t think the classification of left vs right in terms of short term benefit with possible adverse consequences vs short term pain with possible positive consequences is accurate. Consider for example such left wing rhetoric as “soak the rich” (sometimes even “eat the rich”), or such Twitter hashtags as #killallmen. Or the standard far-left trope of a violent revolution to overthrow capitalism, the patriarchy, US imperialism, or whatever the currently popular boogeyman may be. All of these are far from being nice, but will, according to their adherents, bring about beneficial long term consequences to make up for the short term nastiness.

          Conversely, consider such warm and fuzzy right wing ideas as tradition, God and Country, family values, the American Dream, and cheering on the brave troops protecting us from terrorists and foreign invaders. All these of course do have their downsides, but they are “nice” ideas.

      • stillnotking says:

        The left doesn’t have a monopoly on it, no — five minutes of listening to Rush Limbaugh should cure anyone of that impression — but I think the left is more likely to frame political issues in terms of moral urgency, while the right thinks more in terms of tragic trade-offs. Thomas Sowell articulated this difference in A Conflict of Visions, as the “constrained” and “unconstrained” views of history. An unconstrained mindset is more likely to impute malicious or self-interested motives to those who stand in the way of progress.

      • Konkvistador says:

        “if I’m not mistaken, you”

        Since about July I don’t think I could argue my actual right wing stances effectively anymore without being banned.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Konkvistador:
          I don’t think anything happened in July that was in any way contra the stated “two out of three” policy. Even now, the ban on Steve Johnson is mostly just a way to avoid “galloping” the comments section.

          So, assuming that “kind” is some sort of hard gate to pass when arguing for divisive ideological positions, and also assuming that everything you say can be interpreted as “true”, the gate that would trip you up would be “necessary”. Not ever thread is an opportunity to argue NRx positions.

  17. Gunnar Zarncke says:

    > 3. Steve Johnson is banned for reasons of total personal caprice

    I appeal for the ban on Steve Johnson to be revoked. I’m not sure if this is kind of a test of the audience or what is possible for an author. In any case if a ban can be set for arbitrary reasons it should equally easy be revoked for such reasons. Here are a few:

    – The audience appeals for a revoke of the ban (I havn’t found such an appeal in the comments yet so I just do now)

    – Scott just decides that the experiment is over and lifts the ban.

    – A reign of terror could be seen as a mental illness that has befallen Scott and to avoid that impression the ban is lifted.

  18. Acedia says:

    What is the most useful programming language to learn if one wants to be able to contribute to FOSS projects, especially Linux-based ones?

    • TheNybbler says:

      The useless but true answer is “whatever language is used by the FOSS projects you’re interested in”. A more useful but possibly false answer is C++, and its not-quite-subset C (which is what the Linux kernel itself is written in). Once you’ve got C++, the other likely things you’ll need will be cake.

      • anin says:

        Acedia doesnt say, but if its their first language (which i assume), then i would strongly recommend they did not start with c++ its big, complex and hard.

    • anin says:

      it depends 🙂

      i suspect you could find a FOSS project based on any language you care to choose. so i’d say pick the project you like then learn the language it uses.

      however, if you really want to learn the language that is most often used then pick c. not that i have any numbers for that assertion, just 25years of programming experience using FOSS on linux and various other *nix’s.

    • James Picone says:

      Python, C, and C++ are very popular. C++ is big, huge, complicated and dangerous, and is used for a lot of applications. The kernel and similar bits tend to be in C, which is small but difficult to do anything in. Python is a very high-level scripting language and it is often used for applications that don’t have any performance implications. It’s probably the hip new thing on the block in this list; it’s likely going to be easier to learn than C and C++ as well.

      Picking up some very basic shell scripting would be a good idea too.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      This is possibly the wrong question to be asking. If you want to learn to program, pick an easy language. Python is very popular, and frequently used in scientific computing. Alternatively, you can start with web development (although this involves learning things like HTML that aren’t actually programming languages).

      On the other hand, if you want to contribute to FOSS projects, but can’t program, learning to program might not be the best option. There is a big difference between the level of programming that lets you make nice and useful things, and the level that lets you create code that can be added to large projects. It will take a long time to get to the second stage from scratch. However, FOSS projects are permanently desperate for volunteers to do non-programming things – writing and translating documentation for instance. If you have skills in these areas, they would be much appreciated by most FOSS projects.

    • James says:

      TheNybbler’s useless but true answer is largely correct. Note that C is widely used by FOSS types, as to a lesser extent is C++, partly for historical reasons (founder effects, you might say). (Go and Rust are more modern languages targetting a roughly C-like territory, I think, and are for some reason fairly hip among hacker types at the moment.)

      But that aside, I’d say that in broader terms, Ruby or Python are good candidates for first general-purpose programming languages. I’d second C++ being a poor choice for beginners because of its complexity. C is old-fashioned and bare-bones enough to be painful in some respects, but in a way that can be a good learning experience that teaches you how to think about how computers think.

  19. Sarah says:

    Ok, so, can somebody shop talk with me about depression inventories?
    I reliably BLOW THROUGH them. Like, scoring “severe” on the Beck is just trivial.
    By QALY ratings, “severe depression” is, like, a really big deal, ranking as just barely less bad than anencephaly, or literally not having a head.
    Are these ranked by different measures? Are some instruments more prone to inflation than others?

    • PDV says:

      The Beck depression inventory is considered very reliable. Consider the possibility that most people you know live significantly more enjoyable lives than you for brain-chemisty reasons, and that you merely have not noticed.

      Alternately, do you have a physical disability or chronic diseases? Wikipedia suggests that this is a significant confounder that can inflate scores.

      Either way, you should probably see a therapist or doctor or both.

    • gattsuru says:

      QALY and DALY ratings are typically calculated by surveys where correspondents are asked what amount of lifespan or risk of death they’d be willing to exchange for time in perfect health, either ranked by experts (WHO 1990) or by a combination of experts and public survey (WHO 2010). As a result, any condition featuring suicidal ideation or poor time discounting will have more severe QALY ratings, as will any condition where patients have a lot of experience with treatments that involve health risks. (Conversely, congenital conditions tend to have less severe QALY ratings than you’d expect). This leads to bizarre results when disparate conditions are compared.

      That said, the depression inventories are reasonably accurate, since they’re pretty much asking whether something is shaped like itself. Regardless of the QALY/DALY impact, if you’re personally experiencing significant workplace, personal, or social limitations because of the behaviors you’re seeing show up on depression inventories, I’d strongly recommend looking to a psychologist and the Things That Sometimes Help (especially the “see a shrink” and “fix sleep habits” sections) on the topic. The costs of treating depression are significantly lower than the costs of treating even many conditions that I am confident are similar in personal impact.

      • chaosmage says:

        I don’t dispute your explanation, but it is incomplete. Depression also significantly reduces life expectancy:

        In fact, depression was associated with significantly earlier ages at death and more years of productive life lost for all of the 13 causes of death that were examined in the study. These included accidents, cerebrovascular issues, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, homicide, influenza and pneumonia, liver disease, malignant neoplasms (cancer), nephritis (kidney disease), respiratory disease, septicemia (blood infection), and suicide. All other causes of death were included in a 14th category—and here, too, death came earlier for depressed patients.

        One possible reason for this is that depression can be a side effect of many other health issues. Another is that depression can make one slow to seek help, including when a serious medical issue arises.

        I emphatically agree that depression inventories are trustworthy.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure how the QALY lists do it, but there are some cases in which there’s confusion between “severe depressive symptoms” and “severe depressive episode” – see Part V here.

      • Sarah says:

        Ok, this explains the confusion. GOD psychiatrists do not NAME THINGS CONSISTENTLY. But thank you!

    • Agronomous says:

      This isn’t what you asked about, but it’s related, and I think it’s important:

      You don’t know what normal feels like.

      (I’m assuming you’re actually depressed, based on your depression inventory experience.)

      If your depression is a long-lasting thing, with either no sharp onset or one confounded by major life changes (e.g. new school, going off to college, divorce, death of a loved one), you don’t really have much of a basis to compare how you feel now with how normal feels.

      I’ve had chronic depression with anxiety since junior high school.

      Once I started taking Lexapro (escitalopram), I felt different: negative spirals, which had been a constant background part of my thinking and feeling, became much weaker and much less constant. “Woah,” I thought, “so this is what it feels like to be normal!”

      Nope.

      Once I started taking Wellbutrin (bupropion), I felt different: it’s as if I’d spent my whole life with a gas gauge stuck on Empty, regardless of actual energy level, and now it was fixed. I’d think, “Hey, I should put away X right now before it gets lost,” and instead of some energy-conserving part of my brain kicking in and stopping me, I would just get up and put X away. “Okay,” I thought, “so this is really what it feels like to be really normal!”

      Nope.

      I recently experienced some kind of breakthrough (maybe just the hockey-stick blade of an exponential curve) where I have little enough anxiety that I actually feel it, and can tackle it head-on: “Hey, I’m anxious. Well, is there any good reason to be? No? Then it’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK….” That kind of self-soothing self-talk would not have worked a year or more ago. Things aren’t perfect now, but they’re better than they were even just a few months ago.

      I kind of wonder what it would be like to feel normal. If it’s better, I’d like to keep progressing in that direction.

      (My point here is not that meds are awesome; they unfortunately don’t work for everyone, and I’m fortunate to be someone they work well for. It’s that self-diagnosing depression is hard, and possibly impossible absent a suicide attempt. Even months after I started seeing a psychologist, I didn’t think I had depression; I was somewhat surprised at the diagnosis.)

      Scott has a good article on things that sometimes help if you’re depressed: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/06/16/things-that-sometimes-help-if-youre-depressed/

      Read it. Go talk to somebody (psychologist or psychiatrist or therapist). If that doesn’t help, go talk to somebody else. Don’t rule out medication in conjunction with talk therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy.

    • Sarah says:

      I feel like I owe all you kind people a reply;
      yes, I am depressed and yes, I am getting treatment, of precisely the kind Scott recommends.

  20. Anonymous says:

    A question for committed impartial utilitarians:

    You find yourself holding a device with two buttons. If you press the left button, the person closest and most important to you – maybe your partner, your child, your best friend, someone similar – dies. If you press the right button, two random people around the world, who you have never met and will never meet, die. The two people chosen have similar characteristics to the person who would be chosen by the left button, such that the expected remaining lifetime utility of all three is similar. If you don’t press either button, everyone in the world will be sent to Hell and subjected to eternal torture.

    Obviously, you should press a button. Which button would you press? Which button should you press?

    EXTREME MODE: the right button now causes one person to die and one person to stub their toe. If you thought you would press the left button before, would you still do so? Should you still do so?

    EXTREME MODE THE OTHER DIRECTION: for people who would press the right button, how many people would the right button have to cause to die before you would/should press the left button?

    I’m sorry if this question is silly or naiive in some way. I’m an intrigued onlooker, not someone at all well versed in moral philosophy.

    • Anonymous says:

      In practice, I’d save the person important to me, but I think this is basically moral weakness. Certainly if such choices were common we’d want to establish a norm that you have to choose the option that causes the least total harm.

      • Anonymous says:

        “Certainly if such choices were common we’d want to establish a norm that you have to choose the option that causes the least total harm.”

        If such choices were common then it would be a different issue. If everyone in the selection pool were to agree with one another that whenever picked, they will press the button to kill the one person close to them rather than two other people, they would still each be acting to save the person they care about most – halving the chance that that person will have to die, assuming everyone is given the device at an equal rate. In that case, “helping the person you care about” and “helping everyone” have become the same thing, which is a less interesting problem.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, a few ways to look at this:

          – This sort of choice really is common. What charity should you give money to? Should we approve drug X? Should we invade country Y? What penalties should be imposed for emitting chemical Z? In each case, depending on which choice you make some people die and other people live, and some of these people will be closer to you than others.

          – If we ever find ourselves saying, “man, wouldn’t it have been great if we had all made some group pre-commitment beforehand?” then maybe we should all just behave *as if* we had made that group pre-commitment? If we would all have pre-committed beforehand to be utilitarians, maybe we should all just be utilitarians? (I think Scott discussed such ideas here).

          • Anonymous says:

            I like that post of Scott’s. But, it doesn’t seem to me to be a defense of utilitarianism in the sense of treating everyone’s utility as equally important, so much as for making your own utility and everyone’s utility converge. As Scott says, in many situations there are lots of barriers to actually being able to do this.

            The problem – what I was trying to create with my hypothetical – is what to do in these situations, where you cannot make the necessary enforceable prior agreements. In situations where coordination is impossible – say, a situation where a device is sprung on you out of nowhere, a device that nobody thought to make an enforceable contract about because nobody expected this kind of device to exist – and you have a choice between disutility for someone you personally care about a great deal, versus a bit more disutility for people you don’t personally care about, would and should you choose the first over the second?

            I don’t think it’s useful to say “well, if you had coordinated beforehand…”. Yes, if you had coordinated beforehand then everything would work out better. But, in this situation, you didn’t. Lots of situations like this exist, as you point out. In those situations, if possible we obviously ought to move in the long run toward a state where everyone including ourself is better off. But what about in the short run?

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, if you had coordinated beforehand then everything would work out better. But, in this situation, you didn’t.

            I think part of the “point” of morality is to serve as a basis for cooperation between people who didn’t explicitly draw up binding contracts beforehand, since in *most* cases you can’t or haven’t drawn up such contracts.

            we obviously ought to move in the long run toward a state where everyone including ourself is better off. But what about in the short run?

            If you say, “in the long run we all ought to do X, but in the short run I will do the opposite because it works out better for me right now at the expense of everyone else” then I think you are confessing moral weakness, as I did above.

          • Anonymous says:

            “I think part of the “point” of morality is to serve as a basis for cooperation between people who didn’t explicitly draw up binding contracts beforehand, since in *most* cases you can’t or haven’t drawn up such contracts.”

            If we’re going to talk about the ‘point’ of morality – presumably you mean why we evolved to have it? In which case I can’t see how it could possibly be to cause us to help out others over ourselves in situations where we are not able to use “see, I helped you, now you should help me or I won’t help you again” as leverage to encourage reciprocal cooperation. If an animal helps out others over itself when there is no selfish gain from doing so, its genes will not be very successful. It seems to me that the exact opposite of what you say is true: that morality probably evolved to encourage us to help others in the kind of situations where we can get them to help us back, and that if people are wanting to help others rather than themselves in situations where doing so will not lead to gains for themselves too, that is, evolutionarily speaking, a bug not a feature.

            “If you say, “in the long run we all ought to do X, but in the short run I will do the opposite because it works out better for me right now at the expense of everyone else” then I think you are confessing moral weakness, as I did above.”

            I intentionally distinguished between ‘should’ and ‘would’ in my original post. If you think you should be altruistic in this situation but you would be selfish in practice, that sounds like moral weakness; if you think you would be selfish in practice and also think this is perfectly fine, or even morally good, then I don’t see how that would be moral weakness.

            Also: I made the hypothetical scenario about helping someone else you care about rather than helping yourself for a reason: I’m not sure if my objection here is based on egoism, or deontology in the form of something like “you have a greater obligation to those you have agreed to help out in times of need than you do to strangers”, or maybe a combination of the two. All I will say is that the utilitarian answer seems to me to be repulsive.

    • TheNybbler says:

      I’ve seen that Twilight Zone. After you press the right button, a random person somewhere in the world, who you have never met and never will meet, is offered a choice…

      (I push no button, but I’m not an impartial utilitarian and am an athiest, so I find the whole Hell thing is unmoving…)

    • Anonymous says:

      Right button.

      I did not.

      After the button starts killing people I know.

    • Sastan says:

      Not a utilitarian, but someone who has had to make choices somewhat similar.

      Imagine, if you will, the people who are closest to you, your family, in a hostile area. You don’t speak the language or understand local customs. The local population includes a large but unknown number of people who want to kill you. You have a button that kills people. Exactly how much of a threat is necessary before you push that button?

      Needless to say, there are no utilitarians in the Infantry.

      The uncertainty is what gets you though. Especially with things like car bombs. Is that taxi careening toward your checkpoint loaded with explosives or just late for dinner? How close are you going to let him get to find out?

      The moral choice is easy. My brothers have infinite value. The hard part is judging the actual risk. For instance, a local custom is that as a sort of wedding celebration, the locals like to load up their cars with machine guns, drive past everyone’s house, and fire wildly up into the air. So when forty cars pull up and start pouring automatic weapons fire in your general direction, do you wait to see if anyone gets hit?

      Utilitarianism assumes the hard part, then makes silly choices based on not being tribal people. In the real world, there are no utilitarians, tribes matter, people are irrational, and no one is ever sure if what they are doing is correct until after the fact.

    • DavidS says:

      A few thoughts
      1. The utility calculus needs to include YOU. I.e. even if I think that morally I should value my friend and the randomer equally, I might recognise that I would feel more guilt over killing my wife, child, family, best friend than I would killing the randomer
      2. I suspect the decision is massively vulnerable to trolley-like issues and how ‘real’ the randomers are. E.g. if I could see two people tied to one train track and one person I cared about tied to a second, I think I’d feel more responsibility to the two than if there was just a button.
      3. If this was turned into a cheap parable, you’d press the left hand button to save your first-born child and the random slaughter angels in the mechanism would just happen to kill your second-born child

  21. Tibor says:

    http://www.16personalities.com/personality-types

    A friend of mine told me about this recently. It is a project which tries to categorize people into 16 categories based on their personality traits. I have not really tried to dig into the research behind the classification but the thing is that it seems to work amazingly well. My friend told me that he tried the test and completely recognized himself in the group he was assigned to by the test. Of course, there is the “horoscope effect” where you just identify yourself with whatever you believe that works (in this case “sciency stuff”) gives you. So I tried to read the descriptions of all the 16 categories, find one that fits best on me and then do the test. I got exactly what I found as best fitting (I was wavering between two and in fact my final score was only mildly towards one of them) and my friend told me he would also assign me the same category (actually that he would hesitate between exactly the same two that I would and that were both very close to what my result was).

    Now, if you have time, I would like you to try the same thing. Read all of it and then take the test, see if it fits your image of yourself (and that of your friends). I know this is not proper testing an has a lot of problems but since I do not intend to do a serious analysis, this is still better than nothing.

    Also, tell me what you thing about the whole thing.

    • Nornagest says:

      The MBTI’s been around for a while. While it hasn’t seen too much actual research (psychologists generally prefer their own special-purpose test batteries, which it must be said aren’t too hot either), the general consensus seems to be that it’s capturing something but that something might not be too stable or have too much predictive value. I certainly wouldn’t hang anything important on it, nor put too much stock in what the test predicts you’ll be good at.

      I’ve taken probably a half-dozen equivalent tests over the years, and while I consistently score as NT, the E/I and P/J subtypes vary quite a bit. This seems typical.

    • Mark says:

      Yeah… as you say, I don’t know if it’s just some kind of “horoscope effect” but I took the test last year, and the things it told me seemed so accurate… it was actually kind of amazing for me. Things that I just thought were my own personal, weird mental problems were actually a legitimate personality type.
      I have a personality! Finally!
      (INTP/ INFP)

    • Earthly Knight says:

      This is Myers-Briggs, right? It’s crap. The only things it’s good for are telling you how introverted you are (which, presumably, you knew already) and maybe signaling to nearby con artists that you’re an easy mark.

      See: Forer effect

      • Tibor says:

        Thanks for the comment. I will look at the criticism in more detail. But I think that the Forer effect does not apply here. The reason I read all the 16 type description was to also see whether I can fit myself to just 1 type or say 9 types. All the non-NT types really bad fits though (sometimes there was something in which I would recognize myself, but the majority was wrong), the NT types were all reasonable fits, INTP and ENTP were almost perfect (ENTP slightly more). And then I had my friend pick a category for me and that matched too. Of course, this is an extremely biased sample of size 2, but I think this is generally a right way to exclude the Forer effect (it is also part of what I would call the “horoscope effect”, I didn’t know it had a special name 🙂 ). If I people consistently end up (strongly) identifying themselves with one or two types and so do the people who know them, then it is a strong evidence against the hypothesis that “it is just written in a way that you identify yourself with whatever comes up”…which is of course the way horoscopes and fortune telling with their vague statements work.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          The way you set this up almost guarantees a false positive– you know ex ante which profile you should have and that the profiles are supposed to be mutually exclusive. Suppose an October-born friend of yours reads through a list of personality traits associated with each star sign, and finds, sure enough, that only the Libra profile accurately describes her. What is the most likely explanation for how she arrived at that conclusion? What’s different about her case compared to yours?

          • Tibor says:

            The difference is the personality test. At least in theory, I don’t know which answer leads to which result at the end. In practice it is not always like that and one can easily recognize for example the questions that measure extroversion vs introversion…then it depends on how honest you are with yourself as opposed to picking the answers that give you what you want. it is harder to pick the answers that give you the one category in 16 though, when the categories are made up by 4 traits and when (like me) you did not study the exact trait combination of the category you found as the most likely for yourself. And then you have the confirmation from someone else. If I arrive at the “Libra” while someone else say I am “totally a Taurus”, then that this raises doubts. But if 10 people independently told me “yeah, Libra fits” then it suggests that whatever it the definition of Libra, it probably is a better fit than the other signs (that does not mean that horoscopes work…in order to support that you would have to show that consistently people born in the Libra sign are assumed to be Libra by people who do not know when they were born).

            Also note that my prior was rather that they are in fact not mutually exclusive and I expected to be able to identify myself with something like 4-6 of them.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I just set out to answer the questions in such a way as to end up with the Logistician-type personality, and smashed it on my first try. A feathered touch on the scales is all it takes to secure whatever outcome you subconsciously desire. This is why actual studies are properly blinded and controlled, and have an n greater than one.

            I’m afraid you are underestimating, as people commonly do, your own vulnerability to confirmation bias and wishful thinking. So like a Gemini.

          • Tibor says:

            Earthly knight: You are probably right, though when I tried I was not able get an entertainer (which I aimed for – ended up with campaigner instead…I have not read the description too carefully though). I am Taurus by the way 😀

            You are of course right that proper studies are many many times better…but you also present good arguments for that this “pseudochecking” might be even worse than I thought it was, giving disinformation as opposed to anecdotal evidence.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I just set out to answer the questions in such a way as to end up with the Logistician-type personality, and smashed it on my first try. A feathered touch on the scales is all it takes to secure whatever outcome you subconsciously desire.

            But…isn’t that the point?

            I mean, if you subconsciously want to identify as thinking vs. feeling, one good reason for this might be because you are more thinking than feeling.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It’s not crazy to think that people might be fairly reliable reporters of their own personality traits (although it’s hard to see what use a personality test could be if it’s not more reliable than naive self-reports). That won’t help much here, though, because thinking and feeling aren’t personality traits and the Myers-Briggs scales don’t hold up under factor analysis.

    • nydwracu says:

      The complaint I hear from people who are actually into MBTI about MBTI tests is that you’re not supposed to test for I/E and J/P: the abbreviations unpack to orderings of N/S and F/T, so ‘INFP’ actually means “dominant Fi, secondary Ne, tertiary Si, inferior Te”, not “introverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceptive”.

    • Acedia says:

      Myers-Briggs always ends up ascribing a bunch of virtues to me (like selflessness) that I definitely do not have, even when I try really really hard to answer honestly. I don’t trust it at all.

      • PDV says:

        I’ve found that, when there are long-form descriptions of the types, the one that I am assigned based on the answers usually does not fit (I notice some things, both good and bad, which feel correct, and others, both good and bad, which do not), but one of the closely adjacent ones does, where the flaws feel like a reasonable assessment of my flaws, and it doesn’t impute me to have any good qualities that feel out of place.

        This is considered pretty much normal.

    • Kaj says:

      If you want to look at a more scientifically established personality spectrum I would recommend the Big Five.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits

      • jeorgun says:

        Anecdotally, my MBTI results have remained stable throughout my life, and descriptions of my MBTI type resonate strongly with me, while my Big Five results fluctuate constantly and never ring true much at all. Completely unscientifically, I’m therefore inclined to dismiss the Big Five as a useful test, but I’m curious about other people who’ve had the opposite experience.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Descriptions of your MBTI type also resonate strongly with me (except the stuff about photography, I hate photography), which is bad, because I am at present ostensibly an ESTJ.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            I know the Forer Effect says that everyone sometimes feels [foobar] and other times feels [foobaz]. But each behavior described in the link, I exhibit pathologically [0]. To a point I’m confident most others don’t exhibit. E.g. I can easily spend 6 hours optimizing a videogame strategy such that I achieve ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. The slightest screwup, and I reach for the reset button again even though I could easily have beaten the level on the first try. This behavior is not the exception for me, this is the default. And I know this isn’t normal for others, because others don’t have the patience to even read the manual.

            That the description fits me is unsurprising, since my MBTI returns INTP. And no, the other type descriptions don’t resonate with me nearly as strongly.

            [0] Except photography. wtf.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I expect that min-maxing/completionism and posting in the SSC comments section both correlate strongly with conscientiousness. Pity that Myers-Briggs does not have a conscientiousness scale.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            lol. My most recent Big 5 quiz results placed me in the ~6th percentile for conscientiousness. Whatever the force driving my min/max behavior, it’s definitely not conscientiousness.

      • Jaskologist says:

        People say MBTI is unscientific, but I feel completely comfortable predicting that the community here is disproportionately NT, just as my engineering school was. The fact that I can do that surely means something.

    • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

      Scott has touched briefly on this before. I’m surprised, because I’d have expected someone to link to it by now. iirc, nerdier types disproportionately fall into the INTJ and INTP camps. And yes I am an INTP. From the Lesswrong 2012 Census:

      MYERS-BRIGGS
      INTJ: 163, 13.8%
      INTP: 143, 12.1%
      ENTJ: 35, 3%
      ENTP: 30, 2.5%
      INFP: 26, 2.2%
      INFJ: 25. 2.1%
      ISTJ: 14, 1.2%
      No answer: 715, 60%

      This includes all types with greater than 10 people. You can see the full table here.

      • Agronomous says:

        Expressed as percentages of those who answered, in parentheses:

        MYERS-BRIGGS

        INTJ 163 13.8% (37.4%)
        INTP 143 12.1% (32.8%)
        ENTJ 35 3% (8.0%)
        ENTP 30 2.5% (6.9%)
        INFP 26 2.2% (6.0%)
        INFJ 25 2.1% (5.7%)
        ISTJ 14 1.2% (3.2%)
        No answer 715 60% (163%)

        (Is there any way to do tables, or even just preformatting, in comments?)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          You can use <code> tags to get a monospaced font for alignment, but you can’t use multiple spaces for alignment. (though you can use &nbsp; and other tricks)

          INTJ 163 13.8% (37.4%)
          INTP 143 12.1% (32.8%)
          ENTJ 035 03.0% (08.0%)
          ENTP 030 02.5% (06.9%)
          INFP 026 02.2% (06.0%)
          INFJ 025 02.1% (05.7%)
          ISTJ 014 01.2% (03.2%)
          blnk 715 60.% (163%)

  22. Quinn says:

    In London, a student diversity officer who tweeted with the #killallwhiteman hashtag has been charged with “sending threatening communication.” Thoughts:

    • It’s ludicrous to say that this kind of nonspecific griping is a threat. There’s no way this would pass muster under US law.

    • But promoting division and hatred is probably not a good activity for a student diversity officer.

    • But charging her is totally unjust and adds way more fuel to the fire than her tweet did.

    • Why does no one understand the concept of blowback?

    To recap, dismissing her as an SDO was justified, but charging her is baseless and Draconian, and I expect the whole issue to blow up into a horrendous flame war in 3, 2, 1…

    • Nornagest says:

      Didn’t basically the same thing happen in the US a couple months back? I don’t think any charges were filed there, but other than that…

      That being said, speech protections are far stronger in the US than the UK. It would not surprise me if #killallwhitemen was prosecutable over there, though it would surprise me if it came to anything more than a headache for all involved.

    • John Schilling says:

      Except that she wasn’t dismissed as an SDO: “Mustafa remained in her position as welfare and diversity officer after a petition for a motion of no confidence fell short of the 3% of union members required to trigger a poll.”

      Yeah, I should probably be more outraged than amused by this. But I am not.

      • Quinn says:

        Wait, how did I miss that before?

        I’m inclined to chalk this up to the usual student indifference to student government, and not to any particular sentiment on either side of the issue.

    • suntzuanime says:

      The UK does not really respect free speech, this is sad but unsurprising. I guess it’s at least nice to see them exercising consistency in their authoritarian crackdown on people making mean tweets – if you’re going to arrest people for saying “kill all blacks” you should arrest them for saying “kill all whites”. But you really shouldn’t arrest them for either.

      Article is not clear that the “threatening communication” was just the “#killallwhites” hashtag, and I don’t trust The Guardian not to lie with implication. So unless you have more specific information, let’s not get ahead of ourselves saying that there was no threat. On the other hand, the article says she’s also being charged with “sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network”, which definitely seems on firm ground but should not be a crime.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Interestingly, Bahar Mustafa recently tweeted encouraging people to attack delegates at the Conservative Party Conference currently taking place in Manchester, saying that they “should be afraid to walk the streets” (a retweet from an anarchist group) and that “any violence that happens to [them]… is self-defence” (her own words). She’s since deleted those tweets but screenshots can be found in a few minutes.

      She was not arrested for these, but I wonder whether they have something to do with the fact that the police decided to arrest her now…

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Am I the only one who finds this case, and the implicit concept of race at work, utterly surreal? Consider:

      –Bahar Mustafa is white. Source: I have seen pictures of her.
      –She is a Cypriot, and so European. Cyprus is part of Europe. Not even a poor part, either: it has a higher GDP per capita than the Czech Republic, Portugal, or Poland.
      –Her ancestors were Ottoman Turks. The Ottoman Empire, recall, was a brutal colonial power. If her ancestors were also Cypriots, there’s a high chance they were involved with the slave trade, seeing as how Cyprus was once a major point-of-entry for traffic in slaves from East Africa.
      –In videos she speaks with (what my untrained Yankee ears hear as) a perfectly typical working-class English accent.
      –If she is muslim, as most Turks are, she does not appear to wear a headscarf or any other identifying sign of her faith. Consequently, any discrimination she has faced on account of her ethnicity or religion will be solely in virtue of either a) her name or b) her identifying herself as muslim or Turkish to others.

      So how in the blue blazes can a white, European descendant of colonialist slave-traders qualify as a marginalized minority? When she talks about killing all the white men, does she mean to include her immediate family members?

      • John Schilling says:

        She’s trans-Arab, in the same way that Rachel Dolezal was trans-black. White dudes like ourselves are not allowed to question her experience or self-identification.

      • TheNybbler says:

        Yeah, I really can’t take seriously anyone raging about white people who is whiter than my white self. And she is. I don’t agree with her arrest, but I do take guilty pleasure in it.

      • Bassicallyboss says:

        I’m pretty sure “#killallwhitemen” is never (or pretty much never) used seriously.

        Like telling the joke about “Why are women such bad drivers? (There are no roads in the kitchen.)” It’s so over the top that you can’t possibly mean it, so the audience assumes you don’t, and it’s interpreted as “I think that women, on average, drive less well than men” but funnier. (And it wouldn’t even mean this if you hedge properly.)

        If you’re into social justice and hanging out on Tumblr with your SJ friends, and you hear about a white man who did something racially or sexually insensitive, “#killallwhitemen,” means “Wow, isn’t it frustrating that white men are often insensitive to less privileged classes?” but funnier.

        Neither go over well with the wrong audience (and I actually feel that the latter’s worse, since it joke-endorses violence instead of merely joke-endorsing an oppressive gender role, but I’m a white man so of course I would), so if you don’t think it’s funny, you probably aren’t the intended audience.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I think this description makes a lot of sense.

          However, for a movement whose theme seems so often to be avoiding incendiary humor precisely because there are groups out there you’re not aware of who will be offended, I’m compelled to wonder why SJWs are apparently according themselves special privilege to use this type of humor.

          • Bassicallyboss says:

            I think it comes down to more emotion than dedication to ideals. Social Justice makes a lot more sense if you think about it like a holy war. They have a noble stated purpose (salvation of souls/ending all discrimination), achieved through less-noble means (mass violence/mass harassment), and a tendency to turn on fringe ingroup members (4th crusade sack of Constantinople/the backlash against “white feminism”). The rhetoric is violent and righteous, too: “Social Justice Warrior.” “Fight the patriarchy.” But “the patriarchy” is best understood as a historical system of class relations, continuing into the present, which are not the fault of any specific living persons. It’s a lot easier to feel righteous fury at whoever has the most privilege than against abstract concepts.

            Also worth noting, though, that most of the feminists I know would sooner chide their fellows for saying such a thing than say it themselves, even the ones who are into social justice. They just aren’t the ones shouting the loudest.

          • Patrick Spens says:

            Something it’s important to keep in mind is that “SJWs” look at the world through a specific (if unclear) hierarchy of power and privilege, and people’s words and actions are judged based upon where they are in that hierarchy. This is where the whole, “punch up not down” line comes from in comedy.

            Basically, there’s two parts to determining whether a joke is offensive.
            A) What wrongthink is behind the joke?
            B) How much is this person/group of people having this particular wrongthink going to matter in the lives of others?

            So the, “no roads in the kitchen” crack is basically just tasteless if you’re telling it to a couple of your buddies over drinks. But it’s pretty concerning/offensive if it’s someone in senior management at a large corporation. In both cases the wrongthink is the same (woman can’t drive/should be domestic) but in the second case, those beliefs could well impact peoples careers/livelihoods.

            Now if you apply this framework to the #killallmen tweet and you get.
            Wrongthink: men, as a class, are assholes
            Will this negatively affect others: little if at all

            And the joke is, if dumb, largely okay.

            Now there is definitely some motivated reasoning going on in the social justice movement about who is powerful when, but that’s a start on answering your question.

            Also, as a reminder to everyone: Social Justice Warrior and SJW both became popular as slurs, anyone self-identifying as one is doing so to reclaim a slur, and using “Social Justice Warrior” as an example of the violent rhetoric of the social justice movement is silly as all hell.

          • Bassicallyboss says:

            @Patrick Spens:
            Thanks for explaining about privilege hierarchies. I was going to give a crack at it myself, but I always tie myself in knots over inferential distance concerns when I comment on here and I wasn’t sure it was necessary.

            Also, I didn’t realize “social justice warrior” was originally a slur, though I suppose I should have picked it up from context. Got to be more careful about using that from now on.

          • Echo says:

            How does that hierarchy of power and privilege jibe with “there is no Oppression Olympics”?
            If every person can be ranked and placed on a totem pole, with the lowest at the top punching “up” at everyone below…

          • Patrick Spens says:

            @Echo

            These are slightly different concepts. Someone playing Oppression Olympics is using the suffering they’ve experienced to either A) claim that someone else’s suffering didn’t exist/doesn’t matter or B) grant themselves some moral/factual authority. Its basically “Oh, you think you have it bad” with an extra level of moralizing smarmyness.

            Some level of comparing suffering can be useful, but it usually just wastes everyone’s time. Also, hierarchy ain’t exactly the right word, it’s more fluid than that. And can depend on which “hat” you’re wearing at the time.

          • Echo says:

            It sounds a lot like keeping too many hens. There’s always a pecking order, but it’s fluid enough that it has to be constantly reinforced by ripping some feathers off the one below you.

    • Echo says:

      What she’s actually being charged for:
      https://i.imgur.com/Kio2BsO.jpg https://i.imgur.com/Wh4k3QD.jpg

      Pretty clear cut under english law, by my limited understanding. At least if she’s treated to the same standards as anyone else would be.

      The police are only giving her what she demanded. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_yJdpzy500&feature=youtu.be
      And before we rush to her defense, can someone explain why we should bother, when she’d never think to do the same for us? From a game theory standpoint, that just leads to the loss of freedom for everyone-but-her, which is exactly what she wants.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Because we have little ability to affect the outcome of her case, and rushing to her defense signals our superior moral character.

        • Echo says:

          So in turn we should show our deeper commitment to free speech and disdain for cheap signalling through sober analysis that… serves as a cheap signal that we are serious people with superior moral characters.

          Signals all the way down.

          • anon says:

            I can meta on top of your meta but it’s easier for us to just skip the foreplay and admit that my moral character is superior to everyone else’s.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          I’m not sure why signalling should be the go-to explanation. If I were to say something like “Freedom of speech should be defended as a matter of principle: first, for its own sake, because a life where you can think as you like and say as you think is incomparably better than one where you cannot; second, because we wish to maintain a marketplace of ideas where, with sufficient time and diligence, good arguments will tend to outcompete bad arguments and thereby improve mankind’s lot in the world; and third, because the ability to speak freely is the best safeguard we have against all kinds of abuse and oppression,” my motives would be totally transparent: I wish to persuade you, and any others who may be looking on, of the value of free speech. I am, if you like, turning my brain into a vector for the spread of the free speech meme. Signalling may be one function of moral assertion, but persuading and converting others is still its central purpose.

  23. Gwen S. says:

    Would it be in bad form to link to my personal ad here?

  24. Anonymous says:

    I often see arguments here slated as being ‘just so stories’, particularly ones involving evolutionary psychology. I’m not sure I understand the complaint. Isn’t every hypothesis a just so story – a plausible sounding conjecture that might or might not be true? And to try to determine whether it is likely or unlikely to be true, we work out what implications it being true would have and then check the evidence to see if it does or does not appear to fit those implications?

    You could criticize a hypothesis as bad if it is inconsistent with evidence, but the phrase ‘just so story’ doesn’t seem to make sense to me, seems more like an empty dismissal than anything else.

    • Nornagest says:

      Evolutionary psychology isn’t totally bogus, but it’s unusually easy to use it to construct half-assed ad-hoc justifications for just about any random behavior you happen to be interested in. It’s also unusually easy to complain about because many of those justifications involve emotionally charged things like violence and ingroup/outgroup politics and mating strategies.

      As a heuristic, if an evopsych hypothesis holds for more than one species of nonhuman primate there might be something to it. Anything relying on analogy to just e.g. chimpanzees or bonobos is speculative at best, and stuff relying on abstract strategic arguments is worse.

      • Anonymous says:

        “Anything relying on analogy to just e.g. chimpanzees or bonobos is speculative at best”

        I very much agree with that. But I’m not sure what you mean by ‘abstract strategic arguments’. For example: is the claim “what we consider attractive is defined by what traits we have evolved to subconsciously view as conveying reproductive fitness” an abstract strategic argument? Is it a bogus just-so story? It seems to me to be obviously true. But I’m sure posting it here without having first questioned the use of the phrase ‘just so story’ would have gotten it decried with exactly that phrase. And maybe still will.

        • Nornagest says:

          For example: is the claim “what we consider attractive is defined by what traits we have evolved to subconsciously view as conveying reproductive fitness” an abstract strategic argument? Is it a bogus just-so story?

          True, but uninformative; it’s not a just-so story, but mainly because there’s not a lot of story there. (At least, it’s largely true; there’s a social component too.)

          Evolutionary arguments for why we find specific traits attractive often fall to the level of just-so stories, though, largely through unfalsifiability and unwarranted specificity. Take for example Desmond Morris’ theory that proto-human women evolved fatty breasts when they started standing upright and the prominent buttocks found in many primate species as a sexual display stopped working so well: it’s superficially plausible, very specific, unfalsifiable, and almost completely non-predictive.

          • Anonymous says:

            “At least, it’s largely true; there’s a social component too.”

            Surely a trait being considered attractive by one’s peers is evidence that it conveys reproductive fitness?

            “Take for example Desmond Morris’ theory that proto-human women evolved fatty breasts when they started standing upright and the prominent buttocks found in many primate species as a sexual display stopped working so well: it’s superficially plausible, very specific, unfalsifiable, and almost completely non-predictive.”

            True, but I think unfalsifiable and non-predictive amount to the same thing. I don’t expect anyone gets particularly upset about this hypothesis because, as you say, it’s pretty much meaningless. It implies nothing. Hypotheses that people do get upset about do imply things – upsetting things, which is why people get upset about them. But then the problem in those cases, surely, is that the things that the hypothesis implies are believed to not fit the evidence. Which is not a problem of the hypothesis being a ‘just so story’ but of it being plausible but unsupported by evidence.

            Or to put it another way, it seems that any evolutionary psychology hypothesis that could be described as a just so story is going to be so inoffensive that nobody will care, so any evolutionary psychology hypothesis that people do get upset about probably isn’t a just so story.

          • Nornagest says:

            Surely a trait being considered attractive by one’s peers is evidence that it conveys reproductive fitness?

            All else equal, yeah. But that doesn’t get you to “defined by”. You can have evidence for something that is not in fact true in the case you’re looking at.

            As to Morris and breasts, I picked that example because it wasn’t likely to upset anyone and derail the thread. There are far more controversial ones with the same problems, which I’d rather not describe in detail here because they’re likely to upset people and derail the thread.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Take for example Desmond Morris’ theory that proto-human women evolved fatty breasts when they started standing upright and the prominent buttocks found in many primate species as a sexual display stopped working so well: it’s superficially plausible, very specific, unfalsifiable, and almost completely non-predictive.

            Is it unfalsifiable and non-predictive, though? Here’s a prediction that it makes: human men fifty years from now will tend, other things being equal, to be more attracted to women with large breasts than women with no breasts to speak of. And here’s an observation that could falsify it: human men, fifty years from now, are universally attracted to women with no breasts to speak of over women with larger breasts.

            So I don’t think the problem is one of failing to predict or being unable to falsify. A more incisive statement of the problem might be: the hypothesis fails to make any prediction that we did not antecedently regard as highly likely, or, better yet, the hypothesis fails to make any prediction that is not also made by indefinitely many comparably plausible competing hypotheses. But notice that once we’ve made these refinements, the objection’s target seems to have expanded from evolutionary psychology to just about any causal explanation of human behavior.

          • Nornagest says:

            @EK — The hypothesis was developed in part to explain why men like breasts. Observing fifty years from now that men still like breasts lends it no additional support.

            Changes over time in how much men like breasts might, though. You could in principle compare the model against beauty standards over evolutionary timescales, but that data’s really noisy where it exists at all.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @EK — The hypothesis was developed in part to explain why men like breasts. Observing fifty years from now that men still like breasts lends it no additional support.

            Okay, but what does this have to do with prediction or falsification? Here is what I take to be a fairly canonical definition of falsifiability (suppressing some needed epicycles):

            F: A theory or hypothesis is falsifiable iff we can deduce from it a consequence which could be refuted by some future observation.

            Morris’s hypothesis meets this condition. Your suggestion, I take it, is that this is not enough, because the hypothesis is designed to explain a type of observation (that men prefer women with large breasts) rather than a set of token observations, so future observations of that same type cannot serve to confirm or falsify it. This yields the following revision:

            F’: A theory or hypothesis is falsifiable iff we can deduce from it a consequence which could be refuted by some future observation that does not belong to the same observation-type as the observations the theory or hypothesis was devised to explain.

            Setting aside what I suspect is the rather hopeless project of individuating observation-types, F’ is too strict. Suppose that I construct an elaborate and convincing sociological theory explaining Katy Perry’s popularity, which has as a consequence that Katy Perry will continue to be popular 50 years hence. If this prediction is borne out, wouldn’t that serve as a striking confirmation of the theory? Conversely, if the prediction fails, wouldn’t this be a straightforward case of falsification? It seems as thought our answer in both cases must be yes, yet the confirming observation (that Katy Perry is popular 50 years from now) would clearly belong to the same observation-type as the observations which originally served as the theory’s explanandum (that Katy Perry has lately been popular).

            In what does the difference between the two cases– Morris’s hypothesis and my Katy Perry theory– consist? I reiterate my claim from earlier, that it consists in the fact that the specified consequence of Morris’s theory we regard as antecedently highly probable, while the predictions of the Katy Perry theory assume a far greater risk of falsification. The problems with evolutionary psychology, if there be such, will not be anything quite as simple as a failure to generate testable or falsifiable predictions. We will have to be a little more perspicuous.

          • Nornagest says:

            Would you rather I say “trivially falsifiable”? I don’t care much for semantic arguments.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The difference is important, and I don’t think it’s semantic. Failing to satisfy the F-condition given above would probably be a fatal defect for a scientific theory or hypothesis, so it’s good to know that Morris’s hypothesis, and presumably most other claims made by evolutionary psychologists, are not vulnerable to this objection. On the other hand, it’s not so clear that a scientific theory or hypothesis must satisfy our revised condition F”

            F”: A theory or hypothesis is non-trivially falsifiable iff we can deduce from it a consequence which could be refuted by some future observation and which we do not presently regard as highly likely independently of the theory or hypothesis.

            It is also unclear, as noted above, whether many widely-accepted theories or hypotheses in the social sciences meet this condition.

    • brad says:

      If someone strongly asserts something as true and the only thing he provides to back it up is a plausible sounding conjecture, that what do you expect the reaction to be? If there’s actual evidence, lead with that.

      Separately, I don’t think the method you describe is a very good one for discovering truths. If the hypothesis generation method were really independent maybe, but in practice the two steps of coming up with a story and working out the implications are jumbled together. That presents risks of curve fitting and cherry picking.

      Some questions we just may not have a good method for answering right now — better to say so then to dress up motivated guessing as science.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      The more rigorous concept that “just so story” hints at is overfitting. As a general rule, total noise can be explained so long as the explanation is as complex as the data and all the data is known in advance. To demonstrate that an explanation is worth something, it must be simpler than the data it explains (hard to measure!) or predict data that did not go into it.

  25. Mark says:

    Are sex drives a net positive thing?

    • Nornagest says:

      What’s your utility function look like?

      • Mark says:

        5x-10 ish
        (?)

        I personally find the sex drive pretty irritating in that it makes it very difficult to ignore strangers, and also, if ever I have to do anything I find boring, I end up thinking… why am I not having sex now. I’ve been thinking that for about 20 years (on and off).

        Maybe that’s just me?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Genetically? Yes.

      • Mark says:

        You could have sexual reproduction without a sex drive though…

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Could you?

          I mean, just from a logical contradiction standpoint that seems impossible. Sex is how we reproduce, how anything that can’t reproduce asexually reproduces. So something will “drive” a sexually reproducing creature to have sex, and whatever that is, it’s the sex drive.

          • Mark says:

            Hmmmm…well yes, I suppose if you adopt a really broad definition of sex drive that is true – but what I mean is, you could reproduce using some genetic jiggery pokery and get your offspring without any desire for sexual intercourse.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So, you mean is sex drive net positive in the current world for humans at our current state of development?

            Or do you mean for only you, personally?

          • Mark says:

            For humans in general at the current state (or at a slightly more advanced state) of development.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark:
            It is an interesting question, but I think, given the world’s poverty level, snapping a finger and eliminating the sex drive would lead to a massive population collapse in many countries. They aren’t going to be able to afford the “jiggery pokery”.

            Although, perhaps the loss of sex drive, but not loss of mating ability would get you nearer what you mean. The I think you would be a situation, population wise, that is similar to developed countries who have ready access to effective contraception.

            On the other hand, would pair-bonding between males and females occur without the sex drive? What effects would that have on population?

            Even among couples that chose to still bond and have children, what effects would this have on the emotional health of the pair bond as the stress of child rearing kicked in? What sort of implications would that have for society and long term cohesion?

            You can see where I am pointing, but I don’t dismiss what you are saying out of hand.

          • Mark says:

            “On the other hand, would pair-bonding between males and females occur without the sex drive?”

            It’s called marriage.

            Seriously though, I think it’s possible to have a good partnership with a focus on raising children, a loving family, rather than the sexy stuff. Is the old hormone rush necessary to get it off the ground in the first place… maybe? Arranged marriage might suggest not?

          • chaosmage says:

            Sexless marriages are less happy, and people in them are more likely to have at least considered divorce.

            Sex is one of the strongest means of bonding. Any long-term relationship needs frequent bonding, to overcome stresses and conflicts. So even though sex is evidently not strictly necessary for a successful marriage, I think it should be clearly a net gain in the median case.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark:
            Assuming you are male, heterosexual, and relatively far from the middle on the Kinsey scale, how would you feel about an arranged marriage to another heterosexual male? One in which the expectation was that penetrative sex would occur at the proper time in order to produce offspring? Yes, that last bit is sci-fi, but so is eliminating the sex drive worldwide.

            I’m not saying such an arrangement is impossible to be made workable, but it seems very unlikely.

            The counter argument might be to imagine a group of mates, good friends, who simply pop down to the clinic, give up their DNA sample and get “womb pack” in a few days.

          • Nita says:

            Infatuation and lust are distinct experiences. Asexual couples could still go through a period of romantic obsession that facilitates the transition from independence to commitment.

            And yeah, sex without lust is not much fun, but if neither person has a sex drive, their interests are aligned, which is nice 🙂

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nita:
            Would you disagree with the contention that Infatuation and Lust are significantly (90+%) overlapping in bog standard heterosexual relationships?

          • Nita says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            I’m not sure what you mean by “overlapping”. Infatuation is a long-term state that tends to last up to a couple of years. Lust is a short-term state that can either arise spontaneously or be entered on purpose by anyone with a functioning sex drive, even if they’re not infatuated with anyone.

            Human bonding in general doesn’t seem to require lust. E.g., although most people don’t lust after their closest friends and family, they can still form strong bonds with them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nita:
            My impression, based on personal experience and observation, is that men and women don’t tend to become infatuated with each other unless they also, at some point, lust after each other. I would say that the lust/sexual interest almost always comes before the infatuation. Various names besides lust are applied to that interest, like chemistry, but down at the bottom its sexual interest (which then leads to infatuation).

            Even if I have a female friend, and I work closely and intimately with them, if I become infatuated with them it won’t be because I merely want them as a friend.

            In addition, the kind of infatuation that occurs between heterosexual men and women is different than the kind of infatuation that occurs between heterosexual men and other men or heterosexual women and other women.

            All of this is in very broad strokes and may not apply to any given persons situation. That is why I was applying “bog standard” as a descriptor (and I understand that some may object to that descriptor, but I think it describes a very useful concept here).

          • Nita says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            I would say that the lust/sexual interest almost always comes before the infatuation.

            Fascinating. I need to appreciate someone on non-sexual grounds before I can truly want them. And I would say that “chemistry” refers to the first sparks of infatuation — although, of course, the addition of lust makes it even more intense.

            In addition, the kind of infatuation that occurs between heterosexual men and women is different than the kind of infatuation that occurs between heterosexual men and other men or heterosexual women and other women.

            Uh, I wouldn’t know. Infatuation with men, women and non-gendered people feels about the same to me. It’s often accompanied by lust, but that might be because I’m not asexual, and infatuation is a greedy thing.

            All of this is in very broad strokes and may not apply to any given persons situation.

            Well, I don’t have any data on what’s typical or “standard” — so, obviously, I’m mostly generalizing from one example.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nita:
            I take you are not heterosexual and/or not towards the end of the kinsey scale? At least that seems like what you are saying or at least implying.

            Typical male-male friendship can develop into infatuation, but it’s different than the kind of infatuation of male -> female. Again, at least in my experience and observation. Observationally, this also applies to female-female friendships.

          • Mark says:

            “how would you feel about an arranged marriage to another heterosexual male”

            I don’t know… I used to have a lot of fun living with other heterosexual men – and to be honest I think the major thing that gets in the way of that kind of non-sexual relationship is the desire to be having sex. If you sit around for too long watching movies with your male friends and none of you are having sex, everyone ends up feeling stressed.
            You could probably say the same thing about living with family – the major reason that people don’t want to do it is because they feel they should be having sex.
            Yeah… I’m going to say that more often than not sexual desire actually damages/destroys relationships.

            “One in which the expectation was that penetrative sex would occur at the proper time in order to produce offspring”

            Hmmmm….

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark:
            You also seem to ignoring the arranged part.

            Absent the sex-drive, how likely are pair bonds to form between male and female? Your answer was arranged marriages.

            Do you want your parents deciding the one person who you are going to live with for the next 20 to 30 years (until child-reading is done)?

          • Mark says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Yeah, fair enough. Actually, the only possible reason I’d go for an arranged marriage is sex.

          • I expect that sex supports pair bonding in arranged marriages just as in chosen marriages.

          • keranih says:

            Do you want your parents deciding the one person who you are going to live with for the next 20 to 30 years (until child-reading is done)?

            Arranged marriages are not part of my cultural background, but the friends and acquaintances I know who are from a culture that includes arranged marriages tell me that the coercion part of it is (vastly) overstated.

            It is far more typical, I am told, for parents/extended family to “window shop” potentials, do background checks, and arrange introductions. The pair are then allowed to socialize under supervision, and develop an attraction (or not.) If not, another option is presented. Whether or not multiple options are on the table at any one time depends on family custom and individual prefs.

            While nearly all of the people from this sort of tradition had a horror story of a young female who had rebelled against her parent’s guidance and struck out on her own with her self-selected ‘true love’, the stories were rarely about cruel oppressive parents, and more about flighty teens infatuated with totally unsuitable scalawags. Half of the stories ended with the truly repentant daughter coming back home and being (eventually) married to a more boring person suggested by their parents.

    • Follow-up question: If we determine that sex drives ARE net positives, should we put aphrodisiacs in the water supply?

      • Jon Gunnarsson says:

        Just because some level of sex drive is a net positive that doesn’t mean that an increase in sex drive is also a net positive. As an analogy, consider CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Without any CO2, we would all die in short order, so CO2 in the atmosphere is a net positive. It does not follow that increasing CO2 concentration is necessarily a net benefit.

        • My mistake, this is the question I meant to ask:

          If we determine that sex drives are net positives on the margin, should we put aphrodisiacs in the water supply?

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            If you are able to determine that higher sex drives are always and for all people a good thing, that these aphrodisiacs have no serious adverse side-effects, and that they are cheap enough, then yes.

            But given that these conditions aren’t ever likely to be met, the practical answer is no. A much more reasonable approach would be to tell people and especially doctors and pharmacists about your research showing the benefits of higher sex drive, and then sell aphrodisiacs through the usual channels.

  26. no one special says:

    Hello Scott and SSC Commentariat.

    Is there going to be another Michigan Rationalist meeting any time soon? Last one I knew of was the HPMOR wrap party. I found them quite entertaining.

  27. David says:

    @Scott Alexander

    Does this comment (from the thread about reviewing Manufacturing Consent) refer to the Apolyton CIV / SMAC forums? How long ago was that?

    “I posted as “Giant Squid”. I’m not too proud of my time there. Don’t judge me, I was like fourteen at the time.”

  28. Gary Jones says:

    “cows emit methane which increases global warming.”

    To understand the outputs of an agronomic system the whole system must be considered.

    In comments below there is discussion of digestive flora both inside and outside of guts and how they can vary depending on diet, environmental conditions, and animal species.

    The whole system also includes the setting, whether it is a natural pasture or some sort of confined feeding system. In a grassland the net emissions of the system is the useful measure, and that means that the emissions of the sward with and without grazers is an interesting question.

    There are methanotrophs, which consume methane, as well as methanogens which produce it, and their relative populations determine the net emissions of the system. This is relevant because there have been studies that claim that the net emissions of methane in natural grassland with grazers is less than one without grazers due to the rude good health of such systems and the resultant high population of methanotrophs. IOW, such whole systems consume more methane than the animals produce, perhaps by orders of magnitude.

    It remains to be convincingly shown that the way to reduce or eliminate methane emissions from animal agriculture is to optimize the genetics of the animals, their digestive symbionts, the pasture species and the soil resident micro and macro flora, but there are an increasing number of researchers and advocates making such claims. Such “carbon cowboys” as they are sometimes called are convinced that such systems are carbon sinks rather than sources, and that the net effect of their existence is to scrub the atmosphere of worrisome GHGs. They are the solution, not the problem.

    IMV the issue is even larger since such systems also provide many “environmental services” valued by humans, and provide habitat for many species besides the ones of agronomic value. The net value of such systems is a combination of the human food produced, the services provided, some aesthetic considerations (eat the view), and even ethical values given that the number and quality of lives is so much greater than that of alternative uses such as a bean field.

    It’s not just complicated, it’s complex.

    • SUT says:

      Beyond herd grazers being net-positive / net-negative in the GHG column, I think they are an optimal solution to another under-appreciated environmental concern – that we want the countryside to be wild instead endless rows of monoculture.

      Maybe the future of food isn’t everyone eating insects for protein, but engineering a tasty moose, and getting most of our calories from grazers adapted to every region’s flora.

      • kerani says:

        an optimal solution to another under-appreciated environmental concern – that we want the countryside to be wild instead endless rows of monoculture

        But a grazer-based agriculture isn’t wild, either. It’s human-modified, just in a different manner. (More aesthetically pleasing, less efficient(*) use of space, energy and manpower.)

        (*) Under current constraints. Technology may change this.

  29. Alex says:

    Cosmopolitanism provides benefits but I think its case is weakest for the poorest countries, who don’t contribute much to global warming, don’t threaten to fire nukes, and don’t trade with us much. In other words, richer countries just have little to gain from treating these nations as equals. But it’s for exactly these countries that the effective altruism folks demand the most sacrifices. (Related)

    • Zakharov says:

      Effective altruists are altruists.

      • Alex says:

        I think one major purpose of altruism is to help one’s group, however we define one’s group.

        Let’s think of two established groups who are deciding whether to merge into a larger group. Each group should be evaluating this decision based on the return for their group. Each should benefit. Then they can create a shared social contract.

        Right now there are many groups on Earth. World trade has been increasing for a while (although that trend may have ended recently). Global warming and nuclear weapons are other reasons to pay close attention to other groups. It may be better to merge with these groups-or at least, to move closer to a merger. But when rich countries consider very poor countries, each of these reasons is weak.

        • JBeshir says:

          A good expansion of altruism as a way of helping your group that I’ve heard of that I think captures the issue here is the idea of circles of concern. Your innermost circle of concern usually is yourself/your immediate family, then friends and/or extended family, then people you identify with more distantly, then maybe your countrymen, and then maybe everyone. Groups within groups, with the innermost group being valued most highly and the outermost groups having less value.

          People seem to define these circles differently and have different ratios of priority between them, and this difference is a difference in values; people don’t want to change their values and don’t expect them to be grounded in anything.

          It’s plausible people who value the outermost groups more, adapted to do so because of traits that were designed to generate useful reciprocation or similar.

          However, the adaptation is part of their value system and they don’t care whether it is suboptimal according to purely selfish values or evolutionary optimal behaviour, because those things aren’t their value system and they don’t actually care about them. Like how people don’t “want” to change their value system to hate contraception instead of finding it useful.

          In theory, how you draw your circles of concern is independent from trying to help others within those circles more effectively.

          In practice, I think most EA identified people, myself included, identify very weakly with their country and tend to assign similar levels of value between people in other countries and people in their own, which leads to the focus on aid to the poorest nations and a lack of talk about how useful it is for domestic people.

          You can also observe this tendency to care a lot about distant circles of concern in the animal welfare part of EA, which puts enough concern in a more-distant-yet circle including animals to want to help them.

          • Alex says:

            Sure. Different people have different circles of concern. Some nations are more selfish than others.

            At each circle’s level, however, there is competition. Individuals whose philosophy deters them from having children have genes (likely ones predisposing them to their philosophy) that will be bred out of the population. Parties that advocate boosting the foreign aid budget may be beaten by, e.g., Donald Trump. Nations that waste their treasuries may even be invaded (although with the invention of nuclear weapons this seems to happen much less).

            So folks can resist changing their value system, but if their values are greatly suboptimal, eventually reality is going to bite.

            Charity is actually beside the point. It’s such a small sliver of what the US is doing around the world that, who cares? They spent more on the Iraq War than the foreign aid budget of all developed countries for 50 years, and most foreign aid is not even about poverty. (Okay, foreign aid is not charity, but I still think this argument works.) We ought to be thinking about government policy.

            The challenge I see at the moment to EA-type views is not at the national level, but the personal level. Many EAs are liberal atheists who, statistically, are not having many kids. But the world is going to be more religious (and probably conservative) in 2050 because more religious folks do. Perhaps eventually this may also change international politics…

          • Zakharov says:

            To me thinking about the self-interest of a country is bizarre. If I care about self-interest, I care about my own self-interest. If I care about doing good, I care about doing good for humans in general.

            If values opposed to my own spread easier than my values, I’ll just have to do my best to play from behind. I suspect, though, that Cthulu will continue to swim left.

  30. chaosmage says:

    Here’s a novel thought experiment I’ve been wondering about lately. This crowd seems to be good with this kind of thing…

    “Alice lacks youth and marketable skills, so she expects to make relatively little income in the rest of her life. She takes out large loans with the intent to default on them. She manages to grab 1.000.000$ from various corporate lenders. She anonymously and untracably gives the money to GiveWell recommended charities, expecting to thereby save about 300 lives. Alice defaults on the loans and is found (correctly) to have committed fraud. She is sentenced to five years in prison, as she expected from the start. Alice figures that since she’s saving five lives per month of time served, she is doing a good thing. Is she right?”

    I haven’t been able to come to a conclusion. From a consequentialist perspective, it seems to me Alice is pretty obviously doing a good thing. Deontologically, she seems to be doing a bad thing, also pretty obviously. From a virtue ethics point of view, it seems good again. But mostly, I think I’m just repulsed by the “economic suicide attack” feel of her story.

    What do you think?

    • Murphy says:

      I get the impression that if a lot of people started doing this then it would have some additional effects like making people less willing to give loans in general and more reporting requirements for charities.

      This kind of thing does occasionally happen in real life and I think even Deontologists view people doing things like this far less harshly than someone spending the money on hookers and blow.

      • Sastan says:

        This. Any good that might be done is undone by the loss of social trust and cohesion, which erodes the ability of a society to respond in a coordinated fashion to problems like global hunger or disease. Plus, if people start doing this and it becomes known, giving to charity will become tarred with the “that’s what those lunatics do” brush, which will likely reduce total charity by much more than the originators managed to help.

        • chaosmage says:

          You sound like you’re more certain than I think you can be.

          Bankruptcy fraud has existed for a very long time. The common way to do it is to hide the money, do the prison time and discreetly enjoy the money after release from prison. I’m sure this has done damage to the economy, chiefly by necessitating higher interest rates, but I find it hard to see how giving the money to charity instead would outweigh the good done by saving hundreds of lives.

    • Wrong Species says:

      How is this good from a virtue ethics perspective?

      • chaosmage says:

        Because in virtue ethics, the intent with which something is done is what counts. Since Alice does what she does in order to save lives, and by doing it anonymously doesn’t gain even reputation for herself, she being virtuous I think.

        • Deiseach says:

          You can’t be virtuous on behalf of another. The money is not Alice’s, since she went into it determined to default. So this is theft, and what Alice does with the money does not change that fact.

          It may be argued that the corporate donors should have given the money to those causes Alice found most worthy, and perhaps they should, but as I said above: you can’t be virtuous on behalf of another (if giving someone else’s money away doesn’t strike you as bad, suppose Alice decided to increase chastity on your behalf, by making it impossible for you to have sexual partners outside of marriage, or decided to increase justice by going around shooting people who had escaped conviction on a technicality).

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Reminds me of the “Really Extreme Altruism” post on LessWrong.

    • Bugmaster says:

      If Alice really did manage to defraud all these banks, then surely she’s got some kind of skills that she must be severely underestimating. It’s possible that she would’ve been able to procure even more money by using her skills in more legal ways.

  31. Emily says:

    When it comes to raising children, how do you think about balancing passing along your own (very atypical) values/ideas vs. wanting them to be able to socialize with peers and get along in the world when those things are in tension? (Possibly relevant examples: the Onion article Cool Dad Raising Daughter On Media That Will Put Her Entirely Out Of Touch With Her Generation; Bryan Caplan homeschooling his kids)

    • Anonymous says:

      Whatever makes them pass along the values you pass onto them to their children.

    • Alex says:

      I would think the main vectors for passing values through generations would be (1) religion and (2) genetics. So if you can find a religion that represents your values, then maybe you should raise your kids in it, but otherwise I wouldn’t expect random ideas or values you have to be picked up socially by your kids, and certainly not their kids.

      • Emily says:

        I’m not thinking about how to transmit views to my grandkids, or even how to transmit views so that my kid holds them long-term. (The exception being religion, and we are raising them within a religion.) Rather, I’m thinking about where on the scale of “very intentionally pushing” vs. “hiding” I should aim for when it comes to my strange views on topics like “evaluating evidence” and “thinking about probability” and “politics.” Since I believe I have worthwhile views on various topics, I would like to teach them to my kid. However, there is a tension between that and alienating her from her peers. I have experienced this, as I think have many people who have parents with odd views.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          If your views include things like “to evaluate evidence, build a best case for each side, rather than build the case you want and rely on someone else to build the rest”, and how Bayesian analysis can yield results that are both correct and unintuitive at first, and these views are strange, then your children might be surrounded by soma addicts, and you have a tough choice to make. Maybe. Wanting sociability in itself is rational, after all.

          If your children have the mental capacity to simulate more than one mode of thinking, perhaps the key is to present strategies for thinking sociably with people who think your views are odd, and with people who don’t, and being able to flip back and forth depending on the crowd. I’d want to unite the two, eventually, but that might just be a personal bias.

          • Emily says:

            I do have a tough choice to make! But surely I can’t be the first one who has thought about this.

            I think at some point they will have that capacity, but it takes a long time to develop. In the meantime, I don’t want to set my kid up to be the one who informs all the other kids that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, conservatives aren’t all evil, and there are these things called probability distributions. Or whatever. And, while my major goal is not for my kid to agree with me, I’d both like for some of it to rub off and I feel uncomfortable with the idea of lying to my kid about what I believe.

            (This is not an issue yet. She is one. There is time.)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’m taking it as assumed that you want your kid to agree with your views contingently, because that is how you came by these views yourself.

            In that light, I think it makes sense to describe your views that way. The limiting principle here is that your kid has only so much brain per unit time to absorb this, and contingency itself can be difficult to understand. (For goodness’ sake, I wouldn’t call it “contingency” unless she’s a well-read teenager; I’d just say “I think this because I also think this, this, and…” and then follow up with “what do you think?”.)

            Early on, I’d expect to have to explain the value of keeping mum, out of polity. Choosing one’s battles is a useful skill. One factor is how solid my defense is; if my best argument is “my dad said so,” then it’s not very good. So I’d probably test my kid; have her defend a belief to me, at home. Her ability would determine whether I recommend her defending it to other kids, or just giving her side and then asking what the other kids think. That extends to defending modes of argument; if she can’t defend why an argument from authority is weak, then she has to relent on that front, too.

            Eventually she’ll look kinda weird for asking “what do you think?” a lot; dunno how that’ll fare, honestly.

            Note: I am not married, and have no children, so I lack childraising experience, but I do spend more time thinking about it than is probably average for a childless person.

          • Emily says:

            That is very thoughtful. Thank you.

            It is also possible, of course, that she will be totally uninterested in all of these topics. That would also be ok.

          • Chris Conner says:

            Emily,

            My wife and I have decided to tell our son that when you give someone a present but you want to pretend that it came from someone else, you say that it’s from Santa Claus. It’s a make-believe game for fun, and when other people are playing make-believe, you can play together with them, or you can go play something else, but you shouldn’t ruin someone else’s game.

            On the more general question of how do you pass on values, I think Paul Brinkley has a good approach. By saying “I think this because I also think this, this, and…” you can show a kid examples of critical thinking, and most people learn better from examples when they are first learning something. Then you can ask “What do you think?” to let them get a little practice. When they’re older, you can explain the explicit process of thinking something out, and they will already have a good idea of what that looks like.

            My son is as yet only a toddler, and right now the chief value that we’re trying to pass on to him is that of wearing pants. We’re having indifferent success.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Having now thought about this even more than before, I am now very keenly interested in how you, Emily, plan your strategy, and how that goes.

            For that matter, same goes for Chris Connor and anyone else reading this as well.

            Naturally, I expect very little reporting for a few years, given the ages, but I’ll try to keep an eye out for this topic on SSC open threads in the future.

          • Chris Conner says:

            Well, Paul, I was going to write something high-minded about teaching my son that there are reasons that we do things by giving a reason when I ask him to do something. Even at the age of two, he will respond better to directives if I include a reason, even if there is no possibility of him understanding the reason. For instance, if I tell him that he needs to get buckled into his car seat, he often resists. But if I tell him that he needs to get buckled in because that keeps him safe, he’s more likely to cooperate, although of course he can’t possibly understand how or why a car seat makes him safer.

            But now, I find that lofty appeals to the value of teaching reasoned behavior ring hollow for me, and it’s all my fault. My son has a toddler’s fascination with kitchen appliances, and he likes to drag them out of the cupboard and strew them all over the kitchen floor. After dinner tonight, to keep him from doing that yet again, I told him that it was time for the appliances to go to sleep, so he should leave them in the cupboard. Now he is busy saying night-night toaster, night-night mixer, night-night rice cooker, patting each appliance in turn. Close the doors, son, I say; close the doors and let them sleep. I am a weak man and a bad rationalist.

          • FJ says:

            I really want to commend Emily for a terribly thoughtful and interesting thread, here.

            Anyway, I think this is a less important question than you imagine. I read once that it’s impossible to teach a child about conservation of volume for water: she won’t understand if you explain it, and she’ll naturally learn it for herself by playing with cups in the bath. To a large extent, you can’t teach a smart-ass kid when to keep her mouth shut, either: she will learn by opening her mouth and discovering that it does not always win a lot of friends. You can warn her beforehand, but you are a parent and therefore have no idea what you are talking about.

            You will model good ways of interacting with people, as well as your methods of thought regarding politics etc., through daily interaction. Explain why you act and think that way. She won’t do the same. Until it bites her in the ass, whereupon she will reconsider exactly how stupid you really are. This process takes roughly four decades.

          • This reminds me of something that happened when I was at summer camp, probably age twelve or thirteen. Some of the other boys wanted to know if I knew about the facts of sex (this was a long time ago), so asked if I knew what “intercourse” meant.

            I said that of course I knew. “conversation,” “going between,” something along those lines.

            Different worlds intersecting. On the other hand, I was our bunk storyteller, a practice I probably picked up from my father making up and telling us stories on long drives.

          • LHN says:

            If it had been the age of Google, you could have pointed them to the definition of “criminal conversation” and shown that you were literally correct, even in their intended context. I sometimes wonder what word we’d use for interpersonal speech if the word “conversation” had wound up firmly on the other side of the fence the way “intercourse” mostly has.

            (Of course in the age of Google, you’d presumably have known or been able to check the other definition.)

          • I expect I knew the term “sexual intercourse” then. But it didn’t occur to me as the default meaning.

            I didn’t know about crim con, however.

        • nydwracu says:

          My parents have odd views — my mother believes in extreme frugality and totally ignoring all status games no matter what, and my father used to be some sort of pagan and got me reading RAW when I was twelve.

          None of that caused me any problems. What was good about their advice (frugality) just comes naturally to me — even if I’m tempted to buy expensive clothes to compete in signaling games, that’s still very far from “never invest, buy frivolous shit on credit cards, buy a new car every three years and a new cell phone every time a new model is out, and aspire to own a McMansion”, which is where most people seem to be — and what was bad about their advice I didn’t have any trouble losing.

          What did cause me problems was the media diet. I’d advise keeping that shit on lockdown until the kids are old and wise enough to realize it’s stupid and make sure not to learn any of the wrong lessons from it. (That’s what I did with the Simpsons and South Park — my parents banned them, so I couldn’t watch them until Youtube came along, and I immediately started watching them there and realized that they did in fact glorify stupidity and so on.) I don’t think video games are particularly harmful — the worst they can do is turn into time-wasters — but TV ought to be monitored (I can’t recall any problems with the Saturday morning cartoons I grew up with, but I can only assume it’s gotten worse in a hurry), books can cause issues (you really don’t want smart kids reading books that give them the message that dressing well or getting exercise signals stupidity), and I can’t see any merit in newspaper comics at all.

          The goal isn’t to keep permanently impressionable children away from Satan or whatever, of course — it’s to give them the proper grounding so they can recognize horseshit on their own when they see it. I wouldn’t just ban the Simpsons; I’d ban it and tell them I’m banning it because it glorifies stupidity. I wouldn’t just not buy newspaper comics; I’d not buy them and, if they take interest in them, point out that they glorify being cynical and miserable about everything — and then, if they’re old enough, explain affirmation vs. rejection and get them to read someone like Carlyle. (“Positive thinking” was too goddamned sappy for me, even when my age was in the single digits. My father discovered cognitive-behavioral therapy and didn’t stop talking about it for two years.)

          As for teaching socially unpalatable beliefs (there is no Santa Claus, conservatives aren’t all evil, etc.), your kids will probably look up to you even if they pretend they don’t — I’d say to just model the proper behaviors for them and explain when you think it’s necessary. As for teaching them those beliefs without fucking them up socially, well, I still think the greater risk there is the media, but my first instinct is to say to figure out how to teach the vital skill of ketman at a young age, but that’s kind of risky, for obvious reasons.

          (I don’t have children and won’t for several years at least, but I do remember what my parents were like when I was growing up, and I think they succeeded at passing down the unusual and important values that they held and drew attention to. Except for the one about not picking up a nicotine habit, but I quit every once in a while for a month or two and I’ve never noticed any withdrawal symptoms.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Newspaper comics are terrible, but fortunately they’re terrible in a way that’s almost totally uninteresting to kids. Most of the format’s problems come from being hyperconservative, not in the political sense but in the sense of resistance to change of any sort, and it’s a rare child that’ll care about the reanimated corpse of a comic that might have been funny to your grandfather forty years ago.

            Not that I think I’ll be reading newspapers when I have kids, any more than I do now.

          • Deiseach says:

            Time for another quote from “The Man Who Was Thursday” 🙂

            [Syme] was one of those who are driven early in life into too conservative an attitude by the bewildering folly of most revolutionists. He had not attained it by any tame tradition. His respectability was spontaneous and sudden, a rebellion against rebellion. He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realisation; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence the child, during his tenderer years, was wholly unacquainted with any drink between the extremes of absinthe and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthy dislike. The more his mother preached a more than Puritan abstinence the more did his father expand into a more than pagan latitude; and by the time the former had come to enforcing vegetarianism, the latter had pretty well reached the point of defending cannibalism.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Nitpick: not even just religion, unless you’re using a very wide definition of religion as any system of beliefs. People often teach their children values without any formal social structure.

        • Alex says:

          I question whether such values are usually retained into adulthood.

        • Alex says:

          For politics, the studies tend to suggest that genes and “unique environment” experiences provide the bulk of the explanation, with “shared environment” seeming to matter relatively little. (Source)

          And there’s this

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Empirically, people tend to solve this by finding or founding communities which promote their values and socializing their children within them. So a Mormon state, Amish towns, homeschooling groups, churches, extended family, large number of siblings, etc…

      Also, the Anti-Democracy Activist shared some thoughts on the effects of media and schooling children and values in his post “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out”:

      First, as the leftists used to say, “Kill Your Television”. I am not one who generally thinks that machines are inherently evil. Television is an exception. It is no more and no less than a hypnotic mind control device. Don’t believe me? Sit a hyperactive toddler in front of a television and watch what happens. They freeze, turn away from everything they were doing, and stare at the screen. Gavin McInnes once noted that the “on” switch of his television was an “off” switch for his kids, and so it is. Do you think this device does not place ideas in the minds of those who fall into a trance in its presence? And what ideas do you think the Hollywood/New York axis wishes to place there? I recall reading one account of a father who, tired of his two under-10 daughters’ bratty attitudes, limited their television viewing to a DVD box set of Little House on The Prairie. The change in his daughters’ behavior was dramatic – within a couple of weeks, they were referring to him and his wife as “Ma” and “Pa”, and offering to help with chores. The lesson is obvious: people (and especially children) learn their social norms from television, far more even than from the people around them.

      Ideally, one would cut oneself off from it totally. Many find this rather difficult (I must admit, myself included at times). Some keep a television set, but make sure it is disconnected from broadcast channels and use it only as a monitor for a carefully-selected library of DVDs. Others (myself included) don’t own a set, but download a few select programs from torrent sites and watch on laptops or tablets. My total viewership of television programs tops out at perhaps 3-4 hours per week during particularly good seasons. Any traditionalist should strive to do the same. In fact, traditionalists should reject – should “drop out” of – all popular culture (especially that produced after, say, 1966) to the greatest degree possible, and make sure their children are exposed to it as little as possible. Music, video games, even the web – either drop out of it completely, or, at very least, carefully limit the time and scope of it in your life and the lives of your children.

      While we’re on the subject of children: DO NOT send your children to a public school. “Drop out” here too; by which I do not mean that your children should go uneducated, but that you should – you must – homeschool. To do otherwise is pure child abuse. Perhaps fifty years ago, this was not the case, but these times are not those times. The failures of the public schools need not be repeated here, but they are undeniable, and any reasonably smart ten-year-old whose attention span hasn’t been destroyed by television can learn more by being left alone all day with a stack of books than they can in any public school classroom anyway. As for the universities, there are not quite any suitable replacements for them yet, but some lurk just over the horizon and will appear before long.

      • Emily says:

        If a lot of other people with kids share your views and/or if you are committed Above All Things to your kids holding your views, I think that’s a good solution. But I don’t think that’s us.

        • Anonymous says:

          Do you think that homeschooling your kids is more likely to give them your views than putting them in public school is likely to give them the views they are taught at public school?

          Maybe a better argument would be that kids in public school get taught a blend of public school views and their parent’s views, while homeschooled kids are taught entirely their parent’s views.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Maybe a better argument would be that kids in public school get taught a blend of public school views and their parent’s views, while homeschooled kids are taught entirely their parent’s views.

            Not only that, but kids in public school socialize mostly with other kids who are taught public school views. Homeschooled kids socialize mostly with family and with kids from groups selected by their parents, such as churches, scouting groups, and homeschooling organizations.

          • Sastan says:

            My parents homeschooled me, and while they succeeded in giving me an education that has so far been unrivaled at any level (I’m currently in postgrad work), they definitely failed to inculcate the values they held most dear: the salvation of my (purported) soul.

            That said, public school is child abuse, and most private ones are too. The level of education is so bad, it would be less damaging to hand your children over to packs of wolves.

            If you care about education, do it yourself. If you care about grandchildren, send the little fucktrophies to the cattle yard with the rest of the barbarian simpletons and wait for the inevitable.

          • nydwracu says:

            That said, public school is child abuse, and most private ones are too. The level of education is so bad, it would be less damaging to hand your children over to packs of wolves.

            This.

          • Nornagest says:

            If Kipling wasn’t lying to me, packs of wolves make pretty good parents.

      • “Empirically, people tend to solve this by finding or founding communities which promote their values and socializing their children within them.”

        SLC for example.

        When the children of my present marriage were growing up, there was either no television in the house or a TV set in a closet to be brought out when their older half brother came to visit–I think he watched basketball games or something along those lines.

        Currently we have a television set connected to a video game machine and bought for that purpose. Part of the reason we didn’t have one was that I had concluded, long before I had children, that the people who made television programs were very good at getting and holding my attention and not watching a TV was the easiest way to avoid wasting time on things I didn’t much value.

        Our two children (present marriage–my elder son was brought up by mostly by his mother and stepfather) were both unschooled, first in a very small and unconventional private school on the Sudbury model and later, when that ran into problems, at home. We’re happy with how they turned out and I think they are.

    • Spam.

      It’s complicated, because Spam interferes with EMail, and the same technology enables both. But did anyone anticipate early on that a communication channel with close to zero cost for adding recipients would produce the problem it did?

      • Tibor says:

        As for spam, more precisely the scam spam, there is an interesting defence that employs exactly the same advantage spam does. If you ever read those scams, you probably wonder how anyone can be stupid enough to actually reply to those emails. And why don’t the conmen come up with a better story? It would not be that hard.

        If you are a conman, what you want is to convince people to send you money unconditionally with as little effort as possible. Making the story more believable does not help here, because you end up with replies not just from a few very naive people who are easy to work with but also from a lot of less naive people who will eventually find out that you are a fraud. Since after the first reply it might be hard to guess who’s who, you have to reply to all of them, which costs you time.

        This suggests a good countermeasure – have a spam-bot reply to the scam spam. The conman is then flodded with emails, most of them are fake but it is hard to tell which are which, he has to answer all of them and that ends up costing so much time that your returns from being a fraud are not high enough to keep doing it.

        One could of course still just post a bank account (in a country which has no international agreements regarding handing over criminals with other countries) and instructions in the very first e-mail.

    • My parents raised a version this question with me when I was an adult. They asked me whether it would have been better to have reared me within the Jewish religion, which was the religion of their parents. My response was that I preferred to have been reared in the religion they actually believed in, roughly speaking 18th century rationalism, the belief system of Hume, Mill et. al.

      All three of my children have been brought up within the belief systems of their parents. The result is one Christian (my wife is Christian, I’m an atheist), one atheist, one somewhat mixed, all libertarian—although my younger son has some doubts about the workability of anarcho-capitalism. We all get along well.

      That leaves the question of how well they get along with others, which varies among them, at least in part by personality. I think the answer is not as well as some of their contemporaries but as well as their parents, and we have had lives we are reasonably happy with. There are a lot of different people out there who you can choose to interact with, so having non-standard values and beliefs is unlikely to eliminate all of them.

      And, on the whole, I’m inclined to think that people with values/beliefs similar to ours may be a better gamble to associate with.

      • Emily says:

        I had a different experience. My mom had extreme beliefs which led her to some questionable parenting decisions, I held those beliefs for awhile and was frankly a worse and more irritating person for it, and then I stopped having them, which was a long and bloody process for both of us. I don’t want to do any part of that to my kid. And I don’t want to assume my beliefs are inherently so much better that we’ll avoid all of that.

        [Edit: If you are reading this, mom, I love you and we all make mistakes.]

  32. Oliver Cromwell says:

    “3. Steve Johnson is banned for reasons of total personal caprice. Let it be known that he has not broken any rules and the ban is not his fault. Also, this is the beginning of a Reign of Terror. Govern yourselves accordingly.”

    This is the break point. Steve Johnson is not an idiot, he is not insulting, and he is not obscure. If Scott simply disagreed with Steve Johnson he would not have banned him. Rather, he would have dedicated more space to blogs rebutting Johnsonian propositions. In fact he has become more favourable to Johnsonian propositions over the past year or two.

    Scott has decided that NRx is essentially the correct way to see the world but is not willing to pay the social cost required to say so publicly.

    This decision will affect all his writing. Specifically I expect that this blog will become more oriented toward providing sufficiently left-field reasons for contrarians to turn 360 and embrace the status quo after all. At that point the blog will cease to be interesting to its original audience.

    • Murphy says:

      I’m pretty sure I know what post sparked it and it was shit-stiring rather than than well-phrased NRx views.

      Someone can be both not and idiot and intentionally pissing people off.

      • Oliver Cromwell says:

        Maybe you have the insider view but I do not see how it can be clearer than:

        “Let it be known that he has not broken any rules and the ban is not his fault.”

        Johnson was banned for being him. Essentially for stating NRx views in a way that is concise and difficult to rebut, certainly without nailing one’s own colours to the mast.

        • Nornagest says:

          Johnson’s claims were only difficult to rebut in proportion to the effort involved in making them. Any idiot can rattle off a bumper-sticker-length talking point with zero effort; but it takes actual time and care to convincingly show that one’s bullshit, even if it’s fairly transparently bullshit.

          I did that a couple of times. Steve never responded, and kept saying the same stuff. Eventually I stopped bothering.

          • Oliver Cromwell says:

            I read most of the exchanges. There were rarely good rebuttals, even to the points I myself regarded as weak. It was mostly point’n’splutter, how-dare-you-say-such-a-thing type of non-response.

            Johnson isn’t the only NRxer who posts here. Nor is he the only annoying (to opponents) ideologue who never lets go – multiheaded anyone? Johnson is the one who got banned.

          • Nornagest says:

            Oh, sure, there was a lot of point-and-sputter, too. That pissed me off as much as Steve did, to be honest. I’m just saying why I personally didn’t put any effort into high-quality rebuttals after a while, and I doubt I’m alone in my reasoning. Why bother with someone that demonstrably isn’t interested in being reasoned to? To make Steve look like an idiot? I don’t care that much, and the people that do are going to be the ones pointing and sputtering.

            This isn’t even about NRx. I don’t always like NRx, and I definitely don’t always agree with it, but I do find it pretty fascinating when the reasoning behind it is laid out well. Nydwracu’s posts are cool, for example. Steve? Not so much.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Multiheaded’s output is mostly shitposting, which is deemed as mostly harmless fun, and they got banned (and subsequently unbanned) a number of times.

        • whateverfor says:

          Steve Johnson was almost certainly banned for repeatedly shit-stirring. Comment threads he participated in were terrible, and he tended to stir the same kinds of shit no matter what the actual topics where.

          That does not mean that Steve is a bad person, that his views are wrong, that what he said was inherently bad and should never be said anywhere. It just means that his participation on this blog made the comments worse in Scott’s opinion (which is the only one that matters, as this is Scott’s blog). That should be enough.

          • Oliver Cromwell says:

            Scott doesn’t want his social group reading the comments and saying, “If you don’t ban this guy, it means you agree with him, in which case you will be purged.”. That is it.

          • CatCube says:

            I think that George Bush was too liberal, and I found any thread that Steve Johnson participated in tedious. It’s perfectly possible to post stuff that’s even out there without dragging down the level of conversation.

    • Jeremy says:

      I can’t tell if this is parody.

    • Anon says:

      Care to bet?

  33. Dan Dz says:

    In one of your old articles I came across a link to Cosma Shalizi’s website which is fascinating, particularly that he has all of his work notebooks online. Are there any other rigorous researchers who are not on your sidebar and are worth following?

  34. NZ says:

    For a presentation, I want to list some negative unanticipated consequences of technology–preferably of software specifically–and preferably the consequences can be depicted visually in a single image. I’m having trouble coming up with examples that fit those requirements.

    The only ones I’ve come up with so far is pictures of people texting while driving and riding motorcycles, or absorbed in their phones while crossing intersections on foot.

    Suggestions for other examples? It certainly doesn’t have to be limited to cell phone apps.

    • anon says:

      You might look at the EU vs. US stance on the right to be forgotten.

      • NZ says:

        Thanks. Did you have a visual in mind?

        • anon says:

          1?
          2? this one could be interpreted, as the author intends, as google being handcuffed, but it could also represent google handcuffing someone else

          • NZ says:

            Thanks. These are helpful in leading me to what I might want, though I was hoping for actual images of real things rather than impressionistic stock photography. If anything else occurs to you please pop back and drop a note! I appreciate the help.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      The only ones I’ve come up with so far is pictures of people texting while driving and riding motorcycles, or absorbed in their phones while crossing intersections on foot.

      No, no, no, that’s just boring. Everyone knows about texting and traffic accidents already. Total weaksauce.

      Try superstimuli instead. Now there’s a cool topic. You can get pictures from the supernormal stimuli comic.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Not software, but simple to describe and the picture:

      Traffic lights were switched to LED to save energy. The new bulbs don’t melt snow, rendering the light useless.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I vote for this. Perfect example.

        Old hat, but there is also the “mad hatters” example.

        That pun was originally unintentional.

      • Nornagest says:

        Pure sensationalism. If the headline says “one death, at least twelve accidents”, then if the source is looking at anything bigger than a small town it isn’t doing shit.

    • Murphy says:

      Does loss of a US$370 million spacecraft due to an integer overflow that could have been caught by static analysis count?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluster_%28spacecraft%29#Launch_failure

      being able to search for number ranges on google? (try 1920..1960)

      If you try searching for 16 digit numbers it now throws you to an error page because people were using it to search for credit card numbers visible to search bots.

      You’ll also see the same pattern with searches for “inurl:admin.php”

      In more general technology terms: How about when it turned out to be possible for a civilian to buy cell phone records for a senior nato general?

      https://web.archive.org/web/20110604121830/http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0113-08.htm

    • NZ says:

      Let me phrase the question alternately:

      What kind of scenes from life have you witnessed that are examples of negative unanticipated consequences of modern technology, especially software?

    • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

      The Oatmeal has a comic called “no internet”. It contrasts the placid acceptance of a non-existent connection with the frustration of a slow connection. theoatmeal DOT com/comics/no_internet

      Also, cellphone triangulation. This means cell phone companies always know where you are. The government by extension can always look up where you are.

      (Scott, I included links in my original comment and it got marked as spam.)

    • keranih says:

      Oil-fired ships and whaling.

      Railroads and the outbreak of WWI.

      Longbows and the decline of heavy cavalry/landed nobility.

      Iron plows and the American Dust Bowl.

      Selfies.

      Facial recognition and loss of privacy.

      Splitting the atom and…well. (To include: Xrays and cancers.)

      Small pox vaccine and developing world famines.

      Mechanized farm equipment and decline of draft stock.

      (Sorry for non-software examples, but it might help to remind people that the third set of effects has always been with us.)

  35. Nathan says:

    Following on from the recent discussion of Vox.com, I’m pleased to note that they have in fact redeemed themselves somewhat with a well-written (if inadequately argued) piece explicitly and unashamedly arguing in favour of gun ownership: http://www.vox.com/2015/10/6/9449709/gun-owner-keeping

    For once I get to be to the left of Vox. It’s refreshing.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      First of all, LOL at the gun guy being named Blanks.

      Second of all, I await the day when Vox actually presents honest statistics about gun control. Having one guy who says “But I like having a gun!” just plays into their narrative. Here’s Dylan Matthews or someone giving twenty different out of context correlational statistics “proving” guns are bad, and the counterpoint is some guy saying “My father was a police officer in Fort Wayne Indiana and he owned a gun and that made me feel safe.”

      • Alex says:

        If anyone knows a reasonably concise statistics-based argument against gun control, I would put it on my to-read list

        • Nathan says:

          Scott’s livejournal post linked earlier in the thread is a good start, though I imagine Scott would be the first to admit it’s not a full treatment of the issue and more a “THIS ISN’T THAT SIMPLE GUYS” vent post.

        • John Schilling says:

          Here you go

          For quantitative analysis of gun control and related issues, Gary Kleck is the man – nobody else really comes close, on either side of the debate. Unfortunately, while his “Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America” is a solid piece of work, it is anything but concise. Still recommended, but I’ve linked you to a summary he prepared as a talk.

          Weakness of the summary version is that it was prepared as a talk, and could use editing for print. In particular, key facts are sometimes asserted in passing when they could stand a bit more explanation in a print essay, though of course everything is referenced to the book so if you are skeptical or otherwise want more information you know where to look.

          And it’s a bit dated, but you can search his more recent publications for discussions of e.g. mass shootings in schools.

          • Alex says:

            Thanks. Reading the conclusion, I liked this sentence: And just as gun control serves this purpose for liberals, equally useless “get tough” proposals, like longer prison terms, mandatory sentencing, and more use of the death penalty serve the purpose for conservatives.

            By the way, to his credit, I remember Chomsky disputing the standard liberal line on gun control.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’ve noticed that the pro-control side seems to frequently bring up David Hemenway as a foil to Gary Kleck. Hemenway argues that Kleck’s methods are imprecise and yield higher figures for defensive gun use. He also claims gun violence is a health problem, and therefore it makes sense for the CDC to look into it more.

            I argue that Hemenway’s methods still yield too many DGU numbers to justify gun restrictions. I could argue that Hemenway simply doesn’t understand gun use, and that’s probably true, but it’s a blind ad hominem attack, so I never use it. Meanwhile, I haven’t seen many other RKBA people responding to Hemenway, despite looking. I think I found one reference on GunCite, and that was it. I would like to find more.

            Control advocates also complain that the NRA blocks CDC research into gun violence. I’m not sure to what extent that’s true. When I ask for references, I get articles that don’t specify, or where the CDC was obviously being tasked to hunt specifically for evidence against gun ownership. OTOH, this argument is attack on the method by which more evidence is gained, so I cannot ignore it. As above, I’d like to see more information on this.

          • gattsuru says:

            @Paul Brinkley, the restrictions on CDC investigations of gun statistics are complicated. The exact text of the current law is “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control”, searching for “Rivara + 1996 + CDC” should get you further details of the immediate history. On its face, it does look like a blocking of fact-seeking.

            The trick is that the CDC was never a group of disinterested observers, or even terribly subtle about their beliefs, even before data came in : The Department of Health Objectives for the Nation had included an explicit goal of reducing handgun ownership as early as 1986, nearly a decade before the funding limitations began, and by the early 90s had quickly grown to funding projects based not just an expectation that the results would match preconceptions, but out of a mandate to find results that matched preconceptions, and CDC leaders and spokesmen were already counselling complete bans and outright confiscation. This may even be part of why public health research on gun violence in that time period is so near-universally terrible, even contrasted to the oft-lackluster Lott.

            Even before I became pro-gun, I didn’t find Mr. Hemenway very persuasive, but I think you mostly don’t see many tear-downs of his work because he’s been relatively low profile on the gun control issue since 2006, and gun bloggers just don’t have the sort of institutional memory — only a handful like SaysUncle, SmallestMinority, and Reason when his feud with Kleck was running high. Doing a site-specific search for his last name on each site will get you a bit of a start. Most today look at his constitutional analysis and dismiss him entirely as a hack, and given how bad that part of his research is (even before Heller) I can’t say I blame them.

      • ” honest statistics about gun control.”

        Speaking of which: as someone once commented, there is an counter-paper to every paper clearly proving a point, and the counter-argument to the Kates and Mauser paper you cited is here:

        http://www.ericgarland.co/2013/09/26/academic-support-american-gun-lobby/

        • Echo says:

          “The bodies aren’t even in the bags when they start calling people “gun grabbers” and claiming that the Constitution was written exclusively for their tactical toys, as if Adams and Jefferson were modern fundamentalist Prepper militiamen instead of thoughtful liberal philosophers in search of a functional society.”
          you don’t get to be part of polite society any longer. You’re done getting a voice in this as if you have something of value to offer this society. All you get is the guns. “

          Yeah, we should really be listening to this guy.
          No thank you. That’s not a counter-argument: it’s a childish shriek of hatred and entitlement.
          My opinion of you is sinking like a stone, sorry to say.

    • Nathan says:

      That is all true, and the writer never seems to be willing to accept that there may be tradeoffs between all the things he wants. But it’s Vox. You’re going to get emotive and irrational arguments. I’m just happy to see some coming from a different perspective for once.

      And to give Dylan Matthews credit, he has been (in a low key way) acknowledging lately that the main effect of gun control on gun violence is reducing suicides.

      • Nathan says:

        And German fricking Lopez of all people is criticising the Daily Show for misrepresenting pro lifers. I mean there’s still the “obviously they’re wrong” disclaimer, but this is a level of respect for opposing views that I never expected to see from that site.

    • The Vox article summarises as “I don’t understand what politics is for”.

      The author a given that firearms are widespread, and argues that, given that fact, then honest citizens have a need for them. Yes, if you can’t stop other people defecting in a prisoner’s dilemma it is rational to defect yourself. But it isnt’ rational to turn all those individual defections into global policy. The job of government is to enforce the co-operative solutions that people can’t come up with by summing their individual actions.

      • Lupis42 says:

        @TheAncientGeek

        The job of government is to enforce the co-operative solutions that people can’t come up with by summing their individual actions.

        That would be much more plausible if there was a government somewhere where the government was liable for failure to protect you.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Which goes in turn to the oft-brought up point by gun rights advocates: the government cannot possibly be liable for failure to protect you, because it is logistically impractical, unless other even less desirable steps are carried out. Blanks has no doubt internalized that assumption, making his point that honest citizens need guns an easy one to walk to.

          To put it in prisoner’s dilemma terms: there’s no actual dilemma. The “cooperate with authorities” action doesn’t get you out of jail; it’s literally worse than defecting. (The authority is himself a player, with an incentive to try to convince you that the cooperation payoff is better than it actually is.)

          • Echo says:

            Sorry to post a drive-by link, but many people probably haven’t heard of this.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_v._District_of_Columbia

            The infamous case establishes that the police have no duty to protect you, even when you are gang-raped for 14 hours because they don’t bother responding to multiple calls for help.

            I don’t have the cite on this machine, but there was another, more recent case that expanded this reasoning to a woman who was murdered by someone under a “restraining order”.
            If the police have no duty to enforce those orders, they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Echo – There are multiple cases like the one you cited, and they exist in every country with operational rule of law. The last time we discussed this here, some people were very surprised to learn this.

            The police do not have a duty to protect individual citizens.

            You are solely and completely responsible for your own safety and security. Anyone who claims differently is either criminally ignorant or actively malicious. Conduct yourself accordingly.

          • @FC

            Your second para doesn’t follow from the first.
            The police don;t have a 100% duty to protect in you in the sense that the government doesn;t want them to be liable for unavoidable lapses, but that doesn’t mean you do have a 100% duty to protect yourself.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @TheAncientGreek – “Your second para doesn’t follow from the first.
            The police don’t have a 100% duty to protect in you in the sense that the government doesnt want them to be liable for unavoidable lapses…”

            The police do not have a 50% duty to protect you, or a 20% duty, or a 1% duty, or in fact any duty at all. The job of the police is not now and never has been to provide security to individual citizens. Their job is to enforce the law and keep the peace. If they can protect you in the course of their actual duties, they may do so. Then again, for a variety of reasons, they may not. If they don’t, you have no recourse.

            “but that doesn’t mean you do have a 100% duty to protect yourself.”

            Then who does?

            If you are in danger, you are solely responsible for getting yourself out of danger. You are the only person who is guaranteed to be present and ready to respond if you are threatened or attacked. Self-defense is a basic human right, and it is by far the most reliable form of defense available.

          • Nita says:

            @ FacelessCraven

            Do you think that woman should have kept a loaded gun under her pillow while sleeping next to her 4-year-old child? That doesn’t seem safe either.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Under the pillow” is an incredibly bad place to store a gun even if there aren’t four-year-old children involved. Not to mention uncomfortable.

            Gun manufacturers, sellers, and owners not being complete idiots, they have been thinking up better options for quite some time. When you learn to use a handgun safely and effectively, your instructor should be able to offer more comprehensive guidance than will fit in a blog post.

        • “That would be much more plausible if there was a government somewhere where the government was liable for failure to protect you.”

          No, it’s still pretty plausible. You can’t argue that X isn’t doing Y at all just because you can’t sue X for not doing Y.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @TheAncientGreek – “No, it’s still pretty plausible. You can’t argue that X isn’t doing Y at all just because you can’t sue X for not doing Y.”

            I have the right to not be attacked. That right is meaningless if I do not have a defense available against attackers. The police cannot provide that defense. I can, and will. No sane society requires humans to endure assault, rape and murder now in the hopes that their attackers MIGHT recieve some fractional punishment in the future.

            Further, you have not actually shown how owning or employing guns qualifies as “defection”. Murder rates are dropping, and have been for decades, while gun ownership and weapon sophistication have exploded. I can clearly point to the benefits. You still have not pointed to the harm.

          • Lupis42 says:

            I didn’t say X doesn’t sometimes do Y – I said X has no obligation to do Y, and says so. X is not a reliable means of ensuring Y gets done.

            Since Y is valuable, people need to be able to do it for themselves.

  36. James says:

    Any players of roguelikes here? Just wondering, prompted by a vague feeling that there could be some positive correlation between those who play roguelikes and rationalists. (In a similar vein, I seem to recall that a slim-but-noticeable contingent of Magic: The Gathering players exists on LW.)

    I’ve been playing a bit of nethack for the last few months.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Someone around here once said that you’re likely to find a pretty strong correlation between “LW rationalism” and most given interests that could be generally described as “extremely nerdy”.

      EDIT: To properly answer the question. I’ve never played a proper, no graphic interface, roguelikes. But I’ve enjoyed a number of roguelikeish games (Most notably Baroque, Binding of Isaac and Rogue Quest).

    • James Picone says:

      I’m quite fond of Desktop Dungeons and I’ve been known to play some Binding of Isaac. Never really got into full-blown nethack/adom/angband/brogue/whatever roguelikes though.

    • svalbardcaretaker says:

      Sure, I have been playing DCSS extensively. It hits a good point in fun-space; it actively discourages grinding, has a concrete, defined end and of course permadeath.

      Of course I have overplayed it and nowadays its just a giant skinner box to me, giving the right rewards so I keep playing.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I used to play roguelikes, but I beat Sil several times and other roguelikes are enough worse than Sil that I find it hard to play them. So I play mapgames instead. I still identify with rogueliking enough to get infuriated by what people try to pass off as a roguelike these days (legacy mechanics? go fuck yourselves).

      I was really upset by what they did to Crawl in the last few versions. They seem to have overengineered it into blandness. They took out item weight, meat butchery, equipment damage, and item destruction, and the game now feels like pressing auto-explore and auto-attack over and over until you die or win.

      • James says:

        legacy mechanics? go fuck yourselves

        Any examples?

        I don’t know Sil; I’ll have to have a look at it.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Legacy mechanics are mechanics where the progress one character makes gives a bonus to later characters, a way to get around permadeath and replace it with the old RPG-progression grind. A lot of so-called “roguelikes” coming out of Japan have these sorts of mechanics (e.g. One Way Heroics), as well as a lot of the normie shit people try to sell on Steam trading on the “roguelike” name (e.g. Rogue Legacy).

          • James says:

            Oh right; eurgh. Yeah, I’d never heard of that (happily) and it’s gross.

          • Error says:

            I’m curious what you think of Nethack bones files, which have a semi-similar effect.

            (if you haven’t played NH, there is a chance when you die for the state of the level to be saved such that future characters can encounter it, along with your corpse, ghost, whatever killed you, and any items you were carrying (usually cursed). I’m not sure of the exact mechanics but it does make it possible for new characters to acquire the equipment of old ones)

          • suntzuanime says:

            It’s not really the same thing, since it’s not really a repeatable grind, it’s just sort of random and you have to find the bones anyway. Unless you’re scumming bonesfiles, which, don’t scum bonesfiles. It’s not like it’s hard to cheat at roguelikes and defeat the purpose.

      • Ydirbut says:

        Yeah, I’m halfway with you on the changes to DCSS. I admire the desire to simplify the game and remove aspects that don’t really serve to advance the gameplay, but it has definitely made it a lot easier.

        BTW, what do you mean by “mapgame”?

        • suntzuanime says:

          I think the official name for the genre is “grand strategy”. Detailed, highly simulationist strategy games, often historical in nature, often with a high degree of focus on sociopolitical management and relatively low focus on military tactics. They are distinguished from 4X games by not only their level of detail and simulationism, but also because they are set in pre-existing political maps instead of a vast expanse of terra nullius. Hence, “mapgames”. Often these maps are meticulously researched historical maps.

          It’s a natural progression from roguelikes, as one of the few gaming genres more hopelessly autistic.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            So things like the Paradox strategy games (the Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Victoria, and Hearts of Iron series)?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yes, those are the most prominent examples (unless you want to count the Total War games, which are to mapgames like Spelunky is to roguelikes).

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I used to play NetHack 3.4, years ago. Over a decade ago, in fact. I dabbled in other roguelikes, but NH and its close relatives drew me for reasons the others did not.

      For years, I kicked around the idea of making a new NetHack, set after ascension, where you played a proto-god, and had to accrue power in ways that reflected the quasi-scientific mechanics of NetHack and the lore of existing mythology. It’s still possible that I could do that someday.

    • Quixote says:

      Spelunky (rougelike meets Mario Bros) and FTL (rougelike meets spaceship command RTS) are two games I really like

    • Dan Peverley says:

      I’ve sunk a lot of time into Tales of Maj’Eyal. It’s not the most hardcore roguelike, but I have fun with it. You can change the mode from “exploration” with infinite lives to true permadeath, with a mode in-between where every few levels you get an extra life. Due to the game’s propensity for randomly administered instant death, I prefer this mode.

      It does a little bit of “legacy” stuff, but only in the form of unlocking new options for how you make your character, each of which requires the completion of specific areas or quests.

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      Used to dabble a bit in Nethack and ToME, but Europa Universalis 4 is pretty much all I play these days.

  37. Jack V says:

    “banned for reasons of total personal caprice.”

    FWIW, I massively support this. I think comment sections commonly fall into two failure modes: either the author is too dictatorial, and bans everyone who disagrees with them, which can be a pleasant environment, but doesn’t get much discussion. Or, the author tries to be “fair”, which is laudable, but it means that as the community grows, if you permit people who abide by the letter of the rules but are constantly aggravating and drag the discussion into pointless arguments, then you get MORE of those, and they start to drive away people who might otherwise feel welcome.

    I think it’s useful to try to make sure you have some regular posters representing each major side of each opinion which is commonly discussed, so you don’t cut yourself off from learning things you don’t currently like.

    But I think most people need to err more on the side of “is this person constantly annoying and doing more harm than good in the comments, lets not have them”. “True, kind, necessary, pick two” is a good rule, but I imagine it’s usually too much work to enforce it on a comment-level, instead I’d say, people who USUALLY breach it, get rid of them.

    Conversely, anyone who says something bad OCCASIONALLY, I’d be very happy to keep them and just ask them to knock it off. Shamus Young said something like this: the vast majority might be able to keep explicit rules, but pretty much fail to keep meta-rules like “don’t be an asshole”, so if you enforce that, you get a lot of people on the “juuuuust polite enough not to get banned” point, so he’d rather give some general guidance, and then anyone who doesn’t seem to fit in, gets banned.

    • suntzuanime says:

      The problem with this solution is that it’s really easy for someone to confuse “annoys me, personally” with “is doing more harm than good”. Nobody sets out to be a dictator over a discussion forum, but when someone is annoying you and you have the power to make them shut up, you will tend to unconsciously come up with reasons why it’s good and proper (or cool, or socially just, or whatever status is locally measured in) to make them shut up.

      The trick, as usual, is to hate yourself enough that you don’t unconsciously twist your perceptions to your own benefit.

      • Nita says:

        People who hate themselves tend to engage in self-destructive behavior — for instance, you might foster a discussion space that grates on your own nerves.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        So what you’re saying is that Scott should make you supreme dictator of who gets banned around here?

      • Anonymous says:

        There’s nothing wrong with using power you have due to ownership to manage your property as you see fit.

        In the specific case of debate (or any other kind of) forum moderation (which this personal blog is not, despite being more populous than many), it helps to have a stable, self-replicating elite with moderation powers, not just one guy. The elite members should like, or at least respect, each other, and have similar views on how to interpret the local rules, and especially believe that the only admissions to the elite are given to those who are like them, not on the basis of seniority or merit. Seniority and merit are important, yes, but only secondarily so after being very certain that the new person is not some kind of outsider in terms of psychology and views, who will bring strife and remake the community beyond recognition if given power.

        • suntzuanime says:

          There’s nothing wrong with using power you have due to ownership to manage your property as you see fit.

          Even assuming this for the sake of argument, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to go mad with power. It happens all the time that moderators will shut up people who were annoying them but who were also important contributors to the community, and then their community goes down-hill and they’re left wondering what the hell happened. Oftentimes it’s not the specific people they shut up that are the problem, but the “chilling effects” on others who see that this forum is no longer a free-wheeling place where they can feel safe making good-ass content even if it’s somewhat disagreeable to the squares.

    • Popehat’s comment policy has no explicit rules and basically states that you may be banned for any reason, or for no reason at all. If I recall correctly, the justification for this is that they consider it basically impossible to be perfectly consistent with any set of rules complex enough to even have a chance at producing civil conversation.

      I am inclined to agree with this. People are very good at finding loopholes. The important thing, I think, is to do one’s best to ban people who are actually bringing down the level of discourse rather than people who can politely argue their disagreeable opinions. I think Scott is pretty good at this.

      (And, FWIW, I think the comments here are much better than those on almost every other site I visit, including Popehat. Generally I try to avoid even reading comments, but here I actively participate.)

      • suntzuanime says:

        Popehat’s comment policy might make theoretical sense, but looking at their comments it’s not clear that it’s worked well in practice. I think being lawyers they overestimate the importance of perfect adherence to rules. A comments section is not a good place for the Rule of Law, but even the Rule of Man can benefit from some guidelines about which racial slurs are unwelcome or whatever.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I’m not thrilled by the banning of Steve Johnson but I can see why you might do it if you want to maintain a friendlier atmosphere. In that case though I’d suggest also keeping a sharp eye on the trollier communists (who seem to have kept quite quiet in this thread at least) as well.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Truly, Scott is acting like a proper czar.

    If the machine as designed doesn’t work, it’s his right and responsibility to deal with the misfunction somehow. It doesn’t matter that the behaviour is as designed, according to the rules as written down, if the designer/owner/sovereign thinks there’s something wrong.

  40. Adam Casey says:

    Re universal human experiences can I ask you guys to explain clearly what you mean by auditory hallucination? Which of the following things do you personally experience and which not? (I experience some subset).

    * Recalling the lyrics or information about the tones of a song without any auditory experiences.
    * Experiencing hearing a song (getting stuck in your head) in a way obviously not the same as hearing it for real.
    * Experiencing hearing a song that is not in fact playing in a way that’s hard to distinguish from hearing it with your ears.
    * Experiencing hearing a voice (clearly your own) despite not speaking, in a way obviously different from hearing it if you were speaking.
    * Experiencing hearing a voice (clearly your own) despite not speaking, which makes it hard to listen to others speaking in the same way that listening to two voices at once would make it hard.
    * Experiencing hearing a voice which isn’t clearly your own, and not clearly a memory, and not heard by someone around you.
    * Experiencing hearing the sounds that you heard at some point in the past in a way which makes it hard to listen to the sounds you are hearing currently.
    * Experiencing hearing a high pitched ringing/whistling sound which others cannot hear. (Tinitus).
    * Experience hearing an alarm, ringtone, washing machine or similar simple sounds and being unsure if someone else in the room would also be able to hear it.
    * Experiencing more complex sounds (voices, music, car revving) and being unsure if someone else in the room would also be able to hear it.

    • Deiseach says:

      * Experiencing hearing a voice which isn’t clearly your own, and not clearly a memory, and not heard by someone around you.

      Have experienced this from childhood onwards (often came in from the yard convinced my mother had called me when she hadn’t). Latest experience was two mornings ago when I was sure I heard a door open and my brother calling my name; I answered and he said “No, I didn’t call you!”

    • James says:

      I frequently get:
      * Experiencing hearing a song (getting stuck in your head) in a way obviously not the same as hearing it for real
      * Experiencing hearing a voice (clearly your own) despite not speaking, in a way obviously different from hearing it if you were speaking.

      and occasionally tinitus.

      Sometimes when I’m falling asleep I hear very beautiful music, generated spontaneously without any conscious input, and much more vivid than just recalling music or ‘getting a song stuck in my head’, (though still not quite vivid enough that I would mistake it for the real thing). If I pay too much attention to it I wake up enough that it stops. Does anyone else get this?

      Tinitus seems different to the others. I think it’s malfunctioning hardware (one of the sympathetically-vibrating hair cells in the cochlea playing up?) rather than a software issue. Not totally sure though.

      • RomeoStevens says:

        >Does anyone else get this?

        Yes, I often wish I had some way of transcribing it without learning a ton about music. Upon examination it often seems to be some sort of juxtaposition of melodies/rhythms from songs I have heard, though often in different keys, at different tempos, and in different instruments.

    • James Picone says:

      I have experienced all of these:

      * Recalling the lyrics or information about the tones of a song without any auditory experiences.
      * Experiencing hearing a song (getting stuck in your head) in a way obviously not the same as hearing it for real.
      * Experiencing hearing a voice which isn’t clearly your own, and not clearly a memory, and not heard by someone around you.
      * Experiencing hearing a high pitched ringing/whistling sound which others cannot hear. (Tinitus).

      The few times I’ve had someone-speaking auditory hallucinations, they’ve been thinking that my mother has called my name when I’m at home and she’s at home too.

      I’ve had some minor visual hallucinations while falling asleep as well, but it’s difficult to disambiguate them from dreaming. Often just a flash of light (as in, my entire field of vision goes white).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Boy, the way you have described these things, I’m not actually sure what you mean.

      I think I have experienced all of the following, but I have italicized the things that seem underspecified to me:
      – Recalling the lyrics or information about the tones of a song without any auditory experiences.
      – Experiencing hearing a song (getting stuck in your head) in a way obviously not the same as hearing it for real.
      Experiencing hearing a voice (clearly your own) despite not speaking, in a way obviously different from hearing it if you were speaking.
      – Experiencing hearing a high pitched ringing/whistling sound which others cannot hear. (Tinitus).

      I can clarify why I find them underspecified if you want.

      • Adam Casey says:

        Yeah, that language is kind of deliberately not very sophisticated because I’m worried about hidden inferences. I can’t say “hearing” because hearing implies that there are vibrations in the air, and I’m talking about sensations that are similar that are not produced by vibrations in the air but by the brain.

        “in a way obviously different” should be read as “I could not reasonably be confused about the origin of this sensation. I would never experience this and think that someone else in the room was also experiencing it.”

        Does that make sense?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Adam Casey:
          Does recalling information about the tones of a song include simply remembering what key it is in?

          Is all of the fluff around “getting a song stuck in your head” just intended to specify what is already understood colloquially as getting a song stuck in your head?

          Does experiencing hearing your own voice include when you talk to yourself (for example, telling yourself to remember the appointment you have later)

          I will delete this comment if you feel those sentences unfairly bias the reading of your original questions.

          • Adam Casey says:

            >Does recalling information about the tones of a song include simply remembering what key it is in?
            Yes, I think so. I’m asking about recalling information about sounds without experiencing the sounds in any sense.

            >Is all of the fluff around “getting a song stuck in your head” just intended to specify what is already understood colloquially as getting a song stuck in your head?
            It’s to specify what I understand that phrase to mean without presuming what other mean.

            >Does experiencing hearing your own voice include when you talk to yourself (for example, telling yourself to remember the appointment you have later)
            Yes, so long as you’re not making sounds that others could hear.

    • Anonymous says:

      I regularly experience:

      * Recalling the lyrics or information about the tones of a song without any auditory experiences.
      * Experiencing hearing a song (getting stuck in your head) in a way obviously not the same as hearing it for real.
      * Experiencing hearing a voice (clearly your own) despite not speaking, in a way obviously different from hearing it if you were speaking.
      * Experiencing hearing a voice (clearly your own) despite not speaking, which makes it hard to listen to others speaking in the same way that listening to two voices at once would make it hard.(Actually, my thinking voice probably sounds rather different from my speaking voice, but I do often focus on it to the detriment of paying attention to what others are saying.)

      * Experiencing hearing a high pitched ringing/whistling sound which others cannot hear. (Tinitus).
      * Experience hearing an alarm, ringtone, washing machine or similar simple sounds and being unsure if someone else in the room would also be able to hear it.
      * Experiencing more complex sounds (voices, music, car revving) and being unsure if someone else in the room would also be able to hear it. (Well, I spend a lot of time around the elderly/hearing impaired, so . . . )

      I have never experienced, and cannot imagine experiencing (i.e., it’d really freak me out:
      * Experiencing hearing a song that is not in fact playing in a way that’s hard to distinguish from hearing it with your ears.

    • Montfort says:

      I experience the following without conscious effort (that is, when I’m not actively trying to remember/imagine sounds):

      * Experiencing hearing a song (getting stuck in your head) in a way obviously not the same as hearing it for real.

      * Experiencing more complex sounds (voices, music, car revving) and being unsure if someone else in the room would also be able to hear it.
      This has only happened with music, and about twice in my life. In one case it turned out I was actually hearing a worker’s radio down the hall, through a closed door. The other case was not thoroughly investigated. There have been a few borderline cases, but I can distinguish them by ignoring the song for a while – if I listen for them again I can catch the feeling of having to find the right place in the song. I don’t know exactly how to categorize those.

      * Experiencing hearing a voice (clearly your own) despite not speaking, in a way obviously different from hearing it if you were speaking.

      I usually do not experience:

      * Recalling the lyrics or information about the tones of a song without any auditory experiences.
      Typically to remember that kind of information I have to imagine some limited form of audio.

      Additionally, when close to sleep I have heard other voices and sometimes music, both obviously unreal. The voices, in particular, sound like Markov chains; any two or three words together make sense but they don’t form coherent sentences.

  41. The A Tabarok solution is great in principle, but Europe is a funny thing, as regulation of generics is a mix of EU-level and state-level regulation.

    While I generally trust the richer EU countries, I would stay as far away as possible from medications approved in the poorer ones if they have not been approved elsewhere. In Portugal, which is the example I know best, several companies get their drugs approved without the proper studies (. The state shirks its regulatory role both because of corruption (mostly the soft corruption of revolving door cronyism rather than the hard corruption of cash envelopes) and out of a strong desire to keep prices low for itself.

    Automatic recognition for medications approved Germany/France/UK/BeNeLux/Sweden/…? Great idea!

    Recognition for Portugal/Spain/Italy/Romania/…? Caveat Emptor.

    • Adam Casey says:

      Yeah. I mean in general I feel like “Europe” isn’t a very good cluster in politics-space in the same way that “Southern Europe” and “Shia countries” are. I’d trust the protestant nations of Europe as much as I’d trust the USA. I’d trust the catholic and orthodox nations as much as I’d trust generic South American ones.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’d trust the catholic and orthodox nations as much as I’d trust generic South American ones.

        I’m unsure whether I should be insulted, flattered by the comparison, or shrug and acknowledge that’s an accurate assessment of the state of Ireland 🙂

        The only thing that differentiates us from a banana republic is the bananas – at least at times. Under our current, hoping to be our next, government and the economic upturn they keep telling us is happening, doubtless it will be banana plantations in every county hereafter!

      • One of my “truths that I believe but are not widely held” is that the right cluster is “US+Northern EU” vs “Southern Europe” (roughly protestant vs catholic, although not quite [Austria is catholic])

      • anonymous says:

        To equate Southern Europe to Latin America is a huge exaggeration.

        Italy has a GDP pro capita roughly equal to Japan’s, and more than double than that of the very richest South American countries such as Argentina.

        Southern european countries are much better developed and functional than latin American ones.

    • Trusting (protestant) Europe leads to a counterfactual history where the US approved thalidomide.

      • Adam Casey says:

        Not a priori obvious that’s a bad deal, given all the other things you’d get as well. Thalidomide was really nasty, but the DALY per head of population impact wasn’t that large, and stopped reasonably quickly.

      • It’s probably a better counterfactual world, where several medications would have come online faster than they did in our world.

        Unfortunately, failing to reject is a costly error for the FDA, but failing to accept only kills patients; so the FDA’s incentives are clear.

      • Cadie says:

        It’s a mistake to look at a single high-profile failure from fifty years ago and go so far to prevent another one that we cause as much or more harm from being too careful. Especially since we learned from that incident – the safety trials for thalidomide had major flaws that won’t be repeated now.

        Unsafe drugs do slip through sometimes, even with the long and strict approval process in place. A small increase in the number of negative effects is the price we pay for more positive effects, so “bad outcomes will go up” isn’t a good argument against changing or loosening the approval process. The question is whether the increase in direct bad outcomes from approved drugs under a changed system would be offset enough by a decrease in bad outcome from drug approval delays under the current system. And that’s a different question.

  42. Outis says:

    Never mind, I found the hide button. I think it could be in a better location, at the top of the post.

    Actually, the entire left side of a post, under the gravatar, should act as an expand/collapse target. That would make it really easy to collapse a subtree if you get tired in the middle of reading it, or to quickly skip ahead to the next topic.

    • suntzuanime says:

      It’s actually a problem of UI design; the Hide button already does this, but nobody realizes it.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @suntzuanime:
        But you have to scroll back up to the parent post that you wish to collapse. That may be what you meant, but it was unclear.

        A better UI would have a series of “collapsers” available, from left to right, that were extended from the top to the bottom of each subthread. Which I think was Outis’ point

        • Bakkot says:

          I’m not at all convinced that would be a better UI. In particular, people would hit it accidentally, especially on touch screens. And changes to UIs are in general high-cost.

          That said, I have been meaning to add a link to parent comments for a while now. You are invited to try the current version by entering ‘makeParentLinks()’ in the dev console. Please give feedback here or to me (bakkot) on IRC. Mind that I am only willing to make small and minimally intrusive changes.

          (Scott, if you happen to see this, I’d be happy to ask first about making changes like this, but I imagine you don’t really want to be bothered. And this is only the second change I’ve made in, what, over a year now? But of course I will not if you’d prefer I not. )

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Bakkot or someone who already knows:

            “You are invited to try the current version by entering ‘makeParentLinks()’ in the dev console.”

            Can anyone point me at how I get to the dev console? I’m sure I am failing at RTFM, so I apologize in advance that I can’t find that either.

          • Bakkot says:

            HeelBearClub, sorry, it is control-shift-J/K on Chrome/Firefox respectively, or command-opt-J/K on Chrome/Firefox respectively on Mac OS. Harder in Safari, and I don’t know about IE. Not really possible on mobile, as far as I know.

            for clarity:
            Chrome on Windows: control-shift-J
            Firefox on Windows: control-shift-K
            Chrome on MacOS: command-opt-J
            Firefox on MacOS: command-opt-K

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Bakkot:

            It seems that for Chrome (on a windows machine, at least), it is ctrl-shift-I.

            I like the idea as implemented, although I think the phrase “See Parent” might be better than the up arrow, especially on smaller screens.

            And you are correct that long interface buttons are probably bad on mobile and other touch screen devices. Thinking again, it might also just lead to a cluttered look for no particular gain.

            Edit:
            And the nice thing about your design is that it kills two birds. I can easily navigate to a level I want to collapse, but I can also easily navigate to the top of a very long max-nested chain to which I wish to reply.

          • Bakkot says:

            Yeah, I was considering the word “parent” instead of “↑”, but I felt like it might be a bit too heavy, and it’s kinda bad to have three almost-identical links adjacent to each other. Still, will keep in mind.

          • PDV says:

            Seems great to me.

  43. Anonymous says:

    >I’m not sure how to deal with that morally

    How about by becoming a vegan? Seems like an easy out.

    • Anonymous says:

      Scott is on record for attempting it. Apparently, however, he hates vegetables and trying to not eat meat made him miserable.

      • Sastan says:

        I think we should bring back self-flaggelation! That way people can eat meat, but still be miserable and obsess guiltily about their bodily urges. Which is basically veganism anyway!

        • Anon says:

          None of the moral vegans I know are miserable or obsessed guiltily with their bodily urges. This is not true, not necessary, and not kind.

  44. szopeno says:

    About the cows: I am unable to even start discuss the thing of how many chicken a one cow is worth, given that I believe that cow is worth more than a chicken (in a moral sense) but I think it is impossible to quantify the difference; i.e. it is not possible that a cow is worth two, three, or forty chickens (or indifinetely many chickens).

    • switchnode says:

      So what you’re saying is, morality is ω-inconsistent?

      I encourage utilitarians to explore this.

    • mobile says:

      So an out-of-control trolley is speeding towards a cow. There are 10 chickens sitting obliviously on an alternate track …

    • Anon says:

      As mobile facetiously points out, you can’t really not decide. There are charities which will save X cows for $100 or Y chickens for $100, and you have to either pick between them or let them both die.

  45. Jack V says:

    “Alex Tabarrok suggests an elegant partial solution – have pharmaceutical reciprocity with trusted European countries”

    I was thinking that. Can we have multiple regulatory entities in competition? Well, we already have multiples in different countries, we’d just need to say “anything OK in Canada is OK here if it’s clearly marked” and we’d legalise what people were doing anyway.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think multiple regulatory agencies in competition, minus some kind of really clever incentivizing system, just collapses to “whatever the least strict regulatory agency says”

      In the case of drugs, I think the interesting aspect isn’t competition, but a division of labor – some drug companies can only afford to get their drug licensed in Europe or the US but not both.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        No, there is no problem of drug companies that can afford only to get approval in one place but not the other. None at all. The paperwork is chump change compared to the cost of the studies. It’s the same studies for both places.

        But it is true that there are drugs available in one place but not the other.

        Some of those are recent drugs that were treated differently by FDA and EMA. Rosiglitazone was pulled from Europe but not America. Other drugs are approved in one place but not the other because the process is arbitrary and random. It is common for a drug to become available 2 years earlier on one place than the other, less common for it to completely fail to be approved.

        The situation for older drugs is more complicated. They cannot afford to be approved in the other place because the standards have changed. Maybe they originally failed to get approved in the other place because they could not afford to learn to work the system. But that is why we now have big drug companies that can amortize that knowledge across many drugs. [LPC says that the situation with generics is more complicated, but I don’t think that changes my point.]

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Competing regulatory agencies doesn’t require a very complex incentive system. The trick is to increase access to information about which agency approved which drug, and then let patients (with or without doctor advice) choose which regulator they’ll hitch their wagon to. The more people that use StrictCo’s rules, the greater sway StrictCo will have, and the greater incentive drug devs will have to seek and advertise StrictCo compliance.

        I suppose it might require a little cleverness to gauge how many adherent StrictCo has. It might come in the form of patients voluntarily paying StrictCo a subscription fee. I’m too pressed for time to think this farther right now. (I suspect David Friedman has done thinking on this; perhaps if I invoke his name, he’ll come.)

      • Jack V says:

        “whatever the least strict regulatory agency says”

        But that’s basically what we want in this case, as long as we only allowed fairly reputable agencies in the first place. If you have a warning “OK in Canada, not yet FDA approved”, people (and insurance companies) can decide if they want to pay the premium or not.

  46. Abelian Grape says:

    Does anyone know of any effective charities that take Bitcoin? The main ones Givewell recommends don’t seem to.

    • Anon says:

      Just convert it to cash first. Or get someone you trust to do it for you. You shouldn’t really be letting concerns like “I have to convert this currency first” get in the way of donating to the best place you can.

  47. Wrong Species says:

    I’m confused on the economy. The labor force participation has been steadily dropping while the unemployment rate is also dropping so some say that the it’s simply because people are dropping out of the labor force. But the number of jobs being created each month has averaged 200k for a while now(the last two months haven’t been good but those are still subject to revision). So if there a decent amount of jobs being created then why aren’t those out of the labor force looking for jobs? Have they been so crushed by the last recession that they have given up hope, regardless of job prospects? Is is simply baby boomers retiring? Maybe more families have decided to have a stay at home parent? Young adults too lazy to get a job?

    And before someone says something about how the job market is really bad, look at Yellens Dashboard. Notice how all of those indicators are showing progress towards full employment except the labor force participation rate.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-yellens-labor-market-dashboard/

    • SpaghettiLee says:

      The data suggest that people between ages 16-24, and especially 16-20, are dropping out of labor force participation and this has been exacerbated by the recession but precedes it by a fairly long time: http://faculty.tamucc.edu/sfriday/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/US-Labor-Force-Participation-Rate-by-Age-April-2013.png

      Meanwhile, the participation rate of people 55+ has been on the upswing for a while, and actually passed teenagers for the first time since 1948 at least, which is as far back as most of these charts go. I figure a lot of them had their nest egg wiped out and are going back to work because they have to, and because fewer of them have college degrees they’re taking entry-level jobs that teenagers used to do. So teens and college kids are saying “fuck it” and staying in school, which is more socially encouraged/mandated than ever. Not that I blame them; the objective value of a college degree is debatable, but relative to not having one it wins in a rout in terms of expected lifetime earnings, unemployment rate, etc.

      As to how that translates to more net jobs being created despite that, from what I’ve heard, the jobs that are being created are mostly low-barrier low-reward jobs in service, retail, etc. In a buyer’s market for employment, employers are freer to demand part-time work, non-salaried work without benefits as a condition for any employment at all, and part-time jobs appear to be beating full-time ones: https://www.google.com/search?q=employment+rate+full+time+part+time&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAmoVChMI6ODymJqtyAIVhKA-Ch1dgg1A&biw=1440&bih=710#imgrc=ddzOJscZvU3ArM%3A

      So it’s possible that the jobs being created are low-paying, low-status, low-skill ones that don’t last long and aren’t even full-time, but still go down on the employment chart as jobs. That would explain why lots of people are still down on the economy even though the numbers, divorced of context are pretty good. That plus automation, fewer worker benefits/protections, more freelancing (inherently more unstable), etc, which are smaller effects but which all add up.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The rise of part time jobs doesn’t seem to be true anymore, looking at this graph.

        http://www.valuewalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/D-U.S.-Jobs-Picture-Full-time-and-Part-time.jpg

        Full time jobs are up and part time jobs are down, which is consistent with the unemployment data which shows U6 declining at a faster rate than U3. For example, last month U3 stayed constant at 5.1% while U6 dropped 0.3 percent.

        Also, I’m not buying the “robots are taking our jobs” narrative because that would imply rising economic growth and lowered employment, which is the exact opposite of what’s happening.

      • Ben J says:

        > So it’s possible that the jobs being created are low-paying, low-status, low-skill ones that don’t last long and aren’t even full-time, but still go down on the employment chart as jobs.

        Actually, the complete opposite of this is true. Almost all jobs growth in the United States since the recession trough in 2009 has been from full-time jobs. You can see in this graph here:

        https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=22F7

    • Trevor says:

      Why has automation become such a meme lately in the rationalist community. Yes machines will one day take all our jobs, but that time is a long ways off. Software is inflexible and difficult to change and even things we consider simple like fine motor skills and basic learning and far beyond the reach of our most sophisticated programs and robots.

      For more here is Robin Hanson http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/08/automation-vs-innovation.html

      • Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

        the first self driving truck is already on the road and truck driving is the most common job across much of the US.

        to marrow is today, yo.

        • NN says:

          The first self-driving train was put into service more than 50 years ago, yet virtually all trains still have conductors. Even the few subway and elevated trains (where the general public isn’t allowed on the tracks so if anyone gets hit by one of these trains it is 100% their own fault) that have been automated have manual override brake buttons.

          Autopilot software has been perfectly capable of taking off, flying, and landing planes by itself for decades. It’s long been a common joke among airline pilots that the flight crew will soon be reduced to a man and a dog: the man to feed the dog, and the dog to bite the man’s hand if he tries to touch the controls. Yet virtually all planes still have pilots, even freight planes that don’t carry civilian passengers. The exceptions are civilian drones that are too small to do much damage if they crash into anything and military drones that are already expected to cause large amounts of “collateral damage.”

          And the self-driving truck that you mentioned has a human driver whose job is to monitor the self-driving software at all times and take over if it fails. Much like modern airplane pilots and train conductors.

          If trains and planes haven’t gotten rid of their human operators despite having the ability to do so for decades, why should we expect cars and trucks, which operate in a far less predictable environment, to do that anytime soon?

          • LHN says:

            Terminology question: in my (middle American) dialect, a train conductor is someone who takes the tickets and deals with passengers, while the person driving the train is an engineer. Is the usage different elsewhere?

          • In British English the word “engineer” refers only to practitioners of engineering. Train drivers are just called… train drivers. I’m not sure whether train drivers would be included in the extension of the term “conductor” in British English (somebody more familiar with trains could probably tell you), but “train driver” is definitely used to refer specifically to the driver of the train.

          • James says:

            British train commuter here. “Conductor” is the person who takes the tickets, never the person who drives. The person who drives is the “driver”, never an “engineer”.

        • Anthony says:

          Being a truck driver isn’t about driving trucks.

          Your UPS/Fedex delivery guy is in the statistics as a “truck driver”. How much of their job could be automated by a self-driving truck?

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:
    • Anonymous says:

      >I’m confused on the economy.

      There are two types of people. Those confused by the economy and liars.

    • Sastan says:

      The population is constantly increasing, so to stay at level percentages of labor force participation, you need to create somewhere on the order of 180,000 jobs a month just to keep up with the people growing up and starting to look for work (or moving here and looking for work). 200k jobs a month means ~20k jobs more for the people who were unemployed last month. My google fu says the jobs lost in 2008 were about 8.7 million. When adjusted for population growth, we still have ~7 million jobs gone. At 20k per month, thats…..thirty years just to recoup those losses, assuming we have a nonstop growing economy from now until then (lol).

  48. Not race or gender, but potentially just as bad (please don’t ban me): gun control. Does it work in other countries? Could it work in the US (constitutional issues notwithstanding)? I’m looking for empirical data, not anecdotes. I’ve seen various analyses that point one way or the other, but nothing I’d consider definitive. What’s the best data we have on this?

    • Echo says:

      Here are some good historical statistics on homicide that should put the claims of various studies in perspective.
      http://ourworldindata.org/data/violence-rights/homicides/
      http://quod.lib.umich.edu/h/humfig/11217607.0002.206/–decivilization-in-the-1960s?rgn=main;view=fulltext

      The US has had a murder rate several times higher than the UK since at least the late 1700s, and firearms policy seems to have nothing to do with it. Certainly the gun-crazed maniacs carrying concealed handguns in the Czech Republic are not driving up the European rate.
      The Americas in general have the highest murder rate in the world 16.3/100k vs 3/100k for Europe, and 12.5/100k for Africa. (We might chalk some of that up to under-reporting murders in downtown Mogadishu, but it’s still remarkable.)
      There’s something “special” about our continent, and it doesn’t appear to be the fault of us murder-worshipping NRA goons. Not that it will stop the calls for our extermination, of course.

      • “The US has had a murder rate several times higher than the UK since at least the late 1700s, and firearms policy seems to have nothing to do with it. ”

        How are you determining that firearms policy has nothing to do with it, when the US has never had a period of disarmament or prohibition?

        • John Schilling says:

          The UK, however, has had a period of unrestricted firearms ownership.

          • ..which included a certain number of firearms deaths, after which we tightened u the laws resulting in fewer firearms deaths, ..oh, and lower homicides overall. Your point was..?

          • John Schilling says:

            In the 1910s, the homicide rate in the UK was 0.81 per 100,000 per year. The firearms act of 1920 restricts firearms ownerships to people licensed at the discretion of the local police. In the 1920s, the homicide rate of the UK is 0.83 per 100,000 per year.

            From 1987-1997, the homicide rate in the UK was 1.12 per 100,000 per year. The 1997 firearms act bans handguns almost entirely, with confiscation of existing licensed firearms.

            1997-2007, the homicide rate in the UK is 1.59 per 100,000 per year.

            All data per Wikipedia; I was hoping for Crown statistics but they weren’t readily searchable. But I’m not seeing this “lower homicides overall” that you claim.

          • Alex Richard says:

            “In the 1910s, the homicide rate in the UK was 0.81 per 100,000 per year. The firearms act of 1920 restricts firearms ownerships to people licensed at the discretion of the local police. In the 1920s, the homicide rate of the UK is 0.83 per 100,000 per year.”

            I mean, WWI is a massive, enormous confounding factor here… Given that the increase was so small this is if anything an argument in favor of the Firearms Act’s effectiveness.

          • LHN says:

            How do you figure? WWI wasn’t taking place in either 1910 or 1920. (While the WWI numbers might be interesting, the paper doesn’t give them.)

          • Echo says:

            Considering that young men are both the most common perpetrators and victims of homicide, and WWI wiped out an entire generation of them… wouldn’t you expect it to cause a large drop in post-war homicides?

            What else could you possibly expect?

          • LHN says:

            Were there drops in the homicide rate in the other countries that experienced similar or greater generational losses in WWI?

            (I can imagine a variety of hypotheses: fewer young men->fewer homicides is one. Traumatized generation that includes lots of veterans with both fairly-earned anger and untreated PTSD and all trained to shoot becomes more homicidal is another. Effect drowned out by other causes of homicide is a third. But there’s certainly a depressingly large universe of countries to compare effects in if the stats are available.)

          • John Schilling says:

            What else could you possibly expect?

            The British Government rather explicitly expected more violent crime; that’s why they passed the Firearms Act of 1920 in the first place. Young men coming home from the war – because “wiped out a generation” is a gross exaggeration and most of them did come home – trained and accustomed to violence, agitated by communist propaganda, suffering from whatever it is they were calling PTSD that decade (I think “shell shock”), and with lots of cheap military-surplus guns flooding the market, there was obviously going to be blood in the streets, violence on a scale never before seen in the UK.

            One possibility is that the Firearms Act of 1920 was very precisely calibrated to exactly compensate for all of these violence-inducing trends, but then you’d expect to see a precipitous decline in violence in the 1930s as the WWI cohort aged out of their peak crime years while the gun ban remained in place.

            The more likely possibility is that the UK government, like just about every other, doesn’t have much of a clue about what makes people start or stop committing violent crimes, and society muddles through like always while various government predictions and interventions keep missing the mark.

          • Echo says:

            Is there any evidence of increased violence amongst shell shock victims? More importantly, is there any evidence the English government saw them as potentially violent rather than “weak-willed cowards who needed some spirit beaten into them”?

            Certainly the poor, vacant men my father remembers from the 20s were not responsible for any rise in the murder rate.

            I’d forgotten this, but Orwell took it for granted that the restrictions were to keep the Irish down, and the fears of communism that you mentioned.

          • Alex Richard says:

            >How do you figure? WWI wasn’t taking place in either 1910 or 1920. (While the WWI numbers might be interesting, the paper doesn’t give them.)

            The person said “the 1910’s”, not 1910; WWI most definitely was taking place in the 1910’s.

            >Considering that young men are both the most common perpetrators and victims of homicide, and WWI wiped out an entire generation of them… wouldn’t you expect it to cause a large drop in post-war homicides?
            > What else could you possibly expect?

            ‘Young men who could not commit crimes because they were killed in WWI’ are a subset of ‘young men who could not commit crimes because they were deployed abroad during WWI.’ About 90% of British soldiers survived the war, were outside of the UK and not committing crimes in it during much of the the 1910’s, and then returned home afterwards.

          • @JohnSchilling..
            Thanks re UK gun laws, that was useful. I now know the right way to do gun control..the Australian way, where you actually take guns out of circulation.

          • James Picone says:

            @TheAncientGreek:
            I honestly don’t know that Australian gun control laws have changed much here.

            Not very many people owned guns to begin with. They’re not much a part of our culture, with the exception of farmers with rifles for shooting kangaroos/rabbits, and y’know rural and rifles and all so not much in the way of shootings.

            Mass shootings aren’t a very big thing here, so not having once since Port Moresby (arguably? I dunno what the stats actually are, and I know there’ve been some guns-involved situations that have ended with two people dead that weren’t drug dealers shooting other drug dealers.) isn’t a huge achievement.

            My understanding is that statistical analysis finds very little difference in rates of murder before and afterwards. Don’t know about suicides.

            Honestly I barely even know what our gun laws actually /are/. My broad understanding is that handguns are effectively banned, and rifles are effectively banned unless you’re a farmer, but I’m sure there’s a bit more depth than that.

          • John Schilling says:

            @TheAncientGreek: The British took the guns out of circulation as well; the ones they could find at least. And in 1997, they could find essentially all of the handguns that were not already explicitly criminal.

            It didn’t make any difference. It never does. Where there’s a demand for guns, the supply will be promptly refilled by people who are good at that sort of things. And where there’s a supply of guns in the hands of people who aren’t almost obsequiously law-abiding, they go into hiding when the police come looking. But, sure, if it makes you feel good you can disarm law-abiding people who don’t much want guns in the first place.

          • JBeshir says:

            @John Schilling

            Do you have a source on the whole thing about gun control not affecting gun ownership rates amongst criminals who want one?

            It certainly does appear that criminals in the UK do not use guns nearly as often; if I read the figures right, only 5% of UK homicides involve a gun compared to ~75% in the US. I would be rather surprised to learn that there was persuasive evidence to believe this was entirely a cultural effect (independent of the law) causing murderers to not use guns, and it’d stay at around 5% if guns could legally be bought online, entirely unregulated, or at any store which chose to stock them, for long enough for this to become normal.

            My impression was that the doubt was more over whether restrictions on casual gun and ammunition ownership reduced total homicides, or whether there was a very high substitution rate such that people just commit murders some other way when guns are unavailable, than whether it actually successfully reduced gun ownership/use.

            One particular thing that I think is under appreciated is that the cost of a ban on casual ownership is much, much lower in countries which don’t have a cultural thing around gun ownership. In such countries, it’s not particularly more burdensome than controls on ownership of explosives.

            Here in the UK, with air pistols/rifles and shooting clubs using some actual guns both legal for shooting things for fun, I’d support maintaining the current controls just because of the evidence of increased risk of suicide even if my very low prior on the idea that mostly low IQ, low conscientiousness, impulsive criminals have extremely high substitution rates for the removal of what is by far the best tool for the job was overcome by some source of clear, well replicated evidence showing that murder rates were unchanged.

            But that would be enough to convince me that gun control would probably be a bad idea in the US, because in the US taking guns away from people will distress them much more and the suicide risk reduction wouldn’t be enough there on its own.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @JBeshir – “Do you have a source on the whole thing about gun control not affecting gun ownership rates amongst criminals who want one?”

            He may have them; I do not. What I do have is a bit of anecdotal data that is a) moderately relevent and b) highly amusing. Your inquiry is just barely enough of an excuse to post it.

            http://www.northeastshooters.com/vbulletin/threads/179192-DIY-Shovel-AK-photo-tsunami-warning!

          • Mary says:

            ” Widespread abortion. . . have all been claimed as societal ills,”

            How can you refute such a claim? The claim is, after all, that killing lots of children before birth IS a societal ill, and lots of children are killed before birth.

            It would be like citing crime and statistics to prove that segregation was good, because those things improved when it was in force. It don’t matter. People who think segregation is evil did so because it produced segregation.

        • Echo says:

          … because the difference in murder rates has existed unchanged since before firearms existed in their modern form, through to their mass-confiscation in other countries.

          If I suggested deposing the Queen of England to give the UK warmer summers like those in the US, you would be right to point out that US summers have always been warmer, even before the American Revolution removed its king.
          It would be a valuable clue that summer temperatures are not, in fact, primarily driven by specific legal changes. Much like homicide rates.

          The claim being made by the media is that the US is one massive SWAT search and seizure operation away from a European homicide rate (and only vile reactionaries could oppose those noble home-invasions).
          But dramatic changes in firearm policy and technology have never caused a noticeable change in the ratio between US and UK homicide rates.

          Why would it suddenly start working now?

          • The claim being made by the media is that the US is one massive SWAT search and seizure operation away from a European homicide rate

            Is that really what most proponents of gun control want, though? A middle-ground solution would be stricter background checks and/or some kind of licensing system based on required training, and the elimination of loopholes which allow guns to be purchased without any background check whatsoever. It seems like even most gun owners support some of these measures.

            Anyway, thank you for the links you provided; they are very good, although I haven’t had time to get through them completely yet. I don’t see where you got the 16.3/100k rate, though; I couldn’t find that number in either link.

          • Echo says:

            That bit came from wikipedia of all places. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate
            I should have put a disclaimer, sorry. “Data from UN report: may cite LaRouche or the writer’s own C:\ drive”.

            Yeah, we keep hearing about “compromise”… right next to the phrase “like Australia and the UK”. I’ve never heard a single one mention the Czech Republic as a goal, which would be an actual compromise.
            We strongly suspect it’s one of those deals where compromising means “they’ll just cut your hands off today, and pinkie promise they won’t come back for your head tomorrow”.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Mitch: We passed most of those laws thirty or forty years ago. A few of them have done some good, a few of them have been repealed, a lot of them are uselessly cluttering up the law books but doing no great harm. This isn’t the first generation of Americans to try passing gun control laws as a solution to “gun violence”; what did you think the previous generations were doing if not trying the more sensible ideas first?

            Specifically, when we passed the national mandatory background check law back in the 1980s, we included the sensible “…but if it’s a farmer in rural Montana selling a spare rifle to his neighbor with a coyote problem, we’ll leave it to the government of Montana whether they need do drive all the way to Billings to file paperwork” clause. Some mostly-rural states waive the background check requirement in such purely private, noncommercial sales. None of them has had any big problem with this. Why do we need to make a federal case out of it now, when we decided not to then and it hasn’t been a problem since?

            Training has been required in a few places for gun ownership, in many places for concealed-carry and/or hunting licenses. The hunter safety training may have made a difference. The rest, not so much. Actual shooting accidents are extremely rare, and mostly involve deliberate recklessness. Nor are any great number of criminal homicides the result of any genuine uncertainty about when it is legal to shoot other people. Might as well expect to stop young adults from wrapping cars around telephone poles at 100+ mph by making them take a driver’s training class that reminds them the speed limit is 65.

            Most proponents of gun control are opinion-poll “proponents”; they don’t much care except to say “Yeah, sounds good” when someone asks. They support your “middle-ground” solutions, in roughly the same way they support “reducing” foreign-aid spending to 13% of the federal budget. And their actual desires are completely irrelevant, because the only thing they are going to do about them is to have a warm fuzzy feeling come election day about the congressman who voted for what someone vaguely described as a middle-ground solution to gun control.

            The proponents of gun control who actually write and lobby for proposed new gun control laws, yes, they are pretty much down to wanting to seize essentially all of the guns and offering up false advertising to cover the biggest steps they can take towards that end.

          • “But dramatic changes in firearm policy and technology have never caused a noticeable change in the ratio between US and UK homicide rates.”

            That’s an argument against dramatic measures. Its not an argument against gradual measures.

          • Lupis42 says:

            That’s an argument against dramatic measures. Its not an argument against gradual measures.

            If even drastic measures will be ineffective, it’s an argument that all measures are not worth even a trivial cost.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          The statement is also false. The US murder rate is approximately equal to the UK murder rate. What’s different is how they are counted; the US tosses in any death without an apparent and obvious cause into the “homicide” category, whereas the UK doesn’t put anything in the “homicide” category without either a conviction or Crown Court approval (I believe there is a process by which certain coroners can designate the cause of death as homicide without such approval, but it is almost never used, and homicide figures for a given year rise over time in the UK as murderers are convicted and the death re-coded). The US also counts negligent and justified homicides, whereas the UK doesn’t.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Is homicide even a verdict in the UK? I thought the terms were lawful and unlawful killing.

            And there have been cases where an inquest has found someone to have been unlawfully killed but nobody has been convicted of their murder or manslaughter. Sometimes this is due to differing standards of proof. For instance, Ian Tomlinson was struck with a baton by a policeman and died- the policeman was charged with manslaughter but acquitted. Unlawful killing was also the verdict in various friendly-fire deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the death of Princess Diana!

            I’m also unaware of any case where a coroner’s verdict has been changed based on the outcome of a criminal prosecution.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Cause of death and conviction are distinct matters.

            The US doesn’t require a coroner’s inquest (the closest thing we have is, I think, a grand jury trial), however; that additional step eliminates many determinations that would otherwise be made.

            http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/crime-stats/crime-statistics/focus-on-violent-crime-and-sexual-offences–2012-13/rpt—chapter-2—homicide.html?format=print

            “A number of international organisations, including rostarostat, have attempted to collate international homicide statistics. There are issues surrounding the comparability of international homicide data:

            There are different definitions of homicide between countries, although definitions vary less than for some other types of crimes;

            There are differing points in criminal justice systems at which homicides are recorded, for instance, when the offence is discovered or following further investigation or court outcome;

            The figures are for completed homicides but, in some countries, the police register any death that cannot immediately be attributed to other causes as homicide.

            Caution should therefore be taken in comparing homicide rates across countries.”

            Another quote, relating directly to verdicts being changed:

            “When the police initially record an offence as a homicide it remains classified as such unless the police or courts decide that a lesser offence, or no offence, took place. In all, 559 deaths were initially recorded as homicides by the police in 2012/13. This means that by 8 November 2013, 8 were no longer recorded as homicides, giving the total 551 offences currently recorded as homicides.”

            (I have no idea if an additional inquest, jury or otherwise, was required to change the cause of death.)

      • Alex says:

        Okay, good point, but how about the chart labeled “Gun ownership vs. gun deaths, by state”? I guess a problem might be that maybe it’s liberalism or wealth levels in a state that’s driving both gun deaths and gun ownership. So what you’d really want would be a study where they changed laws in the same state/country and we could observe the results. But then, see the section on Australia.

        Update: Ok, now that I started reading Scott’s livejournal post, I now conclude there’s more to this. Vox, what have you done? Well, at least they got me interested. And I’m still under the impression that gun control reduces suicide.

        • Seth says:

          There is something very weird about that chart. *WYOMING* is at the top??? *New York* is near the bottom? I don’t have the time to dig through all the sources. Gun-rights advocates can do that. But I’m extremely suspicious that it doesn’t mean what the people using it think it means. Maybe it’s distorted by *hunting* accidental deaths. In Wyoming, a relatively large part of the population goes hunting. And getting shot by mistake in a hunting accident is a significant hazard. Could be high in percentage of population terms. That doesn’t happen much in New York.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Hunting accidents (and accidents in general, such as while cleaning a gun) are a very small proportion of gun deaths.

            A much larger proportion are suicides, and that’s probably what we’re seeing here. In states where more people have access to guns, more suicidal people will use guns rather than other methods. Also, there might be a higher suicide rate in rural areas where there are more guns- IIRC farmers tend to have high suicide rates for a whole range of reasons.

            The thing I think tends to be a problem with a lot of these statistics is that they quote number of guns owned per capita not rate of gun ownership. Someone who owns 20 guns is not 20 times more dangerous than someone who owns one.

          • bluto says:

            It includes suicides, which are about 2/3rds of gun deaths. Wyoming has by far the highest rate of suicides. Accidents (hunting and self induced/negligent discharge) are blessedly rare.

            Easier access to guns=a higher share of suicides use guns. The question is how much does easy availability of guns change the suicide rate vs convert it into suicide by other means.

          • Usual problem of munging together farmers who own guns to shoot rabbits, homeowners who own guns to shoot criminals, criminals who own guns to shoot homeowners and other criminals, etc.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I tried correlating gun ownership to gun deaths using Wikipedia stats a little while ago and found no relation. I’ll have to look back to try to figure out why Vox’s plot is different.

        • Mary says:

          Actually, the real, fundamental problem is that I don’t want to be beaten to death by a baseball bat, either. I don’t care about “gun deaths”, and no one should. If removing guns just changes the mix of weapons, who cares?

          • Seth says:

            To be fair, it’s really hard to do a “mass baseballbating”. Maybe not impossible, but there’s no such thing as a semi-automatic “assault” bat (loaded with cork?). One has a much better chance of running away from a bat-wielder (I’m not saying that always works, but it’s a higher prospect of success). Drive-by battings are also not easy (again, something could probably be done along these lines, but I don’t think it would be simple to pull off).

            People killed each other before guns, of course. But there’s a lot of fallacy from both sides around more difficult vs impossible.

          • NN says:

            To be fair, it’s really hard to do a “mass baseballbating”.

            The Rwandan genocide demonstrates that it is pretty easy to commit mass murder using machetes. On a smaller scale, there have been a number of nasty stabbing sprees in China in the last few years. A machete, btw, can be bought for $20-40 at your local Walmart without any legal restrictions whatsoever.

            Closer to home, the second worst act of mass murder in the United States in the 20th century (the first worst was the Oklahamo City Bombing, obviously) wasn’t committed with a gun, but with a jug of gasoline and a match. Ironically, the perpetrator had attempted to acquire a gun beforehand and only resorted to arson after he failed to do so, so he might have killed less people if he had been able to carry out a mass shooting.

          • Mary says:

            Also the Oklahoma Bombing used fertilizer, not guns.

          • Echo says:

            And if we’re going to bring up large scale political terrorism…
            Boxcutters.

          • Seth says:

            One day in a science-fictional future, with 3D-printing, molecular fabrication, etc, it may be possible for an ordinary person to create briefcase-sized nuclear explosive, something one can put in a backpack and will destroy, say a entire building (bear with me for a moment for the conceit to get the story going).

            In that world, in a discussion, someone will say “Gee, before portanukes, it was really hard for an individual to destroy a entire building.”

            There will be an IMMEDIATE set of responses:

            “Dresden firebombing! You don’t need nukes to annihilate even a whole city’s worth of buildings!”

            “Demotion companies demolish buildings all the time, and they don’t use portanukes!”

            “9/11! Some of the biggest buildings in the world were taken down by repurposing airplanes, not illegal portanukes. Maybe we should ban airplanes!”

            There’s something really odd cognitively going on where “X makes Y much much easier than before” gets transformed into the strawman of “Y was never possible at all before” or “Y cannot be done without X”, and then repeatedly knocked-down like some sort of stress-relief therapy puppet.

          • Lupis42 says:

            @Seth

            In that world, in a discussion, someone will say “Gee, before portanukes, it was really hard for an individual to destroy a entire building.”

            If after portanukes are invented and become widely available, firebombings and C4 and airplanes continue to be used for the most effective criminal/terrorist building-destroying attacks, I think it’s fair to say that portanukes have not actually made building destroying attacks as much easier as that statement implies.

          • NN says:

            There’s something really odd cognitively going on where “X makes Y much much easier than before” gets transformed into the strawman of “Y was never possible at all before” or “Y cannot be done without X”, and then repeatedly knocked-down like some sort of stress-relief therapy puppet.

            Do firearms really make mass murder much easier than before? I bring up the Happy Land fire again. Julio González killed 87 people, which is 10 more people than Breivik, more than 2.5 times as many as Seung-Hui Cho, more than 6 times as many as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and in fact seems to be greater than any civilian mass shooting on record. He did this with zero pre-planning using materials that were probably acquired for less than 10 dollars and had no legal restrictions at all. He also caused far more economic damage than any mass shooting ever did. It’s starting to look like fire is a much more effective mass murder tool than a gun.

            Granted, González got lucky in that he happened to target a building that was especially poorly designed in terms of fire safety, to the point that the fire exit was locked by the club owner in order to prevent people from illegally entering. But surely in any major city it can’t be hard to find crowded buildings with poor fire safety systems. A quick Google search will turn up plenty of examples of accidental building fires that killed hundreds of people. Furthermore, González wasn’t arrested until the day after, so it’s possible that a sufficiently dedicated serial arsonist could keep skipping town and setting more fires for as long as he could stay ahead of the cops.

            The one “disadvantage” that arson seems to have over a mass shooting is that the latter tends to get far more media attention and thus infamy for the perpetrator, as demonstrated by the fact that hardly anyone talks about the Happy Land fire anymore. This is likely at least in part because no one seriously advocates banning gasoline, so they don’t get the Toxoplasma of Rage effect.

          • Seth says:

            @Lupis42 – but “the most effective” elides the distinction between “average” case and “best” case. That is,

            Consider: “Widespread use of cars makes it much easier for an average person to travel dozens of miles a day, every day.”

            Strawman-pummeling response: “But Olympic athletes have always been able to run dozens of miles, repeatedly! And the best way to travel hundreds of miles a day, every day, is via airplane!”

            It’s almost a non-sequitur type of reply. People who would be happy to discuss military history and observe how a trained longbowman was more deadly than a musket-shooter, but the musket-shooters won out because they didn’t need to be very strong or to practice for many years, suddenly can’t even hear a similar argument in a civilian context.

            If there was no weapons advantage to a gun over a baseball bat, why would someone object to being forbidden to have a gun for home defense, when they could just have a baseball bat?

            @NN – “… a sufficiently dedicated serial arsonist …”. But the point is not a question along the lines of “What’s the most effective way to kill many people with some skill, planning, luck, and counting only the successes?” (e.g. some would-be bombers have instead blown themselves up). Driving a car into a group of people is obvious. But rather, if we’re doing some sort of utilitarian calculus, the effect on the broad median matters, not just the extremes.

          • Chalid says:

            Mass shootings aren’t really what’s bad about guns.

            It’s hard for me to think of a more reliable way to murder a single specific person than with a gun. Especially if I don’t want to kill or injure a bunch of bystanders, which most murderers don’t.

            And if you lower the cost of an activity then more people will do it; applies to murder as much as it does to anything else. I’d need *really strong* statistical evidence to shift me away from the belief that easy availability of guns increases the murder rate.

          • John Schilling says:

            If there was no weapons advantage to a gun over a baseball bat, why would someone object to being forbidden to have a gun for home defense, when they could just have a baseball bat?

            Because this is not some silly game like first-edition Dungeons and Dragons, where weapons can be absolutely ranked by a single parameter.

            The advantage of handguns is versatility. There is almost no tactical situation where a handgun is the best weapon. In almost any tactical situation, the handgun is a good-enough weapon, or as close as we can get with something that can be inobtrusively carried in daily life. Eliminate that requirement, and the most-versatile, never-best-but-usually-good-enough weapon is the assault rifle. And who is it that needs the most versatile weapon?

            The person who isn’t picking a fight. If I want to commit a crime, whether it is robbing you or murdering an entire school full of helpless children, I can always find a better weapon to use than any sort of gun. A knife and an incendiary device respectively, for the two cases listed. And if I’m limited in my choice of weapons, I can probably chose the circumstances to make best use of the weapons I do have.

            If you want to stop me, you don’t get to chose the time or the place or the circumstances of the fight, or what weapon I will bring. If I want to kill you in your home, I might pretend to be a FedEx delivery guy and knife you when you open the door, or I might lob Molotov cocktails at your home from fifty feet away. Against the former, a baseball bat would be a pretty good defense. Against the latter, a hunting rifle. Since you don’t know, and I do, you’re going to want the weapon that’s always good enough. That’s a handgun.

            Indeed,most criminals use guns because they are more concerned with defending themselves against other criminals than with overpowering defenseless victims. The bit where occasional amateur mass-murderers incorrectly generalize to, “and if I want to kill lots of defenseless people I should use a gun to shoot them!”, well, we might want to discourage part of that, but it isn’t the “use a gun to shoot them” part.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s hard for me to think of a more reliable way to murder a single specific person than with a gun. Especially if I don’t want to kill or injure a bunch of bystanders, which most murderers don’t […] And if you lower the cost of an activity then more people will do it

            The whole gun-control debate is precisely about whether guns reduce the practical cost of murder, or of crime more generally. Saying without qualification that they do amounts to assuming your conclusion.

            In particular, you’re baking in an assumption that the people you want to victimize are likely (very likely, if you factor in risk aversion) to be unarmed, since what makes violent crime easy is power relative to your victim rather than absolute power. You also need to assume either that you don’t care about getting caught or that you live in a social environment where making a mess and a lot of noise won’t contribute much to it, since guns, while effective weapons, are messy and loud ones.

          • Chalid says:

            The fact that the majority of murders in the US are performed with guns is extremely strong evidence that they are the best way to commit murder. (For someone with the mental/financial/temperamental limitations of the median murderer, of course – I have no doubt that most SSC commenters could devise better ways to kill people.)

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s possible to have a situation where something is the best option for each individual under local conditions and yet systemically suboptimal. Happens all the time, actually.

            (I’d cite Facebook as an example, but that might just be compounding an already controversial topic.)

          • Chalid says:

            @Nornagest I cannot see a reasonable mechanism by which it would apply in this situation. Could you spell it out? In the Facebook case you have network effects but I don’t see anything analogous.

          • Nornagest says:

            Already described it. But to spell it out a little more:

            – You want to kill or rob someone for $REASONS. You don’t want to be hurt or killed doing it, and you don’t want to get caught. The weightings of these preferences differ depending on who you are, but generally you’ll find all of them in someone that’s contemplating robbery or murder.

            – It follows that you want to arm yourself with the most lethal (if you’re more interested in “kill”) or scariest (if you’re more interested in “rob”) weapons available that won’t get you caught.

            – But that’s about absolute lethality (or scariness), and your chances of success instead depend on lethality (or scariness) relative to your victim (plus a bunch of other stuff that’s mostly irrelevant to choice of weapons). That becomes a lot harder to estimate when there are lethal, easily concealable weapons in circulation that can easily be trained to effectiveness and don’t depend much on brawn.

            – This makes your job harder than it would be if the best weapons out there were, say, knives, even though you’d prefer a gun to a knife under present conditions. Because of risk aversion, this is still true if the average victim is unlikely to be armed — though of course there’s a point of diminishing returns.

          • “he fact that the majority of murders in the US are performed with guns is extremely strong evidence that they are the best way to commit murder.”

            The fact that soldiers are armed with guns is extremely strong evidence that guns enable effective killing.

            “The Rwandan genocide demonstrates that it is pretty easy to commit mass murder using machete”

            But you don’t really think that machetes are just as lethal/effective/dangerous as guns, because you would object if the soldiers of your nation had their guns taken away and replaced with machetes.

            etc, etc.

            “Also the Oklahoma Bombing used fertilizer, not guns.”

            And so it would make no difference, apart form a considerable monetary saving, to arm the GI with fertilizer. etc, etc, etc, etc..

          • Lupis42 says:

            @Seth
            Widespread use of cars makes it much easier for an average person to travel dozens of miles a day, every day.

            Widespread use of cars has made the dozen miles from Lexington to Boston substantially more difficult to travel at 8AM. It really just depends on which dozen miles you need to travel, and when.
            It might help if you made a clear, non-metaphorical statement of the principle you’re trying to defend. I think some of the problem is that I’m working with a model of what you’re trying to state that’s been reverse engineered from analogies. I may be mapping flaws in the analogies to nuances in the core idea, or we may have a factual disagreement, but I’m not actuall sure.

            It’s almost a non-sequitur type of reply. People who would be happy to discuss military history and observe how a trained longbowman was more deadly than a musket-shooter, but the musket-shooters won out because they didn’t need to be very strong or to practice for many years, suddenly can’t even hear a similar argument in a civilian context.

            On the contrary – that’s exactly the argument that we’re making. The mass shooter is able to be much more deadly by using a weapon that requires some planning and practice. The gun is less effective, but easier – therefore, to the extent one is optimising for the mass shooter case, it is better that they use guns than that they be discover how achievable the other, more effective options are for them.
            This is what I mean about the problem with the analogy.

            If there was no weapons advantage to a gun over a baseball bat, why would someone object to being forbidden to have a gun for home defense, when they could just have a baseball bat?

            One of the things I’ve discovered is that carrying around a saber, longsword, or crossbow for self defence is not preferred by the various law enforcement agencies, and is often regarded much more harshly than carrying around a handgun. Usually, gun control is accompanied or preceded by weapons control more generally. John Schilling has elaborated at some length on the core of my objection, which is that other weapons are advantageous for *agressors* who get to select the time, place, and manner of an assault, prepare for it appropriately, and arrange the circumstances to overcome their physical limitations, if they have them. Guns are advantageous for *defenders*, who will be lacking those advantages.

          • Lupis42 says:

            @TheAncientGeek
            And so it would make no difference, apart form a considerable monetary saving, to arm the GI with fertilizer. etc, etc, etc, etc..

            The primary weapons of the modern military are somewhat fancier fertilizer bombs. High explosive warheads, with a variety of fancy delivery systems. WWI was able to persist for way longer than it otherwise would have because Germany, in the process of inventing a way to mass produce fertilizer, had also invented a way to mass produce high explosives that did not require them to import anything from overseas.

          • Anonymous says:

            @TheAncientGreek

            “But you don’t really think that machetes are just as lethal/effective/dangerous as guns, because you would object if the soldiers of your nation had their guns taken away and replaced with machetes.”

            The point you are missing is that effectiveness is relative to what your opponent is carrying. If all your opponent has is their fists, and your objective is to rob them, a gun or a machete will do pretty much equally well. If you want to rob them and they have a baseball bat, a gun will work well, a machete not so well. If they have a gun, and they also have the law on their side – well, nothing beats a gun, so this is the only scenario where they have the advantage rather than you.

          • Seth says:

            @Lupis42 – “It really just depends on which dozen miles you need to travel, and when“. This is what I’m talking about with “average case”. That you can find a specific set and a specific time which is made worse, does not refute that overall, cars make travel much easier, in around the dozen-mile range. Which isn’t invalidated by not applying to the 100-feet range or having much better options for the 1000-mile range, or that trade-offs may get unclear in the 1-mile range. Similarly, guns make killing much easier, in a kind of average-case unskilled-individual situation, to around the 10-victims range. This isn’t invalidated by there being many non-gun 1-victim cases, or that a gun wouldn’t be the preferred option for an individual trying for 1000-victims, or that a highly skilled and motivated individual might have a better mass killing strategy.

            Now, I am not actually taking a stand here on the public policy results of this lethality-multiplication property. The utilitarian calculus itself is a long discussion, fraught with irreconcilable values differences. But there is something psychologically notable going on when the “average-case” aspect is immediately met with inapplicable “extreme-case” strawmanning.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            But there is something psychologically notable going on when the “average-casse” aspect is immediately met with inapplicable “extreme-case” strawmanning.

            I wish it were notable, rather than quite common. Between the motte (trivial thus boring) and the outer fringes of the bailey (absurdum) there really is ground for reasonable discussion.

          • Chalid says:

            @Nornagest that is an argument that guns may reduce the number of robberies (and perhaps other violent crimes), not that it reduces the number of deaths. The chance of death during robbery and the like goes way up in the presence of a gun – the robber doesn’t want to kill you, after all, and it’s rare to accidentally kill someone in the absence of a gun. (Certainly I would rather be robbed ten times by someone unarmed than once with a gun – either way I’m just handing over the money but there’s way less chance of a misunderstanding turning fatal.)

            Eyeballing some statistics on the causes of murder, it looks like maybe a tenth of murders would really be affected by the self-defense aspects of guns? (To be fair the big “unknown” category should give us pause.)

            The self-defense logic doesn’t apply very well to most murders.

            In crimes of passion, I would expect it to be fairly uncontroversial (?) that the presence of guns increases the chance of somebody dying – a few moments of blind rage plus a gun leads to a death. Take away the gun and you’ve likely just inflicted some bruises.

            Also there is murder of a family member or acquaintance. Obviously many of these are crimes of passion, but of the premediated subset, you can attack them when they are not armed or at least shoot them first. And if you’re not John Schilling you’re much more likely to pull it off with a gun than with whatever alternative you can scrape up with your limited human capital (if someone has enough self-control to come up with a good plan and train the relevant skills they have enough self-control to not be a murderer in the first place.)

            Maybe one can argue that in the absence of guns, robbery/rape/etc rates would be enormously higher and make up for the lower death rates in the other categories; but I’d find that pretty implausible and very likely ruled out by looking at frequency ratios of different crimes in countries without guns.

            (And of course there are suicides)

          • John Schilling says:

            The fact that the majority of murders in the US are performed with guns is extremely strong evidence that they are the best way to commit murder.

            I don’t think you actually have that statistic; what you have is criminal homicides. Most of these are opportunistic and without explicit lethal intent, often criminal-on-criminal, and committed with whatever weapon is at hand for some other purpose (e.g. defense against the other criminals a criminal frequently encounters). You might as well argue that the frequency with which hex nuts and bolts are turned with crescent wrenches proves that the crescent wrench is the best tool for that job.

            I am not aware of anyone compiling statistics on weapons used by people convicted specifically of murder – and particularly first-degree murder, which is the only case in which a killer would plausibly select a weapon specifically for killing.

            And in any event, the median American would-be murderer A: fails to kill his intended victim and B: gets caught and convicted. This serves as compelling evidence that American murderers are deeply stupid and ought not be considered as a source of expert opinion on how to get away with murder.

            As for soldiers using guns to kill people: pretty much the entire United States Army agrees that the least-lethal weapon in their inventory is the pistol and the second-least-lethal the assault rifle. These weapons are generally issued to give soldiers some minimal means of self-defense as they flush out targets for the real guns that do most of the actual killing.

          • Chalid says:

            @John Schilling I’m assuming you composed that post before seeing my most recent one?

            You are right that I’ve been forgetting the distinction between murder and criminal homicide; my apologies. But I’m not sure why you think it is an important point. Indeed, it seems like you’re making the case that the presence of guns increases the lethality of disputes. Which is a standard argument for gun restrictions?

            It would seem to me that the number of deaths prevented by a hypothetical policy would the the most important thing, and whether those deaths come out of the bucket labeled “first degree murder” vs some other bucket is relatively unimportant.

          • @Lupus42

            “The primary weapons of the modern military are somewhat fancier fertilizer bombs. High explosive warheads, with a variety of fancy delivery systems. ”

            That’s a nit pick with no relevance to my comment. Why not say that a gun is a somewhat fancier lump of iron ore?

          • “The point you are missing is that effectiveness is relative to what your opponent is carrying. If all your opponent has is their fists, and your objective is to rob them, a gun or a machete will do pretty much equally well. If you want to rob them and they have a baseball bat, a gun will work well, a machete not so well. If they have a gun, and they also have the law on their side – well, nothing beats a gun, so this is the only scenario where they have the advantage rather than you.”

            The point you are missing is that the argument is against a claim,the claim that variations in the availability of firearms would have no effect on the murder rate. You have conceded that point, and switched to another argument, an argument that if it’s a given that firearms are widespread, then honest citizens have a need for them. Yes, if you can’t stop other people defecting in a prisoner’s dilemma it is rational to defect. It is also rational to co-operate if you can. Co-operation means that it is no longer a given that everyone else is heavily armed.

          • Lupis42 says:

            @Seth, @houseboatonstyx

            I don’t think it’s inexplicable or strawmanning. I’m attacking a blanket sentiment, because nowhere in the thread is there an explicit statement for me to agree with, disagree with, or even challenge directly. I agree that guns make some things easier, but I don’t think it is as broad or as applicable to the subject of mass shootings as your analogies suggest.
            That’s why I asked for an explicit statement: what are you arguing guns make easier?

          • Lupis42 says:

            @TheAncientGeek
            That’s a nit pick with no relevance to my comment. Why not say that a gun is a somewhat fancier lump of iron ore?

            It’s not a nit pick. You suggested that we would object to the military being obliged to use fertilizer bombs instead of guns, but they do. Most of the Allied deaths in WWI were caused by German explosives made using the Haber-Bosch process. The military’s primary weapons still have much more in common with fertilizer bombs than with guns.
            The military would be much more screwed if you replaced explosives with firearms than vice versa.

          • @Lupus42

            The point remains that the effectiveness of killers is dependent on the weapons available to them.

          • Lupis42 says:

            @TheAncientGeek

            The effectiveness of killers depends primarily on motivation and regard for consequences, and secondarily on intelligence.
            At a tertiary level, it depends on access to weapons which are more effective than those available to the intended victims.

            The absolute effectiveness of those weapons is much less important than the relative effectiveness – i.e. an attacker with a spear is more of a threat to an unarmed defender than an attacker with an rifle is to to a defender who has their own rifle.

          • John Schilling says:

            …it seems like you’re making the case that the presence of guns increases the lethality of disputes.

            Per the quantitative analysis by Kleck referenced earlier, it is unclear whether the presence of guns increases the lethality of disputes, but any such effect is a small one.

            The case I am making, again supported by Kleck, is that the presence of guns reduces the lethality to innocent victims of disputes. At the expense of increased lethality to the aggressor if he insists on continuing the dispute.

            Armed and murderous aggressor vs. unarmed victim generally means dead victim. Less than murderous aggressor, generally means severely injured victim. Regardless of the type of weapon the aggressor has, regardless of whether the aggression is premeditated or opportunistic.