NꙮW WITH MꙮRE MULTIꙮCULAR ꙮ

OT41: Having Your Mind Involuntarily Thread

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

1. In the spirit of discussing class differences, here are the 36 best quotes from Davos 2016.

2. Vitalik Buterin expands on my fake side effects article by discovering eHealthMe’s support group for “people who have Death on Xolair”. Related: “We study 33,751 people who have side effects while taking Viagra from FDA and social media. Among them, 983 have Death.”

3. Comments of the week include: Sarah on the order of Siamese twin phrases, John Schilling on that star with the unexplained dimming, Sniffnoy on class (someone once asked if there was anything that couldn’t be related to a David Chapman post; if so, today is not the day we find it), Joyously on Trump’s class, Michael W on Indian perceptions of Hitler, and Ptoliporthos on why ‘research parasitism’ can be a real problem.

4. More meetups: London, maybe Sydney?.

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1,480 Responses to OT41: Having Your Mind Involuntarily Thread

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m strongly considering leaving academia to work for a hedge fund. Given my background, this would not be difficult at all.

    What’s a good reason I shouldn’t?

    • Pku says:

      I’m considering something like this too. The main reasons I have against it is that I’d lose any hope of believing I was doing something that actually mattered. OTOH, I’ve pretty much given up on that in academia too.

    • Jason K. says:

      There are way too many variables to give a good response. We will need more details, else we will just be shooting in the dark as to what might matter to you. What kind of position are you leaving? Are you tenure track? What is important to you in your career? What kind of role are you aiming for in a hedge fund? Is there a specific job offer in mind, or are you talking generally?

    • John Schilling says:

      One general reason might be that hedge funds are not actually a license to print money. They siphon off a percent or two of their client’s assets every year, and ten times that of profits, for the illusion that because they are Elite the clients are getting superior investment management but in fact underperform the market in good times and bad. If there was an age when hedge funds, operating below the radar, could offer superior returns and/or risk management, it is probably gone and not coming back.

      If this year or next is the one where clients, en masse, realize this, you could wind up unemployed or stuck in a dead-end grind, having burned your academic bridges and never won a hedge-fund windfall.

      At a minimum, try to find out whether the reason you are being given the opportunity to join is because the present insiders have decided this is the time to leave. Consider how much of what you are being offered is salary and how much is the promise of bonuses or promotions that may not materialize. And if you do follow that path, see if there’s a way you can keep a foot in the academic world as well. Consider that your personal hedge.

      • anon says:

        To counter some of your points, from the perspective of someone who has done this:

        * Not all hedge funds are good hedge funds. In fact, most aren’t. So industry-wide aggregates may not be relevant for evaluating the particular firm you are considering working for.

        * Investors are paying 2 and 20 (or whatever) not just for absolute returns but for attractive risk-adjusted returns that are uncorrelated with those of investments that they can manage themselves more cheaply (e.g. index funds). This point is not always but often lost on journalists writing about crappy hedge fund returns. While it’s true that many hedge funds are not, in fact, that well hedged — insofar as their “beta” to the S&P 500 is quite high (especially during bear markets) — once again this is a situation in which there is a lot of variation across firms, and depending on the job offer you have the industry average in this respect may not be an appropriate metric.

        * Based on the readership of this blog and the way the question was phrased, it seems very likely that the hedge fund jobs under consideration are data scientist type roles at quant funds. The relevant skills you will learn (or further develop) working in such a role are transferable to other industries. So the prospect of potential unemployment in the face of mass redemptions from hedge funds (which is probably a fairly unlikely scenario at the moment, although not outside the realm of possibility) should not necessarily be terrifying.

        • Ralph says:

          Agreed.

          I worked in a quant/data science role at a trading firm. When I looked for jobs in tech the response from interviewers was like, “Woah, cool we don’t know much about quantitative finance but everyone in that industry is super smart, when can you start?” (which they are totally wrong about).

          But @Anonymous, there are other high paying jobs outside of academia that don’t fit the classic, “go work for a hedge fund” mold. Working in financial markets is a bit glorified by the media. It’s pretty high stress and not everyone makes a ton of money. Higher than average salaries for quantitative jobs, sure, but only a minority is getting rich.

        • brad says:

          In some ways two and twenty is worse if you are just looking for uncorrelated returns than if you are looking for outsized absolute return. If you are looking at an asset class with sub-equity expected returns (say 5% real) the two alone is going to really hurt. Whereas if you are hoping to invest in the next Medallion, well you probably won’t, but at least if you do you won’t care about the fees.

          • Chalid says:

            But hedge funds use high leverage and/or derivatives when they invest in things like fixed income.

            There is an argument that hedge funds are actually *cheaper* than regular active management. You can achieve the same amount of tracking error by putting, say, 90% of your money in an ultra-low cost index fund and 10% in a hedge fund, than you would by putting 100% of your money in a regular actively managed fund. And 2 and 20 on 10% of your money is cheaper than say 1% of AUM on 100% of your money.

          • brad says:

            I was thinking of hedge funds as the uncorrelated asset with modest expected returns, not the underlying thing they invest in. If the fund uses leverage to try to achieve high absolute returns that moves it out of the “yes, the returns don’t look all that impressive but …”

            I’m not sure I follow your second paragraph. Why would you want to achieve tracking error?

          • Chalid says:

            Well, there really aren’t any hedge funds that invest in low-return assets without leveraging them, for precisely the reason you describe; an investor would have to be an idiot to pay those fees for low expected return.

            For the second paragraph – assume you have two managers who you believe have equal skill. Manager one runs a conventional mutual fund and will beat the S&P by 2% with 70% probability, and will trail the S&P by 2% with 30% probability; for this he charges 0.6% of assets under management. Manager two is equally skilled but because he is a hedge fund he can be highly levered and use derivatives; so he will beat the S&P by 20% with 70% probability and trail the S&P by 20% with 30% probability. For this he charges 2 and 20.

            You could invest 100% of your money with manager 1 and get charged 0.6% of your money. Or you could invest 90% of your money in an index fund or ETF at about zero cost, then 10% of your money with manager two. This gets you a similar total return profile but the expected cost is 10%*(2%+0.7*20%*20%)=0.48%.

          • Chalid says:

            … and to finish the thought, if you are buying lack of correlation (“tracking error”), then you can perhaps get more lack of correlation per dollar of fees by buying a small amount of an expensive but completely uncorrelated hedge fund than you would by buying a lot of a cheap but moderately or highly correlated mutual fund.

          • brad says:

            Regarding the first point, I think we both disagree with Anon’s comment “This point is not always but often lost on journalists writing about crappy hedge fund returns”? If the returns aren’t there, the returns aren’t there. There’s little to no market for low absolute return hedge funds regardless of sharpe, beta, or whatever.

            As for the second, I see what you mean now. Thanks.

        • John Schilling says:

          Not all hedge funds are good hedge funds. In fact, most aren’t. So industry-wide aggregates may not be relevant for evaluating the particular firm you are considering working for.

          Is there a way for an outsider to know whether the particular firm they are considering, is one of the minority of good ones? That would be genuinely useful advice from an inside perspective, which I cannot offer.

          Absent that, if most of them aren’t good ones, the average newbie probably isn’t going to be working for one of the good ones. Particularly since the insiders will preferentially seek the jobs in the minority of good firms and leave openings in the bad ones. So taking the industry aggregate and discounting it a bit would seem to be prudent.

          • bluto says:

            A bad hedge fund is particularly bad for the investors, not necessarily for the employees.

          • anon says:

            As a prospective newbie, your odds of working for a good one are not random; it depends on your skill set, credentials, contacts, etc., as well as how good you are at assessing firm quality while interviewing.

            In terms of outside investors looking to invest only in good hedge funds, I don’t have any particularly good insider perspective. Someone who interacts more directly with clients would have a better sense. I basically think the ecosystem is similar to startups/VC in this regard: superstars at the top with a very long tail, and the dynamics are driven by investor preference for positive skew (they make negative EV bets on lesser-known VC funds / marginal startups / “hot new” hedge funds without strong track record, etc., in hopes of striking it big). This is a pretty robust behavioral econ finding. There is also the same adverse selection phenomenon at play: if a startup/fund/whatever is looking for your money, they are more likely to be bad than good, because the good ones quickly reach capacity in terms of how much capital they can deploy.

            Anyhow, a point to make is that the distribution of bad vs good firms wrt open research positions is probably very different from the distribution wrt a marginal dollar of investor money. Better firms are likely to be somewhat bigger, have better hiring processes in place to find talent, have a stream of people who have already done well and decided to go start a startup or return to astrobiology research or whatever, etc. I think a skilled candidate is unlikely to end up taking a job at a poorly managed hedge fund “by chance” — it would rather be a function of their (real or perceived) ability relative to the rest of the applicant pool and how much due diligence they conduct.

            Incidentally, if I were in charge of managing a pool of money like a large university endowment, I can think of much worse strategies for deploying it than polling the top STEM professors about which hedge funds their best graduate students end up going to work for. In other words, finding the good firms probably isn’t rocket science, even if it seems to be difficult for the median investor to do. Part of the problem is that even if I’m a guy with a relatively small amount of money (say a few million dollars) to invest and I know which investable firms/funds (i.e. ruling out places like RenTech that don’t accept outside money) are good by whatever method (polling STEM friends, say), I’ll probably have a very hard time getting them to take my call. But my golf buddy’s nephew who just started the next big thing? Much easier to get him to take my money…

          • YL says:

            It’s incredibly hard to be confident that a hedge fund you’re investing in is a good hedge fund. An easy definition of good might be a fund meeting the return and volatility targets it gives to investors, but just because a fund has met these targets in the past doesn’t at all mean it will continue too. Though most hedge fund indicies have gotten better about this, as an individual it’s difficult to control for survivorship bias: for example about half of the funds you might invest in will do better and half will do worse than average in the coming year, but significantly more than half will have done better than average the previous year since they survived when others didn’t.

            You’ll receive only a few years of monthly returns from the hedge funds you’d be looking at, if any at all, and that breaks down the intuitive statistical analysis that would be nice to do. Trying to understand a fund’s strategy is a decent approach but until you hear 10 different managers talk about the same strategy, they’ll all sound identical (and very intelligent and competent) and figuring out which manager will be better at implementing their strategy gets very technical. Managers, especially newer managers, will give you references if they think you have a high probability of investing in their fund but they get to choose who you talk to so what’s the point. The manager’s past experience is about as good as you can get, though currently there is still a generation of PM’s (in credit more so now) leaving banks with very good, very expensive infrastructure and setting up their own hedge funds only to realize that maybe why they were doing so well previously was less about their skill and more about their seat.

            A good manager may be a more subjective designation anyway: would you personally be happier with a fund’s returns if you understood why they behave the way they do? Are you looking for something very liquid that you can exit in a month but are therefore okay with high volatility? Maybe you think a few biotech companies are probably going to do extremely well in the next three years while the rest are flat but you personally don’t know which ones and would rather invest in a hedge fund with high vol, high correlation with the biotech sector, and low liquidity -which on their own are not great things but make sense to you.

            @anon I’m very surprised to hear you say that you think you’d have a hard time finding a hedge fund that’d take a few million dollars of private money. Many hedge funds (maybe 750mm AUM and below) have minimum investments* of between 1 and 2 million and since most have a dedicated investor relations person or work with their prime broker’s capital introduction team, it takes marginally very little of their time to speak to you and answer questions. It is definitely hard for someone outside of financial circles to get information about hedge funds, but this is mostly due to relatively limited ability to advertise rather than reluctance to take your money.

            *low minimum investments can be attractive even to larger funds because they allow investors to ease in and out without scaring them away with a initial monetary commitment, despite having lock ups and redemption structures.

          • Chalid says:

            From a employee perspective, there are a great many hedge funds (and similar institutions – investment banks, large asset managers, prop traders, etc) where you can be very confident that the firm will survive a rough year or three, whether that is because of sheer size, track record, reputation, or diversification. Probably most hires from academia end up at places like these initially and this greatly reduces their downside career risk.

            From an investor perspective, I don’t really have any special insight. You do need to keep in mind that the typical dollar invested in a hedge fund comes from an institution with a *lot* of money to invest (billions of dollars) and they are allocating a small portion of it to hedge funds. Think pension funds, university endowments, insurance companies, etc. These aren’t trying to pick “a” hedge fund, they’re trying to pick a mix of several hedge funds that complements the rest of their holdings, their own liabilities, their liquidity needs, etc.

            This sort of investor can also afford to do a much deeper type of due diligence on a fund than is going to be available to ordinary individuals.

          • anon says:

            @YL: I just meant that if I had $5M to invest it would be hard to get the *good* funds to take my money. That is, I’m suggesting the ease of investing in a fund and the quality of a fund are negatively correlated. (This is partly as a size effect, because I think many high-quality hedge funds are big enough that they only court individual investors who are extremely high net worth.)

      • 27chaos says:

        I’ve heard part of the reason hedge funds fail to make their clients money is because all their employees are absorbing that cash instead. Choosing to hire a hedge fund is a very different decision than choosing to work for one.

        • anon says:

          I think this is correct. To the extent that the median hedge fund has zero alpha, it’s probably more correct to say that the median hedge fund captures all of its alpha in fees.

    • Timothy says:

      Long hours and stress go in the “con” column, from people I’ve known who’ve worked at them.

    • Chalid says:

      In my experience, most people who leave academia for finance (or for that matter, for anything else) end up thinking that they made the right decision. I’m very happy having left academia for a quant finance job.

      But since you asked for reasons you shouldn’t go, this is what comes to mind:

      1) Generally, your job is to make very rich people slightly richer. That isn’t necessarily very fulfilling.

      2) It is likely that you will be forced to work with really unpleasant people at some point. This of course depends very much on company and team culture, but finance tends to attract assholes more than many other industries. If you’d really really hate being yelled at in front of all your coworkers on a crowded trading floor, then there are many firms you should avoid.

      3) I’m guessing you’re looking at some sort of quantitative role. If you are a quant supporting a non-quantitative business (this is the majority of quant jobs), there’s a decent chance you will be seen as secondary and merely advisory; you’ll be kept away from the “real” decision-making and glory. This can be very frustrating for some people.

      4) There is a ton of luck in your career outcome. Demand for what you do can skyrocket or collapse unpredictably. I know a guy who worked at Moody’s looking at CDOs pre-2007; he basically had to start his career over after the housing crash. Or the guy next to you might make a really bad bet and blow up your whole firm (this also happened to a friend of mine). On the other hand, you might be working in some niche product that explodes in popularity and makes you fantastically rich.

      5) It may not be as easy to get in as you think. The industry is inundated with resumes from disillusioned PhDs from top schools.

      6) The pay in finance is of course very good, but it’s not nearly as good as it used to be. And of course, everyone around you also makes lots of money so it’s easy to not appreciate it. In finance it’s worse than in most industries, and at hedge funds especially so. At any job in finance, you’ll work with people who make 10x your income or more, possibly much more.

      7) Some finance jobs are extremely stressful and have ridiculous hours. Some aren’t. If you’re new to the industry and don’t have a network of people to talk with it may be difficult for you to tell which is which.

    • dust bunny says:

      Having observed a large-ish amount of people who work in finance from a distance and from the perspective of an outsider, what’s remarkable about them as a group is how universally unhappy they seem to be. Much less happy than any other group I know of. The culture and values of that world seem to be very inconducive to human wellbeing. If you’re a robust type who finds their happiness little affected by external circumstances, it probably won’t make a difference to you, but if you already struggle with mental illness or just a melancholy temperament, you will likely be happier somewhere else.

      • Eric says:

        Were the people you observed mostly in investment banking? My impression is that people in hedge funds, and especially in prop trading firms, are happier.

    • Someone from the other side says:

      The work environment might be quite nasty.

      Financial markets are in a very unstable situation (which however *can* be good for hedge funds).

      It’s also a high variance strategy (which you might like, or not).

      Also to quote the finance prof at my MBA: “You don’t want to be a quant.” (in one case, he then stared at me in particular, said “you could, but still, don’t” – at the time I had already decided that I wouldn’t)

      Last I looked at it, it was pretty much only global macro funds that could point to some decent outperformance (and there it might well have been driven by a bunch of outliers). Most of the other strategies are bunk (in fairness, that was 2011 or so).

    • DES3264 says:

      I know a lot (off the top of my head, nine) of people who have done this. Most of them dropped out of math Ph. D. programs, all but one of them became quants. Seven of those nine quit within a few years. When I talked to them about that decision, the generally said the work was long, stressful, and boring. I particularly had several of them say that they felt mislead about how intellectually interesting their work would be.

      On the other hand, they made a lot of money and generally now have other jobs which they like a lot. If you’re going to spend a year or two figuring out what you are doing, it is nice to end that year with a big sum of cash.

      One final note — if you don’t have your Ph. D. yet, and if the hedge fund will hire you without, I would suggest taking a leave from your academic program rather completing. Postdoc hiring, and fellowships, generally look at your year of Ph. D., so if you ever want to go back to academia, you are much better off having that degree look fresh than having it look several years old.

    • YL says:

      Oh I know this! I started working at a hedge fund this year having just finished up an undergrad in physics and economics at uchicago. To answer your question: the reason you shouldn’t is because of the level of stress. I know this differs drastically fund to fund and somewhat strategy to stately, but even attending what I thought was a comparatively strenuous undergrad didn’t prepare me for the level of stress involved in managing large sums of money.

      The summer before I graduated I interned as a quant and was 1) shielded from stressed out portfolio managers making difficult (complicated, risky) calls on a daily basis, 2) didn’t have to know or care if the S&P was down, and 3) worked on projects that had a clear objectives and comparatively relaxed deadlines. Now that I work as an analyst, and since the market is down 5% since the beginning of the year, each additional hour of work contributes significantly more to my total stress – an extra hour of writing code or learning more econometrics doesn’t make your day much worse, but skipping lunch because what you’ve been working on is no longer as practical as it was and doesn’t help your PM in the way it was supposed to is less fun.

      That said, if you’re leaving a PhD program to get a quant position at a prop shop with a good culture that happens to be spinning out a hedge fund, this doesn’t really apply to you. On the other hand the attractiveness of working for a hedge fund diminishes somewhat in this case because the career path of a senior quant isn’t a clear as it is for someone on a pure investment track because of the weird stigma the industry has against quants. My current role is fairly objectively quantitative but no more than would be expected and yet because of my internship and background in physics it’s easy to be somewhat typecast as a quant working my way up the quant latter to the a final title of Head Quant – though maybe the fact that I care about other people’s perception of my career path means that I’m part of the problem in stereotyping quants as people with limited career ambition.

      Finally I’ll note that hedge funds, compared to the larger world of finance, are really weird things and while many are somewhat similar, they can vary drastically in totally unforeseen ways and unless you know the people at the fund beforehand, it’s extremely hard to tell what the expected quality of life at the fund you sign to will be like. If you make sure you like the strategy you’re working, which is more likely if you’re coming from academia, then it can only be so bad. As long as it’s a good part of the cycle for that strategy and your team is smart and you’re lucky.

      Quickly, the pros are 1) a challenging career path, 2) the chance to work with very intelligent people, and 3) money. Honestly in the long run I can’t see money being as important as the other two, especially if you’re not a huge fan of making money off of bonuses – I’m not personally. I get that it’s meritocratic and all but if I put in work and make smart decisions, I don’t want a somewhat luck derived amount of money to determine how good I feel about myself. And of course the first two reasons are also great reasons to stay in acedima and I toy with circling back to acedima in a few years myself about once a week.

      Also, to everyone else posting in this thread: producing in correlated returns is really hard. The whole event driven space shouldn’t be too correlated because of the nature of the strategy and yet it is because whenever you see a brilliant event driven opportunity, everyone else does too and if you’re not participating in the big name events then half the time your investors want to know why you didn’t pick up that obvious, easy money. Also remember that correlation not only increases in down markets but also with illiquidity, which is a fundamentally very difficult thing to deal with. I think a lot of people don’t realize that there are plenty of hedge funds that do a very good job even with 2 and 20 (and it’s hard to even describe performance well without context – high return, low vol, very liquid, zero correlation, are all accepted as good, but assuming you can’t have everything, what combination is better than the others and is it important to be able to decompose performance) but many of them are closed because the strategy can only put to work so much money so they have zero need to advertise – and anyway most people are much less interested in capital structure or reinsurance fund with decent returns than an easy to understand long/short equity fund that is down 20% so that’s what I’d write about if I wrote clickbait for Business Insider.

      Summary: Don’t work at a hedge fund because of the stress. Do work at a hedge fund for the same reasons you’d work in acedima + money.

    • tinduck says:

      I would do it. Finance can be good are bad. Your experience will matter more about the team you are working with than anything.

      However, I have made a rushed career decision in the past based on emotion and my overwhelming fear of failure/wasting my life. In my case my decision turned out for the best, but I could easily see how I could have ended up in a tough spot.

      Don’t set yourself up for failure. Think about why you want to leave academia and make sure things are going to be different at the new job. Academia has it’s perks. A top research university is one of the few places you will find like minded intellectual inclined individuals. It might be a bit of a culture shock coming back into the real world.

      Be patient, and take the best job that fits you. Also, don’t forget to run a wage comparison. Ann Arbor to New York

  2. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #7
    This week we are discussing “Non-Player Character” by Eliezer Yudkowsky.
    Next time we will discuss “By the Waters of Babylon” by Stephen Vincent Benet.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      In the afterword, Eliezer Yudkowsky says that this is the kind of technology he would expect to see six months before the Singularity, if that. I can see why; the AI in the story is extremely advanced. Kinda makes me wish I could play a videogame with such an AI, but I guess Mitsuku will have to do for now.

      Biographically, the story is noteworthy as an early indication that Yudkowsky could write excellent fiction as well as nonfiction. Comparing it to the science fiction that he was writing ten years earlier at the age of fourteen can serve as an inspiring reminder that we all have to start somewhere. Given some of the horrible old stuff that still sits on my own FF.net account, I can certainly sympathize.

      • onyomi says:

        For someone who doesn’t want to take the time to read the stories, is it possible to briefly summarize what kind of technology Eliezer expects to see six months before the singularity?

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          The story was written in 2003; I’m sure Eliezer’s views have changed substantially in the meantime. But to answer your question, the AI in the story is a video game NPC able to flawlessly understand spoken, natural language commands to reference events which happened earlier in the game and which are appropriate to the context of the conversation in which she is participating.

      • Deiseach says:

        the story is noteworthy as an early indication that Yudkowsky could write excellent fiction

        Oh dear 🙂

        I really don’t want to insult anybody, and I freely admit he is vastly more intelligent than I am and is working out serious points, but I can’t say this is good writing. It’s a handy way of setting up the scenario for the point he wants to make; the author’s afterword is probably the most important part of the whole exercise (rather as sometimes Shaw’s plays seemed like an excuse for his very long forewords which explored the point he wished to make).

        The weight of the story should be the relationship between Rilanya/Darin (or Mark as he is in real life) but there’s no relationship there. There’s nothing to indicate “the real tenderness I felt in you besides the cruelty” because for him, she’s exactly that – an NPC. Even the sexual element (and that seems to foreshadow the paths to have a romance with NPCs in some modern games) is less convincing to me as ‘the character of Darin feels affection for the character Rilanya’ and feels more like “another quest to level up and get the better artefacts, just like ‘Kill The Dungeon Ogre and Retrieve the Lost Magic Sword in Its Hoard’, this is ‘Rescue Princess, Deflower Her, Get Loyal Companion with Bonus Skills’ ” (like the pets in Torchlight or the animal companions in many games).

        So I wasn’t convinced that Mark suddenly believed that Rilanya was now sentient; I would have expected him to continue with the view that “yeah, this is some kind of leg-pull, right?”, particularly as Janey, the real-life girlfriend, is shown to be exactly the kind of person who does exactly that kind of thing. And I don’t believe he would develop qualms about AI and computer game characters and the rest of it.

        Personal preference for ending: pulling out again and finding Janey is also an NPC and Mark is trying out a new game that’s “just like life!” including that characters play games-within-the-game. Then again, that’s probably because I think Cronenberg’s movie, even though it was a bit of a mess, handled the whole “is this real? are you a player or a player character or an NPC?” much better and more ambiguously.

        Donaldson’s “Thomas Covenant” fantasy novels, which also are a bit of a mess, take the line that Yudkowsky recommends about not believing the rules of the new world and sticking to rationality; the title character is adamant (through hard-won experience from leprosy, which is a disease that won’t let you deny the facts and punishes any slip-ups about daydreaming or carelessness) that the world he finds himself in is not real, is a dream or a fantasy, and he sticks to behaving like a person in our real world who is having a dream or a hallucination, and insists on “this character is based on someone I met in real life”, and ends up creating complete havoc in the Land, which somehow crosses over into our real world. Or not. Even if the Land is only a dream, do you have any responsibility for what you do in a dream?

        Eh. Conclusion: it’s not great writing, but it’s perfectly serviceable to get the point he wants to make across, and it’s no worse than the bulk of a lot of SF short stories that got churned out during the 70s/80s/90s.

        • Vaniver says:

          (like the pets in Torchlight or the animal companions in many games)

          Wait, you can deflower your pet in Torchlight?

          So I wasn’t convinced that Mark suddenly believed that Rilanya was now sentient; I would have expected him to continue with the view that “yeah, this is some kind of leg-pull, right?”, particularly as Janey, the real-life girlfriend, is shown to be exactly the kind of person who does exactly that kind of thing.

          This was something that I liked about the story, actually–the protagonist was the person who saw faces in clouds instead of lecturing about pareidolia.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, from what struck me, Mark (or Darin) didn’t particularly care about Rilanya – she was the obligatory quest and now she’s his companion. Honestly, if she was replaced by the pet (even without sex), I don’t see a huge difference there – it’s not “an adult game” so the player doesn’t get sexy cut-scenes; it’s all there to – what? get Rilanya emotionally involved? Make her the weepy clingy girlfriend? I didn’t get the point of it at all.

            Mark should be, while playing, subsumed into Darin, and Darin should be emotionally connected to Rilanya, but what does the dialogue say? First time they met in-game, Mark was too busy making wisecracks. Okay, it took some time for him to get into the spirit of things, I understand that. But when Rilanya starts (supposedly) deviating from the script, what is Darin/Mark’s reaction? “Oh, plot point coming up”.

            There’s a distance between his playing experience and what he thinks and feels that makes the “Wow, she’s A Real Girl!” possibility unconvincing to me. Mark shows no signs of ever mistaking the NPC for anything else, so a few lines from her about “you’re not like everyone else”, “are you a god”, and “do you have a real girlfriend” should not make him start thinking “This is real sentient AI!”

            That’s probably the point of the story, but it fails because I can’t believe Mark ever fell for it, or if he did for a minute nearly believe it, that his feeling Rilanya was ‘real’ survived beyond Janey telling him how she tricked him. The lip-trembling at the end about “Amnesty Interplanetary” and how he can never play a game again had me going “Yeah, sure”.

        • Helldalgo says:

          I can be pretty gullible, and am over-primed for an AI/alien buddy due to the steady diet of science fiction and fantasy that I grew up on. The Darin/Rilanya dynamic seemed realistic to me. It would have been better if we’d seen more prior indication of Mark’s…not empathy, but tendency to anthropomorphize? I don’t know if that’s a word.

          Anyways. It feels like the same reaction I would have, given sufficiently sophisticated NPC AIs. I also enjoyed the story for its own sake.

          • Deiseach says:

            I mean, I’ve had to slaughter my way through a Dwarven fortress and suffered pangs of guilt while doing it! I understand getting so into a game that you treat the characters as real!

            But I don’t get that sense from Mark. There’s no “When Rilanya started saying and doing strange things, it threw me out of the world and it took me a moment to switch from Darin back to Mark”. There’s “Oh, something in the plot is going to happen here, must be big” instead. That’s why I’m not convinced about Mark believing in Rilanya as possibly a sentient character; he doesn’t speak to or treat her like that, he’s always got the “NPC, plot, quest up-coming” non-suspension of disbelief running in the back of his head:

            I looked at the screen for a few moments. Rilanya’s rendered graphic was looking at my point-of-view with a pleading expression. Plot point, I thought to myself, and typed: “Anything, Rilanya.”

            Going with the ‘joke’ when Rilanya starts on about “You’re controlling things from outside” would mean that “Dain” tells Rilanya a fairy-tale about him being an incarnated god, or hinting at Further Revelations to come, or the likes of that, not a flat “Darin: “That’s not exactly how it works, Rilanya.” About as much imagination as a potato on show there, and to follow it up with “If you were real, I wouldn’t have spent as much time trying to get you to let me fuck you” was tin-eared in the extreme.

            See, this is the bit I can’t believe: “I knew all that, and I was still disturbed.” That is, Mark knows all about the AI used in games and how NPCs can’t be anything approaching real, but a bit of tearful dialogue makes him twitchy – why? Because he treats Rilanya, despite all evidence, as a real person because he’s invested so much emotional energy in the game? My eye he did! He’s been perfectly aware all along that she’s a game device to move the storyline along, he doesn’t show any signs of identifying with Darin so much that he’s having trouble disconnecting from the secondary reality of the game, so I am not convinced he starts to feel troubled about signs of emotion in a generated character maybe signifying genuine sentience.

            And that’s what I mean about this is not great writing. As a “here’s my point put forward for your consideration”, it works fine. But the writing fails to convince as it needs to do, because the character of Mark is too flat and knowing (yeah, I know all about how these games are laid out plot-wise! I pulled all the online info on Easter eggs and AI! you can’t pull the wool over my eyes!)

            There’s “show, not tell” and we get too much of Mark telling how he can play games and knows about games and knows about the coding of the AI. When was the last time any of you talked about game character design and how it struck you while playing in terms of “her rendered graphic looked at my point-of-view”? That’s the technical specs from the instruction manual, not a character speaking of his experience in the game to convince us that he believes what he sees on-screen to have achieved sentience. It’s showing off, using jargon to evoke verisimilitude. God knows I can’t write, but it would be better to recast that as something like Rilanya looking pleadingly at Darian, and Mark having a background thought about Wow, this game has really cracked point-of-view interaction and keeping the graphics rendering holding up when it’s an NPC onscreen while interacting with Rilanya as Darian.

          • Loquat says:

            Would you still feel that way if AIs of that sophistication were in common use, though? The prank AI kit used in the story is conveniently available online for free, and said to be “fully tested and debugged”, meaning (a) AIs of similar sophistication must be already in wide use, and (b) there ain’t no way Mark is the first gamer to be pranked like this. There should be gamers talking up a storm about this sort of thing on the internet, and if Mark spends any time on gaming sites at all he’d hear about it.

            (It’s possible that this particular advanced prank AI kit only just came out, but with a little more effort you can run the same prank with a much less advanced AI – it’s not hard to find out the key questlines in any given RPG, and once you’ve done your research and done a little pre-writing all you need the AI to do is act out the lines you feed it.)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Loquat
            The prank AI kit used in the story is conveniently available online for free, and said to be “fully tested and debugged”, meaning (a) AIs of similar sophistication must be already in wide use, and (b) there ain’t no way Mark is the first gamer to be pranked like this.

            But (b) makes a better story, so it’s the dialog supporting (a) that should be tweaked.

          • Deiseach says:

            I should make myself clear here: there are two matters under review, the concept of the story and its execution.

            Now, a sufficiently novel, gripping or ‘new twist on old scenario’ concept will go a very long way to offsetting poor or lacking execution. What I’m critiquing here is the way the story is written, mainly because of (sorry, jaimeastorga2000) the mention that this story demonstrates or indicates how Yudkowsky could write excellent fiction.

            If we’re talking about excellence in the context of concepts – intriguing, novel, gripping, new twist on old tale, new light through old windows – that may be so. If we are talking about excellence in the context of execution – style, character development or demonstration, success or failure in getting point across, appeal of the written word as an experience in reading – I have to disagree.

            Okay, plus points: it’s from 2003 so it’s early work. Every author develops as they go along, if the same story were to be written now in 2016 it would probably be different and would flow more smoothly. The story is more interested in and excited about communicating the concept rather than excellent prose style, which is the same interest the vast majority of SF stories were all about, so not fair to throw stones about that.

            Negative critique: I’ve done two long comments about all that. Boiling it down, the story is not one I’d consider great because (a) the foundational concept is a little blurry – are we meant to be thinking about the possibility or likelihood of true AI developing in such a fluke manner, or about not being gullible and throwing away your hard-won tools of reasonable behaviour and thinking, even when you think you have covered all the objections to why This Thing Cannot Be So? (b) failure of execution – the character of Mark is paper-thin and unconvincing, I don’t find myself believing for one second he changed his mind on Rilanya being a plot delivery vehicle or had any of the scruples about game-playing he claims to have acquired at the end, the character of Janey is only tossed in at the end to be the deus ex machina as to why the NPC seems to be truly self-aware but in fact it’s all a trick (it could just as well have been a truly deep prank by the game designer, a loutish pal of Mark’s who pulled the same prank, or Mark having over-identified so much with the Player Character of Darin he started believing his in-game experiences were real) (c) as written, there is nothing in Rilanya’s dialogue or actions to convince me “Blimey, this doesn’t sound like a canned game character, this sounds like a person!” (weepy blithering by your busty bimbo sextoy about ‘does you weally wuv me?’ is not convincing, it just sounds like the kind of banner ads that are really bloody annoying and probably false advertising to boot). There is no moral dilemma or ‘can this possibly be actually real despite all I know to the contrary?’ tension in the story, because Rilanya is so plainly and flatly an NPC following a script all along, even if Mark falls for Janey’s “But I really love you, Darin!” manipulation.

            Okay, that last bit is good: plainly, Janey knows Mark so well that she knows he will be unable to resist the appeal to his vanity (in-game or real world, he’s such a stud that he makes Fake Girls into Real Girls merely by ‘fade to black’ interaction with him) and so he’ll be more likely to believe Rilanya is real if she is lip-wibbling over “But I really love you, don’t you really love me, my big, strong, capable, sexy hero who saved me from peril and took my virginity?”

            So to conclude: 6/10, perfectly fine run of the mill SF story, but great writing? Not so much.

          • Deiseach says:

            Loquat and houseboatonstyx have good points; it would make Janey’s character more integral to the story if, instead of “prank AI kit used in the story is conveniently available online for free, and said to be “fully tested and debugged”, and Mark apparently being the first gamer to have his leg pulled like this (despite his on-line searching, nothing about “game AI used to simulate real sentience” pops up), Janey has something like “It took me two solid years of coding but it was worth it for the look on your face!” as she has custom-developed the kit for that particular game, tailored around Mark’s in-game character and the quest lines he’s been following. So Mark hasn’t heard about this from online groups or friends playing the same game because nobody else (so far) has managed to get it to work, and it works on Mark because Janey is using her personal knowledge of what pushes his buttons, and the particular game and quest series he’s playing, the character he generated, Rilanya, etc. to make it as convincing as possible.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Deiseach

            I enjoyed those lacks as a feature! (The story reminded me of Niven’s about the nova, which I also liked.)

            In lit-crit terms, I could say EY set Janey up as a contrasting bloodless token real world un-glamorous girlfriend who probably won’t ever come onstage, where if she did she’d have no more life of her own than Niven’ s Leslie — then pulled the switch of Janey suddenly showing brains and motive (“now to the next phase”). Hey, it’s Janey who suddenly stops functioning as an (offstage) NPC! Wakes up in the reader’s mind as REAL (and more real than Mark, nya)! EY plants a seed for Relationship Development(tm): “So that’s how after she finally proposed and we got married, that we built X Megacorp. Well, it is if you believe this story….”

            Which is what a mid-century editor might have wanted, to wrap it up as a story.

            I like the fact that EY didn’t bother wrapping his idea in any such predictable trimmings of Ye Lit-Crit Art-Form. If he had, I’d have been reading along at that all too familiar level looking for them (like Mark thinking ‘Ah, here’s a plot point’); as it is, I was just as surprised as Mark was.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Deiseach:

            I’m another who found it believable.

            You: “It’s unbelievable because my mind doesn’t work that way.”

            Helldalgo & me: “It’s very believable because our minds work exactly that way.”

            So I think you’re just not the target audience.

            When was the last time any of you talked about game character design and how it struck you while playing in terms of “her rendered graphic looked at my point-of-view”? That’s the technical specs from the instruction manual, not a character speaking of his experience in the game to convince us that he believes what he sees on-screen to have achieved sentience. It’s showing off

            This word choice of the narrator’s is an early sign that he’s suspecting she might be “real” and is fighting that suspicion by choosing terminology calculated to remind himself that nah, she’s just a cool piece of tech. That’s intuitively obvious to me, because I’m the type of person who does that.

            To come up with the alternative interpretation that it’s “showing off,” I think you have to both lack (or be less primed to detect) that tendency compared to the target audience, and also be more alert to “signs of showing off” than the target audience.

            Well, and we already know Eliezer tends to be unalert to “signs of showing off.”

            But I’m not sure how he could’ve rewritten it to prevent triggering others’ “showoff detectors” but still achieve his goal of showing the narrator’s…well…I think many people would call it a “retreat to intellectualization,” but that’s not quite what it is. Really it’s more of a “retreat to semi-consciously reminding himself of the Official Facts through his word choice.”

            Eliezer’s playing with that trope by using a conventional way of showing us a character doing something “wrong” (the trope defines this “retreat” as a “defense against recognizing reality”)…that turns out to have been the right thing to do after all (she really *isn’t* “real”).

            it would be better to recast that as something like Rilanya looking pleadingly at Darian, and Mark having a background thought about Wow, this game has really cracked point-of-view interaction and keeping the graphics rendering holding up when it’s an NPC onscreen while interacting with Rilanya as Darian.

            The character would come off as much less “defensive against ‘reality'” that way.

            He’s been perfectly aware all along that she’s a game device to move the storyline along, he doesn’t show any signs of identifying with Darin so much that he’s having trouble disconnecting from the secondary reality of the game

            First, he hasn’t been perfectly aware all along, he’s been desperately trying to remind/convince himself. Second, “having trouble disconnecting from the secondary reality of the game,” either because he’s identifying with the viewpoint character or in a *general* sense, is not the only reason someone’s heart might go out to a non-viewpoint character:

            See, this is the bit I can’t believe: “I knew all that, and I was still disturbed.” That is, Mark knows all about the AI used in games and how NPCs can’t be anything approaching real, but a bit of tearful dialogue makes him twitchy – why?

            Because he’s especially inclined to anthropomorphize/have his “heart go out” even to non-humans/react strongly to displays of apparent emotion/etc.

        • AlexanderRM says:

          ” Even the sexual element (and that seems to foreshadow the paths to have a romance with NPCs in some modern games)”

          FYI romance with NPCs was definitely around by 2003. Even if you meant specifically the sexual element or detailed character interactions, I know those were a thing at least in visual novels (just from my extremely limited knowledge of them, Fate/Stay Night from 2004 has romance and sex scenes, and I’ve never heard that referred to as being pioneering in that respect, it’s only famous for the writing of the rest of the game).

          • Nornagest says:

            Fate had romance and sex scenes, yeah, and it wasn’t anywhere close to the first to do so, but the visual-novel genre was barely known in the West in 2004. It’s still not mainstream w.r.t video games; Westerners who’re mere nerds rather than obsessed mega-nerds buy VNs now, but they’re more likely to be anime fans than to be gamers.

            On the other hand, romance options were around in Western RPGs by then, too — Baldur’s Gate II (2000) had four possible romance paths as major subplots, and Fallout 2 (1998) had less emphasis on the option but still allowed you to pursue various characters. But, significantly, sex scenes (even as tame as Mass Effect‘s) seem to have been taboo at the time, not that they’d have been very titillating in 800×600 isometric sprite graphics.

      • Poxie says:

        I am admittedly an outsider – never tried out HPMOR because I don’t really dig Harry Potter – but I have a hard time imagining someone thinking this story is in any way “excellent.”

        (For the sake of calibration: I am digging UNSONG so far, but not creaming my jeans or anything.)

        • Nornagest says:

          The good news is that not digging Harry Potter might actually let you enjoy HPMOR more, depending on what bothered you about it. The story’s about thirty percent parody, and not always a particularly affectionate one.

          But it’s not great literature by any means. It’s pretty decent writing from a technical standpoint, especially by spec-fic standards, and I think it basically succeeds at what it’s trying to do; but it’s a weird fic in a lot of ways and there are places where it doesn’t quite gel. Eliezer’s about as subtle as a sock full of ball bearings when he’s trying to make a point, and he tends to have his characters go into occasional strange asides that do to characterization roughly what snapping an axle does to a minivan hurtling down the highway at seventy miles an hour.

          Also, you really need to be tolerant of geek-flavored attempts at badassery. You’ll be seeing a lot of them.

          • Deiseach says:

            Am I a horrible person* if my reaction to the push I’ve seen about “Nominate HPMOR for the Hugos” makes me go “Yes! This could be what breaks the Hugos for good!”

            At this stage I think the Hugos need to be broken and something set up to replace them that is genuinely broadly fan-based and not “personal toy of WorldCon and people who know how the sausage is made by getting appointed to those committees and running the con from year to year”.

            I also think – and this is grossly unfair because it’s based only on the extracts I’ve read of the work, not the entire work itself – that HPMOR** is so off-putting, if a flood of new members join simply to nominate it and it wins in its category, since it and they can’t be brushed off as “oh the same old white male racist sexist homophobic religious right-wing conservative nutjobs”, it may finally make people go “Okay, the system is badly broken and not representative of majority opinion” in a way that nominating and steering through their pet “have we ticked all the boxes on the representation checklist? Sure the main character is gay POC male, but does being male give him too much privilege? And if he’s able-bodied, is that ableist?” authors and works has not done to date.

            *The answer to that is probably yes, not merely on this but on various other grounds.

            **For one thing – and this is one of those idiosyncratic reactions a reader may have that has no reasonable justification – the triple-barrelled name comes off as horribly pretentious and trying too hard. Whatever the effect on the American side, over here it would definitely evoke “ghastly little oik” class-based reactions from the upper-middle/upper classes (if he can’t account for it with a light laugh and a deprecatory anecdote about an ancestor who had to add on to the family surname when inheriting a baronetcy, then it’s aping your betters), and “poncy git” from the lower-middle/working classes. It’s a bit too Hyacinth Bucket ‘It’s pronounced Boo-KAY’ and marks Harry out as very definitely middle-middle class and aspirational with it, which is not the impression I gather from his character (this Harry appears to be a complete know-it-all convinced of his natural superiority to everyone he encounters).

          • John Schilling says:

            I can’t say that I disagree with your assessment, save that it would take more than just HPMOR to break the Hugos. I must be as bad a person as you are.

            HPMOR does get three recommendations on the 2016 Sad Puppies list, and Vox Day hasn’t put out the Rabid Puppies slate for Best Novel yet…

          • Marc Whipple says:

            While this all sounds like great fun, I am very doubtful that HPMOR would be allowed as a candidate. It is, to the best of my knowledge, an unauthorized fanfic. The Worldcon committee would be well within its rights to disqualify it on the basis that it is an unmitigated infringement of copyright. (The Worldcon committee for each Con, according to the WSFA Constitution, has pretty much unlimited discretion to determine the eligibility of a work for candidacy.)

          • Urstoff says:

            The Philip K. Dick Award is the only sci-fi book award worth paying attention to these days; the original paperback market is pretty interesting and always overlooked.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            since it and they can’t be brushed off as “oh the same old white male racist sexist homophobic religious right-wing conservative nutjobs”

            Oh, I wish. Accusing HPMOR of racism and sexism is a favorite in the hatedom. Yudkowsky tried to appeal to feminists with his Society for the Promotion of Heroic Equality for Witches (S.P.H.E.W.) arc, which of course just got HPMOR denounced even harder for being insufficiently feminist (but, really, anything short of Hermione single-handedly killing Voldemort would have been considered insufficiently feminist by these people) and passages such as those that follow were used to decry HPMOR as racist:

            And in the slowed time of this slowed country, here and now as in the darkness-before-dawn prior to the Age of Reason, the son of a sufficiently powerful noble would simply take for granted that he was above the law. At least when it came to a little rape here and there. There had been ten thousand societies over the history of the world where this conversation could have taken place. Even in Muggle-land it was probably still happening, somewhere in Saudi Arabia or the darkness of the Congo. It happened in every place and time that didn’t descend directly from the Enlightenment. A line of descent, it seemed, which didn’t quite include magical Britain, for all that there had been cross-cultural contamination of things like pop-top soda cans.

            And now even within Ravenclaw, his only remaining competitors were Padma Patil (whose parents came from a non-English-speaking culture and thus had raised her with an actual work ethic), Anthony Goldstein (out of a certain tiny ethnic group that won 25% of the Nobel Prizes), and of course, striding far above everyone like a Titan strolling through a pack of puppies, Hermione Granger.

            In fact, reaction against the former was so bad that Yudkowsky eventually decided to edit it.

            the triple-barrelled name comes off as horribly pretentious and trying too hard… and marks Harry out as very definitely middle-middle class and aspirational with it, which is not the impression I gather from his character

            It’s not supposed to mark Harry that way; he didn’t choose his name. Rather, it’s supposed to mark his adoptive parents that way. And it does lead to this hilarious bit of dialogue:

            “They’re all mad,” said Hermione Granger as she strode vigorously toward Ravenclaw tower, having left dinner a bit early. “Everyone except you and me, Harry, I mean everyone except us in this whole school of Hogwarts, they’re all entirely mad. And Ravenclaw girls are the worst, I don’t know what Ravenclaw girls go reading when they get older, but I’m certain they ought not to be reading it. One witch asked me if the two of us had soul-bonded, which I’m going to look up in the library tonight, but I’m pretty sure has never actually happened -”

            “I don’t even know a name for this kind of fallacious reasoning,” said Harry Potter. The boy was walking normally, which meant he often had to skip forward a few steps to match her own indignation-fueled speed. “I seriously think if it was up to them, they’d be dragging us off this minute to get our names changed to Potter-Evans-Verres-Granger… Ugh, saying that out loud makes me realize how awful it sounds.”

            “You mean your name would be Potter-Evans-Verres-Granger and mine would be Granger-Potter-Evans-Verres,” said Hermione. “It’s too horrible to imagine.”

            “No,” said the boy, “House Potter is a Noble House, so I think that name stays in front -”

            What? ” she said indignantly. “Who says we have to -”

            There was a sudden awful silence, broken only by the thuds of their shoes.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >since it and they can’t be brushed off as “oh the same old white male racist sexist homophobic religious right-wing conservative nutjobs”

            This statement is true for nothing and no-one that exists.

          • Nornagest says:

            the triple-barrelled name comes off as horribly pretentious and trying too hard. Whatever the effect on the American side, over here it would definitely evoke “ghastly little oik”…

            One of the more common criticisms of HPMOR is that it’s stuffed full of Americanisms that one wouldn’t expect from its characters’ backgrounds. Being American, even if I’ve read a lot of British fiction, most of these pass me by in roughly the way that a fish is unaware of water; but I think this might be one of them.

            A double-barreled name in an American context is WASPy, and could be either very traditional (they sometimes happen in situations where a wife came from a family with no male heirs) or self-consciously modern (i.e. says you weren’t comfortable with the norm of children adopting the father’s name). I’ve never seen a triple-barreled name in the wild, and when it came up in HPMOR I read it as Eliezer poking some gentle fun at Harry’s Oxford background — along the lines of Rowling placing an excruciatingly middle-class family on “Privet Drive”.

            I take it the connotations are stronger across the pond.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            HPMOR’s SPHEW literally came down to “the women in this story get no agency.” I’m generally not a big fan of crying Xist but goddamn man HPMOR was terrible in many ways and it’s unintentional sexism was definitely a factor, albeit small in the face of the other factors. And yes, “everything is horrible that doesn’t come from Europe” is another issue of horribleness, especially when many felt the touch of the Enlightenment via the wonders of Colonialism.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Held in Escrow:

            And yes, “everything is horrible that doesn’t come from Europe” is another issue of horribleness, especially when many felt the touch of the Enlightenment via the wonders of Colonialism.

            What’s unfortunate to me is that there’s so much “talking past each other” on this point.

            It reminds me of the famous quote attributed to Gandhi (which he probably didn’t say):

            Journalist: What do you think of Western civilization?
            Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.

            One side talks up the glories of Western Civilization, pointing to the Enlightenment and reason and science and industry.

            The other side denounces Western Civilization because it produced Leopold II and Hitler.

            But they’re not actually disagreeing with each other on anything substantive! It’s just a question of what affect we ought to have toward “Western Civilization”. It’s a meaningless ethnic tension argument.

            Now, the real dispute is between, on the one hand, those who think that Enlightenment and reason and science and industry are good things, and that Leopold II and Hitler are aberrations that don’t result from them as such. And, on the other hand, those who think that Enlightenment and reason and science and industry are bad things or at least “not the whole story”, and that Leopold II and Hitler are the inevitable effects of man’s reckless pursuit of unlimited wealth and knowledge. But this is obscured by the way the arguments are usually put.

            I was in a debating society in college, and we had a piece of jargon we called a “bucket debate”. A classic “bucket debate” is something like “Resolved: the British Empire did more harm than good.” Yes or no? What you get in a debate like this is not people actually responding to one another. Instead, you just get one side throwing facts in the “good the Empire did” bucket, while the other side throws facts in the “bad the Empire did” bucket. But what’s really interesting are the facts about what the effects of the British Empire actually were. What’s not interesting is whether, given that you agree on those facts, you choose to label the collectivity “more good than bad” or “more bad than good”.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            This statement is true for nothing and no-one that exists.

            Agreed. SJWs are like Twilight Sparkle; if they can’t find a problem, they’ll make a problem.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            @Vox
            You’re massively missing my point here. If you say “these places are uncivilized” often the reason was because said civilization came in back when they had flourishing cultures and seriously screwed them up. The Enlightenment was not some glorious panacea and often times we ended up with zero sum games of resource extraction.

            It’s like if we were going to play a game of golf. I was said I was going to beat you and that would prove my brand of golf club was superior for playing the game. but right before the game I take one of my clubs and beat you so hard you can’t walk. Sure, I win the game and the golf clubs had something to do with it, but it doesn’t exactly prove my point now does it?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Held in Escrow:

            You’re massively missing my point here. If you say “these places are uncivilized” often the reason was because said civilization came in back when they had flourishing cultures and seriously screwed them up. The Enlightenment was not some glorious panacea and often times we ended up with zero sum games of resource extraction.

            I don’t think I’m really missing your point.

            Many people think that European civilization is superior to those places’ previous civilizations and “flourishing cultures”. That is, the non-Europeans would be better off abandoning their old customs and adopting European ones, like the Japanese. They think European civilization has some flaws, but these are non-essential and are a leftover legacy of primitive times. And that if the essential values of European culture are only applied consistently, they will eliminate these elements of barbarism within European culture.

            Other people don’t think that; they think that the previous non-European civilizations were just as good in their own way, and that European civilization is founded upon false understandings of human nature, such as the idea of the “atomic individual”. Therefore, European civilization did not deserve to take over the world, and “globalization” and “Westernization” is something to oppose or at least regret.

            It’s like if we were going to play a game of golf. I was said I was going to beat you and that would prove my brand of golf club was superior for playing the game. but right before the game I take one of my clubs and beat you so hard you can’t walk. Sure, I win the game and the golf clubs had something to do with it, but it doesn’t exactly prove my point now does it?

            Again, the debate is over what the victory of European civilization signifies and proves.

            One view is that European civilization deserved to win and indeed ultimately won because of the good things about it, but that the bad things—which are non-essential—did cause a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering, and indeed held back the progress of civilization. To use your example, the Europeans were able to beat you into submission because they did indeed have a better golf club, but really they ought to have used that club to play a better game of golf, and everyone would have been better off.

            The other view is that the Europeans didn’t have a better golf club at all. They won due to luck and contingent geographical features, and—having won—they spin the story that it was all due to their better golf club, which is in fact rusty and terrible.

          • Deiseach says:

            nornagest, as you point out, putting the Dursleys living in a place called “Privet Drive” has a whole host of subtle connotations that are absorbed without notice by readers over here and probably don’t register with American readers; it marks out the middle-class, social climbing nature of Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, and why they are so terrified of the attention Harry’s magic could attract – “don’t make a show of us in front of the neighbours!”

            The first book certainly, and perhaps the next two, are written as the kind of Cinderella fairy tale with grotesque, exaggerated characters. Whether you want to say the series gets more ‘realistic’ as it goes on is debatable, but certainly Harry’s character changes, as does the tone of the books.

            The Potter-Evans-Verres name just grates on my ear, whatever the intentions behind it. I don’t know if Yudkowsky was indulging in leg-pulling, it reads too much like the kind of faux-Brit novels Americans write (there’s one particular historical detective series which shall go nameless) where they manage to refer to people as “Sir Browne-Wigglesworth” without anyone picking up on why that is simply wrong, wrong, wrong (never mind writing the hero/heroine as 21st century attitudes in riding breeches or a corset), i.e. an American idea of what an Oxbridge professor’s married name would be.

            And the “House Potter” thing is Game of Thrones, not old pure-blood wizarding Magical Britain families.

            The trouble is, all the extracts I read are so off-putting (Harry is an odious little know-it-all smartarse who needs to be dumped into the nearest muddy puddle by a gang of Slytherin hearties; Hermione and Ron are treated as objects to be lectured by Harry; it supposedly gets better later on when Harry realises he is in fact an odious etc. but I could not bear to read an entire work to get that far; and if I want a tract dressed up as a novel for pushing the author’s hobbyhorses on the ignorant public, I’ll read Ayn Rand – and I’ll never read Ayn Rand).

          • Deiseach, I’m not going to say you’re a horrible person, but you’ve managed to really get on my nerves.

            Eliezer has requested that people not get Worldcon memberships just to support HPMOR.

            (xposted from /r/hpmor)

            I’d prefer not to encourage people who otherwise don’t attend Worldcon to purchase Supporting Memberships for this purpose. Besides effective altruist considerations, I don’t want there to be any hint of impropriety or flooding. If nominated or winning, I want it to be fair and square, and to look fair and square, including if someone compares the percentage of Supporting voters to other Hugo nominees. And yes, I’d want that even without Sad Puppies issues. The Hugo belongs to whoever can rightfully move the souls of Worldcon attendees and accustomed Supporters, not to who can bring in their own people from outside. Though if anyone wants to go attend Worldcon in person, I’m pretty sure that’s fair game and counts as my bringing new blood into Fandom rather than anything icky. I’m also happy with Supporting votes from people who usually support Worldcon, regardless of whether they usually nominate Hugos.

            I’ve asked someone on the Hugo commuittee and HPMOR being unauthorized fanfiction doesn’t affect the novel’s eligibility.

            I’m actually looking forward to an HPMOR campaign, just because it’s neither puppy nor anti-puppy. I think it will be less malicious than either of them.

            I see no reason to think anything is going to break the Hugos in the reasonably near future, whatever breaking the Hugos might mean.

            A side effect of the puppy/anti-puppy wars has been a lot of effort to get the word out about how the Hugos work and how to nominate and vote. This will probably bring in a wider variety of people.

            I would like to see a vote from a larger electorate without a qualifying fee, but I have no idea how that would work. Any thoughts?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Deiseach
            I also think – and this is grossly unfair because it’s based only on the extracts I’ve read of the work, not the entire work itself – that HPMOR** is so off-putting, if a flood of new members join simply to nominate it and it wins in its category [….]

            That could crack the marketing link where Muggles who mass-buy for chain stores and libraries are an assured market for the year’s Hugo winner.

            I expect that at some point Rowling’s lawyers might have something to say about it. Perhaps she’d sell EY a license.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            I think Rowling has spent a decade said she is okay with fanfic as long as it is not sold and not porn. I think that would make it pretty hard to force a legal issue at this time.

            This is sort of the (complement? converse? not sure the proper word) of those stories of Disney forces daycare center to paint over their princess murals.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          For what it’s worth, I only tried reading a few chapters of it, but I found it too silly and stopped. And I like Yudkowsky’s nonfiction work.

          I don’t like reading fan fiction like that. I haven’t gotten into Unsong, either. I read a couple of the interludes, but I didn’t find the main story interesting at all (I didn’t read much of it, though). Maybe I’ll change my mind.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          You will know immediately whether or not it’s for you on reading it: it is a very love it or hate it work.

          I personally couldn’t force myself through more than the first chapter, and I even had to stop reading an in-depth review of it because the quoted bits were too much. On the other hand, a lot of people who had never heard of Less Wrong enjoyed it so there has to be some appeal beyond liking the author.

        • Anonymous says:

          I generally dislike self-insert fiction, and HPMOR is definitely that, especially if it’s anvilicious about evangelizing the author’s values. Same objection to Luminosity.

          • Nornagest says:

            I was never blown away by Luminosity, but my problem with it was almost the opposite: the luminosity of the title is never deeply explored; it serves mainly as an excuse to dispense with what I gather are the main conflicts of the original and get down to superpowered fight scenes and storyboarding the future of vampire society. Which aren’t particularly interesting; maybe in another story they would be, but when you’re given a setting as badly broken as Twilight‘s is, it’s not much of a revelation to follow through on its brokenness.

            HPMOR at least tried to be funny about snapping Potter canon over its knee like a stale churro.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            If by “snapping canon over its knee” you mean creating and then burning a straw effigy sure?

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not trying to be unduly reverent to Eliezer here. Methods has problems; I’ve mentioned a few of them elsewhere in this thread.

            But I don’t think straw is one of them. You could fairly accuse it of being mean-spirited or of missing the point of its source material, though; while you could fly the Space Shuttle through the holes in Rowling’s canon, that’s largely because it (like Twilight) isn’t meant to stand up to nerdy analysis. It isn’t that kind of story. You may as well write “The Physics of ‘Jabberwocky'”.

            On the other hand, I also think that one of the Potter series’ major flaws as a piece of literature is that it’s meant to grow up with its readers, and while the characters and themes do, the setting doesn’t. Leads to quite a bit of dissonance towards the end. Though of course that would have been harder to pull off.

        • Held in Escrow says:

          @Vox

          My point with the golf club is that the quality of the golf club is completely irrelevant to the outcome of this game of golf. Hence the comparison to HPMOR implying that Enlightenment civilizations are the only true civilized people. It comes across as extremely ignorant of history and somewhat racist due to that.

          Also, re: the bucket debates. I didn’t do debate in college because I hated the formats, but I did in high school. There was an easy enough solution in my debate of choice, Public Forum, in that the Aff had to actually prove their side. The argument wasn’t “The British Empire was great” it is “Is the Aff correct in their argument about the British Empire being great.” You could come at this with a bucket strategy of “their pros don’t outweigh these cons” but it was generally more effective to attack the Aff’s points head on and then use your own Cons to buff up your side.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Short science fiction stories still can grab me. The two things that immediately pop to mind are
      -this has probably happened to him or someone he knows (if anime has taught me anything there will be someone who likes pranks in any group)
      -this looks like he took the list of requirements of rationalist fiction and tried (and succeed) at making an ur-example. It is like 3 worlds- you read it once and the theme is meant to stick in your brain.

      • Vijay says:

        I do not even understand the following:

        1. Internet of women (are women not on internet now?)
        2. Minister of future (what would he do that OMB, BEA, etc cannot do?)
        3 I don’t know how diversity is the engine of invention.
        4. Revolution of values
        5. Monopoly of waging wars should be taken from humans (and given to birds?)

        It appears that they just built a short random phrase generator and allotted it to different people. Trudeau got multiple times.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          On that third one, the charitable interpretation is that society gets the most innovation when it allows anyone who can contribute, to contribute. This is trivially true, though not so trivial in the losses we have suffered in denying it. One could weep long and hard over the creations we have doubtless lost because some genius was born to slavery and repression and never had the chance to give them to us.

          The cynical interpretation is that by some secular miracle when you make sure that every group attempting to innovate has politically satisfactory demographics you’ll get increased output. At that point the word “synergy” will probably be used and I will rapidly lose interest.

        • Charlie says:

          I assume 1. applies to one of two things:

          (1) the old adage that we need more women in technology (why? Who knows, we just need it)
          (2) (and more likely) there’s a lot of talk as to how the internet is a hostile place for women. There’s not really any evidence for it (demos and pew both found the opposite), but I think it serves those who want to censor/regulate the internet well as it gives the common man a cause against the freedom and anonymity the internet brings.

        • Deiseach says:

          Internet of women (are women not on internet now?)

          So far the Internet has been made out of tubes. There is now a push to make it out of things. In the far-flung sci-fi era of the 21st century, this is not acceptable. The Internet should be made out of women.

          Every female a portable Wi-Fi hotspot!

        • “he old adage that we need more women in technology (why? Who knows, we just need it)”

          There’s plenty of lonely geeks who think they need it!

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      There’s been a small change of plans. I’ve decided to take out “All the Painted Stars” by Gwendolyn Clare and replace it with “I” by Philip Goetz. I’ve also added a couple more stories to the list.

      And so long as I am making a meta-thread, I want to know what you guys think so far. Any comments or suggestions on the story selections, the discussion format, or anything else?

      • keranih says:

        Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m not reading ahead, so I’m often too late to add constructively to the comments, but I am really enjoying this. A good add to the community.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        I enjoy these still. Usually a pleasant way to spend my Monday lunch breaks.

        As for story selections, one that stuck with me was Ian McDonald’s”The Days of Solomon Gursky.” I read it online a few years ago. One of the first stories to show me what transhumanism could really end up looking like. I haven’t checked the updated list, but if it is not on there, might it be considered as an addition?

      • Poxie says:

        If you care: I’m a mostly-lurker on SSC, and I always try to look at the stories discussed on these threads. I dig many of the stories, so keep it up!
        I’m sure there is some LW term for the silent audience that y’all play to – I’m one. So keep it up, Jaime2K

    • Loki says:

      Does anyone else feel like this is another case of a thing that keeps coming up in Yudkowsky’s fiction?

      What I mean is that the girlfriend is all ‘hey, you know what, I’m going to psychologically torture my boyfriend because, idk, I’m a female characer written by Yudkowsky, my motivations don’t have to make any fucking sense’.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Does anyone else feel like this is another case of a thing that keeps coming up in Yudkowsky’s fiction?

        You mean like the tickling thing?

        What I mean is that the girlfriend is all ‘hey, you know what, I’m going to psychologically torture my boyfriend because, idk, I’m a female characer written by Yudkowsky, my motivations don’t have to make any fucking sense’.

        Is this about Hermione? Because I can’t remotely remember anything else in his fiction that remotely resembles this.

  3. Samuel Skinner says:

    The 36 best quotes appear most mindless platitudes by poiticians and management style advice from the CEO’s with two exceptions.

    The PM of Israel. “The key to tackling extremism is despair. Rob them of the hope their wild fantasies will win out the day.”
    PM France “Don’t leave the EU UK!”

    • Virbie says:

      Some of the platitudes weren’t just mindless, they were embarrassingly nonsensical. “we’ve heard a lot about the Internet of Things; we need an Internet of Women” is way more unintentionally funny than “binders full of women”.

      Also, I was surprised at some of the people there. Will.i.am? Kevin Spacey?

      I found the placement of the Netanyahu quote in the list to be pretty amusing. Amidst all these hollow, uplifting sentiments, there’s grumpy old Bibi talking about how we need to create despair. That’s not a knock on his actual statement; it’s just a funny juxtaposition.

      • onyomi says:

        I think it’s ridiculous that Emma Watson has tried to turn herself into some deep thinker for women’s rights. You’re Hermione. That’s all you are. Live with it.

        • Pku says:

          It’s kind of like if Martin Sheen decided to run for the democratic nomination. Except I kinda like Martin Sheen.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          True? Clearly not. If you can’t tell the difference between the actress and the part it’s you who are suffering under delusion. Her positions should rise or fall on their own, not because you can accuse her of being a popular actress. That sword cuts both ways.

          Kind? No.

          And I see don’t see how it’s in any way necessary.

          • onyomi says:

            “True? Clearly not. If you can’t tell the difference between the actress and the part it’s you who are suffering under delusion.”

            If you understand idiomatic English then you know what I mean. And it isn’t that.

            I am confident you understand idiomatic English, so the question arises: why are you suggesting something which you know to be untrue, i. e. that I can’t tell the difference between an actress and her part?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “You’re Hermione. That’s all you are. Live with it.”
            That idiom seems to mean, roughly, that Emma Watson is a talentless hack of a child star who is now acting as if she is “somebody”.

            Is there some other “kind” interpretation I am somehow missing?

            She went to Oxford and graduated from Brown, for pete’s sake.

          • onyomi says:

            See below.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Fuck everyone who smugly cites the comment policy at other commentors, with the possible exception of Scott himself.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Suntzuanime:
            Scott has his policy for a reason. The reason being that these are the rules we are supposed to hold ourselves to.

            And in what way is my comment “smug”?

          • Wrong Species says:

            It seems like you are taking his comment personally but I don’t understand why.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            HBC: Your on-topic comments are uniformly thoughtful and worthwhile. However, can you stop being That Guy Who Always Polices the Comment Policy? Please? After the first half-dozen times, the policing is more annoying than the rando one-offs that you are trying to police.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Anonymouse:
            If I started making rando offensive comments about certain people, someone would call me on it, as they should.

            Perhaps what you are saying is that you would like the comments section to be a comfortable place, where everyone can post things that are moderately offensive without worrying about whether they get called on it.

            Well, those place tend to not have interesting back and forth.

            But maybe this actually is an alt-right echo-chamber and I’m actually the asshole.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ The Anonymouse
            HBC: Your on-topic comments are uniformly thoughtful and worthwhile. However, can you stop being That Guy Who Always Polices the Comment Policy?

            Maybe some more of us should pitch in to do more of that.

          • keranih says:

            Second/thirded whatever.

            It does no bloody good to be really annoyed by some non-constructive action by a community member and then just sit on ones flipping hands. Aren’t we always going on about how grey types are too literal and don’t read social cues?

            Politely tell someone they are being non-productive, and then deal with the substance of the comment. We don’t have to be so afraid of being called SJWs that we give up on pointing out bad behavior – just like is being done here with HBC.

          • science2 says:

            It seems like you are taking his comment personally but I don’t understand why.

            You can’t understand why HBC is taking suntzuanime’s “fuck everyone …” comment personally? It was blatantly directed at HBC and intended to cause offense. Most of suntzuanime’s posts are intended to cause offense because apparently the emperor has declared that subjects ought to cause offense. It prevents blight or something.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @science2

            I’m talking about onyomis comment. i don’t understand why he’s so offended by the comment about Emma Watson.

        • John Schilling says:

          Except, if all you are is The Chick Who Played Hermione Granger, is there something better you should be doing with that than, say, this?

          I’m assuming she hasn’t actually given up on her acting career and still auditions for roles that would allow her to expand beyond TCWPHG, but until that happens, why not give give speeches on women’s rights to people who a crowd that will barely, cynically pretend to listen but might not even show up for a generic Not Hot, Not Famous, Feminist Spokesperson?

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, I don’t actually so much blame her, personally, if that’s what she’s interested in; it’s more the degree to which others take her seriously just because she’s a celebrity. I know people who have devoted decades to studying women’s issues. Do they get to talk at Davos?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Isn’t this a commonly agreed fallacy? I feel Scott has brought it up before.

            Yes, Emma Watson will get more pub and more quotes than less famous people with better credentials, but that doesn’t mean she should not speak. She isn’t even speaking as a feminist scholar, so it’s not clear she is taking the place of someone who is more worthy.

          • onyomi says:

            As I said, what bothers me is more the degree to which others listen to celebrity than that celebrities chose to speak. Nonetheless, the celebrities themselves bother me to the degree they give the impression of operating under the misapprehension that their ideas are being paid attention to for their merit, rather than because they are a celebrity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            How much libertarian scholarship have you done, onyomi? I get the sense this is not your area of academic expertise, but I could be wrong.

            And yet you have strong views and deeply held convictions about the matter. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

            And Emma Watson appears to have been employed by UN Women precisely because she is famous. She is a spokesperson for the effort, not too much unlike Joe DiMaggio was for Mr. Coffee. Perhaps she went to the UN and convinced them they needed to start a “HeForShe” campaign, but that seems less likely (and might actually be impressive).

          • John Schilling says:

            She is a spokesperson for the effort, not too much unlike Joe DiMaggio was for Mr. Coffee.

            Precisely. But that makes the whole thing as cynical, as exploitative, and as unlikely to substantially improve the human condition as any other Madison Avenue advertising campaign, and yet here it is being held as an example of the Greatness That Is Davos. A certain level of mockery is not uncalled for, and demanding that any part of such nonsense be treated with respect probably won’t get you very far.

            The mockery should, I think, be more precisely targeted at the audience who I suspect had many better things they could have been doing with their time, than at the young woman who maybe didn’t. And at the silly propaganda that brought it to our attention.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @JohnSchilling:
            There were a lot of Mr. Coffees sold, though. People got a decent product for a decent price. How cynical and exploitative it is depends on how the product compares to the marketing.

            From a worldwide perspective, 1st wave Feminism seems like a pretty necessary idea to me. I don’t think the UN campaign is designed at advancing 3rd wave feminism in the developed world, which means we aren’t the target market.

            Advertising is always going to look pretty awful to at least some people who aren’t in the target market.

          • Jiro says:

            From a worldwide perspective, 1st wave Feminism seems like a pretty necessary idea to me. I don’t think the UN campaign is designed at advancing 3rd wave feminism in the developed world, which means we aren’t the target market.

            I don’t think the UN campaign, or such campaigners in general, distinguish such forms of feminism, but rather consider them all the same thing. For instance, if you look at the web site of the UN Campaign for women, you find lots of figures referencing the developed world, as well as using terminology meant for the developed world in connection with the non-developed world, such as “safe spaces”. If you look at their 2015 timeline for women’s rights it includes such things as “Germany passes law for gender quota in boardrooms” and “Hollywood: gender wage gap exposed”. Even Watson’s own speech invoked unequal pay in Britain.

          • onyomi says:

            “Advertising is always going to look pretty awful to at least some people who aren’t in the target market.”

            The complaint isn’t about the existence of advertising and spokespersons and celebrity popularizers. It’s about inviting a celebrity popularizer to a “world economic forum” that bills itself as a meeting of thought leaders in the realm of economics, not a meeting of spokespersons for social causes. Of course, some of the speakers seem to be claiming that feminism is an economic issue. Fair enough. Invite an actual thought leader in the realm of gender and economic development, not a spokesperson/popularizer.

            Unless Davos isn’t really about advancing the state of economic and political thought, but rather about rich and powerful people preening and networking in a very public, ostentatious way. Which is what I’m strongly implying it is.

          • stubydoo says:

            @onyomi,

            The fact that Davos is nothing more nor less than “rich and powerful people preening and networking in a very public, ostentatious way” is universal common knowledge among everyone who pays attention to Davos, with the exception of those who actually attend.

          • John Schilling says:

            From a worldwide perspective, 1st wave Feminism seems like a pretty necessary idea to me.

            I quite agree. It’s the part where an enthusiastic young celebrity giving a generically uplifting talk at a gathering of global elites is going to advance that cause in any meaningful way that is laughable. Worth an afternoon of Emma Watson’s time if she doesn’t have an acting job that week? Yeah, probably. Worth bragging about in someone’s list of examples of why Davos is so great? If that’s the best they’ve got, or even in the top 36, the whole thing is looking pretty laughable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            If she is speaking at Davos, and you are not at Davos, you are not the target market.

            I honestly have no idea whether Emma Watson speaking at Davos makes it slightly more likely that Saudi Arabia improves in 1st Wave Feminist metrics in the next 20 years. I’m not even sure whether Davos makes much difference in the course of events. But I’m not at Davos either.

            Let me put it this way. If she were putting malaria nets or de-worming in front of 250 public figures (including heads of state or government, cabinet ministers, ambassadors, heads or senior officials of international organizations) people here would generally find it to be a good thing. Especially if she could speak eloquently on the issue and reference the relevant science.

            In other words, I don’t think this has very much to do with Emma Watson or famous people advocating for causes they believe in, but has more to do with whose ox is being gored and whether it is (hypothetically) “yours”.

            Obviously I can’t run the counterfactual, but if Watson wasn’t advocating for the outgroup of this blog, I think the original comment would have been much differently phrased, along the lines of “Do famous people advocating for their priorities do net good or harm?” And that is if the comment was made at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            This page seems to indicate much more of a developing world slant. But what do I know?

          • Jiro says:

            HBC: They’re obviously focussing on third world feminism at the moment, but that’s very different from only being dedicated to third world feminism.

          • Aapje says:

            If she were putting malaria nets or de-worming in front of 250 public figures (including heads of state or government, cabinet ministers, ambassadors, heads or senior officials of international organizations) people here would generally find it to be a good thing.

            Of course people would support a cause they support. But that doesn’t mean that they agree that Watson is the one who should do that. She doesn’t have expertise on malaria or de-worming either, so it would still be stupid to have her talk about it.

            It might actually be worse to have her talk about those topics than to have her talk about feminism, because feminism has already been celebritized and identity politicized to such a degree that one more useless opinion is a drop in the ocean. In a way, it is very fitting to have her talk about feminism. It’s actually an accurate reflection of how the field of Gender Studies is anti-scientific misandry, so why not just invite a celeb? It’s not like the average Gender Studies professor would make more sense.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Yes, Emma Watson will get more pub and more quotes than less famous people with better credentials, but that doesn’t mean she should not speak. She isn’t even speaking as a feminist scholar, so it’s not clear she is taking the place of someone who is more worthy.

            The criticism is two-fold: one is that Emma Watson is given a platform to speak about women’s rights when her comments about the issue are not particularly innovative, informed or thoughtful, even by feminist standards. This is not a criticism of Watson, but of the relationship that the general society has with celebrities.

            The second criticism, more specifically directed at Watson, is that she uses women’s rights advocacy just to keep herself relevant, given than her acting career after Harry Potter has been less than stellar. Hollywood competition is cutthroat, and she has only a few years left to land a major role before her fame dissipates and she becomes The Kid Who Played Hermione forever. Spinning platitudes about social justice is a simple and safe way to extend her expiration date as an actress and possibly reinvent herself as a “cultural critic” if her acting career turns out to be unsalvageable.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hollywood competition is cutthroat, and she has only a few years left to land a major role before her fame dissipates and she becomes The Kid Who Played Hermione forever

            Doesn’t this make your second criticism, “more specifically directed at Watson”, also really about the relationship that the general society has with celebrities?

            In the celebrity and motion-picture businesses as they actually, laughably are, and on the days when there aren’t auditions for substantive acting roles, is there anything Emma Watson could better do than this to steer her career away from “The Chick Who Played Hermione Granger, coming to a genre convention near you”? Probably not. Given Davos as it actually, laughably is, and that this year’s agenda included a generically uplifting feminist speech for everyone to claim Progressive Points from, is there anyone better than Hermione Watson to give the speech? Would putting Amanda Marcotte on stage instead have had Ashraf Ghani going back to Afghanistan with a greater commitment to first-wave feminism? Probably not.

            There’s lots to laugh at here, or to seriously criticize. Just not Emma Watson’s actions or decisions given the circumstances, I think.

          • Mary says:

            It always makes me think of Plato’s Apology of Socrates. While people who take celebrities seriously when they natter outside their area of expertise are at fault, the celebrities themselves are often at fault for not realizing that they are outside.

          • John Schilling says:

            In what way is this outside of Emma Watson’s area of expertise? She’s not being asked to do original research in feminist theory, or to sit down with Ashraf Ghani and negotiate a treaty guaranteeing equality for the women of Afghanistan. Her job was to give an inspirational speech. Almost by definition, if there’s a person who is qualified for that job then any actor or actress who can convincingly play that person is equally qualified. Ms. Watson seems to be a talented actress whose range has perhaps not been fully explored by Hollywood but includes at least “Hermione Granger” and “Passionate Crusader for Women’s Rights”.

            Maybe she’s secretly a bitter self-hating misogynist and utter intellectual lightweight who cynically calculated that hiring a speechwriter to put together some inspirational silliness to deliver in all the right places will get her fame, prestige, and a higher class of acting jobs in the future. She is still, to all appearances, qualified to give the speeches, and for that job appearances are all that matter. And at 25, she’s probably not that cynical yet (though, Hollywood…)

          • Mary says:

            Economic forums are inappropriate locations for inspiring speeches.

          • brad says:

            Apparently those sponsoring this particular economic forum disagree.

          • John Schilling says:

            If there’s anything going on at Davos that isn’t pointless, inspiring speeches for the cameras, it’s pretty well hidden. Probably in the secret forums where the E1 supervillains plot world domination.
            And really, aside from the supervillainy, that’s probably a pretty good bet – most of the conferences and conventions I go to, the real action is in the hallways, and the formal presentations are at best to set the stage for the interesting sidebars.

            But, again, check out the “36 quotes” bit that sparked this whole discussion. Part of what Davos does, at least for PR purposes, is give fluffy inspiring speeches with All the Right People being seen to listen and applaud. So there’s a need for people talented in the art of giving fluffy inspiring speeches.

            If the speech is about first-wave feminism and the audience includes men of power in countries where women are still little better than chattel, I kind of want those speeches given by someone the audience might pay attention to. And look, here we are, proving that Emma Watson giving a speech is worth paying attention to…

          • Mary says:

            “If there’s anything going on at Davos that isn’t pointless, inspiring speeches for the cameras, it’s pretty well hidden”

            Then it’s a vacuity and a waste of time, and anyone who participates in any way is doing nothing but boosting the pride of those already arrogant.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Unfortunately, she doesn’t even have that anymore.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Are you guys trying to confirm the awful stereotypes the left has of the right in their head?

          • Anonymous says:

            What?

          • Outis says:

            Well, Michael Jackson grew up to be white. I don’t see why Hermione can’t grow up to be black.

          • Anonymous says:

            The ghost of Godfrey Elfwick continues to haunt us…

          • Aapje says:

            HeelBearCub, the only person who seems to operate on stereotypes here is you. What exactly was bad about jaimeastorga2000’s comment?

            jaimeastorga2000’s comment can be interpreted in different ways. The most basic one is that Watson didn’t get role of Hermione in the play, so she is literally no longer ‘the actress playing Hermione’.

            Another interpretation is that Hermione being retconned to black makes it less likely that Watson will be cast as Hermione again in the future.

            Neither interpretation seems objectionable.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            A third interpretation is that he’s taking a piss at this trend of recasting white characters as black, in the context of further dissing Watson. Which is what HBC probably finds offensive.

            For the record, I thought it was funny, but it isn’t really surprising that a Blue would find it offensive. Much to HBC’s credit, though, and I mean this 100% honestly, they usually get upset about pretty much every offensive comment, not just the ones directed at the ingroup.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Another interpretation is that Hermione being retconned to black makes it less likely that Watson will be cast as Hermione again in the future.”

            I guarantee that if the stage production was cast with a white woman playing Hermoine, Jamie’s comment does not get made.

            And Emma Watson is never going to play Hermoine again outside of some sort of new material that brings back some segment of the original cast. So that point doesn’t hold water either.

            Hermoine wasn’t retconned as black. It never states in the book whether she is white or black. People pointed this out. Hermoine was cast as black.

            The original post is just laughing and pointing at this as if it is funny.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Aajpe
            Since the fact that a person who is not Emma Watson is playing Hermione in a stage production of Harry Potter is utterly irrelevant to the subject under discussion, it seems logical to assume that jaimeastorga has some other motive in mentioning it. Since the main point of the linked article seems to be that the actress playing Hermione is black, it seems that jaimeastorga wants to make some point about that. Due to the framing of the link (“unfortunately”), it seems that jaimeastorga disapproves of this state of affairs.

            Because of all that, jaimeastorga comes across as having a bit of a bee in their bonnet about the casting of actors who don’t resemble how their characters are popularly imagined (to be generous). Being less generous, he seems like an edgy quasi-racist who doesn’t even make interesting comments.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ HBC
            Hermoine wasn’t retconned as black. It never states in the book whether she is white or black. People pointed this out.

            I’m afraid this is the sort of thing that, if it were true, it would have been stated; or at least not totally ignored. A great deal is made of her Muggle blood.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyx:
            Rowling certainly knew that Hermoine would be read as white.

            Whether she also intended not to leave her race actually unspecified is certainly debatable. But she put some serious thought into how she put the books together, so it’s not as unlikely as it might be otherwise.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It’s not whites, it’s specifically red-heads being replaced with black actors.

            Little Orphan Annie, Jimmy Olsen, and Hermione. That’s 3, which as we all know, is a trend.

            Why are red-heads being erased? Your guess is as good as mine.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ HBC
            “Whether she also intended not to leave her race actually unspecified is certainly debatable.”

            Are all those words actually supposed to be there, or is it just past my bedtime? 😉

          • keranih says:

            erasing red-heads

            Non-serious reply: Clearly a sinister plot secret revolution to undermine the violent and racist sector of the American South which was descended from the Scots-Irish.

            More serious: I have known multiple people of multi-generation mixed African & Euro descent who had reddish brown hair and freckles with pale tan skin who reported no ‘white’ red heads in their families. I haven’t done a deep dive, but to me it’s far less of a stretch to shift a redhead to “light” African-American than it is to shift a blonde. Your mileage may vary.

            (And while we’re at it – I’m still cranky about the gender swap in the latest version of My Friend Flicka. I felt that *completely* missed the point.)

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I guarantee that if the stage production was cast with a white woman playing Hermoine, Jamie’s comment does not get made.

            You can’t know that. This is purely because you project an opinion on him.

            And Emma Watson is never going to play Hermoine again outside of some sort of new material that brings back some segment of the original cast.

            Which has now become less likely, due to retconning making this harder. So you really appear to be agreeing with my point here…

            Fact is that Harrison Ford got a role as Han Solo in the latest Star Wars, which earned him mucho dinero. Imagine if that would happen with Hermione. The pro-black lobby would go crazy over the retconned retcon, in a way that wouldn’t happen if Hermione had never been cast as black. Hence, this retcon makes is harder for Watson to be cast as Hermione again.

            Hermoine wasn’t retconned as black. It never states in the book whether she is white or black.

            I. The movies are part of the canon too. Once a decision was made for the movies (with Rowling surely having big input), any later change becomes a retcon.

            II. “Hermione’s white face was sticking out from behind a tree.” Prisoner of Azkaban. This description is incompatible with a black-skinned person.

            ====

            Anyway, the most amusing thing about the Hermione = now black change is how desperately the PC crowd wanted there to be racism, to smugly denounce, while I didn’t see that (instead, merely the traditional complaining when any character is recast with a significant change).

          • nil says:

            “Which has now become less likely, due to retconning making this harder. So you really appear to be agreeing with my point here…

            Fact is that Harrison Ford got a role as Han Solo in the latest Star Wars, which earned him mucho dinero. Imagine if that would happen with Hermione. The pro-black lobby would go crazy over the retconned retcon, in a way that wouldn’t happen if Hermione had never been cast as black. Hence, this retcon makes is harder for Watson to be cast as Hermione again.”

            You saw that this was a play, right? If someone did a Star Wars Episode 6.5 play in London ten years ago and cast a black dude as Hans Solo, I don’t really see Harrison Ford’s role in Force Awakens being controversial or less likely.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I haven’t read the books, but on the cover of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I see Harry has used his sweet ride to pick up a red-head. I assume the “bonnie lass” in question is Hermione. This raises the important question: are book covers canon?

          • Aapje says:

            @Nil

            Given the current atmosphere around race, which showed in how people reacted to this (and the ‘black Oscars issue’), I’d say that this choice will impact any possible future casting choices for Hermione. Unless people lighten up in the future, of course.

            @Jaskologist

            Covers are generally not considered canon, AFAIK. Especially since their primary purpose is to get people to pick up the book and thus are more marketing than an accurate reflection of the contents of the book.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Besides, that’s the american cover. If any cover is going to be canon, it’s probably the british one.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Aapje:
            It is true that I cannot know jaime’s truest internal workings. But I can make likely inferences and assign a high degree of probability to them. That is all a guarantee is anyway.

            Indeed, you made the same inference. You are the one now suggesting that casting Hermoine as black was somehow such a drastic change that it warranted declaring that Emma Watson could never play Hermoine again, even if she were to star opposite Daniel Radcliffe in “Harry Potter: The Voldemort Awakens” wherein it is revealed that Harry and Hermoine are actually Voldemort’s secret twin children, separated at birth and hidden in the muggle world and that all those Hermoine/Harry shippers are sick incest fetishers.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            Hermoine was never a redhead. The Weasleys are the readheads.

            From Rowling herself:
            “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyx:
            “Are all those words actually supposed to be there, or is it just past my bedtime?”

            I skipped the triple-negative and went straight to the “triple-dog” negative?

            Yeah, clearly hadn’t had my coffee yet when I wrote that…

          • Jaskologist says:

            @HBC

            She was definitely red-headed in at least some of the movies (possibly with the aid of dye and/or magic). But we’re pretty much at the limit of my Potter knowledge now.

          • Pku says:

            @Jaskologist: Also Wally West.

          • “Hermoine wasn’t retconned as black. It never states in the book whether she is white or black.”

            I haven’t read the books or seen the movies, but I think this is mistaken. In the U.S., and I expect also the U.K., the fact that someone is black matters, is the sort of thing that would be mentioned about a major character if true, so if it isn’t mentioned one can reasonably suppose it isn’t true.

            The same would be true of a character being a believing fundamentalist Christian, being deathly allergic to peanuts, having a photographic memory, anything sufficiently uncommon not to be the default and sufficiently important to get mentioned about a major character.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Is that really the case in Britain, though? From what I’ve heard, being black is a lot less significant there.

            And even if it is in Britain, would it be the case in Wizarding Britain which has pretty much sealed itself off from the muggle world? Would it be significant enough that our sometimes-oblivious narrator Harry would notice?

            (From a Doylist view, I agree Rowling was almost certainly imagining Hermione as white. But from a Watsonian view, I think there’s just enough room for debate.)

          • Nornagest says:

            @Jaime — If you’re surprised that the play tried to make a Statement with its casting choices, I suspect you haven’t been exposed to much theater. It does stuff like this all the time. Sometimes it’s clever; I liked the production of Othello where everyone was cast as black except for the titular general, who was white. Sometimes it’s a gimmick. In either case, you shouldn’t mistake it for having some kind of Deep Cultural Significance; if you’re being charitable it’s about the type of people that make plays (who tend to be left-leaning and rather irreverent) having some fun, and if you’re being cynical it’s about advertising to the social class that still watches plays for fun. In either case it is not really worth thinking hard about.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            Here is a list of pictures, in book order, of Emma Watson from the movies. With a rather amusing attempt to depict her with frizzy her and very long teeth as described in the book.

            At no point does she seem to be portrayed as a red-head.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            As I said upthread Rowling certainly knew that Hermoine would be read as white. But she also put serious thought into how she put the books together, so the fact that she did not specify race leads to a reasonable debate about whether this was intentional or not.

            It’s interesting that you are making the “white by default” argument, but from the other side of the fence.

            Edit:
            And this argument is made stronger because she very, very, very clearly is attempting to inject the idea of “racial purity” into the whole series. Pure-blood vs. mud-blood. Voldemort as a Hitler-esque figure of pure evil who is a half-blood leading a movement for racial purity. There are just too many themes there to deny the possibility of some intentionality on her part.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            However, it is worth pointing out that Dean Thomas and Angelina Johnson (two characters portrayed by black actors in the movies) are both specifically described as black at various points in the novels. Why would she trouble to mention their races and not the far-more-significant Hermione’s?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @HBC

            I’d call her red-headed in at least those first 3 pictures. Apparently, we’re working from different definitions, but clearly more people agree with mine, or they wouldn’t have recast her as black.

          • LHN says:

            @Jaskologist Though Jimmy Olsen has, as far as I know, never been cast as a redhead in any live-action production. (Note: I didn’t watch Smallville, so I may have missed something.)

            I don’t know why there’s been less interest in capturing that character’s iconic look than Superman or Lois Lane. (Especially since his comics look is, if anything, more distinctive and less generic than Lois’s.) But given that it is, race-blind casting seems unexceptionable.

            The other odd thing is that the DC TV shows are now four for four in taking central characters with light blond hair in the comics and casting actors with darker shades. TV Supergirl and Rip Hunter may still be arguably in the blondish range, but they don’t have the kind of hair I read comic-book yellow as mapping to. Which is especially strange since light blond– natural or otherwise– seems extremely common in Hollywood.

            Does Berlanti hate blonds? (And if so, why use only them as source material?)

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t really care in the sense that whiteness seems in no way integral to Hermione’s character (though if she had been not just a muggle, but a minority muggle even within the muggle world of England, it would obviously have been worth mentioning, especially considering SPEW, etc.), but there really is no way Rowling intentionally left Hermione’s race ambiguous so that she might later be played by non-white actors.

            I’m sure the idea of retconning Hermione for some version of the story appeals to Rowling because of her own sensibilities, but I’m also sure she didn’t have that idea until this play came along. And of course the default character is white–it’s England!

            In fact, I don’t think she ever states anyone is white anywhere in the books, except when describing traits which only white people but not all white people have–like red hair in the case of the Weasleys. Even for Harry we pretty much have to assume someone with green eyes is white. Race only comes up when someone is Asian or black (though it is interesting she never states Parvati and Padma Patil’s skin tone, but I think their names are supposed to make it obvious).

            Did you know, for example, that in Story of the Stone, they never explicitly state that Lin Daiyu is Asian! Therefore, she could be white–you never know.

            And again, a black Hermione doesn’t bother me in the least. I saw Hamlet played brilliantly by a black actor once. Doesn’t mean Shakespeare intentionally left the character open to him being a black Danish prince. It means, rather, that in acting, evoking the essential character traits of the character is important than physical resemblance to a description.

          • John Schilling says:

            In fact, I don’t think she ever states anyone is white anywhere in the books

            Someone not too distant from me on Facebook decided I really needed to see photos of various bits of text the HP series describing Hermione’s skin as “pink” or “white”. Not a huge number, but enough to make a compelling case that Rowling thought of the character as white, actually did describe the character as white, and expected the reader to see the character as white.

            So, yeah, a retcon, and probably a dishonest one, but who here was ever going to see the play anyway?

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Even for Harry we pretty much have to assume someone with green eyes is white

            Pashtuns would be the obvious exception.

          • Pku says:

            The thing that annoys me isn’t the retcon (which is perfectly reasonable if the actress they liked for the part just happened to be black, and somewhat irritatingly in-your-face if they went out of their way to specifically hire a black actress), but the dishonesty in claiming it wasn’t a retcon. Even if it’s not technically a lie in the sense that she was never explicitly mentioned to be white, it’s clearly dishonest, and in this case has the implied tones of “and you’re kinda racist for just assuming she was white”, which is irritating.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            From Rowling herself:
            “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione”

            Yes, that is what she said recently, despite the book and movie being different ….aka retconning.

            You are the one now suggesting that casting Hermoine as black was somehow such a drastic change that it warranted declaring that Emma Watson could never play Hermoine again

            No, I was suggesting that it is not racist to state that in today’s racially sensitive world, it would be harder to cast a white person in the future, after setting this precedent. Jaime surely has exaggerated this point, but that still doesn’t make it racist….which was your accusation that I thought was jumping to conclusions.

            The point is not that I am defending Jaime’s statement per se, I am claiming that a person can make such a statement in good faith, committing no greater crime than exaggeration, which is something that we are surely all guilty of frequently.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ll bet a hundred bucks at even odds that the next actress playing Hermione outside theater is white. Or that she’s drawn fair-skinned, if it’s animated.

            (Ambiguously brown is a realistic possibility for the latter, but I’d still take the bet.)

          • youzicha says:

            @John Schilling
            The Rowling tweet doesn’t say that she anticipated Hermione being black when writing the book. It just says she likes the idea of Hermione being black, and that there is not canon statment that she is white. I don’t think there has to be any dishonesty here?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Aapje:
            Does Hermoine being black make any plot point into something that wasn’t at it seems allowing a new plot to go forward? If you aren’t saying something significant happens to events, that’s not the kind of definition of retcon I think of. As I already said, I’m sure Rowling knew that Hermoine would be assumed to be white, but Hermoine’s whiteness is not particularly a plot point.

            The cannonical retcon, in my eyes, is “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”.

            Jaime was trying to make a funny. I get that. But “Emma Watson can’t even be Hermoine anymore because now Hermoine is black” in context of mocking Emma Watson for her role as a feminist spokesperson is pretty much a mindkill of a joke.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ HBC
            “I’m sure Rowling knew that Hermoine would be assumed to be white, but Hermoine’s whiteness is not particularly a plot point.”

            Whereas, if a Black-Hermione in the books was never a plot point in the books, we should like to know the reason why not! Maybe all Blacks were Mudbloods, so it didn’t matter what color a Mudblood was. Maybe in the Potterverse, Black was not any kind of issue at all. Spending wordage and the reader’s time on explaining why something is unimportant … is not good narrative. Unless there were some interesting story about Black and/or Muggle origins … but in that case, JKR would have included it, or at least referenced it, very early on.

          • Tom Richards says:

            Speaking as someone who works in British theatre, I don’t really think this should be considered retconning. The current fashion is very much for casting without regard for physical appearance – “gender-blind”, “colour-blind”, “ableness-blind” and so on. The hip theatrical idiom du jour is proudly anti-naturalistic, and this casting (of a superb actress, as it happens) is simply the highest profile case in point. Mainstream cinema remains a far more naturalistic medium, in casting as in other respects, so I don’t think this has any bearing on what might happen there; this is not a case like that of Richard Sharpe, who mysteriously lost the constant references to his raven black hair and acquired a hitherto unknown Sheffield phase to his upbringing in books written after the casting of Sean Bean.

            For what it’s worth, I think Rowling’s comments were both at least bordering on an outright (though well-intentioned) lie and simply a tactical error: what she ought to have said was simply that there are more important things in casting a role than what an actor looks like and Dumezweni was a great choice.

          • Echo says:

            “ableness-blind”?
            Shouldn’t that be “ableness-differently-sighted”?

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Tom Richards, that’s interesting. thank you.

          • Aapje says:

            @Richard

            I think Rowling’s comments were both at least bordering on an outright (though well-intentioned) lie and simply a tactical error

            I agree. I thought that her comment was the kind of PCness that just adds fuel to the fire. She should have reacted like Louis CK: ‘I don’t give a shit, (I) just pick the best actress.*’

            Right now, she was just inviting people to comb over her books, which they did and found convincing evidence IMO.

            * Although Louis thought the race of his ex-wife actually improved his story-telling, so it wasn’t color-blind casting, either.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Maybe all Blacks were Mudbloods, so it didn’t matter what color a Mudblood was.

            Actually surprisingly believable. I find it very hard to believe that wizards would enslave other wizards, for several reasons. There is no point to having wizard rather than muggle slaves unless you allow them to use magic, in which case it becomes very difficult to stop them escaping (there’s the Imperius Curse, I suppose…). Capturing wizards to enslave them is even harder. Also, there are house-elves.

            Therefore, any wizard in the UK with Black Caribbean ancestry (ie descended from slaves) would have to either be Muggle-born or descended from a Black Muggle-born wizard, or mixed-race with their Black ancestors having been Muggles. This presumably includes the only Black wizards we meet (Dean Thomas, Angelina Johnson and Kingsley Shacklebolt) as they have English rather than African names.

            As for Black African wizards, they presumably tend to stay in Africa and are educated at the wizard schools there, most notably Uagadou, as they have significantly fewer reasons to immigrate- all wizards seem to do fairly well for themselves wherever they live.

            that of Richard Sharpe, who mysteriously lost the constant references to his raven black hair and acquired a hitherto unknown Sheffield phase to his upbringing in books written after the casting of Sean Bean

            Or James Bond, who IIRC only became Scottish in the books after the casting of Sean Connery.

          • @HeelBearClub

            Generally, what disturbs the right is not that black actors get jobs, but that they get jobs because they are black, or more properly the ridiculous holiness-signalling of white elites to gain diversity cred. Nobody objected to Whoppie Goldberg, it was understood she got the jobs because she is actually good at comical roles and not because someone wanted a token black actor to put a checkmark into diversity and signal how nice tolerant he is.

            And about your remark that the books did not specify Hermione’s color, do you really think settings in fiction or in real life DEFAULT to diverse, even if it is a magical version of Britain set in the past, judging from the steamy trains, about 1880? Do you think there were many nonwhite people? And they were going to colleges? Aside from the obvious historic fact of countries being far more monochrome in the past, diversity is mostly a PR photo op or the result of rather enforced progressive policies, the reality is that people don’t fall naturally into diverse groups, because they prefer the company of their own. Real white boys make friends with a black girl only if their minds had several generations of progressive workover and even in that case it will be probably a token black girl friend, i.e. just a signal that they are conforming to diversity. People are in natural conditions are so un-diverse that the most surprising thing I found out is that it is so detailed that even half-Jews mostly hang out with half-Jews because they share this defining life experience of not really belonging to either to the inside or the outside. I mean, kids are so big on ingroup conformity that they can deduce a lot of status points just for not wearing the latest fashionable shoes. So of course they like if they are also of the same sex and ethnicity and form groups around it. Prisons aren’t an exception for forming ethnic gangs, that is the norm in every place that does not employ holiness-signalling in the direction of signalling tolerance.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >And about your remark that the books did not specify Hermione’s color

            The books did specify it, this is a non-issue, a meaningless squabble between:
            -Canon purists… have you ever gone to see a HP movie with a book fan? Not fun.
            -Internet Anti-racists, who jump at any chance they have to be offended.
            -Internet racists, who also jump at any opportunity to be offended.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @theDividualist:

            if it is a magical version of Britain set in the past, judging from the steamy trains, about 1880?

            1940s or 50s. Steam trains were still in common use in Britain then- the locomotive used for the Hogwarts Express in the films was built in 1937 and withdrawn from service in 1963. Not to mention that we also see wizards listening to the radio and travelling by bus.

            Plus, of course, that’s only the technological level of wizard society. The events of the books take place in the 1990s (this is canon based on the dates on Harry’s parents’ graves) and there’s a considerable amount of contact between wizard and Muggle society through Muggle-born wizards like Hermione.

          • John Schilling says:

            @youzicha:

            The Rowling tweet doesn’t say that she anticipated Hermione being black when writing the book. It just says she likes the idea of Hermione being black, and that there is not canon statement that she is white.

            Which is false; there are canon statements that Hermione is white. Most explicitly, “Hermione’s white face was sticking out from behind a tree“.
            I don’t think there has to be any dishonesty here?

            At a minimum, careless disregard for literal truth and deliberate use of half-truth. Barring dementia or amnesia, Rowling knows perfectly well that she was envisioning a white girl and not taking great care to avoid textual descriptions of her race. She could have honestly said that Hermione’s race was no more important than the color of Harry’s eyes or Neville’s hair.

            As dishonesty goes, it’s petty stuff and we probably shouldn’t be making a fuss over it, but here we are.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @John Schilling
            Harry’s eyes are actually a relatively significant plot point – numerous comments are made about how they resemble his mother’s.

          • vV_Vv says:

            How do you know that Watson will not identify as black in the future? Check you cisrace privilege, you transracist shitlords! /s

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            OK, I realize that my argument was perhaps to aggressive, so I’ll apologize, and try to reframe it as follows:

            It is glaringly evident Hermione is white, all arguments against this boil down to isolated demands of extreme rigor (I think that’s what it was called, right? sans the “extreme”). So the question is: Why? Going through many hoops to prove that there’s a minimal chance that maybe, in a parallel universe, Hermione isn’t white carries the implicit assumption that changing her race is somehow wrong.

            And with this you’re giving racists all the ammo they need. “Yeah, retconning her race would be totally wrong, but that’s technically not what’s happening” falls flat when that is exactly what’s happening.

            A much simple argument would be simply that, yes, the character’s race is being retconned for the play, and that no, there isn’t anything wrong with that.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @WHTA:

            Your argument is perfectly good, but I don’t even know if this rises to the level of “retconning.” It’s not like they went back and changed the printing plates for all the books and digitally darkened Hermione in the master movie files.

            It’s just that for purposes of this particular performance, we’re not going to worry that the canon says Hermione is white. Who cares? We know that’s Hermione, she’s doing a good job acting, let’s get on with it.

            Now, if the play fundamentally changes Hermione’s nature to reflect her new ancestry, along with her personal history, that would be retconning. Not that I would care any more than I do now, but I am just pedantic like that. 🙂

            I also find Rowling’s assertion disingenous, and I suppose if I thought about it long enough I could be irritated about it. But frankly, I have so many things to be irritated about that one little PC slip from a talented and successful artist who by and large seems to be a lovely person doesn’t even move the needle. 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            There is a long theatrical tradition of cross-race and even cross-gender casting on account of, hey, we’ve got a particular set of talented performers available and they don’t quite match the characters but who cares, look at the sets, we’re already asking far worse in the name of suspension of disbelief. Last (only?) performance I saw of “Cymbeline”, the Roman centurion was played by a black woman. I have no problem with this.

            It is at least annoying for someone to say that this time it is a Great Step Forward for Racial Justice, and besides there were so black female Roman centurions all over the place.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @John Schilling
            Well, there probably were black centurions (not female ones though).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Tom Richards
            “For what it’s worth, I [British theatre worker] think Rowling’s comments were both at least bordering on an outright (though well-intentioned) lie and simply a tactical error: what she ought to have said was simply that there are more important things in casting a role than what an actor looks like and Dumezweni was a great choice.”

            As a USian reader, I see these possible meanings in JKR’s remark.

            a. If I’d thought of it first, I’d love to have specified Hermione as Black all through my books.

            b. Any play X years after the canon is AU fanfic, so have fun with it and send my royalty check.

            c. This actress is giving a good performance.

            d. This particular production/script is good.

        • Dahlen says:

          Insofar as she is actually Hermione, she’s acting in-character. Anyone who’s read the books rather than getting their ideas about HP solely from the movies or HPMoR knows about the whole S.P.E.W. thing.

        • “I think it’s ridiculous that Emma Watson has tried to turn herself into some deep thinker for women’s rights. You’re Hermione. That’s all you are. Live with it.”

          That’s a rather nasty thing to say. Would you say it to her face? It adds up to “You don’t know how to think about large issues. Don’t try.”

          Your comment supports the theory that what really pisses people off is seeing someone trying to grab more status than they’re (perceived as) entitled to.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Your comment supports the theory that what really pisses people off is seeing someone trying to grab more status than they’re (perceived as) entitled to.

            Is this even a controversial theory? It seems to me that it is a common social norm to put in their place anybody who tries to grab more status than their position would entail.

          • Pku says:

            Especially in cases where that person’s in your outgroup (or has you in theirs). Emma Watson is very clearly in both.

      • 27chaos says:

        My immediate thought was that we already have an internet full of women, but those websites are generally considered impolite to talk about in public and professional venues, by feminists especially.

        Seriously though, does no one get creeped out anymore by how absurdly hip and commoditized feminism is becoming? Because it almost seems to me like everyone’s decided such things are no longer worth making even token efforts at hiding. Women and women’s issues and society’s way of dealing with these are potentially highly important topics of conversation, not fucking wrapping paper. Why are today’s feminists so happy to turn themselves into wrapping paper? It used to be that all sorts of leftists criticized other leftists for “selling out” all the time. I never before considered that could be something I’d miss, but it seems preferable to current trends by far.

        • Viliam says:

          I guess it is inevitable when something becomes popular. At the beginning, only the people who cared about it deeply, have participated. Now there are also many people who merely want to take a piece of cake. Also, popularity brings uninformed fans who are easier to impress.

          Shortly, “feminist geeks” are being pushed away from the spotlight by “fake feminist geek girls”. And they can hardly defend themselves, because they have already decided that complaining about “fake geek girls” is wrong.

          • multiheaded says:

            Yep. Btw speaking as the biggest Firestone fangirl I know, she was, like.. the uber-arch-geek, both on the object level and as per this metaphor.

        • multiheaded says:

          I’m with you on this, comrade. Shulamith Firestone wouldn’t have stood for this. No, seriously, I mean it.

        • Held in Escrow says:

          Because given the choice between real change and making money people will sell out in an instant. Real change is hard after all, so a few changes to the overall aesthetic gives you the same feeling of accomplishment while the decorators make their payday.

        • dust bunny says:

          One thing that probably contributes to it is that many feminists find spending time in non-feminist spaces mentally draining. It’s tempting to claim as much space for ourselves as we can, so we rarely need to venture outside of it. I definitely feel much better in the company of people who have unserious, lightly held positive attitudes toward feminism than I do with the rest. I’m the kind of person who might otherwise resent insufficiently serious discussion about my dearly held values, but I feel very complacent about this.

          • Aapje says:

            One thing that probably contributes to it is that many feminists find spending time in non-feminist spaces mentally draining.

            That is actually evidence that feminism suffers from the echo chamber effect. And as feminists isolate themselves from criticism, their theories become even more indefensible outside that echo chamber, which makes it even more draining to interact with non-believers, etc.

          • dust bunny says:

            Feminism is extremely polarized identity politics. When you attack feminism, it’s very hard to avoid also attacking feminists, the people, personally. Listening to that is going to be draining to feminists, always, no matter what. It doesn’t help that there are so many more unconstructive and uninformed criticisms of feminism around than there are useful external viewpoints, by at least one order of magnitude.

            It’s not an ideal situation, but I’m not going to tell any person they have some sort of moral obligation to withstand the hell that being a feminist in a non-feminist space can be, and you really shouldn’t either. Let it be up to the individual how much of that they are willing to handle.

      • Adam Casey says:

        >Also, I was surprised at some of the people there. Will.i.am? Kevin Spacey?

        Indeed. This is why I prefer Bilderberg, they don’t let the riff-raff in.

        • Aapje says:

          Fun fact: I stayed in the ‘Bilderberg’ hotel where they held the first conference.

          Sad fact: They didn’t let me into the Illuminati….

          or did they? …..Mwhuhahaha

          • multiheaded says:

            “The Bohemian Grove, which I attend from time to time—it is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine, with that San Francisco crowd.”

            – from the Nixon Tapes

          • Anthony says:

            @multiheaded – Bohemian Grove is near Guerneville, CA, on the Russian River. Guerneville has, for 100+ years, been the playground of San Francisco’s upper-middle-class.

            These days – since the 1980s or earlier, San Francisco’s UMC is gay men. Almost entirely. So the Nixon Tapes are probably accurate. Though Guerneville is an interesting place, since a lot of the permanent residents are very similar to the typical redneck you’d find in most rural areas (even in California), but most of the town caters to the gay vacationers.

          • Aapje says:

            I forgot to mention that I also cycled by Bretton Woods, where the Knights Templar set up the precursor to the World Bank. Could I secretly be E1?

            You will never know.

      • Loquat says:

        I would like to know more about this “Internet of Women” – is there some sort of chip I need to install? Will it create problems if other women I want to interface with are using Apple and I’m using Android (which might have to be renamed Gynoid, in this context)? Will I be able to use it to interface with men, too, or will I have to use old-fashioned methods like texting to do that?

      • JuanPeron says:

        Will.i.am is surprisingly sharp. He’s done tons of his own design work (from musical instruments to automotive design), extensive charity, and is a consultant for Intel. At this point he’s had so many different roles that his presence makes some sense to me – check him out on Top Gear for a fun intro.

        Kevin Spacey, on the other hand… He’s a good actor, but he’s still just an actor.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Maybe they thought they were inviting his character from that netflix show.

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, Hermione Granger certainly has a track record for social-justice activism, and if she were sufficiently motivated as to dispense with certain legalistic scruples and use the Imperious Curse against some of the more powerful and bigoted muggles in the audience…

          • Evan Þ says:

            @John Schilling, I think that’s a story that should be written: “Hermione Granger and the Methods of Enlightened Rational Compassion.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Sounds good, but if there’s room for Kevin Spacey in it I want him playing an antiheroic Lex Luthor 🙂

    • John Schilling says:

      Yes, I caught Valls and Netanyahu slipping bits of pragmatically useful advice in there. I have to wonder whether Mr. Santiago (the writer or editor of the piece) was having a bit of fun with his pointless task of stringing together meaningless inspirational platitudes.

    • jeorgun says:

      I think my personal favorite was “We are working tirelessly to achieve a mutually acceptable solution” by Akıncı. It’s a completely nothing quote outside of context, so why’d they even include it? I can only imagine it’s to sound “balanced” about Cypriot reunification— but that’s totally undermined by the fact that they couldn’t even be bothered to spell the poor guy’s name right, let alone call him by his actual title (president of TRNC) instead of just “Turkish Cypriot Leader”. All in all, its inclusion is completely boggling.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        Not calling him president of TRNC makes perfect sense if you’re trying to avoid being seen as recognizing TRNC or taking a position in the dispute, but misspelling makes it more likely an oversight.

    • Wrong Species says:

      The Israeli government seems pretty bad about following that advice. They don’t go nearly far enough to cause the Palestinians to completely give up hope. Of course, they do have to balance out their own ambitions with the desire to appease the international community.

      • Aapje says:

        The Palestinians are lucky that they live in modern times with mass media, so the Israeli’s can’t get away with genocide. The current racist climate in Israel is very similar to the climates that allowed for genocide in the past.

        I also think that Netanyahu is wrong (as he typically is). A lack of hope often just causes people to react in anger, while opportunity allows people to stop focusing on their hate and be productive. Currently, there is no way for Palestinians to build up a good life in peaceful ways.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I think you want a two-pronged attack, where you give them hope for improving their situation by civilized cooperation, but cause them to despair of having any success in lashing out violently. Nothing in the quote seems incompatible with that; context is almost certainly necessary.

        • sabril says:

          “The current racist climate in Israel is very similar to the climates that allowed for genocide in the past.”

          Can you give 3 examples of “climates that allowed for genocide in the past” and evidence that the climate in Israel is very similar?

          Because I am very skeptical of your claim. Significantly, there are people and organizations in Israel who openly advocate on behalf of Arabs. They may not be very popular outside of Tel Aviv but they are allowed to exist; they have access to the courts and other decision making bodies, and once in a while they win in the courts. It’s hard to reconcile this with a claim that Israel is on the brink of hauling Arabs off to gas chambers and such.

          “Currently, there is no way for Palestinians to build up a good life in peaceful ways.”

          Except of course for abandoning their terrorism; giving up on their dream of putting an end to Jewish Israel; accepting Israel’s most recent statehood offer; absorbing their so-called “refugees”; and investing the humanitarian aid they receive (10 times more per capita than any other group) into economic development.

          • Aapje says:

            Can you give 3 examples of “climates that allowed for genocide in the past” and evidence that the climate in Israel is very similar?

            Wide-spread anti-[Ethnicity]:

            “The majority of Israeli teenagers that we spoke to expressed unabashed and open racism towards Arabs. Statements like “I hate them,” or “they should all be killed” were common in this age group.”

            Segregation:

            “In its 2010 survey, it found that 46 percent of Jewish Israelis were unwilling to live next door to an Arab. ”

            A belief that coexistence is impossible:

            “When asked whether it was possible to make peace with the Palestinians, less than half of our respondents answered “yes.” ”

            https://electronicintifada.net/content/video-survey-racism-rampant-among-israeli-youth/10286

            Unequal legal treatment (like mock trials where guilt is assumed):

            “99.74 percent[…] of cases heard by the military courts in the territories end in a conviction. […] The military courts, headed by Col. Aharon Mishnayot, deal with all criminal and security cases involving Palestinians, from their detention through their appeals. Only very exceptional, usually symbolic cases are heard by Israeli courts. ”

            http://www.haaretz.com/nearly-100-of-all-military-court-cases-in-west-bank-end-in-conviction-haaretz-learns-1.398369

            A feeling of existential threat caused by the other ethnicity:

            “43% of Israelis think that Palestinian’s aspirations in the long run are to conquer the State of Israel and destroy much of the Jewish population in Israel”

            http://www.pcpsr.org/en/node/611

            I apologize for giving 5 examples instead of the 3 you asked for, but it is just too easy to find them (and I could give many more examples).

            It’s hard to reconcile this with a claim that Israel is on the brink of hauling Arabs off to gas chambers and such.

            My claim is actually the opposite. Israel is not on the brink of genocide due to mass media and international scrutiny, but would probably be if those factors wouldn’t exist.

            They may not be very popular outside of Tel Aviv but they are allowed to exist;

            No genocide has ever required an entire population to support it. You need a decent minority of people willing to do the killing. A large number of people that are willing to close their eyes to it. Once that is in place, the rest is bullied into submission.

            “Currently, there is no way for Palestinians to build up a good life in peaceful ways.”

            Except of course for abandoning their terrorism

            Sigh, this is classic ignorant victim blaming of oppressed people.

            Most Palestinians do not engage in terrorism, they get oppressed as well, making it impossible for them to prosper peacefully:

            “Palestinian agriculture suffers from numerous problems, blockades to exportation of produce and importation of necessary inputs, widespread confiscation of land for nature reserves as well as military and settler use, confiscation and destruction of wells, and physical barriers within the West Bank”

            “the occupation is the main factor preventing the tourism sector from becoming a major income source to Palestinians.”

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

            giving up on their dream of putting an end to Jewish Israel

            This doesn’t actually address my point (it feels like you just accused Palestinians randomly). How does accepting Jewish Israel make it possible for individual peaceful Palestinians to prosper?

            accepting Israel’s most recent statehood offer;

            If Israel would offer statehood in a way that is mostly consistent with the decisions of the UN on the matter, as well as follow international law on other matters (like letting the refugees return to their original land/homes, in Israel or in Palestine), the Palestinians would sign tomorrow.

            This is a typical example of how the oppressed are blamed for not accepting less than they are owed.

            absorbing their so-called “refugees”

            It’s very telling where you stand if you have to use scare quotes to delegitimize people who fled their homes. The anti-Palestinians like to argue that these people fled to enable the ethnic cleansing of Jews, which:

            A. Doesn’t make any sense. Fleeing violence in no way enables genocide, unless you want to argue that these Palestinians should have functioned as human shields. I don’t think that refusing to be a human shield is supporting genocide.

            B. Requires all fleeing Palestinians to have fled for that reason, which in unknowable. So in actuality, it is projection/straw manning/stereotyping to claim that these people fled for that reason.

            Finally, suppose that a peaceful Palestinian lets a refugee family stay in his home. How does this suddenly enable him to ‘build up a good life in peaceful ways?’ The added burden would seem to make this harder, not easier.

            investing the humanitarian aid they receive (10 times more per capita than any other group) into economic development.

            I remember when the EU build a harbor for the Palestinians so they could build up their economy. Guess what, Israel destroyed it. Israel typically hampers economic development by destruction, blockades, trade limitations, etc, etc.

            Water is a crucial resource in the desert for agriculture. There is a huge imbalance in water allocation to Israel vs the Palestinian territories and even then, Israel takes more water that they are allowed to use:

            “According to a World Bank report, Israel extracted 80% more water from the West Bank than agreed in the Oslo Accord, while Palestinian abstractions were within the agreed range.[17] Contrary to expectations under Oslo II, the water actually abstracted by Palestinians in the West Bank has dropped between 1999 and 2007. Due to the Israeli over-extraction, aquifer levels are near ″the point where irreversible damage is done to the aquifer.″ Israeli wells in the West Bank have dried up local Palestinian wells and springs”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_supply_and_sanitation_in_the_Palestinian_territories#Division_in_the_Oslo_II_Accord

          • sabril says:

            “I apologize for giving 5 examples instead of the 3 you asked for, but it is just too easy to find them (and I could give many more examples).”

            Umm, I think you misunderstood the question. I am asking for you to identify 3 times and locations where genocide actually took place and your evidence that the “climate” in Israel is very similar.

            “No genocide has ever required an entire population to support it. You need a decent minority of people willing to do the killing. A large number of people that are willing to close their eyes to it. Once that is in place, the rest is bullied into submission.”

            Please identify 3 states which engaged in genocide against residents/subjects/citizens despite having a respected court system which regularly ruled against the government and in favor of those residents/subjects/citizens.

            “Most Palestinians do not engage in terrorism”

            Well do you agree that much of their leadership supports it, either actively or passively?

            “How does accepting Jewish Israel make it possible for individual peaceful Palestinians to prosper?”

            Because as a group, they will stop wasting resources trying to put an end to Israel. For example, Hamas uses lots and lots of concrete trying to build terror tunnels in northern Gaza. If Hamas stopped it, that concrete could be put to more productive uses.

            “If Israel would offer statehood in a way that is mostly consistent with the decisions of the UN on the matter, as well as follow international law on other matters (like letting the refugees return to their original land/homes, in Israel or in Palestine), the Palestinians would sign tomorrow.”

            Assuming that’s all true, so what?

            “This is a typical example of how the oppressed are blamed for not accepting less than they are owed.”

            Blame’s got nothing to do with it. Sometimes the path to building a good life in a peaceful way means accepting less than what you think you are owed.

            What you really meant to say is that the Palestinian Arabs have no way to achieve a good life in a peaceful way while at the same time having all of their claims and grievances satisfied in full. And that of course is 100% true.

            “It’s very telling where you stand if you have to use scare quotes to delegitimize people who fled their homes.”

            I use quotes because a very special and unique definition of “refugee” is used for Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Arabs only. But let’s do this:

            How do you define the word “refugee”?

            “I remember when the EU build a harbor for the Palestinians so they could build up their economy. Guess what, Israel destroyed it.”

            Would you mind providing a cite so I can read about this incident?

            TIA.

          • Aapje says:

            Umm, I think you misunderstood the question. I am asking for you to identify 3 times and locations where genocide actually took place and your evidence that the “climate” in Israel is very similar.

            That is a silly request though. The point of my examples is that these basic elements were present for all genocides, Nazi-Germany, Rwanda, Turkey, etc.

            Please identify 3 states which engaged in genocide against residents/subjects/citizens despite having a respected court system which regularly ruled against the government and in favor of those residents/subjects/citizens.

            Israel doesn’t have that. Any court with a 99+% conviction rate is a mock court.

            Well do you agree that much of their leadership supports it, either actively or passively?

            No. Fatah is working together with Israel to stop (Palestinian) terrorism. Even Hamas tends to keeps their promises during cease fires and stops nearly all rocket attacks. Unfortunately, Israel pretty much always violates it’s agreements… (and doesn’t seriously try to stop Jewish/settler terrorism either).

            Because as a group

            One of my main irritants is that pro-Israel people seem chronically unable to see Palestinians as individuals. Develop some empathy with Palestinians who are not part of this group, yet are punished as if they were.

            For example, Hamas uses lots and lots of concrete trying to build terror tunnels in northern Gaza.

            ‘Terror tunnels’ that they use to attack soldiers, which I see as a right of those being oppressed. My country had resistance fighters in WW II. The US had resistance fighters when they fought for independence.

            If you cannot distinguish between terror (attacking citizens) and resistance (attacking soldiers of an oppressing country), then I can’t take you seriously.

            Assuming that’s all true, so what?

            You do not find it significant that Israel is keeping peace from happening by abusing their power to take more than they were granted? I mean, you could at least pretend to be somewhat reasonable towards the Palestinians….

            Blame’s got nothing to do with it. Sometimes the path to building a good life in a peaceful way means accepting less than what you think you are owed.

            Does that go for Israel as well? Pot/kettle, etc.

            What you really meant to say is that the Palestinian Arabs have no way to achieve a good life in a peaceful way while at the same time having all of their claims and grievances satisfied in full.

            You’re being disingeneous again. Even the UN peace plan wouldn’t satisfy all their claims and grievances. You are playing rhetorical games to minimize basic human rights like the right for displaced persons to return.

            The problem is that what Israel is offering is not a viable state. A simple look at the map of proposed solutions would show that, if you’d empathize with the Palestinians for a second. The sad part is that I think that a two-state solution is now impossible, so the only option is permanent oppression or a 1-state solution, which ironically would threaten the Jewish nature of Israel (which is highly problematic, btw. I am not a fan of ethnically defined states, as it is essentially racism….and surely makes people in such a country more racist).

            I use quotes because a very special and unique definition of “refugee” is used for Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Arabs only.

            Well, the actual term the UN uses is displaced persons, which is more accurate. But I don’t see how a different definition is used for Palestinian Arabs. Can you explain?

            Would you mind providing a cite so I can read about this incident?

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_Seaport_plans#1994.2F2000_PA_plan

          • Pku says:

            Disagree with a lot of that, but I’ll stick with the tunnels – they were very specifically made in order to attack civilian villages behind military lines. They don’t need to use tunnels to attack soldiers, if they were their target.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Saying that Hamas is sincere about peace because they stopped nearly all of their rocket attacks on civilians during a ceasefire is damning them with extremely faint praise. It almost sounds sarcastic.

            (Don’t mistake that for pro-Israeli sentiment by the way. I’m not particularity fond of anyone in the Levant right now, with a possible exception for the Yazidis, and am against foreign entanglements as a rule.)

            But yeah, the thing about saying that the Palestinians are striking out in righteous revenge for their oppression is that even if it’s true it doesn’t really matter at this point. Israel is not going to lay down and die for the sins of past generations: they aren’t going to stop their repressive policies until they’re damn sure that the Arabs are no longer a threat to the Jewish population of Israel. That means that the Palestinian leadership is going to have to do quite a bit better than most of a ceasefire. Maybe that’s unfair, but nobody ever said life was fair.

          • John Schilling says:

            They might need to use the tunnels to attack soldiers from a tactically advantageous position, e.g. from behind and/or while they were moving between their fortified positions and a village to the rear. There is no requirement in the laws of war that one engage in suicidal frontal attacks against fortified positions, and if the only alternative incidentally endangers civilians even that is kosher so long as the danger is not deliberately magnified beyond the level required to accomplish the military objective, “kill those Israeli soldiers without being killed in return”.

            Now, I think it is quite likely that Hamas built some of those tunnels with an eye towards needlessly magnifying the danger to Israeli civilians, but that does need to be established by something more than the mere existence of the tunnels.

          • sabril says:

            “The point of my examples is that these basic elements were present for all genocides, Nazi-Germany, Rwanda, Turkey, etc.”

            Ok, and what’s your evidence that the climate in Israel is “similar” to the climates in these places.

            “Israel doesn’t have that.”

            Ok, just so we are clear, you are denying that the high court in Israel has on numerous occasions ruled against the government and in favor of Arabs?

            “No. Fatah is working together with Israel to stop (Palestinian) terrorism. ”

            Funny then, that Fatah just posted the following picture on its Facebook page:

            http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ljyyn9_Ee98/ViYIV30bN_I/AAAAAAAAsZE/2TABMfHKCDI/s1600/fatah%2Bbethlehem.jpg

            “Even Hamas tends to keeps their promises during cease fires and stops nearly all rocket attacks. ”

            I’m a little confused. Do you deny that Hamas regularly engages in terrorism?

            “Unfortunately, Israel pretty much always violates it’s agreements… ”

            Can you please provide 3 examples of this? TIA.

            “One of my main irritants is that pro-Israel people seem chronically unable to see Palestinians as individuals.”

            Were you referring to Palestinian Arabs as individuals or as a group when you said the following:

            “there is no way for Palestinians to build up a good life in peaceful ways.”

            ??

            “‘Terror tunnels’ that they use to attack soldiers, which I see as a right of those being oppressed.”

            Even assuming that’s true, it doesn’t change the fact that the concrete could be put to more constructive uses. As a group, that’s part of the path towards building a good life in peaceful ways. Stop with the terrorism; the blockade will be lifted; Arabs will be allowed again to cross into Israel to work; and the Arabs in Gaza end up better off.

            “If you cannot distinguish between terror (attacking citizens) and resistance (attacking soldiers of an oppressing country)”

            For the sake of this discussion, the distinction does not matter. Either course is counterproductive for Hamas. However Hamas also attacks citizens regularly. Do you deny this?

            “You do not find it significant that Israel is keeping peace from happening by abusing their power to take more than they were granted? ”

            I disagree that Israel has done so, but again, for the sake of this discussion it does not matter. Your claim is that “there is no way for Palestinians to build up a good life in peaceful ways.” Of course there is such a way, but it requires accepting less that what the Palestinian Arabs think they deserve.

            “Does that go for Israel as well? Pot/kettle, etc.”

            Yes, it goes for Israel too. Many of Israel’s Jewish citizens are descended from refugees who were chased out of Arab countries in the late 1940s. There are also many descendants of refugees from Europe. Heck, there were even Jews living in Gaza City who got kicked out in the 1940s.

            Are those peoples’ descendants left to sit in refugee camps and encouraged to whine endlessly about their displacement from Baghdad or Gaza City or Beirut? No, they were accepted and absorbed as citizens and they’ve gone on to build decent lives for themselves.

            “Well, the actual term the UN uses is displaced persons, which is more accurate. But I don’t see how a different definition is used for Palestinian Arabs”

            For Palestinian Arabs, descendants of displaced persons are considered “refugees” forever. There are Arabs living in Gaza, J & S, Lebanon, and Syria who are considered “Palestinian Refugees” even though they have lived in these places for generations.

            “Even the UN peace plan wouldn’t satisfy all their claims and grievances.”

            I’m not sure what you mean by “UN peace plan,” but you are most likely correct. Any solution which leaves Jewish Israel intact will be unsatisfactory the the Palestinian Arabs.

            “The problem is that what Israel is offering is not a viable state.”

            How do I know if a state is “viable” or not? What are the criteria?

            ” am not a fan of ethnically defined states, as it is essentially racism”

            So can I assume then, that any Jewish people who were born within the territory of any future Palestinian State, should be permitted to remain as citizens in your view?

            “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_Seaport_plans#1994.2F2000_PA_plan”

            Do you happen to know what the “incident in Ramallah” was?

          • Echo says:

            Infantry who want to survive on any battlefield of the last century never stop digging.

            If you think you might be fighting in a built up area against an enemy invading with overwhelming armour and air supremacy, you tunnel like a rat until you can move from one side of the city to another without ever seeing daylight.

            If someone builds a stockpile of 1000lb guided bombs that can be lobbed from 60km away while telling me I’m not allowed to dig a hole to hide in, I’m just going to assume it’s because he wants to kill me.

          • Aapje says:

            @Pku

            “The UNHRC Commission of Inquiry on the Gaza Conflict found “the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets”

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

          • suntzuanime says:

            The UN has basically no credibility on any issue.

          • Aapje says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            Saying that Hamas is sincere about peace because they stopped nearly all of their rocket attacks on civilians during a ceasefire is damning them with extremely faint praise. It almost sounds sarcastic.

            0. I didn’t claim that they are sincere about peace (and find that a silly thing to (dis)claim, as Hamas is not a single mind with 1 opinion), but rather that they are sincere about their peace agreements. A subtle, but very important difference. I think that generally, you make peace with people by slowly building up trust and changing minds, rather than having everyone magically support peace suddenly. You reduce the number of people against peace at first and isolate the remaining ones later. See the N-Irish peace process.

            1. It’s quite likely that they did indeed stop all their attacks, assuming that there are a few resistance groups who don’t listen to the main leadership.

            2. It’s a correction to the lies being told about Hamas. A key (right-wing) Israeli narrative is that there are no partners for peace, peace can not be achieved through concessions, the Palestinians are untrustworthy, etc. This is demonstrably false, as the (various) Palestinians groups keep their word much better than Israel, even Hamas. If you care about the truth, rather than rhetoric and ‘othering,’ you should distinguish between facts and fiction, even/also when it comes to ‘the enemy.’

            3. It’s very popular for people to tell negative falsehoods about ‘the enemy’ and positive falsehoods about ‘our side,’ because most people of ‘our side’ are unwilling to stand up for the truth. Because if they do, they will get attacked as sympathizers with the enemy. However, this is an ad hominem attack that results in echo chambers, polarization and general anti-rationality. If you care about rationality, you should be willing to engage all falsehoods, not just those that don’t match your sympathies.

            4. A lot of arguments in favor of Israel are ‘damning them with extremely faint praise’ IMHO.

            Israel is not going to lay down and die for the sins of past generations: they aren’t going to stop their repressive policies until they’re damn sure that the Arabs are no longer a threat to the Jewish population of Israel.

            This is why the subject of genocide comes up here. Every group of people is a threat to every other group of people to some extent. Some of my countrymen regularly get drunk and harm other countrymen. So it’s an absurd demand to ask that any group is ‘no longer a threat to the Jewish population,’ as this can only be achieved through annihilation. Any coexistence requires some level of tolerance to the bad seeds of the other side (which goes both ways, btw. Note that anti-Palestinian terrorism is quite severe).

            But you are right that both parties are stuck in a stalemate. Israel has convinced themselves that the Palestinians are untermenschen who deserve nothing, cannot be entrusted with any economic prosperity (as it can be redirected to warfare), etc. The Palestinians have tried every method, from peaceful to violent, but no approach has been rewarded. There was brief momentum in Israel, but the assassination of Rabin ended that.

            My sympathies are pretty clear. I believe that Israel has always rewarded terrorism by stopping the peace process whenever an incident happened, ignoring the majority of Palestinians, which is an approach that makes peace impossible. I also believe that Israel has the vast majority of the power (military, economic, etc) and that with more reasonable demands on their side, there would be peace. That’s why I support BDS, to force Israel out of the status quo, in the same way that it did for S-Africa.

          • Aapje says:

            @suntzuanime

            The UN has basically no credibility on any issue.

            The notoriously anti-semitic IDF says the same thing:

            http://glz.co.il/1064-47425-he/Galatz.aspx

            http://www.timesofisrael.com/soldiers-not-civilians-are-tunnel-infiltration-goals-says-senior-intelligence-source/

            But I’m getting a bit tired of other people making claims with zero evidence, then me giving actual evidence to counter their argument, then people dismissing my evidence without any counter evidence.

            It’s rather nasty debating behavior to demand that the other person proves his (counter)claims, while refusing to give evidence for the other side.

            PS. And this is not just aimed at you.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I agree that it’s nasty debating behavior, but I’m not part of the debate. My quarrel is with neither Israel nor Palestine, but with the United Nations and the people who cite them as though their claims were something to take seriously, as though they were searching for the truth instead of for something politically gratifying.

          • Aapje says:

            @sabril

            Ok, and what’s your evidence that the climate in Israel is “similar” to the climates in these places.

            I’ve given examples of the kind of of attitudes and behavior that I associate strongly with a climate that makes genocide possible and think that a reasonable person would accept that these elements existed in those cases.

            For example, anti-[Ethnicity] was obviously true for Nazi-Germany, Rwanda and Turkey. I’m not going to play a game where I prove rather obvious truths.

            Ok, just so we are clear, you are denying that the high court in Israel has on numerous occasions ruled against the government and in favor of Arabs?

            I never claimed that. You desperately want me to hold an opinion that you know how to debate, rather than my actual opinion.

            Fact is that a high court is not ‘the courts,’ it is an institution that only handles a select number of cases (to set precedent). My claim is that there are separate lower courts for Palestinians. Which is a claim I made that you didn’t even deny. I claimed that these courts have 99+% conviction rates, unlike the lower courts for Israeli’s, which you didn’t deny. I’m claiming that courts with 99% conviction rates are mock courts, which you didn’t even argue against. Obviously, that also means that I’m arguing that the high court in Israel is not preventing this from happening, so in so far as Palestinians have access to it, it doesn’t prevent unequal treatment in the courts.

            Debate honestly! Address my actual argument. Disprove my claims, argue that my conclusions are incorrect, etc. But don’t distort my argument so much that it has no resemblance to my claims!

            “No. Fatah is working together with Israel to stop (Palestinian) terrorism. ”

            Funny then, that Fatah just posted the following picture on its Facebook page:

            That picture is meaningless, since I have no idea what it says and thus depicts. It doesn’t depict terrorism, but resistance fighting, at most. This is how you give evidence for your position:

            http://www.haaretz.com/idf-pa-forces-still-coordinating-despite-fatah-hamas-pact-1.358708

            My evidence is from a respectable news source and actually addresses the claim. Your ‘evidence’ doesn’t come from a reliable source, is unverifiable and doesn’t actually disprove my claim (even if some people in Fatah glorifies violence against the IDF, that doesn’t make it impossible for Fatah people to cooperate with Israel against terrorism).

            “Even Hamas tends to keeps their promises during cease fires and stops nearly all rocket attacks. ”

            I’m a little confused. Do you deny that Hamas regularly engages in terrorism?

            There is no way for a rational person to conclude that based on what I said. I will not engage you when you refuse to apply elementary logic and/or reading ability.

            Can you please provide 3 examples of [Israel pretty much always violates it’s agreements]? TIA.

            1. “According to a World Bank report, Israel extracted 80% more water from the West Bank than agreed in the Oslo Accord”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_supply_and_sanitation_in_the_Palestinian_territories#Division_in_the_Oslo_II_Accord

            2. Israel violated the ceasefire with Hamas in pretty much every way:

            https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/israel-violates-gaza-ceasefire-nearly-every-day

            3. Israel refused to pay the tax they are obliged to collect and hand over to the PA, as punishment/abuse of power:

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

            Were you referring to Palestinian Arabs as individuals or as a group when you said the following: “there is no way for Palestinians to build up a good life in peaceful ways.”

            Individuals. A ‘good life’ is an individual property. A society can’t have a good life.

            Even assuming that’s true, it doesn’t change the fact that the concrete could be put to more constructive uses.

            This just leads to an argument whether oppressed people should make the best of their oppression or resist. I’m not particularly interested in that. I believe that in general, people have the right to resist oppression and that attacks on military targets of the oppressor is legitimate.

            I just want to point out that in WW II, most Jews did exactly what you suggest: make the most of their lives given the circumstances rather than resist. That example rather disproves your point that cooperation will necessarily be the best option (although I’m obviously not claiming that the Palestinians will end up in gas chambers, but rather that Israel may perpetually want to keep oppressing them, even if they stop resisting).

            Stop with the terrorism; the blockade will be lifted

            They did that and yet Israel refused to lift the blockade. So history proves you wrong.

            For the sake of this discussion, the distinction does not matter.

            If you cannot distinguish between terrorism and resistance against oppressors, our respective views on ethics differ too much for a fruitful discussion.

            However Hamas also attacks citizens regularly. Do you deny this?

            No, but so does Israel: http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/

            Do YOU deny this?

            Note that I’m not a supporter of Hamas or a defender of everything they do. I just argue against lies about them and make a distinction between terrorism & resistance.

            For Palestinian Arabs, descendants of displaced persons are considered “refugees” forever.

            You just argued against Zionism, my friend. The claim that Jews outside of Israel are a diaspora that have the right of return to Israel is also the idea that Jews are refugees forever, until they ‘return.’

            So you have to choose, either the Palestinian claim is illegitimate or Zionism is….

            So can I assume then, that any Jewish people who were born within the territory of any future Palestinian State, should be permitted to remain as citizens in your view?

            That’s a complex question that depends on whether they live there legitimately or illegally. I’d say that most if not all settlements were created illegally and thus the Israelis there are illegal immigrants or the children of such. The latter group should most sensibly move to Israel when their parents do. I assume they would prefer that anyway (as they surely want to benefit from all the advantages of being Israeli) and Israel would want the same (due to a desire to remain a Jewish democratic state, which requires a majority of Jewish citizens).

            Furthermore, you say ‘remain as citizens,’ but most of these people are not Palestinian citizens, but Israeli citizens. So for them, your question is nonsensical, as there is no Palestinian citizenship that they can keep.

            Anyway, for Jews with Palestinian citizenship, my answer is yes. For settlers, generally: no. For Jews living outside the settlements with Israeli citizenship, the PA can require them to renounce their Israeli citizenship and become Palestinian citizens, to formally become a member of the Palestinian state.

            BTW, I want to point out that citizenship by being born in a country is an American law, not international law. Many countries do not have such law and the child ‘inherits’ the citizenship from the parents. If Palestine would have such a law, that would be perfectly legitimate.

            Do you happen to know what the “incident in Ramallah” was?

            It’s irrelevant, since the incident could in no way have been enabled by the Port, as it was not operational.

          • Aapje says:

            @suntzuanime

            I agree that it’s nasty debating behavior, but I’m not part of the debate. My quarrel is with neither Israel nor Palestine, but with the United Nations and the people who cite them as though their claims were something to take seriously, as though they were searching for the truth instead of for something politically gratifying.

            I am searching for the truth and find your accusation that I am not doing so to be an ad hominem attack. Note that in this debate, I am the only person actually trying to provide evidence for many of my claims.

            Furthermore, you haven’t actually provided any evidence that this particular report was flawed. As such, your attack on the UN was also an ad hominem, which in no way disproved the claims by that committee (and I gave other sources that corroborate their claims).

          • suntzuanime says:

            I was referring to the United Nations with my reference to people who were searching for something politically gratifying rather than the truth, but the carelessness with which you throw around accusations of “ad hominem” like you think it’s supposed to impress anybody is not really persuading me of your status as a sober truthseeker either.

          • Aapje says:

            Well, I do not find it fair to argue that every single UN person is not searching for the truth, but rather ‘for something politically gratifying.’ You can make that point for specific people/subgroups, but assuming bad faith in general for all people affiliated with the UN is wrong, as many/most of them definitely seem to have good intent.

            I also find it rather amazing that you’d argue such here, as one of the goals of this blog is to point out how people’s ability to evaluate arguments, evidence and such is often dramatically broken. As such, a good argument can be made that most people do try to search for the truth, but simultaneously suffer from various kinds of irrationality, including an inability to judge evidence without overvaluing things that they find politically gratifying and undervaluing things that they don’t.

            If you agree with me that this is the case for most people, then your dichotomy of searching for the truth vs searching for politically gratification is a false choice. People can do both and IMO most people do both.

          • John Schilling says:

            @suntzuanime: My quarrel is with neither Israel nor Palestine, but with the United Nations

            If your beef is with the United Nations, you would be well advised to,

            A: Find or start a thread with people who want to talk about the United Nations rather than hijack a thread where people are talking about Israel and Palestine,

            B: Scale down your criticism to something less obviously indefensible than “no credibility on any issue”, and

            C: Actually provide some support for your criticism.

            Otherwise, you’re just making the UN look good.

          • sabril says:

            “For example, anti-[Ethnicity] was obviously true for Nazi-Germany, Rwanda and Turkey. I’m not going to play a game where I prove rather obvious truths.”

            The trouble with your argument is that there is “anti-[Ethnicity]” sentiment all over the world and has been for a long time now. And yet it typically does not lead to genocide. For example, there is a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment in Greece. Are the Greeks close to genociding the Jewish population there?

            Indeed, there is a phenomenal amount of anti-Jewish sentiment in Arab areas of the Middle East. In most areas, the vast majority of people have a “very negative” opinion about Jews.

            Thank goodness for the IDF, to prevent Arab genocide of Israeli Jews. Agreed?

            “I never claimed that. ”

            I asked you to identify 3 states which engaged in genocide against residents/subjects/citizens despite having a respected court system which regularly ruled against the government and in favor of those residents/subjects/citizens.

            You responded by saying that “Israel doesn’t have that.”

            So it sounds like you are saying that Israel does NOT have a respected court system which regularly rules against the government and in favor of the Arabs. But let’s try to make things clear:

            I claim that Israel has a respected court system which regularly rules against the government and in favor of Arabs. Do you agree or disagree?

            “My claim is that there are separate lower courts for Palestinians. Which is a claim I made that you didn’t even deny.”

            I deny that. Palestinian Arabs (and groups supporting them) have appeared in the high court in Israel.

            ” claimed that these courts have 99+% conviction rates, unlike the lower courts for Israeli’s, which you didn’t deny”

            I did not address that point because it is not relevant to my claim. Besides, most criminal courts have extremely high conviction rates since prosecutors do not bring cases unless they have solid evidence and are satisfied of the Defendants’ guilt. In my country — the United States — conviction rates are probably well over 90%.

            Are the courts in Israel biased against Arabs? I’m skeptical, so let’s see your evidence please. Even if they were, it does not indicate that Israel is on the brink of genocide.

            “Debate honestly! Address my actual argument.”

            Umm, you are the one who dodged my point and brought up the issue of conviction rates.

            I claim that Israel has a respected court system which regularly rules against the government and in favor of Arabs. Do you agree or disagree?

            “That picture is meaningless, since I have no idea what it says and thus depicts. ”

            Let’s try again then. Here is a snapshot of Fatah’s facebook page with a translation:

            http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-uBaTvW08Dq8/VntPTtLuPXI/AAAAAAAAtxs/FN6n13XFLD0/s1600/qal3.png

            Who are the “heros” Issa Assaf and Annan ABo? They stabbed to death a rabbi in Jerusalem in December.

            Why is Fatah referring to them as “heros” if Fatah is against terrorism?

            Here is a video for you to watch:

            http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=16933

            Why is Fatah referring to terrorists as role models?

            “There is no way for a rational person to conclude that based on what I said. ”

            I asked you if you would agree that much of the Palestinian Arab leadership supports terrorism, either actively or passively. You answered “no.” It’s right there in black and white.

            Obviously Hamas qualifies as “much” of the Palestinian Arab leadership. So you seemed to be denying that Hamas supports terrorism.

            Let’s try again: Keeping in mind that much of the Palestinian Arab leadership is comprised of Hamas, do you agree that much of the Palestinian Arab leadership supports terrorism?

            A simple yes or no will do.

            “According to a World Bank report, Israel extracted 80% more water from the West Bank than agreed in the Oslo Accord 2. Israel violated the ceasefire with Hamas in pretty much every way 3. Israel refused to pay the tax they are obliged to collect and hand over to the PA, as punishment/abuse of power:”

            Thank you for giving examples. I don’t the time to scrutinize all 3, but I did look at the third example, it says this:

            ” In June 2008, Israel retained a large part of the taxes to cover debts of the Palestinian Authority, and this extra withholding was done in an apparent retaliation for Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Salam Fayyad attempting to undermine Israel – European Union relations.[5] During October and November 2011 in response to Palestine’s bid for full membership in the United Nations, admission to UNESCO, and Fatah’s steps to reconcile with Hamas in the Fatah–Hamas conflict, Israel refused to transfer about $200 million in taxes collected.[2]”

            Assuming that’s all true, it appears that the Palestinian Authority itself violated the Oslo Accords and failed to pay its bills and Israel responded in kind. Do you agree that your cite seems to say that the PA violated its own obligations before Israel withheld monies?

            “Individuals. A ‘good life’ is an individual property. A society can’t have a good life.”

            Ok, then I would say the truth of your claim depends on where the Palestinian Arab lives. But certain in J & S he could work, marry, and otherwise live a decent, peaceful life by simply refraining from taking part in the Arab/Israeli conflict. In Gaza it would be more difficult due to the repressive de facto government there.

            “This just leads to an argument whether oppressed people should make the best of their oppression or resist.”

            Well there is also the question of who the oppressors are. In the case of Gaza, the oppressors are Hamas.

            “’m not particularly interested in that. I believe that in general, people have the right to resist oppression and that attacks on military targets of the oppressor is legitimate.”

            :shrug: You should have made your claim clearer. What you meant to say is that there is no way for the Palestinian Arabs to have peaceful good lives while at the same time engaging in attacks on their perceived oppressors. And that’s true. Attacking other people tends to undermine your chances of having a peaceful life.

            “That example rather disproves your point that cooperation will necessarily be the best option”

            Please show me where I made such a point. Please quote me. Failing that, please admit that I said no such thing and apologize.

            “They did that and yet Israel refused to lift the blockade.”

            I’m extremely skeptical of this claim. Please show me proof.

            “If you cannot distinguish between terrorism and resistance against oppressors, ”

            Distinguish for what purpose? Let’s suppose an individual Palestinian Arab living in Gaza decides to resist his oppressors (Hamas) by stabbing a Hamas policeman. It’s not likely to lead to a good, peaceful life for him. Same thing if he attacks a civilian, whether Arab or Jewish.

            I’m not saying there’s no difference. I’m saying that the difference doesn’t matter for purposes of your claim.

            Attacking other people tends to lead you away from a peaceful life, whether that person is military or civilian, Arab or Jew. Agree?

            “Do YOU deny this?”

            I deny that Israel directs military attacks towards civilians as a matter of policy.

            But please stop trying to change the subject. Hamas regularly targets civilians, which you now seem to admit. This makes it more difficult for Palestinian Arabs — both as groups and as individuals — to achieve good lives in a peaceful way.

            “The claim that Jews outside of Israel are a diaspora that have the right of return to Israel is also the idea that Jews are refugees forever, until they ‘return.’”

            “The claim that Jews outside of Israel are a diaspora that have the right of return to Israel is also the idea that Jews are refugees forever, until they ‘return.’”

            Lol, fortunately the governments of United States and Canada don’t require Jewish people to live in refugee camps and deny citizenship to Jewish people on the ground that they are “refugees”

            Anyway, please stop trying to change the subject.

            “So for them, your question is nonsensical, as there is no Palestinian citizenship that they can keep.”

            Well they should be offered Palestinian citizenship, right?

            “It’s irrelevant, since the incident could in no way have been enabled by the Port, as it was not operational.”

            Ok, then let’s assume that the attack on the Port was retaliation for some Arab atrocity, agreed?

          • sabril says:

            By the way, I think that “Aapje” is the same as “Machine Translation” from the last thread on this.

            i.e. the guy who claims that the Israeli army intentionally ordered its soldiers to leave unexploded ordinance in Southern Lebanon.

          • “If you cannot distinguish between terrorism and resistance against oppressors,”

            This particular bit struck me for reasons that have nothing to do with who, if any, are the good guys in the Israeli/Palestinian conflicts.

            Terrorism is a tactic–harming people and stuff in a polity not because those people and that stuff are part of the enemy military you are trying to weaken but in order to get the polity to change its actions so as to avoid such harm. Whether it is done for good or bad reasons is irrelevant to whether it is terrorism.

            If one interprets the bombing of Hiroshima and Dresden as primarily aimed at the civilian population rather than any military targets, those attacks were terrorism, whether or not one approves of them.

            Similarly, shooting a bunch of people in a bus in Israel, or firing a missile at an Israeli city, is terrorism, whether or not one thinks the actions justified.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            You are exactly right.

            I’m not against Hamas because they are “terrorists”. That is, I am not primarily objecting to the means by which they fight for Islamism. I am against them primarily because they fight for Islamism, by whatever means.

            I don’t think Israeli soldiers deserve to die, any more than Israeli civilians. I am just against people who kill the former as the latter.

            However, it is certainly true that the line of the Israeli government and most defenders of it has been “terrorism bad”. “Why do we know the Palestinians cause is bad? Because they’re terrorists, of course!”

            And not only the Israeli government but the U.S. government (“War on Terror”), the British government (IRA terrorists; Nelson Mandela terrorist), and many other governments.

            I don’t know why this is exactly. I suspect it’s because it’s easier to argue that the enemy is using certain tactic and to demonize that tactic than to argue that your side is actually right and their side wrong.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Vox,

            I don’t know why this is exactly.

            Because most people don’t live in a dispassionate thought experiment.

            The idea that you might be targeted for death more-or-less at random at any point during your day-to-day life is terrifying. It brings the uncertainty and disruption of war into what is nominally peacetime, and can do so even in the presence of force asymmetry which would otherwise ensure safety from enemy militaries. And the more viable it becomes, the more likely that you or a family member will experience it.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Dr Dealgood:

            The idea that you might be targeted for death more-or-less at random at any point during your day-to-day life is terrifying. It brings the uncertainty and disruption of war into what is nominally peacetime, and can do so even in the presence of force asymmetry which would otherwise ensure safety from enemy militaries. And the more viable it becomes, the more likely that you or a family member will experience it.

            But why hate terrorism instead of hating Islamism or whatever force that’s driving the terrorists?

            I guess terrorism is just a more concrete thing to hate.

            Moreover, condemning terrorism in itself leaves you open to obvious criticism. The U.S. firebombing of Japan was terrorism. Many Zionists engaged in terrorism in the founding of Israel.

            It’s very similar to the controversy over Iran trying to get a nuclear weapon. People act like they want to get it just to suicidally attack Israel. No, they want to get it so that they can keep funding groups like Hezbollah in perfect safety, without fear of being “regime changed” by the U.S. That is, they want a nuclear weapon for the same reason as everyone else: security. And that’s the reason they shouldn’t be allowed to get it.

            Edit: And this is weird because it’s people being inappropriately meta-level instead of object-level, when it’s usually the other way around. Instead of saying “terrorism is right when we do it and wrong when they do it”, they say “terrorism is wrong no matter who does it” (without being consistent in this judgment).

          • Nornagest says:

            But why hate terrorism instead of hating Islamism or whatever force that’s driving the terrorists?

            Most people outside of Islamic countries don’t have a good intuitive handle on Islamism. Certainly not enough to distinguish it from, say, the state Islam of Saudi Arabia — which looks, and is, pretty damned fundamentalist by Western standards, but which in many ways is better understood as a reaction to Islamist ideas.

            So pointing to Islamism as a cause won’t actually give most people anything concrete to hate. Some of them will round off to Islam, which you can kinda get away with if the topic is refugees or something similar but which doesn’t give you enough ammunition for a sane foreign policy. But most will go looking for deeds rather than ideas, and the most obvious ones are the tactics of asymmetrical warfare.

            (Islamism — especially in places like Nigeria — is also deeply entangled with anti-Western sentiment, and that opens its own can of worms.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nornagest:

            Well, even more concretely, you can just hate Hamas. Why? “They want to kill us!”

            You don’t have to say “we hate them because it is always wrong to target civilians in assymetrical warfare”. You can just say “we hate people who want to kill us for no good reason”.

          • Aapje says:

            @sabril

            The trouble with your argument is that there is “anti-[Ethnicity]” sentiment all over the world and has been for a long time now. And yet it typically does not lead to genocide.

            It is not a black/white issue, but a continuum. The stronger the elements I named are in a society, the more likely it is for a dynamic to develop that leads to genocide. On one end of the continuum you have a very low amount of “anti-[Ethnicity]” sentiment and strong counter-forces, at the other end you have strong sentiment and very weak counter-forces. Somewhere in between is a tipping point where processes start happening that remove the constraints on those with extreme ideas.

            My claim is that there is very strong sentiment in Israel, for which I gave many examples and not very strong counter-forces. As such, the external counterforces (international attention, dependency on US help, etc) are crucial to keep Israel from reaching the tipping point.

            For example, there is a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment in Greece. Are the Greeks close to genociding the Jewish population there?

            AFAIK Golden Dawn primarily targets immigrants & LGBT people, not Jews. So it’s strange that you’d pick Jews as a possible target. Anyway, I’d say that they are closer than any other EU country, yes. Close to the tipping point, no. The political dynamic in Greece is completely different from Israel, with only a minority blaming minorities and most people blaming others (like the Germans/capitalists/etc). I’d say that there are strong counter-forces against genocide in Greece, although some of those are hate groups attacking other hate groups.

            Thank goodness for the IDF, to prevent Arab genocide of Israeli Jews. Agreed?

            Well, the oppression by Israel of the Palestinians and the colonialism by Israel is the main reason for the increase in hatred of Jews in the Arab world, so you seem to be confusing the problem with the solution. Before the establishment of Israel, many Jews lived in Arab countries and were not killed. Even as anti-Jewish sentiment grew, none of the Arab countries committed genocide against their Jewish citizens, but they allowed them to migrate to Israel. This undermines your claim that Arabs are itching to commit genocide against Jews. They had every opportunity then, but didn’t.

            I also disagree with the view that the Arab world wants to commit genocide against the Jews now, this is popular rhetoric among pro-Israelis, but such claims seem to be based on very weak or false evidence. For instance, popular ‘proof’ of genocidal intent is that Ahmadinejad supposedly called for genocide, which was actually a mistranslation where he said no such thing. In actuality, I often notice that Arab leaders very carefully denounce Zionism, without calling for violence against Jews. I don’t see how this shows genocidal intent, anymore than Ghandi’s rejection of English colonialism showed that he wanted to commit genocide against the British.

            I claim that Israel has a respected court system which regularly rules against the government and in favor of Arabs. Do you agree or disagree?

            You are trying to twist my words so you can ignore my actual claims. Again, my point was that there is no equal or fair treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli legal system.

            Severe unequal and unfair treatment under law of a minority is an important factor that shows that a society is pretty far along on the continuum towards genocide. The fact that there are courts that only judge Palestinians prove my point. The fact that these courts have much higher conviction rates compared to courts for Israeli’s prove my point. The fact that some laws are only applied to Palestinians (administrative detention) prove my point.

            “My claim is that there are separate lower courts for Palestinians. Which is a claim I made that you didn’t even deny.”

            I deny that. Palestinian Arabs (and groups supporting them) have appeared in the high court in Israel.

            Your denial doesn’t address my claim in any way. I made a claim about lower courts, you countered with a claim about high courts. It is irrational to counter a claim about one thing with an argument about another thing.

            Anyway, I am going to stop debating with you here, since you don’t meet my threshold of rationality. I cannot debate someone who cannot address my actual points or who denies that a 99.74% conviction rate is compatible with anything but a show court.

            ====

            By the way, I think that “Aapje” is the same as “Machine Translation” from the last thread on this.

            Oh dear, you are paranoid too. And no, I’m not that commenter.

          • Aapje says:

            @Friedman

            If one interprets the bombing of Hiroshima and Dresden as primarily aimed at the civilian population rather than any military targets, those attacks were terrorism, whether or not one approves of them.

            They were and in a just world, those responsible would have faced justice.

            I also want to point out that there is strong evidence that neither the campaigns against German population centers, nor the nuclear attacks on Japan, were actually necessary and/or sufficiently useful to justify them over more effective alternative military choices. There was no clear reduction in Nazi morale due to the bombings; nor did those cause substantial damage to the nazi war machine. The Japanese were willing to surrender on 1 condition, that their emperor could stay. After the unconditional surrender, the allies let the emperor stay anyway. So forcing an unconditional surrender rather than a conditional one had no benefit, other than the stroking of some egos by having two extra letters (‘un’) on the surrender agreement.

            In general, it is rather amazing how the extreme measures that the most aggressive war-mongers advocate, almost never work better in practice than approaches that don’t violate human rights (such as torture vs normal interrogations, violent uprisings vs non-violent ones, etc).

            @Vox

            I suspect it’s because it’s easier to argue that the enemy is using certain tactic and to demonize that tactic than to argue that your side is actually right and their side wrong.

            …Especially when the other side actually has a point. Demonization makes you automatically right in the eyes of those who accept that ‘othering’, even when you are factually wrong.

            Note that in many cases this demonization can just as easily be turned around. For instance, both Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers use terror tactics against Palestinian citizens. So in my opinion, the Israeli rhetoric condemns their own side as much as the other side.

            But why hate terrorism instead of hating Islamism or whatever force that’s driving the terrorists?

            Because that is too limiting when you want to deligimitize all Palestinians. After all, Fatah is not Islamist, but the Israeli government wants to portray them as ‘not a viable peace partner’ too. The claim that Palestinians are all terrorists is a superweapon that can be used against all Palestinians, not just the Islamists.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “They were and in a just world, those responsible would have faced justice.”

            Proof? Hiroshima was the headquarters for the defense of Southern Japan; if the bombs didn’t work, it would have been an important military target during Downfall.

            “I also want to point out that there is strong evidence that neither the campaigns against German population centers, nor the nuclear attacks on Japan, were actually necessary and/or sufficiently useful to justify them over more effective alternative military choices.”

            Yeah, it isn’t like the Japanese explicitly state in their deliberations the importance of atomic bombings in forcing their decision.

            As for the bombings of Germany, I don’t know enough to comment, but blaming bomber command for something they couldn’t know until the war ended is… odd.

            “The Japanese were willing to surrender on 1 condition, that their emperor could stay.”

            And that they could keep Korea, Taiwan, no occupation… they had a list of conditions that their peace proposals through the USSR insisted upon.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Aapje:

            Note that in many cases this demonization can just as easily be turned around. For instance, both Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers use terror tactics against Palestinian citizens. So in my opinion, the Israeli rhetoric condemns their own side as much as the other side.

            Right, so if they’re cynical bastards, why don’t they use better rhetoric?

            I’m not even arguing for or against them on this point. I am just saying that their rhetoric is stupid.

            Because that is too limiting when you want to deligimitize all Palestinians. After all, Fatah is not Islamist, but the Israeli government wants to portray them as ‘not a viable peace partner’ too. The claim that Palestinians are all terrorists is a superweapon that can be used against all Palestinians, not just the Islamists.

            If you’re going to lie and say they’re all terrorists, why not lie and say they’re all Islamists? Or just that they all hate Israel and really aren’t viable peace partners? (Which is probably true.)

          • sabril says:

            “It is not a black/white issue, but a continuum. ”

            Then please show me your evidence that Israel’s position on that continuum is comparable to that of Nazi Germany.

            “AFAIK Golden Dawn primarily targets immigrants & LGBT people, not Jews. So it’s strange that you’d pick Jews as a possible target. ”

            I happen to know that there is a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment in Greece. I have no idea if there is a lot of anti-immigrant or anti-gay sentiment. But anyway, I’m just applying your reasoning. There is a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment in Greece, therefore — according to your reasoning — Jews in Greece are fortunate that modern media deters the Greeks from genociding them.

            “The political dynamic in Greece is completely different from Israel”

            That’s irrelevant to your reasoning — there is a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment there.

            “Well, the oppression by Israel of the Palestinians and the colonialism by Israel is the main reason for the increase in hatred of Jews in the Arab world, so you seem to be confusing the problem with the solution. ”

            That’s pretty much false, but anyway I could easily turn it around: Arab misbehavior is the primary reason for anti-Arab sentiment among Jewish Israelis. Therefore you are confusing the problem with the solution.

            “Before the establishment of Israel, many Jews lived in Arab countries and were not killed.”

            You are aware of the Hebron massacre, right?

            “none of the Arab countries committed genocide against their Jewish citizens, but they allowed them to migrate to Israel. ”

            And Israel never committed genocide against Arabs living there either. So much for your claim that Israel is on the brink of genocide against the Arabs.

            “This undermines your claim that Arabs are itching to commit genocide against Jews. ”

            I did not make such a claim, I was simply applying your reasoning to the situation. According to you, anti-X sentiment is an indication of a climate of genocide. Unsurprisingly, you have a double-standard.

            “They had every opportunity then, but didn’t.”

            Israel has had every opportunity but didn’t. Agreed?

            “You are trying to twist my words so you can ignore my actual claims.”

            Umm, you are the one who is ignoring my claims. I asked you a simple, reasonable, yes or no question. Rather than admit that your original answer was plainly and ridiculously wrong, you dodge and weave.

            “Your denial doesn’t address my claim in any way. I made a claim about lower courts, ”

            i.e. you tried to change the subject in order to dodge my point.

            “Anyway, I am going to stop debating with you here, since you don’t meet my threshold of rationality. ”

            i.e. I call you out on your dodging, weaving, strawmanning, and incessant attempts to change the subject.

            The fact is that your initial claims are both wrong. Rather than admit it, you continually try to change the subject to other alleged wrongdoing by Israel.

            Ultimately, the Palestinian Arabs do in fact have a path to build good lives in peaceful ways. But that path requires abandoning some of their claims and grievances –whether legitimate or not — and accepting less than what they think they are owed as a group.

            “Oh dear, you are paranoid too. And no, I’m not that commenter”

            :shrug: Your debating styles are very similar. (I actually meant “Machine Interface”) That poster also continually tried to change the subject constantly bringing up various alleged wrongdoing by Israel. That poster constantly threw out accusations of dishonesty when his position was scrutinized. It’s not like nobody has ever switched handles on a message board.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ sabril:

            Ultimately, the Palestinian Arabs do in fact have a path to build good lives in peaceful ways. But that path requires abandoning some of their claims and grievances –whether legitimate or not — and accepting less than what they think they are owed as a group.

            I basically agree with you in this debate. But if I can “steelman” Aapje‘s point, it is that the Palestinian Arabs are not a collective entity.

            Some of them want to make peace with Israel and are willing to give up their claims and grievances. But others are nationalists and Islamists bent on suicidal, self-defeating attacks on Israel. The people in the first group can’t stop the people in the second group. And when Israel breaks off the peace process every time someone in the second group launches an attack, it goes nowhere. Obviously, you can never have a deal with more than around 100 people if the whole thing is off the first time one person defects.

            Now, I would agree with that but say that negotiating with Hamas and the PLO does not mean negotiating with the people in the first group. It basically means surrendering ground to the second group, which is in control of those organizations—or at the very least, those in the PLO who are in the first group are unable to control those in the second.

            And therefore I think that Israel’s only real hope of ending this conflict is to make continued resistance to Israel’s existence and desired borders impossible. Israel does not have workable “partners for peace”. It has to simply achieve victory.

            But a legitimate part of Israel’s problem is that they don’t clearly define what would constitute victory. If they don’t want a Palestinian state, and don’t want a one-state solution where the Palestinians become citizens eventually, then I suppose the only alternative to the status quo is expelling the Palestinians.

          • sabril says:

            “I basically agree with you in this debate. But if I can ‘steelman’ Aapje‘s point, it is that the Palestinian Arabs are not a collective entity.”

            I actually addressed this point, or at least one similar to it, by pointing out that an individual Palestinian Arab living in J & S actually does have a pretty good opportunity to live a good, peaceful life. By simply staying out of the Arab/Israeli conflict, finding a job, marrying, etc.

            Of course it’s true that an individual Palestinian Arab living in Gaza or a refugee camp in Lebanon or Jordan does not have such an opportunity. The proximate cause of this, however, is the policies of Hamas, Lebanon, Jordan, etc.

            “Some of them want to make peace with Israel and are willing to give up their claims and grievances. But others are nationalists and Islamists bent on suicidal, self-defeating attacks on Israel.”

            It’s also worth noting that there is overwhelming support among Palestinian Arabs for the hard line position.

            “Obviously, you can never have a deal with more than around 100 people if the whole thing is off the first time one person defects.”

            In order to do deals between groups of people, they need to have legitimate representatives. In the last election held by the Palestinian Arabs, Hamas won decisively. That was like 8 or 10 years ago. Fatah is in power only because it basically ignored the election results and has refused to have further elections. As for Gaza, Hamas has similarly refused to have further elections.

            Anyway, for there to be peace the entire Arab culture needs to change. The fact is that there are regular wars, repression, and brutality all over the Levant regardless of whether Israel is involved. What Arabs do to each other is far far worse than anything Israel does.

            “But a legitimate part of Israel’s problem is that they don’t clearly define what would constitute victory. If they don’t want a Palestinian state, and don’t want a one-state solution where the Palestinians become citizens eventually, then I suppose the only alternative to the status quo is expelling the Palestinians.”

            The status quo is probably the best option for Israel. Anyway, the Jewish population in J & S is rocketing upwards. Once there is a solid Jewish majority, the entire area can be annexed and the local Arabs offered citizenship.

          • Aapje says:

            @Skinner

            Proof? Hiroshima was the headquarters for the defense of Southern Japan

            AFAIK the goal was to kill a large number of civilians, not to disrupt the war machine. An argument can be made that attacks on Japanese cities were military attacks, given the fact that a lot of military production was done in small shops in civilian area’s, but then that has to be the actual reason for the attack(s). Legally, intent matters.

            Yeah, it isn’t like the Japanese explicitly state in their deliberations the importance of atomic bombings in forcing their decision.

            That was rhetoric to save face. Fact is that the Japanese government initially rejected the Potsdam Proclamation after the bombs were dropped. “The key concern for the Japanese military was loss of honor, not Japan’s destruction.”

            but blaming bomber command for something they couldn’t know until the war ended is… odd.

            You are confusing two things. I am blaming them for human rights violations, which is independent of the question about effectiveness. I noted that the bombings were not just morally wrong, but also military unwise. The first is what I blame bomber command for, the second is a lesson we should learn from it.

            And that they could keep Korea, Taiwan, no occupation… they had a list of conditions that their peace proposals through the USSR insisted upon.

            In negotiations, you always ask for more than the minimum that you will accept. Otherwise you have no room to actually negotiate. That is Negotiating 101.

            We know from both Japanese and Allied sources that “The absence of any assurance regarding the Emperor’s fate became Japan’s chief objection to the Potsdam Proclamation”

            This is what the allies thought about it: “On May 28th Grew informed Truman, “The greatest obstacle to unconditional surrender by the Japanese is their belief that this would entail the destruction or permanent removal of the Emperor and the institution of the throne”

            “Stimson’s memo to the President advised, “I personally think that if in saying this we should add that we do not exclude a constitutional monarchy under her present dynasty, it would substantially add to the chances of acceptance”. ”

            Unfortunately: “Pacific war historian Akira Iriye explains, “One reason for this change [the removal of the Emperor retention line] was the growing influence within the State Department of men like [Sec. of State] Byrnes, Acheson, and MacLeish – with no expertise on Japanese affairs but keenly sensitive to public opinion – and the president’s tendency to listen to them rather than to Grew and other experts.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Vox

            Right, so if they’re cynical bastards, why don’t they use better rhetoric?

            Because inside an echo chamber, bad rhetoric looks like good rhetoric.

            If you’re going to lie and say they’re all terrorists, why not lie and say they’re all Islamists?

            Because you can point to any violence coming from the West Bank to ‘prove’ that the PA are also terrorists, which is an easier thing to do than come up with examples of Islamization of the West Bank. Proper lying is about taking a few exceptions and pretending that they are the rule. This is similar to how the people who believe in a global Jewish conspiracy need a few powerful Jews to point too. Without them, their theories become silly even in the eyes of people with anti-Jewish feelings.

          • Aapje says:

            @Vox

            But if I can “steelman” Aapje‘s point, it is that the Palestinian Arabs are not a collective entity. […] And when Israel breaks off the peace process every time someone in the second group launches an attack, it goes nowhere.

            That was my point. In N-Ireland, the British didn’t stop the peace process when the Omagh bombing happened. They dis-empowered the hawks by continuing the peace process.

            Israel generally does the opposite, it gives power to the hawks, while dis-empowering the doves. So what happened: the Palestinians saw that the doves in Fatah couldn’t make peace, so you got an Intifada, then another one, then people defected from Fatah to the more extremist Hamas and more recently you have Jaish al-Islam, who are ISIS sympathizers. Things are not moving in the right direction at all.

            Current Israeli policy is only effective if you think that more polarization & more extremism (on both sides) is good thing.

            Israel does not have workable “partners for peace”. It has to simply achieve victory.

            A. No serious conflict ever had workable “partners for peace” at the start, in the sense that the opposition is willing to sign and immediately implement an agreement just like that. You create workable “partners for peace” during a peace process, by taking steps towards peace, proving the doves right, dis-empowering the hawks. This increased trust and power on the side of the doves allows you to take more steps towards peace, proving the doves even more right, etc. Key is that the doves on both sides need to stand together when the inevitable attempt by hawks to disrupt this upward spiral happens (instead of the side who who suffered from an attack retaliating against the doves on the other side).

            B. Victory without genocide is impossible. You can only get a stalemate under the current Israeli strategy, with continued resistance and regular ‘out-breaks’ of severe violence (like the stabbings by Israeli Arabs).

            I suppose the only alternative to the status quo is expelling the Palestinians.

            To where? No one will take them.

            Furthermore, ethnic cleansing will probably have severe consequences with regard to a loss of international support. It may lead Europe to institute full sanctions, for instance.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “AFAIK the goal was to kill a large number of civilians, not to disrupt the war machine.”

            I typically provide plenty of leaflets to my victims and tell them ‘we are going to bomb you’ in an effort to get them to stay in one place.

            “That was rhetoric to save face. Fact is that the Japanese government initially rejected the Potsdam Proclamation after the bombs were dropped. “The key concern for the Japanese military was loss of honor, not Japan’s destruction.””

            No, we know what ‘rhetoric to save face’ looks like- declaring that the atom bombs don’t matter because the Americans probably have only two of them. Attempting a coup to stop the surrender. The people who pushed for a surrender did so because they realized the US was in fact now capable of simply obliterating them- previously they could hold out ‘they will back off once the casualties are high enough’.

            “I am blaming them for human rights violations, which is independent of the question about effectiveness.”

            ‘Necessary/sufficiently useful’ is a question of effectiveness.

            “In negotiations, you always ask for more than the minimum that you will accept. Otherwise you have no room to actually negotiate. That is Negotiating 101. ”

            This wasn’t a negotiation. The US, UK, USSR had agreed to unconditional surrender. The Japanese refused to ask for anything remotely realistic in light of that agreement or the outcome for every other Axis power.

            “We know from both Japanese and Allied sources that “The absence of any assurance regarding the Emperor’s fate became Japan’s chief objection to the Potsdam Proclamation””

            I’m not sure stripping the Emperor of his divinity would have been acceptable to them either. Not to mention ‘the Emperor can’t be tried for war crimes’ is something that screams guilty.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Samuel Skinner:

            I agree with you, but I wanted to point out something about this:

            I typically provide plenty of leaflets to my victims and tell them ‘we are going to bomb you’ in an effort to get them to stay in one place.

            Dropping the leaflets is part of the terror tactics. Not least because it’s a way of magnifying force. They drop leaflets on more cities than they’re actually going to bomb (otherwise the Japanese would defend just those cities, right?), encouraging people to evacuate even the cities that aren’t going to be bombed. It creates more fear, uncertainty, and disruption.

            This doesn’t contradict what you said in any way. The whole purpose of this was to disrupt the war effort. And it’s not just a matter of morale: if people are evacuating, they are not producing supplies for the war effort.

            The U.S. goal was to win with as few losses as possible, not to kill as many “Japs” as possible. Killing and terrorizing them was the means to winning.

            Also, the main fallacy with the argument that the second bomb (or even the first bomb) was evil and unnecessary is revealed in one simple fact: if it is still uncertain today whether they were necessary, then this sure as hell wasn’t known to the U.S. Army Air Corps at the time, going by only the information they had. It’s basic “fog of war”. You can’t engage in Monday-morning quarterbacking and then judge the people actually involved by all the information you have decades after the war is over.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ” They drop leaflets on more cities than they’re actually going to bomb (otherwise the Japanese would defend just those cities, right?), ”

            That requires cities we didn’t bomb. The only city over 60,000 people we didn’t hit was Kyoto.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Samuel Skinner:

            That requires cities we didn’t bomb. The only city over 60,000 people we didn’t hit was Kyoto.

            I meant to bomb at any particular time, of course.

            You didn’t exactly need a leaflet campaign to let them know that any given city had an extremely high chance of being bombed at some point.

        • Wrong Species says:

          That anger quickly turns in to resignation when their protests don’t seem effective. It’s a nice sentiment to say that violent repression just fuels resistance but history has shown time and time again that it’s the best way to counter protesters. But the important thing is that it has to be both quick and harsh. Leave one out and it can embolden protesters. China is really good at this. Saudi Arabia is too. North Korea has perfected it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m sure that’s the grouping everyone wants to be in. Israel, like North Korea since 2016!

            I don’t think that any modern democracy can get away with the kind of suppression tactics you are talking about, if I am understanding you correctly.

          • vV_Vv says:

            China is really good at this. Saudi Arabia is too. North Korea has perfected it.

            China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea don’t just practice mindless slaughter, they also force on their subjects totalitarian ideologies that give them some sense of purpose in their daily lives.

            What ideology does Israel force on the Palestinians? That they are vermin that just need to disappear to make room for God’s Chosen People? This will hardly give then any productive purpose.

            If you make someone’s life bad enough that it is not worth living, to the point where they feel they have nothing to lose, they may well try to use their last breath to kill you.

            This seems to be the case of the current string of stabbings in Israel. The perpetrators aren’t radicalized members of militant organizations, they are common people who think that their life sucks too much to be worth living, and rightly or wrongly, they blame Israel for it.

            Historically, colonizations of an already populated land succeeded if the native population was displaced, assimilated, exterminated or any combination thereof.

            In this case Israel will not assimilate the Palestinians, and neither will any neighboring country, thus displacement is out of question. And of course the remaining option, extermination, is politically problematic, especially when your international PR is based on guilty-tripping Western people about Auschwitz.

            Therefore I think that Netanyahu will not succeed at breaking the Palestinian morale and any further attempt to colonize the Western Bank is doomed to fail.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Vv_vv

            Why didn’t the slaves in America overthrow their owners? Was it because they believed totalitarian ideologies? Or was it because of lack of hope? I believe the latter explanation is much more convincing and applies far more often to history than the former. You can come up with your own ad hoc theories to why these examples don’t count but the evidence is not on your side.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Why didn’t the slaves in America overthrow their owners? Was it because they believed totalitarian ideologies? Or was it because of lack of hope?

            Because they lived subjectively better lives than present-day Palestinians, presumably.

            And yes, this is in part because their masters gave them a totalitarian ideology: Christianity. Work hard, obey your master, don’t cause any trouble, etc. and then Jesus will reward you in Heaven, or something.

            While people generally prefer not to be enslaved, it is nevertheless possible for most of them to live productive and relatively fulfilling lives as slaves. Some will try to rebel and they will be killed, but the majority will accept slavery.

            Present-day Palestinians who try to rebel are still a minority, but the Israeli policy of instilling despair in the general Palestinian population is going to make the problem worse, not better. Without making major concessions, Israel will never run out of Palestinians who will want to sacrifice their life to defect against it, unless it carries out a genocide.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If you honestly think that Palestinians are worse off than antebellum slaves then I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know how you can honestly believe that they could live productive and fulfilling lives(even relatively). Slavery is like the ultimate example of a dreary and unfulfilled existence. It sucks to be a Palestinians but it’s not even close to the same level.

            Also, I would not say Saudi Arabia has a totalizing ideology unless you are referring to Islam, in which case Palestinians are also Muslim. I don’t really see it for China either but that depends what exactly you mean by “totalizing ideology”, if it means “something giving people purpose in life” or “government propaganda” then basically every place has that in which case it’s meaningless to mention.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Slavery is like the ultimate example of a dreary and unfulfilled existence.

            Evidence? From a modern Western point of view, where freedom is (at least ostensibly) considered as the ultimate value, slavery is the ultimate evil.

            But historically slavery has been practiced for thousand years by many cultures, where it was considered as a “natural” condition. It seems unlikely that most slaves were depressed or desperate. Certainly most of them did not commit suicide or attempted rebellion. Data on the suicide rate of African-American slaves is sketchy, but some studies suggest that it was generally lower than the suicide rate of contemporary European-Americans (ref).

            Empirically it seems that for a significant subset of Palestinians life is actually worse than the life of African-American slaves. They are indeed desperate. The problem for the Israeli is that desperation doesn’t lead to resignation, it leads to violence.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I would not say Saudi Arabia has a totalizing ideology unless you are referring to Islam, in which case Palestinians are also Muslim.

            But there is no such thing as Islam, only a range of variant Islams. I don’t think it’s a wild exaggeration to consider the Islam that is promoted by the Saudi government to be a totalitarian ideology, even if the Islam that is most mainstream among the Palestinians doesn’t rise to that level.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Evidence? From a modern Western point of view, where freedom is (at least ostensibly) considered as the ultimate value, slavery is the ultimate evil.”

            It depends on the slavery, but I think mining and the Caribbean islands had some of the most horrific working conditions for slaves. Slaves who are not being worked to death were probably similar to other people who were tied to the land; however transitioning from one category to another is always a danger for slaves.

          • John Schilling says:

            Israel will never run out of Palestinians who will want to sacrifice their life to defect against it

            “It” is either grammatically or logically ambiguous in that sentence, I think.

            But more than that, if someone sets up a rocket launcher and fires it off in the general direction of a bunch of enemy soldiers, then sticks around for the counterbattery fire, sure, that’s someone who wants to sacrifice their life. If someone goes out into a crowded civilian neighborhood and sets up a rocket launcher pointed at another crowded civilian neighborhood, with a remote trigger to make sure they can be far away when the fireworks start, I’m thinking that it isn’t their own life they want to sacrifice.

            Historically, people who do this sort of thing generally do surrender rather than dying in pointless suicide once they lose hope in the whole “sacrifice other people but not myself” plan. There are Palestinians who are willing to sacrifice themselves and a few that are eager to do so, but those are actually scarce and will eventually run out if they aren’t getting results.

            If the Palestinians actually want to make productive use of such sacrifices while there are still people willing to make them, I’d suggest a far more powerful approach than trying to kill a few more Jews with a knife or a bomb.

        • John Schilling says:

          A lack of hope often just causes people to react in anger, while opportunity allows people to stop focusing on their hate and be productive. Currently, there is no way for Palestinians to build up a good life in peaceful ways.

          Right, like the way the Germans kept fighting harder and harder until we stopped bombing them and offered them lots of Marshall-Plan assistance in building the good life.

          There is no hope greater than the hope for victory in battle, save possibly hope for victory in the most divisive sort of identity politics. Hoping “to build up a good life in peaceful ways” means hoping for a few decades of ceaseless toil so that your children might have a better life, all the while knowing that the people responsible for their not having the good life here and now will “get away with it” unpunished. Hoping for victory means hoping that you get the good life up front, paid for by the labors of your enemies as punishment for their efforts to deny you the good life. Victory is best, and nobody who ever had a cause worth fighting for and victory within reach ever gave it up for a day job.

          When, and only when, you take away people’s hope for victory, they start hoping for bloody revenge (yeah, yeah). When you take away their hope even for revenge, then they start hoping just to survive. Then your diplomats can start to offer them something that looks better than just survival, and you can negotiate a peace that won’t just be a time-out while they plot more revenge.

          War is either pointless killing, or it is the process of manufacturing enough despair that surrender is preferable. If you’re not willing to reduce a population to despair, you almost certainly aren’t going to win any settlement that you couldn’t have gotten peacefully in the first place, so just do that. Even if it means surrendering yourself.

          For identity politics, replace “killing” with “mind-killing” and it still holds.

          • Pku says:

            Can you give examples since WW2 though? It seems like unless you have the political will to 100% commit to total war, winning through despair is pretty hopeless (e.g. Iraq/Afghanistan, where the US hasn’t really made long-term stability despite pouring trillions of dollars in).

          • John Schilling says:

            The North Vietnamese made the United States despair of ever winning a victory in Vietnam, and then despair of achieving righteous vengeance against anyone deserving of such, and when we were reduced to caring only about whether our soldiers made it home alive, they won.

            They had some help from American politicians, journalists, and even military commanders on that front, but using the enemy’s strengths against him is entirely legit in war.

            Falklands War, same deal if you want one where the Anglosphere wins one. The Argies hoped to take and hold the islands, and when they lost hope for that they at least hoped to make the Brits pay for them in blood, and when it wasn’t the British who were bleeding, there was nothing left for Argentina to hope for except their surviving soldiers coming home alive. No trade deal, economic concession, or other “way to build up a good life in peace” was going to persuade Argentina to give up those islands short of that complete loss of hope; the invasion was never expected to turn an economic profit in the first place, only a profit in pride.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @pku

            I’m not sure why you think Afghanistan/Iraq doesn’t support his point. Everyone knew that the U.S. was only staying temporarily so they only had to wait them out. For a successful example, look at the Mongols. They didn’t have a problem with Afghanistan. Earlier I said that the North Koreans were the best at utilizing repression but I take that back. The Mongols were the best because they showed that conquering territory solely through fear was very accomplishable. They had to kill a lot of people to do it but it got the job done.

          • Pku says:

            My point wasn’t that this is impossible, it’s that doing it requires far more resources (and brutality) than modern forces are willing to commit. And the other requirement is that it should be open – Israel wouldn’t just have to be oppressive, it would have to be openly so in clear retaliation (that is, declare “yes, we deliberately bombed this building with civilian casualties in response to the attack yesterday”. Right now, Israeli assassination policy, when it happens, is to wait for a chance to do it with minimum civilian casualties, rather than take the first chance they get).

        • vV_Vv says:

          The Palestinians are lucky that they live in modern times with mass media, so the Israeli’s can’t get away with genocide. The current racist climate in Israel is very similar to the climates that allowed for genocide in the past.

          In another era Bibi would have pulled off an “Armenian solution” on the Palestinians and be done with it. People like sabril would just have turned the other way and pretended not to see.

          But since we live in an era when everybody has a video recorder and transmitter in their pocket, this is not possible anymore, at least not without Israel losing international support (which would pretty much imply Russians in Tel Aviv within a month).

          • Anthony says:

            William F. Buckley once advised (unsolicitedly) Augusto Pinochet to declare himself a socialist; then all his crimes would be forgiven and forgotten by the international Left. If a nationalist-communist politician becomes PM in Israel, the option of expelling or exterminating the Palestinians will become much more internationally acceptable.

          • BBA says:

            Sorry, but no. The Chomskyite view (the “international Left” no longer exists but this is the closest modern equivalent) is to oppose whatever the United States government supports, updated daily. So it would not be enough to call yourself communist, or even be communist, if you haven’t alienated the Americans yet. Otherwise it’s just a hollow front.

            That, and Israel is colonialist and anti-colonialism is a cornerstone of leftism.

          • Pku says:

            Israel isn’t colonialist; colonialism (in the non-reactionary view, at least), was europeans coming to countries, stealing their resources, and taking them home. The jews who came to Israel were people who were exiled/refugees from those countries and didn’t have much of an alternative. For europeans to accuse Israel of colonialism is kinda like Nelson going “why are you punching yourself?” (which isn’t to say that nobody would ever accuse Israel of anything. But colonialism is ridiculous).
            Israel being conquered by Russia (I assume you meant a military occupation, since there are already about half a million russian immigrants in Tel Aviv) if it lost international support is ridiculous – they couldn’t even conquer Afghanistan, Israel has nukes, there are a bunch of other countries in the way, and they have zero interest in doing it in the first place. Iran or Egypt might well attack in those circumstances though, depending on how worried they were about the nuclear option.

          • BBA says:

            Sending the resources home isn’t necessary for colonialism. There have been many colonies that were conquered for permanent settlement rather than to export resources; I live in what used to be one of them. There’s still exploitation of the native populace, which is what leftists are concerned about when they decry colonialism.

            Israel isn’t your typical colony at all, but squint at it the right way and there’s the usual leftist narrative of lighter-skinned people coming in to steal land and resources from darker-skinned people.

            (Tangent: the first Jewish settlers in what became Israel arrived in the 1880s. A lot of people seem to have the sense that Palestine was an entirely Arab land until the first ships full of Holocaust refugees arrived, but it isn’t so.)

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Anthony

            If a nationalist-communist politician …

            Nationalist-communist seems quite similar to National Socialism. This isn’t exactly the sort of thing that tends to be popular with the “international Left”.

            The Left has supported some movements, such as the ANC and the PKK, that repackaged ethnic conflict as class struggle (or at least that’s how they sold it to outsiders), but the Left was always on the side of the underdogs, the rebels.

            After all, according to classical Marxism, ethnic divisions are superstructures created by the economic elites to facilitate exploitation of the masses, therefore it wasn’t implausible to interpret, for instance, the black-white conflict in South Africa as the struggle of the proletariat and the lumpenproletariat against a government that represented the interests of rich landowners, that is, the capitalists.

            But in the case of Israel, a state power trying to expand its Lebensraum at the expense of a poor native population seems hard to reconcile with a leftist narrative.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Pku

            Israel isn’t colonialist; colonialism (in the non-reactionary view, at least), was europeans coming to countries, stealing their resources, and taking them home.

            Colonialism, in the generally accepted definition, also includes permanent settlement.

            The jews who came to Israel were people who were exiled/refugees from those countries and didn’t have much of an alternative.

            Only a minority of the original Jewish immigrants to Israel were refugees, the majority immigrated for economic, ideological or religious reasons. This isn’t really different than the European colonization of the Americas: some of the European colonists were escaping persecution, most of them were not.

            And in any case, from the point of view of the colonized population (Palestinians, Native Americans) it doesn’t really matter whether their land and resources are taken by a refugee or an economic immigrant, does it?

            Anyway, I wasn’t really referring to the history of Israel but to present-day Israel. If the expansion of the settlements in “Judea and Samaria” is not colonialism then I don’t know what it is. Are you going to claim that the settlers are refugees?

            Israel being conquered by Russia

            That was a hyperbole. My point is that Israel won’t be able to preserve its integrity for long without international support. The economies and militaries of all countries are highly dependent and ultimately they depend on a few super-powers. Even North Korea, perhaps the most independent country in the world, heavily depends on Chinese foreign aid.

          • Aapje says:

            @vV_Vv

            but the Left was always on the side of the underdogs, the rebels.

            It’s more complex than that, as you have rebels who transform into dictators, rebels who fight other rebels, etc.

            For instance, a decent number of leftists stood behind communism, based on the perception that it would liberate people from capitalism. Yet we saw communist countries become dictatorships. At that point, quite a few Western communists defended communist oppression and denounced those that rebelled against that.

            it wasn’t implausible to interpret, for instance, the black-white conflict in South Africa as the struggle of the proletariat and the lumpenproletariat against a government that represented the interests of rich landowners, that is, the capitalists.

            Which is very unconvincing, as this explanation fails to account for the racial separation. Why would a capitalist give a poor white S-African more rights than a poor black S-African? Why make racial laws, instead of owner-ship laws? Furthermore, such an explanation would require you to dismiss the justifications given by the proponents themselves. It’s pretty ridiculous to claim that people use one justification, but their actual reasons are completely different. That’s conspiracy-theory level rationalization.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Aapje

            Yet we saw communist countries become dictatorships. At that point, quite a few Western communists defended communist oppression and denounced those that rebelled against that.

            Yes, but the “international Left” was (is?) not opposed to dictatorship per se. They were opposed, at least in principle, to any form of government that they perceive as representative of the interests of the capitalists. Practical adherence to this principle varied, of course.

            Which is very unconvincing, as this explanation fails to account for the racial separation. Why would a capitalist give a poor white S-African more rights than a poor black S-African?

            I guess because it was a convenient Schelling point. South Africa didn’t really have a sizable white middle class. Race was a good proxy for class: whites were mostly land owners and business owners, that is, capitalists, while blacks were mostly unemployed or employed in low-skill salaried jobs, that is, they were the underclass and labor class. There wasn’t a white labor or low-gentry class that could complain about wage competition from the disenfranchised blacks.

            Why make racial laws, instead of owner-ship laws?

            Because if you are a rich white capitalist you may have a streak of bad luck and become poor, or your children or grandchildren can, but you can’t become black and neither can your children or grandchildren (barring interracial admixture).

            It’s pretty ridiculous to claim that people use one justification, but their actual reasons are completely different.

            Well, that’s Marxist theory.

            Anyway, I think you are straw-manning it. It’s not like it claims that the stated justification are false, it attempts to explain these stated justifications in a reductionist way. I think that Marxists tend to overdo it with these explanations, but they do generally have some point.

            You could say that South African whites discriminated against blacks because they were racist. Ok, but why were they racist? Considering whether they had economic interests in maintaining a racially separated seems relevant.

          • Aapje says:

            @vV_Vv

            They were opposed, at least in principle, to any form of government that they perceive as representative of the interests of the capitalists.

            Sure, but at that point they were not so much taking sides of the rebels, but taking sides against a ideology they considered oppressive, regardless of if that ideology actually was in power.

            South Africa didn’t really have a sizable white middle class. Race was a good proxy for class

            Good point, although I would argue that poor whites didn’t exist due to race discrimination and that in an actual capitalist oppression, a white underclass would automatically develop. After all, there are always people who lose their capital and get shunned by their family (like criminals), so the only way these people would regain wealth in an oppressive system was if they got racial help.

            As an aside, a poor white underclass has now developed, after they got rid of Apartheid, but kept capitalism.

            Anyway, I think you are straw-manning it.

            Well, I fundamentally disagree with Marxist approaches and how they tend to reduce complex issues to a simplistic oppressor/oppressed dichotomy. I feel that I have responded to how you described the Marxist theories.

            You could say that South African whites discriminated against blacks because they were racist. Ok, but why were they racist?

            I’d say that there are many reasons for that, which you can’t just reduce to economic reasons. It’s stereotypes, fear, legitimizing oppression, etc and also economic reasons. But not solely.

          • Jacobian says:

            If a nationalist-communist politician becomes PM in Israel, the option of expelling or exterminating the Palestinians will become much more internationally acceptable.

            Bernie for Israeli PM 2019!

          • sabril says:

            “In another era Bibi would have pulled off an ‘Armenian solution’ on the Palestinians and be done with it. ”

            Israel has had the capability of doing this since at least 1967 but has not done so. So much for your theory about video recorders and transmitters. Either that or Bibi is uniquely evil. I’m happy to consider your evidence for this of course.

            “People like sabril would just have turned the other way and pretended not to see.”

            “like sabril” means “supporter of Israel”? Or something else?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The quotes are kind of unfair – if you give a long speech, you’ll probably say at least one vapid thing as an opener or closer. The woman in the picture, for example, was giving a very interesting lecture on neuroscience’s ability to detect lies and how it might evolve in the criminal justice system. I just thought some of them were funny, and she fits the Open Thread format better than the others.

      • onyomi says:

        But the irony is that these quotes don’t seem to have been chosen for their vapidity–quite the opposite, it looks like. Though this, of course, might say more about the person choosing the quotes than the speakers themselves.

        • 27chaos says:

          Optimized for Facebook shareability, is my guess at their goals.

        • Tibor says:

          I wonder about that exactly. Some of them seem too stupid (at least out of context) to be chosen for reasons other than the comical effect. If you judged Davos based on these quotes only, you’d have to conclude that it is about as important for world politics as a banquet at Louis XIV’s court. Then again, the speeches might as well be anyway (even if they are not so terribly cliched and empty of content as the quotes), I guess that an important part of this conference is the breaks between the speeches when people there have a chance to talk to someone about something important for them.

          I was still surprised that they invite actors and musicians. If they want to keep the image of being “a meeting of the elites” (actually, some people still feel out of place…what is the president of Cyprus doing at a meeting where the so called “world leaders” talk about global issues?) then this seems like a strange move.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I was under the impression these were selected for vapidity. If not, the quote-selector is definitely vapid, and the speakers might be.

          Netanyahu’s Voldemort impression definitely stands out.

          • Aapje says:

            I wonder if they tried to find the most optimistic comment they could find and for Netanyahu, this was actually it.

          • Emile says:

            I was under the impression these were selected for vapidity.

            That would be very surprising for an article hosted on World Economic Forum’s official website, no?

      • lliamander says:

        Actually, I thought the mind reading quote was interesting as well, and at least come from someone who is reasonably competent to express an opinion on the matter.

        But as onyomi said, these quotes were chosen to be a positive reflection of the proceedings. If this is the best the event had to offer, then it bodes ill for the event as a whole.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Ok, so what is this Davos 2016 thing ? Their quotes, as they are presented, seem to imply that the answer is, “some sort of New Age woo gathering”; but perhaps they were taken out of context ?

    • lliamander says:

      Yeah, most all of them were worse than ridiculous. I mean, “Every country needs a Minister of the Future”? I can think of no better way to achieve the opposite of innovation than to put a bureaucrat in charge of it. But while that one was just dumb, many gave me this vibe that there is actually a creepy cult/conspiracy of elites so drunk on their own self-importance that they see no problem with just throwing away the existing social order and replacing it with a utopia, peasants just trying to live their lives be damned.

      However, I liked the Schulman quote. Maybe it’s just my own particular circumstances, but it seemed insightful.

    • Outis says:

      I don’t think they could have done any better if they had been deliberately trying to make Netanyahu look badass.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Right, Netanyahu’s quote stands out.

    • Adam Casey says:

      >PM France “Don’t leave the EU UK!”

      Because of course the best way to convince a Brit to do something is to have a Frenchman say he doesn’t want it….

    • cassander says:

      “the biggest obstacle to future success is past success” isn’t bad. Not actionable, but still an important truth.

  4. Wrong Species says:

    Today’s book discussion will be over The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Next open thread we’ll discuss The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J Gordon.

    • Wrong Species says:

      This is not a political book but I couldn’t help but notice all of the political implications of what this book says. These aren’t new ideas to me since I’ve been hearing about these concepts for a while now but it does help crystallize some thoughts I have had.

      For one, sexual selection is about the most definite molochian process that can be seen in nature. Natural selection is all about survival of the fittest but sexual selection is even worse because not only can it completely control the evolutionary outcome of a species, it can even be detrimental to its survival, possibly causing it’s own extinction. Conservative institutions fighting this through enforced monogamy seem to be a great way to keep it from consuming us. Keeping women attached to one man causes the men to provide for the family. Keeping men attached to one women causes more men to be married and lessens violence. Unfortunately, the trend has been going the other way in the last half century. One point from the book in particular seems to show why the trend won’t stop. Polygamy is probably good for career minded women because they can continue to work and have one of the other women look after her kids. However good it is for them it seems pretty clear that low status men will suffer greatly. But I don’t see a return to violence. We’re too pacifistic of a society for that to happen. Instead what will happen is they turn to virtual reality to satisfy themselves and probably drugs and suicide when that doesn’t help them feel better.

      Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. Does anyone think that I’m overstating the case against polygamy?

      • Albipenne says:

        You’re guess to what polygamy might look like fits with a lot of mainstream culture stereotypes, but I don’t think it matches up to the reality of what a decline in monogamy would actually look like. Mainstream culture is terrible at things it has little data / direct exposure to.

        I really don’t think we have anywhere near enough data on non-monogamish relationships to really make much of any predictions on the long term effects.

        • Anonymous says:

          You could look for parallels in the late Roman Republic and Empire. Admittedly, I get my impression of that time period from I, Claudius, but the book was written by a historian filling out the gaps. Society slowly dwindles, as men are not provided incentives to care about posterity, and less degenerate migrant peoples replace them over the course of centuries.

          One issue with polygamy that I’ve seen is that it’s less efficient in generating children per woman – getting pregnant isn’t exactly effortless, and the poor man with four wives has a limited endurance, especially if he’s older (which will also affect his sperm quality). The polygamous Ottoman Empire had a huge population decline problem, which it ameliorated with slave raids on their enemies. Whereas the monogamous Ruthenians frequently had something like 10 children per woman to offset their huge mortality and other population losses.

          (I figure that if Mohammed would step out of being dead for a moment, and declare polygamy to be no longer permitted, Muslim population growth would increase as a result. Not to mention the decrease in violence caused by low status men seeking mates where supply is short.)

          • My impression is that in Islamic societies, ancient and modern, most men had only one wife. A few very high status men had four wives plus, possibly, concubines.

            The author of _The Modern Egyptians_, who lived in Cairo for a while in the 19th century, said that of the (non-elite) men he knew, perhaps one in a hundred had more than one wife.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yeah, but every woman taken by a high status man is one less woman available to other men. Even if the number of such men is small, they remove a substantial amount of women from the market.

          • Viliam says:

            In the Muslim culture, the rich guy has two wives; in the Christian culture, he has a wife and a mistress. Is it really so different?

          • The Anonymouse says:

            @Viliam

            I think the relevant paraphrase would be–albeit, in a different religious context–something like: “Hey, a lot of you have multiple wives, too. The difference is that I don’t discard my first one destitute when I marry the second.”

          • Anthony says:

            Villiam – in Christian societies, the wealthy or powerful man tries to not get his mistress pregnant. In Muslim societies, he tries to get his second wife pregnant.

            Albipenne – we do have some data on what the breakdown of monogamy looks like, in black ghettos in the U.S. Relationships are still generally monogamous, but short-lived. A few “playas” may juggle multiple concubines, and get some of them pregnant, but they won’t support the kids, and the concubines are somewhat transient.

          • “Is it really so different?”

            In at least some of the Christian cultures—18th c. Italy, 19th and 20th c. France—the wife gets to have a lover, so it isn’t straight polygyny and doesn’t have as unambiguous an effect on the supply/demand balance on the mating market.

          • Nero tol Scaeva says:

            “we do have some data on what the breakdown of monogamy looks like, in black ghettos in the U.S. Relationships are still generally monogamous, but short-lived. A few “playas” may juggle multiple concubines, and get some of them pregnant, but they won’t support the kids, and the concubines are somewhat transient.”

            That’s only somewhat true. What’s really driving the deadbeat dad phenomenon in the ghettos is women wanting children, and using their children as hostages until their “deadbeat” dads get better jobs. The problem is that, while they might not have a good job, the dad is attempting to be a good dad in non-monetary means. This non-financial care is worthless to these women so they keep their child from the dad until he earns more money or they trade the dad role for a higher-status or higher-earning male.

            http://shriverreport.org/what-about-the-fathers-kathryn-edin/

            After several years of interviewing, observing, and living among these fathers, I’ve learned that not caring about their children is not the problem… …these men desperately want to be good fathers, and they are often quite intensively involved in the early years of their children’s lives. Yet they usually fail to stay closely connected as their kids grow older.

            […]

            All fathers across America, rich and poor alike, have avidly embraced fatherhood’s softer side. Imparting love, maintaining a clear channel of communication, and spending quality time together are seen as the keys to being a good dad. This “new father” model, which spurred middle-class men to begin changing diapers several decades ago, has gained amazing traction with disadvantaged dads in the inner city, perhaps because it’s the kind of fatherhood they can most easily afford. But while middle-class men now combine these new tasks with being breadwinners, low-income fathers who face growing economic adversity are trying to substitute one role for the other.

            Here is the problem: Neither society nor their children’s mothers are willing to go along with this trade-off.

            This is a more specific example of the larger trend of women ending relationships/marriages more than men. Though they show some data going back to the mid 1800s so this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.

          • Dahlen says:

            AFAIK, Niger is the country that has consistently been #1 on the list of countries with the highest fertility rates (with about 7 children per woman) in the last few years. And polygyny has been posited as one of the causes of that. It’s a data point that runs contrary to the hypothesis that polygamy decreases children per woman (although I haven’t been able to find statistics on what percentage of the population of Niger practices polygamy).

          • Nornagest says:

            I, Claudius is about the first days of the Roman Empire (and the very late Republic), two to four hundred years before its generally recognized decline depending on how you’re counting.

            Roman culture during the Julio-Claudian dynasty had its problems, sure, but that period’s usually cited as its high point, not its low. A theme of the book is how the flaws of the republican political class led to its eclipse by a de-facto autocracy and finally a de-jure one, but that’s one thing and the culture as a whole is another.

          • Furslid says:

            Why would getting rid of polygamy increase population growth? The relevant statistic for population growth is average number of children per woman (unless the culture practices sex selective abortion or infanticide that doesn’t make the statistics). Would a woman have more children if she didn’t have sister wives?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Furslid

            How often a woman can get pregnant is highly dependent on how often she can have sex. An “intensely farmed” woman can have more than an “extensively farmed” woman. The average conception chance per intercourse is something like 2.5%, and there’s limits to how often a man can get it up.

            I don’t know whether the difference is big or small, though.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Furslid:

            In addition to the points already made, if a rich guy with multiple wives has bad sperm or becomes impotent or whatever, it means multiple women will have a lower reproductive rate. Whereas if one partner in a pair has a reproductive failure, it just means one woman will have a lower reproductive rate.

            Also, reading history, it seems to be somewhat common for polygamists to have “favorites,” which means that the phenomenon Anonymous mentions will be even more exaggerated. The favorites will reproduce at a higher rate – but if there are multiple non-favorites it seems likely that they will reproduce at a lower rate than average. Depending on the trend this could make the overall reproduction rate even lower.

          • keranih says:

            Birth rates aren’t just driven by number of children a woman has, they are also influenced by how many women don’t have children at all. Depending on the country/class/culture, an unmarried woman is unlikely to extremely unlikely to have children, and not at the same rate as her married sister.

            One husband/multiple wives is a useful answer to situations where there are fewer men than women – see: Russia post WWII.

          • Anthony says:

            Anonymous@3:04am – Getting a woman pregnant every two years requires an investment of about 40 incidents of intercourse (if the 2.5% statistic is correct); that’s not a lot. A man keeping a harem will have an advantage in capacity due to the Coolidge Effect. So it’s not unreasonable for a man with a large enough harem to be able to start at least one pregnancy per month. A Muslim, limited to four wives, should be physically capable of fathering about two children per year, for a period of well over a decade.

            In a case of nominative determinism, Philander Rodman has had at least 28 children, only one of whom ended up in the NBA.

          • One Islamic legal source I checked suggested that a man should have sex with his wife every four days, I think based on what he could be expected to do if he had four wives. That should produce pretty close to the biological maximum reproductive rate, assuming no use of contraception.

            According to the same source, interruptus is permitted but mildly disapproved of. I don’t know if there is an Islamic doctrine on the rhythm method.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Anthony

            Yes, but we’re talking about societal-level effects here. Will that same man not be able to get a higher number of children per woman from one woman, than four? With four, he’s almost guaranteed to have more in total, but there will almost certainly be fewer children per woman, which is one of the bottlenecks. I’m claiming that polygamy is advantageous to the individual man (defect) and monogamy is advantageous to everyone (cooperate).

            Does anyone have any stats on who the most fertile groups of people are, and what their attitudes towards *gamy are?

          • @anonymous:

            I think what you are missing is that getting a woman pregnant isn’t sufficient for population purposes–the child also has to be born and reared to reproductive age. Wombs are a scarce reproductive resource, sperm isn’t. But the resources used to provide food, housing, protection, are.

            In a monogamous society, however rich a man is the number of children he can produce and rear is limited by the number his wife can bear, although he can get some additional extended reproductive success by helping to support nieces, nephews, etc. In a polygamous society, resources for rearing children are more evenly spread out because the rich man has his resources divided among the children of four wives instead of just one. The gain due to the rich man’s wife in a monogamous society getting pregnant a little more often is outweighed by the loss due to the poor man and his wife being unable to afford to produce and rear anything close to the number of children she could bear.

            It’s worth remembering that, by historical standards, the modern world is incredibly rich. One estimate I have seen is that average real income, including the poor countries, is about ten times what it was through most of history—twenty to thirty times for the developed world. In lots of past societies men married late because they had to wait until they could afford a wife and children.

          • brad says:

            Does anyone have any stats on who the most fertile groups of people are, and what their attitudes towards *gamy are?

            I don’t about groups of people, but country-wise it appears to be Niger. The majority religion is Islam, polygamy is legal and about 1/3 of the country’s women are in polygamous marriages. It’s also one of the poorest countries in the world (222 out of 229 in GDP per capita at PPP).

            Although it has the highest birth rate (45.45 births/1,000 population) and total fertility rate (6.76 children born/woman) it is 4th in population growth rate (#1 South Sudan) .

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            The Old Order Amish in Ohio evidently have a fertility rate of 7.7. Other Mennonite sects also have had high birth rates but the Old Order Amish are the highest that I know of, although then again the depth of my expertise here is about 30s of googling.

            They are all strictly monogamous.

          • Mary says:

            I have read of a study that indicates that for every extra wife a man takes, his existing wives will have one fewer child apiece.

            I also note that both Muslims and (schismatic) Mormons have found that legal monogamy makes the wealth of the man moot — the additional wives can collect welfare.

  5. onyomi says:

    Are these Davos quotes and the way they are presented supposed to be funny? They literally look like a parody of out-of-touch, over-manicured elites spouting deep-sounding platitudes, but sadly, I don’t think it is actually a parody. But I do take it Scott is making fun of them by posting that picture at the head of the thread.

  6. Joe says:

    Kind of a cool article about abortion laws working against feminism.

    http://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/sanctity-of-life/our-current-abortion-law-as-a-product-of-men/

    Another one on the boring democratic debates and abortion.
    http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20160129-charles-c.-camosy-sanders-clinton-havent-been-asked-about-abortion.-not-a-single-time
    Apparently the link is broken but if you’re interested Google “Charles C. Camosy: Sanders, Clinton haven’t been asked about abortion. Not a single time”. It talks about the difference of opinion on abortion in the Democratic Party and the nation at large. Interesting food for thought.

    • Pku says:

      The second link just leads to the site map.

    • J says:

      Here’s your second link.

      Formatting it as an HTML link is what makes it work, rather than having the comment system try to figure out where the link ends. An HTML link goes like this: <a href=”http://…link goes here…”>these words will be the link text</a>

    • Pku says:

      I liked the second one. I generally consider myself pro-life, but it looks like I have basically the same opinions as a lot (a majority?) of people who identify as pro-choice.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Basically the same opinions on other issues, I assume? Or are you saying that you differ more on your self-identification than your actual beliefs about abortion?

        • Pku says:

          the second one (in that I’m probably okay with abortions up to twelve weeks).

          • I’m probably okay with abortions up to twelve weeks

            If so, you’d be considered pro-choice by both sides.

          • Anthony says:

            Larry – really? If you proposed to ban all abortion after viability, and to significantly restrict abortion after 12 weeks, while subsidizing abortions before 10 weeks, do you think your local pro-choice organization would consider you an acceptable candidate for office?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            On the one hand, my guess would be no.

            On the other hand, that’s the arrangement that exists in pretty much all of the western world, and it seems like there isn’t that big of a deal about it elsewhere. Although this might be the AMERICAN internet signal boosting AMERICAN conflicts.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            As I understand it, there are plenty of “pro-choice” politicians who are against abortions after the point of viability.

            Restrictions on abortion after 12 weeks is exactly what Roe v. Wade holds to be acceptable, and I think “agreeing with Roe v. Wade” marks you out as “pro-choice”.

            Maybe the people who run pro-choice organizations are more likely to be in favor of abortion on demand at any point, including five minutes before the birth. But most politicians are deliberately much more vague on exactly where they draw the line.

          • Tibor says:

            We’ve already talked about that in here in the comments before but I still find it incredibly funny that what I thought was a “progressive liberal abortion law” in the Czech republic (and most other EU countries) as opposed to the supposedly “fundamentalist anti-abortion mindset” in at least parts of the US actually turns out to be quite a “pro-life” legislation from the American point of view – i.e. legal abortions within the 12 weeks and otherwise only in special cases (mostly or maybe exclusively health concerns). I also think that making abortions legal after the 12 or so weeks (Italy and Germany have 13 I think, not a significant difference) would not be acceptable to most European voters (actually the “abortion legal until viability” does not make me feel very comfortable either and I am probably less socially conservative than most people).

            I don’t know if there is a bigger misconception Europeans have about the US than this. I think that most Europeans imagine that in some US states the abortion laws are like in Poland (which are really hardcore anti-abortion). That makes me wonder if there are other such misconceptions.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Tibor:

            That makes me wonder if there are other such misconceptions.

            One I can think of off the top of my head: the U.S. tax system is far more “progressive” than European systems, in the sense that proportionately much more of the tax money is collected from the rich.

            Europe knows that you can’t finance a big welfare state by “soaking the rich”; you have to tax the poor and middle-class. That’s what the VAT is for.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Vox
            Europe knows that you can’t finance a big welfare state by “soaking the rich”; you have to tax the poor and middle-class. That’s what the VAT is for.

            As a small shop-keeper (retired) I’d rather have the factories doing the bookkeeping than each of my customers having to count out the pennies and me do the bookkeeping. As a Progressive, I’d like the tax rates being higher on yachts.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ houseboatonstyx:

            As a small shop-keeper (retired) I’d rather have the factories doing the bookkeeping than each of my customers having to count out the pennies and me do the bookkeeping. As a Progressive, I’d like the tax rates being higher on yachts.

            Well, your first point is why they have a VAT instead of a retail sales tax. It has the same effect, but it’s easier (and more popular) to enforce and harder to see than a 30-50% retail sales tax.

            As for your second point, it’s just not possible to have the level of spending they want merely by taxing the rich and their luxuries. For one, the Laffer curve of the rich lies to the left of everyone else: if you tax the rich highly, they have the means to structure their income and/or leave the country. The poor and middle class generally do not.

            Also, if you going to have a tax, a sales tax, VAT, or flat income tax that does not engage in double-taxation (or triple- or quadruple-taxation) of savings is just sound economics. These are all “consumption-base” taxes. Whether you tax at the source of income or the point of spending, you tax each dollar just once. If you use that dollar to buy a stock, then sell the stock, you don’t get taxed again. It doesn’t penalize savings relative to consumption.

            I also like Dan Mitchell’s apple harvesting analogy.

          • Tibor says:

            @houseboatonstyx: You can tax the rich. And the next month, most of those yacht owners will start paying their taxes in Switzerland, some might even move there. A millionaire tax is something that simply does not bring the money to the state, as far as evidence goes it does the opposite. Really rich people are extremely flexible in where they reside and where they pay the taxes and even if you could tax them, there are simply too few of them to pay for the government bills (especially the bills of the non-Swiss European governments). Sometimes governments in Europe actually try to impose a millionaire tax (like Francoise Holland a few years back). The effect is exactly that the rich people stop paying the taxes in that country and the country has to retract that tax. The best they can do (and they do that) is try to force Switzerland to make it’s banking system less welcoming to foreigners.

            As for the VAT, it is not just a tax on products. There are a few exceptions but usually any kind of service is taxed with the value added tax so this is a difference in more than in who does the bookkeeping.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Vox, Tibor

            My yacht is The Synedoche and sails orthogonaly to a VAT; ie you can have a VAT set to either progressive or regressive or mixed or neutral. And a synedoche of ‘yacht’ does not mean taxing only the people who can sail away in their yachts and never come back. There’s a whole axis there for taxing upper middle class items at a higher rate than low class items, etc.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think that most Europeans imagine that in some US states the abortion laws are like in Poland (which are really hardcore anti-abortion).

            No, they’re not. Polish abortion law is the result of a somewhat uneasy compromise between the anti-abortion and pro-abortion factions.

          • Tibor says:

            @Anonymous: That may be, but are abortions not more or less illegal there (or rather allowed on an individual basis and granted mostly only for medical reasons)? At least that is what I hear and that is why Polish women often come to Czech (and possibly also German, but it is more expensive there and equally far away, so probably this is rarer) hospitals to have an abortion. Maybe the laws change since I last read something about it though. That was maybe 5 years ago and there was this case with this woman who was told by the doctors that if she gives birth she could become blind (no idea how those two things are connected but I’m not a doctor). She wanted to have an abortion, that was not allowed and after the birth she had something like 5 dioptries on one eye and 6 on the other and she was going to sue the Polish state.

          • Anonymous says:

            AFAIK, abortion is permitted in three cases:
            1) pregnancy is the result of crime (mostly rape, I think, but incest is illegal too), up to 12 weeks,
            2) child is incurably malformed in a life-threatening manner, up to viability,
            3) mother’s life in danger, up to viability.

          • Tibor says:

            @Anonymous: Are you sure? English Wikipedia says something else, specifically:

            Abortion in Poland is banned except in the following three circumstances.

            1. When the woman’s life or health is endangered by the continuation of pregnancy,
            2. When the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, or
            3. When the foetus is seriously malformed

            I don’t speak Polish to check the Polish wiki version but there is also a list with three conditions there and it looks like the English version of the article is more or less a translation of the Polish version (the formatting is similar).

          • Anonymous says:

            @Tibor
            I’m working off the Polish articles, and they are contradictory concerning the child’s age wrt mother’s life at risk (no restrictions vs until viability), but otherwise support my version.

          • Tibor says:

            @Anonymous:

            That’s strange. I looked at the Polish wikipedia article again and tried to understand the first sentence in that list (Polish is about as close to Czech as Dutch is to German, so it is possible to get the basic meaning of something written in one language if you read a text in the other). If I read it correctly, it says the same thing as the English article – “Abortion is legally forbidden, then something something over a doctor in three cases”. Then I think the first point says something like: “if he declares a danger to the mother irrespective of the age of the fetus”, the second I don’t get but it mentions disease, so I think it means something like if there is a damage to the fetus, right? And the third says: If there is a suspicion (the adjective before the word for suspicion probably means something like “reasonable”, so reasonable suspicion) that something something from act which is “zabroniony” (until the 12 weeks after what I guess means conception, given the context – the word is “ciazy”). So that one I don’t understand well, but if “zabroniony” means criminal, then it almost definitely says the same thing as the English article.

            So unless you have a different source then I don’t know where you get the information about legal abortion during the first 12 weeks. That seems to only be legal in Poland if the conception was a result of a rape (also probably incest or when the would-be father is 20 and the mother is 14 or something). Actually, this means that after 12 weeks the abortion is illegal even it if was conceived in a rape, so that makes it even stricter. And the article says clearly that abortion is illegal outside of these three cases.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      That first article is fascinatingly horrible. (The second one doesn’t display.)

      First of all, it makes heavy of use the standard Marxian-postmodernist tactic of saying “X was created by group Y. Therefore, X serves the interests of group Y at the expense of group Z.”

      It is also rarely pointed out that Roe v. Wade was decided when the Supreme Court had all male justices. Were these men sensitive to women’s issues and realities? Did they decide the law based on justice concerns for women?

      But the most fascinating thing is the attempt to make feminism synonymous with open and thoroughgoing collectivism:

      Callahan shows in some detail how the model they used for thinking about how women suffer was not feminist. It did not, for instance, offer a feminist critique of an individualist, disconnected, hierarchical, autonomy-focused view of the person. Indeed, far from critiquing it, that was precisely the view of the human that the justices used. Women were imagined to be disconnected and isolated individuals—in a more privileged position on the hierarchy of value than their prenatal children—who must be given the private space to make individual, autonomous decisions about their reproductive lives.

      Toward this end, the Roe court sought a solution that made women “free” to act like men: to imagine themselves as able to live sexual, reproductive, economic, professional, and parental lives and concerns as men did. On this model, pregnancy and childbirth are a burden and cause of distress relative to one’s economic gain, professional advancement, and sexual autonomy. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court reaffirmed Roe’s general framework and this understanding of the person.

      Making “individual, autonomous decisions” about your life is anti-feminist!

      Equality for women apparently means protecting them with paternalistic laws, because apparently, they just can’t manage to run their own lives when they are thrown out into the wilderness to fend for themselves as men’s equals:

      What did the Supreme Court claim, then, was essential for women to participate equally in society? Equal pay for equal work regardless of whether a woman chooses to have children? Nope. Mandatory pregnancy leave and child care for female students and workers? Nah. Strict anti-discrimination laws in hiring practices? Sorry. What is essential for women’s equality, it turns out, is that they are able to end their pregnancies when those pregnancies constitute a burden on their economic and social interests.

      But being pregnant and having a child is often so burdensome for women precisely because our social structures have been designed by and for human beings who cannot get pregnant. Notice how, in this context, the recourse to abortion ends up serving the interests of men. The patriarchal social structures that serve their interests remain unchanged. If we were interested in offering women genuine reproductive freedom, we would change our social structures in ways that honor their differences from men. Men offering women the so-called “freedom” to pretend that their social, economic, and reproductive lives can flourish in social structures designed for people who can’t have babies is preposterous and insulting.

      There are definitely two very different ideas of feminism being propounded when one side that allegedly believes in the equality of women thinks that they can’t be given legal equality with men and need the state to watch over them and place them in a position where they are protected from the abuses of men. Hint: that is exactly what the anti-feminists and opponents of women’s equality believed! I quote one of them, James Fitzjames Stephen:

      Let us suppose, to take a single illustration, that men and women are made as equal as law can make them, and that public opinion followed the law. Let us suppose that marriage became a mere partnership dissoluble like another; that women were expected to earn their living just like men; that the notion of anything like protection due from the one sex to the other was thoroughly rooted out; that men’s manners to women became identical with their manners to men; that the cheerful concessions to acknowledged weakness, the obligation to do for women a thousand things which it would be insulting to offer to do for a man, which we inherit from a different order of ideas, were totally exploded; and what would be the result? The result would be that women would become men’s slaves and drudges, that they would be made to feel their weakness and to accept its consequences to the very utmost. Submission and protection are correlative. Withdraw the one and the other is lost, and force will assert itself a hundred times more harshly through the law of contract than ever it did through the law of status. Disguise it how you will, it is force in one shape or another which determines the relations between human beings. It is far less harsh when it is subjected to the provisions of a general law made with reference to broad general principles than when it acts through a contract, the terms of which are settled by individuals according to their own judgment. The terms of the marriage relation as settled by the law and religion of Europe are an illustration, of course on an infinitely wider and more important scale, of the very principle which in our own days has led to the prohibition of the employment of little children in certain classes of factories and of women in coalpits.

      There is an argument to be made for this view, of course. But to spin it and call it “feminist” is absurd!

      ***

      Also, from the group’s “About” page:

      Our Vision
      On Earth As It Is In Heaven : Radical Love Made Visible

      Talk about “immanetizing the eschaton”!

      This is why I think, despite the arguments of many American Christian conservatives and libertarians, the moral message of the Bible lends more support to massive government intervention than it does to the forces opposing it.

  7. We have our minds involuntarily read all the time–deducing their content by facial expressions, voice tones, body movements. Probably a good thing. Would the fact that you couldn’t tell if someone was lying to you make you more or less willing to interact with him?

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Well, you’re interacting with others on the internet, aren’t you? (personally, I’m more comfortable online, so being unable to tell is perfectly normal for me.)

    • Fahundo says:

      I don’t know about you, but people misread my facial expressions all the time. Maybe I’m just that weird though.

      I feel like actual mind reading would be much more scary and invasive.

      • Marc Whipple says:

        I have been accused of being a mind reader on more than one occasion. I make no claims to being a true telepath (though when I’m in the groove my empathy is pretty good) and believe this to have been a case of throwing a lot of bandwidth at a relatively narrow problem (i.e. what the person was thinking/was about to say) and getting the right answer in a very short time.

        If the way people react to my occasional really inspired anticipation is in any way indicative, I’d say that actual mind reading would be viewed as outrageously invasive. As in, if you get caught being a mind reader the read-ee might seriously consider assaulting you. I know I would.

        • xyz says:

          Mind reading might be relatively harmless in the hands of an ameteur and devastating in the hands of an expert on a mission.

      • Saint Fiasco says:

        Also if you read something bad in someone’s facial expression you can always pretend not to notice if you want to be polite.

        A more accurate method may not have that plausible deniability.

    • Randy M says:

      eh… I read books all the time, examining the cover, looking at who wrote it, what the blurbs are, maybe read a review. Nevermind I don’t actually open any of them.

    • LuxSola says:

      She’s also factually incorrect. Anyone who thinks that involuntary mind reading won’t get immediately thrown out under fifth amendment concerns has no idea what they are talking about.

      The legal hurdles involved just to get a wiretap are huge, for precisely the same reason. Courts are not permitted to use lie detectors in the US.

      Anyone who thinks involuntary mind reading will ever be permitted in US courts is either completely ignorant of the workings of our court systems, or has an incredibly bleak view of the future.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “Courts are not permitted to use lie detectors in the US.”

        Depending on how you meant this, it is probably false. Involuntary lie detecting is certainly not allowed, and even voluntary lie detecting is not admitted many places.

        But the voluntary stuff being thrown out is due to accuracy concerns, rather than simple constitutional ones.

      • Marc Whipple says:

        That’s not a bad point, but I’m not sure it’s so cut and dried as all that. Arguably mindreading is a form of observation. In that case, while other Constitutional protections may apply, it wouldn’t be forced self-incrimination.

        If you mean the kind where they have to stick you in a big machine without your consent and tape wires to your head, it’s a much stronger argument. Now it’s almost like a password access case, and we have some “right to remain silent” cases on that.

        If you mean the kind where I’m a telepath and I can look at you and see what you’re thinking like an ordinary person can look at you and see whether you’re smiling or frowning, then I think it’s a much weaker argument. Now it’s more like one of those “we pointed a heat sensor at the building and found that it was really hot in there for no apparent reason so we figured it was a marijuana grow” cases.

        Of course I also think that in the latter case if the telepath isn’t working for the government, they’d be dead very, very quickly, so it’d be a moot point in some cases.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          You mean their infrared radiation spilled over onto the sensors delicate instrumentation?

          (Not sure if that is a legal distinction or not)

          • Marc Whipple says:

            It totally could be in other contexts, but no, they don’t have to argue that in that particular situation. 🙂 If you can look at the house in the visible spectrum, you can look at it (with a passive sensor) in pretty much any spectrum. Actively x-raying it would be a different story.

          • brad says:

            Not necessarily – Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001).

            To the larger question, I have more of concern that the government is going to use a certain technology even if it isn’t admissible just for information gathering. What are you going to do, file a Bivens action? Good luck with that.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Kyllo is still good law, but I suspect it would be quite weak since part of the justification was that the technology was not in general use and people had no reason to expect it. That’s no longer the case.

            But, my rationalization aside, my answer was misleading at best and just plain wrong at worst. 🙁 Sorry. Under Kyllo, they couldn’t use the results of any such scan in court.

            brad, my suspicion is even that if Kyllo still holds, passive scans probably wouldn’t get the cops in trouble, but active scans are arguably more of a warrantless entry. Thoughts?

          • brad says:

            I’m not sure if we are talking about houses or people at this point. Assuming the latter …

            I think the fifth amendment is a red herring. No volitional act means no self incrimination. The action is in the fourth amendment.

            As for where the Justices would draw the line, I don’t know. Active vs passive would be one way. External evidence versus internal would be another. I wouldn’t count out something similar to Sotomayor’s approach in US v Jones — more functional than formalist. Of course whatever the technology was it would have to get past a Daubert analysis.

            Finally, just to reiterate this is all suppression hearing stuff. Given the degraded state of 1983/Bivens law I don’t think the innocent have much practical recourse against illegal searches and seizures.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Incidentally, I have a few colleagues who are much more in tune with criminal constitutional law than I am. When I ran the hypothetical by them they all thought that mindreading would be either a) a violation of the 5th or b) a violation of the 4th, in that order. They thought my “unique form of observation” argument was logical but did not think it would prevail.

          They were undecided on the question of whether the inadmissible mindreading evidence could be used to look for other admissible evidence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:

            Did you make the form/technology that would be employed for mind-reading part of the posit?

            I have to think that something that something that simply passively analysed eye movements, hand movements, using visible spectrum, etc. would be seen differently than something that sent radio waves through your brain and analyzed the resulting magnetic scatter.

            IOW, people can already look at your eyes and hands and listen to your voice to deduce things about your state of mind. I think people can even testify to what they observed and what state of mind they concluded you were in. Yes? Would a machine doing it with provable accuracy make it less constitutional? Or more?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I did. They seemed to think that would probably be okay, although there’s a Kyllo argument to be made.

            I put it in the context of the AI from Troy Rising, who are so smart that they can observe human beings and tell whether they are willfully lying with essentially perfect certainty. (They’re not magic: if the human thinks they’re telling the truth, the AI would get that they believed that they were telling the truth even if they were wrong.) They can also predict what humans will do in most situations with uncanny accuracy. (A big part of their control programming deals with preventing them from using these abilities inappropriately.)

          • brad says:

            I don’t see how the fifth amendment comes into play. The fifth amendment has no problem with requiring you to give a blood sample or a fingerprint. It’s only when you are required to turn over a password that it is considered “testimonial” and the fifth amendment kicks in. If the police are just looking at you, no matter how intensively or by what means, I don’t see how that is testimonial — though I think it may well be a search.

            Anyway a fascinating hypo. Someone should run it by Orin Kerr …

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            Kyllo isn’t talking about things that can be seen with the naked eye though.

            I doubt the government could set up cameras and microphones on every lamp post and traffic light and use visible light/audible sound analysis to detect criminal “thinking” on privacy concerns. But then again, “stop and frisk” has not been ruled unconstitutional so…. maybe?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad:
            Isn’t it the fifth that prevents the police from being able to force you into a polygraph machine?

            Even just using the voluntarily produced results is problematic, but I think that is due to accuracy concerns.

          • brad says:

            A polygraph machine, at least as I understand it, is something they attach to you and ask you questions. Then it is supposed to be able to tell if you are lying. It’s the forcing you to answer questions part that is problematic. That’s runs afoul of Miranda’s famous “right to remain silent”.

            If there’s no compelled testimony/speech/volitional act, I don’t see how the fifth can be in play.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @brad:

            The one of them who invoked the Fifth said that reading the thoughts of the suspect while they were thinking them, especially if you “primed” them by asking questions which they would, presumably, think about the answers to in their heads, was making them incriminate themselves.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad:
            But, even if the suspect remained silent, I think the mere attaching of the polygraph would be ruled unconstitutional. The polygraph isn’t forcing me to answer questions, but it is drawing more information from me than I am willingly to give out when I do answer questions.

            I suppose that might be considered 4th rather than 5th though, as presumably I don’t want to “appear nervous”, but it is not an unreasonable search for me to simply look at you and listen to you. Reading your skin temperature or galvanic response probably is considered search?

          • brad says:

            There would certainly be problems with the government hooking you up to a machine against your will and yelling questions at you. The only question is what kind of problems and whether and how they can be solved. If it’s a search that’s a fourth amendment issue and they need a warrant. If it’s eliciting testimony that’s a fifth amendment issue and they need to give you immunity.

            In a sense there’s no right answer because it hasn’t been decided yet (though that gets into some pretty deep legal-philosophical questions) but I personally see it as more of search than eliciting testimony.

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        Usage in formal court proceedings is a very small part of how reliable mind reading could completely transform human life.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Well, yeah, but the question was whether there was currently some legal obstacle to its use.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            But is there any legal precedent to prevent it being used by private citizens against other private citizens absent knowledge and consent?

            I think that is the point squirrel is raising (which might even have been the point of the original quote).

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @HBC:

            If it’s “I can see what you’re thinking with my BRAIN,” then arguably, there is not.

            If it involves sticking you in/to a big machine, then certainly.

            If it involves using a machine at a distance, then maybe.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            Well, “machine at a distance” is the only one that really is very interesting, wouldn’t you say? And I mean that not just from a legal perspective.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @HBC:

            I think they’re all very interesting, but the machine-at-a-distance is the one that has both some reasonable (if small) likelihood of happening and is easiest to debate, so yeah, I’ll give you that one.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            Perhaps nitpicky, especially since you are already giving me the win, so to speak, but:
            “machine-at-a-distance is the one that has both some reasonable (if small) likelihood of happening and is easiest to debate”

            I think we can dispense with the “I can read your mind with my brain” scenario as fanciful.

            But the “put you in an fMri machine (or the like)” seems more likely to actually be possible. And it would be really interesting in terms of what we would could learn about psychology, biology and any number of other things. In fact, there is lots of work adjacent to this, it’s just not “reading your mind” level.

            But, it’s really unlikely to be involuntary, which seems like the most important word in the original quote.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Here’s a scenario which I would consider not just plausible, but possible within the next 10 years:

            Video cameras get hooked up to facial recognition software, which reads facial expressions to determine people’s mood. They begin to churn through this big-data style, gauging subjects’ reactions when they see different advertisements and adjusting accordingly. Department stores use this monitoring to alert their salespeople to customers who look lost, or on the fence between purchasing and not.

            Later on, governments hook up the same software to all of those cameras they already have watching the streets. They use it to look for people whose gestures and expressions indicate that they’re up to no good. Of course arrests are not made based on this information; we just send a few cops to the area to indicate that The Law Has a Presence Here, So Don’t Try Anything.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Jaskologist:

            That is one of the less objectionable uses for it, but since the UK, for instance, already has cameras all over the place which frequently record people being robbed and murdered, and the assailants moseying away before anybody even notices let alone arrives to help, I don’t see it actually happening.

        • John Schilling says:

          Usage in formal court proceedings is a very small part of how reliable mind reading could completely transform human life.

          “Look at pediatric medicine – what a diagnostic aid for pre-verbal patients! Babies who can’t answer, Where does it hurt? What does it feel like? Or for stroke victims or those paralyzed in accidents who have lost all ability to communicate, trapped in their bodies. God the Father, you could be an absolute savior!”

          “I’m more often regarded as a menace. No one I’ve met who knew my secret ever suggested any use for me but espionage”

          “Well – were they espionage agents themselves?”

          “Now that you mention it…”

          Dr. Ethan Urquhart, Ob. Gyn, and a very suspicious mind-reader, “Ethan of Athos”, L.M. Bujold, 1986

          This does seem to be the week for Bujold quotes. And seeing new technologies from a dozen different directions is one of her strong points, e.g. new uses for uterine replicators in about every second novel she writes.

  8. J says:

    In the links post, I find it delightful that Beat Cop describes experiencing the reverse of the “old lady/pie” scene in Blazing Saddles: (warning, satirical use of “n” word).

  9. voidfraction says:

    To steelman that quote, _are_ there any legal protections from being placed within some kind of next-gen high resolution FMRI machine and being asked a series of questions?

    • suntzuanime says:

      There are legal protections against being placed into any kind of machine against your will.

    • Evan Þ says:

      There’re legal protections against having your answers used against you in court.

    • Albipenne says:

      I don’t think that commercial mind reading will ever be from FMRI machines. Where it might be widespread is if we develop sufficiently advanced eye tracking technology. If VR takes off commercially, and it looks like it will, there will be a push to get better and better eye tracking.

      If you put sufficient data analysis behind eye tracking data, you can do a surprising amount of mind reading.

    • Outis says:

      In the US, the fifth amendment ought to protect against that. I think even a literalist would conclude that mind probes are within the scope of the prohibition against compelling someone to be a witness against themselves; let alone a Supreme Court that managed to find a right to abortion within the fourteenth amendment.

      In practice, however, I give a only a 35% probability to the Supreme Court banning mind probes, and a 70% probability to the US government making use of them for several years before they are banned – all conditioned under the mind probe being invented, of course.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Remember, the fifth amendment only protects against government intrusion into your innermost thoughts.

        • Anonymous says:

          What’s the definition of the government?

        • LuxSola says:

          Yes, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be additional laws that forbid private citizens from doing mindreading. Polygraphs are the closest thing we have to mindreading, and they’re already forbidden in most circumstances.

          I imagine actual mindreading, or any kind of lie detector that actually works, will be illegal entirely except in the case of vetting people for jobs working in the government.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I think this is a little pessimistic- I’d go so far as to say that there’s at least an 80% chance of sufficiently-advanced mind-reading technology falling under the Fifth and Fourth Amendments. Contingent, of course, on the shape of that detection. A nigh-infallible truth detector is likely to be much more accessible than a ‘this makes a printout of what they’re thinking from a distance!’ scanner.

        (I’d pin my arguments mostly on the Fourth. No searching my mind without a warrant!)

        For private mind-readers, I suspect that this would be partially covered under tort law- while you’re inside your house, anyway. It’s not clear to me if any existing anti-evesdropping or recording statutes would apply. Maybe a court could construe it as violating my state’s wiretap act, if the mind-reading is advanced enough.

        In any event, the laws against mind-reading are likely to pass state legislatures before the technology is anything like that good.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t believe you can be forced to take a polygraph test already, so I think the 80% is under confident.

          The flip side is assuming that one can use high quality video and audio to do lie detection without having to touch the suspect. That seems more like analysis of what the suspect already agreed to give, and I’d guess it might be legal, assuming it can be shown to be valid.

          • Murphy says:

            To add: imagine a few cases being run through the media where a suspect is shown sitting silently in handcuffs being scanned … cut to heroic rescuers carrying a child out of a dank basement.

            Or better, the same scene only the handcuffed mans lawyers fought it for weeks, … cut to sobbing police carrying an emaciated corpse out of a dank basement.

            The next day a politician proposes a law including the name of the child “Janie’s law” or similar. What are the odds of it being shot down?

            I can see them arguing that the brainscan itself cannot be used against a suspect but that it can be done and any evidence gathered as a result can be used against them.

          • Anthony says:

            Murphy, the law will pass. But the locus of sovereignty isn’t in the legislature – the courts will overturn or limit the law. The extent of that is somewhat less predictable.

          • I believe there exists voice stress technology which at least claims to be the equivalent of a lie detector. Assuming it’s true, do you think there would be any legal bars to using it while listening to someone?

          • Chalid says:

            There are companies that sell voice stress analysis (of CEO speeches, earnings calls, etc) to investors. So the quality of the technology is good enough that people will pay lots of money for the results.

          • Murphy says:

            @Anthony

            if something worked reliably enough and led to a bunch of pedophiles, murderers etc being caught in high profile cases then people would keep trying and a great deal of the public would support it 100%.

            Many many professions would make screening a requirement to work like a drug screen. (what do you think a politicians chances are if they stood up and declared that daycare workers shouldn’t be tested for pedophile-think?)

            If something has enough support for long enough then the courts will come up with something.

          • FJ says:

            I think a long-range fMRI would fall within the dicta of Schmerber v. California (1966):
            “Some tests seemingly directed to obtain ‘physical evidence,’ for example, lie detector tests measuring changes in body function during interrogation, may actually be directed to eliciting responses which are essentially testimonial. To compel a person to submit to testing in which an effort will be made to determine his guilt or innocence on the basis of physiological responses, whether willed or not, is to evoke the spirit and history of the Fifth Amendment. Such situations call to mind the principle that the protection of the privilege ‘is as broad as the mischief against which it seeks to guard’ [citation omitted]”.

            Not actually a holding, strictly speaking, but I’m not aware of any subsequent caselaw walking this language back. But see this guy, who thinks mind-reading is perfectly constitutional and ought to remain so.

      • Pku says:

        But if we really had fast perfect mind reading, it might become the norm for anyone actually innocent to use it… And then anyone who refuses could still get a trial, but everyone would assume it was because they were guilty, which would severely undermine their position.

        • Mary says:

          Depends on how focused it is. If you have to make your life an open book to be cleared. .. .

          Truth detection would be simpler. Imagine a world in which the police asked for a warrant under a truth detector — including the questions they wanted to ask you. And you could clear yourself the same way.

  10. onyomi says:

    I’m interested in further discussion of Sniffnoy’s observations about regular people (who are sort of consistently unprincipled), psychopaths (who see no problem with being manipulative), nerds (who take stated social rules too literally), and rationalists (who see that the stated rules are not the “real rules,” but that that also doesn’t mean, as the psychopaths seem to think, that there are no rules).

    I feel like my life has been a gradual move from “nerd” to “rationalist” (even before I knew any self-described “rationalists”), and I imagine that is a pretty common experience around here.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      FWIW, since Scott liked the original comment, I’ve posted a followup with some additional notes back on the other thread. 😛

    • Virbie says:

      Just as another data point, that’s pretty much exactly my experience too. My main problem now is I can’t help avoid the side effect of withering disdain for the hypocrisy/dishonesty/misdirection (depending on how positive your opinion is) of those that foster this state of affairs. Maybe that’s just a phase in the progression as well.

      Does the “nerd” group carry the same connotations as regular usage; specifically having trouble fitting in socially? That’s something that I personally never experienced, and I wonder to what extent that divide is explainable.

    • Sastan says:

      I think I transitioned through rationality to post-rationality somewhere in my late 20s.

      I began to see the usefulness in many of the seemingly useless structures and rituals. And as I studied psychology, I came to see that humanity isn’t rational, and therefore it is not rational to treat them as if they were. Many of my friends are still stuck at the point where they understand that the world is irrational, but not the part where it is supposed to be, because everyone who lives in it is irrational. This seems to cause them great distress.

      • no one says:

        This is the stage that I went through to have a religious reconversion. I grew up in a devoutly Catholic household, become an agnostic, then an atheist, back to agnosticism, and a mellowing in later life and extensive reading of psychology convinced me that rationality doesn’t make people happy. Or least it doesn’t make me happy. Over the course of years, I just let go of it and let the irrational structures and rituals return. And to all the objections my rationalist/atheist self would make, now I would reply “So what? I chose to be a human and live in a culture and follow the rituals. That’s what I was made to do.” There’s a lot of institutional wisdom built into cultures even if no one person understands it.

      • Liskantope says:

        Many of my friends are still stuck at the point where they understand that the world is irrational, but not the part where it is supposed to be, because everyone who lives in it is irrational. This seems to cause them great distress.

        This is a very similar observation to what I was trying to describe in part III of this post. I think good rationalism requires recognizing that human minds work irrationally and working from there.

        • John Nerst says:

          Read your post and I recognize a lot of this. A problem I’ve had with proto-rationality (what you call anti-emotion rationalism), after growing out of it after my teens, is how dogmatic it can get while acting all anti-dogmatic. I used to be more like that, thinking the seeming irrationality of people was “failed rationality” rather than being a different way of functioning “correctly”.

          Proto-rationality reminds me a lot of vulgar postmodernism, having seen through the myths and fictions of everyday life and “folk-philosophy”, you get stuck in nihilism and become unable/unwilling to pick up the pieces and see what can/should be saved and how things can have value without being philosophically bulletproof.

          I’d say the defining core of the online rationality community, in contrast to general atheism/skeptic/freethought/bright-ism etc. is the focus of the nature of cognition, heuristics and biases, the idea that intuition is unreliable and irrationality is cognitive, not emotional. It’s such a major part of who we are that we should not demonize it of think of it as noise, but as the way the mind works. Being rational is not “sneering about emotion” but a lifelong attempt to understand your own mind.

          • Liskantope says:

            I completely agree. I also like your use of the term “proto-rationalism” a lot better than my “anti-emotion rationalism” which I came up with from the top of my head when I was writing the post but was never very happy with.

            after growing out of it after my teens
            I intended but forgot to mention in my post that I also was a lot more proto-rationalist, as well as pedantic and argumentative, when I was a teenager.

          • John Nerst says:

            I think that may be a common part of The Teenage Experience.

    • dust bunny says:

      I don’t like the framework because it associates being self-aware with rationalists. In reality, the majority of people who have significantly better than average social skills, ie. non-nerdy, well-adjusted intelligent people, use them consciously and morally. This emotional intelligence stuff has been intuitively modeled by the very people who are considered the opposite of rationality since the dawn of time. Rationalists are newcomers to the game.

  11. Siah Sargus says:

    Age of people who have Death when taking Viagra:

    0-1 years old
    0.81%

    Live fast die young, right?

    • AlphaGamma says:

      From a quick Wiki, sildenafil is also used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension. Maybe babies can get that under certain circumstances?

      • FJ says:

        Pulmonary hypertension is extremely common in many congenital heart defects, and any pediatric cardiac ICU prescribes sildenafil as a matter of course. Not coincidentally, many of those babies die.

        ETA: One classic example of the sort of heart defect that can give rise to pulmonary hypertension is transposition of the great arteries, where the left ventricle pumps into the pulmonary artery rather than the aorta.

  12. Wrong Species says:

    Last open thread many people said they believe that Donald Trump was a sign of things to come. Bryan Caplan has an answer to that:

    “Populist policy preferences go hand-in-hand with intellectual laziness and intellectual impatience. As a result, populist voters fail to hold their leaders’ feet to the proverbial fire – allowing wiser, elitist heads to prevail.”

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/02/adhd_shall_save_1.html

    I think I agree with him. What specific prediction could falsify this?

    (Also, I’m ashamed to say that I still don’t know how to hyperlink here. How do I do that?)

    • onyomi says:

      One might propose an axiom: the more boring and hard to understand an issue is, the more elites will get to call the shots in that arena. A corollary seems to be: elites are ironically incentivized to make whatever they’re actually working on as obtuse and boring as possible–see CSPAN.

      • Virbie says:

        > One might propose an axiom: the more boring and hard to understand an issue is, the more elites will get to call the shots in that arena.

        I would think that this should be “the more boring and hard to understand people _think_ an issue is”. In my observation, voters love assuming they know what they’re talking about on everything from climate science to Economics without actually making any attempt to achieve understanding.

        • Sastan says:

          This is true, but oddly irrelevant. Consider something like your examples. The greatest minds devoted to the issue might understand a hundredth of a percent of the issue. Politicians certainly less. With a level of ignorance that high, it’s not substantially different from someone who only knows a thousandth of a percent of the issue.

          At some point, the veil of ignorance levels all people. The uneducated may be just as likely to strike on the “correct” side of an issue by sheer chance as the educated through a combination of science, tribalism and signalling.

          • Virbie says:

            I don’t see how it’s irrelevant. Regardless of the likelihood of actually understanding the issue, _thinking_ you don’t understand it is what determines whether you find it incomprehensible enough that onyomi’s theory kicks in. Whether or not people truly do understand something is neither here nor there.

          • Sastan says:

            Fair enough!

          • Luke Somers says:

            It seems like the greatest experts in those fields might understand a hundredth of a percent of an issue, but most of the important parts of the issue take up around one millionth of the issue. Not to say that that millionth is entirely within the hundredth of a percent, of course.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ Onyami
        “A corollary seems to be: elites are ironically incentivized to make whatever they’re actually working on as obtuse and boring as possible–see CSPAN.”

        I think that generalizes much more widely than to elites. There’s a level of granularity that seems to be mostly cherries picked from brambles (and common sense is explicitly scorned).

      • Partisan says:

        This notion is a big part of David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King,” that dullness can be weaponized. If Wallace had finished it I think it would be my favorite book.

      • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

        This sounds like bikeshedding.

        tl;dr People compensate for their “lack of influence on issues they don’t understand” (e.g. nuclear reactor design) by bickering over trivial issues (e.g. the color of the bikeshed).

        Obligatory duck story.

        • Held in Escrow says:

          We call it Alpha Dogging around here; any time you put together a project that has anything people can make a minor change to they want to put something on there. It was true when I worked in market research and it’s true in the energy consulting business.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            “You have to let the editor make some small change. After he pees in it, he likes the flavor better, so he buys it.”

            – RAH

    • Brad says:

      A bare link like that just works, but if you want different link text like: google type [a href=”http://www.google.com”]google[/a] except with angled brackets instead of square ones.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      <a href=”http://www.something.com”>something</a>

      yields

      something

      Edit: WordPress automatically puts in “smart quotes” instead of ordinary quotes, so don’t copy and paste the above, because you’ll get the smart quotes. Actually type the quotes.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Or leave out the quotes entirely.

      • Zarel says:

        Hm, I wonder…

        <a href="http://www.something.com">something</a>

        It turns out, &quot; will prevent the smart quotes, and so will <code> tags. I’m curious how you managed to prevent the URL from being autolinked. I had to use my usual <i></i> trick, but from viewing source, it looks like you used something else.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Why do you believe it? Does it predict the past?

      Caplan cites Gilens as if he supported this position, but I believe that he talks about neither populist politicians nor the mechanism by which popular policies fail to be implemented.

    • Anthony says:

      The funny thing is that Trump has basically promised to turn over most political problems to the elites – he’s said he’ll find the “great people” or “smart people” to inform him about problems. Now, presuming he’s actually serious about immigration, he’s not going to ask Bryan Caplan about it, but he’ll find a smart person who agrees with his general direction to advise him. And on issues that weren’t part of the campaign, he’ll just find some establishment elite (because those *are* the smart, informed people) to tell him what to try to push.

      • stubydoo says:

        Those of us who remember similar promises from George W. Bush of course find this the opposite of reassuring – even if we were to actually believe in the existence in general of actual capable elites.

        • Gbdub says:

          On the other hand, Mr. Obama promised that he was smarter than all his advisors, and that hasn’t been too great either.

    • Schmendrick says:

      It depends on what we’re defining as “populist.” If we’re talking the Huey Long, race-and-class-envy-all-the-time model, then yes, populists have tended to have flocked toward charismatic leaders who say they can “save” the voters from their troubles, and not look too closely at the math before pulling the lever in the ballot box. However, there are also examples of quite focused and directed populist movements with clearly articulated goals. The Virginia Readjusters succeeded in getting the public school system formed and funded, pulling Norfolk Southern out of the hands of the Baltimore and Ohio, repudiating Virginia’s pre-war debt, and having the taxable value of land reassessed in order to accommodate the damage done by the war. The Grangers successfully implemented their sub-treasury system, whose eventual collapse came because it was a shitty idea instead of some co-option of the movement. The Russian narodniki performed herculean feats of organization and volunteerism when they sent doctors and teachers out to lift up the peasants. They failed because their conception of peasant life was hopelessly wrong, not because an elite manipulated them. Hell, even the populisms most associated with the cult of personality – Peron in Argentina and Vargas in Brazil – pushed through reforms which were demanded by the people before turning to kleptocracy and autocracy. Populism is complicated, but it’s complicated like most political ideologies are complicated. Pointing out that the footsoldiers of populist movements aren’t philosophes and tend to espouse wacky-sounding ideas doesn’t really set it apart from anything else.

  13. Evan Þ says:

    I’m on the bone marrow donor list, and they just called me in to give a blood sample for confirmatory testing. However, I looked into one of the donation methods, and I’m somewhat concerned about taking filgrastim (for five days) to raise white cell levels in my blood.

    It seems, naively, that inducing faster cell division could raise the risk of cancer in the future. The drug was only developed in 1991, and it’s only been used in the marrow donor program since 1997. This brief 2007 paper from the donor program says they followed donors up to nine years without seeing abnormal cancer levels – would that be long enough for any side effects to manifest themselves? Meanwhile, this claims that taking it for longer than a year can raise your risk of cancer, but this informed consent form doesn’t mention anything about it.

    I’d like to be able to donate, but I’m somewhat concerned – I don’t have any medical or biological background, so I’m not sure how to evaluate this research. Can any of you help?

    • Murphy says:

      While it’s impossible to say that the risk is zero, it seems reasonable to say that the risk is likely very small if they couldn’t see abnormal level of cancer after 9 years.

      I’m basing this off of gut feelings on relative risk but the small risk of infection after they extract some bone marrow is probably higher than that of cancer.

      So ultimately what level of additional risk, or how many micromorts are you willing to accept in order to help someone?

      • Evan Þ says:

        While it’s impossible to say that the risk is zero, it seems reasonable to say that the risk is likely very small if they couldn’t see abnormal level of cancer after 9 years.

        Is this also based only on gut feelings? If you can support this, it’d almost certainly tip the scale.

        But my gut feelings, based on what I’ve heard about other carcinogens, go in exactly the opposite direction. If surviving a nuclear explosion can still cause cancer more than twenty years later, then assuming this is a carcinogen, why watch only for nine years? (Okay, a quick web search says that atomic bomb survivors who got leukemia, on average, got it after two years. I suppose this has to do with different cell division rates?)

        • Murphy says:

          It’s based off simply reading it.

          Watching for 9 years would likely show up any *big* spikes in chances of getting a particular type of cancer or anything obvious but it couldn’t show up subtle changes.

          The bigger problem is that cancer is really really common.
          It’s like trying to tell if something causes drowning in the middle of a flash flood.

          Unless treatments improve dramatically a quarter of everyone you know will die of cancer. That’s without anything special happening in terms of risk.

          It’s also really hard to compare across populations, the people who were evacuated from around Chernobyl, apart from a small number of very rare cancers, had a lower cancer death rate than the average american because another factor is that cancer is one of the “default killers”, if you keep people from dying from more mundane causes cancer has a good chance of being their cause of death.

        • Jacob says:

          Nuclear radiation damages DNA, and the effect of it is partially cumulative. Getting a small dose every day for a year is just as bad as getting one every 10 days for 10 years (after the 10 year mark).

          I don’t know anything about this drug in particular, but it’s unlikely the damage is cumulative. If cell division levels return to normal after stopping the drug, and the donation process removed the excess cells, I don’t see why there should be any long-lasting effects.

          • Murphy says:

            With some radiation types that may not be the case, if I remember the section on DNA repair mechanisms right there’s a process where enzymes can cut out and repair damage on a section of a strand of DNA based on the undamaged strand taking a little time to do so.

            If nothing disturbs the process then you’ve got good chances of the repair being perfect.

            What happens if something damages the other strand in the middle of the repair process? well it can cause an unrepairable mutation.

            Hence 10 minutes of UV exposure spread throughout a day every day for a month can be less bad/damaging than 5 hours basking in the sunlight on a single day.

    • keranih says:

      A wag at the results reported:

      For a rare occurrence like cancers in young adults, their numbers are not large, particularly for people followed more than 3 years. (The dreaded “lost to followup” obscures a lot of information.) They give “9%” as the expected number of leukemia and lymphoma cases (as a percent of all cancers) for this age group, which would be about two out of the twenty cases reported. “Two” is a very small number and while they don’t give confidence intervals, working with tiny numbers like that lets a lot of things get missed or blown out of proportion.

      From the link provided, I agree, they have no evidence to show that for the population and time studied, the treatment increased the cancers, particularly for leukemia and lymphoma.

      For something like this, I wouldn’t hesitate to take the treatment if I was donating for a sibling or someone I cared about. Not sure if it would affect my decision in a donation for a stranger.

  14. Sniffnoy says:

    Geez, I get comment of the week for that? I still haven’t even checked the replies to it, I’m a bit embarassed about it…

  15. grort says:

    Did anyone else read Evil God Average after Eliezer linked to it? Here’s a brief review.

    Prior to 2016 I had read two “Summoned Hero” works of significance: “The Cross-Time Engineer” and “Dungeon Keeper Ami”. In both cases the theme was growth and reform: a character goes about solving problems, innovating, building a nation, and fixing everything they touch.

    From that perspective, I have to say that Anri is a disappointment. The culture she shows up in is pretty toxic — for example they have a very active slave trade. If Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres had run into that, he would have completely flipped out: he would have made a whole bunch of grandiose threats, tried a series of schemes to permanently shut down the slave trade, failed several times, and ultimately hit on one that worked, cementing his reputation as a miracle worker. That’s what HJPEV would have done. What Anri does is she buys one slave.

    So: Evil God Average is a story about a goddess who isn’t interested in world optimization, and instead spends her time playing with her dungeon. This turns up several very cute parts, mostly having to do with Anri being incredibly powerful but basically a nice person. It’s a bit of a tragedy, though, in terms of lost potential.

    It wasn’t a bad story. I just wanted it to be about something else.

    (Content note for The Cross-Time Engineer: as the series progresses it develops some really skeevy attitudes toward sex and women. At first I interpreted it as “this is my fantasy and I’ll have lots of sex if I want to” but there’s a pretty awful rape scene at the end of Book 3, which is where I quit the series.)

    • Andrew says:

      Tried reading it two days ago, and quit 2-3 chapters after she buys a slave. Amateurish and disappointing- when your protagonist comes off a bit like a sociopath, she better be funny or terrifying. If she’s neither, it’s a slog.

    • Marc Whipple says:

      John Ringo’s “Paladin of Shadows” books are probably the biggest, most successful “summoned hero” books right now, especially if you limit it to “…who frequently goes in a skeevy direction.” They are like The Cross-Time Engineer on steroids and with 99% less improbable tech. (Don’t ask about Katya. I said DON’T ASK.)

      Inasmuch as they aren’t pure testosterone fantasy, the struggle they depict for the main character is that he has needs/drives* which he sometimes cannot control, especially when he undergoes traumatic stress (e.g. when someone he loves is killed.) He hates this about himself and does everything in his power to restrain it. He doesn’t always succeed.**

      The first time he goes from Action Hero to true Determinator, he introduces himself (to a room full of naked, chained female college students) like this:

      NCFCS: “Who are you?”
      Ghost: “A very bad man who is trying to be good.”

      That is literally how he thinks of himself. He’s not wrong, in my opinion, although other characters try to tell him he’s a good man who has to do bad things. I think that trying to believe that there really are such people in the world makes a good test for how far you can stretch your “untypical mind” muscles. (There are such people in the world: most people have never met one or if they have, didn’t know it.)

      *As in, he’s a sexual sadist. Not the polite, switch-flip-stimulation safeword kind. The real kind. One of the few really nice things that happens to him in the books is that he enters a long term relationship with a masochist who likes to be hurt almost as much as he likes to hurt people. Also he really likes killing people.

      **I think my favorite thing about Ghost is the explanation he gives about why he is so protective of women (which he indisputably is.)

      “If I don’t get to rape/torture/murder women, nobody gets to.”

      Even I think he might be being a little hard on himself with that one, but it is certainly a novel justification.

  16. Brandon Berg says:

    “I can’t wait to ride Space Mountain!” said either Tom or Rowland.

  17. Alex K says:

    My little brother is almost done with high school (in the US) and is looking at colleges. I’m trying to help him.

    This is complicated by the fact that I think that college isn’t worth it anymore, at least not for someone like him. He does okay in school but he’s not incredibly gifted; he probably won’t go into tech or finance or medicine; he’s social and has an easy time making friends; etc. And it especially seems like a bad deal to pay private-school- or out-of-state- tuitions. Isn’t public opinion shifting towards seeing university-level education as a false promise of a good job four years down the line, just made to get your tuition money? And I have such a negative opinion of the caliber of education and research being done even at pretty good schools, too.

    I’m inclined to recommend to him that he take a couple of years off and travel or get a job in a city or something, and only look at college if, later, he has a specific subject in mind that he’s passionate about pursuing.

    I’m worried I’m too jaded from my time in school a few years ago, so I could use a second opinion. Do you think college is worthwhile, these days, for a relatively average 18-year-old in the US?

    • The Anonymouse says:

      College is certainly not the life-opportunity cure-all that many would have your younger brother believe. But I’m pretty sure that lifetime earnings for generic college grad are still about double that of generic high-school grad.

      The problem I worry about in his situation isn’t “college y/n?” but rather “no plan.” It’s just fine not to be drawn to intrinsically intellectual things. But if he isn’t going to college, he needs to be doing something else.

      “Take some time off and go find yourself” is not always good advice. Sometimes the kid takes the time, supports himself for a while, decides on what he wants to do, and goes gangbusters for it. But a lot of the time, “taking a few years to find yourself” turns into “has to continue working this awful poorly paid job just to keep supporting himself” turns into “has to string together multiple awful jobs just to keep supporting himself and the cocktail waitress he married and knocked up” turns into “fuck I’m 55 with no skills, no prospects, a head full of regret, and a body full of aches.”

      The kid knows if he wants to go to college or not. If not, learning a skilled trade is a fine way to go. Something unglamorous, remunerative, and un-offshorable. Fancy lawyer calls a plumber to fix his toilet. Plumber wrenches on it for twenty minutes, hands the lawyer a bill for $250. “That’s crazy! I’m a corporate lawyer and I don’t even make $250 for twenty minutes’ work!” the lawyer protests. “I know,” the plumber says. “I didn’t when I was a lawyer, either.”

      There’s some truth there.

      ETA (and this also applies to the Anonymous academic at the top of the comments): You don’t have to “change the world” or “make a difference” to have a happy, fulfilling life, and you certainly don’t have to do it via your day job. And, statistically, you almost certainly won’t even if you try.

      For your little brother, happy could mean some aspirational vocation following his dreams. But it could also mean being a good parent, fine friend, and pillar of his community. Or it could mean old-fashioned craftsmanship and the satisfaction of a job well-done. Or it could mean a paid-off house, a nice truck, a bass boat, and the free time to enjoy them. I’ve known good, solid people who derive their happiness from each of those things. None of them require college, but all of them require figuring out how to support oneself, and the earlier the better.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with The Anonymouse above.

      As a concrete suggestion I would offer getting into some free university (are there actually any free-of-charge universities in the US?) and start fiending for a good job while studying. After getting that job, and becoming secured in it, optionally quit studies – they’ve served their purpose already. Job experience is a better qualification than a degree.

      • Anonymous says:

        Is that post unironically linking to Scalzi’s post as if there were worthwhile content in it?

        • From the Siderea post:

          Here is a thing about schooling and privilege: what unconscious lessons you learned about schools and education from your own childhood experiences of being a student have an awful lot to do with how much privilege you had.

          If you attended a school flush with funds, with an active PTA (flush with volunteers who did not need to work to the exclusion of volunteering), with a modest student-teacher ratio; if you had a gender, race, native language, (lack of) disability status, or social class which school staff felt indicated you would benefit by instruction and opportunities; if you had people telling you they expected much of you and noting your performance, good or bad – then you will likely think of school as a institution which has agency, which relates to its students, which gets involved in their outcomes. To whatever extent this is true, you will feel entitled to being served by the school; when in a school you don’t immediately see where the services you need are offered, you seek them out, out of the unconscious assumption that surely they’re around, somewhere.

          Conversely, if you attended a school that didn’t have enough money, with little parent involvement (because few parents could afford to spare the time), with more students than the teachers could handle; if your gender, race, native language, disability status, or social class suggested to school staff that instruction and opportunities would be wasted on you; if you were no more than just another anonymous cog in a school-machine – then you will likely think of school as an institution which is impersonal, just a structure you move through independently, like a maze-shaped swimming pool, in which you sink or swim on your own. To whatever extent this is true, it will simply not occur to you that the educational institution might owe you some sort of customer service or support for your tuition dollars.

          So, probably, yes.

          On the other hand, when there’s a quote like this:

          Similarly, only differently, I heard rumor (back in the early 90s) that the Physics Department (Course 8) at MIT had some breathtakingly sexist professors, who tended to thwart the careers of female undergrads, who in turn tended to transfer to the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science Department (Course 12) to escape. Obstacles to completion can be specific to certain demographics. You could do worse than seek out a photo of a recent graduating class and the stats on demographic distributions of a recent entering class and compare them, doing a little back-of-the-envelope calculation.

          I feel like I’m seeing the inverse of the Scott on SJWs issue here. Just as it’s really, really hard to get an objective measure of the good of an organization or group that turns on you and delivers all manner of painful, unjustified accusation, it is really hard to get a feel for the bad of a group that adopts you as one of their own, tells you that you are better and smarter than you are seen to be, and that those agreed-upon Bad People are the ones holding you back.

          The difference is, I see a whole lot more math and citations in one poster, and a whole lot of “I heard this rumor which confirms my worldview!” stated unironically in the other.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          I mean, guys, it’s two thousand fucking sixteen. Come on!

        • keranih says:

          At this point, several years on and after John Scalzi has annoyed the bejabbers out of me on several other occasions, I have had a change of opinion on the “lowest difficulty setting” essay. I think something like that is actually very good for the sort of socially isolated, racially segregated person at whom it is aimed. For a person who has never really worked or lived among people of different social classes and ethnic groups, pointing out that a lot of America views “white people” as one huge undifferentiated mass who all have it easier than they do is something worth knowing.

          That he thinks the lives of guys are easier than the lives of gals is another thing worth knowing…but I’m not really invested anymore in setting him straight.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Alternatively, I view Charitably!Interpreted!Scalzi as talking about averages. All else equal, he’s saying, Bob the straight white male will have an easier difficulty level than Bob the straight black male. Further, he continues, the mythical average straight white male has an easier difficulty level than an average straight black male. Repeat for other demographics. And, at least in the case of race, I agree with these claims in most cases.

            Whether this is what Real!Scalzi meant? Well, I met the man once at a book signing, and he seemed nice in person, so… I hope so?

          • Anthony says:

            Men do have it easier in some aspects of life, particularly those having to do with jobs. Women have it easier in other aspects, particularly those having to do with sex.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Women have it easier in the aspects of sex related to getting some. There are other aspects of sex where they have more difficulties…

          • HlynkaCG says:

            …which is why we give them the ability to call down metaphorical airstrikes on anyone who annoys them.

            Unfortunately this privilege can be abused, and if it abused enough we (as a society) may start to reconsider affording them this privilege.

          • keranih says:

            Given the disproportionate number of men injured and killed on the job, I am not so sure about the disadvantages women have.

          • DrBeat says:

            The essay is wrong, though, and wrong in a way that is poisonous to understanding. Which is ironic, because he chose the exact, specific analogy best suited to describing the situation, then screwed it up with his own unexamined sexism and assumption that everything in the entire universe is a single linear scale that maps to his emotional affect.

            “Woman” is the low difficulty setting of life. You will get through it with much less difficulty, and when you encounter problems there are much more mechanisms in place to solve them for you. You have an experience meant to protect you and carry you to the end but not challenge you at all. Your score will be very low, you won’t unlock any achievements or bonus content, and beating the game gives you no bragging rights. You will not be forced to git gud and you will not be rewarded for gitting gud. The game will put a lot of effort into making sure you are not in trouble and no effort at all into recognizing your skill.

            “Man” is the high difficulty setting of life. There are far fewer mechanisms in place to help you when you struggle, and most of them are turned around to actively cause you more harm. There’s more enemies, they deal more damage, and your “crutch mechanics” are gone. The game is not holding your hand and showing you an experience, it’s just trying to ruin you. You are much less likely to beat the game, but if you do, you will be showered with high scores, achievements, and accolades because you beat a much harder challenge. If you cannot, nobody cares about you and nobody will try to help you, because you should git gud, scrub. The leaderboards just show the people with the highest scores, they don’t show how many people could never beat the game because of how hard it was. The game will put no effort at all into helping you when you are in trouble and all its effort into recognizing your skill.

            Feminists are people who see that all the high scores are for playing on hard mode, and instead of concluding “people should be able to change difficulty to what they are ready to face” or “we should have dynamic difficulty that lets up on you if you’re struggling but pushes you when you show you can take it”, conclude this means hard mode is easier than easy mode, and easy mode should be made even easier.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ DrBeat:

            The way I see it, both you and Scalzi have some points going for you. These things cut both ways.

            For example, you can ask: is it harder to get into Harvard as a poor black woman or as a rich Asian man? Well…it depends on what stage of the process you look at it. The poor black woman has a lot of pressures in her life that are going to push her away from being the kind of person who has a shot at Harvard or who even considers it an option. But at the same time, if she makes it even within the ballpark, Harvard is openly going to discriminate in her favor and let her in even if she vastly underperforms the rich Asian man in objective criteria.

            So who had “easy mode” and who had “hard mode”? It’s really hard to say.

            Or to change the metaphor, let’s say I am to race (pre-accident) Michael Schumacher. But I get a Ferrari F1 car and the help of the Ferrari team to tell me what to do. And he gets a Trabant with no pit crew. Who has the harder “difficulty setting”? I have nowhere near the level of natural driving talent as Schumacher, nor have I been pushed from an early age to train at racing to develop the talent I do have. But once I get in the race, I get a supercar and a fantastic amount of assistance.

            Also, as I talked about in an extensive series of comments on feminism in a previous thread, we have to distinguish the question of who has more power under a social system from who has better outcomes. There is not a one-to-one correspondence.

            Imagine a system of rigid gender roles, which places the husband as the dictator of the family and the wife as his obedient servant. It is perfectly conceivable that such a system, as bad as it might be for the woman in constraining her freedom, is more psychologically harmful for the man, upon whom it places more responsibilities than he can bear without an equal by his side. Nevertheless, it’s quite clear that men have the power under this system.

            Or consider the concepts of “noblesse oblige” or “the white man’s burden”. Both of these say that a superior has more obligations and duties than an inferior, and indeed that his proper role is to serve the inferior and uplift him as far as he can. Nevertheless, it’s not hard to see how the superiors probably have it easier, overall. (And, of course, the obvious additional criticism of the system is that the power imbalance between the nobles and commoners or between whites and non-whites leads them to actually abuse their power instead of using it to help their “inferiors”. Feminism applies a similar criticism: the same power imbalance that was used to “protect” women openly was also often used to abuse them covertly.)

            Finally, consider a positive example of power imbalance: that between parents and children. Parents undoubtedly have more power, but they do far more to serve their children than the children do to serve them. You could say the children “get more” out of the bargain.

            At the same time, though, no self-respecting adult would want to be treated as a child forever. That’s why living in one of those luxurious Norwegian prisons is still a punishment. They live on “easy mode”, in that they are insulated from the troubles of the outside world. But they live on “hard mode” in that it is much more difficult to have a happy and fulfilled life as a prisoner than as a free person.

          • DrBeat says:

            I know we have to distinguish “power” from “outcomes” and you know that. But feminism doesn’t seem to, as much as it protests otherwise.

            (And it can’t acknowledge the concept of responsibility coming with power — traditional sexism says men have power and men have the responsibility to use it to benefit women. New sexism, which is feminism, says “Men have power, which is proof they hate women!” and seeks to take power from men without diminishing their responsibilities in any way. The old sexism was unfair but at least it had some semblance of balance to it!)

            Us MRAs have been saying the entire time that men are worse off under the system, because “power” and “positive outcomes” are not the same thing; that men had power in order to use it to benefit women, they had all the rights and all the responsibilities and no support and their lives and well-being were inherently valueless outside of the utility they provided to women. That, indeed, the appropriate relationship to compare it to is not that of a master and slave but that of a parent and child, and no, it is not fair to those treated as children, and it is bad for them, and we seek to end it — but it is absurd and selfish in the extreme to claim that parents act the way they do because they hate their children, to blame the wickedness of parents for all ills, to ignore all the responsibilities they shoulder, and to do nothing to take away all of the obligations they are under while stripping away the ability to carry out those obligations. That we can’t actually have a society that allows women to be more than children, if we aren’t willing to allow men to not have to be women’s parents.

            We’ve been saying that for a while, but nobody ever seems to hear us; they just prefer to lie about us and then talk to each other about what they imagine bad wrong evil people like us must be thinking.

            And “Difficulty setting” is the wrong analogy to use for race, and the continued conflation of race with sex would be laughable if it wasn’t so successful. The point of difficulty settings is they make things harder in order to get more rewards for prevailing — this is how our attitudes toward gender work, and not how our attitudes toward race or sexuality work.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ DrBeat:

            Overall, I agree entirely with almost everything you’ve said here.

            I know we have to distinguish “power” from “outcomes” and you know that. But feminism doesn’t seem to, as much as it protests otherwise.

            Absolutely. It is extremely common for people to conflate these two things. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a very good tactic to attribute this to “feminism” and then attack and demonize “feminism”. The problem is that you get screwed by those who are going to equivocate between feminism in the positive and legitimate sense of the movement that seeks the equality of women with men—the feminism that you are part of—with “feminism” in the sense that sees all men as evil woman-haters who more or less consciously support the “patriarchy” in order to gain at women’s expense.

            When you say you’re not a feminist, you mean you’re not the latter kind. But people interpret you as saying that you’re not the former kind: that you think women ought to be in a position inferior to men. Some of them are downright dishonest in this regard. But others just don’t know any better; it’s been impressed into them that anyone who rejects the latter type of feminism is just a crypto-woman-hater.

            We’ve been saying that for a while, but nobody ever seems to hear us; they just prefer to lie about us and then talk to each other about what they imagine bad wrong evil people like us must be thinking.

            Usually, in most situations like this, the number of liars is far less than it appears.

            Consider the attitude held seventy years ago by most Americans towards atheists (and even the attitude of many today). They had been raised to believe that Christianity is the basis of morality—and even of the political system of liberal democracy, based on individual rights. When they hear someone say that he rejects Christianity, they naturally interpret it to mean that he rejects morality, that he is not a decent person, that he is going to cheat you and steal from you the first chance he gets—and that he might be a Communist, too.

            Now, there was certainly some dishonesty involved among people who were deliberately equivocating between “In my opinion, there is no objective basis for morality given atheism,” and, “As a matter of fact, atheists almost always reject morality and common decency.” But among most people, it was honest.

            But when someone goes out and says “I’m not a feminist”, it provokes much the same reaction. People are told that feminism means that women should have equal rights and also that women make only 70% of what men make due to sexism, which can only be redressed by the government forcing equal salaries.

            So when you say “The wage gap is a feminist lie”, you are taken as rejecting both that specific claim and the idea that women ought to have equal rights. Moreover, this seems unnecessary to me. While atheists couldn’t exactly say “I’m Christian, too, but you’re wrong about God and stuff” (and even there, the Unitarian Universalists…), it is perfectly possible to say “I’m a feminist, too, but you neglect the harms that this unequal system imposes on men as well as women.”

            And “Difficulty setting” is the wrong analogy to use for race, and the continued conflation of race with sex would be laughable if it wasn’t so successful. The point of difficulty settings is they make things harder in order to get more rewards for prevailing — this is how our attitudes toward gender work, and not how our attitudes toward race or sexuality work.

            I think it applies to some areas where women and men are not represented equally. For instance, a female physicist who performs to the same standard as a male physicist will probably be given an easier ride. At the same time, social and cultural pressures from a very long age are much more likely to push the girl away from pursuing physics as a career.

            Is it harder or easier to become a physicist as a woman? In some respects, harder. In others, easier.

            Now, the idea that this is all some kind of conscious effort to hate women and push them away from science because men think they’re stupid is ridiculous. And a lot of popular “feminism” relies on this kind of nonsense.

            Also, you disregard many of the ways how (especially in the past and in third-world countries), being a woman was/is not exactly “easy mode” with low stakes and low expectations. Sure, maybe for some women and some periods, a woman’s main job in her youth was to land a nice marriage. But if she failed, or was raped, or was seduced and then abandoned, she was unmarriageable, she had little means of support, and quite often had to turn to prostitution or, at best, menial positions like scullery maid.

            You can’t conflate “being a woman in the past” with “being Marie Antoinette”. Quite a number of women didn’t exactly live in a “gilded cage”; the lower-class ones often worked just as hard as men but for less.

        • Chalid says:

          I don’t know anything about what happened there in the 90s, but MIT recently cut ties with a well-known physics prof (Walter Lewin) for sexually harassing students online.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Do you know any of the specifics? I was vaguely following the story and as far as I’m aware MIT just suddenly unpersoned Lewin and took down his online courses for unspecified crimes. It’s quite possible he was harassing someone, but we don’t have any confirmation of that.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            It doesn’t seem like there’s much in the way of evidence that’s public; this is the best I can find. But it certainly sounds like there’s a lot of non-public evidence that people have vouched for the existence of.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            That’s detailed enough to be convincing, yeah. Thanks.

        • I don’t care whether she cites Scalzi, the vast majority of the post is about highly specific details of figuring out how to make good use of college if you choose to do so, and much more about class than other demographic issues.

    • zz says:

      From what you’ve written, this probably won’t be terribly surprising, but Bryan Caplan puts it well: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/09/what_every_high.html

    • Scott Alexander says:

      As much as I think we overdo education on a societal level, unless we suddenly stop doing that all the research still shows it’s very important on an individual level.

    • keranih says:

      …’mongst my people, the traditional choice for young men in your brother’s position is to enlist for a term in the military. He gets paid, his social skills will be valuable, and he gets the hell out of where he is. He may love it, he may hate it, he may not make it through boot camp. Either way, he has three to four years of food, bed and a steady paycheck to figure out what else he might like doing.

      Maybe not a fit, but worth considering.

      • Leit says:

        Also: GI Bill. It astounds me that there are apparently servicemen who don’t use this to grab a free education.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        I have heard a lot of bad stories about the military (Canadian, I can kind of assume things are worse in America). One of my friends parents retired from what sounded like a prestigious career to work at walmart for a while, and was described as having the stresses of his career negatively effect his personal life.

        One person I carpooled with had both of her parents take mental health leave from the military, she didn’t go into details and I didn’t press but I got the feeling that it was bad.

        I remember a friend of a friend took a short program to do something environment related and now has a bunch of engineering students working under him. I also know a bunch of people who went into sales and are doing well.

        I also think it is fairly common for people to work as one lower kind of nurse and then slowly build up education and training to get better jobs with more pay.

        • HlynkaCG says:

          There’s a lot internal variation, by branch specialty, station and even unit.

          Having a competent HQ section can make or break a tour. Meanwhile there are some duties that are going to be shitty and stressful no matter how many perks and bonus cheques you get tacked on.

        • Nonnamous says:

          I have heard a lot of bad stories about the military (Canadian, I can kind of assume things are worse in America).

          Why ever would you assume such thing? US military needs to actually go to war on a pretty regular basis. And is rather good at it, all things considered. When was the last time Canadian military did?

          There cannot be a bigger difference than between an organization that faces pressures related to how well it fulfills its stated reason for existence and one that doesn’t. Which do you expect is more dysfunctional/toxic, Google’s web search team, or the engineering department at let’s say some nationalized telcom?

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Partially because going into combat is stressful (Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan all volunteered for their mission).

            The possibility of actually seeing combat in unpopular wars has also led to a distinct decline in the quality of the people signing up, and people who have *any* other option taking it.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Seconded re: the military. It is remarkable the growing-up a young man does between the ages of 18 and 22–provided that the young man is working for a living. If you’re going to “find yourself,” you may as well do so while earning a decent paycheck, in an environment that keeps the chances of dissolution to a minimum.

        Beside that, in the US at least, enlisted pay is quite good when compared to the earnings an unskilled high-school graduate pulls down. To the frustration of many an E-2, a lot of that upside is paid in terms of benefits, rather than cash (for example, if a young man has never paid rent or utilities or a commute, it is easy to overlook just how good a deal living in the barracks is; if you’ve always been on your parents’ health insurance, free health care feels like the status quo rather than an augment to your salary). But this non-cash recompense is probably a plus, anyway: 18 year-old E-2s are what keeps the dream alive for “we finance everyone!” used-car dealers.

        On top of this, if you take some care in choosing your MOS, you can learn marketable skills in the military. (Sorry, anonymous–yeah, that anonymous–we’re talking positively about military service again.) Some of us go in for the infantry for non-job-skill reasons. But you don’t have to: the wealthiest person in my extended family learned to maintain helicopters in the Army and now runs a business maintaining privately owned helicopters; it is my understanding that if you can get into the nuke-tech program in the Navy there are quite a few well-paying options available post-enlistment; my most recent ex pulls down (low) six figures in the FAA from what she learned in the USMC’s air wing; my uncle became a heavy equipment operator in the service, and is quite happy with his excavation business. (Your anecdata may vary.)

        For a certain subset of young men, particularly those coming out of a low SES or with a lack of positive male role-models, there is enormous benefit in learning life skills others take for granted: things like showing up on-time every time, taking pride in your work, and not back-talking your boss because he “disrespected” you.

        In addition, should he decide at the end of his time to go to college after all, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is quite generous.

        • HlynkaCG says:

          ^ what he said

        • TheNybbler says:

          Too bad about the whole part where you have your personality destroyed (through imposition of discipline both official and unofficial) and replaced with a military-issue one.

          I understand the need for the military but the cost of the whole process in terms of individuality makes me shudder. I suppose doing it young gives a chance to re-differentiate later on.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            I suspect (and I am definitely biased!) that if an enlistment in the military manages to destroy your personality, it probably wasn’t a very good personality in the first place. 🙂

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ TheNybbler
            “I understand the need for the military but the cost of the whole process in terms of individuality makes me shudder. I suppose doing it young gives a chance to re-differentiate later on.”

            I doubt it. The younger you join, the less experience of other ways of thinking you’ve had … so the deeper and more permanently mind-killed you can turn out.

          • Randy M says:

            I suppose that might be a concern for some, but I wonder how many people actually value individuality versus just saying that they do in order to fit in with everyone else.

            I mean, most people are a lot alike some other large group of people. If you decide ahead of time that the military contains the type of person you want to be, I don’t think there is any more loss of personality than someone who passively gets much of their mores and values from the pop culture–or academia, for that matter.

          • Fahundo says:

            I’ve been in the Navy for 5 years. Aside from being forced to be more punctual I don’t think it’s had a significant impact on my personality. Or maybe it has in subtle ways, but I can almost guarantee that I never picked up the “military issue” personality you’re envisioning.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve known a lot of servicemembers before and after their enlistment, and the main changes I’ve noticed have been better posture and an apparently overwhelming urge to make their beds in the morning. Sometimes exercise habits, too.

          • Fahundo says:

            My posture is still terrible, I went right back to not making my bed after I got out of the barracks, and if anything I exercise less than before I joined.

          • hlynkacg says:

            TheNybbler says: Too bad about the whole part where you have your personality destroyed…

            I’m actually kind of curious about where this perception comes from and if you see other “life changing experience” such as going to college or having a kid as similarly destructive.

          • TheNybbler says:

            Part of it is what I’ve read about the boot camp experience (a common theme is that it is _intended_ to break down your individuality) and part of it is what I’ve been told by siblings of people who went into the military, that they’re just not the same person afterwards.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @hlynkacg: That reminds me, Eliezer Yudkowsky’s wife recently published a story which compares having children to being infected with spores that rewrite your life goals.

          • Anonymous says:

            WTF did I just read?

          • Fahundo says:

            @TheNybbler: Let me just say, from first-hand experience, the whole boot camp process was much less personality-destroying and involved much less brainwashing than I expected. Someone I knew (who had already been through it) told me before I went that boot camp was basically a game. I had no idea what that meant at the time, but he was exactly right. There are a lot of rules, some of which might seem strange, but all you’re really required to do is play along for two months.

            To add to that, I’m definitely no expert, but it appears to me that the real purpose of boot camp is to eliminate those who absolutely cannot perform under pressure.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Fits the pattern I’ve seen. My partner chose Vietnam over college, shopped for the best deal for electronic tech education, came out with good enough tech education for offers from IBM (which he refused). (And with PTSD and Agent Orange diabetes, but that’s another story.)

          My impression is that the military’s on-the-job tech stuff will usually be more up to date than anything in a civilian college-type setting.

          Still, if he can afford college, might as well do it while young; he could always join the military later at a higher status. Also, f or military training I’d think you have to choose a field and stick to it, where in college you can try out several before getting stuck.

      • JuanPeron says:

        There’s a decent argument I’ve heard claiming that any time a nation isn’t deploying troops, this is the biggest benefit of a standing army. You take aimless, possibly unemployed young men (the highest risk group for crime and revolution), give them some skills, offer them free education, and keep them busy learning to be responsible citizens for a few years.

        Some hate it, and are motivated to get a job they don’t hate. Some love it, and build up your force of career soldiers. Pretty much everyone gets some profit out of it, especially with the GI bill floating around.

        • John Schilling says:

          That was a common theory and practice in the past. We have since learned how to wage war much more effectively than we used to but which requires trusting your soldiers to keep doing their jobs when they aren’t being directly supervised, which in turn requires more intelligent and highly motivated recruits. You can have an army that turns shiftless borderline-criminal youths into tolerable citizens, or you can have an army that wins wars, but it isn’t clear that you can have both at the same time. The present United States Army very much does not want your socioeconomic rejects if it can possibly help it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I mean shit, we’re not winning wars with it, our military might as well be an agent of positive social change.

          • bean says:

            @suntzuanime
            Uhhh….
            What about the positive social change of Poland not being run from Moscow? We aren’t actively winning a war there, but if we compromise our ability to do so (more than we already have, anyway), we might lose one, or someone else might who we’d rather didn’t.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            You can have an army that turns shiftless borderline-criminal youths into tolerable citizens, or you can have an army that wins wars, but it isn’t clear that you can have both at the same time.

            I wonder if you could just have two separate institutions. One would be the actual military, optimized for fighting and winning wars, and the other would be a military-themed prison/jobs program, kind of like the public school system is an academic-themed prison/daycare program. Maybe the State Defense Forces could be expanded and reorganized into such an institution?

          • John Schilling says:

            @Jamie: Part of what makes armies effective in the reforming-shiftless-youths role, if they choose to take on that mission, is the pride it can instill in them as the Watchers on the Wall or whatever. If it’s clear that they are at best a third-rate force that nobody expects to actually win a war, you lose that and I’m not sure that what you are left with is any better than a prison chain gang. Or maybe a lame high-school community-service “volunteer” program if you’re being less overtly forceful about it, but is anything on the axis between those two going to get the job done?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ John Schilling
            If it’s clear that they are at best a third-rate force that nobody expects to actually win a war, you lose that and I’m not sure that what you are left with is any better than a prison chain gang. Or maybe a lame high-school community-service “volunteer” program if you’re being less overtly forceful about it, but is anything on the axis between those two going to get the job done?

            Which job? FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps seems to have worked pretty well for the job of supporting and maturing needy young men, without military baggage till WWII approached. It “provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a small wage” – per Wikipedia.

            Conservation being out of fashion with Conservatives, infrastructure maintenance might be easier to fund.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            I’m not sure I’d be totally against universal conscription (men and women) with various non-military options provided. Military, Peace Corps, a CCC-equivalent, infrastructure work, civil service, and the like. You’ll run into problems with the mechanized world having less need of unskilled labor; this is probably made up for by an expanded need for indoor-work civil servants.

            I’m not worried about the need to train people–the military has shown that we can train young people to a pretty decent level of technical proficiency fairly quickly–but there would likely be a backlash by the current civil servants who would be replaced. Not to mention the inevitable push to pay at inflated rates.

            Now, conditioning suffrage upon having served, that could be controversial. 🙂

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anonymouse

            Why jump to conscription? I know nice young people who aren’t quite mature enough to get or hold jobs to support even an apartment for half a dozen of them together. College dorm life or youth hostel life would attract them if they could afford it and didn’t mind study and the other requirements of college. So a free or cheap urban hostel with no big hassle to get in or out and not a lot of regimentation, in exchange for part-time work … would probably draw such a long waiting list that you the administrator can tweak things to your preferences.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            Why jump to conscription? I know nice young people who aren’t quite mature enough to get or hold jobs to support even an apartment for half a dozen of them together.

            Presumably the main goal isn’t to provide free housing to dissolute young people, nor even primarily to get simple scutwork done. When I have heard the universal-conscription-with-options discussed, the primary goal seems to be in creating an active, engaged citizenry with some skin in the game, with a sideline of teaching universal life skills (discipline, self-respect, respect of people/cultures beside the one you grew up in). The actual work performed is almost secondary (but probably quite useful).

            The idea does, however, run hard against libertarian notions about involuntary servitude, as well as the theory that the current military is able to improve people precisely because it is a volunteer force, and the right people self-select.

          • Psmith says:

            State conservation corps still exist, and seem to do some of the work of giving young people who are having trouble getting their lives in order a schedule, a somewhat productive/meaningful job, and room and board.

            http://www.ccc.ca.gov/Pages/default.aspx

        • Jacobian says:

          That’s kinda the secret goal of the Israeli army as well.

          Out of each 7 soldiers in the IDF, one is in combat, two are in intelligence/tech or are useful officers and the other four are pretty useless. Why does Israel still have mandatory conscription? Because these “useless” people learn discipline, job skills and social skills while also integrating into the nation by getting to meet many people from a variety of backgrounds (social classes / ethnic / religious / geographic).

          This is a also a big part of why life in Israel is much harder for Arabs and Orthodox Jews: their freedom from mandatory service is actually a curse that puts them a couple of steps behind on almost every social ladder in the country.

          • Sastan says:

            Not to stomp too hard on your theory, but modern combined arms are pretty non-combat heavy.

            In the US Army, fewer than ten percent of the forces are in combat arms of any sort (artillery, cavalry, infantry). A seventh of the force as combat arms would be remarkably high for a modern military, and Israel definitely has that. The non-combat guys aren’t “useless”. They provide the infrastructure required to keep the relatively few grunts in the field supplied and supported.

            The rest of your point may well stand fine on its own, but the relative scarcity of combat soldiers is not evidence for it.

    • Anthony says:

      If he’s social and makes friends easily, going into sales might be a good path. The better-paying sales jobs generally require a B.A., but that’s more for signaling than actual skills. Some technical sales jobs need a B.S. in a technical field so you can talk intelligently about the product you’re selling, but there are lots of sales jobs that you can learn enough about the product in a day. Some sort of plan is pretty important, though. Also, there are a lot of bullshit sales jobs that only the slimiest actually make any money. If he can figure those out and stay away from them, he’ll be better off.

    • brad says:

      This is complicated by the fact that I think that college isn’t worth it anymore, at least not for someone like him. He does okay in school but he’s not incredibly gifted; he probably won’t go into tech or finance or medicine; he’s social and has an easy time making friends; etc. And it especially seems like a bad deal to pay private-school- or out-of-state- tuition. Isn’t public opinion shifting towards seeing university-level education as a false promise of a good job four years down the line, just made to get your tuition money? And I have such a negative opinion of the caliber of education and research being done even at pretty good schools, too.

      This seems overstated to me. There is a lot of grumbling about the cost of college and about the global insanity of credentialism, but at this point it is mostly chattering. I hope it goes somewhere but it hasn’t yet. There are certainly other paths than college into the middle and upper middle class and beyond, but they require more luck and more determination than the tried and true method of going to college.

      Taking some time off seems like a good idea, especially to a lot of us that didn’t and wish we had. But we don’t always consider that those paths have pitfalls and tradeoffs too. He could find himself 27, married with two kids, resentful of the paper ceiling put in his way because he doesn’t have a degree and walking around like a zombie because he was up until 1 AM doing homework, got woken up at 4 AM by a screaming baby, and still has to be at work by 7.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        College is a good idea, if you take a good major or at the least can graduate on time. Its a great idea if Ma and Pa are shelling out the cash for it. Its an incredible idea if the government foots the bill.

    • Gbdub says:

      College is still worthwhile unless you want to be a tradesman (which is a good option for the non-academically inclined, but it also requires a certain personality type and skillset). Because, while it shouldn’t be, a bachelors is the new high school diploma and more or less required for any reasonably remunerative (non skilled trade) job.

      That said, paying out-of-state or private fees is dumb unless a) you’ve gotten into somewhere elite where the “connections” are worth as much as the degree itself, b) you’re smart enough / have some other desired trait that gets you lots of scholarships, or c) you’re fairly wealthy and can pay cash. It’s especially dumb if you don’t really know what you want to do in 4 years.

      Best advice would be to enroll at a community college or small, inexpensive state school (e.g. not a “flagship” state U). “Sample the wares” for a couple years and transfer to a bigger school if that makes sense. Or don’t, and save yourself the bigger loans. Honestly the first two years are all general studies that are the same everywhere anyway, and a non-gifted student might do better at a smaller school for these (fewer distractions and smaller classes). Community colleges are especially flexible with class schedules (many students are working adults) so if your brother wants to move somewhere interesting and work somewhere while attending school part time, that’s an option.

    • Held in Escrow says:

      Don’t go to private or out of state. It’s hardly ever worth it. When I had the choice what my dad did for me was show me a spreadsheet of the costs of going to a private school vs the in state public university. I immediately recoiled and went for the in state option. It was a test; either I was smart enough to pick the in state school or I wasn’t smart enough to do so and thus would be wasting money at the private school.

      There are of course exceptions, but they are either the Ivy League schools or equivalent (MIT, Stanford, Chicago, that sort of thing).

      That said, I’d highly recommend 2 years of community college and then an easy transfer to Big State U if your state has that. It saves a ton of money and my experience with community college teaching has been of the same or higher level as my alma mater (and much better than the teaching I had at GMU). It gives you a cheap way to explore a bunch of different fields and has no real stigma attached.

      • Urstoff says:

        Seconding: the 2-year CC then 2-year State U track will by far give you the best bang for your buck. You’ll miss out on a lot of the typical “college experience” stuff, but the value of that is questionable.

        • John Schilling says:

          Except that, as noted last thread, four-year residential colleges are finishing school for the gentry, upper middle class, whatever. Particularly if you are coming from a labor/working-class background, four years hanging out with the gentry learning their style and manners and making connections in an environment designed for that is not something to be trivially dismissed.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            You can generally pick up any social cues within a year of college. Go, join a frat or a large social club and you’re set

          • Urstoff says:

            I could be convinced of that, but I’d certainly need to see some data that overrides my experience on various state university campuses that seemed like the furthest thing from finishing schools for the gentry.

          • Alliteration says:

            However, much of the value of college is having the degree. Even if the ultimate value of that degree comes from the manners of the average holder and you don’t have those manners, having the degree will still be valuable.

            It is basically being a freeloader on the upper-middle class signaling system.
            (Despite using the term “freeloader”, I am not making a moral judgement.)

    • stubydoo says:

      The beginning of the answer is simple: If you can get into the state flagship, go to the state flagship.

      The 2-year transfer from community college can be a nice money-saver, but how well it works varies quite a bit state by state.

      Some states don’t have proper flagships (affecting something like a quarter of the US population). Some states (e.g. California) have more than one that fit the bill for our purposes here.

      If the state flagship is not an option – then it’s painful tradeoff time. You get options that are horrendously expensive, or educationally iffy, or both. Eschewing college, temporarily or not, is a bit of a diceroll on the person’s character, unless they really are suited for picking up one of the skilled trades.

    • Jacobian says:

      One thing I’m surprised that no one mentions: college is a pretty fun way to spend four years! Whatever the impact of college on your life afterwards, no one can take away four years of good friends, interesting clubs, intramural sports, hypercharged sex life, excellent libraries, school pride, pretty campuses and a ton of partying.

      For a borderline student, a plumber apprenticeship probably has better ROI than an anthropology degree of East-Western XYZ-State, but the latter is pretty great while you’re doing it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Whatever the impact of college on your life afterwards, no one can take away four years of good friends, interesting clubs, intramural sports, hypercharged sex life, excellent libraries, school pride, pretty campuses and a ton of partying.

        Or even: being a away from family members who constantly yell, having the peace of mind that cannot be found at home, living in a place that doesn’t suck out your soul*, finding people who you can connect with and understand you, exposure to members of higher social classes, and being able to really focus on academic topics of interest.

        *Note that some college campuses will suck out your soul. Choose wisely.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Completely disjointed question (if you don’t mind): Within Scott’s tribes framework, acknowledging its limitations, problems, etc.

          What tribe do you identify more strongly with?

          • Anonymous says:

            Well. My parents are immigrants from a part of Europe that might as well have been third-world, have just a few years of formal schooling each, and were mainly employed in factory work before retiring.

            That said, I’m overeducated, under-employed, and lean liberal. I’d say blue tribe, but middle class America is just so . . . different, ya know?

            (BTW, I don’t think going to college necessarily means being in a great social environment/living situation, but it can be an improvement for some.)

          • Dahlen says:

            What tribe do you identify more strongly with?

            Let’s not. The more we’re going to start asking this about each other, the worse the SSC comment section is going to get.

            This whole tribal-warfare/kulturkampf thing is catnip to SSCers (*pleads guilty*), and, incidentally, poison to any community worth spending time in.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous:

            Thanks!

            @Dahlen

            Dude, chillax. What did you even think I was asking for?

          • Dahlen says:

            *shrugs* Anon’s “tribe”. Because you wanted to know. Dunno, never followed the discussion above, but I doubt anything good comes out of taking those categories at face value. They’re not real unless we make them real.

            But whatever you say, I’ll chillax and leave you alone to talk of tribes.

      • keranih says:

        Oh, yeah, the constantly being short of money, living in lousy housing, sleep deprivation, repeated cycles of sloth/procrastination/panic/rinse/repeat and constantly shifting your social circle as one semester ends and other begins are just awesome.

        And all the great sex? Sure – between repeatedly breaking up with people, drunken hookups where she/he refuses to return your calls the next day, the STDs and the pregnancy scares – aside from all that all the sex is great.

        I think it depends a great deal on the individual student’s situation.

        (My experience was not so bad as all that, but I was rural L3 and bounced off the “mold people into urban G2” like a red rubber ball. YMMV.)

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I didn’t exactly care for the intramural sports or “hypercharged sex life”, let alone the school pride or excellent libraries, and I didn’t exactly engage in wild partying (though I did go to a fair number of parties held by the main club I was part of, which was sort of a combination of a debate club and a fraternity) but overall I enjoyed my college experience.

      • It’s worth noting that college is a different experience for different people. Jacobian’s description doesn’t come close to fitting my experience at college. That was a long time ago, but it doesn’t fit my children’s more recent experience either, judging by their accounts.

        • Tibor says:

          Mine neither. His description seems to me like the way I imagine social science students to study (usually five years in Europe – 3 years of bachelor and 2 years of master). Not so much studying,a lot of partying, etc. I studied maths, mostly spending only as much time in Prague as I had to. When the last lecture of the week was over I traveled back home and on Monday early morning back to Prague, it is only about 50 minutes on the highway plus 25 minutes to get to the bus station form the centre so it was quite manageable. I had a girlfriend there in the second half of my studies (who was also the only girl I slept with during my studies) but I did this even before I met her.

          I guess it is also a bit different if you live in a campus but in Europe there are few such universities, usually you have the university buildings within the city. Also, typically you study within a driving distance from your hometown.

          I did not go to the library much, most of the lecture notes were available online for free at the websites of the lectures (who also wrote them) and the others I bought at the used books market (or online).

          I made a few friends during my studies but mostly kept the friends from before I started college (I met some new close friends during that time but none of them in Prague).

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        […] four years of good friends, interesting clubs, intramural sports, hypercharged sex life, excellent libraries, school pride, pretty campuses and a ton of partying.

        Damn, nice job making me feel like a piece of shit for actually reading journals, going to class and doing research.

        (Mostly kidding there.)

        But yeah, one more datapoint for “Animal House was not a documentary” here.

      • Psycicle says:

        2/8. The library and campus are nice. Few friends, no clubs, no sports, one somewhat sexual event, and one party that was rather mediocre. If college actually is the best years of my life, I might actually consider ending it if I didn’t have a life purpose more important to me than my own happiness.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Scott, how about tabooing accusations of posts being not true/kind/necessary? It seems to generate a substantial amount of largely contentless internal drama, and a (partly automated) procedure for notifying you about breaches of the policy already exists.

    • keranih says:

      FWIW, disagree.

      People should be able to publically address non-productive comments – and the community should be able to push back on that assessment, if other individuals disagree. Learning to deal with this strikes me as a valuable skill.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      Why not do away with the policy altogether? Both the true and the necessary categories are pretty much irrelevant by now, and “kind” is sort of the same as being “don’t be too much a dick”, which is pretty standard as far as comment policies go.

      I mean, we already have the Reign of Terror in place, so it’s not like adhering to the letter of the law will keep you safe anyway.

    • onyomi says:

      I have a comment on the interpretation of the policy:

      I think the “kindness” part should be understood as referring primarily to kindness and charitability towards the other commenters more than some abstract sense of “kindness.” Presumably if I said something mean about Hitler, for example, no one would object (except maybe in South Asia, apparently).

      What generally derails and ruins comment threads is not someone saying something mean about some public figure or historical thinker or whatever. It’s probably better to be nice and charitable to them as a general rule, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that if, for example, I think Marx is responsible for billions of deaths, that I should nonetheless be kind when talking about Marx.

      HBC above accused me of being unkind to Emma Watson. Maybe I was. I didn’t really think of it as an Emma Watson slam when I wrote it so much as a “celebrities who think being a celebrity automatically translates into being a thought leader and the supposed thought leaders who indulge them” slam. But I can understand how it could come off as unkind to Emma Watson. But the question is, is saying something a little mean about Emma Watson ruining the tenor of the comments section? I don’t think it is. If I were to say something gratuitously mean (not just critical) about HBC, however, that would more likely result in genuine derailing and the sort of argument which is uninteresting to anyone not directly involved.

      I think it is primarily avoidance of the latter sort of situation (along with, maybe, keeping out of the meanest sort of general comments) at which a comment policy should be aimed. Scott may disagree. For him it may be more about keeping out people who make nasty generalizations about [women, nerds, blacks, feminists…]. That’s important too, but again, perhaps largely because it always leads to non-productive discussion.

      Right now, I like SSC because the comments section is mostly free of the kind of ad hominem attack which infests most other online forums. But I think it is also possible to err too much on the supercilious, nitpicky side, especially when it is people other than the moderator doing the nitpicking. Almost everywhere else on the internet needs more policing for tone, but I think SSC already gets it about right and, if anything, errs more on the side of the nitpicky and uncharitable, not in terms of Scott’s own warnings and bans, which seem approximately correctly calibrated to me, but in terms of other commenters (and not just HBC).

      In particular, so long as we’re trying to be kind, honest, and on-topic, I’d like to see us be a bit more charitable. I find there is a considerable amount of nitpicking of the sort which, I think, wouldn’t happen if everyone were operating under the assumption that no SSC commenter is a stupid jerk. That is, let’s give people the benefit of the doubt that they are not evil racists, that they do not want to kill all police officers, that they do not harbor secret Nazi sympathies, etc.

      I think “be kind and charitable to one another” is probably the most important comment guideline I could think of, especially given the highly subjective nature of “necessary” and diverging opinions on what is “true.”

      • Gbdub says:

        I tend to agree – being to quick to accuse someone of being uncharitable can itself be uncharitable.

        That said if you think someone is being uncharitable (or unkind/untruthful/unnecessary), it’s fair to call them on it, but it should be of the form, “gee, I’m interpreting your comment to mean X, which seems bad because Y” rather than jumping to the conclusion that a post was intentionally offensive. If it’s really obvious just report it and move on.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ onyomi
        I think the “kindness” part should be understood as referring primarily to kindness and charitability towards the other commenters more than some abstract sense of “kindness.”

        An easy distinction. Other distinctions worth considering include:

        1) difference between abstract sense of “kindness” and other individual people

        2) difference between other people who comment here and other people who don’t

        3) difference between long-dead historical figures and Charlton Heston, er, current celebrities

        But the question is, is saying something a little mean about Emma Watson ruining the tenor of the comments section?

        Every little bit of meanness harms it.

        • onyomi says:

          “Every little bit of meanness harms it.”

          But a comment section with a 0 tolerance policy on snark would also potentially be boring/insufferable in its own way.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think Scott should try simply deleting more sub threads instead of blanket bans. I don’t think any of the commenters on that discussion should be banned, but it’s definitely a distraction from more productive conservation.

      Also, I would be ok with banning the word “fuck”. It usually implies hostility and escalates the situation.

      • Gbdub says:

        This seems like a good idea. A sports forum I frequent basically does that – if someone breaks the rules, the subthread gets nuked (or even the whole post locked). If someone was an obvious instigator or otherwise egregious, they can get their points docked or banned, but the other people involved also get served notice – “hey, your post got deleted – maybe you didn’t break the rules but you participated in a discussion that did, be more careful”.

        That seems more effective (and more Reign of Terror-y) than banning individuals on a site without real sign ins (plus everyone has a bad day now and then).

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      Practically speaking, these posts are either asking for Scott to do a lot more unpaid work, or applying for the position of commisar. How can this be expected to go over well?

    • Dahlen says:

      This reminds me of a funny RL norm I’ve read about recently, which seemed very relevant to the SSC audience.

      As long as these accusations do, in fact, correspond to a real phenomenon, anti-accusation norms serve to protect the collective self-congratulatory illusion that of course our comments are generally kind, true, and necessary, what calumny is this?, which leads to the t/k/n norm degenerating from enforceable ideal to polite fiction. A first step towards a norm existing and delivering the promised benefits is for people to 1) believe in it and 2) be willing to enforce it.

      On the other hand, the accusations can be themselves untrue, unkind, and unnecessary, even given the existence of comments which break the t/k/n policy, which state of affairs can be described by the dynamic of a race-to-the-bottom. You may have a point there. Perhaps the way out of this dilemma is for there to be a norm of people having to one-up each other in truth, kindness, and necessity when they’re making the accusation. Conspicuous signalling that not only do you disapprove of the norm being broken, but that you respect it yourself.

      • Nornagest says:

        I support any norm which leads us to inventing more hilarious euphemisms.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “Perhaps the way out of this dilemma is for there to be a norm of people having to one-up each other in truth, kindness, and necessity when they’re making the accusation.”

        I actually like that idea. But it really would take a great deal of finessing, community buy in and policing.

        Because the simple case is to devolve to “I know you are, but what am I”, which is never pleasant.

  19. Nomghost says:

    Does anyone else find it highly reassuring that most people don’t think about morality in a consequentialist framework?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I’m more reassured that most people don’t think about morality in a universalist framework.

      • Anonymous says:

        Is that not mostly the same thing?

        • Jon Gunnarsson says:

          Not at all. Universalism is perfectly compatible with deontology. For example the idea of natural rights is typically used in a universalist way. One can also be a consequentialist without subscribing to universalism.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        I don’t think it’s possible for humanity to survive for a long time if that were to happen.

        • onyomi says:

          I agree. The distance between “that which produces the best results is right” and “I know what will produce the best results” is too short.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      I’m either really relieved or really disturbed by most people not bothering to think much about morality at all, and I’m not sure which would be worse of me.

    • Dirdle says:

      Not really, no. It’d be like finding it reassuring that most people don’t measure distances in an SI framework, and like finding it reassuring that most people don’t appreciate art in a post-structuralist framework. Not identical to either of those things, but with elements of both.

      If people did think about morality, they’d mostly just decide to carry on with what they were doing anyway, so I don’t see any reason to expect any particularly bad outcome from people thinking about morality in a consequentialist framework. Having a well-thought-through philosophy of morality is (presumably) supererogatory, though maybe you could argue it’s a duty. And it seems virtuous to think about things deeply. So overall, I’m not really sure what there’d be to be worried about. Economic collapse due to everyone thinking too hard and doing too little? Seems unlikely.

    • Urstoff says:

      Yes and no. Yes, as consequentialism is usually paired with the standard human overconfidence that they know how to effect certain outcomes. No, because it means people typically using just a really ugly hodgepodge of moral intuitions, prejudices, and emotional reactions to make moral judgments.

    • Anon says:

      What’s this comment supposed to mean?

      Are you saying you’re glad that people with different values than you aren’t maximizing them? Or perhaps that most (all?) people are too stupid/irrational to get better results out of consequentialism than other moral theories/naive morality. Both?

    • blacktrance says:

      No, I find it to be a constant background source of frustration. It both makes interacting with people more difficult and makes the world a worse place.

    • Tom Richards says:

      I find it unsettling both that most people don’t think about morality in a consequentialist framework, and that they tend to be realists about it. However, the manner of its unsettlingness is very similar to the unsettlingness of I find in the non-rational roots of many beliefs and behaviours, and in all these categories of case I am aware that 1. I am frequently guilty of it myself and 2. Given how basically rubbish at thinking, inescapable lacking in data and prone to overconfidence people are, it’s not at all clear to me that a world that was not like this would in fact be preferable.

  20. Dan Peverley says:

    After picking it up again in a recent sale along with some other goodies, I’ve been sinking some time into Civilization 4 (Beyond the Sword), particularly a mod that is new to me, Fall from Heaven II. I’m a huge fan of the mechanics so far, the two civilizations I’ve tried (Grigori and Luchuirp) both played very differently, my experience with the mod is comparing very favorably against the better 4X games I’ve played (Alpha Centauri is my current favorite). I vaguely remember Scott and some other people enthusing about this mod in the past, any suggestions on fun match-ups between civs or unorthodox strategies to try?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I liked to run the orcs with a very light military and focus my production elsewhere, since the warrens allowed for extremely quick mobilization in the event of war.

    • Anonymous says:

      A few fun strategies remembered from my years playing the game:
      Magic orcs under Sheelba. With the right civics and Command Posts you can train adepts instantly ready to upgrade to mages. Fire and Body mana are both excellent.
      Hannah’s Super-City: With a bit of luck with positioning, you can make a truly ridiculous coastal city by building the City of a Thousand Slums and the tower that removes unhappiness (can’t remember the name, it’s an Overlords wonder)
      Cassiel’s surprise ascension: Set a city to maximize Great Prophets before casting your world spell in the lategame. You may be able to immediately begin building the final Altar of the Luonnotar.
      I also recommend you play at least one game as the Infernal, as they can be great fun. The aforementioned Hannah’s Super-City can be a good way to get them into the game as quickly as possible.

    • Randy M says:

      Very happy to hear that.
      I’ve always had a lot of fun with mimics while playing as the Balseraphs. I like randomness in games, though.

    • Chalid says:

      One fun thing is to play Hippus and put all your promotions into flanking. You can get ridiculously high retreat chance (IIRC you can even hit 95% by promoting fully upgraded horsemen to horse archers); you can take on tough opponents by first weakening them with your high retreat chance horses (which gain XP by retreating), followed by farming the now-weakened enemy with your fresh horsemen (which you then promote with more retreat odds…)

    • Jacobian says:

      Welcome to the best strategy game of all time 🙂 Not only do all the civs play differently, but so does each civ/religion combination.

      I mostly played on randomly generated maps, but I got my first win on deity by sending Loki to harass nearby opponents by blocking tiles and stealing workers early in the game.

  21. Stefan Drinic says:

    I’ve a bunch of questions I’ve been meaning to ask the readership here for a while, but I seem to get amnesia every time a new OT shows up, so they’ll end up being asked all over the place. Anyhow..

    .. How long do the people here think it’ll take for the baby boomers’ cultural influence being so strong to wane? I’ll define such a point as one where people stop calling the godfather the best movie ever, or when you don’t have people voting Queen into the top bands of all time for their radio stations just because.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      My vote is for when people quit waxing nostalgic for the ’60s, or quit comparing every geopolitical shitfight to Vietnam.

      Or, when the Boomers start dying off faster than they can loot the Treasury, whichever. 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      2060.

    • brad says:

      My parents are early boomers (’50 & ’51). They like bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. When I was growing up they used to listen to this oldies radio station in the car. Every year the station would have a top 500 songs countdown and every year “In the Still of the Night” would win and every year my parents would get annoyed. (That song came out in 1956 and is a silent generation hit rather than a boomer one.)

      This doesn’t answer your question, or even address it really, but your comment made me think of it.

      • stubydoo says:

        Wait that song was once mega-popular????

        To my 1970s born ears, it sound about as gloriously unremarkable as a song can possibly be. It always gave me the vibe of being the type of material that would’ve been pure radio filler from the get go. The same niche as the third best song on a Taylor Swift album these days.

        My estimation of how pleasant it would’ve been to be alive in 1956 has just gone way down.

    • et.cetera says:

      2025. Boomer influence is already beginning to wane.

    • BBA says:

      It’ll be gradual. I doubt there will be a watershed event like the “rural purge” that ended the dominance of prewar culture.

      But certainly some Boomer culture will survive – for instance, Queen really was one of the greatest bands of all time. Come at me bro. 😛

      • Dahlen says:

        But certainly some Boomer culture will survive – for instance, Queen really was one of the greatest bands of all time.

        I read this as “Bosmer culture” and was confused

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        Oh, this is me being curious more than me being actually annoyed/offended by such things, in the pop culture sense at least. I am convinced that twenty years from now people are still going to name Ocarina of Time the best gaem evar too, and kids then are going to be very annoyed at their parents insisting they are having fun the wrong way as well.

  22. hermanubis says:

    Has anyone been to Davos/know someone who’s gone? How sinister is it? On one hand you see pictures of Bill Gates talking to a Rothschild and the Premier of China, on the other you have a bunch of people listening to John Green talk about tumblr.

    • Sastan says:

      Which one of those examples was supposed to be the sinister one?

      • hermanubis says:

        I guess a better way to phrase it is how influential is it? Is there lots of policy planned and created? If Davos/Bilderberg didn’t happen how different would the regulatory/legal atmosphere be?

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Bilderberg

      • Deiseach says:

        Seeing as I have no idea about who the hell John Green is, I think the second one. I know Gates etc. and why they might be asked to that kind of get-together, but why ask (apparently this is what he is) an author of YA fiction? Either it’s in a spirit of “dance, monkey boy!” professional jester for the elite, or it’s in the spirit of “how do we tap into popular culture from a young and impressionable age to form the minds of our future drones and minions hope of change and progress in the world young people?”

        That’s much more sinister than “I have a large personal fortune” “Why, what a coincidence, so do I!” hobnobbing.

  23. akarlin says:

    1. In the spirit of discussing class differences, here are the 36 best quotes from Davos 2016.

    https://twitter.com/strana_mechty/status/694071880605683712

    Heh.

    John Schilling on that star with the unexplained dimming

    My current pet theory is that it is not so much an alien superstructure as the ruins of one.

    http://www.unz.com/akarlin/kic-8462852/

  24. Thank you very much (Scott and Sniffoy both) for the mention! I laughed a lot.

    I wrote more specifically about class at https://meaningness.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/buddhist-ethics-is-advertising/#class and at https://meaningness.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/buddhist-ethics-a-tantric-critique/#class . The latter valorizes both the working class and the aristocracy against the middle class, which some might find contrarian. It also advocates basic guaranteed income and dancing naked around bonfires.

  25. Anon. says:

    One of the most interesting facts about the human body is that brain size a) varies wildly between individuals, and b) explains very little variation in intelligence. There have been people with tiny brains in the far far far right tail of the distribution. That said, there seems to be a threshold effect below which you get really bad results. The point is: it’s all about the algorithms(/organization), not the neuron count. But why? Is it that once a NN reaches a certain number of neurons the marginal value of an additional neuron drops significantly? And what does this tell us about strong AI? Increasing computational power is easy, but improving algorithms/structure seems like something that would have hard limits.

    Perhaps certain structures _do_ have the ability to scale well with computational power, but they’re not present in the human brain?

    • Anonymous says:

      >One of the most interesting facts about the human body is that brain size a) varies wildly between individuals, and b) explains very little variation in intelligence.

      Meaning there’s a positive correlation but a huge variance?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      The problem with “people with tiny brains in the far far far right tail of the distribution” is that you generally can’t weigh the brains of living people and we’re understandably unwilling to kill geniuses in their prime for that purpose. Geniuses like Einstein whose brains have been measured were typically octogenarians or older, and we know that you lose a huge amount of brain matter as you age: it’s not at all clear how large Einstein’s brain was in 1905.

      • Anon. says:

        Unless geniuses lose more brain matter than non-geniuses it seems like a straight-forward thing to model.

        • Murphy says:

          Thing is: we don’t know that. For all we know geniuses could have more optimized pathways with fewer remaining living cells but might require larger brains initially.

      • stubydoo says:

        I guess I’d casually kind-of assumed that you can infer brain size based on the dimensions of the skull. But apparently not.

    • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

      It seems obvious to me that a certain neuron count “n” is necessary but not sufficient for intelligence. Surely, understand that a fork bomb can cripple even a supercomputer.

      Tangent: afaik the brain is most highly optimized for energy efficiency. I think the reason nature hasn’t made our brains any larger isn’t because “adding neurons no longer makes us smarter”, but because “the brain already consumes 20% of the body’s oxygen; adding even more neurons will cripple muscles, etc.”. (That, and because the head has to fit through a birth canal.)

      improving algorithms/structure seems like something that would have hard limits.

      This is what Computer Science is for: finding the {algorithms, data-structures} with the fastest {hard, average} limits (regardless of hardware). Everything revolves around Big O Notation. The goal is usually O(n^2) or lower, because anything higher than O(n^2) is unfeasible.

      For example. If you were to ask someone to sort a grocery list alphabetically, most people would use Bubblesort. On average, this is O(n^2). But a faster algorithm is Quicksort. On average, this method is O(n log n).