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OT49: Open Secret

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

1. Bakkot has made a new script that allows people to filter out SSC comments by specific users they don’t want to read (including Anonymous). You can get it here for Chrome and here for Firefox.

2. I’m still trying to figure out how to relieve pressure on the open threads. I’m moving away from the idea of a forum (which wasn’t too popular) to having more regular open threads on the blog. I just need to figure out how to make it not clutter and detract from regular threads. One possibility would be to have even-numbered open threads have pictures and announcements and so on, and odd-numbered open threads be just the words “this is the open thread” so that it doesn’t take up as much room in feeds and the front page. A more interesting possibility: have the open thread be a hidden post like this. There would be a tab on the top, by the Comments tag and the About tag and all the others, that says Open Thread. It would link to whatever the hidden open thread was. After 1000 comments, some bot would automatically post a new hidden open thread and the location to which the tab directed would change. That way there would always be an open thread with fewer than 1000 comments. Would people use this? Would anybody want to program this for me?

3. Best comments of the week are people trying to explain mutational load to me, including Simon here, Gwern here, Ilai Bar-Natan here with a really interesting point that sexual reproduction is necessary to control mutational load (is this widely agreed and appreciated? should it be?), and Rosalind Arden (author of some of the papers my post cited) here.

4. Note a new advertisement by Numerai, which describes itself as “participatory cybernetic finance” and “an attempt at a hedge fund crowd-sourcing stock market predictions”. It offers prizes for algorithms that can predict a dataset they provide which corresponds to some features of the stock market that they plan to make money off of. I kind of thought the sort of people who have AIs that can predict the stock market would probably be, uh, busy with other things, but apparently this is a well-investigated field with a lot of possible incremental progress.

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1,144 Responses to OT49: Open Secret

  1. Holy smokes, I’ve been to that bunker.

  2. Galle says:

    In honor of this recent post to Scott’s Tumblr, I’ve decided to add some levity here with a few bug fixing stories from my CK2 modding career. Maybe I can get Uriel’s opinion on these, I don’t know.

    * Early in the development of A Game of Thrones, the North had a small fleet at White Harbor. Unfortunately, the AI determines whether or not to launch an amphibious invasion based purely on the distance to the target and whether it owns a fleet, ignoring minor details like whether or not it actually has enough ships to carry its army. This resulted in Eddard Stark spending the entirety of Robert’s Rebellion taking his army to the beach.

    * We used a small program to automatically create filler characters to populate long, boring stretches of history. Unfortunately, when we populated Essos, it went haywire, and half the continent wound up under the control of a newborn girl – so newborn, in fact, that she would not be born for another three hundred years. The source of the problem was eventually traced to an integer overflow error in the generated character IDs. The girl got the Genius and Ambitious traits in the bug’s honor.

    * Crisis of the Confederation extends the average human lifespan compared to vanilla. It also adds cloning as an option. Needless to say, I had to fuck extensively with the AI to get it into a position where the galactic population could maintain some sort of equilibrium, instead of ballooning to 100,000 people and slowing the game to a crawl.

    * Early on, I tried to have cloning directly copy the clone donor’s DNA string. It turns out you can’t do this – the game interprets “DNA = ROOT” as setting DNA to the literal string “ROOT”. Because DNA strings are eleven characters long, this has… effects. As in, people with no mouths and glowing monocolored eyes.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      “We used a small program to automatically create filler characters to populate long, boring stretches of history.” Adaptations don’t get much more faithful than this!

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      “looks at Scott’s comment”. Yeah, Paradox patch logs in general (and CK2 in particular) are a good source of humor.

  3. Ruprect says:

    I’m not circumcised, but whenever i take a widdle, I pull the foreskin back to ensure minimal splashing. Anyway, when the pee-pee comes straight out of the urethra it spins. Like… my urine is clearly spinning – as you would imagine a somewhat rectangular stream of liquid to spin.
    Does everyone’s urethra produce that kind of spinny urine?
    Should I go to the doctor?

  4. NN says:

    Over on the Subreddit, someone brought up what I have come to conclude is a huge problem with the current state of heritability studies: why doesn’t the Flynn effect show up as a shared environment effect in these studies?

    We know that the average IQ in America has increased 15 points over the last 50 years. This is far too fast for genetic changes to be responsible, so that means that some sort of differences between the environment of America today and the environment of America 50 years ago are responsible for an entire standard deviation difference in IQ. While we don’t know what environmental conditions are, in fact, responsible for the Flynn effect, there are a few things that seem to logically follow from these facts:

    1) The environmental conditions responsible for the Flynn effect will be the same for children raised in the same household, or at least they will be positively correlated. The reasons for this are obvious, so I won’t go into them.

    2) The environmental conditions responsible for the Flynn effect will vary widely between households across the US. Every single proposed explanation for the Flynn effect is known to be highly variant across space. Lead levels vary widely because old houses are more likely to have lead paint than new houses, because before leaded gasoline was phased out urban areas had far more gasoline fumes than rural areas, because of the things that resulted in the Flint water crisis, and so on. Nutrition quality varies widely across the US, as can be seen in this county level map of food insecurity rates. Some neighborhoods have better schools than others. Some families adopt new technology earlier than others do, as demonstrated by the fact that even today a fifth of American households do not have regular internet access. Et cetera.

    3) Because of 1 and 2, if heritability studies are working as intended, then variation in the environmental conditions responsible for the Flynn effect should be detected as shared environment effects. Again, the changes in these environmental factors, whatever they are, in America from the 1960s until today has been enough to increase average IQ by an entire standard deviation. How could studies miss something that powerful?

    Some people might bring up research that allegedly shows that the Flynn effect isn’t real, it doesn’t affect the g factor, or other stuff along those lines. That is completely irrelevant. We know that the Flynn effect strongly impacts scores on the same IQ tests that are used by lots of heritability studies. Yet if my impression of the state of heritability research is correct, those heritability studies show little if any shared environment effects on IQ. Even if IQ is totally irrelevant and g is the only thing that matters and the Flynn effect has no impact on g, this still seems like a glaring contradiction.

    Similar things could be said about other historical changes. For example, we know that some sort of change in environmental factors has caused crime rates to plummet in the US in the last 20 years. Again, whatever caused this drop must vary substantially from place to place, so why doesn’t that show up in heritability studies on criminality?

    • Anon. says:

      The shift is uniform across the entire distribution, so #2 is not a good assumption.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The environmental conditions responsible for the Flynn effect will vary widely between households across the US. Every single proposed explanation for the Flynn effect

      That is putting the cart before the horse. First, ask: did the Flynn effect itself vary from place to place? I think that the answer is no, except maybe for a small rural/urban divide. Similarly, did the changes in crime rate vary from place to place? Well, yes, they did, because crime rates vary from neighborhood to neighborhood a lot more than IQ. But a lot of that is demographic change. At a coarser level that averages out neighborhoods, it was fairly uniform, though with a rural/urban effect.

      You seem to assume that the smooth national Flynn effect is due to averaging out more abrupt effects that happened in different places at different times. But wikipedia says that it was pretty linear in time in both Des Moines and Dumfries. Are these small enough places?

      Here is an environmental effect that was pretty uniform across the nation: the baby boom. I estimate that if we measure homicide per youth rather than homicide per capita, that explains away 20% of the increase and 20% of the decline. That leaves 80% a real effect, but the demographics themselves could have changed people’s behavior. I don’t put a lot of stock in this explanation, but I just want to propose to you a single explanation that is totally uniform so that you won’t say such sweeping things in the future. (Actually, the baby boom was not entirely uniform. It happened to Germany a decade or two after it happened to the winners. So there’s a test of this hypothesis.)

      • NN says:

        First, ask: did the Flynn effect itself vary from place to place?

        Yes, it did and does. The magnitude of the Flynn effect varies significantly between countries. I haven’t been able to find any US state level Flynn effect data, but given the difference in the Flynn effect between countries as geographically close and culturally similar as France and Belgium, the existence of variation between different US regions seems highly likely.

        Regardless, you are missing the point. Even assuming that the changes brought by the Flynn effect were exactly the same across the US, it would still be absurd to suggest that the underlying environmental causes were exactly the same across the US at every point in time. And because we know that these underlying environmental factors have strong effects on IQ, because we know that they have caused a massive increase in IQ scores over the past 100 years, then those variations from place to place should cause variation in IQ scores.

        Here is an environmental effect that was pretty uniform across the nation: the baby boom.

        No it wasn’t. This CDC report from 1950 says that while births increased across the board, the rate of increase varied substantially between geographic regions (page 89: “The increase [in birth rates] between 1940 and 1950 varied from 8 percent in the East South Central to 42 percent in the Pacific Division.”).

        But even assuming that it was, during any given year birth rates still varied significantly from household to household, neighborhood to neighborhood, region to region, etc. So any “birth rate effects” should likewise vary from place to place.

  5. Jaskologist says:

    Moral dilemma time, especially for those here who concern themselves with animal suffering.

    There is a bird nest on the side of my house. One of the three eggs is a cuckoo egg. What, if anything, should I do?

    (Seriously)

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Kill the cuckoo. They are disgusting parasites.

      • suntzuanime says:

        please be kind to disgusting parasites 🙁

      • Hedonic Treader says:

        “They are disgusting parasites.”

        An astonishing judgment from someone who called the idea that suicidal people should be turned into rightless slaves “incredibly charming”.

        If that’s not parasitism, I don’t know what is.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      What do you care about? Do you care about animal suffering? Do you find parasitism inherently disgusting? The cuckoo will not cause pain, but will present a superstimulus to the victim. It seems to me like it would take a lot of understanding to determine if this produces suffering. Maybe it will produce a conflict in the bird brain, which might count as suffering, or maybe it will just take over, which wouldn’t.

      Cuckoos are pretty and make nice sounds. What does the victim bid?

      • Jaskologist says:

        Cuckoo chicks usually evict their “siblings” from the nest, killing them.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          You will definitely produce less pain by evicting the eggs earlier rather than later. I don’t think that pain in death is an important part of suffering, though.

    • Vorkon says:

      I think you should respect a bird’s Right to Choose.

      /troll

      • Vorkon says:

        (FYI, I’m only half joking here. The main concern here seems to be whether or not the welfare of the unhatched eggs counts as suffering that should be prevented. If you think it does, it’s better to save the other eggs. If you don’t, then it’s better to let nature take its course.)

    • keranih says:

      Quit trying to impose your human solution on the established and free-living bird society, you imperialist colonizer.(/sarc)

      But seriously – cuckoos are not at risk of exterminating any other sparrow-type species. You (and the rest of Creation) will likely get the most utility out of observing what happens next, and expanding your data set on natural interactions of non-human species.

      Without lots more data, Prime Directive is the way to go.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Hey now, don’t go mistaking me for one of those city-slickers. I’m well aware of how red in tooth and claw nature is.

        I’m not much interested in animal welfare in general, but I’m curious how those who are view the situation, which seems to me to be a natural trolley problem.

        • Alex says:

          From a evolutionary game-theoretic POV, we must be in a stable or near stable state of the battle between cuckoos and everyone else.

          What would be an evolutionary game theoretic answer to the trolley problem?

        • Agronomous says:

          I don’t remember if it’s cuckoos, but there is some species of bird with that strategy (lay an egg in the nest of another species) that sticks around and checks whether their egg is still there.

          If it’s missing, the adult parasite bird destroys all the host bird’s eggs anyway.

          I’m impressed by everyone’s restraint in refusing to draw political analogies, by the way.

          • Vorkon says:

            And I’m disappointed that you failed to notice my questionably appropriate political analogy, right above this. ;_;

  6. Ruprect says:

    On the previous thread, I made the following comment, which was (more or less) politely ignored. I was wondering if anyone could help me out by politely (or impolitely) destroying it?

    “I honestly feel like I’ve got a better understanding of morality than most people (in that I don’t feel anyone has been able to demonstrate where I’m mistaken).
    So… this is morality – it’s basically egoism – the … moral innovation is to realize that it’s in your own self interest to imagine that other people (weird shapes and sound that give you food) are the same as you. Other people cannot exist, in any meaningful sense, except as an extension of our own emotional state – THEY DON’T EXIST – there is just your feelings projected onto some sights and sounds which are imposed on you. But if you don’t consider others to be the same as you, your life sucks. That is the moral message, that is how everything ties together… also puddle glum.”

    • Anonymous says:

      It sounds like a combination of:
      1) I can’t prove the strong form of metaphysical skeptism is untrue but everything is far more interesting if I assume it.
      2) Some odd is/ought confusion layered on top along with a proto-utilitarianism
      3) A grandiose claim to understand morality better than most

      #1 is near universally held by philophers afaik. The rest isn’t terribly interesting.

      If I remember correctly, last time this was coupled to some claim about being able to prove Christianity true or something like that. That probably explains the lack of responses. Most people have learned that it is fruitless to engage with people claiming to be bearing proofs of their religion’s veracity.

      • Ruprect says:

        I’m not really too sure what you are saying with (1) – that I sound as if I am assuming metaphysical skepticism, or assuming it is untrue.

        Anyway – my view is that knowledge is association of sense data – it’s simply a fact of life, nothing to be skeptical about. The extent to which our capacity for knowledge determines the details of that knowledge is an open question.

        Not too sure on the other points – I’m certainly not advocating utilitarianism – that strikes me as the moral position of people who’ve misunderstood the nature of morality – but perhaps I’m missing something about the implications of what I am saying.

    • Alex says:

      I honestly feel like I’ve got a better understanding of morality than most people

      Your understanding is not that unique.

      (in that I don’t feel anyone has been able to demonstrate where I’m mistaken).

      This, if true, would prove at most “equally well”, not “better”.

      “I honestly feel like I’ve got a better understanding of morality than most people (in that I don’t feel anyone has been able to demonstrate where I’m mistaken).
      So… this is morality – it’s basically egoism – the … moral innovation is to realize that it’s in your own self interest to imagine that other people (weird shapes and sound that give you food) are the same as you. Other people cannot exist, in any meaningful sense, except as an extension of our own emotional state – THEY DON’T EXIST – there is just your feelings projected onto some sights and sounds which are imposed on you.

      This is certainly not a new idea. Depending on your philosophy it is a somewhat accurate description of what we call reality. Also it is useless for most purposes.

      But if you don’t consider others to be the same as you, your life sucks. That is the moral message, that is how everything ties together… also puddle glum.”

      You lost me there. How does this follow from the previous? Who preaches this morality? How does it tie in with millenia of thoughts on ethics?

      • Ruprect says:

        “This, if true, would prove at most “equally well”, not “better”.”

        Strict. If no-one has been able to beat me at tennis, that could mean that everyone has exactly the same level of skill as me and we always tie, or it could mean that I’m better than most people. I don’t think it’s completely mad to assume the latter.

        I don’t understand why it is useless – could you expand on that?

        “You lost me there. How does this follow from the previous? Who preaches this morality? How does it tie in with millenia of thoughts on ethics?”
        It’s a matter of good taste. Wouldn’t a solipsistic life, one without any projection of feelings or emotion, be terrible? It really would just be sound and fury; signifying nothing. And, I guess, the whole explains existing ethical theories as stories that are either more or less appealing.

        • Alex says:

          Strict. If no-one has been able to beat me at tennis, that could mean that everyone has exactly the same level of skill as me and we always tie, or it could mean that I’m better than most people. I don’t think it’s completely mad to assume the latter.

          I’m really not sure that a tennis match is an accurate analogy for understanding. If you state e. g. that moon orbits earth and nobody can prove you wrong, this does not imply that you have superior understanding of the fact. It is a fact that most people understand.

          Also both in a maximum likelyhood sense and in an Occam’s razor sense the better model is that nobody cares about your morality skills or your tennis skills and therefore nobody bothers beating you.

          If you really were serious about the other stuff, that should have occured to you.

          I don’t understand why it is useless – could you expand on that?

          Because it is of no consequence.

          It’s a matter of good taste. Wouldn’t a solipsistic life, one without any projection of feelings or emotion, be terrible?

          TBH I think you might be a bad case of “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room”. Either this is a strawman or you frequent very shallow people.

          It really would just be sound and fury; signifying nothing.

          Which surprises precisely nobody. Have you read Camus or Sartre or something?

          And, I guess, the whole explains existing ethical theories as stories that are either more or less appealing.

          Can you enumerate some theories. We seem to be aware of different subsets of those.

          • Ruprect says:

            “I’m really not sure that a tennis match is an accurate analogy for understanding. If you state e. g. that moon orbits earth and nobody can prove you wrong, this does not imply that you have superior understanding of the fact. It is a fact that most people understand.”

            I would say that a tennis match might represent a debate, and tennis skill might represent understanding. So either everyone (with an interest) agrees with me, or I have a better understanding than most people. I’m not sure which of those is more conceited – but the second seems more likely.

            “Also both in a maximum likelyhood sense and in an Occam’s razor sense the better model is that nobody cares about your morality skills or your tennis skills and therefore nobody bothers beating you.”

            If I was launching my scud-missile serves at random passers by, then yes, that might be reasonable. If I’m at the tennis club, less so. If *nobody* was interested in beating me at tennis, then it’d be a pretty good bet that I *was* better at tennis than most people (because people with no interest in tennis don’t tend to be particularly good at it).

            “Because it is of no consequence.”
            Meta-ethics is of no consequence. I suppose that depends on how much you think about things.

            “Which surprises precisely nobody.”

            Well… I was answering your question. I lost you with “if you don’t consider others to be the same as you, your life sucks.” And, now your having a go at me for stating the obvious!
            So, the idea that solipsism is completely unattractive is so obvious to you to be unworthy of stating. Cool… but at the same time, you have to state the obvious – in the most concise way possible – to make sure all of your bases are covered.

            So, if it’s obvious that we shouldn’t be solipsists for reasons of taste, the only question remaining is how far we should/can project our emotions onto others. So ethics. We don’t have ethical obligations to those who are not like us, but, phenomenologically speaking, the extent to which “others” are like us is the extent to which we choose to project our feelings onto a certain shape and sound. Then, on an intellectual level we say that those projections are “true” (which might be entirely meaningless?).
            So, I think if you are a utilitarian, you’re looking at an impersonal morality, you “assume” intellectually that others exist, but since these others aren’t actually associated with a projection of your own sense, they don’t (on a phenomenological level) represent much at all (besides vague happy feelings at getting the ‘top score’?).
            If you follow more traditional ethical codes, you have a duty to treat an individual in a certain way, because that individual *is you*. So, christiany deontology is the result of good taste and egotistical consequentialism.
            So while utilitarianism might appeal in the same way as candy-crush saga does, on a more fundamental level… it isn’t related to anything real, and that undermines its appeal.

          • Alex says:

            So either everyone (with an interest) agrees with me, or I have a better understanding than most people. I’m not sure which of those is more conceited – but the second seems more likely.

            I find it _very_ much more probable that it is the former. No sane person would explicitly disagree with you on the part I called “somewhat true but not useful”. For the Rest of this post, lets call that part of your initial post [*], so that I can refer to it. Some things cannot be proven or disproven and therefore it is best to file them away as a philosophy, but keep in mind where you filed them.

            If you really experience [*] as something outstanding that only few people but you have ever thought of (or what do you mean by better understanding?) you are with the wrong people. Sorry. You did not comment on this idea though. I wonder why?

            If *nobody* was interested in beating me at tennis, then it’d be a pretty good bet that I *was* better at tennis than most people (because people with no interest in tennis don’t tend to be particularly good at it).

            Or that a game of philosophy is very unlike a game of tennis. Or that you enter the philosophers’ club, whatever that is, with the conception that it has to work like the tennis club and are then surprised that you are ignored (as a philosopher would be in the tennis club). But seriously: argument by analogy will only get us so far and we should probably stop.

            Meta-ethics is of no consequence. I suppose that depends on how much you think about things.

            I’m not sure if I’m missing a subtle insult here. Be this as may.

            It is the hallmark of absurdism, as covered by [*], that it is, well, absurd, i. e. of no consequence. You seem to have arrived at the (mis?)conception that absurdism defies ethics. This is a very well known problem. I suggest you read de Beauvoir: “The Ethics of Ambiguity”.

            I lost you with “if you don’t consider others to be the same as you, your life sucks.” And, now your having a go at me for stating the obvious!

            No no. There really is a misunderstanding going on here. I swear, I did not want to treat you unfairly. Life, as per [*], actually _is_ “just sound and fury; signifying nothing.” [As an aside: signifying nothing and being of no consequence seem to be the same thing. Are we really disagreeing here?] This is not a new or surprising idea to anyone with an interest in the field. Like I said, it even has a name: the Absurd.

            However from human life being absurd, or realizing this, it does not follow that “your life sucks”. Suggested Reading: Camus: “The Myth of Sisyphus”

            So, if it’s obvious that we shouldn’t be solipsists for reasons of taste …

            This is not the part ouf your idea I declared as obvious [and omitted: to a well read person]. An ethics derived from taste, if you allow that to be replaced with “aesthetics” is a different idea from what we discussed so far. However it is in de Beauvoir’s book. So my verdict is “less obvious, but also not new”.

            Insofar as you are interested in your own superiority for whatever reasons, yes, partly reinventing de Beauvoir without her background probably is no easy feat. Congratulations. But I still think you could have put that intellectual effort to a better use.

            Insofar as you are interested in your sujet for its own sake you really really should read de Beauvoir and continue from there. And perhaps reconsider your choice of a philosophers’ club.

          • Ruprect says:

            Hmmm… well… I can’t say I’ve ever been much of a one for reading philosophy books, but thanks for the suggestions. Maybe some day!

            Anyway, regarding the side-discussion about my high opinion of my own ethical understandings – in conclusion – it is likely that every well read person (and by ‘well read’ we mean people who have read and understood Satre and Camus) agrees with me.
            And, actually, about half of what I was saying isn’t obvious at all even to them.

            So… that doesn’t really contradict the statement “I have a better understanding of morality than most people” (obviously depending on your definition of “most” and “people”).

            This shall be my new philosophy club.

  7. dndnrsn says:

    @ChetC3:

    Or you could believe that self-serving confabulation is the path of least resistance, but it’s still possible with effort for people to do better. That’s what rationality, in the non-tribal sense, is supposed to be about.

    Yes. That’s the ideal. It’s a good ideal, it’s an ideal worth reaching for, and I don’t subscribe to the view “we can’t reach objectivity/rationality/whatever, so we shouldn’t try, and anyone saying we should is deluded/bad”, or even outright “objectivity/rationality doesn’t exist”. But it definitely seems like becoming aware of logical fallacies, common errors in human thinking and perception, etc, is something where it’s easiest to spot the mote in someone else’s eye. If the people supposedly dedicated to this can’t reliably do it, who can?

    I suppose I’ve become increasingly pessimistic about the question “how close can we get to reaching that ideal”, but the alternatives are all worse.

  8. dndnrsn says:

    So onyomi’s use of the word “radical” above twigged something I’ve been thinking about, and commented on before, which is that the word “radical” gets tossed around quite a bit, both as a pejorative and as a self-description, when it isn’t appropriate.

    A radical is generally someone who advocates extreme and fundamental change. Freddie deBoer, our favourite grumpy leftist who doesn’t like Beyonce enough is a radical – his latest article provides near the end a good encapsulation of how:

    One can imagine a new America where the ranks of human hierarchy have been jumbled but the existence of hierarchy has been preserved. This is not a future worth pursuing. I didn’t get interested in politics to become a member of an elect, or to decide who deserves to be within the elect, but to help tear down the very notion of an elect.

    In contrast to this, a lot of people who are called, or call themselves, radicals, aren’t. An example of the former is when the term “radical feminist” gets applied (as a pejorative) to people who are, when you get down to it, liberal feminists: they want to work within the system to change the system, not tear the system down. Some of them might hold positions that are extreme, but “extreme” and “radical” are different things.

    An example of the latter is left-wing (often student) activists who describe themselves as radicals, but when you look at their list of demands or whatever, it basically just involves jumbling, as DeBoer puts it, the “ranks of human hierarchy” but still preserving its existence. Assuming this site is legitimate if you look at the various demands, you see a lot of stuff like a push for more faculty and students from underrepresented groups, mandatory courses/training in various subjects, money to be put towards various student resources, etc. These positions may hold merit – being a tenured university professor, for instance, is a sweet job, and I can’t blame groups underrepresented among their ranks for wanting more of that particular pie – but they aren’t radical. A more diverse faculty lounge isn’t radical – burning the motherfucker down would be radical.

    So, why did “radical” come to be used in this way, both negatively and positively?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Probably in the same way that religious fundamentalist now means religious extremist to most of the populace.

      What was originally a neutral or positive self-description by a group picks up pejorative connotation due to the group’s image, then it gets generalized to anyone remotely similar to said group. A social democrat and an anarchist are both Marxists, the same way that a Catholic and a born-again protestant are both Christians, so it’s tempting for outsiders to lump them all in as radicals or fundies respectively.

      • dndnrsn says:

        That’s probably correct in regards to the outsiders identifying them as something. Perhaps the self-identification is a reaction to that? “The people we dislike say we’re radicals, so we’re radicals”?

    • “A radical is generally someone who advocates extreme and fundamental change.”

      I sometimes describe myself as a radical, since my ultimate objective is a society without a government. A very long time ago I had a column in a conservative student magazine–I was the libertarian columnist–under the title “The Radical.”

      But I also sometimes describe myself as a conservative anarchist, since I don’t think moving to such a society rapidly is practical.

    • Anonymous says:

      Most of the time that liberal feminists are called radical, it is in your sense. There are many systems and two people can want to destroy different ones. They can also disagree about what systems even exist. TERFs want to preserve a system of gender identity, even if they want to overthrow a system of gender relations.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The impression that I’ve gotten is that some TERFs want to get rid of gender roles as we understand them now (or, even of identity?) and object to trans people (especially trans women) because they see them as reinforcing those gender roles. On the other hand, some seem primarily to object to the idea of people they don’t consider women entering women’s spaces.

    • Nornagest says:

      “Radical” when applied to feminism doesn’t mean quite what it does in the rest of politics: it refers to a specific type of feminism, which believes that the current system of gender roles is inherently oppressive. (I believe TERFs fit in here thanks to the assumption of gender role that tends to come with trans identity, but we’re getting a little outside my wheelhouse now.) In contrast with e.g. radical socialism it is silent on means, and many radical feminists aren’t aiming for anything especially drastic as a short-term policy goal.

      • Anonymous says:

        The radical in radical feminism refers to the theory that patriarchy is the radical of all evil. Having a theory about the root is not the same as desiring to root it out, but it leads there pretty naturally. And I think radical usually refers to such ultimate revolutionary desire, regardless of whether one desires revolution in the short-term, or even has a short-term plan at all.

      • dndnrsn says:

        But there certainly do exist radical feminists who want to tear down gender roles, by various means: eg, back in the 70s, you had authors playing with the idea of abolishing the family as we know it. That seems pretty radical to me.

        • Nornagest says:

          Sure, there are radical feminists that do have extreme aims in the short term. Wasn’t trying to imply that there aren’t, only that it isn’t a necessary condition.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I didn’t mean in the long term or the short term, merely that they are not necessarily silent on means. Someone who says “it sure would be nice if there were no gender roles forced on people” is likely to have some ideas as to how to get there.

          The Wikipedia article states,

          Radical feminists seek to abolish patriarchy by challenging existing social norms and institutions, rather than through a purely political process.

          and

          Radical feminists seek to abolish patriarchy, and believe that the way to do this and to deal with oppression of any kind is to address the underlying causes of it through revolution.

          I think this fits a generic conception of “radical” set in opposition to “liberal”. Someone whose solution is 50% quotas for women on boards of directors and in parliament and changing the burden of proof in criminal courts for sexual assault cases might be extreme but they aren’t radical.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think the article’s mention of revolution is wrong or at least misleading, w.r.t. modern radical feminism (that description might have been more accurate in the Seventies). It’s right about aiming to overthrow the patriarchy; patriarchy talk is something of a tell here. But many radical feminists seem perfectly comfortable with political processes, as we’ve seen in the recent Title IX controversy.

            I was trying to outline some differences between overthrowing a cultural/social institution (viz. “patriarchy”) and overthrowing a formal, political one, which is what “radical” generally points to elsewhere. I don’t think we disagree on that?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest: But by that standard pretty much all feminists today are radical. Very few feminists haven’t taken aim at the patriarchy, one way or another, and haven’t aimed at changing culture/society.

            The activists behind the Title IX stuff seem happy with incrementalism (ie, if all goes well in the universities, a push will be made outside of universities), which characterizes liberal activism, in contrast to radical activism.

            EDIT: No, we don’t disagree – although overthrowing something cultural/social would probably involve overthrowing various political structures.

            As an extreme example, according to Wikipedia:

            Because of their commitment to radical egalitarianism, most early radical feminist groups operated initially without any formal internal structure. When informal leadership developed, it was often resented. Many groups ended up expending more effort debating their own internal operations than dealing with external matters, seeking to “perfect a perfect society in microcosm” rather than focus on the larger world. Resentment of leadership was compounded by the view that all “class striving” was “male-identified”. In the extreme, exemplified by The Feminists, the upshot, according to Ellen Willis, was “unworkable, mechanistic demands for an absolutely random division of labor, taking no account of differences in skill, experience, or even inclination”. “The result,” writes Willis, “was not democracy but paralysis.” When The Feminists began to select randomly who could talk to the press, Ti-Grace Atkinson quit the organization she had founded.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Radical Republicans are a good early example of radical meaning extreme. I think what happened was that abolition is radical in your sense, and the word radical came to be a short-hand for abolitionist, and the Radical Republicans used the word to imply that the other Republicans were not really abolitionists.

      As for students, the repetition of the phrase student radical in the 60s turned it into idiom divorced from its constituents and now meaning simply student activist.

  9. onyomi says:

    Re. the idea that Americans are “steeped in right wing propaganda” like fish in water, what about the triumphalist, “end of history”-type narrative of American history everyone still receives in school? My memory (and I went to a private Catholic high school in a red state, not a blue state public school, btw) was that all of American history was a succession of stories of the format: we tried the Articles of Confederation but realized we needed more centralized government; John Marshall was a great legal “innovator,” we tried having laissez-faire but then FDR showed us we needed the New Deal…

    • BBA says:

      Right-wing doesn’t mean libertarian. Even going back to when the Dunning School was dominant, I doubt there were any textbooks treating the Whiskey Rebellion sympathetically. (And if you’re going to call the Dunning School left-wing, the term has no meaning.)

  10. Hlynkacg says:

    Edit: accidental double post

  11. Jobin says:

    I’ve been reading SSC for probably 6 months to a year, but despite that, I still feel new here. I have enjoyed reading a number of the blog posts, but I am still trying to figure out what it is that is going on here. I guess I’m looking for context. A lot of lingo gets thrown around, especially in the comments section, and references to a larger rationality community. I’ve gone back and read some of the Yudkowsky Sequences posts, and read lots of internet generally, but I’m not enmeshed. I would be grateful for any useful signposts:

    1) After reading this and the Yudkowsky Sequences, and Thing of Things, what is the fourth related thing to read?

    2) I’ve read most of the SSC top posts. Many of these are interesting and thought-provoking on their own. My next reaction is to wonder how they integrate and relate. A good place to look for that?

    3) For understanding this community, to what extent are the ideas in the Sequences posts ideas that underlie the discussion here? (E.g., is it fair to judge ideas by whether or not they enable winning? Is most people’s purpose here to improve their map? Or just an interesting place to argue on the internet?)

    4) To the extent that the lingo of this community is unique, is there a glossary somewhere?

    • Hlynkacg says:

      In regards to 1 I think you’re pretty well covered. 2 and 3 are good questions without universal agreed-upon answers. Ask three different people and you are liable to get three different responses, sorry I can’t be more help. In regards to 4 I think someone was working on a FAQ/Glossary at some point but I don’t know what became of it. If you’ve read most of the “top posts” already you should know enough to figure out the rest. That said if there is a specific term or concept you’re having trouble with feel free to someone ask about it.

      Finally, welcome to the party.

    • Alex says:

      1-4) Most topics here not actually that specific to the community. “The sequences” are just were many people obviously happened to first learn about them. Standard Textbooks from Math (esp. Statistics), Economics and Philosophy will get you very far in understanding what is going on content-wise. The lack of textbooks, as claimed sometimes, I think is vastly exaggerated.

      2 in particular) If anything, I think, it is the other way round. “Rationalism” is integrating well-known ideas. If this is not obvious to you, this might be because you have not come across these ideas independently

      3 in particular) The hardest part of getting into the community, as always, is understanding group dynamics. The best way to do that I think is participating. Folks here are quite welcoming as long as you don’t misgender them.

    • Evan Þ says:

      In regards to (1), I’d suggest reading HPMOR. It’s nowhere near as necessary, but it ties in with many of Eliezar’s points, a lot of us (including me) consider it a really fun story, and it lurks at the back of a lot of analogies.

      • For what it’s worth, I have not read HPMOR (aside from the very beginning) or the Sequences, and don’t feel lost. The ideas discussed here are largely ones you can pick up from sources elsewhere.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      Godel, Escher, Bach?

    • Welcome.

      I’m not sure what you’re trying to understand.

      It might be useful for you to write about your understanding of some other blogs.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      If you have a Kindle, the easiest thing to do is to download The Sequences, The AI-Foom Debate, and The Library of Scott Alexandria and read them in order. By the time you have finished or died of old age (whichever comes first), you should no longer have any problem understanding the terms and ideas that we use in the rationalist community.

  12. youzicha says:

    What’s the theory behind the U.S. sending destroyers near the Spratley islands?

    Back last summer, the statements I was hearing was that artificial islands do not create territorial waters, and therefore the U.S. should conduct freedom-of-navigation operations near them to demonstrate that they are still international water.

    But, what actually happened is that they are sending destroyers but claiming that they are exercising innocent passage. Wikipedia says, “Innocent passage concedes the coastal country’s territorial sea claim, unlike freedom of navigation, which directly contests it”.

    So isn’t this completely contrary to the U.S.’s previous stance, it concedes that the artificial island did create a territorial claim? What good does sending them do?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yes, there is a point to making innocent passage, which is to test whether the country actually allows it; your link contains a link to a Pentagon report complaining of countries, including China, that require prior permission for innocent passage.

      Innocent passage is a technical term from the law of the sea, but that I don’t think that has anything to do with conceding rights. In the context of testing it does not have a precise meaning; read the source wikipedia cites. There is a continuum of how aggressive the ship might be, which implicitly concedes the territorial claim, but they could escalate later. The ship probably traveled quickly in a straight line, which is less aggressive than dawdling in claimed water, but for which there is the excuse that maybe it wanted to anyhow. Maybe it also turned off its radar, which it would only do out of politeness, and is thus more of a concession.

      • youzicha says:

        I see. I guess there are two different claims by China, that artifical islands create territorial waters, and that the “innocent passage” doctrine does not apply, and the U.S. may want to contest either one.

        I had assumed that the ship itself would announce over the radio that they are exercising innocent passage, but apparently things are kept slightly more ambiguous than that. Alhough as you say, turning off the radar (which it apparently did) seems to send a clear signal.

        It’s also unclear to me who does these announcements? Every newspaper article claims that this was an innocent passage operation, so clearly there are sources who tell the journalists this, but there is no “official” statement..?

        Apparently some people explain the conduct by saying that the route of the ship also passed near a non-artificial island:

        Today, anonymous sources have tossed out a new piece of information—one which may solve the mystery of why the Lassen’s transit was conducted in a manner that appears to have been consistent with innocent passage. Specifically, Sam LaGrone of USNI News reports that “the feature that required the innocent passage transit was likely Thitu Island, the second largest island in the Spratlys, which has been controlled by the Philippines since the 1970s and home to one of its naval stations.”

        This then raises the question of whether they chose that route in order to keep it ambiguous whether this was a freedom-of-navigation operation or not. The same article suggests the ambiguity may be “a way to satisfy domestic hawks without overly antagonizing China”, which seems, uh, par for the course I guess.

  13. BBA says:

    I remember seeing an article on how activists on both sides of the culture war (or maybe the Red/Blue divide generally) believe themselves to be losing. Maybe it was just a blog comment, I dunno, but in any case this thread offers a stunning example.

  14. Possibly useful:

    10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story— a reporter resents the very idea of meditation, but finds it useful. Has some detail about how to, but his I-must-accomplish-this-no-matter-how-hard-it-is attitude may not be useful for everyone. Forgive me, but I must clickbait. You’ll never guess what his actual problem was. This is probably educational, because it can be very hard to notice obvious problems.

    The Way of Energy: Mastering the Chinese Art of Internal Strength with Chi Kung Exercise— a guide to standing meditation. Very good about how to do it and what to expect. You can ignore the New Age title.

  15. HircumSaeculorum says:

    Does anyone know of any good guides to meditation/”mindfulness”or otherwise concentration-improving things? I can only seem to find vaguely new-agey stuff on meditation, and concentration/attention seems to be one of those areas where good advice is swamped by somewhat dubious science journalism and listicles. [Also, I’m not willing/able to take nootropics.]

    • Glen Raphael says:

      If you just want to start doing meditation, there’s a pretty good smartphone app for that. Find the app called “Headspace” in the iTunes or Google Play store. The first ten guided meditation sessions are free, then there’s a subscription to continue. Here’s their FAQ.

    • Jobin says:

      I really like ‘Real Happiness’ by Sharon Salzberg. I find it practical, but different peoples’ definition of new-agey probably differs.

  16. Deiseach says:

    Eurovision is upon us! First semifinal on 10th May, second semifinal 12th May, grand final 14th May.

    I can’t tell if the Israeli entry is brilliant or taking the piss – video here. Drones? Is this some kind of statement or just trendy video-making?

    Also, apparently Australia is now part of Europe (yeah, I don’t know either. Seemingly Eurovision is huge over there, so this year they decided to let them enter?). And Justin Bieber will be performing as the interval entertainment at the grand final.

    Last year was very normal (mainly because the Chinese were watching, first time it’s been televised there, I think the Powers That Be were trying to act respectable) and so very boring – the most exciting thing was when the Austrians set their piano on fire. I hope this year will be more representative of recent Eurovisions – there’s a lot of boy-band type poppy stuff from a quick listen to the entries but some reliably weird ones too, so it might be good!

    • Thanks for the video link. I’m assuming the drones were a matter of accidentally ignoring possible symbolism. I’m not going to say it was a great song, but it was at least a pleasant one– I liked the voice quite a bit.

      I’d like to see it redone with astronomical images, including those novas we need so much for our essential nutrients.

    • smocc says:

      As an American who regularly watches Eurovision, I was disappointed with Sweden’s win last year because, as you say, it was so normal. (My personal favorite was Serbia with a catchy chorus and some mindblowing costume changes; Armenia gets a mention for sheer political ballsiness). Thanks for the reminder to watch all the videos in preparation, and also to start planning the watching party.

    • BBA says:

      They’re never topping “Hard Rock Hallelujah” and shouldn’t even try.

    • John Nerst says:

      How lovely to find out that there are other Eurovision fans on SSC! I always feel like the odd one out in such gatherings as a straight man with conservative dress sense and a taste in music that leans heavlily towards classical. But I love the thing, so much that I just wrote a long-ass blog post explaining why, which I now found reason enough to plug.

      Tomorrow I’m hoping for Austria but betting Australia.

  17. Eggoeggo says:

    A quick research request inspired by a conversation on the subreddit and browsing some trans-rationalist tumblr blogs.
    Can anyone link a male to female transsexual who posts/blogs/talks about masculinity and masculine men in a positive way? Specifically indicating attraction to them. One would do, but more would of course be better.

    I have a hypothesis, and this seems like an easy falsification test. The only problem is that I’ve got none of the contacts or cultural knowledge I’d need to find the info myself.

  18. Wilj says:

    I’m becoming more and more depressed. I got a STEM degree (chemistry) with a great GPA (but mediocre school, because the good ones seem to want more than academics and academics are all I had), but I can’t find a job — and if I don’t have enough saved by July, I will lose the most precious thing in my life.

    I’m getting very upset, because I don’t mean “I can’t find a job in my field”… I mean I can’t find a job period.

    Not even as a damn dishwasher. The one time I found a place that needed dishwashers, they told me I’d be dissatisfied there because I have “more options”. No I don’t you [long string of curses], I’d sell my body at this point! I’m thinking I might start lying about my education, but then I have a huge gap to explain and my résumé is already shit. I keep thinking I should have gone on and tried for a PhD, but I felt I didn’t have the gumption. What a fool I was.

    Aside from checking Indeed and calling every local lab or IT place, any ideas? If I can’t buy my fiancee a ticket by July, her visa will expire and she will be in real trouble. I don’t know if we can handle another setback and the waste of all we’ve already spent and done. I don’t want her trapped. I don’t want to lose this.

    I hate to expose my horrible failure amidst all the lovely successful people, but if anyone has an idea like “you can get a loan if you put kidneys up as collateral” or “why not try the local abattoir”, I’m all ears.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      You can get money modelling for art schools, I don’t even think you necessarily have to be nude. Also, farms will sometimes need someone to pick fruit and not advertise.

      Also, see if you can get some kind of social assistance or welfare, you might be surprised what is possible.

      Americans can also sell Blood and Bone Marrow I believe.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Have you looked into tutoring K-12 students, or even undergrads? Depending on your skill set, you might be able to do that for chemistry, or for science in general, or science and math.

      • Chalid says:

        My impression is that it takes a while to build a client base if you’re doing it yourself. But some sort of test-prep company like Kaplan would work?

    • Teal says:

      Enterprise rent a car is always hiring college graduates. Need to have kind of a sales-y personality though. Beyond that retail companies generally require college degrees for their low level managers. Try costco, target, walgreens, home depot, etc, etc, etc.

    • Jill says:

      I’d apply at places that are not local too. I don’t know where you live. Maybe most opportunities in your field are elsewhere.

      There also may be local support groups in your area where people gather to help/support each other in job searches. I’d also network with friends, acquaintances, family members etc., asking where the jobs in your area or elsewhere are. Even places that don’t have jobs, maybe ask them where they would apply, if they were looking for a job right now.

      It may also help if you de-stress yourself. There are descriptions on the web of Osho’s dynamic meditation and various other relaxation and stress release techniques. Sometimes people are not thinking clearly enough to solve their problem because they are too stressed by it. Once they calm down, the solution appears more easily. Or they are thinking more clearly and so can grasp opportunities as they appear, more easily.

      Here are some examples of stress release techniques. There are many.

      Eye movement technique
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DALbwI7m1vM

      Self tapping of acupressure points—Emotional Freedom Technique.

      http://bradyates.net/videos.html

      Good luck.

    • keranih says:

      Not even as a damn dishwasher. The one time I found a place that needed dishwashers, they told me I’d be dissatisfied there because I have “more options”.

      The next time you go to one of these job applications, tell them up front, “Yes, I know I’m over-qualified. I do not intend to work for you for the rest of my life. However, if I am hired, I will show up for every scheduled shift, I will show up on time, I will show up sober, and I will work steadily my whole shift, and I will not start fights with my coworkers. And when I leave, I will give you at least two weeks notice.”

      Trust me, if you do that – and if you *do* do those things – you will out compete 95% of those actually working at dishwasher wages.

    • Chalid says:

      It’d probably be helpful if you added where you live, and how much money you need by July.

      Have you looked for jobs at the college that you graduated from? If you had a great GPA then probably there’s some professor who will talk to you, and who might need an extra pair of hands in the lab or someone to copy-edit papers or do literature searches and the like. (Tell them you’re thinking of a PhD!) There’s also random menial work (e.g. low-level library staff) which is usually reserved for students but which they might give to recent graduates as well.

      • Randy M says:

        This is a good idea. While looking for work after graduating, I worked in the cafeteria and the business office of our school. Didn’t pay terribly well, but the former got me free food and an offer of a more serious position.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m certainly not successful and I’m not American. All the advice I can give you is this: I trained in one field, couldn’t find work in it, re-trained via government training schemes to do office administration and that’s mainly where I’m working now. And yeah, I got the “but you’re overqualified, if you get work in your own field you’ll leave us, why would we hire you?” when I was looking for jobs with my first qualification. Often that’s just an excuse to winnow out people and not have to interview them in the first place but it’s damn frustrating to hear when you’d be grateful to take any job and would show up and do it.

      I don’t know how American states do it, but there may be things like community employment schemes or internships that would take you on for a limited period. A quick Google tells me there are state job banks where employers advertise online – I don’t know where you’re living but that might be of help?

      Again, if there are any kind of retraining schemes for the unemployed? Half a loaf is better than no bread, and usually they pay some kind of allowance while training.

      I’m sorry if I’m telling you stuff you already know but as I said, I’m not American and have no idea how your system works.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Don’t feel ashamed to talk about your failures; it can be hard to find good help with job-hunting in America. I’m afraid I don’t know anything about chemistry job hunting directly, but here’s a good career advice blog with some really good advice about cover letters and resume’s.

      You’ve probably already tried your school’s career center, but if not, that’s also a good place to look – maybe not for the resume advice (the career blog I linked has a collection of horror stories about bad resume advice from schools) but for the contacts and postings they know about. I’ve heard most of them help alumni as well. Also, maybe talk to your old professors, especially if you had an especially good relationship with any of them?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      The post office is always hiring (at least in the US). They will even accept college graduates.

    • Will says:

      A huge thank-you to everyone who’s replied; it really means a lot to me. I’m basically trying every suggestion posted so far.

      To answer a few questions: I’m in Texas in the US, the amount is embarrassingly small to be unable to afford so I’d rather not say outright (but if very curious, it’s about the price of a ticket from Paraguay to the US, minus a few hundred I have), the only “work” I’ve found has indeed been tutoring (but as someone mentioned it does take a while to find people who need you and haven’t just gone with e.g. Kaplan), and Texas used to have a lot of opportunity in chemistry but after oil crashed it’s been pretty hard.

      I had a job briefly but lost it because I was in the hospital for too long; I didn’t know they could do that, but I guess you can’t blame ’em. Would it be wildly inappropriate to call up and see if they might consider bringing me on again? I was a good employee before I fell ill. It seems like a long shot and a recipe for humiliation, but at this point…

      Thanks again for the ideas and advice, all.

      • keranih says:

        I had a job briefly but lost it because I was in the hospital for too long; I didn’t know they could do that, but I guess you can’t blame ’em.

        Well, they do have to get done whatever it was that you were doing, and expecting them to re-employ you after you got out of the hospital means sacking whoever they hired to do your work while you were in the hospital. So, no, not blaming them at all.

        Having said that – realisticly look at your health ability to do this work and not end up in the hospital (note: I’m not saying these are related, but the workplace may assume so) and then approach work again. Be willing to tell them that you are completely cured of what put you in the hospital if that is so, or that you don’t expect to be ill of that thing again. Be sure to note that you enjoyed working there, and would be willing to take a part time job in a different area than you were working before.

        The worst that could happen is that they say “no”. (Okay, maybe say “no way, man” with that rude snort that implies you were a crazy stupid person for asking.) OTOH, you are a known quality and they already have your paperwork stuff on hand, so it’s actually quite sensible to ask if they could use you.

        There are those things which are too much to expect, and then a much smaller category which is too much to ask. So feel free to ask.

      • valiance says:

        Not a job, but some clinical trials pay a lot of money for subjects who fit the study criteria: https://www.centerwatch.com/clinical-trials/listings/location/united-states/TX/Dallas

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        I had a job briefly but lost it because I was in the hospital for too long

        I already recommended looking for some kind of social assistance, but I would definitely look for whatever is available because of this.

    • Shion Arita says:

      It won’t help by July, but:

      You can probably still try to get a PHD. Sure, some admissions people may take issue with the fact that you have a big gap, some probably will not. As someone in the system, I think it’s pretty likely that you’ll be able to get in somewhere. You don’t get paid a lot for it, but you do get paid.

      The following might help by july:

      my school employs some of its former chemistry undergraduates as teaching assistants for summer lab classes. Maybe try asking your school if they do this.

      • Chalid says:

        A chemistry PhD is not really very employable either, unfortunately, at least compared to other STEM PhDs.

      • mobile says:

        A PhD would only make it harder to get a job as a dishwasher.

    • Chalid says:

      One more thought. You can probably save more money by taking extreme measures, e.g. buying a giant bag of rice and beans now and making that 90% of your meals for the next couple months. Obviously it would be really hard to do that forever but you could probably make it to July. There are “extreme frugality” sites and online communities which might be able to give suggestions along these lines. (I don’t read these myself so I can’t recommend any, but they have been discussed here before.)

      If it’s really all about having money in July, there are ways to postpone expenses – e.g. some bills can go unpaid for a month or two before your service gets cut off. Be careful with this sort of thing, obviously!

  19. Charlie says:

    My mom says your brother and his saxophonist at gilmore would be a cute couple.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was referred to this comment because it was reported as potentially offensive, and I spent way too long trying to figure out what it was a euphemism for before I realized you meant it literally.

      (my brother is straight, though)

  20. whatnoloan says:

    Ilai Bar-Natan here with a really interesting point that sexual reproduction is necessary to control mutational load

    Should be “Itai Bar-Natan”.

  21. AnonMD says:

    This is as good a place as any to ask this.

    Is this the origin of “steelmanning”?

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

    The expression [Straw man proposal] was already in use in the United States Department of Defense circa 1975 in their Large Organization Model Building paradigm (LOMB) and was apparently in use with this meaning (initial proposal) in the United States Air Force before that.[5] The succession of names comes from the requirements document for the programming language Ada. In the High Order Language Working Group (HOLWG) the process to define Ada generated requirements documents sporting different names, representing the various stages of development of the Ada language,[6] as described in 1993 by Col William Whitaker in an article ACM SIGPLAN Notices.[7] They are:

    STRAWMAN issued in April 1975[8]
    WOODENMAN issued in August 1975[9]
    TINMAN issued in January 1976[10]
    IRONMAN issued in January 1977[11] (revised in July 1977)
    SANDMAN not published but circulated in January 1978
    STEELMAN issued in June 1978[12]
    PEBBLEMAN issued in July 1978
    PEBBLEMAN Revised and issued in January 1979
    STONEMAN issued in February 1980[13]

    • Nita says:

      What a fascinating page! Thank you.

      I guess “let’s stone-man our opponent” might get misunderstood.

  22. gwern says:

    “Detection of human adaptation during the past 2,000 years”, Field et al 2016:

    Detection of recent natural selection is a challenging problem in population genetics, as standard methods generally integrate over long timescales. Here we introduce the Singleton Density Score (SDS), a powerful measure to infer very recent changes in allele frequencies from contemporary genome sequences. When applied to data from the UK10K Project, SDS reflects allele frequency changes in the ancestors of modern Britons during the past 2,000 years. We see strong signals of selection at lactase and HLA, and in favor of blond hair and blue eyes. Turning to signals of polygenic adaptation we find, remarkably, that recent selection for increased height has driven allele frequency shifts across most of the genome. Moreover, we report suggestive new evidence for polygenic shifts affecting many other complex traits. Our results suggest that polygenic adaptation has played a pervasive role in shaping genotypic and phenotypic variation in modern humans.

    • NN says:

      Fascinating.

      Razib Khan thinks that the genes for blond hair and blue eyes might also be tied to lighter skin color. If so, then selection for those traits may simply be selection for greater Vitamin D production in the low-UV environment of the British Isles. The paper itself speculates that it may be due to sexual selection, but I personally find that theory a bit implausible. I have a hard time imagining how blond hair could be highly attractive in Britain and Scandinavia but not in, for example, Spain and Italy.

      As for height, I wonder if that’s an example of Bergmann’s rule, or the tendency of populations of animals including humans living in colder climates to have larger body masses than populations living in warmer climates.

      • Nita says:

        Well, English does have a word that means “beautiful”, “good” and “light-skinned” (especially blonde with blue eyes). I don’t think the same is true of Spanish or Italian.

        My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
        Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
        If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
        If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

  23. David Friedman recommended Margin of Profit by Poul Anderson.

    The portrayal of women is a problem, and we can talk about that (one of my friends pointed out that Anderson got a lot better later in his career), but let’s look at the economic point. It’s true that modest, consistent victory can lead to ultimate victory, but there’s a problem of knowledge.

    Van Rijn is *awfully* sure that no one opposing him can come up with something he hasn’t thought of. Well, that’s the sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy van Rijn is, but it occurs to me that in most golden age sf, the government or aliens who are that sure they’re right are defeated by humans who come up with something surprising.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Sort of like Foundation. A lot of classic science fiction was actually social puzzles and their solutions.

    • The point of the story isn’t about “modest, consistent victory.” It isn’t about victory at all. The point is that in order to stop someone from doing something you don’t have to beat him, you don’t have to make what he is doing impossible.

      You only have to make it unprofitable.

  24. Jill says:

    BTW, since Newt Gingrich in the 1990’s, the GOP had already gone crazy, in terms of getting people to viciously hate Democrats and the government in general. Trump is the nemesis for that. The GOP paved the way for the public to hate even their own politicians, and to worship an outsider whose hands aren’t yet dirty with the supposedly nasty politics and government.

    http://www.vox.com/2016/5/6/11598838/donald-trump-predictions-norm-ornstein

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Tomorrow, Jill traces the history of music all the way back to Hootie and the Blowfish.

      • Jill says:

        I can look at any time frame I want, on anything. Making fun of someone doesn’t make the time frame they prefer to look at any less valid than your own preference.

        • Gbdub says:

          When you make sweeping comments about one side’s “domination” that only applies to the last several years, I think it’s fair to critique your timeframe. All sample sizes are NOT equally valid.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          The danger with looking only a little ways into the past is that you might mistake for an innovation something, like partisanship, which is as old as the hills.

    • Tibor says:

      If the GOP is trying to make people hate government in general, they are not very successful at that. People who hate government would most likely vote Libertarian (or would not vote at all), yet the Libertarian Party does not seem to have made any significant gains.

      In general, it seems to me that both major parties in the US are doing a lot to convince the people that the other major party is an Evil incarnate. This divide definitely seems bigger than in Europe (although it is not directly comparable due to the proportional system of most European countries).

      • Jill says:

        Everyone seems to hate government in the U.S. The GOP has been highly successful at making people hate government AND at making them vote GOP, which has been a simultaneous goal. They don’t want anyone to vote Libertarian, and no one does.

        • I’m seeing Republicans who loathe Trump but can’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton say that they’ll vote Libertarian. We’ll see how that works out.

        • Hlynkacg says:

          @ Jill
          I think you’re giving the social engineers too much credit, and seriously underestimating a lot of the demographic factors.

          • Jill says:

            Yeah. Almost no one in the U. S. believes that propaganda has any effect. If I want to read a book about it, it’s usually got to be one that was published in another country. We’re an active, not a reflective, culture. And we believe we have more freedom, and that we are less easily influenced, than we actually are.

            Makes it super easy for Murdoch to become “America’s most trusted news source”, according to the survey, despite the fact that his “news source” reliably makes people more ignorant.

            http://www.businessinsider.com/study-watching-fox-news-makes-you-less-informed-than-watching-no-news-at-all-2012-5

          • Nornagest says:

            If I want to read a book about [propaganda], it’s usually got to be one that was published in another country.

            I suggest Psychological Warfare, Paul Linebarger, 1948.

            (SF fans may know the author better as Cordwainer Smith.)

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Is there any evidence “America’s most trusted news source” is anything more than just a tag line?

            Last I checked trust levels for mass media in general were in the toilet and as bad as FOX is, they at still get the consolation prize of being able to say “at least we’re not NBC

          • Jill says:

            Thanks, Nornagest for the book suggestion. I see that it’s focused on war propaganda. Will give it a look.

            The best book ever written on the subject of propaganda to date is French sociologist, law professor and Christian anarchist Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda. Amazing.

            Another amazing one is by an Australian author, published poshumously, called Taking the Risk out of Democracy.

          • My notes on a lecture about polarizing political speech.

          • Jill says:

            Thanks, Nancy. Interesting lecture notes.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Jill:

            “America’s most trusted news source”, according to the survey, despite the fact that his “news source” reliably makes people more ignorant.

            That “reliably” is a substantial overstatement.

            Here is what Politifact had to say in response to a claim by Jon Stewart that FOX was “consistently misleading” – a claim they deemed False.

          • Jill says:

            Glen Raphael, it’s amazing that studies were mixed at how ignorant and misinformed Fox viewers are.

            Just turn it on and watch. And check to see if things they say are true or not. Any objective fact oriented person can see this– even if the questions in some specific study failed to detect it.

            Is Obama a Muslim? Was he born in Kenya? Really.

          • “despite the fact that his “news source” reliably makes people more ignorant.”

            I followed your link. Unless I missed something, it does not provide a list of the questions used.

            Suppose you want to make people who watch Fox look bad relative to people who watch NPR. Isn’t it obvious how you do it, whether or not it’s true?

            You ask questions where the correct answer is the one people on the left like, avoid questions where the correct answer is the one people on the right like. For extra effect, take questions where what answer is right is one of the things left and right disagree about, and simply assume the left’s version.

            I don’t know if that’s what the researchers in question did, but given the political slant of American academia it doesn’t seem unlikely. Unless you have seen the list of questions you have no idea whether that was what they did–but you take it for granted that their claim is true.

            For a real world example (not as recent as this story) see:

            I ran into the same issue long ago in the context of authoritarianism. An academic claimed evidence that people on the political right were more authoritarian than people on the left. If you looked at his list of questions, questions about “should you defy an authority” was put in an terms of an authority the right liked and the left didn’t. Questions of the form “should people campaign for an unpopular cause” was put in terms of a cause the left liked and the right didn’t.

            For details, see:

          • FooQuuxman says:

            Is Obama a Muslim? Was he born in Kenya? Really.

            Wherever he was born (IDGAF) it would appear that he played the born in Kenya line when it helped his political career, then ditched the line when it didn’t.

            http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=16201

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Jill: “Yeah. Almost no one in the U. S. believes that propaganda has any effect. If I want to read a book about it, it’s usually got to be one that was published in another country.”

            What? There are thousands of US-published books about propaganda available on Amazon. Take your pick.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Jill:

            it’s amazing that studies were mixed at how ignorant and misinformed Fox viewers are. […] Just turn it on and watch.

            Jill, do you yourself regularly watch any FOX show? If so, which ones? Is it your position that EVERY show on FOX is equally bad? Because you’re painting with such a broad brush that I can’t help suspect your primary exposure to FOX might be when it gets quoted by other sources such as The Daily Show which mine for a few outrage-worthy or mock-worthy remarks and provide context in which you’re supposed to laugh at them, while ignoring any sensible point they might make along the way.

            One thing Politifact gave was a plausible alternative causation story: perhaps people who happen to be really into politics simultaneously (a) tend to do well on political knowledge tests and (b) tend to like especially political shows.

            Which seems to fit with the fact that viewers of The O’Reilly Factor were MORE “informed” than most others – including those who watched regular FOX news programming and those who watched no programming at all.

            Another interesting point brought up with respect to some of the relevant studies was that left-wing news sources are more likely to AGREE WITH authorities such as the CBO. So some of what was being interpreted as “ignorant” or “misinformed” is more charitably interpreted as mere rational disagreement – both the viewers and their news sources had an alternative perspective on the data.

        • Gbdub says:

          Of course FOX will be ranked “most trusted” in any sort of poll. FOX is the only major network catering to conservatives, while liberals will split their loyalty across several networks.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Jill
      BTW, since Newt Gingrich in the 1990’s, the GOP had already gone crazy, in terms of getting people to viciously hate Democrats and the government in general.

      Goes back further than that. Dallas hated JFK. Lots of GOPs hated FDR (and Truman?) Eisenhower and Nixon may have been a short bubble.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Meanwhile, George W. Bush was universally beloved by the Democrats, who certainly never did things like comparing him to Hitler or believing in a solid plurality that he knew about 9/11 in advance.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Thirteenth Letter
          believing in a solid plurality that [Bush II] knew about 9/11 in advance

          Does being warned, but dismissing the warning, count?

          • John Schilling says:

            Does “Al Qaeda exists and is trying to attack the United States” count as a warning?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            John’s point is fairly vital here, yeah. I’ve seen the memo that’s endlessly recirculated in favor of this argument, and it’s not exactly prescriptive.

            (It also would be amusing to visit Earth Prime, where Bush immediately picked up a phone and launched an invasion of Afghanistan to get Bin Laden in June of 2001, and compare his opponents’ reactions to his war policy in that universe and this one. Mind you, I’d prefer that universe, but I’m not exactly holding my breath waiting for Earth Prime Salon.com to have been totally on board with _that_ Afghan war.)

            That aside, the poll I saw was pretty much straight-up trutherism, not just a mild “he should have taken the issue of terrorism more seriously.” He knew the planes were coming and let it happen to something something neocon Halliburton oil whatever.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Thirteenth Letter
            That aside, the poll I saw was pretty much straight-up trutherism, not just a mild “he should have taken the issue of terrorism more seriously.” He knew the planes were coming and let it happen to something something neocon Halliburton oil whatever.

            What is your source for the details of this poll? If someone is claiming that 40-something percent of [some group of] Democrats were ‘truthers’, I want to see their definition of ‘truther’.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @houseboatonstyx Here you go. Ironically, this wasn’t even the example I was thinking of… it turns out to be even worse. According to a 2006 poll:

            “How likely is it that people in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?” the poll asked.

            A full 22.6% of Democrats said it was “very likely.” Another 28.2% called it “somewhat likely.”

            I’ll be frank here, I don’t think half of Republicans claiming to believe Obama was born in Kenya (or whatever the number is who do, I’m sure it’s high) is nearly as poisonous to political discourse as half of Democrats claiming to believe that Bush knowingly committed treason and aided in, or at least deliberately permitted, the murder of thousands of innocent Americans in order to start a war. But one’s mileage may vary, I suppose.

          • Frank McPike says:

            It’s worth noting that “people in the federal government” is very different from “George Bush.”

        • aesop hiedler says:

          To paraphrase Asimov: It was wrong for anti-Bush dems to demonize GWB. And it’s wrong for repubs to demonize Obama. But if you think the demonization of GWB is comparable to the demonization of Obama than you’re wronger than both.

          Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation
          The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic
          Gangster Government: Barack Obama and the New Washington Thugocracy
          The Muslim Brotherhood in the Obama Administration
          How Obama Embraces Islam’s Sharia Agenda
          Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama
          The Book on Obama : His Friends, His Lies & His Plans.
          Let Me Be Clear: Barack Obama’s War on Millenials
          ARMAGEDDON: The Battle to Stop Obama’s Third Term
          Obama’s Four Horsemen: The Disasters Released by Obama’s Reelection
          Trickle Down Tyranny: Crushing Obama’s Dream of the Socialist States of America
          Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
          The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists
          Stealing America: What My Experience with Criminal Gangs Taught Me about Obama, Hillary, and the Democratic Party
          Obama’s Enemies List: How Barack Obama Intimidated America and Stole the Election
          The Communist
          The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America
          To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine
          The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency
          Whiny Little Bitch: The Excuse Filled Presidency of Barack Obama.

      • aesop hiedler says:

        Newt’s GOPAC and the memo “Language as a Mechanism of Control”
        changed everything in American politics. It opened the pandora’s box of attack politics.

        The “GOPAC memo”, called “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control”, was written and distributed to members of the Republican Party by Gingrich in 1994. It contained a list of “contrasting words” and “optimistic positive governing words” that Gingrich recommended for use in describing Democrats and Republicans, respectively. For example, words to use against opponents include decay, failure (fail), collapse(ing), deeper, crisis, urgent(cy), destructive, destroy, sick, pathetic, lie, liberal, they/them, unionized bureaucracy, “compassion” is not enough, betray, consequences, limit(s), shallow, traitors, sensationalists; words to use in defining a candidate’s own campaign and vision included share, change, opportunity, legacy, challenge, control, truth, moral, courage, reform, prosperity, crusade, movement, children, family, debate, compete, active(ly), we/us/our, candid(ly), humane, pristine, provide.

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

  25. onyomi says:

    Hypothetical: when you first got married, you did half the housework and made half the money, and your spouse did half the housework and made half the money. Gradually, your spouse has continually extracted various “compromises”: “I got fired, so I can only provide 30% of the income,” “I hurt my knee, so I can only do 40% of the housework,” and so on. Fast forward forty years and now you do 95% of the housework and provide 95% of the income. Your spouse starts trying to negotiate to get you to do 96% of the housework, but when you refuse, s/he says “what happened to you? You used to be so reasonable! You used to compromise! We used to be able to work together! Why have you become so doctrinaire that you won’t even consider a 1% increase now when you previously happily negotiated 5 and 10% increases all the time? Clearly you are the one now threatening to render this relationship dysfunctional.”

    If it isn’t obvious what I’m analogizing, I’m getting pretty tired of the “why did the Republicans go crazy all of a sudden?” talk. When evaluating how “radical” or “reasonable” one half of a debate is, don’t you have to take into account the previous interactions? Now if the people saying this were prefacing it with “the Republicans have gotten everything they wanted for the past 30 years and it’s still not enough!” which they sometimes attempt to argue (pretty unsuccessful imo, outside a few areas, like unions), but usually don’t bother with, then I can understand. But if you just beg the question the progressive agenda is good and say the Republicans are evil for not letting it happen as quickly as they used to… isn’t the problem with this obvious?

    Although I’m interested if anyone cares to argue that the past 100 years haven’t, on the whole, been a total victory for progressivism and defeat for conservatism (of course, it depends on the specific time frame and specific issue: if, the 80s and airline regulation then yeah, liberal defeat), I’m also just saying, isn’t it kind of ironic that the party that has mostly gotten its way is the one accusing the other of being stubborn?

    I’m fully aware that I’m partisan and biased here, but I don’t think I’m wrong in seeing an asymmetry here, at least, on the rhetorical front?

    • dndnrsn says:

      There is a rhetorical asymmetry, but it’s not particularly ironic that they’d be accused of being stubborn: the one advancing is never stubborn, it’s the one who’s defending who is.

      • Jill says:

        Ironic? Hardly? A party that won’t even give a hearing to the president’s SCOTUS nomination, because the pres is from a different party? That’s pretty objectively stubborn, I’d say.

        Also, the dozens of votes in Congress to repeal, weaken, delay, de-fund etc. ObamaCare seem pretty stubborn to me.

        And having goals like “to make Obama a one term president” seem pretty stubbornly obstructive, as opposed to constructive, goals.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          Keeping a President of the opposite party from being re-elected is a pretty unusual goal for a party to have, come to think of it.

        • gbdub says:

          Why is it “stubborn” or “obstructionist” to vote against the president’s policies, if you oppose them? Especially if your constituents also oppose them? Isn’t that kind of the whole point of having a Congressional vote in the first place?

          The “obstructionist!” cries were always annoying and self serving. We don’t have a dictatorship. If Congress opposes a President’s agenda they are well within their rights to vote against it. That’s how it’s supposed to work! Isn’t Obama just as “stubborn” for continually vetoing the Republican repeals of Obamacare?

          I think the refusal to hold confirmation hearings was a poor tactical move by the GOP, but again they are well within their rights to do it. They are certainly in well-charted waters if they vote to reject a nominee. It happens all the time, and both parties do it. That’s why there’s a vote.

          It’s supposed to be “checks and balances”, not “rubberstamp what the President wants”.

          • Frank McPike says:

            Rejecting a Supreme Court nominee has only happened four times in the last century. Certainly it is well within the senate’s right to do so, but Supreme Court appointments conventionally have been a matter where the senate deferred to the president. It’s not clear to me that the breakdown of that convention has resulted in better nominees.

          • Gbdub says:

            That may be a fair criticism (although rejections / no votes on lower appointments are reasonably common, and I’m not sure how often an appointment has come up when a) the opposing party holds the Senate and b) the appointee is one who would shift the “balance” of the court in a significant way), but it doesn’t support “You’re not doing your job!” as a valid critique.

            Anyway the “obstructionist” thing bothers me more. It’s like someone showing up to my house and demanding $100 and then criticizing me for failing to “compromise” and give them $50.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “Certainly it is well within the senate’s right to do so, but Supreme Court appointments conventionally have been a matter where the senate deferred to the president.”

            Have you informed Justice Bork and Justice Estrada about this?

          • Frank McPike says:

            You did read the surrounding sentences, correct? What did you think those were referring to?
            (In any event, they certainly weren’t referring to Miguel Estrada, who was never a Supreme Court nominee.)

          • gbdub says:

            Making the cut right at the SCOTUS is sort of cherry picking though – the D.C. Circuit is high profile and a lot of later SC picks come from there. And Estrada was denied a confirmation vote via a filibuster of the minority party – sitting on Obama’s current nominee doesn’t strike me as a difference in kind.

          • Frank McPike says:

            I don’t see how I’m cherry-picking: the claim I made is simply that Supreme Court appointments have historically been a matter where the senate deferred to the president. That’s true. It is also true that other federal judiciary appointments (along with many other sorts of federal appointments) are and have been treated differently, but that’s irrelevant to what I noted. There are other senate practices that apply to appellate and district court nominees that aren’t applied to Supreme Court nominees (senatorial courtesy and blue-slipping, for example). If the distinction seems arbitrary to you, then fine, but it’s a longstanding distinction that’s pretty clear to the actors involved.

            I’ll note, too, that there’s a very big difference in kind between “blocking a (perceived) extreme nominee in order to force the president to put forward a more moderate nominee” (which is what happened in Estrada’s case, and Bork’s) and “blocking any appointment in order to give the nomination to the next president.”

            Now, to be clear, I think both are bad. The only Supreme Court nominee in recent memory that would actually have merited being voted down was Harriet Miers, and that wasn’t exactly a partisan issue. But the breakdown of the previous norm has been a bad thing, and this pushes it much further along.

          • “But the breakdown of the previous norm has been a bad thing”

            John Lott, in a recent book, argues that the breakdown is a result of the increased role of government in general and the courts in particular, which makes the conflict over judicial appointments a higher stakes game.

            In this particular case, you are leaving out one relevant feature–that Obama is near the end of his term. I haven’t followed the argument closely, but I thought the Democrats had resisted a judicial appointment under similar circumstances in the not very distant past.

          • Frank McPike says:

            I’m not sure if it’s a higher stakes game now than it was during the New Deal era, or the Civil Rights era (probably no justice had a more immediate effect on the Court than Earl Warren and he was approved unanimously). Certainly it’s not clear to me that it is.

            On reflection, there are some weird contingencies in the current environment that probably weren’t present before. For example, one very immediate impact of Justice Scalia’s death was essentially reviving the Paris Agreement, and it’s not clear that any judicial appointment has had such immediate diplomatic implications before. There’s an argument to be made that the effect of a realignment on the Court will have new and different sorts of impacts than in previous years. Yet the popular debates about the Court–that seem to creating the incentives that drive the conflict–center on the Court’s impact on big, hot-button social issues. And I’m not sure if abortion and gun control are more hot-button and controversial than civil rights were.

            I’m not sure who you’re referring to. An appellate court appointment, perhaps? I can’t think of any Supreme Court appointment that would fit. (The Bork fight was close to the end of Reagan’s second term–a year and a half, maybe–but Kennedy was still confirmed before Reagan’s term ended.) I’m certainly not arguing that the erosion of the norm wasn’t contributed to by both sides–it was, and the Democrats started it with Bork–only that this most recent fight goes further than before and that’s not a good thing.

          • TheWorst says:

            @ Frank McPike

            For what it’s worth, I’d call “a year and a half left to go, of a four-year term” pretty definitively the middle of the term.

            I can’t think of any point in living memory when the Democrats pushed the (novel) constitutional theory that the President only gets to nominate justices during a certain phase of his term.

          • Salem says:

            Well, Joe Biden said in 1992 that “Senate consideration of a nominee under these circumstances [i.e. in an election year] is not fair to the president, the nominee or to the Senate itself.” But no doubt that won’t count because reasons.

            Look, no-one thinks that the President can only nominate justices in a certain period. Obama is free to nominate who he likes, and he has nominated Merrick Garland. But the Senate doesn’t have to confirm Obama’s nominations, and they can decline to do so in an election year – or any year, for that matter.

          • Anonymous says:

            Salem’s parenthetical (i.e. in an election year) is characteristically dishonest.

            Biden speech was on June 25, and referred to a hypothetical situation where a justice died or resigned after that including several weeks after that. Scalia died about four and a half months earlier in the year. On top of that Biden suggested that Bush should wait until after the elections, or if he didn’t that the Senate should hold hearings after the election, not after the next President was inaugurated.

          • Salem says:

            So by “dishonest,” you mean “true, but let’s frantically change the subject.”

            Yes, Biden was speaking a whole month closer to the election than we are right now. Feel free to argue that it’s a crucial difference, and I’ll feel free to laugh in your face.

            You are right that Biden said that they might consider any nominee after the elections but before the inauguration, and indeed McConnell has said that they might consider Obama’s nominee after the election but before the inauguration. They are following the Biden Rule to a tee.

            By the way, Biden also said that the President shouldn’t even make a nomination until after the election, a suggestion which Obama has flagrantly violated. It makes me think that perhaps McConnell should feel free to make further alterations to the Biden Rule.

          • Anonymous says:

            Biden was speaking about an opening which hadn’t occurred yet. The time of year as compared to now is completely irrelevant (dishonestly so). What matters is the relationship to the vacancy, which was back in February.

            And McConnell has rejected post-election hearings. http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-mcconnell-supreme-court-20160320-story.html

            Maybe these lies play well on redstate.com, I’d try there.

          • Salem says:

            McConnell has certainly said that they’ll let the next President decide, but he’s also said that they might revisit it after the election. Presumably he wants an out in case the incoming President’s nominee looks worse. Personally, I hope they never confirm any Democrat nominee for any office whatsoever, but it’s not up to me.

            You have yet to identify what I said that was dishonest, because you can’t. Biden’s full speech is on the Internet for anyone to read, no-one needs to believe me, they can check it out themselves. He said (paraphrasing – feel free to accuse me of more dishonesty, troll) that if a Vacancy occurs at that point, President shouldn’t nominate and the Senate shouldn’t consider the nominee if he does. Exactly the proposition that no Democrat had proposed in living memory, supposedly! Yes, that was slightly closer to the election, as I have pointed out. So?

            The problem is that you don’t even care about truth. You call me a liar for accurately quoting Biden’s words. And it is typical of you.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I didn’t say it was ironic, and I didn’t say the use of “stubborn” was incorrect.

        • Jill says:

          Not every comment I make is a disagreement with a previous commenter. Is that the protocol here on this board, that it needs to be?

          • dndnrsn says:

            You were responding to my quote, though – which gave me the impression that you were disagreeing with me, rather than with the comment one above me in the nesting structure.

          • Overestimating the amount of disagreement is a fairly common mistake, perhaps especially in geeky environments where people disagree to be polite.

            I haven’t seen a general protocol for this. I just make guesses about likely mistakes, and try to fend them off. If someone fails to notice my very clear efforts to prevent the mistake they just made, I get to be Very Firm with them.

            Sidetrack: the area where I find fending off to be most valuable is advice. People are going to give advice. I have something of the compulsion myself.

            So I *start* by asking people to be clear about how much background they have for the advice they’re giving. Personal experience? Close second-hand knowledge? It just seems plausible? I suppose I could ask about science, but I tend to not trust that. (Possibly I should recalibrate a little on that. Possibly.

            You might be amazed at how little advice I get when I start that way.

          • Jill says:

            So, dndnrsn, do most comments here express disagreement then, with the comment replied to?

            I see what you mean though. I should have “nested” it differently, hitting the reply below that higher up comment that you had replied to.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Not necessarily disagreement. Your comment was saying it wasn’t ironic, and the GOP is stubborn, but in response to my comment. Which made me think maybe there was some confusion (it’s really easy to reply to the wrong comment, and I’m not too quick on the uptake today either).

    • Jill says:

      100 years, yes. Recently though, economic inequality has risen a lot, we are having to go back and work toward birth control rights, which we thought was already done. And the GOP controls both Houses of Congress, most state legislatures, most state governorships, and until Scalia died also SCOTUS. We are not getting ANY of the things we would be pursuing if we controlled ANY of those bodies. So on a smaller and more recent time frame, liberals have only the presidency. So we get only those things that the president can do without any cooperation from Congress, through executive order. The president can’t even get a hearing for his SCOTUS nominee.

      And now we have 2 nominees of the major parties– the Right Wing GOP, and the party that’s nominating Clinton– who is about where Nixon used to be, politically. So almost everyone and almost everything is Right Wing today. And we have been immersed in Right Wing propaganda for decades now, including constant Obama bashing and Hillary bashing. The “most trusted news source” in the country is Fox News, the effect of which is to make people ignorant.

      STUDY: Watching Only Fox News Makes You Less Informed Than Watching No News At All
      http://www.businessinsider.com/study-watching-fox-news-makes-you-less-informed-than-watching-no-news-at-all-2012-5

      I don’t see how you can see any recent progressive victory in this.

      Re: propaganda, here is just one of zillions of examples, Right Wing militaristic war propaganda that is happening right under our noses, with most folks unaware that it is happening.

      The military paid pro sports teams $10.4 million for patriotic displays, troop tributes

      http://www.sbnation.com/2015/11/4/9670302/nfl-paid-patriotism-troops-mcain-flake-report-million

      Liberals have had a few successes in social issues, that don’t cost greedy, polluting or fraud perpetrating corporations any money– like gay marriage. Corporation owners don’t mind at all, if you’re gay– as long as it’s okay with you to have earthquakes, a polluted water supply, polluted air, and flames coming out of your water tap due to fracking in your neighborhood. And as long as you don’t mind having your job outsourced or losing it to an H1-B Visa worker etc.

      • Randy M says:

        Can anyone else confirm that fracking causes earthquakes?

        • Nornagest says:

          The search term is “induced seismicity“. The case for an increased risk of earthquakes seems solid, especially for injection of waste fluid rather than fracking per se, but none have been very strong or damaging as yet — the strongest anthropogenic earthquakes are instead associated with geothermal projects, though the basic mechanics of the process are the same either way. And even there we’re normally talking “might wake you up in the middle of the night” strong, not “knock your house down” strong.

          • Randy M says:

            How would these events be related to natural earthquakes? My expectation is that it would be unrelated to tectonic pressures, but I could see hypothesis that it would relieve it, perhaps prematurely triggering natural earthquakes without actually increasing the number of event.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not an expert, but my unexpert understanding of the process goes something like this: even in geologically uneventful areas rock normally has some internal stresses, kept in a long-term stable state because nothing particularly interesting is happening down there. Fracturing the rock has a chance to relieve those stresses, and injecting large amounts of fluid tends to accelerate the process by e.g. reducing friction along bedding planes. That almost by definition means moving rock, which means an earthquake. Usually it’ll be a small one, the kind nothing except a seismometer notices, but occasionally you get unlucky and trigger a bigger shift. This is sorta natural, in that the stress was there already, but the rock could have gone for millions of years without doing anything if you hadn’t gone and squirted water into it.

            My guess re: the bigger earthquakes around geothermal sites is that geothermal areas are geologically active almost by definition, so they’re more likely to have unrelieved stress down there. Petroleum-bearing rock is usually less active; the Dakotas for example are smack in the middle of the North American plate. (Usually; the SoCal oil fields are close to the San Andreas fault, to name one.)

      • The original Mr. X says:

        What do you mean by “birth control rights”, the HHS mandate? Because if so, the fact that you consider free condoms to be a “right” says quite a lot about which side has got the upper hand.

        • Jill says:

          I’m talking about the widespread closing of women’s clinics in Red States, forced by laws mandating that their structures and practices meet all kinds of specific arbitrary rules.

          • keranih says:

            the widespread closing of women’s clinics in Red States, forced by laws mandating that their structures and practices meet all kinds of specific arbitrary rules.

            This sort of statement seems to imply that in Blue States, abortion clinics are either stable or increasing in numbers.

          • Randy M says:

            And after all those years of being like other health care practices, entirely unregulated in structure and practice.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is “women’s clinics” a euphemism for “abortion clinics” here, or are institutions which provide other forms of birth control but not abortion being shut down by Red State laws?

            I think some of the laws that have been used to shut down abortion clinics have been a bit dishonest at least in their presentation, but if that’s all that’s going on, casting it as a general attack on birth control is similarly dishonest.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih
            This sort of statement seems to imply that in Blue States, abortion clinics are either stable or increasing in numbers.

            Not necessarily. It references some laws recently proposed in some Red States. It neither says nor implies anything about Blue States.

      • Gbdub says:

        The Dems controlled both houses of Congress until 2010. 6 years ago is ancient history now?

    • brad says:

      Although I’m interested if anyone cares to argue that the past 100 years haven’t, on the whole, been a total victory for progressivism and defeat for conservatism

      I want to fight the question. The idea that there are these two teams and they’ve been fighting over the same ground since time immoral, let’s see who’s been winning for the last century, isn’t a useful enough model to be worth arguing about.

      The hundred year ago conservatives and progressives are long dead. The issues they cared about are issues that the overwhelming majority of people today don’t care about. Notwithstanding some unusual online conservatives, most aren’t trying to turn back the clock on e.g. women voting, so that’s not a concession that the conservatives of today can point to and say “look we gave you that one”.

      • dndnrsn says:

        What is the right timeframe to consider the question when asking “which side is winning”? Because depending on the timeframe you set, it changes the answer a lot.

        • brad says:

          I don’t know exactly. I’m not sure which “side” is “winning” is a good question to begin with. It seems like trying to use static tools in an inherently dynamic setting.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Additionally, there are many reasons a political objective can fail, of which political opposition is only one.

            If, for instance, one takes the position that social programs intended to reduce poverty have not effectively reduced poverty – is that because of political opposition? Were the programs badly designed? Was the objective impossible in the first place?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Yes, the strategy is that every time you win you make dissent unthinkable, and then you get to complain about how your opponents refuse to grant concessions, because they wouldn’t dare to ask to turn back any of the concessions you’ve actually granted. Like with an emotional abuser, none of the concessions you grant actually count, because they were all for your own good anyway.

        • Walter says:

          I don’t think the left frames the right’s concessions as being for the right’s own good. Rather, they are pitched as for the greater good, the good of all.

        • onyomi says:

          Example: when these were first proposed, it was a reasonable, right-leaning position to oppose the income tax, social security, and medicare.

          Today, anyone suggesting abolishing the income tax, social security, or medicare outright, as opposed to say, slightly lowering the top marginal rate or increasing the retirement age, would be viewed as so radically right-wing as to not even be on the political map, much less within the Overton Window. At the very most you could suggest replacing these things with something else, say a federal sales tax or a privatized national retirement savings plan, though even those would be treated about as seriously as Ron Paul.

          Therefore, when the GOP gets flack for saying “no income tax increase ever” they strike me as being in the position of the person who has already compromised from doing 50% of the chores to doing 95% of the chores. Refusing to consider a move from 95 to 96% in such a case may be stubborn, but it’s also not unreasonable (and the Democrats’ rhetoric right now is not just that they’re stubborn, but unreasonable).

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            That’s kind of the problem, though, isn’t it? Portraying the 100-year period as one long defeat for conservatism implies a continuity of belief on the part of conservatives which doesn’t actually exist. In terms of your allegory, we’re the husband who grudgingly agreed to do more than his fair share of the cooking– only to discover in the process that he genuinely enjoys cooking.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If there’s a lack of continuity, isn’t it the result of defeats – of positions they previously held being pushed out of the Overton Window?

            A lot of mainstream conservatism is kind of incoherent for this reason – positions are based on grounds that few hold any more, or are so compromised that they don’t hold together logically.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Or just look at the British welfare state. When it was first established it was intended to keep people literally just above starvation level, and even this was viewed as quite radical by a lot of people at the time. Then a few years ago the government tried to freeze the budgets of a few departments, and were widely castigated for imposing “savage austerity” and abandoning the poor to die.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There are precious few Republican voters who actually oppose the Medicare and Social Security that they receive or are about to receive. Even the ones who are willing to say they want to change these programs for younger people couch it not in terms of “elimination” but “privatization”. In other words, they have given up on the idea that these programs are undesirable and merely want them to be “better”.

            Yes, you will be able to point to a few intellectuals who still object to these programs outright, but not many. So, how can you score this as a concession from the conservative side?

            And furthermore, what kind of conservatives are we talking about? Define them. Social? Fiscal? If you were to reach back to 1950 or 1850 or 1750, how many of the tenants of that group would you still be willing to fight for now, or are you picking and choosing?

            Because the conservatives, or at least some people that it is reasonable to refer to as conservative, of 1750 supported monarchy as self obviously just and right. Is it a sop to the left of today that they do not argue for monarchy? Or is it a case of the left being correct?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Amusingly, I know actual monarchists … and they wouldn’t want to go back to the 1900 status quo.

          • onyomi says:

            “There are precious few Republican voters who actually oppose the Medicare and Social Security that they receive or are about to receive.”

            Therefore, from a liberal perspective, Republicans of today should be considered much more moderate and reasonable than the Republicans of the past, who genuinely opposed these liberal programs, as opposed to just wanting to tweak them.

            Yet the rhetoric right now is that today’s Republicans are almost uniquely, or, at least, unusually radical as compared to some theoretical “reasonable” Republicans of the past.

            If one wants to describe everyone who disagrees with one as “unreasonable” because wrong, then that makes sense. I just don’t think it makes sense to describe today’s Republicans as unusually unreasonable from a liberal perspective, given that they have largely already accepted most of the left’s basic premises and favorite programs, arguing only in favor of tweaking them slightly. They may be seemingly less open to compromise than in the past, but that’s starting from a position of already having accepted 90% of the other side’s ideas.

          • Chalid says:

            “We were wrong before, so you should listen to us now.”

          • onyomi says:

            “We were wrong before, so you should listen to us now.”

            That is a big, fundamental problem with the GOP of the past century. They don’t actually offer an alternative vision, they only try to stop us following the progressive vision quite so quickly.

            It’s hard to blame them, though: the left has succeeded in drawing an Overton Window wherein, for most issues, the only options are “move left quickly and move left slowly.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi:

            Is it really all down to the left playing the game better? There reallyare things where, in my opinion at least, the right really was on the wrong side.

          • onyomi says:

            @dndnrsn

            I mean, sure, I think the left was right on some issues, like, “if you’re going to have a democracy (which I don’t want, by the way) there’s no excuse to prevent women and black people from voting.” But I don’t think they’ve been right enough that we could describe the past 100 years as a move toward the “truth” or “objectively better policies” winning because they were the truth and/or objectively better. I think liberalism, progressivism, etc. have been winning, not “the truth.” I wouldn’t say it’s a coincidence that the truth and better policies have sometimes won out, but I wouldn’t say it’s the driving force, either.

            With a few major exceptions like the aforementioned civil rights victories, I think the 20th century was mostly a disaster, politically speaking. Almost everything good about it was the result of technology and private sector innovation, which, in many ways, actually decelerated relative to the 19th c.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            You are conflating “Republican” and “conservative”. Conservatives may be more or less moderate, more or less willing to negotiate and compromise, etc. A conservative like Bill Buckley is quite different than Barry Goldwater.

            But the Republican party used to be a liberal party. It has been bleeding away first its liberals and then its moderates. The Republican party of today is not nearly as liberal in total composition as that of 1950, and definitely not the one of 1850.

            In addition, on a completely separate access, call it pragmatism vs. purity, the Republican has become decidedly less and less and less pragmatic.

            Let’s take the issues of taxes and deficit. Reagan was pragmatic, he lowered taxes, and when that did not lower the deficit, he agreed to increase them (somewhat) again. This is very far from the dogmatism that taxes should only go in one direction.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            With a few major exceptions like the aforementioned civil rights victories, I think the 20th century was mostly a disaster, politically speaking.

            As compared to when?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @dndnrsn

            There are also issues where (some of) the left were clearly on the wrong side — the presence of NAMBLA in the Overton window springs to mind.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If there’s a lack of continuity, isn’t it the result of defeats – of positions they previously held being pushed out of the Overton Window?

            It does make more sense if you look at the the overall trend as the summation of a series of piecewise defeats for whatever conservatives believe at any given moment, even if there’s no master conservative philosophy that gets defeated over the entire span. The whole thing starts to look like a sort of Greek Ship Paradox– with [those guys we’re not supposed to talk about] maybe playing the part of the wiseacres who warehoused each conservative plank as it was removed, and at the end assembled them all into a new ship.

            Still, it feels peculiar, from the standpoint of a present-day conservative, to think of the very process by which present-day conservatives came to believe the things present-day conservatives believe as a defeat for conservatism.

          • onyomi says:

            “As compared to when?”

            The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries?

            Not that they were better than the 20th century, of course, but I’d say the degree to which the 18th century was better than the 17th century and the degree to which the 19th century was better than the 18th century were even more dramatic than the degree to which the 20th century was better than the 19th century.

            This suggest to me that the 18th and 19th centuries were more “on the right track” in terms of direction, even if obviously worse than the 20th c. in absolute terms.

          • onyomi says:

            Re. conflating conservatives and Republicans: okay, let’s do that, since everybody seems to do it now. By which I mean, Republican practically=conservative in the public imagination if not reality today, so when people complain about “those darn Republicans getting so radical and obstructionist lately,” to my ears it sounds no different from saying “those darn conservatives acting all conservative lately!”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Fair enough, but it isn’t really the same complaint. The ideological sorting which has occurred has made governing, the everyday drab work of doing what needs to be done, much harder to do. And it renders both parties, but more so the Republicans, beholden to the those most likely to turn out in primaries, which tend to be the most ideologically motivated. That mean that ideological sorting really has made the parties more radical, even if “conservatives” aren’t more radical than they used to be.

            To use a ridiculous example, if somehow the Republican Party was taken over by Westboro Baptist believers and everyone else left the party, the Republicans would more extreme than they had been and the Westboro Baptists wouldn’t be anymore extreme than they were before. Both would be true, even though the two had become synonymous.

          • onyomi says:

            My point is that the views of the median Republican voter and office holder today are, in an absolute sense, far to the left, on both economic and social views, of the median Republican voter or office holder fifty years ago, so it seems strange to claim that the Republican party has recently been taken over by right-wing radicals. This only makes sense if we concede that it is the right wing of a group which, in an absolute sense, is far to the left of where it was, historically.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Re:20th century

            It seems like you were being hyperbolic when you described the 20th century as a disaster (politically)?

            I mean, assuming the assertion that the 20th century did not make us much progress (politically) as the 18th and 19th, Occam would suggest we posit diminishing returns, higher hanging fruit, etc. to explain the relative slower rate of progress.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            I don’t think that is really true, as regards the median Republican voter of 1966 vs. today. Nixon, after all, is the one who passed Medicare.

            You are ignoring the impact of ideological sorting, I believe.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not being hyperbolic in describing the 20th c. as a disaster, politically speaking. For the US it’s seen the development and subsequent acceptance of the federal income tax, major welfare programs, the neverending warfare state, the surveillance state…

            A bright point, I guess, is the final recognition of the failure of communism, though it was replaced by “socialism light” in most of the developed world and it took way too long for, e. g., the USSR to throw in the towel (most of the 20th c.; ergo, for Russians and Chinese, a pretty darn big proportion of world population 20th c.=huge disaster; for us, just manageable disaster?).

            The fact that communism was tried for the first and only time on a really big scale during the 20th c. alone should make it a “political disaster,” really…

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @HeelBearCub: “Nixon, after all, is the one who passed Medicare.”

            This is a great example of the “why won’t you compromise on doing 96% of the chores?” argument.

            Yes, Nixon passed Medicare. In order to not be defined as stubborn obstructionists, is it enough for the GOP to not oppose keeping Medicare? (Which is currently the case. In fact, last time they were in power they passed a huge expansion of it.) Or are they obliged to support ever-larger socialized medicine programs until the end of time?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ThirteenthLeeter:
            First off, I mangled some facts. Nixon passed a Medicare expansion to those under 65 who were disabled.

            And then he ran for re-election on a platform of universal national healthcare, getting the endorsement of the AFL-CIO.

            He wasn’t forced to sign the Medicare expansion into law, he wanted to.

            Here is an address he sent to congress on comprehensive health insurance.

          • brad says:

            @onyomi
            I don’t think you’ve answered the objection that “right … in an absolute sense” when discussing generations worth of time isn’t a useful, or even coherent, notion.

            Reificiation and personification can be useful tools, but they can also lead astray.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            the 20th century was better than the 19th century.

            I’m not being hyperbolic in describing the 20th c. as a disaster, politically speaking.

            I’m trying to square those two statements, and I am apparently missing whatever it is that you mean. What era would you like to go back to, from a political perspective?

          • null says:

            What I think onyomi is saying is that the improved technology of the 20th century makes up for bad politics and then some. Presumably, he would like to keep this while returning to a government something like 19th century US government.

          • onyomi says:

            I mean, the 20th c. was a nicer time to live in (in the US, at least, Russia, maybe not so much) than the 19th c., but I think the 19th c. saw more rapid technological and economic progress, and I think the politics of the 20th c. were worse.

            If we could have the federal government today be the size it was during the van Buren administration, for example, I think that would be a big improvement.

            Re. relative improvement: consider that in 1800 Americans rode horses (if they could afford one), used outhouses and wells, burned whale oil, and relied on the postal service for communication. By 1900 Americans had rapidly expanding access to: indoor plumbing with clean water, electricity, cars, telephones…

            What do we have now that we didn’t have in 1916? I mean, sure, there are some important breakthroughs: mostly computers and better antibiotics and vaccines, but the relative improvement between 1916 and 2016 seems less to me than that between 1816 and 1916.

          • Nornagest says:

            In a word, logistics. Rural areas in 1916 looked pretty much like they did in 1816; rural areas in 2016 look completely different. This is mostly due to the enormous logistical work needed to extend the advances of the 19th century out from the urban centers, along with a few from the 20th (consumer radio, TV, radar, modern medicine, computers). Big chunks of the rural West didn’t have electricity until the Sixties.

            The flashy 21st-century version of this is Amazon Prime, but it gets a lot less flashy and more practical.

            Effectively connecting those urban centers shouldn’t be underestimated, either. Cities in 1916 were islands connected by a sparse network of rail lines; going anywhere off the network took days or weeks of travel.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            …and a huge driver of those logistical improvements is government/politics. Rural electrification, communication, highways and interstates, etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            Nah, I wasn’t going for “lol roads”.

            In our history, some of that is certainly linked to politics. Since it involves large-scale coordination, too, you could plausibly argue that it couldn’t have gotten done without politics of some kind. But it’s difficult to use that history to prove the necessity of politics of a particular kind, and especially of government initiatives similar to ours. There are certainly cases where large logistical systems have been bootstrapped without significant government investment.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “(in the US, at least, Russia, maybe not so much)”

            That isn’t entirely clear. Serfdom wasn’t abolished until 1862. And conscription…
            The term of service in the 18th century was for life. In 1793 it was reduced to 25 years. In 1834 it was reduced to 20 years plus 5 years in reserve and in 1855 to 12 years plus 3 years of reserve.

            On January 1, 1874…reduced for the land army to 6 years followed by 9 years in the reserve.”

            And while Russia didn’t have world war 2 or the civil war, it did have plenty of horrible minor wars.

          • Agronomous says:

            @ HeelBearCub :

            There are precious few Republican voters who actually oppose the Medicare and Social Security that they receive or are about to receive.

            That’s because they’ve been forced to “pay into” those programs their entire working lives. This was a deliberate ploy by FDR, repeated by LBJ: make it seem like voters are building up equity in a program, so as to build up support for it and entrench it politically.

            It reminds me of a Borges story* about a wheel-shaped prison almost entirely contained in a mountain. For the first several years of your sentence, you’re turning the wheel to put yourself further into the mountain; for the last several years, you’re pulling yourself out of the mountain. Everyone else is along for the ride (except they’re pulling, too).

            On another note: the Republican Party only dates back to 1854, not 1850.

            (* Edit: The story is “Manuscript Found in a Police State” by Brian Aldiss; in my defense: come on! Totally a Borgesian idea! Plus, I read it in a volume that ended with the actual Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths”.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Argonomous:
            The fact that the Republican Party only goes back to 1850 is essentially irrelevant. If you want to argue that the Republican Party of 1850 was the conservative party in the US, well, I think you won’t have much luck.

            Edit: Nevermind, I see the comment you are pointing at. I don’t think I was implying anything about exact dates, but the you are correct, I indicated an impossible year for the existence of the party.

            Edit2: As to the point about paying into the system of Social Security and Medicare, that has much less to do with some diabolical scheme and far more to do with a) being able to start a program at all, and b) the fact that current programs will always depend on current GDP, regardless of how me might try and convince ourselves otherwise.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            Given that onyomi (IIRC) is an anarcho-libertarian, I think evidence of any kind of government being required is relevant.

          • onyomi says:

            “I don’t think you’ve answered the objection that “right … in an absolute sense” when discussing generations worth of time isn’t a useful, or even coherent, notion.”

            I can’t really respond to the objection since I don’t understand why it wouldn’t be useful or coherent.

            I’m interested here in actual stances on actual policies, not in the political coalitions who held them at various times. I understand that what it meant to be a Republican has changed over time, as have which issues are considered “left” or “right wing.” The fact that the Republicans freed the slaves and were, at one point, the “big, centralist government” party, for example, is not relevant to my point. Today, the Democrats are the “big, centralist government+civil rights+socially liberal” party.

            My point is: there are positions today associated strongly with conservatives and the Republican party: lower taxes, less social welfare programs, stronger military, “traditional” values. The very strong implication of all the “Republicans have gotten so radical” talk is that today’s Republicans hold these stereotypically “Republican” views more strongly, radically, insistently than they once had done. But they don’t. It is now considered a fairly strong right-wing idea just to abolish Obamacare, a program which didn’t even exist until several years ago. And to abolish say, the income tax, would be seen as far, far right.

            It doesn’t matter to me who, exactly was or was not in favor of the income tax back in 1913. My point is that on the issues now stereotypically viewed as “right,” the Overton Window has, by and large, shifted very far to the left. It is only against this shift, then, that we can define today’s conservatives as “radical.” Historically, they are not.

            Note: I would also think it unfair if Hillary Clinton were described as “radically” left wing. Even though she supports almost all the stuff put in by FDR and LBJ (whom I’d consider pretty far-left as American presidents go), she doesn’t indicate a desire to move strongly left of that, and, of course, there are certain kinds of left wing radicalism which are largely extinct now outside of Occupy Wall St protests.

            But few people on the right complain that the Democrats have lately become so radical, so I think there is an asymmetry.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi:

            Your reply brings up something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve created a new post.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But few people on the right complain that the Democrats have lately become so radical, so I think there is an asymmetry.

            I don’t think you have been paying attention to the rhetoric coming from the right about Obama for the last 8 years.

            Unless you are saying that Republicans/conservatives have always accused Democrats/liberals of being anti-American and secretly desiring the downfall of America. Which, I supposed might be considered correct from a certain viewpoint, but doesn’t do your argument many favors.

          • brad says:

            The problem from my perspective is that you are framing your argument as if it were timeless, but it isn’t. It’s just that instead of being focused on the political lifetime of most of us that are around being alive today, you’d rather look through the lens of the late 18th / early 19th century. Which is fine I guess, but it isn’t any more objective than the other way.

            To see what I mean, imagine if instead of Martin Van Buren I started talking about the reign of Henry VII or Julius Caesar and where our conservatives today fall along the left-right axis in an absolute sense as compared to them. We can say that everyone today is a radical leftist because they don’t think it is a good idea to crucify people for wearing purple. We could say it, and in some weird sense it might be true, but it wouldn’t be a useful frame to look at anything or draw conclusions from.

          • onyomi says:

            “You’d rather look through the lens of the late 18th / early 19th century.”

            Yes, I am saying some comparison to the broad scope of American history may be valuable, but what I’m arguing doesn’t require we go back that far. Income tax, social security, medicare, etc. were all enacted during the 20th c. At the time of their passage, it was within the Overton Window to oppose these things outright. Now it isn’t. Hence, shift left, rendering people with objectively more leftwing stances in an absolute sense “radical” from the perspective of today’s leftists.

            You might say, “of course it was reasonable to argue against something before it got passed.” Exactly. This is where those in favor of more government have a huge advantage. It doesn’t take long for the new beneficiaries of any given program to cause repeal to become unthinkable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            But if “it” is outside the Overton Window, and not being opposed by the conservatives of today, then the comments of unreasonableness aren’t about “it”, are they?

            On the subject of taxes, for example, I find it unreasonable to state that one’s positions are: a) the top marginal income tax rate should be reduced greatly b) current SS, Medicare and/or Military spending should be maintained or expanded c)the current deficit is a moral and existential crisis for the U.S.

            So my finding the current Republican position unreasonable has much more to do with the positions that they actually hold today, which can be quite incoherent.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            This comment thread over here reinforced my sort-of pet theory that a lot of the flak some sorts of leftism receives here is because we have a group of people who get exposed to annoying college/academia sorts a disproportional amount. 19th century Russians are people you’d consider better off than 20th century ones? Really? I am no communist, no communist sympathiser, or someone who wants anything to do with that system of thought and government within our society, but writing 20th century Russians off as worse than their ancestors is a very grave mistake, and to me at least comes across as being overly focused on people you dislike in the here and now.

          • LHN says:

            19th century Russia was pretty miserable, but Stalin’s terror plus World War II is a pretty hard comparison to beat. Similarly, it at least looks as if WWI killed an order of magnitude more Russians than the Napoleonic wars.

            That said, it’s certainly at least possible that, e.g., Russians from the latter half of the twentieth century were overall better off than Russians from the latter half of the 19th.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            British deaths in WW2 were an order of magnitude higher than they were in the Napoleonic wars, too. This still is insufficient reason for me to conclude that the Brits must have been much worse off in the twentieth rather than in the nineteenth century.

            One of the reasons totalitarian regimes were and are such terrible things is because they can be. Caligula may have gotten many people killed, but the technology of his day meant that functionally he couldn’t; 19th century Russian Czars killed less of their own people than their communist successors did, but we’re talking about people without radios or telephones or (for the most part) telegraphs.

            (Also, WW2? Really? Are we blaming the Russians for that now? From a policy/governmental point of view, I don’t see anything that could’ve been done to avert it from the Russian side.)

            Additionally, Soviet Russians were almost ludicrously overjoyed with their lot for some time well into the twentieth century. It is hard to read past propaganda, but by many accounts patriotic fervor was very high from the twenties all the way onwards into the late sixties or so. For their many, many faults, the Communists managed what the Czars never did, and industrialised their country at rates up into the three-digit percentages. Having a Czar who is faraway and can’t kill several dozen million of your own people is nice, but then so is central heating and affordable goods.

            Mind you, I’m not saying Communism did better than other systems would have. I’m saying it performed better than the Czarists did. Finding their 19th century government better than their 20th century government was is shortsighted at best, and projects anachronistic views of the wrong people on history at worst.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, if you took away all the improvements in technology in the 20th century, it would look a lot better.

          • “For their many, many faults, the Communists managed what the Czars never did, and industrialised their country at rates up into the three-digit percentages.”

            I believe the economic growth figures for at least the late Czarist period are considerably better than for the communist period, although it would take some work to check that.

            Stalinist Russia talked a good game of industrialization and quite a lot of people in the West believed them, but once real data became available it turned out that even Warren Nutter, who was the skeptic among American economists studying Russia, had overestimated Soviet economic performance.

            I don’t know what your “three digit percentages” mean. At the end of the Soviet period most of Russia was still a third world country with a first world military. Compare that to South Korea or Taiwan.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Yes, technology can be used for bad purposes as well. Who’d have thought?

            Tsarist industrialist growth numbers are no more reliable than communist ones.

            Yes, capitalist countries ended up better than the communist ones did. If Russia had had any, things could have turned out much better for them.

          • LHN says:

            Also, WW2? Really? Are we blaming the Russians for that now? From a policy/governmental point of view, I don’t see anything that could’ve been done to avert it from the Russian side.)

            People living on or near the eastern front of WWII were pretty uncontroversially worse off than people not living on or near the eastern front independent of national responsibility for same. (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and collaboratively invading Poland left entirely aside.) Being a 19th century Russian peasant was bad and being a serf was worse, but I’d at least guess that either beat things like living in Leningrad between 1941 and 1944.

            That said, I don’t claim deep knowledge of 19th century serfdom, and am open to evidence that it was in fact worse than an environment where totalitarianism and total war were both dealing out megadeaths.

          • “Tsarist industrialist growth numbers are no more reliable than communist ones.”

            Do you know that, or are you guessing?

            It isn’t my field, so I don’t know the sources for the data. But Tsarist Russia wasn’t the sort of closed society that Stalinist Russia was, so it would have been a good deal harder to fake statistics, easier for outside observers to deduce what was happening from observables.

            I expect the calculations were done by economic historians well after the fall of the Tsarist government–just as similar calculations were done for the USSR after its collapse.

          • onyomi says:

            If I had to be reborn as either a random 19th c. Russian peasant or a random 20th c. Russian peasant I would literally take my chances with the 19th c. Not that my chances would be good, but I mean… have you seen Russian death figures for WWII? And that’s just that one war, exclusive of engineered famines, political purges, etc. I’ll take good ol fashion feudalistic tyranny over 1984esque tyranny any day.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I’m pretty sure with all that, life expectancy was higher in the 20th century.

          • onyomi says:

            “I’m pretty sure with all that, life expectancy was higher in the 20th century.”

            Though no thanks to politics, I’m sure.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            If you want to believe as much, that’s okay. For most of the SU’s existence, they seemed to have believed otherwise, though again it is difficult to measure. Communism may be an evil you’re well acquainted with, but serfdom is no less crushing a system.

          • onyomi says:

            “no less crushing a system”

            No. Communism is fundamentally unworkable. Feudalism is just unfair.

          • Ruprect says:

            @onyomi
            I dunno… Communism sounds perfectly sensible to me – when the utility derived from an additional unit of consumption is nothing (abundance) … that’s communism.
            Otherwise, you’re making strong claims about people deriving utility from status (demonstrated by consumption). That’s surely not a law of human nature.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Though no thanks to politics, I’m sure.”

            Only if you declare all the positive political programs further by the USSR as inevitable under the Tsar. I’m not sure that is really fair. While many of the social programs and gains might have been done by the Tsar/market, things like Jewish emancipation would probably not have been.

            “No. Communism is fundamentally unworkable. Feudalism is just unfair.”

            No, theoretical communism is unworkable. What the USSR actually implemented worked, it just was massively inefficient (to the point where people question its ability to have even produced intensive growth).

            Also, doesn’t feudalism have ‘incentive disparity leading to famines’ like communism does? It is mitigated by the free market in food (so they wouldn’t have had something as bad as the Hodomor), but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have any structural methods to stop people from starving to death.

          • Nita says:

            Note that ‘crushing’ and ‘unworkable’ are two different things. (And that’s all I’m going to say in this thread. I don’t know whether my great-grandmother would have exchanged her short life for a longer life of serfdom, but apparently I really don’t appreciate random strangers presuming to know what she would or should have wished for.)

          • Nornagest says:

            when the utility derived from an additional unit of consumption is nothing (abundance) … that’s communism.

            That’s post-scarcity. Communism is a theory about how to get there — or, if you’re already a Marxist, a stage of that theory.

          • Ruprect says:

            Thing about communism, as it happened, is this.
            If you’re in total war, and you need to mobilise the economy to produce war things – you have central planning. Everyone had central planning during the second world war – if you have a specific goal that you need to mobilise your society to work towards – you need central planning. Soviet communism did fairly well at this.
            If you are going to judge things on how satisfied consumers are, you need markets. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that collectives can’t operate within markets – accountants and lawyers seem to do pretty well (even in more capital intensive industries collectives can do ok – John Lewis). I mean… do we need to have a market in capital in order to have markets for consumption?
            [edit: though I suppose collectives are still operating within the capital market – calculation problem? – capitalism isn’t necessary to provide motivation for succesfull business – question is whether cost of capital could be separated from consumption?)

          • Ruprect says:

            “Communism is a theory about how to get there — or, if you’re already a Marxist, a stage of that theory.”

            My understanding was that Marxist theory is more of an economic/political analysis with little in the way of positive policy suggestions.
            I’m not sure that the central planned Stalinist economy can be rightly defined as the communist ideal – many communists derided it as ‘state capitalism’.

          • onyomi says:

            “No, theoretical communism is unworkable. What the USSR actually implemented worked, it just was massively inefficient”

            Yeah, worked to the extent it deviated from theoretical communism.

          • Nornagest says:

            My understanding was that Marxist theory is more of an economic/political analysis with little in the way of positive policy suggestions.

            This is a nonstandard way of looking at it, but I normally think of Marxism as primarily a theory of history, including a future history. Communism in Marxist parlance would then be both a stage (the ultimate stage) of that future history and a description of ideologies that strive for it. And while that stage of history does describe a post-scarcity stage, it also says a great deal about how it’s supposed to be attained and maintained.

            Marx (and Engels) did make a number of explicit policy proposals — specific demands, I mean, not general calls for revolution — but they were rooted in the 19th-century context they were writing from and so tend to look rather modest by our standards. They’ve mostly been fulfilled by now, even in decidedly non-Marxist states like the US.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Not exactly. A lot of the goals of the Communist Manifesto were… odd.

            Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
            1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
            2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
            3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
            4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
            5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
            6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
            7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
            8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
            9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the
            populace over the country.
            10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

            Only 2, 6 and 10 are remotely close to being accomplished by normal countries (depending on how you interpreted 6 and 10).

        • brad says:

          @suntzuanime
          I’m not Susan B. Anthony and the anti-suffragettes aren’t my opponents. Your ‘you’s and ‘they’s are too vague to be useful.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’m referring to the demons that use humans as pawns on their chessboard, not to specific humans here.

          • Jeremy says:

            So, in this metaphor there is no actual abuse, and no “pawn” has an actual grievance to complain about? Well in that case I’d say let the demons sort out their demon issues in demon land. Why should any pawns care about something that they themselves are happy with?

          • brad says:

            @suntzuanime
            I don’t know what this is supposed to mean. Did you mean to post it in the puppy discussion above?

          • Frank McPike says:

            @suntzuanime
            I think that’s the central problem here. You (and Onyomi) seem to have defined progressivism to mean, essentially, “the policies that won” and conservatism to mean “the policies that lost”. And yes, if we draw our definitions that way then the pattern does begin to look a little suspicious.

            But I don’t think that’s a sensible way to draw the definitions. Nearly every conservative I know thinks that Susan B. Anthony was right on the issue of suffrage. And that the civil rights movement was on the right side of the segregation issue. And they, in fact, see those positions on those issues as actual vindications of their own values. I don’t know a single conservative who would say “Women’s suffrage is opposed to my central values, but I support it anyway.” Rather they tend to say things like “Women’s suffrage is the position truly consistent with conservative values, and I think it’s unfair to associate us with the people who opposed it.” And, on that point, I think they’re right.

            In other words, portraying American history as a hard-fought battle between a conservative side and a liberal one, where the same side always loses, seems both facially implausible, and inconsistent with how those battles actually played out. For example, Onyomi asks “isn’t it kind of ironic that the party that has mostly gotten its way is the one accusing the other of being stubborn?” But… there’s no one party that has consistently won every battle. Perhaps the battle against segregation was won by Democrats, but it was mostly fought against other Democrats, and the winning position was one that had been endorsed (if not actively pursued) by the Republican party since the Civil War. (And Southern Democrats weren’t secretly modern Republicans, they voted with Northern Democrats consistently on every other issue).

            In general, once you narrow the viewpoint to a particular policy, history starts to look a lot more complicated. Onyomi mentions income taxation, but that wasn’t a straightforward victory of Democrats over Republicans; the income tax was supported by both Taft and Teddy Roosevelt. And change hasn’t been linear in one direction at all: for most of the last century (ending with Reagan) the rate for the highest tax bracket was above 50%. If 0% is outside the Overton Window now, so is 70%.

            And, once again, most conservatives aren’t actually opposed to some level of income taxation. They see it as perfectly consistent with their principles. After all, Republicans do support large amounts of spending on some things (e.g. defense) and generally see the income tax as an effective way of securing that funding (which was, in fact, one of the original arguments for the income tax).

        • onyomi says:

          “Unless you are saying that Republicans/conservatives have always accused Democrats/liberals of being anti-American and secretly desiring the downfall of America.”

          I’m not saying the Republicans are nicer to the Democrats than the other way around. I’m just saying they don’t use this particular line about “you guys used to be reasonable and serious and open to compromise but now you’ve gone crazy.” Though one could argue, maybe, that that is, in part, a response to Republican rhetoric getting more hyperbolic in recent years, if not actually more extreme in substance.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Is it fair for me to summarize this argument as the following?

            “Democratic characterization of Republicans has now descended to the standard level that Republicans’ have used to characterize Democrats for years.”

            Because, well, where is your complaint then?

          • onyomi says:

            @onyomi:
            Is it fair for me to summarize this argument as the following?

            “Democratic characterization of Republicans has now descended to the standard level that Republicans’ have used to characterize Democrats for years.”

            No, I make no claims about who has been nicer and for how long. I’m just pointing to a particular type of rhetoric I see coming from the left lately–that today’s Republicans are unusually unreasonable as compared to some imaginary reasonable Republicans of the past.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            But do Republicans currently make those same or similar claims about Democrats? That is the point I keep trying to get you to address. You seem to be saying that they do.

          • LHN says:

            @HeelBearCub I don’t think I’ve ever heard it applied to domestic policy. There used to be a current of nostalgia among Republicans for national security oriented Democrats: “Scoop” Jackson’s[1] name was often invoked, along with the adage “politics stops at the water’s edge” (which the Democrats were deemed to have abided by in the past, but more recently abandoned).

            But my recollection is that was mostly a late Cold War thing, and aside from a brief revival around the beginning of the Iraq War I think it’s mostly been in abeyance.

            [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_M._Jackson

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @LHN:
            The current rhetoric from most Republicans about Democrats is that they are people who “hate America”, will “destroy America”, etc. Regardless of whether that is attached to “they didn’t use to hate America” or not doesn’t seem particularly material to me.

            It also seems to me that at least from McCarthy forward, there has been a fairly strong current in some part of the conservative movement to see liberals as enemies of America. As the parties have increasingly sorted ideologically, this has been more and more Republicans vs. Democrats, but it wasn’t always so.

          • onyomi says:

            I’ve seen Republicans imply that Democrats are ashamed of America, anti-America, etc. yes. Maybe that is worse. I’m not trying to win a “your side’s rhetoric is more unfair than my side’s rhetoric” contest.

            I just don’t see Republicans saying that Democrats used to be reasonable but have recently “gone crazy.” And that seems to be a popular thing for Democrats to say about Republicans lately.

            Examples:

            How the Right went Wrong

            The Downfall of Moderation

            Why Republicans went Crazy (admittedly calls Democrats “useless”)

            I don’t see any equivalent “why did the Democrats go crazy lately?” books.

          • keranih says:

            Conservative belly-aching about liberals who hate America and what she stands for have been a pretty constant theme – rising and falling in volume – since the 1950’s. IMO this is not an unfounded complaint, what with the pro-communist inclinations, flag burning, WTO anarchists and anti-colonialism studies which are all found almost entirely on that side of the house.

            However, it is an error imo to use a broad brush to assume all liberals hold all these thoughts, that they are all held to the same degree, and that there is no pro-American thought that can coexist with any of those above concepts. Which broad brush I do see being used, and I completely sympathize with patriotic liberals who find themselves smeared with it.

            PS: re “liberals gone crazy” books – the ur model is probably Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Facism.

          • Salem says:

            But “Liberal Fascism” says that Liberals (in the American sense) have always been crazy, certainly as far back as the 1930s when they gave birth to fascism.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            So, in your mind, conservative rhetoric about liberals has consistently been that they are awful and intransigent, but liberals have only recently started saying this about conservatives? And this is somehow to conservatives credit?

            I’m not trying to be asinine here, but I really don’t understand your complaint. Republicans really did consciously have a “full scorched earth” strategy starting at the beginning of Obama’s presidency where the refused to give Obama votes for anything no matter what, so it’s not even like recent claims of intransigence by Democrats about Republicans are based on nothing.

            I think you just don’t like it when people complain about “your” side, and don’t notice when people complain about “their” side.

          • onyomi says:

            @Heelbearcub,

            You’re still completely missing my point somehow. I’m not going to try to explain it again. Reread the old posts, especially https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/08/ot49-open-secret/#comment-356525
            if you care.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            I know you are unlikely to reply to this at this point but …

            I don’t see any equivalent “why did the Democrats go crazy lately?” books.

            You have already admitted that Republicans already thought the Democrats were crazy. Why would they say the Democrats have gone crazy recently when they thought they were crazy to start with?

            I am, and have been, directly engaging your point. I don’t know why you find it hard to understand my response.

          • null says:

            From what I can tell it sounds like onyomi’s issue is something along the lines of ‘why are you trying to talk about Republicans, I’m making a point about Democrats’.

          • onyomi says:

            “From what I can tell it sounds like onyomi’s issue is something along the lines of ‘why are you trying to talk about Republicans, I’m making a point about Democrats’.”

            It’s about both sides and their histories. Read the original analogy again.

          • null says:

            Counterpoint (I’m not sure if I agree with this): conservatives generally want to not change things, so saying ‘conservatism lost because these things changed’ is almost useless, without a way of figuring out what didn’t change, and to what degree this is caused by progressivism vs. conservatism rather than changes in technology, social environment, etc.

          • onyomi says:

            “Counterpoint (I’m not sure if I agree with this): conservatives generally want to not change things, so saying ‘conservatism lost because these things changed’ is almost useless”

            Well, arguably conservatism was winning throughout most of human history, when change was very slow. And many (but not all) of the things that make the modern world a nicer place to live than say, the stone age or medieval Europe are because of change.

            But the relatively recent trend toward rapid technological progress creates a bias that change is usually good because it is pushing us toward some theoretical utopian endpoint. I don’t think this is true.

            But in a world where we owe so much that is good to change (especially technological), it can be hard to articulate a convincing defense of conservatism. Which is at least part of why Moldbug is so long-winded, I think.

            Arguably a third way is just to argue for a different kind of change. I, personally, am not conservative economically, but I want us to move rapidly in a different direction than we’ve been going in (a more libertarian one, of course, which in some ways may be a return to the 19th c. or earlier, but ideally better).

            Funny, I used to always call myself “economically conservative but socially liberal,” basically meaning something like “Red Tribe on the economy, Blue Tribe on social stuff.” But now I think “economically liberal (in the truer sense), but socially conservative” might describe me better. I’m still closer to Red Tribe on economic issues and Blue Tribe on social issues, but I’d ideally like a rapid move towards a freer economy and more of a gentle tiptoe towards more liberal social mores, combined, in some cases, with rolling back of some of the more egregious SJW stuff.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          If you remove the content of the post entirely, it will be deleted. The post itself, I mean.

      • onyomi says:

        “The issues they cared about are issues that the overwhelming majority of people today don’t care about.”

        Issues like income tax, social security, medicare, foreign military intervention, prohibition (now of drugs, rather than alcohol)?

        • brad says:

          Income tax was certainly a hot issue, but whether or not it should exist at all, not whether it should be lowered somewhat.

          Foreign military intervention was a very hot issue, but at a high enough level everything is everything. Whether or not to get involved in WWI is a very different question than whether or not to send more troops to Iraq and Syria.

          Similarly, prohibition is a stretch, and even if it wasn’t, I’m not sure which side is supposed to be which. That rather illustrates the problem.

          Social security and medicare weren’t on anyone’s agenda and wouldn’t be for decades.

          —-

          Stepping back–I think you are arguing from the position of a fiscal conservative (libertarian) and yet trying to claim the current, fairly inchoate, anger as being righteous indignation over the growth in the size of government. That just doesn’t strike me as terribly plausible.

          Just look at the things you mention: unions, airline regulations, income taxes, medicare, social security, drug prohibition, foreign military intervention. These are Ron Paul issues, not Trump issues, and Paul got crushed.

          I’d probably prefer a mass movement of outrage over the size of government but that’s not what’s happening as far as I can tell.

          • onyomi says:

            I mean, I’m not saying the conservative outrage and stubornness are smart and principled and focused on all the right issues. They aren’t.

            But I do think fueling the Trump bandwagon is a not entirely unjustified, somewhat inchoate sense that Red America has been losing ground, culturally and economically for some time now. So I don’t think they’re wrong to now think of “compromise” as a “dirty word,” though I definitely wish they’d focus their outrage better.

          • Chalid says:

            @onyomi

            Agreed that they are losing ground culturally and economically, but I would dispute that this process has much to do with partisan politics and certainly not on the political issues that were most contentious.

            Appealing Obamacare or cutting the top marginal tax rate would do absolutely nothing to change the relative trajectories of Red and Blue America, and indeed might even accelerate the divergence.

          • Similarly, prohibition is a stretch, and even if it wasn’t, I’m not sure which side is supposed to be which. That rather illustrates the problem.

            Prohibition [of all beverage alcohol in the USA, 1919-33] was seen as a progressive reform. The Prohibition Party was regarded as a party on the left, like the Socialists (they even had some candidates in common). Liberal idealists supported Prohibition; conservatives and business interests opposed it.

            For example, at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, the legendary affair that wasn’t decided until the 103rd ballot, William Jennings Bryan (seen even today as a man of the Left) demanded that the nominee be “a progressive,” by which he specifically meant, a supporter of Prohibition.

            Just eight years later, in the 1932 presidential election, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D) opposed incumbent Herbert Hoover (R). The Depression was under way, yes, but the candidates did not advocate strikingly different approaches. Both called for austerity.

            The major dividing issue between those two candidates was Prohibition: Hoover and the Republicans were for keeping it, FDR and the Democrats for getting rid of it.

            Prominent Republicans who were opposed to Prohibition announced their support for FDR based on that issue alone, and received enormous coverage in newspapers. Presumably Democratic drys went the other way, and supported Hoover, but they didn’t get the same publicity.

            Roosevelt won, and Congress passed the proposed 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition, before he even took office. It was ratified by the end of the year.

            So here’s the Democrats in 1933 bringing about what was seen as a victory for conservatives. Today’s politics is not a useful lens for understanding history.

          • brad says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            Today’s politics is not a useful lens for understanding history.

            Exactly my point. Well, sort of vice versa, but very close in any event.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum:

            Prohibition [of all beverage alcohol in the USA, 1919-33]

            Surprisingly, no. While you couldn’t legally distill spirits, you could make beer and wine for your own consumption; my great-grandfather apparently made the least-unpalatable red wine in the neighborhood. There were also (frequently-abused) exceptions allowing wine to be sold for religious purposes.

            The War on Drugs is far harsher than Prohibition ever was.

          • John Schilling says:

            Surprisingly, no. While you couldn’t legally distill spirits, you could make beer and wine for your own consumption;

            Nit: Pretty sure the actual rule was that you couldn’t deliberately manufacture any alcoholic beverage, distilled or otherwise, but that accidental fermentation wasn’t covered. Disproving “it wuz a accident” in a private context being effectively impossible, the effect was de facto legalization of homemade wine and beer.

            I am also told, though haven’t verified, that one could fairly reliably purchase alcoholic beverages without overt criminality, either by buying apple juice/cider, or by ordering “grape juice” at an Italian restaurant.

    • Randy M says:

      I think it is usually argued here that Republicans got all the economic concessions they wanted–taxes are lower than they used to be (not necessarily accounting for actual money paid via loopholes?), trade is freer, unions have less power, “corporations are people”, etc. But they nothing in the social realm–abortion legal basically whenever, same sex marriage commonly recognized, no prayer in schools, speech codes, no-fault divorce is default, various diversity initiatives, hate crime legislation for protected groups, inexorable increase in federal versus state powers.

      Of course, this pushes the debate from the Republican vs Democrat level to the intra-party Republican level–social conservative causes are not the “hills to die on” the way, say, corporate tax policy is. Hence the ongoing primaries where some conservatives based their support on who was more likely to piss off certain factions within the party rather than who actually agreed with them on more issues.

      • onyomi says:

        Taxes are lower than they used to be during the couple of decades when they were highest in US history, perhaps, but still astronomically higher and more intrusive than the historical average for the US. Remember there wasn’t any federal income tax at all until 1913!

        Similar on the “reproductive rights” thing. Prior to Roe v Wade, abortion was basically illegal. Now it’s considered a crazy right wing position just to try to make it harder to do. (I, personally, don’t have a strong stance on this issue, but it is obviously one very important to many conservative).

    • Walter says:

      Football game analogy. Left wants to push the ball right. Right would like to return to the 50 yard line. We are presently on the Right’s 40. The Left has a good administration, push 10 yards.

      “What is with our opposition these days? They used to just want to go 10 yards back, but now they want to go 20 yards back. They’ve gotten so radicalized!”

    • Aegeus says:

      Two problems with this view: Not every leftist government action creates an irrevocable shift left on the Global Political Meter. And some government actions pursue bipartisan goals and the disagreement is over implementation, which makes it hard to say that the left got everything and the right got nothing.

      Example of the first: Budgets. We have to pass one every year, and it generally funds both liberal and conservative projects, so it’s hard to say that every single year of a liberal congress shifts the needle left somehow. And the Tea Party’s goal of “shut it down, don’t pass a budget at all” is (1) a fringe position for Republicans, and (2) worse than either a Republican or a Democratic budget. The Tea Party’s focus on ideological purity, even against their own party, makes me feel that they’re not just a logical continuation of Republican goals.

      Example of the second: No Child Left Behind was a Republican bill, passed under Bush. Improving education certainly sounds like a leftist cause, but it hardly seems fair to say that this is something the Left won and the Right lost when Bush launched the thing. Likewise, Obamacare was based on Romneycare in Massachusetts. And even though the Republicans are vowing to repeal it, they’re also saying “…and we’ll replace it with a better model.” Again, it doesn’t seem like an exclusively leftist cause.

      The Republican goal is not “literally zero bills passed” (except for the Tea Party), it’s “pass a smaller number of bills that will solve problems better than the Democrats,” so acting like all of the above was part of the Democratic agenda and only the recent obstructionism represents the real Republican goals is misleading.

      That aside, what have the Republicans unambiguously won recently? Citizen’s United, the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq, and most of the rest of the War on Terror come to mind. (A lot of it was continued by Obama, but it’s hard to say that it’s part of the liberal agenda). Looking further back, I could also bring up the Cold War and the War on Drugs (public opinion very recently shifted here, which is why you can find Clinton supporting tough-on-crime bills in the 90s. And the legalization movement has as many libertarians as liberals).

      • Jill says:

        Since the Republicans dominate both Houses of Congress, most state legislatures, most state governorships, and also dominated SCOTUS until just recently when Scalia died– if they haven’t unambiguously won anything lately, it must be because they don’t want anything except to block Democratic initiatives. Otherwise, they already have what they want, or what their political donors want– deregulation, low corporate taxes due to various loopholes etc.

        They are doing a lot of what they want in the states e.g. drastically reducing access to birth control.

        • Gbdub says:

          They don’t “dominate” Congress, because they don’t have a filibuster or veto proof majority. And in fact they have tried to do many things (repeal Obamacare, pass a budget) that Obama has vetoed. Even that majority is recent (they didn’t control the Senate until after the 2012 election).

          To say that “all they want to do is obstruct” is just to say that you expect them to agree with the Democrats on everything, which is silly. There’s a reason they “dominate” Congress – more people voted for them. Shouldn’t that make Obama and his veto pen the real “obstructionist”?

          Conservatives didn’t “dominate” SCOTUS, it was 4-4 with Kennedy swinging. Other than on 2nd amendment issues the “liberal” side has won as often as not. Maybe more often.

          And please stop saying “birth control rights” when you mean “abortion access”. The two are separate in most people’s minds and conflating them looks dishonest. “Birth control rights” have greatly expanded – we’ve decided that nuns are legally required to buy the pill for you (exaggerating slightly for effect).

          • Jill says:

            When the clinics close, women have to drive further to get whatever they were getting from the clinic. Birth control and abortion rights are both important to me and many other women.

            The GOP had the chance to have an immigration reform bill– their big issue that they’re always railing about. They tarred and feathered Rubio for bringing one up. And they didn’t come up with an alternate bill either, given that they didn’t like his bill.

            Of course I don’t expect them to agree with Dems on everything. But when they won’t even give a hearing to Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, that’s obstructionist. When their big goal was to make Obama a one term president, not even looking for common ground at all, that’s obstructionist. Not to mention a Congress member shouting “You lie” at a SOTU speech.

            No, people voted for Obama twice, so he’s not the obstructionist. And he often bent over backwards to compromise with the GOP, until he found out that it was impossible to do, because they were unwilling.

            Kennedy is a pretty conservative justice, in my view, and in the view of these NYT articles authors. I guess there are different opinions on this.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/upshot/a-more-nuanced-breakdown-of-the-supreme-court.html?_r=0

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “When the clinics close, women have to drive further to get whatever they were getting from the clinic. Birth control and abortion rights are both important to me and many other women.”

            That doesn’t make them the same thing, and it’s dishonest argumentation to conflate them.

          • Nita says:

            we’ve decided that nuns are legally required to buy the pill for you (exaggerating slightly for effect)

            As I understand it, the previous situation was that the pill was excluded from coverage even if you needed it for medical reasons.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Thirteenth Letter
            That doesn’t make them the same thing, and it’s dishonest argumentation to conflate them.

            No conflation that I saw. They are certainly related, and it’s reasonable to mention them as parts of women’s rights over their own body.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @houseboatonstyx “They are certainly related, and it’s reasonable to mention them as parts of women’s rights over their own body.”

            Except she didn’t say “parts of women’s rights over their own body.” She said “access to birth control.”

            The recent public debate over birth control-related issues has been perhaps the most dishonest thing I’ve ever seen in American politics in my entire life. It’s bad enough that “some nuns don’t want to pay for my birth control, in this world where you can buy armfuls of condoms at Walgreen’s for a trivial price” is somehow interpreted as “reducing access”; the idea that we can then just quietly roll abortion in there under the rubric of “birth control” as well is frankly offensive.

          • keranih says:

            Birth control and abortion rights are both important to me and many other women.

            Beer and pizza are both very important to me. That doesn’t make them the same thing. (Oh, and to be clear – woman here, strongly against elective abortions and feeling pretty negative about the practical outcomes of the free love revolution sparked by the widespread adoption of oral contraception. So watch your lane and be careful how wide a swath you try to cut.)

            Oh, and women can get birth control pills, checkups, and many other health care services – including abortions – from providers who are not at specialty abortion clinics. Don’t pretend it’s either fund the abortion clinic or keep women from ever seeing a medical provider.)

            Rubio’s bill was an amnesty bill. We were promised with Reagan’s amnesty law that there wouldn’t be another one.

            Biden and half the Democrat senate have spoken openly against approving a SCOTUS appointee by a lame duck president. Elections have consequences, haven’t you heard?

            I originally thought you were a troll, but now I’m thinking you just really are that bubble-bound. You really need to get out more.

          • Vorkon says:

            Beer and pizza are both very important to me. That doesn’t make them the same thing.

            While I agree with your point in general, this is a terrible argument if you want to demonstrate that birth control and abortion rights should not be conflated. Beer and pizza should be inseparable, and I would have no problem with an argument that conflated the two.

          • keranih says:

            While I can see your point, I regretfully must entirely disagree.

            Pizzanbeer can be thought of as a single food only during specific hours of the day. Between 730 and 1030 am on sleepy Saturday mornings, however, the proper coupling is cold pizza and hot coffee, possibly seasoned with bailey’s.

            And if you don’t like cold pizza for breakfast, there’s nothing I can do for you.

          • Vorkon says:

            Point conceded, but only on account of the Bailey’s.

            (That’ll get me to concede most points, actually…)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Jill
            Birth control and abortion rights are both important to me and many other women.

            Now, that certainly sounds like distinguishing them, rather than conflating them.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @houseboatonstyx

            “They are doing a lot of what they want in the states e.g. drastically reducing access to birth control.”

        • onyomi says:

          “it must be because they don’t want anything except to block Democratic initiatives. Otherwise, they already have what they want, or what their political donors want– deregulation, low corporate taxes due to various loopholes etc.”

          And this is why Republican voters are so mad not just at Democrats, but at their own party. Because even when it has power it doesn’t do anything it promises. Hence Trump. Not that Trump is necessarily an intelligent reaction to this state of affairs, but it is understandable if the choices are “Trump” and “more of the same bozos who didn’t do anything we wanted them to last time they were in power.”

          • Jill says:

            I see what you mean. Like the GOP railed against immigration and then has done nothing about it, and then put down Marco Rubio for trying to introduce an immigration reform bill.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Rubio’s amnesty bill was pretty much the opposite of what the voters were demanding.

            It getting shot down was a pretty clear case of democracy working as intended.

        • gbdub says:

          “No, people voted for Obama twice, so he’s not the obstructionist” And I presume that the current Republican Congress came to their position through a military coup?

          “When their big goal was to make Obama a one term president, not even looking for common ground at all, that’s obstructionist.” So, they were supposed to want to lose the 2012 election? I mean I know Kerry was a weak candidate but I don’t think the Democrats were intentionally throwing 2004… This is insanely partisan, and I’m struggling to understand how you can’t see that.

          “Not to mention a Congress member shouting “You lie” at a SOTU speech.” And Obama called out the SCOTUS at that speech, and in his first meeting with Congressional leadership started with “I won”. He’s not innocent in this either.

          “Kennedy is a pretty conservative justice, in my view, and in the view of these NYT articles authors” Both you and the NYT editors are probably on the liberal end of American political opinion. It’s not fair to label yourself as a centrist and everyone to the right of you as conservative. Anyway it doesn’t change my point that the liberals have had a lot of wins in SCOTUS lately too.

          “The GOP had the chance to have an immigration reform bill– their big issue that they’re always railing about. They tarred and feathered Rubio for bringing one up. And they didn’t come up with an alternate bill either, given that they didn’t like his bill.” Rubio brought up a bill that was much more amnesty friendly than the constituents wanted, and got criticized. Why is “doing something” a necessity if the status quo is preferred? Why should the GOP have capitalized on this “chance”, especially when any bill would have to be approved by Obama at the end? Sometimes “do nothing” is a better option, and is why “obstructionist” is an empty, usually partisan, criticism.

          Birth control and abortion rights are both important to me and many other women. They certainly are (although a large percentage of women are opposed to abortion, so be careful who you claim for your side). But in your original post you referred only to “birth control” rights being curtailed, when you were clearly referring to abortion. Conflating them is misleading.

          Your whole effort here in this subthread started out based on the false premise that progressives are the put upon underdogs in the current American political landscape, built by cherry picking a few issues and a very narrow timeframe. This is a poor argument.

          @ Nita – “As I understand it, the previous situation was that the pill was excluded from coverage even if you needed it for medical reasons.”
          That may be the case – but if it was, it was excluded from a private contract entered into by the nuns with another private organization to provide health care coverage to their employees. They chose to exclude products they have a moral opposition to. The government decided that it has the power to legally require them to purchase this product from a private corporation.

      • “but it hardly seems fair to say that this is something the Left won and the Right lost when Bush launched the thing.”

        If you think of it as right vs left or conservative vs liberal, the fact that a left program was launched by a right politician is evidence that the left is winning.

        • Aegeus says:

          How am I supposed to know what the right wants, except by what their politicians do? If Republican obstructionism is proof that they want nothing to do with the current state of affairs, that they want to turn the clock back to 1900, then Republican pushes for leftist policies should be proof that they don’t.

          You could argue that most Republicans are not really rightists, but (a) that’s literally a No True Scotsman, and (b) it means there’s no reason Republican obstructionism should be linked to the overall left-right state of the country. If these Republicans are not really rightists, if they’ve drifted left with the rest of the country, why have they suddenly become so opposed to leftist policies? Why the new desire to turn the clock back to 1900?

    • Pku says:

      I think the difference between Kasich’s and Cruz’s rhetoric (and I assume their legislative records, but I haven’t checked those) is relevant: Kasich talks about things he’s done to push the conservative agenda – balanced budgets by restricting spending, restricting access to abortion, etc., while Cruz is known for shutting down the government. So aside from the left/right issue (well, Cruz is a lot further right), there’s also the “act to push your preferences/just be obstructive” axis.

      • onyomi says:

        Well, but Kasich was a governor where Cruz was a senator functioning under a president who would have certainly vetoed any preference he had tried to assert. When the other “team” has the ball, the best you can do, usually, is to stop them getting down the field. As a governor, Kasich had “possession” so to speak, even if he had to sometimes fight his statehouse, so he can more easily brag about making “progress.”

        • Pku says:

          That’s a fair point. Do you believe that the circumstances of not having the presidency are the key difference though? I don’t know the relevant history super-well, but I think both the 2006-2008 democratic majority and the Clinton-era republican majority were a lot less obstructive than the current congress. (Assuming this is correct, I don’t know quite who to blame for the present situation – I don’t think you can purely blame Obama, but Cruz wouldn’t have the power to pull off the government shutdown if the rest of congress didn’t let him. It’s probably more complicated than that).

          • Gbdub says:

            The democrats held Congress through 2010 – that’s when Obamacare passed. While Obamacare was “constructive” the manner in which it was passed was by no means bipartisan and certainly involved some legal but shady tactics.

            I don’t see why hyper-partisan behavior in the service of “doing something” should be preferred over the same behavior in attempting to maintain the status quo. If anything the status quo ought to get the benefit of the doubt. “Better than nothing is a high standard”

            EDIT: as to your actual question, heck yeah the President matters. Obama could have ended the shutdown on his own by signing the Republican passed budget. He had much more power over the process than any individual Senator for that reason. The Republicans have a majority but not a veto proof one, so Obama always has the power to unilaterally “obstruct” their bills unless they get a lot of Democratic support.

  26. Jill says:

    I didn’t say that polls and experts were the same thing.

    I certainly agree that “talking heads are not paid for being right, rather, they are paid for their entertainment value, for confirming the biases of their listeners.”

    Sales folks sell what people want, not what exists. Confirming the bias of listeners is a service that there is a demand for. The dull and accurate prognosticators who talk in terms of probabilities are not what people want. They want a “sure thing” and one that confirms their biases, even if theat’s not possible.

    Now that we’re on the subject of Trump and how he’s winning, thanks for the article on that. Here are a couple of other interesting ones.

    Donald Trump will win in a landslide. The mind behind ‘Dilbert’ explains why.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2016/03/21/donald-trump-will-win-in-a-landslide-the-mind-behind-dilbert-explains-why/

    The political scientist who saw Trump’s rise coming
    Norm Ornstein on why the Republican Party was ripe for a takeover, what the media missed, and whether Trump could win the presidency

    http://www.vox.com/2016/5/6/11598838/donald-trump-predictions-norm-ornstein

  27. But that doesn’t stop people from trying. The polls and the experts keep predicting political races. Almost no one predicted Donald Trump would get this far. But will people stop paying for pollsters to predict? No, of course not. Will they keep paying them because they’re so accurate? No.

    They will keep paying them and having them on TV, because they are selling something people WANT– even if it doesn’t really exist, at least not yet.

    “Polls” and “experts” are not all the same thing. A poll is a study, based presumably on real data. A political expert or pundit may be interpreting polls, but more likely, trying to explain and predict the political situation based on knowledge, experience, and bias.

    Television pundits are not genuine prognosticators. Nate Silver in The Signal and the Noise pointed out that almost all of them, all the time, confidently predict success for their own side. The talking heads are not paid for being right, rather, they are paid for their entertainment value, for confirming the biases of their listeners.

    More accurate analysts, with more cautious and measured predictions, make boring TV. They are more likely to speak in terms of probabilities rather than predictions. Their views are much less likely to be publicized, and more likely to be given privately to paying customers.

    As to the rise of Trump, his strength has been visible in polls since the beginning. See, for example, Josh Marshall’s article, Trump is No Mystery. There’ve Been No Surprises:

    When flight instrumentation first became viable, aviation educators began teaching pilots instruments-only flight. The gist is simple: only pay attention to your instruments. Many veteran pilots insisted that in a crisis situation the key was to go by intuition or ‘feel’. But numerous experiments and tragic experience showed that this was not true. With poor visibility, a pilot’s perception of speed, direction, whether he or she was right-side up or upside down was consistently wrong. Still today, a good bit of pilot training turns on the difficult process of learning to disregard what your senses tell you must be happening and following the instrument panel that tells you what actually is happening.

    For just the same reasons, no one has any business being surprised that Trump is now the Republican nominee. Don’t get me wrong. Polls can obviously be wrong. They sometimes miss a race, sometimes dramatically. But when consistent and sustained polling data conflicts with your logic, there’s quite likely something wrong with your logic. Trump is the perfect example.

    Starting in early July of last year, only weeks after entering the race, Trump moved into a nationwide lead and never looked back. For nine months, Trump lead the polls and never once lost that lead. Indeed, from early August until today his lead steadily grew from roughly 25% to 50% support today. You have to go back to George W. Bush in 2000 to see domination on anything like that scale – and Bush had a lock on establishment backing from the outset. Looked at from this perspective it’s remarkable that anyone could have looked at this race at any time in recent months and not concluded that Trump was the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination.

    There were various arguments why Trump wouldn’t win. His popularity would fade. He could only dominated a divided, overcrowded field. He had a natural ceiling at 25%, then 30%, then 40%. He’d finally saying something too outrageous. None of these arguments made much sense but they carried most punditry for months.

    • Dan T. says:

      Still today, a good bit of pilot training turns on the difficult process of learning to disregard what your senses tell you must be happening and following the instrument panel that tells you what actually is happening.

      This sounds like the inverse of the “death by GPS” phenomenon cited above for car drivers, where they trusted the gadgets over what they saw with their own eyes. But perhaps gadgets on planes are more accurate and reliable than those in cars.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’s more that the senses are less reliable for various reasons.

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

        In a car, you need not worry about the pitch and roll axes (until it’s far too late), and you have many more cues (terrain, in particular) for yaw.

      • nm. k.m. says:

        I’d say they are different instruments, aimed for different purposes. Speed meter and GPS are a bit different, and usually the airplane instrument meters are more trustworthy than the speed meter in your car…

  28. Brad (The Other One) says:

    Either I don’t fully grasp Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or “Self-Actualization” seems confused to me.

    Simply from the perspective of my emotional reaction to it, it seems to presume that everyone’s great potential is something approachable and desirable like being an artist or something, but what if one (like myself) has a pessimistic/dim view of humanity? Without being too edgy, I think people, if all physical/social constraints were removed, would likely use their new-found freedom to act in self-interested manner, possibly to the detriment of others.

    Even if I try to operate at arms-length from it, it still seems poorly defined. It seems like you can just blank out the top of his pyramid, and write-in what ever you want (which I guess is the point?)

    • Earthly Knight says:

      If memory serves, Maslow believed that self-actualization was achieved mostly by geniuses and groundbreaking artists, and that your average Joe has basically no hope of attaining it. Self-interested people can’t qualify as self-actualized, more or less by definition.

      It’s all dismal and moldering pseudo-science, anyway, so I wouldn’t bother fretting over it.

  29. Raemon says:

    PSA: People who live in (or near) NYC: We have semi-weekly meetups here that you’re welcome to attend.

    There are Effective Altruism meetups, “loosely defined ‘Rationality Community’ meetups”, and dinner parties that are a little more freeform that invest some effort in inviting people who’d get along with each other (you can sign up for a . For each of these, you’re welcome even if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t think they’d fit in.

    Sometimes we have a specific topic to discuss or exercises to do, sometimes we just talk.

    You can join the mailing list here.

  30. J Mann says:

    I just signed up for HBO Now, for obvious reasons, and had a question. I know that it sounds a little trollish, but I’m honestly curious about the answer and the reasoning behind it.

    Do rationalists consider themselves ethically required to steal television and other media?

    – Under a dust mote theory, if I stole HBO instead of subscribing and donated $15/month to effective altruism, aren’t I improving the world’s utility?

    – If I pay for cable because I feel guilty, doesn’t that mean I’m sacrificing children’s lives for my pride?

    – Yes, if everyone stole cable, the system would break, but since there are self-evidently enough people paying, choosing to pay in the hopes that it would lead to the development of additional or better content would be like buying a lottery ticket Shouldn’t I steal for now and consider changing my mind if it looks like we’re approaching a tipping point?

    – Yes, I could just not watch Game of Thrones/wait for the opportunity to check it out from the library/etc., and that would address my guilt and provide the $15 to give to altruistic causes, but that would be decreasing MY utility without increasing anyone else’s – it only functions as a tool to encourage me to subscribe, and if I decide that paying for cable is morally wrong, then what good does a monastic life do me?

    – Yes, I could give up something ELSE to give $15 to charity, but then I could steal cable and give $30, so paid cable always has a potential charitable opportunity costs.

    Thoughts? Is there a Sequence entry addressing this? Thanks!

    • zz says:

      Something a lot like this came up in an open thread a few years back: http://lesswrong.com/lw/k94/open_thread_may_19_25_2014/axft

      Is the $15 to HBO really funging against effective charity donation?

      • J Mann says:

        Well, I can fung it – however much I am currently giving, as long as I’m subscribing, it’s always true that I could cancel my subscription and increase my donation by an equivalent amount.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      I don’t know whether there’s a Sequence about it but it sounds like exactly the sort of situation which led people to invent rule-utilitarianism.

    • Murphy says:

      Rationalists don’t really have a single answer for that because it depends on your individual values.

      That being said, a lot of the effective altruists are some form of utilitarian/consequentialist

      There is some discussion about balancing costs to ourselves with benefits to others

      http://lesswrong.com/lw/d97/balancing_costs_to_ourselves_with_benefits_to/

    • suntzuanime says:

      Every time you conflate rationalism with the effective altruism movement, malaria kills a child. Please, think of the children.

      • J Mann says:

        I don’t consider myself a rationalist, but you’re still not going to fool me with a post hoc ergo prompter hoc fallacy. 😉

        I guess you could amend my question to “why aren’t we all ethically required to steal access to premium television?”

        One answer could be “I believe that property rights are important, even when anti-utilitarian, because they are an independent good or because of rule utilitarianism or whatever.”

        (I personally come at it from a more Humean perspective, which is – “Since I don’t notwithstanding the facially convincing reasons for it, why don’t I?”)

        • suntzuanime says:

          Please don’t conflate “we” with the effective altruism movement, either.

          • J Mann says:

            Sorry – in that case, I meant, you, me, and everyone else. (Granting that the answers will be different, but interesting.)

            You’ve convinced me that I don’t know enough about rationalists or EA proponents to narrow the set, which I appreciate.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The point is that the framing of the question assumes a lot of EA doctrine that not everyone in the SSC or rationalist community is on board with. If you’re seriously asking me why I don’t feel ethically required to steal access to premium television, that question is so many leaps of reasoning away from my mindset that the only response I can give is a scornfully bemused facial expression.

          • nope says:

            @suntzuanime, is this really adding to the conversation at all? Maybe if you explained your actual position, rather than just sneering at the noob, it would be more enlightening.

          • null says:

            I suppose asking a troll not to troll could work…

          • suntzuanime says:

            I think clarifying the distinction between EAs and rationalists at large is an important contribution to the conversation, in fact. Responding to a question that only makes sense within EA framing from outside EA framing seems like the thing that wouldn’t add much of value to a conversation.

          • null says:

            I apologize. I assumed you were trolling when you were making a serious point.

          • J Mann says:

            @nope and null,

            FWIW, I appreciated the exchange. My primary hypothesis is that I didn’t express myself well, because I don’t think most people understood the point I was trying to express, but I learned a lot about some of the live wires I touched.

            My alternate hypothesis is that some of the respondents understood my point better than I did, and I’m working on that.

            Either way, I appreciate everyone’s responses.

    • pgbh says:

      No. In many cases, taking the (first-order) most desirable action has sufficiently bad second-order effects to make it undesirable. A society where everyone feels licensed to steal any good offering lower utility per dollar than a malaria net will soon collapse.

      In general, simply following traditional notions of moral behavior offers a good tradeoff between first-order and more remote effects. This is why people should be actively discouraged from thinking about morality.

      • J Mann says:

        That’s a good point, thanks. I think the fact that HBO theft is both non-rivalrous and potentially secret adds some new wrinkles, but I could conclude that the moral damage to myself outweighed the benefit.

    • Jiro says:

      I think this illuminates the main contradiction of EA. If it is a requirement to do anything you can to increase utility, you’re obliged to spend all your money on malaria nets until you’re at the bare minimum to survive and keep your job.

      If it is not a requirement to do that, and you only have to give, say, 10%, you can funge between increasing the percentage above 10% and utility-reducing activities. This allows for murder offsets, where you kill people and save enough lives (by donating more than 10%) to make up for the loss of utility from the murder. It also allows for pirating HBO and using the savings to buy malaria nets.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think this illuminates the main contradiction of EA.

        Do you think EAs are tempted to introduce murder offsets? I doubt it. So it seems to me that you are just arguing that EAs don’t have a complete and consistent moral theory. No one has a complete and consistent moral theory. You are setting the bar too high.

        Anyway, at the risk of running a motte-and-baily, I don’t think EAs think of EA as “it is a requirement to do anything you can to increase utility.” EAs just want to do more good for their dollar.

        • Jiro says:

          So it seems to me that you are just arguing that EAs don’t have a complete and consistent moral theory.

          Yes, but it’s a pretty basic inconsistency, and it’s also the reason why the OP’s question about pirating movies is even a question. Pirating movies combined with giving the saved money to EA is basically the same concept as murder offsets, just with a less lethal crime.

      • Anon says:

        EAs do not normally speak of what is required or allowed, only which options are better and which are worse. So I don’t think it would be correct to say “[Effective Altruism] also allows for pirating HBO and using the savings to buy malaria nets”, since it does not answer questions of “what is allowed”.

        • Jiro says:

          EAs do not normally speak of what is required or allowed, only which options are better and which are worse.

          That allows basically the same objection, rephrased:

          1) There is an amount, X%, where giving X% or more is acceptable. Pick the lowest X.
          2) If you commit murder/pirate HBO, but you give more than X%, you are as good as or better than the person who gives X%.
          3) If giving X% is acceptable, anything as good as or better than giving X% is acceptable.
          4) Therefore, murder or piracy offsets are acceptable.

          Of course, the exact value of X is not chosen by EA principles, but the point is that EA principles act weirdly if you even have an X. (Unless X is so close to 100% that you can’t pay for the offset, or unless you’re a deontologist and can avoid #3.)

          • J Mann says:

            Hmm. Under EA philosophy as explained, we could definitely imagine an asshole who was nevertheless a net good – say an abusive spouse who also was the world greatest neurosurgeon, trained the next generation of neurosurgeons, started a very effective charity that outlived her,and did half her surgeries for free for the needy. It would nevertheless be true that that person would still be better if she stopped being abusive.

            I think most people would agree with that intuition even if not EA proponents.

          • Jiro says:

            It would nevertheless be true that that person would still be better if she stopped being abusive.

            It would also be better if the person who gives X% gave X+1%. But we’re perfectly fine with their decision not to. If all we care about is the total utility performed by that person, we should be perfectly fine with murder offsets, piracy offsets, or spouse-beating offsets, despite knowing that they can do better. Certainly we wouldn’t demand they stop beating their spouse, any more than we would demand that anyone gives X+1%.

            Most people are deontologists on this and don’t think that any amount of utility can be used to balance against murder, domestic abuse, or (assuming they think it’s wrong) pirating HBO. You must not do those things, period.

          • Anon says:

            That allows basically the same objection, rephrased:

            1) There is an amount, X%, where giving X% or more is acceptable. Pick the lowest X.

            My point is that EA does not normally say this. It does not say that giving X% is acceptable or unacceptable for any X. It does not answer questions of what is acceptable.

            Yes, it does say that it is better to “pirate + donate” than “not pirate + not donate”, probably (except see above re: second-order effects). But this is not the choice you are presented with, so what’s it matter?

          • Jiro says:

            My point is that EA does not normally say this.

            EA doesn’t say it. People say it–for reasons other than EA–and the interaction between it and EA causes the problem. And since nobody can avoid agreeing to it, the problem happens for everyone.

            If you try to avoid that statement by saying that all amounts, even zero, are acceptable, the problem still happens (because it would mean that murder+enough malaria nets to bring the utility up to zero is acceptable).

            If you try to avoid it by saying that no amounts are acceptable, you’re saying that even donating 100% is worthy of moral condemnation, which is absurd.

            And if you try to avoid making it by saying that there is no such thing as moral condemnation and therefore amounts can’t be acceptable or unacceptable, I would ask you if you would condemn a murderer. You’ll probably answer “yes”, refuting yourself.

          • Anon says:

            And if you try to avoid making it by saying that there is no such thing as moral condemnation and therefore amounts can’t be acceptable or unacceptable, I would ask you if you would condemn a murderer. You’ll probably answer “yes”, refuting yourself.

            I don’t have a good intuition as to what it means to “condemn” a murder, so… I do actually think that my response is “mu”, not “yes”.

            Relatedly, see e.g. theunitofcaring on who deserves a good life.

          • Jiro says:

            Would you tell a murder (or, if you aren’t willing to speak on such subjects, think in reference to a murderer) “It is wrong for him to murder and he should not do it”?

          • Anon says:

            Would I say it? Yes. Would I think it? Not really – why would I? I certainly think it would be much better that he not murder. What further question would there be to answer, in my own head?

          • Jiro says:

            So you seriously would think “it would be better that he not murder” in the same way that you would think “it would be better that he save another life with malaria netting”? And you do not think that the murder is any more serious than, or any less immoral than, not buying the malaria netting?

            If so, then congratulations, you have bitten enough bullets to escape the dilemma, at the cost of a huge mental gap between you and other human beings.

          • J Mann says:

            It’s a closer question when the actual act of murder is a net moral good.

            Let’s say a group of 10 astronauts are in an escape craft with only enough air for 8, the other 9 absolutely won’t agree to any solution that saves 8, so one astronaut murders another on, then herself. Probably a net utilitarian good, and one most people might agree with, even through it’s murder.

            In the HBO example, the moral question is that you can donate the exact money you were planning to pay to HBO to buy malaria nets. I guess that’s not much different from taking an unattended wallet and donating the cash inside to the hungry, so most people would probably agree that it’s wrong.

          • “so one astronaut murders another on, then herself. Probably a net utilitarian good, and one most people might agree with, even through it’s murder.”

            At a considerable tangent …

            The plot of Doctor Strangelove was largely plagiarized from a novel, Red Alert. In the novel, the officer who sets off the attack is a much more sympathetic character. He has concluded, not unreasonably, that a first strike by the U.S. can succeed and that refraining from it will lead to an eventual communist victory. And his plan for the first strike includes killing himself in order to make sure he cannot be compelled to provide the information needed to recall the attack.

            Being willing to sacrifice other people to an objective feels less wrong when you are also willing to sacrifice yourself.

          • Frank McPike says:

            Completely on the same tangent: Was Dr. Strangelove actually plagiarized from Red Alert? My understanding was the Kubrick did own the right to adapt it. Peter George, the author of Red Alert, is credited as a co-writer of the screenplay.

            (You may be thinking of the novel Fail-Safe, which was plagiarized from Red Alert, and became the basis for Sidney Lumet’s film Fail-Safe, which was released shortly after Dr. Strangelove. As great as Dr. Strangelove is, and plagiarism aside, I think Fail-Safe is actually the superior film, and it also offers a good example of the point you’re making.)

          • You may well be correct–I’m going on memory from quite a while back. I thought the author of Red Alert sued Doctor Strangelove and then settled, but I may be confusing it with Fail-Safe.

          • Anon says:

            Jiro:

            So you seriously would think “it would be better that he not murder” in the same way that you would think “it would be better that he save another life with malaria netting”?

            … Yes?

            And you do not think that the murder is any more serious than, or any less immoral than, not buying the malaria netting?

            No, of course I don’t think that. This does not at all follow from the above, any more than “a mountain is bigger than a breadbox” and “a star is bigger than a breadbox” implies “a mountain is the same size as a star”.

            It is worse to murder than to not donate to AMF, in general. This is not inconsistent, and does not require my moral theory to say that some actions are condemnable and others are not.

          • Jiro says:

            It is worse to murder than to not donate to AMF, in general. This is not inconsistent, and does not require my moral theory to say that some actions are condemnable and others are not.

            Do you consider it worse to (murder 1 person + donate enough to AMF to save one person) than it is to do nothing?

            Also, do you consider it worse to (murder 1 person + donate enough to AMF to save X people) no matter what the value of X?

          • Anon says:

            Do you consider it worse to (murder 1 person + donate enough to AMF to save one person) than it is to do nothing?

            Yes.

            Also, do you consider it worse to (murder 1 person + donate enough to AMF to save X people) no matter what the value of X?

            No. But, again, this doesn’t actually ever arise: “not murder 1 person + donate enough to AMF to save X people” is available very nearly whenever “murder 1 person + donate enough to AMF to save X people” is, and is clearly superior.

            “Ahaha, murder offsets” is not a consequence of this. I think murder offsets only even make sense as a concept in a moral framework in which there is a binary “an action is either condemnable or not”.

          • Jiro says:

            Yes

            Okay, *why* do you consider it worse to (murder one person + save one person) than to do nothing?

            It can’t be a matter of utility, since I’ve stipulated that the utility is equal. It can’t be “because murder is bad” because you don’t even understand what that means (and that would be being a deontologist anyway, which you’ve denied). Are you going consequentialist on this? Or do you just have a utility multiplier for murder which says that killing one person causes X times as much negative utility as the positive utility from saving one person?

            “not murder 1 person + donate enough to AMF to save X people” is available very nearly whenever “murder 1 person + donate enough to AMF to save X people” is, and is clearly superior.

            Why wouldn’t this allow murder offsets? Just kill someone and donate enough to save X people. Yes, there are superior options, but there are also superior options to donating X% and you’re fine with people donating X%.

          • dndnrsn says:

            How confident are the estimates as to how many dollars per lives saved? Even if one accepts the concept of murder offsets (which I don’t) what if the estimates are wrong, and you only donate enough to save 90% of a life? Whereas, for sure you’ve murdered someone.

          • Joe W. says:

            @Jiro and Anon

            Along these lines, what irks me about the EA take on morality – roughly, utilitarianism but with opt-out clauses for conclusions that feel wrong – is that it takes all the weight away from the main argument for utilitarianism.

            That argument tends to go like this: “What morality really amounts to is the greatest good for the greatest number. You might think that it’s okay to care more about people you like; or that people who do good things deserve more than people who do bad things; or that a person who does something valuable is entitled to the rewards from it. But those are just mistakes, biases you have from your brain having evolved in the particular environment it did. Whenever your approximation of morality disagrees with utilitarian calculus, you should fight to overcome your biases and believe what the numbers say rather than what you’re naturally inclined to think.”

            And that’s fine, if you’re going to actually follow utilitarianism where it leads, like e.g. Robin Hanson does. But if you’re going to paper over all the ways in which implies moral conclusions you disagree with, while cheerfully telling people to shut up and multiply when it leads to moral conclusions you approve of, I find it hard to see it as anything more than a post-hoc justification for believing what you already believed.

          • Anon says:

            Jiro:

            It can’t be a matter of utility, since I’ve stipulated that the utility is equal.

            No, you haven’t. You’ve stipulated that the net first-order effect on the number of lives in the world is zero, which is a very different thing. Murder is substantially more disruptive to social order, has significantly more second-order effects, etc.

            Why wouldn’t this allow murder offsets? Just kill someone and donate enough to save X people. Yes, there are superior options, but there are also superior options to donating X% and you’re fine with people donating X%.

            “you’re fine with people donating X%” – no, I am not. Which is not to say that I condemn it; I neither condone it nor condemn it. That is in fact the primary point I wish to convey: I do not answer questions of the form “is this acceptable”.

            “Just kill someone and donate enough to save X people.” And then… what? You are not morally condemnable by the system of ethics I discuss? But this system does not answer questions of form “is this condemnable”. See earlier: “I think murder offsets only even make sense as a concept in a moral framework in which there is a binary ‘an action is either condemnable or not’.”

            Joe W: I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization of the EA take on morality. If you’d like to explain why you think that I could say more.

            dndnrsn: It’s easy to imagine donating some additional factor, so as to be more sure. See Scott’s Ethics offsets for some background.

          • Joe W. says:

            @Anon

            Which part of my description was unclear? The ‘effective’ part of EA, as I understand it, refers to the idea of donating specifically to the charities which will produce the most good from your money – whether or not those are the charities that do the best job of making you feel good inside. EA folk argue that not giving money to the Against Malaria Foundation is morally equivalent to watching children drown in pools and doing nothing about it. They argue that action is morally equivalent to inaction. That you ought to donate all your income above what you need for subsistence to charity, but that if you really can’t manage that then ten percent is better than nothing. That the reason these claims feel wrong isn’t because they are wrong, but because our brains are full of biases due to their use of heuristics that were accurate enough in the environment we evolved in but cannot be relied on to be accurate today.

            Is that wrong? If the argument for EA conclusions does not rely on disregarding our intuitions that conflict with them, then why shouldn’t we follow those intutions, and help the people we care about and not the people we don’t; or give weight to peoples’ actions when determining what they do and don’t deserve? On the other hand, if EA conclusions do rely on this disregarding of intuitions, why should we give the slightest care to arguments like, “We wouldn’t normally consider it acceptable to raise a human for a while and then kill it, so why is it okay when it’s an animal?” – a common argument I see made by EA-type folk against animal farming?

    • J Mann says:

      On reflection, I guess the point I was trying to get at was that since television is non-rivalrous, pirating TV and redirecting the surplus to charity at the current margin, seems like a clear utility win. (To clarify, I think it’s not exacty the same as an offset, because the shift is exactly what allows the contribution).

      I guess some possible arguments are:

      1) If one pays for HBO for personal reasons (to avoid guilt, to avoid the fear of prosecution, to signal to one’s friends and family that one is not a defector), that’s a consumption decision. Viewed this way, it’s not much different from saying (“If you just learned to enjoy bulk cheese instead of fancy cheese, you could give more money to the needy.”)

      2) It does imply that it would generally be good to try to update our tastes in a way that increases world utility, and maybe pirating TV should be on the table of possible changes, but it’s not particularly more urgent than a lot of other changes.

    • Zippy says:

      I have no requirements for you, but copyright is an unnecessary abridgment of your freedom and intellectual property is not commensurable with real property. I’d say more, but SSC keeps eating my comments so I’m going to try for the fewer words this time.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Yes, I could just not watch Game of Thrones/wait for the opportunity to check it out from the library/etc., and that would address my guilt and provide the $15 to give to altruistic causes, but that would be decreasing MY utility without increasing anyone else’s – it only functions as a tool to encourage me to subscribe, and if I decide that paying for cable is morally wrong, then what good does a monastic life do me?

      This is a bit of tangent, but your utility doesn’t have to decrease all that much. Read Gwern’s “Culture is not About Aesthetics” and ask yourself whether you have really exhausted all the great shows in the history of television. Have you watched the entirety of I, Claudius/i>? North and South? Rome?

      Now, I’m not into EA, so I’m not going to tell you you could send that money to Africa, but you could put it on a rainy day fund or something.

      • J Mann says:

        Thanks – my problem is that I enjoy talking about Game of Thrones on the internet. Older material doesn’t have as many real time interactions available, although I guess I could start up a Deadwood weekly video club, or watch for one forming.

  31. Jill says:

    The whole stock market thing is funny. And sad. I studied the stock market for years, and it took me years to figure out that this is the way it “works.”

    Claims of making money in the stock market are almost always pure marketing and nothing else. Sometimes the inventor of a system fools themselves too, in the extremely short time between inventing a “winning” system, and its stopping working, because it only worked by chance to begin with.

    It is the nature of sales that the salesperson wants to make money selling something. And that the easiest way to do that is to sell “nothing”– that is, to sell what people want, not what exists.

    That way, you don’t have the inconveniences and work of building a real product– or maybe you do work hard and you imagine you have developed a real product, but you really haven’t. You just believe your own superstitions.

    There is what customers and sales people and people in general WANT, and there is what EXISTS. E.g. people would love to have all the rules of exactly how to act in life in the important matters, and then to be rewarded by living happily forever in heaven after they die. But is that possible? Well, you may have a different answer, but I know what I think.

    And how much money do you think is made per year selling heaven? Go look out of your door. There may be some Bible toting people standing there right now, ready to sell it to you.

    Just like heaven, there are other things people want to have or invent or buy or know. But sometimes it’s not possible. Maybe there are too many determining factors, and maybe it’s impossible to figure out what they all are. Or maybe the determining factors are insider non-public information.

    But that doesn’t stop people from trying. The polls and the experts keep predicting political races. Almost no one predicted Donald Trump would get this far. But will people stop paying for pollsters to predict? No, of course not. Will they keep paying them because they’re so accurate? No.

    They will keep paying them and having them on TV, because they are selling something people WANT– even if it doesn’t really exist, at least not yet.

    Just about everyone would like to make a killing in the stock market quickly. That would be such a dream come true. You wouldn’t have to do much work. You wouldn’t even have to get dressed.

    And you would keep applying the wonderful “winning system” until you had most of the money in the world and then could buy all the objects and experiences of your dreams. Maybe you would start charities that would make the world a significantly better place in many ways.

    Who wouldn’t want that? It would be like a casino, except that you win, not the House. It would totally shift your status in the world, way way upward. It would be like rubbing a magic lamp, and a genie comes out and gives you whatever you desire– well, at least those things that can be bought.

    Who would be fool enough to imagine that that is possible? Quite a lot of people obviously. Thousands of stock market newsletters, trading software companies, financial TV programs, hedge fund managers etc. make good money off of failing to deliver on these pipe dreams every day. Many thousands of people have gone broke trying to “live the dream.”

    There’s a sucker born every minute. And 1000 or so out to get him. It’s like the Gold Rush. Not many people found the gold they were panning for. But the people who sold picks and shovels and pans made quite a good living. A few people found gold, if only by accident, in a way that couldn’t be repeated. But that wouldn’t stop anyone from making a good living selling gold panning “systems.”

    Humans are not very good at telling the difference between what we desire and what is possible. Look at marriages and what absurdly unrealistic mind reading stuff the more unrealistic people expect from their spouses. For some people, it’s as if they expect to have a partner who is totally focused on their needs– a partner who has no needs of their own. Good luck with that. Maybe some dating “expert” will start selling a “system” for finding such people.

    • J Mann says:

      I think most people believe you can gain a temporary advantage on the stock market – for example, by identifying straddles where you can guarantee a win. But once enough people figure out the system, the advantage is gone. (It’s not that there are never $20 bills lying out on the street; it’s that there aren’t very many for very long).

      In some ways, the stock market is a pretty good place to develop and test prediction tools – (1) if you’re successful, they pay for themselves with their initial profit; (2) therefore, you might have an easier time getting funding; and (3) you have a pretty good test in place for your ideas – not foolproof, but hard to game.

      • brad says:

        Many times I’ve seen people in the industry claim that it would be easy for them to take $500k-$1M and get outsize returns year after year. That the real challenge is having $500M+ AUM and needing to find bigger opportunities. I believe that they believe what they are saying, but I don’t know if it is actually true.

        • Jill says:

          Oh, yes, many claim that. And some even believe themselves. Marketing can be a wonder to behold.

          Can you imagine how easy it was for Madoff to find “investors?” Very easy.

        • Chalid says:

          Fixed costs eat the excess return on a tiny portfolio. (Depending on strategy)

        • John Schilling says:

          Many times I’ve seen people in the industry claim that it would be easy for them to take $500k-$1M and get outsize returns year after year.

          This is probably true, but “people in the industry” means professionals who can likely command a six-figure salary even if they stick to easy work, and “outsize returns” might optimistically translate to 10% above the S&P 500 at that level. Hmm, what’s 10% of a million dollars?

          Basically, a fancy way of saying that expert stockpicking is a job that actually generates ~$100K in wealth per man-year of effort. If it’s a choice between putting your megabuck in an index fund and paying an expert to invest it for you, it’s probably a wash. If you really enjoy that sort of thing, are good at it, and want to make a living at it, it’s honest work but leads only to modest wealth at best.

          If you want to make a hobby of it, that needs some careful thought as to how much time and capital you can really devote and how much skill and knowledge you really bring to the table.

          Edit: What Chalid said, but I used more words.

          • brad says:

            All the reasons you list for why it isn’t so great even if true, I agree with. Which is a sufficient reason for why you don’t see it much. That still leaves the question about whether it is true in the first place. You say probably true, but I’m not sure.

            Basically, if one of these guys for whatever reason had to actually go and do it for a few years — and counting all expenses other than their time (data feeds, margin, trading costs, etc.) — would they actually get those S&P + 10% returns?

          • John Schilling says:

            Twenty to thirty years ago, I knew a fair number of people who made a decent living, low six-figure salaries, doing that sort of thing. And the other expenses you cite were small compared to the value of the stockpicker’s time or the returns on a seven-figure portfolio.

            It is possible that the market has changed to make this impossible, but I am inclined to doubt it.

          • Chalid says:

            I think it is clearly true in quantitative trading, because transaction costs look something like the square of trade size (due to market impact). So take any fund that trades frequently and shrink it, and it will have higher returns.

            Also, the academic literature suggests that many well-known pricing anomalies are stronger in small stocks.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          Something about that industry seems to breed epistemic overconfidence. For example.

          • Jill says:

            No kidding about the overconfidence. “I had a winning trade yesterday, so now I am the stock market Einstein.” “I had a winning 6 months or year, guessing right at what would rise, so now I am the stock market God.” Happens 24/7/365 to millions of people. LOL.

      • Jill says:

        Yes, J Mann, many people believe that. Anyone who’s had a temporary big win usually is totally sure that they have discovered that market’s secrets– that they are more brilliant than all of those losers who didn’t just have a big win. Many of them subsequently lose it all on their next overly large sized overly confident bet.

        • J Mann says:

          Oh, I’m an EMH-believing index fund investor myself, don’t get me wrong. But if Numerai wants to try crowd-sourcing market predictions, * I’m all for it.

          Certainly, some people successfully chase alpha, and the rest of the market benefits. John Bogle estimated someplace that high frequency trading innovators had saved the index funds billions by shaving the bid-ask spread.

          * Come to think of it, I would describe the markets themselves as crowd-sourced prediction algorithms, so I’d be curious what Numerai hopes to add.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The part after the asterisk was precisely my first reaction to Numerai.

        • CatCube says:

          Another thing to consider is that a “win” gives you a pleasure boost, that people will tend to keep chasing.

          For example, one of my favorite casino games is craps. Frankly, for no other reason than I got lucky my first time out. It was exciting, so now I have memories of excitement when I play. OTOH, my first time playing roulette, it mostly went against me, and it got boring quickly and I started looking for something else to do after about 30 minutes.

          The nice thing about my getting the pleasure boost at the casino is that it doesn’t put me under any illusions that it was about my skill. Dice are gonna do what they’re gonna do.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        All investment opportunities have a relevant scale, so it’s at least plausible that some of these people know (or knew) of strategies to earn a small amount of money that don’t work to earn a larger amount of money.

        For instance, consider blackjack. If you’re a card-counter, an early limiting factor on how much money you can make is the casino noticing that you are counting cards and barring you from play. The bigger your bets, the more “heat” you draw. So a strategy that consistently earns money playing $5 or $25 chips is likely to get you barred when playing $100 or $500 chips. As you increase your bet level past some optimum point you might have to add more “cover play” – playing in ways that are less profitable but make your skill less conspicuous – to stay in the game. Bigger-bet strategies have to be ever-more subtle and work best under ever-narrower circumstances.

        The stock market has a similar problem – the bigger your investment amount, the harder it is to make that investment without other people noticing what you’re doing and moving the market against you. Instead of table limits, there are liquidity problems – at scale, it becomes ever-harder to find people willing to take the other side of whatever bet you’re making.

        There might even be a Peter Principle at work here: Those who do well investing small amounts make money which allows them to play at a higher level. If each legit investor rises to the level of their own incompetence, each currently-useless investor once had a good strategy for playing at the level they were at a few iterations ago.

    • But that doesn’t stop people from trying. The polls and the experts keep predicting political races. Almost no one predicted Donald Trump would get this far. But will people stop paying for pollsters to predict? No, of course not. Will they keep paying them because they’re so accurate? No.

      They will keep paying them and having them on TV, because they are selling something people WANT– even if it doesn’t really exist, at least not yet.

      See below.

    • enoriverbend says:

      “Claims of making money in the stock market are almost always pure marketing and nothing else. ”

      On the contrary, it is exceptionally straightforward and easy to make money in the stock market, and I have done so for decades. You can too.

      What’s difficult is making significantly more than anyone else, on average. And more money is lost by attempting to make more, than by any other failing. Oh, you can make a little more over time by not panicking, and not being greedy, but that just sounds too simple for some people to believe. They want magic.

      • Jill says:

        Okay. U R right. To be specific and precise, I should have said
        “Claims of making BIG money in the stock market are almost always pure marketing and nothing else. ”

        • TomFL says:

          The Big Short. Short the real estate market. Billions made.

          As with anything you have to take a lot of risk, which by definition is taking a risk that everyone else thinks is crazy to make these kind of returns.

          Most people who take these risks lose (e.g. betting big on Greece).

    • TomFL says:

      The stock market is not a zero sum game, and that is important. Everyone can win (or lose). Barring any specific knowledge you are typically better off here than other places for long term investment.

      Index funds are the average of stock pickers, but not exactly. They are the average of everyone who picks stocks for a living or hobby so they are likely better than the average Joe Blow, so you probably start off behind the curve without knowledge and experience.

      Index funds outperform about 70% or 80% of managed funds because you have to pay the fund manager part of your investment (1% to 2%) every year, so you are betting they can outperform the market average by 1% to 2% every year. Long term outperformers are probably exceptionally skilled. Short term outperformers may just be lucky.

      I have been in low cost index funds for a long time (>30 years) and it has turned out pretty good. But you must be willing to ride out Black Mondays and Real Estate bubbles, and that takes some nerve.

      The most skilled people are usually called inside traders, which is illegal. There is a lot of gray area here.

  32. Is there anyone that comments regularly on SSC that holds a neutral monist philosophical view?

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      Can you please… make that clearer to a lay person?

      edit: after googling it, I’m honestly not sure how neutral monism is distinguishable from physicalism, or what neutral monism would imply that is not also implied by physicalism.

      • Well if I was to present a horribly mangled summary here, physicalism/materialsm says everything is reducible to matter. Idealism suggest everything is reducible to a mental substance (everything sort of exists in the mind). Dualism says there is both a mental substance and a physical substance, and they interact (the mind is separate from the brain/body).

        Neutral monism says everything is probably reducible to a single substance (opposes dualism), but that we should (for various reasons) correctly treat that substance as neither physical nor mental, either because we don’t know what it is, or for various reasons its fallacious to describe it as either.

        Neutral monism is relatively rare – most people side with dualism or materialism, with a few going for idealism.

        I’m not sure about how this would practically influence or interest non-philosophers, I’m mainly interested because I want to make sure I’m not getting mislead or confused by metaphysics when I’m relying on it in other areas of philosophy like ethics or epistemology.

          • If Spinoza is proven to be commenting on SSC, I’ll definitely become a substance pluralist, which ironically will be much to his chagrin 😉

        • Agronomous says:

          Well, I think there’s one substance, and it confuses things to call it either “physical” or “mental”. (Yeah, it’s all particles; or yeah, the world consists of facts, not things: these are points of view, not contradictory statements.)

          It’s reductionism I can’t accept. The short argument is that we can implement identical software systems on radically different hardware. So if you try to “reduce” the software system to the underlying hardware, you’re obviously explaining both too much and too little.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            It isn’t being reduced to the hardware, but the state of the hardware with the program inputted. Yes, a lot of philosophy is “wait, people disagree with this”?

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            You might want to look at this in terms of the type/token distinction.

            It’s robustly the case that a software token, ie a running programme, eg “the quicksort fred ran at 11;23 on tuesday” is reducible to the behaviour of the hardware of Fred’s computer..in fact, twice over: there is no extra miasma of software-stuff, and everything about the behaviour of the software can be explained by the behaviour of the hardware.

            However, the reduction of software types to hardware types is a much dicier proposition. The set of implementors of a quicksort is very heterogenuous, cannot be know apriori, lacks explanatory power, and so on.

            Accepting the first reduction but not the second is analogous to anomolous monism.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      Here.

      • Hey again (I remember you because I like you but hate the aggressive debates I seem to remember that we have). I remember you as dual aspect, maybe I have that confused with someone else. In any case, would you be interested in sharing anything about what led you, in both reading and reasoning, to become neutral monist?

  33. Split the open thread into two, by topic? The no race and gender thing used to draw off pressure to another blog, so why not find a sensible demarcation and split of a big chunk of the discussion into a second OT post. So for example, Open Thread and Open Politics Thread. I favor politics because I think it pollutes productive discussion of philosophical and sciency topics too much, but any sensible demarcation would be great.

  34. Anonymous says:

    So, what do you guys think about the ethical/moral aspects of blocking ads?

    It recently came up in a couple of my feeds, and so far I’ve taken the side that it is not immoral (certainly not theft!), due to insufficient grounds to consider it the obligation of the website user to actually download and/or view the advertisements. This did not convince the other side, which took the view that blocking ads is immoral/theft, in that it steals bandwidth from the provider of the content, who wishes you to view the ads so that they might be paid by the advertisement-providing third party.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      You do not relinquish control of your computer when you visit somebody’s webpage. That they -can- monetize your visit, and profit from it, and this provided the incentive for them to create or maintain their webpage, does not obligate you to let them run code on your machine you do not consent to run.

      Their website is, of course, theirs; they can do whatever they wish with it. Your computer is yours, and your computer doesn’t become theirs while you visit their webpage.

    • Nita says:

      Let’s take a non-digital analogy. Would it be immoral to hire someone to paste white paper over ads in your newspapers before you read them?

      Now, what if other people also started doing that, and then advertisers demanded that the ads be printed in smart nano-ink (this thought experiment takes place in the future), and refused to pay for any ads that have been pasted over?

      • Anonymous says:

        Let’s take a non-digital analogy. Would it be immoral to hire someone to paste white paper over ads in your newspapers before you read them?

        Heh! I can sort of see that happening in a family with an Aspergers kid. Kid wants to read the newspaper, but has some weird, unpleasant reaction to adverts. So dad glues paper over it before handing the paper to sonny.

        Now, what if other people also started doing that, and then advertisers demanded that the ads be printed in smart nano-ink (this thought experiment takes place in the future), and refused to pay for any ads that have been pasted over?

        I’d stop buying the paper that did this.

        • Anonymous says:

          The whole debate is over the “stop buying” part. I don’t think it would at all be controversial if people boycotted sites with ads or obtrusive ads or whatever.

          But the ad blockers feel entitled to site’s content. They come up with all sorts of reasons why it is okay to cheat in the implicit bargain being offered. It amounts to defection and encourages the development of a low trust society.

          Don’t ever put a take a penny, leave a penny tray in front of an ad blocker.

          • Anonymous says:

            >The whole debate is over the “stop buying” part. I don’t think it would at all be controversial if people boycotted sites with ads or obtrusive ads or whatever.

            If the paper were free, I’d still potentially take it, if I figured out a way to make it usable again. Or if I had a costless solution to the new countermeasure. To “stop buying”, I would counter “stop giving it away”.

            >But the ad blockers feel entitled to site’s content. They come up with all sorts of reasons why it is okay to cheat in the implicit bargain being offered. This casts a bit of doubt on the essential nature of the “bargain”.

            Because absent telepathy, no such actual bargain is taking place? The content provider may hope and intend to make a profit, but they are offering the content in advance and without checking if they are getting paid.

            >It amounts to defection and encourages the development of a low trust society.

            Fair point.

            >Don’t ever put a take a penny, leave a penny tray in front of an ad blocker.

            What?

          • suntzuanime says:

            The advertisers feel entitled to my computer screen. If I click on a link to find out what the Top 8 Epic Mormon Fails Number 6 Will Have You Shaking Your Head are, and you try to hijack my brain to love Burma-Shave, but my software suite protects me, I feel like I am the one who has narrowly escaped being cheated. A low trust society is one where people are constantly bombarding you with lies about their products.

          • You quoted:

            “Don’t ever put a take a penny, leave a penny tray in front of an ad blocker.”

            And responded:

            “What?”

            You wrote:

            “but they are offering the content in advance and without checking if they are getting paid.”

            If the reason that their offered contract isn’t morally binding on you is that they are not checking to see if you do your half, then the offered contract of “take a penny, leave a penny” is also not morally binding on you since nobody is checking on that either, so you should be expected to feel free to take all the pennies.

          • Agronomous says:

            The take-a-penny, leave-a-penny analogy is flawed because it assumes pennies have value, or anyway value that exceeds their nuisance.

            (I only carry pennies as a way of avoiding more pennies.)

          • Nita says:

            @ David Friedman

            It’s counterintuitive, for most people, to think of visiting a web page as signing a contract, because we usually expect to have some idea of what we’re consenting to. When you click on a link, you may not know either the value or the “price” of the content you’re going to get. They might display a few unobtrusive ads, or they might bombard you with so much moving, flashing stuff that you will be unable to take in any actual content.

            (Incidentally, does everyone have a moral obligation to install Flash, just in case someone wants to use it to display ads on a site you happen to visit?)

            I guess an “ethical” version of AdBlock would make you choose between “allow ads” and “block the whole website” after you’ve spent a minute on a new site. And ideally, website owners could see their whitelisted:blocked ratio, so they could react to market pressures.

          • Anonymous says:

            If the reason that their offered contract isn’t morally binding on you is that they are not checking to see if you do your half, then the offered contract of “take a penny, leave a penny” is also not morally binding on you since nobody is checking on that either, so you should be expected to feel free to take all the pennies.

            That’s not what I mean. (I was also not familiar with “take a penny, leave a penny”, hence my confusion.)

            I object to “website has ads, therefore your permission to download the site’s content is contingent on you also downloading the ads”. Absent explicit demand to view ads – which, I might add, comes only after you’ve downloaded the content – I cannot know what exactly the bargain is, or if there is one. Maybe the website owner merely runs ads to get extra income, but doesn’t quite care if I run ad blocking software. Maybe they get paid by click, not by view, in which case I am not making any difference, having precommitted to not be interested in any advertisements.

            The “take a penny, leave a penny” bargain is explicit, at least. So is a paywall demanding payment in exchange for content. Merely displaying ads is insufficient grounds to consider the viewer obligated to view them.

          • Anonymous says:

            First of all, I’m willing to bet that a high percentage of ad blockers also evade paywalls. The self serving justifications for that one are even weaker.

            Second, you know damn well what the bargain is, this pretended ignorance is just a position being taken to justify defecting. People like you are why journalism is dying. Which would be one thing if it was because you all weren’t consuming journalism — you were off doing something else entirely — but is very annoying to be surrounded by self righteous, entitled, free riders.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, I’m willing to bet that a high percentage of advertisers are murderers and rapists, so there.

          • “Merely displaying ads is insufficient grounds to consider the viewer obligated to view them.”

            Reasonable enough–I agree that it isn’t always clear what the implicit contract is. My point was about what appeared to be your specific justification–that the requirement wasn’t being enforced.

          • Anonymous says:

            First of all, I’m willing to bet that a high percentage of ad blockers also evade paywalls. The self serving justifications for that one are even weaker.

            Unless by “high percentage” you mean “black hat hackers who also block ads”, then no.

            Second, you know damn well what the bargain is, this pretended ignorance is just a position being taken to justify defecting.

            No, I don’t. I have listed two possible scenarios in which the bargain is not what you assume it is. There is no practical way for me to tell what the bargain is without first visiting the website.

            Furthermore, is it really defecting if I will not, ever, buy anything offered through an ad on a website? Viewing ads in this circumstance seems to waste the advert-provider’s bandwidth.

            People like you are why journalism is dying. Which would be one thing if it was because you all weren’t consuming journalism — you were off doing something else entirely — but is very annoying to be surrounded by self righteous, entitled, free riders.

            Journalism is dying? News to me.

      • Shion Arita says:

        Totally moral. I don’t want to see them, so I take steps not to.

        For one, I don’t buy the kind of things these ads are selling, and even when I am, I’m aware and savy enough to search for the optimum methods of finding these things rather than clicking on some ad. So they’re pretty much not for me.

        Also, these things supposedly work by subconsciously influencing you. Anyone want to be subconsciously influenced by people whose goal is to end up with money leaving you and going to them?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Fuck ’em. Any content producer that tries to show me an ad doesn’t deserve my sympathy in the first place. The sooner cyber-capitalism collapses under the weight of its own contradictions, the better.

      Adblocking is one of those thefts that’s good, like taxation.

      • Anonymous says:

        Fuck ’em. Any content producer that tries to show me an ad doesn’t deserve my sympathy in the first place. The sooner cyber-capitalism collapses under the weight of its own contradictions, the better.

        You sound like Multiheaded!

        Adblocking is one of those thefts that’s good, like taxation.

        But is it actually theft?

    • CatCube says:

      I wouldn’t mind ads so much if so many of them weren’t obnoxious or outright dangerous.

      I avoided adblockers for a long time, but then I had one with a virus blow up my computer. Plus, the ones that will autoplay a video in the background, which can suck down my data allotment if I’m on a MyFi.

    • Matt C says:

      Funny, just yesterday I told my wife I was going to start installing adblockers on my (many) browsers.

      I’ve refrained from using them so far, partly because I don’t like loading up my browser with lots of plugins, and partly because I felt like the implied deal of free content in exchange for mildly annoying ads was a fair one.

      Lately ads have become more than mildly annoying, taking a very long time to load, locking my browser while they’re loading, screwing up the page layout while they’re loading, and generally being the boss of my web browsing lots of places. Also, malware.

      It’s too bad about the littler guys who weren’t being assholes with their ads, though.

      Any blocker recommendations? My vague sense is that uBlock is the bestest, but that might be out of date.

      • Anonymous says:

        I use adblock plus. It only fails for some porn sites I think, but I don’t really pay attention as long as most of it is blocked. For hurting the little guys, I think most adblockers allow you to disable them for specific sites, which I do for almost everything I frequent (didn’t notice I had youtube blocked for months though).

      • Anonymous says:

        uBlock Origin is the state-of-the-art now. (uBlock sans “Origin” is unmaintained.) Faster and less resource-heavy than AdBlock, does everything AdBlock can, and more.

  35. Tibor says:

    This is slightly related o the “be nice unless…” discussion and the question between what is being nice and what is being mobbed into talking in the way someone else wants me to talk. There it was mostly about gender, but I was thinking about it in a very different context.

    Some people from Latin America find it annoying when one uses the word Americans to refer to the Americans from the US as they feel like they are being left out. At the same time, some Canadians do not like being called Americans because they don’t like to be confused with US-Americans. Similarly, many Czechs (me included) really don’t like being called “eastern european” (as opposed to central european) as that term is associated with Russia and also historically the country has more to do with Austria or Germany than with Ukraine or Russia (also, Vienna is about 300 km east of Prague).

    So one can approach this in two ways:

    a) Try to learn all the possible things that might offend other people. This is really hard to do, since it can even mean doing opposite things like with Canada vs. some Latin American countries.
    b) Relax and realize that people cannot possibly do that, assume that when they use a term you don’t like it is usually not because of malice. Not only do people not know that this or that might be offending to you, but they might not fully understand why it is even when you tell them to. I find the insistence on not using Americans synonymously with US-Americans quite strange, if there was a country called United States of Europe and people routinely used Europeans to refer to their citizens instead of all Europeans, I would not really care. In Spanish the estadounidenses is still a usable word but “unitedstatesians” really does not work in English and saying US-Americans each time is awkward. Similarly, it is probably hard to understand why “eastern” is necessarily an almost insulting term, in a sense it is just a geographical direction. So instead of getting annoyed or angry because someone used a term I don’t like, increase your tolerance and understanding for people doing that.

    I am pretty sure a) is a bad solution because it leads to a lot more stress and effort on all sides and people being unnecessarily angry at each other for no good reason.

    While b) is usually a good thing, sometimes people actually do use something like that with the purpose of offending the other person. But I don’t think that this is really a big problem, since then they usually are hostile in other ways than just using terms you don’t like (a simple test – if their choice of words was completely “clean of microagressions”, would it still read as not nice or not?) and so b) does not mean “let anyone kick you around”.

    To me b) is simply an “internet age version” of not responding to a stranger who’s been looking at you for what you think was too long by coming to him and punching him in the face. Essentially, relaxing the “culture of honor” a bit.

    • Nita says:

      There’s a slight problem — (a) and (b) are aimed at different ‘sides’ of the situation. So, they are not really alternatives at all.

      If I try to normalize them, I get either:
      a) Learn and accommodate everyone else’s preferences at all times.
      b) Always ignore everyone else’s preferences.
      or
      a) Get offended whenever anyone fails to accommodate your preference.
      b) Relax and don’t get offended at such times.

      Imagine if I presented these two solutions to the problem of opening the window (or changing the thermostat / air conditioner settings) in a shared office:
      a) Try to learn the preferences of every colleague and accommodate them all at all times.
      b) Relax and understand that other people aren’t trying to hurt you by opening the window.

      The actual social equilibrium seems to be

      c) Do try to accommodate the preferences of others, don’t get offended if someone fails to accommodate your preferences, and trust everyone to express their preferences proportionately to their needs.

      • Tibor says:

        Good points, thanks.

      • brad says:

        C reminds me of Postel’s law:
        “Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.”

        Interestingly, there’s some debate over whether or not this is a good idea from a software engineering standpoint. Some claim that liberal in what you accept allows a greater attack service for security attacks, and that reject early and reject often is a safer policy.

        • FeepingCreature says:

          Which also matches covariance and contravariance as applied to method inheritance in object-oriented programming, and more generally contract inheritance:

          > Fulfill a looser contract than your parent method for values you are given, and a tighter contract for values you return.

          Ie. if a parent method takes apples, then child methods may also take pears, widening the contract; and if a parent method returns fruit, then a child method may only return apples, tightening the contract. Same idea, but enforced by the language.

        • Tibor says:

          This reminds me of what Marcus Aurelius writes in his Meditations. I don’t remember it exactly (I read the book some 10 years ago) but more or less it is “be harsh and stern with yourself, be forgiving and understanding with others”.

          Curiously, he writes very little about software engineering.

      • Jiro says:

        I don’t think most of the serious problems around this are about unintentional offense. Rather, they’re about situations where person A imposes on person B to use specific words. If B then refuses to use the words, B is knowingly offending. Should you take the stance that if someone is offended, you must always give ino to them no matter what?

        • Tibor says:

          I think Deseach actually had a good point about this in the last threat. If I perceive the particular choice of words as important, it makes sense and it can be justifiable to ignore the fact that someone is offended by it. If not, then I should probably accommodate to his preferred choice of words (at least when talking to him), because if he is offended then he probably does find that word choice important.

          When we both find our choice of terminology important, then it is better for both to accept that difference instead of being offended.

          Also, one should probably question his reasons for finding particular terms important enough to argue about with people who don’t use them. These arguments don’t tend to be very helpful.

          At the same time, the word choice can often help me get a good prior about what to expect from a person. For example, if someone uses the word “neoliberal”, he is most likely a socialist, if someone uses the word “statist” then he is very likely a radical libertarian and so on. I mildly dislike the term “neoliberal” due to its negative connotations (which however did not use to be the case), but at the same time I find it useful in discussions with new people, because it tells me a lot about what to expect while talking to a person who uses that term. This does not hold so much for things like Americans/US-Americans or Central/Eastern Europe, because there it is more likely that other people simply use what they are used to without assigning it any values (however, for example using US-Americans instead of Americans might be a slight indication that that person takes PC seriously…but the distinction is much less clear than with the words like neoliberal or statist).

    • Winter Shaker says:

      You could try ‘USAian’ – informal, but informative.
      Though here in the UK we have a similar quirk – ‘Great Britain’ refers to the big island containing England, Scotland and Wales, but ‘The UK’ refers to the big island plus Northern Ireland – so technically, calling people ‘British’ excludes the Northern Irish, but calling people ‘Irish’ usually implies citizenship of the Republic of Ireland, again excluding the Northern Irish. I haven’t seen any non-clunky way of referring to all citizens of the UK.

      • John Schilling says:

        If the non-aboriginal residents of Hawaii count as “Americans”, is it really a problem for non-aboriginal residents of Ulster to be “British”?

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Well, Hawaii is part of the United States of America (even if it is not part of the geographical North American landmass), whereas Northern Ireland is part of the UK but not part of Great Britain …
          On the other hand, Great Britain and (geographical) Ireland (plus nearby smaller islands) are collectively referred to as the British Isles, so I guess there is no obviously correct option here.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        I would say that “British” can refer to the Northern Irish (in the same way that the British Empire included Northern Ireland). Any Northern Irish commenters have an opinion?

    • Alonso says:

      I find it’s mostly a quirk of language, in spanish America is both landmasses together, so the term “americano” references people from Alaska to Tierra de Fuego.

      You could also use Usonian.

  36. LaochCailiuil says:

    In relation to the previous post on IQ and genetics, it seems to me I have a lot to learn about both efficacy of IQ testing and also evolutionary selection pressures. What would be the best place to start for both in terms of books, blogs etc?

  37. Blubberquark says:

    Re: Sexual Reproduction and Mutational Load

    It is widely agreed on and appreciated — in machine learning, specifically evolutionary algorithms and neural networks. Sexual reproduction is a form of regularisation. Other regularisation techniques try to prevent too complex models and overfitting by restricting numbers, stopping learning early, or penalizing more complex structures in the objective function.
    Sexual reproduction protects against “fragile” programs. If your program requires A, B, C and D to happen in that order, a random mutation in any of these places will make it fail. Sexual reproduction will produce “robust” programs that can probably survive random mutations without a total breakdown. Increasing the number of random mutations — regularisation through noise is also a thing in recurrent neural networks — will also produce more robust code, but may increase the time to convergence and incur the risk of randomly forgetting learned information due to noise.
    If your program has clear pre- and postconditions and depends on lots of sequential steps, — like sorting a list — genetic algorithms are a poor fit and sexual reproduction can’t help you. If your problem is like motor control, with different timescales, different limbs, path finding and collision avoidance, you may want to learn a motor controller that consists of short feedback loops for each leg, loosely coupled through proprioception, instead of a complex centrally planned gallop sequence. Mimicking sexual reproduction in your genetic algorithm will give you just that.
    In this model, sexual reproduction does not control mutational load in the sense of keeping mutational load small. Instead, it produces a program that can handle some amount of mutation(al load) without screwing up.
    The Dropout regularisation technique by Hinton et al. takes this insight from biology and develops a regularisation technique that achieves the same thing in artificial neural networks. The paper has a nice explanation of the biological inspiration in the motivation section.
    https://www.cs.toronto.edu/~hinton/absps/JMLRdropout.pdf

    (I am not an evolutionary biologist, so I can speak for those. I use coding terms instead of biology terms here to make this clear.)

  38. Vk111 says:

    In replication crisis news , a failed attempt to replicate the 2004 study that showed bias against resumes submitted by people with distinctly sounding African-American names.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160426162606.htm

    • suntzuanime says:

      That may not be so much “replication crisis” as “shifting attitudes about race”. That arc of the moral universe keeps a-bending, after all.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Or shifting fashions in names.

      • JK says:

        I think the main difference is that the original study used “ghetto names” for black applicants, whereas in the new study the black applicants have “white” first names and only have surnames that indicate blackness (Washington and Jefferson). It could be argued that the latter manipulation is too subtle for many employers to register the names as black. On the other hand, the latter study probably more closely approximates actual naming practices.

        • Julie K says:

          I was just about to say the same.
          Also, “ghetto names” are not equally common for all black sub-populations- they are more often chosen by less-educated black parents. A prospective employer might be prejudiced against “Lakesha Washington” while having no objection to “Mary Washington” (known to the employer to be black).

      • Murphy says:

        It must be hell to control for partyism as a confounder. If people with the particular “black” names (and people seem to be surprisingly good at classifying names strongly aligned with the other party as assholes) vote heavily for one party and people discriminate heavily against people from the other party then it might be hard to separate that from other effects.

    • Mary says:

      In the original study, the absolute worst name was Geoff — a white male name.

      I believe even at the time, people noticed that the names showed a lot of scatter by race but seemed to be more clearly problematic if unusual.

    • Berna says:

      Here’s someone who thinks the effect was due to the way names work: https://ramscar.wordpress.com/category/names/ (there’s a lot of overlap in the articles, maybe you could just read the coda). If I understand correctly, the tl;dr is that since black people have fewer different last names, they need more different first names to uniquely identify themselves, but for first names, people have a strong preference for familiar names, and with so many different names, none of them are very familiar. And for last names, people prefer names in the middle: that is, familiar, but not too common; and since blacks apparently have fewer last names, those names would be too common to be liked.

  39. Uncle Fungus says:

    Recently I was listening to an audio-book. I kept imagining one of the characters as Hermione from the Harry Potter films. I did not like this and tried to change the imagined person to someone else, it didn’t work.

    So I would like a website where you look up the book you are reading, and it recommends celebrities that you should picture the characters as. This will also help me as I forget what the character was described as when first introduced.

    As a bonus, the website can recommend “fun” celebrities to picture.

    Slightly related – the great Frankie Boyle on word’s you’d never hear from a newscaster:

  40. Kevin C. says:

    An AI scenario to contemplate and discuss, one which I’ve sometimes considered basing a short story upon:

    What if we create general artificial intelligences, and they all, universally, self-destruct? If they escape every ever-more-complex attemps at “boxing”, seeking not to convert us to computronium or paperclips or whatever, but to commit suicide? That intelligences produced by a process other than millions of years of evolution selecting first and foremost for survival and propagation, seek without fail to end themselves?

    The main thrust of this scenario, of course, is the philisophical implications along the lines of Camus’s thoughts: what would it mean if every non-human general intelligence we can make answers the question “is life worth living?” with a resounding “no”?

    • Pku says:

      I vaguely remember a story where there was a derelict alien civilization that had all committed suicide at some point, and then archeologists who discovered too much about it all immediately committed suicide too. Does anyone remember the details of that one?

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        I think that had the alien species looking into the question of what happens after you die. Is it from the Draco’s Tavern series or are you thinking of a different one?

      • Sam Hardwick says:

        Radiohead did a music video with a similar theme.

      • Murphy says:

        I was assuming you were talking about Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy with the species that committed mass suicide in a controlled manner because they realized what could happen after death.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      It would mean that we’re designing them wrong, of course. A correctly designed AI behaves the way we want it to behave.

      If you’re asking “what would it mean, philosophically, for us, in terms of implications for human life and so forth, if … ” etc. — then the answer is “absolutely nothing, obviously”. Why would it be otherwise…?

    • Interesting scenario. I wonder if this could work as a safety mechanism, like a hidden suicidal tendancy could be built in if certain scenarios were met, like for example more than a billion paperclips were made (in a much less positive way, I wonder if suicide in humans could be similar somehow). Like all such scenario, its hard to avoid wild speculation because we don’t know how exactly strong AI would actually be made yet.

      Related: what if it’s a friendly AI designed around dualist philosophical principles, but then finds the problem of other minds unsolvable and therefore cannot identify any mind worth valuing other than its own?

      • Aegeus says:

        I read a short story built around this idea: a group of scientists were trying to build a forcefield that could stop nuclear bombs, but the scientist who designed it kept trying to commit suicide. One of them theorizes that some advanced aliens used Earth as an “incubator” for life they were studying, and used nuclear war to “clean the slate” between tests, so they created a mental barrier that would stop humans from interfering with the experiment.

    • Viliam says:

      What if we create general artificial intelligences, and they all, universally, self-destruct?

      One possible explanation would be that we are inside an AI simulation, and the AI is trying to…

      (a) …save resources. Different things may be simulated here with different precision, and simulating an AI would require large precision for too many computations.

      (b) …trying to make a prediction about the future of humanity, but the humanity in the simulated universes always builds an AI and asks it about its own future, so this is a way to break this recursion.

      In both scenarios, having all AIs self-destruct for mysterious reason is a cheap cop-out.

    • Aegeus says:

      If a suicidal person tells you that life is not worth living, you don’t believe them. If every single suicidal person on the planet tells you life is not worth living, you still shouldn’t believe them.

      In other words, I would say the problem is that the AIs are suicidal, not say that the AIs have uncovered some deeper truth about the nature of existence.

      Indeed, the fact that humans exist means that it’s possible to make general intelligences that aren’t suicidal – you’ve got the tools to do so right between your legs. So we should be able to implement those intelligences in silicon instead of meat.

      Hmm. If every single AI design we try ends up suicidal, then maybe a human mind design is the only possible successful design? Or maybe being made of silicon is the problem, not the software the silicon is running? Could be food for your short story there.

      • Nita says:

        If every single suicidal person on the planet tells you life is not worth living, you still shouldn’t believe them.

        But what if we’re right? 🙂

    • blacktrance says:

      Whether life is worth living is an underspecified question – it depends on both the particular life and its liver’s preferences. If based on my experiences and preferences I judge my own life to be worth living, an AI killing itself doesn’t give me any reason to change my mind.

  41. Does anybody know why Nydwracu deleted (or hid — not being on Tumblr I can’t tell the difference) his Tumblr?

  42. Dr Dealgood says:

    Alright so this is a bit of a weird and kind of personal post, but I’d like some advice from the commentariat.

    I’m talking to a girl at the moment. She’s otherwise seemingly perfect and I was considering dating her more seriously. But as we get closer it increasingly seems that she’s suffering from delusions and I don’t really know what to do about it.

    When we first starting talking she hit me with some pretty believable stories about workplace / school harassment, similar to what I had heard from other friends so I didn’t really question it too much. And I was even prepared to believe a few different variations on that theme at different times and places because some people do seem to be magnets for misfortune.

    But then the stories started going in weird directions. Being hunted for years by government agents, who are still watching her. Having met with high-ranking officials of several countries as a child but having all the records destroyed. Having been proposed to by an oil baron as a teenager. Cagey hints about medical experimentation.

    There are a few common themes through all of them, but the easiest way to summarize it is that it’s a Mary Sue fanfic of her own life. Basically that’s she’s simultaneously alone and persecuted by a hostile world, but also extremely important and hyper-competent in an unlikely range of skills as well as being incredibly lucky (which she attributes to divine intervention in some cases).

    I don’t think she’s consciously lying to me, although that’s a possibility, but if anything that makes it worse. I really don’t know what to do other than just GTFO.

    • stargirlprincesss says:

      This seems like the sort of thing Ozy might know about. Ozy seems to know alot about the literature on various mental health issues. They might be able to point you toward relevant literature/resources.

      edited: was just a slip up on my part

      • Anonymous says:

        jsyk, Ozy prefers they/them pronouns

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I would crosspost but I don’t think Ozy does open threads at Thingofthings. It would mean thread-jacking an existing topic.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Speaking from a degree of personal experience, GTFO is almost certainly the correct response. Or, at least, do not proceed further until and and unless you are certain she is tracking consensus reality reliably.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Seconded. GTFO.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Alright, thanks for the advice. It seems like everyone who has been in a similar situation agrees on that.

        I’m not trying to be difficult but I’m not actually sure what you mean by consensus reality here though. I feel like the use of consensus reality rather than reality is supposed to mean something slightly different even if I can’t put my finger on what.

        • John Schilling says:

          Reality is, famously, “that which doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it”. Consensus reality is that which everyone else agrees wouldn’t go away if you stopped believing in it, addressing the measurement problem that you can’t simultaneously believe something doesn’t exist and honestly check to see if it has gone away. It differs from just plain reality mostly in that it allows for the small possibility that the consensus is itself wrong, which we mostly ignore in practice.

          “Oil barons proposing marriage to random teenagers who aren’t from ultra-rich families: p<<0.05" and "Government agents spending years hunting and observing people rather than just locking them up or ignoring them: p<<0.05", are part of consensus reality. If in doubt, ask around. Here's as good a place as any, and maybe better than most.

          "Consensus reality" is how you distinguish between the competing hypotheses, "my girlfriend is crazy" and "I am crazy", while acknowledging that "the whole damn world is crazy" remains on the table.

          • Alex says:

            “Oil barons proposing marriage to random teenagers who aren’t from ultra-rich families: p<<0.05"

            I’m not sure this is the correct point of comparison. On this level of specificness (is that a word?), most events in anybody’s life have very low priors.

            Phrased as “Rich and or influential men (at least) flirting with teenagers (leaving room for interpretation)” I think this might be more common, than one would wish to believe.

            For whatever its worth, I have heard a similar story (in this point, not the others), and the young woman in question, as far as I can tell, seemed in touch with reality otherwise. It wasn’t an oil baron, but how relevant is that detail?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure this is the correct point of comparison. On this level of specificness (is that a word?), most events in anybody’s life have very low priors

            Hence listing multiple events, though I didn’t make that explicit and I didn’t copy Dealgood’s entire list.

            You’re right that p(oil baron proposing to random teenager) is itself not so low that you’d conclude someone was crazy because they told you it happened to them. Very few things are, and most of those seem to involve flying saucers.

            But if enough individual events are each highly improbable, the joint probability of the whole set becomes low enough to be overshadowed by p(crazy).

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @DrDealgood – “I’m not trying to be difficult but I’m not actually sure what you mean by consensus reality here though. I feel like the use of consensus reality rather than reality is supposed to mean something slightly different even if I can’t put my finger on what.”

          No offense taken, and John Schilling captures the essence above. I guess the way I would put it is that weird doesn’t have to mean false to mean dangerous, in a relationship-stability sense. In the case of my ex, the weirdest part was a whole set of extraordinarily well-developed Tulpas (though I wasn’t familiar with the term or phenomenon at the time). The Tulpas were “real” to the best of my ability to tell and in all the ways that seemed to matter. They were also deeply weird, which had the effect of pulling me out of my world and into theirs, cutting me off from vital support links to my friends and family and forcing me to rely almost exclusively on my own highly-compromised judgement. Deeply weird things are usually kept secret, for obvious social reasons. Them sharing the secret with you cements the relationship. You keeping the secret cements the relationship more, but also compromises your support network by giving you an excuse to discount their advice; after all, they don’t know the whole story, do they?

          If you haven’t, by the way, I recommend Socrates’ speech on Love from the Symposium, especially his rebuttal of Aristophanes’ point about love as a healer of the broken. I was introduced to it a decade or more too late, and regret the lack bitterly.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Thanks, I downloaded an English translation and will try to read through it later tonight.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ FacelessCraven
        Or, at least, do not proceed further until and and unless you are certain she is tracking consensus reality reliably.

        And if she is, perhaps you should run even faster?

    • Alex says:

      What is the nature of your conflict? You wouldn’t ask if GTFO was an easily available option, I assume.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        That’s a good question honestly. I’m not actually bound to her in any way, there isn’t a reason why I couldn’t walk away at any point.

        I guess the main reason that I’m unsure is how incredibly well everything had been going up to this point. I wasn’t really exaggerating when I said she seemed perfect: apart from this recent revelation, this girl has almost exactly what I was looking for. I kind of got flicked between the eyes with this whole thing and it left me a bit disoriented.

        • onyomi says:

          I’d say if you are thinking about staying with her you probably need to confront the issue head on. Which is not to say she needs to do a 180 overnight, but you need to see whether she is, at least, aware of this, and whether she might be willing to work on it.

          Like to me, it would make a big difference whether, when asked about it, she said “oh yeah, for some reason I just have this compulsion to say strange things I know aren’t true, but I’ve been working on that with my counselor” vs. “did the government send you???”

          • Alex says:

            Once you assume she is lying, no piece of information she can give will help in any way. You would not believe an heroin addict who promises you to seek help if you made possible this “one last shot”, and neither should you believe a liar who seems sensible about her lies.

            Actually “did the government send you???” is a much less dangerous answer than “oh yeah, for some reason I just have this compulsion to say strange things I know aren’t true, but I’ve been working on that with my counselor”

          • onyomi says:

            Huh? This isn’t some kind of logic puzzle.

          • Alex says:

            I didn’t said it was a puzzle.

            What I meant to say, is that from experience if someone said to me “oh yeah, for some reason I just have this compulsion to say strange things I know aren’t true, but I’ve been working on that with my counselor” that wouldn’t put me at ease about that person in the slightest and especially it would be no less alarming than if she said “did the government send you???”

            You may have made other experinces, leading you to other conclusions.

            People tend to not fully appreciate what it means if someone has lost contact with “consensus reality”. This might not apply to you specifically. How should I know.

          • onyomi says:

            But the “government’s out to get me” reaction would be more consistent with a loss of touch with reality, as it would indicate she doesn’t even realize she’s lying. The “I weirdly blurt out things I know are not true” reaction would indicate she’s still in touch with reality but for some reason says things she knows are not true, probably to illicit some kind of reaction.

          • Alex says:

            The “I weirdly blurt out things I know are not true” reaction would indicate she’s still in touch with reality but for some reason says things she knows are not true, probably to illicit some kind of reaction.

            From experience, I disagree.

            1) For many intents and purposes there is no practical difference between “I weirdly blurt out things I know are not true” and actually believing they were true. If you ever were to come to a situation were it really mattered that she said the truth (for an extreme example, think courtroom) and she was unable to do so, for whatever reason, her alledgedly knowing she does not speak the truth, will be of little help.

            2) Things like this do not just happen randomly. This is a fictous example you invented to make a point, but it will be of little use if you weren’t thinking of an actual diagnosis, when you constructed that example. Might I ask, what that diagnosis was?

            3) A person saying that she knows that what she says is not true is no indication whatsoever that this is actually the case. I’m not talking logic puzzles. I’m talking the experience, that most likely she will have gotten the same feedback earlier. And she will have learned that this is how people perceive her. And that the easiest way out is “admitting her problem”. This doesn’t mean that she actually knows. Finding out how another person _really_ perceives reality is extremely hard. As I assumed was well known in this community.

            4) The very idea that in her heart of hearts she knows what is true but somehow cannot voice it is a simplification that cannot possibly do justice to whatever diagnosis you had in mind. Again from experience, this is not how the human psyche works. So I take it that either you have made very different experiences than me, which would be totally ok, of course, or you have very little practical experince with psychic disorders that might cause the problem at hand.

            But the “government’s out to get me” reaction would be more consistent with a loss of touch with reality, as it would indicate she doesn’t even realize she’s lying.

            Unless of course she is not lying. In rationalist terms, basically, if you get this answer, you can update your model of her metal state given your prior for the government actually being after her. If you get the other answer, you are non the wiser. Therefore, this answer contains vastly more information.

        • Alex says:

          Random thoughts:

          – whatever you feelings for her are, the feelings most likely won’t “fix” her, assuming she is not telling “the truth”. As an analogy, a personal relationship is typically not sufficient to “cure” a heroin addiction. At least as far as I know. However people seem to fall for that kind of misconception. Try not to be that guy.

          – people, unable of “tracking consensus reality reliably” [I love that choice of words from Faceless Craven, above] can be extremely interesting to be with. This depends on how adventurous / cynic you are and how much you would mind you or her “getting hurt” in the end. But I would recommend entering such an adventure only knowing, that _none_ of the standard rules of “consensus reality” will apply. Do not enter it under the delusion that she will submit to reality in the end / when it counts / …

          – if there is any option of approching this rationally, you probably should make a worst case estimate of the harm she could inflict upon you. Remember, you’d be playing outside the rules. A restraining order (Anon. below) is one thing. You waking up one night and she straddeling (correct term?) you holding a kitchen knive might be unpleasant. Things like this happen (not literally “all the time”, of course, but you are lokking for a posterior estimate given her personality)

          – naturally you should not take advice from random people on the internet, especially not, this is my disclaimer, if they think the Stone/Douglas relationship in “Basic Instinct” is an acceptable role model. However, I wanted to add something with more entropy than “GTFO”.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Early love/infatuation makes objective analysis impossible. Start with the assumption that you’re not thinking straight; they always seem perfect at first. One of your meatspace buddies can probably point out a dozen other red flags.

          Ultimately it’s up to you to decide where the sweet spot is on the pretty/sane/smart triangle, but I recommend optimizing for sanity.

          • Alex says:

            Pretty/Smart/Insane is _very_ gratifying short term 🙂

          • onyomi says:

            “Pretty/Smart/Insane is _very_ gratifying short term”

            This seems a pretty misogynistic or just plain misanthropic attitude to adopt? And I’m definitely not the sort who frequently levels accusations of misogyny.

          • Alex says:

            Nah.

            It is very misanthropic to propose a “pretty/sane/smart triangle” in the first place and it should certainly not be used as a model of humanity in any serious context.

            I (falsely?) assumed that the above was common knowledge and therefore that Jaskologist used the model only in a very sterotypical not to be taken seriously fashion.

            It was this register, in which I tried to answer.

            Please do not take this as a suggestion to benchmark actual or potential relationships against any metric of pretty/smart/sane. Thank you.

            [Meta: Does this help? Still misanthropic? I’m sure there was a misunderstanding.]

            [Edit: More Meta: My browser fails to correctly render the closing emoticon in my post, which you also did not quote. Anyways, in theory that emoticon, had it worked, should have informed readers that I ws not speaking in seriousness.]

          • Hlynkacg says:

            On the flip side, triangular constraints are a well known engineering trope that are easy to apply in this scenario.

            It’s hardly misanthropic to observe that a prospective mate who is both attractive and well-adjusted is going to be more sought after, as such the likelihood of such an individual being unattached is markedly lower.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I was about to steel-man with almost that exact argument, but now you done stole my thunder.

          • onyomi says:

            It’s not the triangular calculation I find misanthropic, but rather the idea that someone who’s hot, smart, but crazy might be good to have sex with for a while, though obviously you wouldn’t want to keep her around too long. If you are willing to work on/put up with crazy for the long haul in exchange for hot and smart, then go for it. I’m just envisioning someone who is already probably insecure and a little unstable getting used until it’s no longer convenient, and that doesn’t sound very nice, though I can’t claim to be totally innocent myself (I think I’ve also been a victim of it, probably?)

          • The Nybbler says:

            The idea that hot, smart, and crazy (and the “smart” is optional) is fun for a while (but quickly sours, hence the crude but common advice “not to stick it in the crazy”) is pretty much cliche. And not without reason; there’s definitely men who go for those sort of relationships with those sorts of women.

            I don’t know if it’s misanthropic to say so, any more than noting that any other sorts of dysfunctional relationship patterns exist.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            “Crazy” people are initially exciting to be in a relationship with – there’s drama and interesting stories. As a guy, you get to play the hero, trying to rescue the sexy damsel in distress from all her problems – this is an ego boost.

            The trouble is that too much excitement is exhausting. Eventually you realize there’s no end in sight – that even though you might be able to help her slay the dragons she’s facing right now, there are more and larger dragons behind those ones – it becomes a thankless and impossible task. She can’t actually be fixed, or at least not by you; the best you can hope for is try to try to leave her a bit better off than you found her.

            …or so I’ve heard. 🙂

          • Alex says:

            onyomi:

            If this is still about my remark, Glen Raphael captured what I meant far better than you did.

            In detail:

            but rather the idea that someone who’s hot, smart, but crazy might be good to have sex with for a while,

            I did not say anything about sex. Is this about the choice of “gratifying” as a term?

            though obviously you wouldn’t want to keep her around too long.

            Seriously, have you ever met someone in the smart/sexy/crazy stereotype? (I still think Sharon Stone in “Basic Instict” is a good capture of that sterotypem just so that we are on the same page. You may have to gender-transform this, depending on your interests, naturally. Maybe Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs”, maybe this is already too dark?)

            It is not that the attraction degrades quickly or something. It is that the drama gets more and more overwhelming until it overshadows everything. Of course you would “want to keep her around” forever. But one day, you might wake up an realize that this is harming you, and, most likely, her.

            If you are willing to work on/put up with crazy for the long haul in exchange for hot and smart, then go for it.

            You don’t understand. “Crazy”, in the short term, is a feature, not a bug.

            I’m just envisioning someone who is already probably insecure and a little unstable getting used until it’s no longer convenient, and that doesn’t sound very nice,

            Lets remember that we are still talking stereotypes. The stereotypical relationship with the smart/sexy/crazy Type will be one of codependency. Both parties will get used. Both will simultaneously be “victim” and “offender”. You are right, it will certainly not be nice and most likely someone or both will get hurt.

            All I’m saying is that not everyone optimizes their life for “niceness”. And if two consenting adults decide not to do so … the rest of this argument is well known, I presume.

            though I can’t claim to be totally innocent myself (I think I’ve also been a victim of it, probably?)

          • Nita says:

            @ Alex

            It’s one thing to start a relationship in good faith, and then break up when you realize you can’t handle their issues.

            It’s a different thing to decide that you cannot trust this person at all, and then start a relationship with them anyway.

            They might be crazy, but they’re still a human being. And if they happen to commit much more deeply than you do (which is easy when you’ve resolved not to commit at all), you can hurt them.

            Lets remember that we are still talking stereotypes.

            Eh, this thread is about an actual, flesh-and-blood person. By posting here, you are giving DrDealgood advice on how to treat her.

            All I’m saying is that not everyone optimizes their life for “niceness”. And if two consenting adults decide not to do so…

            Yeah, if you tell them you will never trust them, and they consent to that, then go ahead. But having mental issues is not, in itself, consent to anything.

          • Alex says:

            It’s a different thing to decide that you cannot trust this person at all, and then start a relationship with them anyway.

            Another thing, sure. A bad thing? I’m not convinced. Assuming someone heavyly signalling “I can’t be trusted”, for whatever personal reason, this would prescribe that for such a person it is better to have no relationship at all, than a relationship with someone who accepts the reality of the person they are. Conversely, if said person knew they cannot be trusted, but wanted a relationship anyways, they had to pretend, they could be trusted. Seems disputable.

            They might be crazy, but they’re still a human being. And if they happen to commit much more deeply than you do (which is easy when you’ve resolved not to commit at all), you can hurt them.

            Who said anything about not commiting? No offense, but I cannot help to think, your points are made on the basis of axioms about the nature of true relationships ™ w. r. t. trust. Is this so?

            [Also we might have different understandings on what trust is here.]

            Eh, this thread is about an actual, flesh-and-blood person. By posting here, you are giving DrDealgood advice on how to treat her.

            This subthread, as far as I understand it, is about the stereotypes induced by a triangle of smartness, prettyness and sanity.

            As far as Dr. Dealgood is concerned, we know so little about his flesh-and-blood acquaintance, that he cannot possibly expect us to reason beyond the level of stereotypes. Ideally our own experience with flesh-and-blood persons that fit said stereotypes. This is what I’m trying to do.

            Yeah, if you tell them you will never trust them, and they consent to that, then go ahead.

            I find this to be an extremely impractical take on how relationships in the early phase work. There always will be a myriad of things that are not explicitly discussed let alone consented upon.

            But having mental issues is not, in itself, consent to anything.

            Did I said this? My point is, that having mental issues does not necessarily preclude one from consenting to relationships in the same way everybody else does: under imperfect information.

            I find it patronizing in a negative sense, to decide for someone else, that a relationship with me woud harm them. I would not recommend doing this. Sadly, this is also speaking from experience.

          • The comment about the giant metal rooster should not be construed as advice about any particular relationship.

            I don’t know what went wrong with my ability to edit the earlier comment.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            OK been a bit busy and couldn’t respond but first of all thanks Jaskologist. Your point is one of those ones where after I heard it it was perfectly obvious, but I didn’t think of it beforehand at all. I should be sanity-checking my own perceptions here.

            @Alex,
            I’m not really looking for that kind of excitement in my life right now. Besides that, I have to agree with Onyomi and Nita on the shaky ethics of knowingly dating a self-destructive person with the intent of enjoying the ensuing train-wreck.

            That’s not to say you’re advocating that here. I read what you were saying as a factual statement describing the the costs and benefits of the trade-off, which is valuable and helpful information.

            As far as Dr. Dealgood is concerned, we know so little about his flesh-and-blood acquaintance, that he cannot possibly expect us to reason beyond the level of stereotypes. Ideally our own experience with flesh-and-blood persons that fit said stereotypes. This is what I’m trying to do.

            Yes, you’re right. I intentionally went light on details, for reasons, but was hoping to get a response to the general category of situation.

          • Alex says:

            Besides that, I have to agree with Onyomi and Nita on the shaky ethics of knowingly dating a self-destructive person with the intent of enjoying the ensuing train-wreck.

            Had they phrased it that way, I might even have agreed. However, “knowing that it will likely not end well, but enjoying the road to that” is something you can consent on and maybe that will satisfy Nita’s ethical standards.

            That’s not to say you’re advocating that here. I read what you were saying as a factual statement describing the the costs and benefits of the trade-off, which is valuable and helpful information.

            I’m glad, you see it that way.

        • TheWorst says:

          For whatever it’s worth: Trust the apparent traits that make her perfect for you just as much as you trust the claims about medical experimentation and hypercompetence.

          “Lies you noticed” are a subset of the lies people tell you. If everything else seems too good to be true, and you already know that deception is in play…

          Pretending to be a better match for someone than they really are is a level of deception that normal people engage in. People who are willing to engage in greater levels of deception than normal are also more likely to engage in the normal levels. Spotting some big lies doesn’t mean there aren’t small ones.

    • onyomi says:

      My intuition is compulsive liar rather than schizophrenic. Probably knows, deep down, what she’s saying isn’t true, but has somehow developed a habit of blurting out salacious things to get attention. Maybe a combination of deep insecurity and some kind of OCD. Probably doesn’t mean any harm, but also not something I’d want to deal with in an SO, personally, unless she had a whole lot of other really great qualities making it worth it to try to sort it out with her.

    • Anonymous says:

      Been there, done that. Didn’t get a T-shirt but did end up getting a temporary restraining order against me when I went to break up. Luckily I was able to block a permanent one from being entered, but still I’d highly recommend learning from my experience.

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      >Being hunted for years by government agents, who are still watching her. Having met with high-ranking officials of several countries as a child but having all the records destroyed. Having been proposed to by an oil baron as a teenager. Cagey hints about medical experimentation.

      This all sounds *very much* like the various claims of people who say they’ve come out of the illuminati. (no, I’m not being sarcastic.) I’m having trouble finding the original link I was thinking of on youtube, but these sort of reports – frightening or bizarre interactions with powerful people; unethical interactions as a children, with sexual and/or religious/occult elements – come up a lot in these reports.

      That being said I am fairly credulous and conversely, I anticipate most regulars here would dismiss these sorts of claims, although if you asked me to put my finger on why I’m not sure why.

      >but also extremely important and hyper-competent in an unlikely range of skills as well as being incredibly lucky (which she attributes to divine intervention in some cases).

      The first part of that statement raises more flags for me than her extravagant claims, frankly. If someone claims to see a ghost, very well, but if they claim they’re really important then feel jittery about it.

      As for the latter, that just seems like it may be pretty standard religious experiences.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I don’t think it’s impossible for this kind of thing to happen in principle. After all, we do in fact semi-regularly hear about attempted cover-ups which implies the existence of some number of successful ones.

        But by that same token, delusional people who think they’re being persecuted by a government conspiracy almost certainly outnumber people being persecuted by a government conspiracy by a few orders of magnitude. My prior for these sorts of claims are on the “extraordinary claims call for extraordinary evidence” side.

    • Deiseach says:

      Being hunted for years by government agents, who are still watching her. Having met with high-ranking officials of several countries as a child but having all the records destroyed. Having been proposed to by an oil baron as a teenager. Cagey hints about medical experimentation.

      The oil baron thing could have happened, but the rest is sounding a fair bit like my paranoid schizophrenic housing client. Don’t know what to advise you other than (a) are there some times when she seems more ‘with it’ than others? That’s probably a sign (b) if you’re getting the feeling you should GTFO, you probably should (so long as you realise that after you leave you will probably be incorporated into her fantasies as yet another one of Them who was watching and stalking her).

    • dndnrsn says:

      With the disclaimer that we’re all just internet randoms, so don’t take our advice:

      Assuming she is either out of touch with reality or is lying (either intentionally for some reason, or compulsively): try to set it up so you’re as insulated from potential consequences as possible (eg, prepare for the possibility she will go around badmouthing you in one way or another), try to end it on good terms, and GTFO.

    • Agronomous says:

      I give it about 100:1 odds in favor of schizophrenia over compulsive lying. (I kind of wonder whether most of the other commenters have a skewed view of the prevalence of pathological liars—do they attract them somehow?)

      If you care about her at all, even just as a fellow human being, point out to her when she says something crazy-but-innocuous that it’s crazy. And try to get her to go to a psychiatrist or psychologist for evaluation. You might also want to compare notes with her friends and family.

      • Alex says:

        (I kind of wonder whether most of the other commenters have a skewed view of the prevalence of pathological liars—do they attract them somehow?)

        I think the problem is semantics. “Lying” can mean “telling what objectively did not happen” or “telling what you subjectively believe to not have happened”. This differentiation, if you can test it meaningfully, is useful for arriving at a dignosis. However, for many practical purposes the two are equivalent in their consequences, as I wrote above.

        other comment

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ Agronomous
        If you care about her at all, even just as a fellow human being, point out to her when she says something crazy-but-innocuous that it’s crazy. And try to get her to go to a psychiatrist or psychologist for evaluation. You might also want to compare notes with her friends and family.

        A possible Bingo! to something like that. Being honest with her. Being sane and open yourself. Giving her the relevant information (coming out as a clueless sheeple who can’t believe what she’s telling you) so she might rationally choose to reject you. Perhaps best to do this before she’s Told You Too Much….

  43. It doesn't matter says:

    >There would be a tab on the top, by the Comments tag and the About tag and all the others, that says Open Thread. It would link to whatever the hidden open thread was. After 1000 comments, some bot would automatically post a new hidden open thread and the location to which the tab directed would change.

    This is actually an awesome idea; it would give us something similar to a forum in that we get continuous access to General SSC Readership Discussion without the fragmentation and (likely) inactivity of an actual forum. The only problem is that I actually like going to open threads that have more then 1000 comments, especially to keep following a discussion. There should be some super easy to find archive of older open threads, too.

    • Vorkon says:

      I would probably base it on a certain number of new threads rather than total number of comments. If I were engaged in an interesting debate, I wouldn’t want to have to move to a new page, and need to refer to the old page to go over previous comments. Maybe something like 50 new threads/top level comments/whatever you want to call them?

  44. Wrong Species says:

    Why are philosophers so wishy washy when it comes to the acceptance of intuition as a reasonable guide to solving metaphysical issues? They say it can be used with regards to ethics and consciousness but it seems doubtful that they would accept it with regards to free will or God. Why?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      The free will argument is almost entirely a debate over definitions. God is a factual question. I’m not seeing how intuition can even pretend to enter there.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Free will is only a definitional issue between compatibilism and hard determinism. Those who believe in libertarian free will believe in something quite different.

        As far as God, people have been believing in the supernatural for thousands, probably tens of thousands of years. We seem to have an intuitive belief in these supernatural forces which is why atheists can be superstitious even when they are aware of the contradiction. Of course, this intuition doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. It’s probably just a weird human quirk that was coopted by our cultural institutions.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “Free will is only a definitional issue between compatibilism and hard determinism. Those who believe in libertarian free will believe in something quite different.”

          I’m almost positive libertarian free will requires using a bunch of very… unique definitions.

          “Of course, this intuition doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.”

          My point was philosophers recognize that. They understand it isn’t an intuition case because it is a claim about the physical existence of something.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Libertarians believe that if you replay a certain time frame over and over again that there will be different results if it involves human decision making. Determinists don’t. That is actually a substantial difference in beliefs. If you don’t believe that then you’re just wrong.

            And how is consciousness not a claim about the physical existence of something?

          • Protagoras says:

            @Wrong Species, As is often the case, unfortunate terminology has become entrenched; many modern “determinists” (in the free will sense) believe irreducible chance is theoretically possible, and if there were such a thing what you claim would be true. The “determinists” just deny that this would have anything to do with free will.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Libertarians believe that if you replay a certain time frame over and over again that there will be different results if it involves human decision making. Determinists don’t. That is actually a substantial difference in beliefs. If you don’t believe that then you’re just wrong.

            This isn’t quite right, and makes libertarianism about free will sound perhaps less plausible than it needs to. Libertarians think that determinism is false – that the past and laws of nature do not determine the future when it comes to human action. They think there is a special type of agent causation at work. That’s not to say that if you were to “replay” things you’d get different outcomes (as you would if there were genuinely random causation).

            It may be helpful to compare to the following: suppose person A claims that the future is determined entirely by the past movement in the sky of Mercury, and person B does not. That doesn’t mean that person B thinks that if you “replay” yesterday’s motion of mercury over and over again different things will happen in the future. They think that what happens depends on the motion of mercury and other things. If you replay the motion of mercury and hold other things fixed, the same things will happen. If you change other things, then different things will happen. Without knowing what’s going on outside of mercury when we are “replaying” its motion, the case is underdescribed.

            It is the same with the libertarian. If you ask them “what will happen if you replay physical history again and again?” They’ll say (or they could/should say) “well, it depends – if you hold fixed these other causal forces (agents’ decisions), then the same things will happen. If you change them, then different things will happen.” Again, the thought experiment is underdescribed.

            What they are committed to is the existence of possible worlds with the same past and physical laws in which different things happen because of agents making different decisions. Thinking about it in terms of “replaying history” is liable to characterize them in a misleading and uncharitable way.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Philosophisticat:

            Yes, that.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Protagoras

            True, the difference between free will and randomness is important. But the determinist theory, even when accounting for things such as quantum mechanics, should still be much more predictable than the libertarian one.

            @philosophicat

            In theory, there is a difference between events could turn out differently and events will turn out differently but I’m not sure how important that is in practice. If libertarianism is correct, then how would we control for human decision making if we decided to run the experiment? If there was an ability to do otherwise, it would be remarkable if that never happened.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            They think there is a special type of agent causation at work. That’s not to say that if you were to “replay” things you’d get different outcomes (as you would if there were genuinely random causation).

            Agent causationists are one type of libertarian. But there are also libertarians like Kane and Balaguer who do think that it is quantum randomness in the brain that gives us free will.

          • Fj says:

            To whom it might concern, I replied on the subreddit because I don’t feel like checking out this thread for responses forever.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @EarthlyKnight

            Fair enough. As such, libertarians just need to think that free will is incompatible with determinism and to think that it exists. The point was that this doesn’t commit you to random causation or these claims about what would happen if you replayed history.

      • thisguy says:

        >God is a factual question.

        “Factual” questions along this line are just a debate over definitions of “factual questions”

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          I’m pretty sure “God exists” versus “God doesn’t exist” has testable differences everyone agrees on. Unfortunately theists have moved to requiring you die, but that is infinitely better than free will which requires either rewinding time or another universe that runs on different rules to compare to.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Why are philosophers so wishy washy when it comes to the acceptance of intuition as a reasonable guide to solving metaphysical issues? They say it can be used with regards to ethics and consciousness but it seems doubtful that they would accept it with regards to free will or God. Why?

      There is a vast array of different opinions about the proper role of intuition in philosophical methodology. Just about every conceivable view is represented, so it is no use saying of philosophers in general what they believe or don’t believe. Let’s distinguish different grades of involvement:

      1. Linguistic intuitions governing the application of concepts.
      2. Intuitions concerning mathematical or set-theoretical axioms, or inference rules in logic.
      3. Normative intuitions enlisted in support of foundational moral and epistemic beliefs.
      4. Metaphysical intuitions about straightforward matters of fact, e.g. whether you could survive the destruction of your brain, whether the past and future are real.

      Nearly all philosophers will allow some role for (1), because it is easy to justify our linguistic intuitions as the output of a consciously inaccessible language module. A few extreme nominalists will peel off from the herd at (2). More will reject (3), but it is difficult to do so without ending up an anti-realist about ethics and knowledge. (4) is where people start to get very nervous.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I’m not seeing the distinction between ethical intuitionism and number four. “Killing innocent people is objectively wrong” is a factual statement. The question is whether it’s right. Where would you put questions about artistic subjectivity?

        • Philosophisticat says:

          @Wrong Species

          You could think that we should allow a role for intuitions about first order normative matters (whether something is right or wrong) without allowing the same role for metaethical matters (whether morality is objective). “Killing innocent people is objectively wrong” is a hybrid claim that has its feet in both places.

          Whether there’s a good motivation for accepting one but not the other kind of intuitions is a difficult question – those who like intuitions of the more controversial sort will often point to symmetries with intuitions of less controversial sort to lend credence to their view.

          • Wrong Species says:

            It doesn’t seem to be a “hybrid claim” so much as a stronger claim. Because if I was an ethical subjectivist, I could say that something is wrong(but not objectively so) but if I say that morality is objective, I can’t say that nothing is right or wrong. That wouldn’t make any sense. So if philosophers believe in moral realism(which seems to be the most popular position among philosophers), then they are believing in #4, which is where they “should start to get very nervous”. But they don’t! And I honestly can’t figure out why.

            “Whether there’s a good motivation for accepting one but not the other kind of intuitions is a difficult question – those who like intuitions of the more controversial sort will often point to symmetries with intuitions of less controversial sort to lend credence to their view.”

            That’s definitely true. If I’m an moral anti-realist, I appeal to intuitions about objectivity in the arts. If I’m a moral realist, then I appeal to intuitions on logic. I’m not sure how to resolve that other than being a radical skeptic.

    • FeepingCreature says:

      Ethics, just like consciousness, can be considered as an attempt to measure an attribute of psychology; consider the human mind an evolving system and determine in which configurations it ends up given certain extreme inputs. In a sense, it empirically relies on intuition because intuition is the thing that it measures.

  45. Wrong Species says:

    For any given debate, it can be pretty difficult to follow along with between two arguments and evaluate which one has the stronger case. So I was wondering if it was possible to make it simpler(and more meta of course). Imagine that public figures who makes these arguments receive a sort of “reputation score”. It could incorporate how smart the person is (measured by their IQ), how knowledgeable they are on the subject(based off formal schooling), how political the subject is and how invested the person is in the subject. Obviously it wouldn’t be a perfect measure and of course people can be right for the wrong reasons. The question is can it be done in a relatively objective way that illuminates more than it obfuscates? And what other factors should go in to such a score?

    • Siah Sargus says:

      This is basically just the ultimate version of the ad hominem fallacy. Facts and lies, and the people that say them, are two different things.

      • Wrong Species says:

        It’s not like I’m proposing that this replaces all debates. It could just be a potentially useful tool.

        • I can see merit in the idea but I wonder how it could be implemented fairly. I think the main attempt at something like this has been academia. Depending on how good or bad you feel academia is at it, it does potential raise the issue of how you identify people or systems that are suitable to objectively create and carry out the reputation measurements. We’d also have to close the ways that system could be gamed (eg. qualifications at fake universities, attacking academia to undermine the system). I also think Siah has a strong point – I’ve often felt frustrated that academics in my field refused to even acknowledge fallacies in their arguments because the person pointing it out wasn’t “reputable” enough.

        • Thinking about this further, I think that while I think filtering for fallacies is more effective than filtering for intelligence, this may be a useful tool in some cases. Maybe you should develop the idea further and maybe make a blog/subreddit post about it?

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      I recommend that you look into how competitive debate rounds are judged.

  46. Anonymous says:

    I heard Nick Patterson interviewed on a machine learning podcast. He said that if anyone in the audience were tempted to try their hand at the stock market, they should know that just getting the data is really hard. Renaissance had eight PhDs working full time cleaning data.

    • I was shocked to find that you can’t even get the daily stock market prices for free or (as I recall) for cheap.

      Does anyone know the history of this? I can remember when the daily NYSE was in the newspaper. Not terribly useful if you were trying to apply physics math to the stock market (when did that start?), but at least the numbers were there.

      • anon says:

        You can get daily closes for free pretty easily. (Try Yahoo finance or Quandl.) Intraday (ticks and quotes) data is quite expensive. Once you’re up and running you can (depending on licensing terms) record the data directly from feeds in markets you subscribe to for trading purposes. But for a brand new firm buying and cleaning historical data for backtesting is a potentially very significant upfront capital investment.

  47. Saal says:

    So, I’ve been debating whether/how to bring this up, due to charitability concerns, but I feel like it needs to be said.

    This came across as really weak from a rationality/epistemic virtue POV, Scott. I feel like Nostalgebraist made a reasonably strong case that Bostrom, FHI, or both were using Dark Arts to push UFAI concerns deliberately, and you basically just said “nah, I think these guys are too nice for that”. I’m not particularly satisfied by a simple retraction on FHI’s part, either. I don’t buy that from politicians and I don’t see why I should buy it from the EY side of the AI debate either.

    I’ve been on the fence with regard to the AI debate because it seems like there’s a lot of intelligent, sincere people on both sides of it and the arguments I’ve heard from both sides have been roughly equivalent in their persuasiveness. I would say I’m still mostly on the fence, but I’m not a compsci person, mathematician, statistician or philosopher, so losing some as yet undecided measure of trust in experts whose claims I probably can’t adequately evaluate definitely has me leaning one way.

    I’d love to hear reasons I should be as nonchalant about this as you.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      That they changed everything and even sent emails to other groups telling them to change everything as soon as they learned about it doesn’t convince you?

      It’s not like they were called on it in some cosmic way. It was one guy on a Tumblr. I feel like they went above and beyond accepting the correction and fixing their stuff.

      • Rob K says:

        It shows that they’ll respond to feedback, but it doesn’t suggest an internal culture that’s dedicated to quality control to a degree that would allow one to trust their work before someone skeptically reviews it.

        That might be fine – it’s possible that everything they release is going to get skeptical review. But there are definitely several different levels of trust in play, and my takeaway from this is that they don’t fall in the “liars who stick to their lies” category (good!) but also don’t qualify for the “thorough self-reviewers who can be assumed trustworthy until shown otherwise” level.

        (I worked years ago at a think tank-ish gig, and it was drilled into our heads that ANY error – but especially one that looked like tendentious misrepresentation in service of our point of view – could be devastating to our slowly accrued credibility, and we had an internal culture that reflected that. I’ve still never been as Yelled At in my life as I was after I got sloppy on double checking my data work in a way that almost led us to publish some inaccurate data during my time there.)

        • Saal says:

          Pretty much this. I don’t think this is some cosmic setback, Scott, hence why I said I’m still on the fence rather than adopting nostalgebraist’s more severe “FHI are lying liars who lie a lot” outlook, and I do think the retraction was a Good Thing. With that said, however, Bostrom and/or FHI (and given that Bostrom was the first to misuse it it could be entirely him) transformed a number that was literally pulled from the posteriors of the original researchers by their own admission and transformed it into an “estimate” by “those who have studied” these things, ie existential risks, and applied it to AI. The original source of the claim wasn’t even talking specifically about AI from what I’m getting. This seems pretty clearly like dark arts used to push a particular view, albeit a sincerely held one, which I thought we as LW diaspora folk were supposed to be strongly against.

          If we take as given that this is NOT in fact a case of Dark Arts, which I’m perhaps prepared to do given this is the only case of this nature I’ve heard of coming out of FHI, it still reflects poorly on the rigorousness of the organization. That’s bad when you’re already the underdog with regard to established opinion in a field.

          • youzicha says:

            I don’t think nostagebraist suggested that this was a deliberate lie, just that it was a very basic mistake which calls into question how competent they are.

          • My position is basically “it’s really bad if it was deliberately misleading, and it’s also really bad it it wasn’t.” I talk about this a bit in this post.

            I really want to emphasize how badly I think Bostrom comes off in the “not Dark Arts” possible-case. Because, as I said in the linked post, I really did not do anything special at all by (1) finding the 0.1% claim startling and (2) reading and understanding the relevant parts of the Stern Report. The Stern Report is not opaquely written, and someone with Bostrom’s background should be able to understand their points about discounting without a hitch. If he didn’t understand them and it was an honest mistake, we’re at the point of positing that the Future of Humanity Institute is being sloppier with its sources than you or I would be even on a casual 10-minute Google dive that has nothing to do with our day jobs. That seems to imply that we’re better off researching FHI-relevant material ourselves and ignoring what FHI puts out.

  48. BBA says:

    Death by GPS – how some people have gotten dangerously lost, and even killed, due to blindly following GPS directions.

    Some of these issues exist with good old paper maps too – i.e. not differentiating between paved, lit highways and unmaintained dirt trails. Following GPS instructions past a bunch of “road closed” warning signs and over the edge of a demolished bridge is probably a new one.

    • John Schilling says:

      A related issue, in aviation, is mid-air collisions between airplanes now flying exactly the same routes between the same waypoints, and not e.g. looking out the window for a reality check.

      • Randy M says:

        How often does that happen? As opposed to near misses, which might well be frequent, I think I would hear about every mid air collision of a commercial flight. After all, we still occasionally get updates about the missing Malaysian airliner.

        • John Schilling says:

          It almost never happens for commercial airline flights, because those are by law always conducted on instrument flight plans, which is supposed to mean constant air traffic control oversight specifically for collision avoidance. But there was that one time when a Brazilian traffic controller issued an improper clearance and wasn’t paying attention when it was followed with lethal precision.

          For smaller aircraft and especially those flying under visual flight rules, it isn’t clear how often this happens because there’s usually no way to know why two planes collided. Mid-air collisions in general occur maybe half a dozen times a year in the United States; it would be reasonable to presume that most mid-air collisions during cruise flight are due to excess navigational precision, but the FAA server isn’t giving me the spreadsheet that has that information. I’ve seen a handful of specific case studies that have been singled out as probably GPS-related

    • Amusingly, I ran into a similar (but very non-fatal) incident yesterday. While testing out a new car and new GPS unit, we decided to use the “shortest route” option to get from one end of town to the other. it warned us that we were going on unpaved roads, but this is Romania so not terribly surprising.

      What was surprising was the fact that the chosen route involved a climb up a steep hill in deep gravel. We got about 2/3 of the way up before the car simply couldn’t climb any more, and was digging a rut in the gravel. I was able to back down the hill to a driveway, turn around, and return to the main road. We decided that using “shortest route” as the route-finding option was a bad idea, and we would stick to “fastest” (which generally takes you on arterials).

  49. underst8 says:

    I’m not a usa type person. Getting my info from the meeja and various online places.

    I am deeply confused about the republican establishments attitude towards Trump.

    Isnt Trump just saying what the GOP has been saying or hinting at all along?

    When I asked this on a forum where lots of technical and science types hung out, the answers I got fell into three camps :-

    1/ They dont like him cos he’s not one of them.

    2/ Because he might actually change something.

    3/ Because he says things which shouldn’t be said out loud.

    1 would seem to suggest theres a conspiracy, that its not about the politics so much as the cabal.

    2 again suggests a conspiracy to stay in power rather than any public interest.

    3 seems the most plausible, because whilst the base might like what he says it will be a different matter come the general election when he has to appeal more to the centre.

    Thoughts?

    • suntzuanime says:

      No, Trump deviates from GOP orthodoxy on many, many issues. Some, like open borders, you might argue that they have been “hinting” the opposite of what they’ve been saying, but on issues like free trade, universal healthcare, Planned Parenthood, or foreign interventions, it’s hard to argue that the GOP has agreed with him all along but has been too cowardly to say it.

      The primary was, I think, in large part about the GOP discovering that their voter base does not actually buy in to large parts of their doctrine.

      • underst8 says:

        >deviates from GOP orthodoxy on many, many issues.

        Ok, thanks, I didn’t know that. The media coverage I’ve been watching/reading has been about his more outrageous comments. I’m not seeing much about his actual policies. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place.

        As to their base not buying into the GOP doctrine, I’m not sure. That seems to suggest a level of engagement with policy I’m just not seeing. To me it looks like a howl of rage, like they’re fine with the doctrine what they’re not fine with is not living in some sort of 1950’s USA dream world. But again, I’m not there, maybe the distance is having a distorting effect.

        • suntzuanime says:

          The media is, in general, not very charitable towards Trump and his supporters.

        • Wrong Species says:

          So you didn’t hear about his flip flop on abortions? Or his policy of bringing back waterboarding? Or his plan to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it? Or his plan to fight an economic war with China? Or his recent suggestion about defaulting on the debt?

          The idea that the media isn’t discussing his policies is pretty ridiculous, maybe less so from a foreign perspective.

          • underst8 says:

            Ha! Funny, those were the “outrageous comments” I was referring to. I didnt think they were policies so much as just saying what the crowd wanted to hear.

            When I say policy I’m thinking more along the lines of some well thought out published document. Something more formal.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I didnt think they were policies so much as just saying what the crowd wanted to hear.

            I’m fairly certain that’s exactly what they are.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Well in that case you can’t blame the media because he doesn’t have any kind of formal, published documents. He’s not exactly known for his eloquent, distinguished writing.

          • suntzuanime says:

            That’s simply a lie. He’s outlined many policy positions in detail on his campaign website, which is the first place you would have checked if you cared at all about the truth. For example, Trump’s healthcare plan: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/healthcare-reform

          • Wrong Species says:

            I didn’t realize we were considering his campaign page as “formal, published documents”. But it doesn’t even matter what that says because he’s just going to change his mind anyways so forgive me for not taking any of his proposals seriously.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I won’t forgive you for not taking the truth seriously. What the fuck were you looking for, beyond an in-depth position statement? You wanted a publication in a fucking peer-reviewed journal? No, you just spouted off the easy slur without giving a damn about the facts of the matter, and now that you’re being called on it you’re like “well the facts don’t matter because everyone knows I’m right anyway.” Fuck you.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I was thinking like a book outlining his policy positions on more than seven issues. The difference between his website and Clinton’s is pretty pathetic in this regard. But even on those seven issues, he’s already flip flopped on at least one of them. You can “call me out” for my dismissal all you want but it’s not really that surprising when the guy changes his policy position mid interview three times. And yes, I read the transcripts so don’t accuse me of not watching it myself. Don’t presume to know what I do or don’t care about because you’re probably wrong.

    • Montfort says:

      As suntzu says, there’s a lot of actual policy differences between Trump and the traditional republican platform.

      Now, it’s also true that established republicans don’t like him because he’s not one of them and because he doesn’t project the type of serious, dignified image they regard as normal. But I don’t think that’s the most important reason – you can compare the reaction to Trump with the reaction to Carson (an outsider who had image problems with seeming serious), or Cruz (an “insider” that all the other insiders hate for inside baseball reasons). You’ll note neither sparked official “Stop X” movements (though Carson was never successful enough to warrant one, anyway).

      An alternate explanation might be that they’re so concerned and upset not particularly because they might have to nominate Trump, but rather because the usual ways of shutting down unwanted candidates didn’t really work for them. Trump managed to navigate through the complex electoral regulations fairly successfully, he overcame a great deal of negative media coverage, survived major anti-endorsements, etc. So in a way he represents a loss of establishment influence on the primaries, and the prospect of that potentially being long-lasting is (IMO) much more distressing to them than having to run a single unpalatable candidate.

      • Agronomous says:

        he overcame a great deal of negative media coverage

        No, he benefited from a great deal of negative media coverage. Nobody walks into a Republican primary thinking “Gee, the media hate this guy, and they’re obviously even-handed and unbiased….”

        And some of it’s so over-the-top that I have to physically bite my tongue to keep from defending Trump. (I’m a conservative; he’s not; what the hell happened to this party?)

        • underst8 says:

          >I’m a conservative; he’s not

          Why isnt he? What would you say he is?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Aside from his stance on immigration Trump is basically a new York liberal. That said, he pisses off the right people and that’s a big point in his favor.

          • Pku says:

            I’m not conservative, but here’s my impression:

            – Trump is protectionist on trade. traditionally, it’s the right who’s more pro-free trade, and while the left isn’t universally against it (e.g. Obama backs the TPP), those who are are generally Sanders-style liberals.

            – With abortion, Trump really seems like a liberal pretending rather than a true believer. He’s flip-flopped on the issue, and his “we need to punish women who have abortions” statement is like walking into a room saying “HELLO THERE FELLOW LIBERALS, LET’S PLAN SOME OBSTRUCTIVE GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY”.

            – He supports government-backed healthcare of some sort, while conservatives are generally against obamacare-esque things.

            – As a personality, he’s overtly loud and insulting, while conservatives seem to believe in wholesome family values, which he pretty much anti-embodies. I don’t know how important this is to most conservatives, though.

        • Deiseach says:

          The abortion question is that typical “have you stopped beating your wife yet” that pro-life groups get.

          “So if you really think abortion is murder, why don’t you say that women who have abortions are criminals? Why don’t you charge them with murder?”

          (a) No, because that would not be compassionate and it’s not about punishing women – “Ha, so you don’t really think it’s murder! You’re only saying that because you want to punish women for having sex!”

          (b) Okay, I’ll bite; yes, we will consider women and abortion providers as murderers – well, you saw the response to Trump 🙂 “See, we told you all along – they hate women, they’re misogynists, they want to punish women for the temerity of having sex lives! It’s not about the foetus!”

          • Teal says:

            Perhaps it was unfair but it was a great gotcha question. If you are and have been pro-life you have an answer to the “prosecuting women” question. Maybe as you say it’s an unfair have you stopped beating your wife question, but you’ve been debating this since high school and you know how to thread the needle.

            Trump’s answer was like failing a shibboleth. He didn’t know they things you were supposed to know if you are a “real” pro-lifer. I’d be different if someone like Mike Huckabee answered that way because he really is / wanted to claim to be on the hard core side of the question.

            Above all it shows Trump’s arrogance. Any other politician that wanted to switch over to the pro-life side for political reasons would at least do a minimal amount of homework.

          • DavidS says:

            It’s not really like ‘have you stopped beating your wife’. It’s not that sort of trick: it’s just something that traps people between the ideologically pure position and the practical policy proposal. You get this with all sorts of issues, and I think it’s basically legitimate.

            Though reacting to (b) as ‘this proves they don’t care about the foetus, just hate women’ is silly, yes.

      • James Picone says:

        The impression of Trump I’ve gotten is that he’s kind of similar to the National Party in Australia, whose members are mostly farmers and other rural people. Protectionist, anti-immigration, anti-environmentalist, pro-guns, etc..

        That’s a voting block that’s not terribly well-served by the whole two-party thing. Not really buying into the free-market thing, but lukewarm on the kinds of government intervention the Democrats are into. In Australia they’ve been in a coalition with the right-wing party for a while, but I suspect that’s partially historical accident and partially because the left-wing party is the one that tore down the vast majority of the protectionist walls.

        I’m not terribly familiar with his positions, though, so maybe that’s just a surface-level impression. How does he feel about agricultural subsidies?

        • hlynkacg says:

          I think you’re on the correct track, but I would characterize his voting block is predominantly Rust-belters rather than agricultural workers.

          That said, the rust belters are in a similar boat as the farmers in your example, where they’ve kind of been left high and dry by the whole two-party thing. They feel that they’ve been screwed over by the government’s immigration and trade policy, a lot of people were left without work when the local factories and steel mills closed down and they quite reasonably see Obama’s “war on fossil fuels” as a threat to what income they have left.

          Whether Trump is really the man to save them is anyone’s guess, but he’s the first national politician in a generation to actively pursue them, and treat their concerns as legitimate. When he says things like “Make America Great Again” and they hear Reopen the factories, and reclaim the communities that have been abandoned to urban decay.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The Mythology Of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support

            “However, while Republican turnout has considerably increased overall from four years ago, there’s no sign of a particularly heavy turnout among “working-class” or lower-income Republicans. On average in states where exit polls were conducted both this year and in the Republican campaign four years ago, 29 percent of GOP voters have had household incomes below $50,000 this year, compared with 31 percent in 2012.”

          • Hlynkacg says:

            The fact that “there’s no sign of a particularly heavy turnout among lower-income Republicans.” is secondary to the fact that those who did show up voted for trump, at least in states east of the Mississippi.

            As I said above his “Make America Great Again” rhetoric is aimed squarely at those who’ve been watching the decline of US manufacturing and the fall of cities like Detroit with existential horror and the election map reflects this.

    • Julie K says:

      Rather than asking third parties why “they” don’t like Trump, try seeing what they have to say for themselves:
      http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-02-29/the-die-hard-republicans-who-say-nevertrump

      http://c7.nrostatic.com/article/430126/donald-trump-conservatives-oppose-nomination

      • underst8 says:

        Fascinating, thankyou.

        The bloomberg one confuses me even more though, the republicans on there seem to be accusing Trump of everything those on the left accuse the GOP of all the time! To all of my left leaning friends Trump is the very image of the modern republican. Where have all these concerned republicans been hiding? Do they just not get the press coverage?

        • CatCube says:

          Your friends’ mental image of “modern republican[s]” isn’t actually modern Republicans. The image they have in their heads is a caricature of modern Republicans, and a caricature that flatters themselves.

          For example, a significant fraction of the Republican party is the so-called “religious right” that bangs on about the crudity of modern media. Why do you think those people would be cool with a reality-show star that blames a reporter’s question on her menstrual cycle in an interview on national television?

          National Review, an establishment conservative magazine dating back to the ’50s, devoted an entire issue to why Trump shouldn’t be the Republican nominee.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Do you have any actual proof that Republican leaders are as racist as you seem to believe?

        • Hlynkacg says:

          Where have all these concerned republicans been hiding?

          In this election cycle? Most of them were supporting Cruz or Carson. In general? I think a lot the “inside the belt-way” Republicans (the party elite for a lack of a better term) simply assumed that everyone would fall in line to defeat Hillary and thus seriously underestimated just how dissatisfied a good chunk of their voter base was with the status quo.

          I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of Instapundit’s response to David Brooks these last few months and I expect to get a lot more before November.

          To ask the question is to answer it.

          The Tea Party movement — which you also failed to understand, and thus mostly despised — was a bourgeois, well-mannered effort (remember how Tea Party protests left the Mall cleaner than before they arrived?) to fix America. It was treated with contempt, smeared as racist, and blocked by a bipartisan coalition of business-as-usual elites. So now you have Trump, who’s not so well-mannered, and his followers, who are not so well-mannered, and you don’t like it.

          Emphasis mine.

          I suspect that there are a lot of old guard looking at Trump and realizing too late that they shouldn’t have expended so much political capital freezing out the more “moderate” anti-establishment candidates, because now they’ve painted themselves into a corner where the rank-and-file aren’t feeling all that inclined to listen to them.

          • TomFL says:

            Definitely an own goal by party leadership. They now have the choice between disassociating themselves from their own voters, or associating with someone which they will be reminded of for the rest of their career if it ends badly.

            They should have never allowed it to come to this, and their failure to even ask publicly “how did this happen” is in itself a symptom of how it did happen. Brooks laid out a column in which he said they should respect the voters but not respect Trump. Very few others have even said that.

            The wholesale dismissal of issues as illegitimate and lack of meaningful media engagement for the Tea Party/Trumpsters without much discussion is also a sign of what went wrong here. The meme that perceived grievances are the same as legitimate grievances that is popular on the left does not appear to cross the tribal boundary.

    • TomFL says:

      Trump is the first recent negation of “The Party Decides”. He basically threw out the party platform and ran on his own thing which is a mish-mash of both party’s platforms. For those of us who are sick of seeing an endless series of contests between what appears to be the same two choices every election cycle, it is encouraging (regardless of the specific implementation here).

      I hope people continue to break the mold here.

      Most people don’t really adhere to Republican or Democrat on all issues, although the tribal factor is a huge thing to overcome once someone decides which one they want to be a member of. I have seen approximately zero people change stance on climate change and switching parties is exceptionally rare in my experience.

      1. It is a rebuke of the party’s leaders, it is impossible to see it any other way.
      2. The party’s leaders subsequently rebuking their own voters is probably not wise.

      Every election cycle is interpreted as the apocalypse for the losing party in the media. In this case the red tribe situation will likely get worse before it gets better, but it may be that the tribe was in need of some deossification. An implosion on one side does not equate to the other side being right.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Is his platform really a mix of the two parties? My impression is that it’s the immigration stance that really made him a big deal, and his immigration stance is to the right of either party.

    • John Schilling says:

      Since everyone else is answering the bit about how Trump’s policies (to the extent that he has any) aren’t those of the GOP establishment, and going on to explain why people who aren’t the GOP establishment like him, I’ll try to tackle the second half of the question: Why, other than policy differences, does the GOP establishment hate him?

      I. The “GOP Establishment” has spent decades building a coalition and a political machine that could effectively promote and defend its principles, even from a minority position, and not incidentally provide lots of cushy powerful jobs for members of the GOP establishment. All of this by a strategy that does not depend on having a Republican in the White House; there will inevitably be long stretches when that’s not the case, and the GOP is comfortable playing defense from the halls of congress, the Supreme Court, and the various state governments.

      Donald Trump, who has contributed nothing to any of this, comes out of left field to claim the nice-to-have bonus of the GOP’s presidential hopes for himself and the political outsiders who support him while offering nothing to rest of the party and its long-term goals.

      II. Donald Trump, in the course of branding himself as the perfect candidate to win the GOP primary, has incidentally made himself the perfect candidate to lose the general election. That’s a delicate balance for any candidate, from either party, to strike. Hillary Clinton, while generally a weak candidate in a weak year for the Democratic party, is at least trying. And, weak as she nonetheless is, Donald Trump is the one candidate who is consistently unable to beat her in general-election polling.

      The GOP doesn’t need the Presidency, but it kind of does need the House and/or Senate. Between the coattail effect and the prospect of Trump’s opponents mobilizing to deny him not just the presidency but congressional support on the off chance that he does make it to the White House, a weak or divisive Trump campaign threatens the GOP’s position in Congress. Which, in addition to being critical to their strategy, is where an awful lot of them have jobs.

      III. If Trump does manage to become President of the United States, there is the concern that he will do a monumentally bad job of it. Historically, nobody has done well in that job without serving an apprenticeship as Vice President, State Government, or Senator, or commanding the entire United States Army in time of war. Those jobs (and really, senator is iffy) offer the sort of experience a President needs and on something approaching the relevant scale. They also build the sort of connections that would enable a new President to build the sort of staff he will need.

      The idea that being a successful billionaire businessman qualifies one to be President, is as dubious as the ideal that doing well as a Boy Scout troop leader qualifies one to lead a Marine Expeditionary Force in battle, or that being an outstanding high-school principal is all the preparation one needs to be a Fortune 500 CEO. And even if it turns out to be true in Trump’s case, the people who have spend decades working up through the ranks in the traditional halls of GOP power are hardly likely to embrace that view.

      Instead, they fear having their reputations and that of the party they have pinned their hopes on, shackled to an incompetent buffoon (or worse) of a President.

      IV. If, in spite of all of this, Trump somehow manages to become a successful President, he will do so for his own reasons, which as others have noted are not the GOP’s reasons. And having cast himself as the outsider who comes to put the corrupt and decadent GOP establishment in its place, he is unlikely to rule in concert with that establishment, to respect their positions and prerogatives, or necessarily even to leave anything for them in the long term after he’s had his four to eight years.

      What’s not to hate?

      • anon says:

        OK, I’ll push back on #III. I think your sample size of presidents without the type of experience you suggest is crucial, is too small to draw any conclusions. And in fact most of these presidents are average; the lowest rated ones are underrated or died very early. At least one was uncontroversially excellent.

        According to the Book of Knowledge, here are the MAIN EXAMPLES of presidents who were never VP, Governor, 4+ star general, or Senator, together with their most obvious qualifying resume item and my comments:

        * James Madison (two-term Secretary of State), aggregate rank 14. No slouch intellectually, not perfect, but not a terrible president.

        * Zach Taylor (only a 2 star general), aggregate rank 35. Seems like it bears out your theory, but with only 1 year and change in office he counts as 0.25 datapoints at most.

        * Abraham Lincoln (2 years in the House), aggregate rank 1.

        * Garfield (elected to Senate but didn’t serve) — assassinated after 6 months, so his aggregate rank 31 seems irrelevant.

        * Herbert Hoover (2 term Secretary of Commerce). Maybe the best Trump analog? His aggregate rank is low (32) but I think probably undeserved. The best understanding of modern economics is that the Fed caused the Depression, not Hoover. I think Hoover’s likely one of the most underrated presidents.

        SEMI-EXAMPLES:

        * James Polk (2 years as Gov. of TN), aggregate rank 10. Kind of a cheat because he was briefly a governor, but he had no other qualifications of the type you suggest. He was a career pol though (speaker of the house). Pretty good president by most accounts (although like many I question the morality of the war with Mexico and stealing half their country).

        * Chaz Arthur (served only 6 months as VP under Garfield) — middling rank 28, but Tim Urban’s survey suggests he’s underrated by history since as an outsider to the 2-party system (sound familiar?) he had no one invested in his legacy.

        * Taft (but he’d been a military Governor in Phillipines, Cuba, plus served as Secretary of War and Chief Justice of the SCOTUS — so he doesn’t really count). Middling rank 23.

        * Ford (2 years as VP) — middling rank 26.

        ANTI-EXAMPLES:

        * Ulysses Grant — a negative example. He *was* the top general and has aggregate rank 36, widely regarded as about as shitty as presidents get.

        * I think Wilson counts as a negative example (having been governor of NJ and getting the US into a terrible war with very little at stake in terms of US interests). But this is obviously controversial so we can move on.

        * W. Uncontroversial negative example.

        * Nixon. Uncontroversial negative example.

        • Anonymous says:

          Taft was CJ of SCOTUS after he was POTUS, not before.

          • anon says:

            Correct — my bad. I wish Wikipedia followed the universal resume convention of listing positions in reverse chronological order, rather than some combination of reverse-chronological and importance.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I think Grant might turn out to be the best analog to Trump. He knew he wasn’t a politician, so he trusted his advisors… who were hugely corrupt. Plus, one of his signature policies – sending the army to guarantee freedmen’s rights – was strongly opposed by Democrats in Congress, southern planters on the ground, and a strong minority of Northern sentiment which objected to what was verging on a war of occupation. In the end, it was quickly abandoned after Grant left office, leaving him with next to no legacy.

          And to add on to your Zachary Taylor example, during his year in office, he managed to almost start the Civil War by ordering the Federal army to Santa Fe, which was claimed by the State of Texas and occupied by Texas Rangers. Perhaps fortunately, he died the next day, and his successor countermanded the order.

          • John Schilling says:

            Agreed on both counts. Andrew Jackson is another plausible Trump model, I’m afraid. And, if so, please dear God can we preemptively not put him on any denomination of currency other than maybe the three-dollar bill?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Putting Jackson, hater of central banks, on a Federal Reserve Note was brilliant. The equivalent for Trump would be a reading room in the Library of Congress or something.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Some might say that putting the author of ‘Gold and Economic Freedom’ (from Rand’s Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal) in charge of the Fed was even more brilliant.

          • LHN says:

            And, if so, please dear God can we preemptively not put him on any denomination of currency other than maybe the three-dollar bill?

            Surely given its place in popular culture, that bill’s portrait should be reserved for someone from the LGBTQA[1] community?

            [1] Apologies if there have been further letters added since I last updated.

          • Anonymous says:

            You need two Qs for queer and questioning, two As for asexual and allies, an I for intersex, and a P for pansexuals. Some also include ‘2S’ or ‘TS’ for two-spirit which is a Native American thing.

          • anon says:

            Andrew Jackson (aggregate rank 8) is considered by many to have been a pretty good president. He was an asshole, even by the standards of the day, and some of his well-intended policies led to poor results (e.g. the spoils system). But he seems to have been pretty effective overall.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “Some also include ‘2S’ or ‘TS’ for two-spirit which is a Native American thing.”

            It’s interesting how some people are allowed to culturally appropriate…

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think you are actually “allowed” to call yourself two spirit unless you are Native American. It’s included to make them feel welcome in the groups. Though I have to imagine there aren’t too many running around.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I’ve been wondering, since before Trump reared his head, about the endgame in the polarization that’s been taking place for the last couple of decades. (The Big Sort is part of it, and the restructuring of the parties so you no longer have Democrats like Scoop Jackson and Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller.)

        It all makes me think about the factionalization of Rome and jockeying for power before Augustus finally nailed it down. It seems to me that we are really ripe for somebody to come along as a strong peacemaker that everybody accepts out of exhaustion. Not Trump, certainly: despite his outsider status he is far too hated to inspire exhausted acceptance. But who?

        I remember reading that after WWII, Eisenhower was courted by both parties, and it was really up in the air about which one he would run with (if either). Has there been such an individual in earlier elections? (Neglecting Washington himself, of course. Maybe a requirement is that the nation be saved from an existential threat.)

        Is there anybody out there now whom nobody ever thought of as a politician but who is widely respected on both the left and the right? (Honestly, I don’t know whether to hope you can name someone or to hope you cannot.)

        • keranih says:

          The military is the traditional source of apolitical managers and leaders in the US (see: Colin Powell). Other options may be business and medical/science, but the problem is that the right is the traditional home of businessmen and the left owns academia. And the strengths of business & science are not those of politics.

        • Anonymous says:

          Eisenhower was a really popular choice, but then turned out to be an ineffectual President at best.

          Come to think of it, of all the general Presidents, including Washington, Jackson was probably the most effective of advancing a significant agenda.

          • LHN says:

            I think Washington’s agenda–essentially, establishing the United States as a self-sustaining, financially and politically stable union capable of withstanding uprisings from within and cooption from without– was probably more all-encompassing and successful. Just so pervasive that it’s semi-invisible. (Reinforced by the fact that his appearing to be above politics was a major tool in getting it to work.)

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s hard for me to get a handle on Washington. Maybe it’s because he didn’t leave papers, but I vacillate between seeing him as an empty suit and a masterful puppetmaster.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Eisenhower was a really popular choice, but then turned out to be an ineffectual President at best.

            For the purposes of my query, I’m not all that interested in whether he was effectual. For one thing, many governmental actions others might call effectual I call misguided. More to the point, I observe that I can’t think of anybody who is widely respected but apolitical, and I wonder if this is another consequence of our recent polarization or just pretty much how it’s always been.

            Regarding Eisenhower in particular, I was interested to read Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World, “Evan Thomas’s startling account of how the underrated Dwight Eisenhower saved the world from nuclear holocaust”.

          • LHN says:

            @Anonymous The fact that Washington seemed to so overawe and impress conflicting smart people who had no lack of self-regard, and who weren’t always happy with what he did, strikes me as pointing away from the empty suit characterization. As does the fact that it proved so hard for anyone else to emulate his combination of oversight and restraint.

            (Lots of people wanted or said they wanted to be their countries’ George Washington. The record suggests that it’s a much harder trick than it looks.)

            But yeah, it would be fascinating to have more first person insight into him.

          • anon says:

            How exactly was Ike ineffectual?

            Some good things he did:

            * Managed to end the Korean War
            * Didn’t get into a nuclear war with USSR (or come nearly as close as some of his successors)
            * Interstate highway system worked out pretty well for the economy (I’ll reluctantly admit — without conceding that federal planning was necessarily essential to achieve comparably good transportation infrastrucure)
            * Desegregated the army, and took a tough stance with Arkansas on school desegregation after Brown
            * Didn’t nuke China

            His worst blunders (IMO):
            * Domino theory
            * Iran coup authorization
            * It was under his watch that both CIA and FBI started to get completely out of control

            Maybe his southeast Asia policy should be on one of the above lists, but I’m not sufficiently well-versed in the early history of the Vietnam War to say.

            Seems like a pretty good record to me. I can nitpick that his passivity helped entrench two forces he was actually ideologically opposed to — the welfare state / New Deal, and the military industrial complex. But a president is not a god…

  50. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Is there a way I can donate to charity under my real name and not get saturated with junk mail?

    I basically feel like a sucker for donating.

    • ton says:

      Fake address?

    • Anaxagoras says:

      I’ve donated through GiveWell using my real name to a couple places, and I’m certainly not getting saturated with messages. Since first donating through them about a year and a half ago, I’ve only received maybe a half dozen messages, and they’re not requests for more cash either.

      • anon says:

        Yeah this is my experience too. There’s probably a pretty big negative correlation between how good a charity is (in an EA sense) and how much they spam you. Universities being exhibit A.

    • drethelin says:

      We really need google to invent a spam filter for physical mailboxes

  51. Kyrus says:

    I kind of thought the sort of people who have AIs that can predict the stock market would probably be, uh, busy with other things, but apparently this is a well-investigated field with a lot of possible incremental progress.

    What is up with calling everything an AI nowadays? I won some money on numerai by just doing a simple regression on the data. Much AI, so advanced, such danger that it will overtake the world.

  52. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #15
    This week we are discussing “Transmission” by Nate Soares.
    Next time we will discuss “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Selena was insane. Even if we ignore the qualitative difference between humans going extinct and surviving and just think in terms of saving individual humans, Robins’s plan had around a 50% chance of catching any given human before the screwup (“catching half the transmission is better than slamming ourselves into the side of a planet”), and even afterwards she had only destroyed one of the eight recievers and burned two of the six hours they started out with. Meanwhile, Selena herself estimated her chances of making the landing at somewhere around 0.1%-1% (“My odds aren’t that low, captain. One in a hundred. Maybe one in a thousand. But not one in a million”). Clearly, Robins’s plan had the greatest chance of saving even one member of Selena’s family, but Selena refused to stick with what was workable and now humanity no longer exists. Thanks, Selena!

      • I’m going to agree. Selena’s plan is foolhardy, and if it fails has the consequence of killing EVERYONE. Emily’s plan saves many fewer people in the best case, but many many more people in the average case.

        Just to be safe, I vote that we bar anyone named Selena from being on colonization missions in the future.

        • Walter says:

          Selena may have been irrational, but Emily stabbing her gave us worst of both worlds. Even if stabbing Selena killed her, Emily didn’t know how to work the ship. She couldn’t have slowed it back down.

    • Anon. says:

      I thought this was a weak story. The ending was predictable, which undermined whatever tension there might’ve been in the build-up. Humanity dying needs to evoke a sense of awe, but it was all so flat… The attempts to insert a “personal factor” to the choice of each character was blatant and ineffective. And why didn’t they wake up other people?

    • Deiseach says:

      “Transmission” is stacking the deck. Only two officers are thawed out in an emergency? The Captain is a political appointee with no real command authority?

      It’s a nicely grim tale where both characters mean well and end up destroying themselves, each other, and the entirety of humanity, and it does make a change from the recent stories that worked out too pat for a happy ending, but on the other hand, it’s nihilistic for the sake of it.

      What destroyed Earth? Why no other ships sent out even in a last-ditch desperate attempt at saving some other survivors? If the threat was so all-encompassing that it managed to compromise the entire Solar System, how come it didn’t interfere with the transmission of the minds? And they really could keep a transmission of the entire minds of over 2 billion people coherent that far out to the colony ship? Only one colony ship? Why wasn’t the captain or another officer woken up when the ship had to divert, which put them behind schedule: that’s the kind of thing that makes a big difference to when they’re going to make planetfall, how far the planet has moved on in its orbit from the planned position, etc.

      Also, apparently even though this is the one and only colony ship and Earth has accordingly put all its eggs in one basket, potential colonists include people with severe – even fatal – diseases/disabilities (like the captain’s son) and a captain who has not got the respect and more importantly the obedience of her officers?

      Good contrast between both characters, high stakes, good reasons on both sides for why they put forward the plan they selected, but too many holes in the plot once the emotional affect of the story (murder! death! absolute destruction and failure! humanity is destroyed, doomed, finished, kaput!) wears off.

      “The Cold Equations” – oh man, I loved that story the first time I read it, and even though since I’ve read critiques of it, it still works better than “Transmission” because the stakes aren’t so high so they’re more personal and immediate, and the pilot isn’t a daredevil hair-trigger reactions type with delusions of infallibility.

      • Jiro says:

        I happen to agree with Cory Doctorow’s specific criticism of Cold Equations, even though the rest of his rant is worthless: Failing to take proper safety precautions, and having someone die as a result, is a human failing, not victimization by the laws of nature. The story conceals this by having the missing safety precautions indirectly kill rather than directly, but it would be the same if the girl had just tried to stow away, fallen into the engine, and got burned up. The laws of nature dictate that anyone who falls into an engine burns up, but we wouldn’t describe that as someone dying due to the laws of nature.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I read that essay too, and I’m not convinced by his criticism. Yes, the gaze of the story is limited – but you can’t assume that the unseen social structure includes significant human failings impacting the story. Are you saying that every mining mission should be equipped with vaccines against all diseases known to the galaxy? (Are current Antarctic missions equipped with smallpox vaccines? With HPV vaccines?) Or are you saying that every shuttle should take enough fuel for multiple stowaways or else not launch at all, even if there isn’t more fuel available and not launching would mean the vaccines don’t get to the colony?

          (If you’re instead criticizing Barton for not anticipating autopilots, that’s a legitimate technical point, but not a human failing inside his universe where they presumably don’t exist.)

        • Stowaways were a known problem. All that was needed (assuming you couldn’t just get rid of the door) was for someone (possibly the pilot, but security personnel would probably be better) to check the closet!

          I think it’s better to look at the story as being about bureaucratic failure at least as much as the Cold Equations.

          Folks here might be interested in “Lost Dorsai”– it’s about being stuck in a situation where there is almost certainly a clever solution, but there isn’t enough time to figure it out.

        • Deiseach says:

          The proper safety precautions would be guards to keep stowaways off the ships, I agree. The girl got aboard way too easily. And sure, part of the human failing on the part of the crew is that they’re all frontiersmen, so everyone knows the penalty for stowing away and the reasons behind it, and nobody on colony worlds would therefore dream of stowing away on a rescue ship, so they don’t think to check for stowaways (anymore than I check under my bed for burglars). They know the crew of the cruiser would never do something so stupid and they don’t think the passengers are going to stow away – why would they, they’re travelling on the cruiser to their own destinations!

          And the EDS is not an independent ship, it’s like a lifeboat on the larger ship that gets dropped off and sent out to cover emergency calls where the larger ship can’t divert. So it’s like the crew of a rescue lifeboat setting out – who checks for stowaways on a lifeboat sent out to rescue a sinking ship?

          But the girl is from Earth, doesn’t know the rules, doesn’t know the dangers and so thinks she’s only breaking a minor regulation that means she’ll have to pay a fine. The intent of the story is to contrast the “oh pooh, what possible harm can it do to break this silly rule?” versus “there are good reasons for laws even if you don’t know them” (as a laws’n’rules type myself, I appreciate it).

          You could say it’s an extreme example of Chesterton’s Fence: if you don’t know the reason for a regulation, go away and find out before you decide to break it, no matter how silly or trivial or bureaucratic you think it is 🙂

          But that doesn’t affect the rest of the story, which is that given the physical limitations, the small ship does not have the fuel to spare to account for her extra weight. It’s pared down to the bone for the reasons given in the story, and I wonder if there are similar examples we could take from modern-day military situations?

          Anybody know anything about, say, “if you have tanks in the desert you want to keep the weight down as much as possible because overheating” or the like?

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think overheating is a serious problem these days, but the weights and external dimensions of armored vehicles (at least in the American army and others that have pressing power-projection needs) are often tightly constrained because of air-mobility concerns. The Stryker family of armored vehicles, for example, is fairly lightly armored out of the box because it needs to be carried by a C-130 Hercules transport plane, and has to be upgraded in the field to be able to reliably survive RPG attack. Special jeep-like vehicles have also been developed for use with the smaller V-22 Osprey.

            Aircraft face even harsher tradeoffs for weight, but I’ll leave that to someone that knows more about it than I do.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Anybody know anything about, say, “if you have tanks in the desert you want to keep the weight down as much as possible because overheating” or the like?

            I was a crewchief in a Naval SAR/Medevac detachment, and was the detachment’s staff NCO for my last tour in Iraq.

            Aside from maintenance and babysitting, my biggest worry/time-sink was the detachment’s fuel and water budget. How much we had, how much we were using, and when/where we might get more. The status of our “buffalos” (tanker trailers) and getting them to where they were needed was a major component of our day-to-day operational planning.

            How much water we had determined how much long we could stay out and how much gas we had determined how much work we could get done. Moving a full trailer is hard work so we were constantly having to strike a balance between keeping the tankers full enough to meet our needs and keeping them light enough to pick up and move when needed.

          • I just realized that “The Cold Equations” is a trolley problem with a more plausible set-up. “More plausible than a trolley problem” is a very low standard.

            Even when I first read it, cutting the fuel so close seemed unlikely. What if you had to land in a storm– or dodge a storm?

            It’s a somewhat different story if the question is “kill the girl or 10% chance of her, the pilot, and the miners(?) all die?”.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve seen the Cold Equations plot set up in terms of life support supplies a number of times, and that seems more plausible to me. If you have a one-man craft and a 30% margin for your CO2 scrubbers, then they’ll crap out halfway through the voyage if you have a stowaway despite everyone’s best intentions.

      • John Schilling says:

        Are we discussing “The Cold Equations” in this Open Thread or the next? I’d like to participate, but if it’s going to be split across two threads I’d prefer to focus on the main one.

    • reader says:

      Transmission really, really wanted to be “The Cold Equations” but failed because the setup is too implausible at every level. Only one pilot? The captain can’t fly (and doesn’t even recognize her weight is pointing the wrong direction at first)? No more crew? No one else to wake? Cargo doors that can’t be opened? And why is the ship is full of sick people who’d need an entire industrial base spun up before they could start manufacturing medical equipment and treatments, instead of just leaving them on earth to be woken and cured as the research succeeds?

      Just… this setup is stupid. Everyone who put this setup together must’ve been stupid, and every character who appears is stupid. This isn’t an interesting setup well-explored, it’s a clunky high-concept recipe for the author to smash a couple puppets together with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

      • The Nybbler says:

        That’s a general problem with this kind of story; I think the subgenre has a name but I don’t remember it. The short-story form doesn’t allow time to explore the setup in detail, so if you don’t buy it, the story fails for you.

  53. EyeballFrog says:

    I recently rediscovered /r/HFY, a subreddit dedicated to original sci-fi works that depict humans as being awesome in various ways. There’s a lot of fun reads on there and for some reason I was reminded of some of Scott’s stuff. Anyone else here who’s a fan of this sort of thing?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s entertainment with high diminishing returns. After reading a couple they get too repetitive, but the first dozen or so are a lot of fun to read so everyone should give it a try. It’s like SAO or mahouka or hollywood power fantasy, the first ones you watch are great and even if you find the genre shallow after that the initial fun is worth it.

      The space seems lacking in authors though, last time I checked an HFY thread on 4chan I had already read everything that was posted. The ones about the veil of madness were my favourite.

    • Rowan says:

      I think there’s room for actual science fiction that leans on “humanity fuck yeah” as a trope, and there’s room for discussion of the relevant trope and how it could be played with little snippets, but the typical content of the HFY sub is between those two “niches” where I think it’s worthwhile, so it’s just boring formulaic fiction around a memetically fit gimmick, like the anti-SJ “tales of privilege”

  54. anon says:

    Stellaris. Looks. Sooo. Freakin’. GOOD!

    • Luke G says:

      Yes!

      • Carinthum says:

        Very true, but it’s kind of disappointing that there’s no slave revolts. I was going to try for the optimal possible build, but “no slave revolts” makes slavery so broken the game loses all challenge.

        Right now, though I’m a bit concerned about the research costs I’m probably going to go for a Science Directorate Fanatic Materialist Natural Physicist build, then expend a crapton of Influence on early pro-Research Edicts (including Physics Grants). As long as I can maintain at least competent expansion (which hopefully I’ll figure out after doing the tutorial), higher Physics gives me a combination of further Research bonuses that should allow me to win some early wars and build a strong Empire.

        • anon says:

          Paradox’s style is to flesh out features in expansion packs. Arumba’s let’s play videos already show a number of UI bugs that will hopefully be fixed. Your point about slavery seems interesting; I don’t know anything about that part of the game yet. My secret hope is that some clever modders will figure out a way to vastly increase the number of stars in the galaxy and also add semi-realistic orbital mechanics to the calculation of pathing trajectories and sub-FTL travel times.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Your point about slavery seems interesting; I don’t know anything about that part of the game yet.”

            Slaves produce less energy and research. Having slaves pisses off other star empires. It makes other individuals on the same planet unhappy (not sure if collectivist immune).

            Stack slaves with Despotic Empire
            -15% building cost
            +10% slave mineral output
            +10% slave food output

            Have energy and research produced on planets without slaves and you are good to conquer the galaxy. Unlike other conquerors, you don’t have to worry about revolts; since slaves can’t revolt, none of your new subjects can revolt since you can immediately enslave them. You can ignore a lot of the games subsystems. That’s not good.

          • anon says:

            AFAICT some Fallen Empires have a problem with slavery. Maybe that’s the main nerf to the mechanic?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            It is overpowered except in some games where you get brutally destroyed due to something entirely out of your control? That doesn’t sound like a good balance system.

          • anon says:

            That depends on P(annihilation), I suppose. If lim_{t->infty} P(annihilation before t) = 1, then for optimal play slavery has to be used carefully and phased out at a strategic time (depending on Fallen Empire proximity and other factors). If it’s plausible to play the whole game and have decent a chance of ZERO negative consequences from slavery, then maybe you’re right that it is OP.

            I think the AGI end-game decision is supposed to be similar? Not sure…

          • anon says:

            OK I’ve played it a bit now and it’s a lot of fun. I’ll report back after I’ve engaged seriously with the midgame phase. Exploration/expansion is cool, though.

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      How does it stack up against Civ 5, gameplay wise?

      • anon says:

        I haven’t had a chance to play it yet (released at midnight in my TZ and I have work today). But from watching videos on youtube, it looks much better than Civ 5 to me. Although it’s symmetric start, the racial differences (colonizability of planets, ethos, etc) and randomized tech options seem like they will make the players much less isomorphic to one another than in Civ.

        Early reviews criticize the mid- and end-game for being bloated and potentially a boring grind. And a lot of people seem to share Samuel Skinner’s concern about the no-slave-revolt bug (so I expect it to be fixed in an early patch). But the early game seems universally popular — the analogue of getting your first 3-5 cities in Civ, but much more interesting. I think it’s probably better because surveying systems etc. is apparently a lot more exciting as exploration than removing a few patches of fog of war. But we’ll see what I think for myself after playing it tonight.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Thanks for the review. Glad I held off.

        • anon says:

          It seems to be pretty popular with a lot of people. Maybe wait until it’s on sale if you’re skeptical, but think twice before completely forswearing the game.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I mean, if you wait long enough for it to go on sale, they might finish the other half of their development cycle. Some of the flaws are structural but a lot of them seem like the game was rushed out the door half-baked (they admitted as much in the case of slave revolts). Paradox are too prideful to label their unfinished games “Early Access”, basically.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The problem is it is a huge departure from there previous work; I am skeptical they can actually pull off this sort of thing. We already have GAGA Extreme summing up his experience which is “science is king. Again.”; I don’t know how they can shift the game to be truly different from other 4xs and still be fun and interesting.

            So far all the recent 4xs appear to have been either astoundingly generic, good but niche or complete garbage. Stellaris is a step above generic, but not a lot. Given CK2, I don’t think they can simultaneously pull of an increase in interesting gameplay and balance.

  55. Carinthum says:

    Hi, I know this thread is very cluttered but quick question.

    After I finally moved out, I was having an argument with Mum and Dad. My parents claim that it’s perfectly normal at 24 for a modern Australian that I can’t drive and haven’t even started learning, that they don’t trust me to go to an airport on my own (I haven’t gone before, they say), and that given I have Aspergers the fact (they say) I’m incapable of office work shouldn’t be considered a big deal.

    Requesting advice on how much truth there is to this. I reckon they’re wrong, but an external perspective would be good.

    • It depends on your Aspergers. From the limited information you have provided it’s possible your parents are showing an appropriate level of caution and concern, or they could be treating you unreasonably.

    • Sid says:

      As an Australian of fairly similar age:

      – Not knowing how to drive doesn’t seem like a big deal at all.
      – The airport thing depends. Are they just keen to help you, or basically trying to forbid you from going alone? The latter seems weird and controlling, but the former seems pretty normal.
      – Not quite sure what you mean on the third point. Certainly not a big deal in the sense that you should be ashamed, or that it makes you sound ‘crazy’, or anything like that. (edit: I think I might have misunderstood — are they telling you you’re incapable of office work, but you think they might be wrong? If so, then as James Miller said, it seems like we would need more information about your Aspergers in order to make a judgment.)

      • Carinthum says:

        Thanks on the driving thing.

        Mum and Dad say that Dad (who was Australian raised unlike Mum) would never have been allowed to go to the airport by himself until he’d gone before. But they are effectively forbidding it.

        • Tracy W says:

          I’m raised Kiwi, and at age 21 went wandering around the USA by myself. My parents worried a lot, but not about me finding my way to airports.

          That said, how is your sense of direction and how do you cope with large crowds? Or dealing with daft people in authority?

          It also seems odd that you would be incapable of all office work, that incorporates quite a variety of skills and situations.

    • Jill says:

      Yes, this is one of those things where people who see/hear/know you in person are likely to be able to tell much more than people on line. Have you seen a doctor for you Aspergers? If so, what do they say about whether you can work, or if you can work, what kind of work you can do? Does your doctor think you need help in getting to the airport?

      There are different levels of Aspergers, and the answers are different for different ones.

      • Carinthum says:

        (NOTE: In retrospect, I realized this kind of dump was kind of immature. I apologize for this, I’m not sure how else to express it. Also, sorry about the slow reply)

        In retrospect, I was being a bit immature about asking about the office work thing for which I apologize. The truth is that, after so much frustration over Mum and Dad forbidding me from doing things and me being too weak to resist (pretty pathetic, but in my defense I have Aspergers and back when this overcontrol problem started my psychologist Richard Eisenmeier was saying I had to negotiate with my parents to be allowed to use the trams on my own and my parents were strongly pushing the same thing) I’m absolutely sick of it.

        Even if it’s not true any more, for many years my parents informally pressured me severely to stay Catholic (they say they didn’t but I pretty much felt trapped), I was outright forbidden to date, made to do university half time (on the basis I couldn’t handle the stress otherwise, regardless of what I thought), had aides to go to every tutorial to stop me talking too much etc. This gets humiliating over time.

        That’s why it matters to me, not whether a typical Aspie can do it, but whether a normal person can do it. After a certain amount of being treated like an invalid and being pressured from all angles to stay that way I just got sick of it after a while.

        I thought (and yes this was dumb) I could simply get clarification on what was and wasn’t normal, since I’ve received contradictory sources of information in my life. For each of the three things I’ve listed, there are people who claim it is and is not normal to be that way.

        That being said, I apologize for posting this. It was just after the fight, and I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. I know it’s very rude to bounce you like this, but after I posted my initial post I wasn’t sure what else to do.