"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

OT50: Opentecost

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

1. Thanks to Douglas Knight, who proposed a new system of open threads I think I’ll be using from now on. There is an Open Thread tag above. When you click it, you will be taken to the newest Open Thread. Once every second Sunday, the Open Thread will be posted publicly on the main blog like this one. On Wednesdays and the other Sunday, it will be posted quietly and appear only if you’re looking for it in the Open Thread section. So you can find a new Open Thread there starting this Wednesday the 25th.

2. I don’t plan to introduce Reddit-style voting on comments here because most people have said they don’t want it. If you do want it, there is a Greasemonkey script available that will let you have it, without affecting the comments viewed by everyone else.

3. I finally gave in and banned anon@gmail.com; abuses were just getting too annoying. Sorry.

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900 Responses to OT50: Opentecost

  1. Alsadius says:

    So will anonymous@gmail.com be a thing now? Or similar? (I use a real email, so I’ve never had to worry about this stuff)

    • GCBill says:

      If it wasn’t going to be yet, it probably will be now that it’s first comment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Use anonymous@gmail.com?

      That’s absurd! Someone would have to post the email right away after the ban announcement to induce people to cooperate.

      Then you’d have to figure out what the gravatar is for that address.

      • Nornagest says:

        I have my suspicions, so let’s see if I’m right.

        ETA: Yep, it’s this one, if you haven’t figured it out yet. Anyone want to take bets on how long it’ll last?

      • Dahlen says:

        WTF, this one is also plum-coloured…

        • Nornagest says:

          Interesting, isn’t it? Could be a coincidence, but that’s a very close shade of purple-black. I doubt they’re splitting it into components before and after that @, that’d make most people here that color. Maybe they’re pulling a prefix.

          This one’s anonymonymous@gmail.com. Let’s see what it looks like.

          • Dahlen says:

            Yeah, my thoughts precisely. Maybe all anon-something e-mail addresses color-code to that shade…

            Edit: Welp, guess not. I saw the orange gravatar and thought it was your original one.

          • brad says:

            They hash the email then index into some kind of function to get the designs. This one hashes to:
            933285225d6a05a99fe35d72b38ff17e
            and the prior one to:
            2f5b3fa26595bc45871213860db4668f

            It’s coincidence that they come out to similar colors.

          • Nornagest says:

            The obvious thing to do would be to take the hash mod the size of the color space. If it’s 24-bit RGB (a reasonable assumption), then those numbers mod to 8ff17e and b4668f respectively, which look nothing alike.

            Guess it’s not that simple. Though the image address is just an md5 hash of the email address, which makes me suspect there’s nothing too complicated going on.

          • brad says:

            I think this is the source of the gravatar generation code: http://scott.sherrillmix.com/blog/blogger/wp_identicon/

            Unfortunately it is in php so I can’t be sure what’s going on, but I think it is taking the hashed email address and using that as a seed to the mersenne twister algorithm and then calling it three times to get r,g, and b values.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I kind of want to ban this, but I also kind of like the idea of making anons post under a swastika avatar, sort of like a warning label.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          I commented before Gravatar’s policy of using random shaped with a small degree of rotational symmetry leads to shapes that resemble swastikas.

          See the following: http://0.gravatar.com/avatar/f42dcb7de1bac1757a4b8ba9cc1619dc?s=40&d=identicon&r=g

        • Anonymous says:

          Couldn’t wannabe anonymous posters use any number of fake email addresses as long as your site doesn’t check to make sure the email addresses used are valid?

        • Anonymous says:

          I’ve been told my fake email, asdasd.1@cox.net, looks like a swastika. They seem to be common enough in this type of icon.

        • LPSP says:

          I heartily endorse this. The pricetag of anonymity should always be the unbenefit of the doubt, which is why 4chan works so well.

          • Julie K says:

            I don’t mind if they want to be anonymous, just so long as we don’t end up trying to have a conversation where multiple posters look identical.

          • LPSP says:

            The joy of SSC’s avatar system is that little more need be added. We could add a numerical tag to each anon per ID, which makes it a lot harder to fool.

          • Anonymous says:

            Mandatory IDs? Cease your assault on anonymity, heathen!

          • LPSP says:

            Go to 4chan, several boards use them to good effect.

            Samefagging is a horrible problem. Even for boards without IDs, anons who respond to themselves should have their posts tagged (self).

          • Anonymous says:

            Yeah, that’s why I stopped posting on /pol/.

            We don’t have a samefagging problem on SCC. The ban was because a couple people asked for it every time an anon trolled (and a couple times when they just disagreed).

          • LPSP says:

            …you stopped posting on /pol/ for the samefagging problems, or you stopped posting because of IDs? The former is a good reason, the latter the very opposite. Though I commend you on not bothering with /pol/ anymore.

            Samefagging can happen anywhere. If SSC gets big enough, it is wise to be prepared.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      I think there was an anon who was already using that e-mail.

      It’d be sad if it got banned and the guy got caught in the crossfire.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think the anon you’re thinking of was me, at least I’ve been doing it for some time. But that was just because I couldn’t figure out what address all the other anons were using, and then when I did work it out I just switched to anon@gmail like the others.

        And then two or three weeks later Scott banned that.

        Anyway, point being, at least for my part as a previous user, while I gratefully appreciate your concern, it would not be an issue. I didn’t use the name Anonymous and a generic fake email because I wanted to set myself apart and be recognizable.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s against the spirit of the ban. I’ll just go back to changing email every post.

    • Anonymous says:

      Obviously people will continue to use fake email addresses, the ban seems rather pointless.

      • LPSP says:

        Ah, but the extra effort can go miles. Scott has written about this before; the prime example is the effect of changing an optional opt-in insurance policy to an opt-in, optional opt-out one. Mechanically identical, radical results because of the minue effort.

        Example number two is the firewall across China’s internet.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m aware of that effect, but this is not a good example, it’s not any more work to type a different email. I was using a different fake email anyway, so it’s no more work at all.

          • LPSP says:

            It is a good example, because people for whom it isn’t an issue like yourself regularly underestimate the number of people for whom it IS an issue.

            Seriously, never underestimate the lack of resolve in most humans.

      • John Schilling says:

        People using fake email addresses, and people all using the same fake email address, are two different things. With the former, each distinct anon can be permabanned, temp-banned, hand-moderated or yellow-carded individually based on their individual posting behavior. Any collective anon address will with statistical near-certainty include posting behavior worthy of perma-banning, and the next new collective anonymous will with statistical near-certainty include some of the people responsible for perma-banning the last one.

        Were it me, any fake email address advertised (here or elsewhere) for open use, or clearly being used by multiple posters, would be blocked as soon as it is known rather than waiting for the inevitable fouls. But of course it’s not my call, so we’ll see how Scott handles it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Banning a fake address is pointless because it’s fake; I’ll ditch mine by the end of the day anyway. If I decide to break rules the only punishment is an IP ban.

  2. Scott Alexander says:

    I’ve been put in charge of making a hospital newsletter. I know basic Photoshop, and the newsletter will be .pdf (ie not printed out) so I’m free to make it as bright and colorful as I want. I would love to be able to make something really professional-looking and interesting (eg this) but I have never made a magazine in Photoshop before. Does anyone know of any good tutorials or templates I should take a look at?

    • Anon. says:

      The software you’re looking for is InDesign (or similar alternatives), not Photoshop.

      • Outis says:

        There are only three programs:
        – Is it text? -> Word.
        – Is it data? -> Excel.
        – Is it graphics? -> Photoshop.

        • Emile says:

          I gotta disagree – I use google docs instead of word and excel and would hate to have to go back to Office…

          • But more importantly, how is your mapping program going?

          • LPSP says:

            Basically this. I can’t be buggered loading up clunky office programs when I can operate straight in my browser, save in a cloud and share immediately. I don’t even have excel anyway, I think.

            Funnily enough, I do use word, but chiefly to alter the colour and contrast of images, which you can’t do in Paint.

        • LPSP says:

          – Is it graphics? -> Paint.
          ^Corrected.

    • Andrew says:

      Feel like learning InDesign? It’s by Adobe, so has some similar patterns to Photoshop, but is built around this sort of need, with plenty of built-in templates.

    • Doug says:

      Microsoft Publisher is another easy-to-use option for making newsletters.

    • Dahlen says:

      If you’re going for a professional look, my advice would be to look into more serious (read: time-consuming) graphic design courses, not merely tutorials and templates. After years of messing around and making stuff in Photoshop and occasionally Illustrator, I can say I have a good technical grasp of these programs, i.e. I know my way around the buttons I have to push, but all of my aesthetic accomplishments have been achieved through the copycat method — find someone else’s nice work and try to approximate the style –, and there’s probably a bunch of industry know-how out there that I haven’t tapped into. Stuff like how much is too much when it comes to how “loaded” a page is, or what sort of combinations of fonts look best for drawing attention to stuff, or how to space out different elements on the page.

      You say it’s going to be in .pdf format. In that case, try to employ vector graphics whenever possible. More infinitely zoomable elements is better than fewer. I’ve noticed the same thing about the bee magazine you linked. The infographics, the various small graphic elements employed (like the little colored spots that house the page numbering), all that can be made through vector graphics, is. This means Illustrator, and this means work. (For me at least, I love Photoshop raster stuff, but I’ve never touched vector graphics outside of paid work.) Photoshop isn’t really of much use when it comes to vectors, I don’t even remember whether it can export to any sort of vector-friendly format (outside of .psd). BTW, vector graphics is also how you want your text to be displayed.

      People here are recommending InDesign. Never worked in it, but give me an afternoon. It can’t be any worse and clunkier for the purposes of a newsletter than Photoshop, anyway.

      Feel free to shoot me a message if you have specific technical questions. Also, FWIW, I’ve done the web design for the frontpage of Omnilibrium, though that project got discontinued after I’ve stopped participating on the site itself, so that’s about the extent of my eye for graphic design, if you needed a sample.

    • Mary says:

      I recommend The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin P. Williams.

    • Photoshop is basically a pixel-based image editor whereas, as others have said, you probably want a desktop publishing package. InDesign, Publisher, or for open source there is Scribus, which might make sense if you don’t want to pay for software for one quick project.

      • Mary says:

        I have to agree that with the amount of text involved, you don’t want to treat it all as images, which is more or less what Photoshop requires.

        Especially a problem when you need to change things.

      • Jeff H says:

        I hated Scribus. It didn’t even have WYSIWYG editors for a lot of really basic things, or if it did I never found them. Nothing seemed intuitive. Far from “user-friendly”, this software hates you personally and wants to brutally murder you in front of everyone you love.

        By contrast, people say InDesign has a learning curve on it, but at least for basic book-style layouts, I found getting to a level where I was reasonably happy with my results to be easy and fun (going in with no experience with Photoshop, Illustrator, or any other program mentioned in this thread except Scribus). I’m constantly figuring out new things about it, but the basic stuff you need all the time is in the first or second place you look and works the way you expect it to work, or at least that’s been my experience.

      • Eggoeggo says:

        Yes, photoshop’s text tool just can’t handle newsletter formatting. It’ll look sloppy.

    • Anonymous says:

      InDesign is optimal for this sort of thing, is free to trial and should take about an hour to familiarise yourself with for basic editing. The tutorials on the adobe website are pretty decent: https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/tutorials.html

      A shortcut for making professional looking documents is to use a good template, such as the ones on Graphic River or Creative Market.

      Most of the templates will require InDesign to edit, but some are compatible with photoshop. You can filter for these on Creative Market: https://creativemarket.com/templates/brochures/popular/1?t=psd

    • Anonymous says:

      Are there good LaTeX packages/libraries/whatever they’re called these days for such a thing, or is that cracking a nut with a lawnmower?

      • Soumynona says:

        Lawnmower, I think. When there’s a lot of graphical elements and a lot of custom layout (like in the linked newsletter about BEEES), you probably want a WYSIWYG thing.

      • nm. k.m. says:

        LaTeX is good if you want a boring (but typographically and aesthetically sound) newsletter that resembles a collection of academic articles or a book.

        I use LaTeX for many things, but I wouldn’t use it for this.

        edit. You probably could do it even a sort of flashy (as in, lots of pictures) if you don’t care about too much about the exact *location of pictures*.

    • Ivan Ivanoff says:

      Lynda.com is fantastic. Some people are able to get it via their library for free, but it usually costs some money. In my experience, though, it beats the free stuff by far.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      If the format is to stay relatively the same for each edition, you could set up a good template in Powerpoint. It would be much more easy to manipulate and edit than Photoshop, though I can’t speak for the programs others have mentioned.

    • Disbala says:

      I’m a graphic designer
      I’ll do it for you for free.

    • Anonymous says:

      Commercial software (highest quality): Indesign + Photoshop + Illustrator

      Open source (highest quality): TeXLive/(LaTeX Memoir class) + Gimp/ImageMagick + Tikz

      The former’s documentation is 1500+ pages; the latter’s documentation is 1500 pages (tie for difficulty).

      The former has a graphical interface; the latter has a markup interface (tie for capability).

      My partner and I have done multiple graphics-intensive books with both systems. For quick-and-dirty, get-it-done, once-only productions, Adobe’s products win. For top-level quality and/or a consistent production stream, LaTeX/Memoir/Tikz wins.

      Overall we prefer LaTeX/Memoir/Tikz. Chiefly because the typography (kerning, justification, etc) is superior, and because academic/artistic niceties like footnotes, endnotes, bibliographies, poetry, tables of contents, tables of figures, glossaries, and (especially) indexes are very difficult to do properly in Indesign, and (for some books) because high-quality mathematical typesetting is pretty much impossible in Indesign.

      Your example PDF newsletter “Bee Now” is recognizably an Indesign product: it has that cheerfully cheesy “Indesign” look-and-feel, and the above-mentioned academic/artistic niceties are absent.

      Reliably achieving high-quality four-color printing is something of a nightmare in any production system (known to us); we produce the native graphics in RGB/png with embedded color profile, then export each graphic as a PDF with embedded color profile, then \include each graphic in the LaTeX source-files (as usual).

      This generates the entire book as a single high-resolution RGB-colorspace PDF file. Then for some printers (but not others), we convert the RGB-colorspace PDF to a CMYK-colorspace PDF, using Adobe’s Acrobat Pro. Once you and your printer have found a production stream that works reliably for both of you, stick with it.

      To generate smaller-size/lower-resolution and/or grayscale PDF documents (for use on the web), we filter the high-resolution PDF file through ghostcript (aka ‘gs’) as follows:

      gs \
      -sOutputFile="${TEMP_FILE}" \
      -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
      -dAutoRotatePages=/None \
      -sColorConversionStrategy=Gray \
      -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceGray \
      -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 \
      -dNOPAUSE \
      -dBATCH \
      "${INPUT_FILE}" >"${VERBOSE_OUTPUT}";

      (and variants thereof). The savings in filesize typically are great, the sacrifice in quality typically is small.

      • Anonymous says:

        Seconded: Typography in Latex just looks good, and simple layouts are simple to do.

        Especially look at the justification in the linked example: It is not as “word vomit” terrible as word / libreoffice, but definitely worse than typical Latex. Mandatory xkcd.

        You can literally see how the authors of the bee magazine switched between “giving up” (ragged right) and various stretching strategies on a per paragraph basis. This looks shitty, and it was work. You do not want to go through your thing, paragraph by paragraph, quarterly issue by quarterly issue, and change justification strategies in order to get a “bad, but not vomit” result.

        If a fancy layout is more important than well done typography, then something WYSIWIG is probably easier to learn, as parent suggested.

        Personally, I prefer to read stuff in non-fancy layout, but YMMV.

        What parent did emphasize as much is that latex is really easy to use if your layout is simple.

        • Anonymous says:

          Even the most hardened “Indesigner” can learn plenty about good design from the frontmatter of the Memoir class manual (aka “Memman.pdf”), which is available on-line free-as-freedom.

          Memman’s three-page section on “Terminology” (to cite just one example) is pure gold, compared to which Indesigner’s documentation is dross.

          Moreover, Memman itself is fully hyperlinked, as are (if desired) all documents produced by the Memoir class.

          And finally, Memman itself is admirably leavened by gentle whimsy. See for example the typesetting of Lewis Carrol’s prose poem Mouse’s Tail. 🙂

        • Matthias says:

          > You can literally see how the authors of the bee magazine switched between “giving up” (ragged right) and various stretching strategies on a per paragraph basis.

          Of course in TeX’s flavours you get overfull hboxen instead..

  3. gbear605 says:

    How would you recommend introducing new people to the rational-sphere without using HPMOR? The people I’m interested in recommending the rat-sphere to have a strong dislike of fanfiction.

    • drethelin says:

      I love the sequences. I haven’t read Rationality AI to Zombies but that’s probably a good start.

      • zz says:

        The problem I have with “AI to Zombies” is, well, “AI”. Regardless of where they stand on the actual debate, I think we can all agree that MIRI is contentious. I won’t say it’s the last place I’d start, but much like I wouldn’t introduce someone to EA with E-risk, I wouldn’t introduce someone to rationality with some weird organization whose efficacy is subject to acrimonious debate.

        The way I “introduce” people to EA is mention GiveWell in passing. If they’re interested, they’ll find their way to the broader movement/community/thing through eg blog posts talking about EA, GiveWell’s presentation at EA summit, etc. If not, I suspect they probably would have diluted the movement/community/thing.

        Similarly, for rationality, I point people towards eg …And I Show You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes. It’s a good read on its own. Maybe they poke around and see what else this guy has written.

        • Peter says:

          Thing about “AI to Zombies” is that that doesn’t actually reflect the organisation of the book; from a brief read of section headings both things appear quite late in the book. I’ll admit that some of the sections that interact with AI – i.e. EY’s personal journey – may be offputting.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think I agree; as a non-rationalist, too much of the AI stuff looks well-meaning but loopy (i.e. the impression it leaves me with is “Wow, if your greatest concern in life is a Mad Computer turning us all into its meat-puppet slaves, I wish I had so little to worry about I could treat SF tropes as Really Gonna Happen Unless We Do Something”).

          I do see the philosophical basis for concern, and as we are rapidly inventing ourselves into oblivion and apparently see no drawbacks as long as the tech is appropriately shiny (any concerns being met with “shut up, Luddite!”) then it is something to worry about, but how it’s presented is really – is polarising too strong a word? It does seem to get pushed as “unless you agree this is big real threat in exactly the manner we say it is big real threat you are not taking it seriously” which doesn’t leave a lot of room for “I think it might be a threat and I would take it seriously if it wasn’t your way or the highway about it”.

        • Q says:

          …And I Show You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes was the first SSC post I read (that was less than a week ago actually)! And yes I’ve read dozens of posts here after than one. So it seems that pointing people towards that post actually works.

          • Jill says:

            Wow, that post was fascinating– both deep in its insight into human beings & also hilarious & creative. Thanks for linking back to it.

            Scott should expand it and publish it as a book.

      • Viliam says:

        I recommend Rationality from AI to Zombies. Specifically because it’s a book.

        Compared with reading the Sequences online (1) it has a book format, which means it is linear and finite, and (2) it doesn’t have the comments, which is good if you otherwise couldn’t resist reading them, because those contain 10 times as much text as the articles themselves.

        To overcome the trivial inconveniences, you could just download the book and send it by e-mail to the target. Possibly together with Thinking, Fast and Slow.

      • Jacobian says:

        I agree. I think there’s an aura of uncoolness around The Sequences but they’re still a great read and the best way to grok the common language and thinking style of the community, plus they’re super useful by themselves. Like HPMOR, some people will quit in rage after 2-3 posts but enough people will be caught up in the insight porn and plow through them.

        The way the book is organized, it starts with things like “mysterious answers” and “how to actually change your mind”. By the time people get to MWI, AI and cryonics, it’s too late to quit 🙂

    • Anon. says:

      While not directly rational-sphere, I think Kahneman is a good gateway drug. There’s a reason Thinking, Fast and Slow is so popular.

      • Niall says:

        Seconded. As someone who has read the sequences plus like everything on SSC, I’m reading Kahneman for the first time. I thought it might be a bit old hat and I would know most of it already but it’s still a thoroughly good read.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Isn’t Thinking, Fast and Slow somewhat dry?

      • Urstoff says:

        I prefer Gilovich’s book How We Know What Isn’t So. The findings are more generalizable, and there aren’t theory-dependent explanations in the book, unlike Kahneman, where everything is based around the System 1 / System 2 theory. Plus, the book is much, much shorter.

        • Jill says:

          Sounds like an interesting book. Reminds me of the title of another one,
          On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not by neurologist Robert A. Burton. Loved that book.

      • sohois says:

        Would also recommend Nate Silver’s book “The Signal and the Noise” as an introduction to a lot of rational-sphere concepts. I found his Bayes theorem explanation to be far simpler than the one given by EY

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Don’t tell them to Read the Sequences. I did and it soured me on the whole project.

      Maybe a meet-up? As long as you pick one with minimal cuddling you should be fine, presumably that gives you the most human view of the community.

      • Outis says:

        Do you guys seriously cuddle at meetups?

        • Anon says:

          Varies wildly. Some regular meetups are mostly just a social event for a fuzzy set of people, and those occasionally have cuddling, as do many other social events. Meetups which are more sporadic and which have more strangers – e.g. the SSC meetups – do not, in my experience.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Well I don’t, but then again that’s why I don’t go to meetups in the first place.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’ve never seen cuddling happen at a meetup.

          At rationalist parties, now…

        • eh says:

          Tangentially, I find the idea of cuddle parties deeply disturbing, while two people cuddling in the corner at a pub is fine, and I’m not sure why. Perceptions of status? The expectation of awkwardness due to an association with nerdiness? The plausible deniability that alcohol offers? Perceived lack of romance?

      • Jill says:

        What Sequences? The book about learning French?

        • Nornagest says:

          The series of blog posts by Eliezer Yudkowsky later adapted as “Rationality: From AI To Zombies”, plus some others, and sometimes also including influential posts by other authors including our host. Index here.

          For a long time, newcomers to Less Wrong were told to read the Sequences as a way of familiarizing themselves with local jargon and foundational ideas (at least, that’s the charitable way of putting it). It may still be a good idea in some cases. But there’s about half a million words there, and some people find Eliezer profoundly off-putting. I tolerate him reasonably well myself, but my confidence in some of the stuff he brings up — his take on quantum physics, for example — is quite low.

          There are alternatives. Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” will get you about halfway there, for example.

    • Kaminiwa says:

      I got absorbed in by the sequences 🙂

    • blacktrance says:

      I got in through the Sequences, but they may not work for everyone, since they presuppose skepticism and some level of elitism.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Maybe it is better to introduce people with Superforecasting and if they are interested in the how people got those results introduce the sequences.

    • Outis says:

      Why don’t you just link them SlateStarCodex? It’s pretty much the most presentable website of the bunch.

      • Anonymous says:

        Agreed. Alexander >> Yudkowsky

      • Izaak Weiss says:

        Specifically, I like using the “Much more than you needed to know” posts to show them the sort of idea discourse our community wants to have around issues; nuanced, data driven, etc.

    • Wency says:

      I second the idea of just pointing them to one of the better posts on this blog. That’s how I got started. I eventually ended up reading much of the sequences after learning about them here, though I could never make it through more than a paragraph or two of HPMOR.

      If your goal is to convert people fully to the rationalist mentality, with all of its elitist atheistic utilitarianism, I’m not sure how successful you’ll be if they’re not already predisposed towards elitist atheistic utilitarianism. If they are so disposed, then the sequences are probably a much better starting point than if they’re not.

      If your goal is to expose people of a certain level of intelligence to a higher level of discourse, I would start with finding examples of such discourse that might interest them and showing it to them, to see if you can ignite an interest in further exploration.

    • Mammon says:

      For anyone who’s not into smug geekery, the sequences are a dead-end. I personally think that SSC is probably your best bet.

    • Matthias says:

      Try Tom Schelling. The Strategy of Conflict is a good first read.

      Check http://lesswrong.com/lw/14a/thomas_c_schellings_strategy_of_conflict/ and its comments.

    • Anonymous says:

      What did the most towards convincing me to be a rationalist was this post.

      • Viliam says:

        That’s exactly the wrong approach. Using words like “Bayesian” merely as applause lights for one’s own preferred political conclusions. (There was not a single equation used in the linked article.)

        Come on, the article even contradicts itself. You can’t trust people because they are political, or even books because they are written by the winners, but to get superhuman knowledge, you should read the old books written by respectful people.

        Guess what: if you have strong political opinions, the “respectful” people in the past (read: respected by you and your buddies) will be those who had similar opinions to you. And when you read their books — surprise, surprise — you will find a confirmation of your opinions. So now you know you were right all the time! Except now you also have cool historical quotes and authorities to use as a support.

        Such rational. So Bayes. Wow

        • Alex says:

          In a nutshell:

          When someone is slinging study in your direction, consider where it would persuade a thousand-year-old vampire to shift his beliefs. If not, then perhaps it shouldn’t persuade you, either.

          This is not how it works.

          • Anonymous says:

            Isn’t this exactly how Scott works? He’s got this recurring “this study is doing it wrong, argh” line of posts, and is very careful about updating his beliefs on the basis of isolated studies for the same reason.

          • Alex says:

            The hypothetical vampire in question is a perfect Baysian with 1000 years of experience. There are two ways to learn from that vamipre (a) ask him something, which we can’t, he is only a thought experiment. (b) be perfect Baysians ourselves, which is easier said than done.

            The advice that the vampire does not shift opinions and so neither should you is idiotic. What’s good for the vampire is not good for you, because most likely you are not a perfect Baysian with a millenium of calibration. It also adresses a non-problem. People too rapidly shifting their beliefs is a very rare thing in my experience.

          • Anonymous says:

            The advice that the vampire does not shift opinions and so neither should you is idiotic. What’s good for the vampire is not good for you, because most likely you are not a perfect Baysian with a millenium of calibration. It also adresses a non-problem. People too rapidly shifting their beliefs is a very rare thing in my experience.

            That’s a very uncharitable reading of the post.

            The problem it addresses not individual people changing their minds too often, which is indeed a non-problem, but rather institutional memory wipes and throwing out that which works in favour of what is fashionable, on the basis of people in authority saying it’s good for you. (Indeed, I would say the article is aimed at people in authority, mostly.)

            An example would be the dietary recommendations in the United States in the 20th century. The millenarian vampire would probably still think that what Americans ate in the 19th century was basically good for them, and would not update to a no-fat diet.

          • Alex says:

            That’s a very uncharitable reading of the post.

            I specificly picked one quote from the post that illustrates the problem with the post in a nutshell. This point is one of four bullet points I understood as the intended take home lesson.

            The problem it addresses [… is …] institutional memory wipes and throwing out that which works in favour of what is fashionable, on the basis of people in authority saying it’s good for you.

            Admittedly it does convey that problem, though I think that could have been done in fewer words.

            Point is, the imaginary vampire might illustrate the problem but is useless for finding a solution. Suggesting otherwise, as the post does, indeed makes me feel uncharitable.

          • Jiro says:

            I’d think a thousand year old vampire would support slavery, oppose gay marriage, etc.

          • The hope is that this fantasized ideal 1000 year old vampire doesn’t hang on to old cultural imprints– it would have a baseline for estimating what changes are dangerous and what changes aren’t.

            You might be interested in Rebecca Ore’s Centuries Ago, and Very Fast and Time and Robbery.

            The main character is a 14,000 year old non-aging gay time traveler (infertile, as I recall) who has to figure out how to live as well as possible. He does it by putting together an ongoing family of short-livers.

          • Viliam says:

            The vampire would probably also be skeptical about theory or relativity (“lol, reminds me of phlogiston, this too shall pass”) and other stuff. Or is the vampire allowed to update on such fleeting things, despite the millenia of non-relativity?

            Essentially this whole advice works on the assumption that humanity in recent centuries succeeded to make scientific and technological progress while being consistently wrong about all political and politics-related stuff. So the vampire could take his AD 1000 political and moral opinions, read the recent textbooks of natural sciences, and become Perfectly Right.

            Unless you believe that this is what actually happened, we are merely told to adopt the AD 1000 attitudes (or should I say “AD 1000 attitudes as imagined by AD 2016 people”?) and pretend that this is somehow the “rational” thing to do.

            Okay, if this is supposed to be an exercise in fictional evidence, imagine a vampire who is happy that the slavery is gone (in some parts of the world), and enjoys being a genderfluid polyamorist, because the millenia of experience show them that this is the best way to live. Anyone feels “rationally” convinced?

          • Anonymous says:

            The vampire would probably also be skeptical about theory or relativity (“lol, reminds me of phlogiston, this too shall pass”) and other stuff. Or is the vampire allowed to update on such fleeting things, despite the millenia of non-relativity?

            The point of changing his mind would be experimental proof of one or the other, just as it was with heliocentricity.

            Essentially this whole advice works on the assumption that humanity in recent centuries succeeded to make scientific and technological progress while being consistently wrong about all political and politics-related stuff. So the vampire could take his AD 1000 political and moral opinions, read the recent textbooks of natural sciences, and become Perfectly Right.

            It’s hardly *all* wrong. And much of what is wrong is wrong only in theory and justification; in practice it is what it is, and always has been.

            Okay, if this is supposed to be an exercise in fictional evidence, imagine a vampire who is happy that the slavery is gone (in some parts of the world), and enjoys being a genderfluid polyamorist, because the millenia of experience show them that this is the best way to live. Anyone feels “rationally” convinced?

            The point is not to emulate the vampire (because a vampire is not a human, and evil besides), but to reflect on human nature from his point of view. That the vampire is happy being a genderfluid polyamorist is no indication that it’s good for humans, just as the vampire drinking blood for a living is not an indication that we should also. (The vampire would have some actually good grounds to think that slavery is wrong for various reasons not related to current moral fashion.)

        • Watercressed says:

          It’s basically the same meta-level message as http://lesswrong.com/lw/h5/archimedess_chronophone/ although they reach different object-level conclusions.

      • Anonymous says:

        That post is from two days ago, so I’ll play my doubt card.

        • For a bit, I thought you’d managed to be an Anonymous with no gravatar, which is very impressively anonymous, but then I realized you’re an Anonymous with a very faint gravatar.

        • Anonymous says:

          I admit I am being technically accurate – this post did the most to convince me. I am still not a rationalist, though.

    • Murphy says:

      Don’t point to the sequences. But when something is really relevant to an article on LW just link. There’s plenty that are useful info independently.

    • Peter says:

      I suppose it depends on what you’re trying to do. A lot of people are recommending books they/we[1] like, which is good if you want to convey ideas, but which aren’t a good introduction to the community. Some parts of the sequences are good (the guide to words or whateveritscalled) but there’s a danger of it looking like “please read all of this before participating”.

      SSC does come with the equivalent of a Greatest Hits album which might be a good place to start. Scott sayeth The Ideology Is Not The Movement, SSC top posts give you a flavour of some of the things going on in the movement, the sequences give you something of the ideology… it’s probably what I’d read second.

      [1] I’m not sure how to count myself – if you’re saying “rational-sphere”, then, well, I’m here, commenting on SSC, so I’m participating in it, so in a sense ‘we’, but I don’t feel a part of the larger movement.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I think Beware the Man of One Study should be up there. It’s one of Scott’s most underrated articles.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          “I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup” is an excellent introduction, I think.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Only if you want to signal to people in Scott’s in-group.

            If you are trying to signal to other people, it’s less good.

          • keranih says:

            I started to say, “well, there are more people in Scott’s in group (or, at least, in his not-out-group) than in his out group, so that at least would be a good start” and then realized that

            1) everyone probably thinks more people are on their side than are against them and

            2) you have to persuade those against you, too.

            I still think “I Can Tolerate” is a good starter for thinking.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:
            I don’t think it’s particularly good for an introduction to the community, as the community is definitely not composed exclusively of Scott’s in-group, which is what makes it interesting.

            As to the numbers of Scott’s in group, he specifically says by the end of it that “Yeah. Once I’ve written a ten thousand word essay savagely attacking the Blue Tribe, either I’m a very special person or they’re my outgroup. And I’m not that special.”

            So, if you are Blue Tribe, you have to wade through 10,000 words of what Scott describes as savage attack masquerading as objective analysis. If you are Blue Tribe, that essay is not welcoming. it’s not the place you want to start.

            Unless, of course, you objective is only to pull in “worthy” Blue Tribe members. But that, to me, feels like a mug’s game.

          • Subbak says:

            TL;DR: “Outgroup” is probably a bad idea, if you want to start with politics, either “In Favor of Niceness” or “Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum”.

            So, funnily enough, that was Scott’s first post I read, linked to me by a friend who was arguing that even if I didn’t like their rather obvious racism and sexism (and had never bought a copy before) I HAD to buy Charlie Hebdo after the attack or terrorists won. I don’t remember exactly how it was related to his argument.

            I read it and thought that this was obviously written by an intelligent and witty person, that it made some rather interesting observation, and that the conclusion was mostly bullshit (especially part XI which, while an accurate description of some people, doesn’t exactly fit the vast majority of people I know both in US and in Europe. If anything, the Golden Mean fallacy is far more prevalent). I read another article linked from there (something about superweapons I think?) and decided that I could probably do without this blog. I’ve since moved my position a bit closer to Scott’s on the Outgroup thing, although I still believe a sizable fraction of what he says is bullshit. This used to surprise me, considering how smart the rest is, until I read Ozy’s post about amateur sociology.

            About four months later, I came to SSC because another friend of mine mentioned that she was familiar with EY (as I recommended HPMOR) because he was often mentionned on SSC. So I checked out the latest posts. At the time, there was nothing overtly political near the top, so I liked it.

            It took me about a month to realize this was the same blog.

            So unless you’re certain about the politics of the people you’re trying to convince (remember, the first friend thought that the Outgroup article would convince me), I would not start with that. I agree with others than “How deep the rabbit hole goes” is probably a great place to start. Another nice place to start in my opinion is “In favor of Niceness, Community and Civilization” and “A Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum”. They might be a bit less central to Scott’s thoughts than “I can tolerate anything but the Outgroup”, but on the other hand I think they are far less likely to rub someone the wrong way (Scott even points this out in the second one). Also they’re short, which might count for something.

            Oh and also warn them about the comments being inhabited by some quite far-from-center political opinions that are nevertheless not inarticulate trolls. It can be off-putting.

          • Julie K says:

            @Subbak:
            Conservatives might be put off by some details of how Scott describes their group in “Thrive/Survive” (but you can point them to “Tolerate the Outgroup” instead).

          • Subbak says:

            @Julie K: I didn’t really realize this, but obviously I’m not a conservative and I do not have Scott’s Superpower (or Dark Arts, depending on your point of view). It seemed believable to me when he claimed that the description might actually satisfy both groups, but on the other hand, lots of things can seem believable.

          • Viliam says:

            I have an issue with “A Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum” that it connotationally puts things like Rotherham child abuse scandal into the same category as zombie apocalypse, i.e. something only crazy people care about.

          • Anonymous says:

            Unless you actually live in Rotherham, or at the very least Yorkshire, it’s a very strong signal.

          • Peter says:

            this may be relevant.

            I mean, the article’s whole shtick is to extrapolate wildly, in both directions, a conservative who thinks “he’s depicting us as crazy people worried about a zombie apocalypse” but not “he’s depicting liberals as ridiculously naive utopians living in cloud cuckoo land”, and consider the first a slander but not even worry about whether the second might be considered a slander (except maybe by people who are less jumpy about misreadings) I think is missing something.

            Either that, or I count as a centrist for the purposes of these discussions (I call myself centre-left, but I do get wound up by ridiculously naive utopians), and thus can happily go “hahaha” to both depictions safe in the knowledge it’s not me they’re skewering.

    • Edward Lemur says:

      I’m reading the sequences, but I feel like the website is too inactive to have a discussion about these concepts, since the posts are quite old. Is there a website to discuss them? Or is LW still used for that? I feel like I’m way too late to the party.
      I currently live in Bogota, Colombia, and I plan to move soon to Stockholm. Do any of you leave there? So we could maybe meet sometime?

    • Vamair says:

      The rat-sphere and the Gray Tribe. I kinda like the imagery.

    • Adam Casey says:

      Can I suggest Good And Real by Gary L. Drescher? It’s got all the good content of the sequences in a less obnoxious way.

      I’ll second Thinking Fast and Slow and Strategy of Conflict. I think basically my suggestion is get books about these topics written … without all the excentricity that makes Yudkowski fun and engaing. Then, once the ideas seem grownup and high status say “here’s a fun community interested in them.

      • eh says:

        Unfortunately, what makes Yudkowsky’s work fun and engaging to Bay-area technocrats and Ivy-league STEM graduates is precisely what has the potential to make it face-punchingly smug or visible-skidmark cringeworthy to other groups. See Scott’s helpful guide on how to select the right applause lights for your audience (point 7).

        Someone should go through the sequences and replace all the snark about religion with snark about global warming and sociology never mind, that’s what the traditional small-government neo-Burkean-Evolan-post-Reaganist-formalite-Jacobite-hexacameralists are in the process of doing.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      Controversially, pick their favorite gender/politics/SJ topic to flog on about, and link to a relevant rat-sphere blog post on the subject. The longer the word count, the better. Either they’re fascinated by the alternate approach to agreement with their own biases, or in their outrage, they hate-read a lot more by the same blogger, and given the community’s predilection for links and active comment sections, will lead to a wiki walk down the rabbit hole. Outraged reaction may also lead to their posting their outrage online, which will then trigger the Rationalist Tumblr Engage With Anyone Who Mentions Rationalism mode, which, as we all know, is a form of 3rd-degree integration into the community.

      Which is basically a clickbait tactic, I admit. “You won’t BELIEVE what this one dude said about [X hot-button issue]!”

    • EyeballFrog says:

      This site is a pretty good introduction to it. It’s got a nice tone and the people here seem a little less weird. As for what article to introduce them with, I think “The Control Group is Out of Control” is a good choice. It’s got a catchy title and I think most people can grasp the importance of getting good data in science.

    • LPSP says:

      ANYTHING other than HPMOR. The only thing I can hand on heart call bad out of Eliezer’s output is that tawdy, bloated piece of hack fiction. Not that it lacks virtues altogether, or that it lacks a kitsch appeal for those of tastes different to mine. But it’s a needless risk compared to introductory LW articles, or better yet SSC which is highly palatable.

      • Nornagest says:

        But tell us how you really feel.

        • LPSP says:

          I heard those exact words recently, but I can’t remember where. Was it the last open thread?

          • Anonymous says:

            It was a granddaughter post to this one (
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/18/open-thread-49-75/#comment-360443) attached to a child post that responded in kind to the “genuinely hope” paragraph. But the child post and all replies to it seem to have been disappeared.

            Interesting, I didn’t know Scott pruned like that.

          • LPSP says:

            Thanks, speedy anon responder. I didn’t know Scott pruned either, although it’s prudent (prune-dent? could be a good pun) to do so for any discussion hub.

            Can you remember anything more about the context of the debate? The hope post is talking about trolley problems (and quite interestly at that, I’d revive the topic if anyone’s interested) and cheating morality, was that the target of the “tell us how you really feel”? I mean, I still don’t understand Nornagent’s comment, I want to be in on the joke.

          • Anonymous says:

            Here you go, this is the full context: https://web.archive.org/web/20160520055816/http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/18/open-thread-49-75/#comment-360633

            As for “tell us how you really feel” it is an idiomatic expression that means whatever it is in reply to was over the top, excessive, disproportionate. HTH

          • Anonymous says:

            This isn’t an in-joke, but a common idiom. try google. It is short for something sarcastic like: stop holding back out of politeness and tell us how you really feel.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            I mean, I still don’t understand Nornagent’s comment, I want to be in on the joke.

            It’s poking fun at the vehemence with which you denounce HPMOR by ironically suggesting your comment was too subtle to be understood.

          • LPSP says:

            @first anon: Speedy as ever! It seemed pretty plausible but I had to be sure. For instance, it sounds like something that could’ve been a recurring phrase in HPMOR, and Nornagest was sympathising with me on it’s awfulness.

            @second anon: Um, no, it isn’t common. It can work as an idiom, but I’ve never heard it or anything like it in this context before.

            @Inferential Distance: That’s a bit weird. What’s wrong with strongly disliking something?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            @Inferential Distance: That’s a bit weird. What’s wrong with strongly disliking something?

            It’s generally agreed that displaying any sort of strong emotions about topics which are Not Important Enough(TM) to warrant it is unseemly.

          • LPSP says:

            Then it’s fortunate this is important.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Then it’s fortunate this is important.

            [citation needed]

          • LPSP says:

            …so you don’t care about rationality? This is a very puzzling conversation.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            …so you don’t care about rationality? This is a very puzzling conversation.

            No, I’m asserting that calling HPMOR a “tawdy, bloated piece of hack fiction” is sufficiently insulting that you’d require the validation of a neutral third-party to label doing so “important”. Especially given that it doesn’t actually answer the question you were responding to.

            “I don’t like HPMOR” and “people who dislike HPMOR may avoid this community if HPMOR is used as introductory material” are more than sufficient to communicate the “important” portions of your comment, and would not have attracted Nornaget’s reply.

    • Hummingbird says:

      It depends a lot on their predispositions. The sequences were fine for me, but I leaned that direction a lot already.
      If they like blogs, psychology-stuff, articles, or rants, refer them to SSC’s greatest hits.
      If they like fantasy/sci-fi type fiction, and can get past the fan-fic barrier and Eliezer’s voice, HPMOR is great.
      If they can read an actual book, and are far from the rationality-sphere, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks provides light and interesting stories that may provoke thought about mental processes.
      If they can read an actual book, but like/can tolerate more dense information, they can read Thinking, Fast and Slow or Judgement Under Uncertainty by Daniel Kahneman.
      If they can read an actual book, have time, and like math-stuff, Good and Real, and some chapters of GEB apply.

      • Nornagest says:

        GEB always struck me as a little overrated, though this might have something to do with the fact that I read it late in college and I was pretty much breathing automata theory and formal languages at the time.

        • LHN says:

          I read it in middle school, so it was revelatory in multiple directions: formal logic, recursion, Zeno’s paradox, Gödel… (I reread bits of it enough that I wound up having to tape up the spine.)

          I haven’t looked at it in decades, so I don’t know how it would hold up. But I found it a great introduction to a lot of concepts at the time.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:
  4. Phil says:

    Have you actively tried not to get a paying writing job?

    It occurs to me that there are some websites out there that you might be a good fit on, the one that occurs to me is Bill Simmons new website, if it’s anything like Grantland was it seems like some of your more pop culture-ish post might fit well (the ones I had in mind were the Albion’s Seed review and the Art of the Deal review)

    It occurs to me that your readers could push you to the powers that be (Bill Simmons) and make enough noise that they would read your stuff and give it real consideration

    Might be a way to both expand the universe of people exposed to your work, and also monetize your work to whatever degree publishing your work there does so

    __________

    Would you be interested in us using the resources we have at our disposal to help you in that regard (what I have in mind is reaching out to those people on Twitter, sometimes they are surprisingly responsive)?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks for the offer, but no. I usually find writing for other people pretty stressful and time-consuming.

      • Phil says:

        Ok cool, that’s why I asked

        I love your work, I’m sort of surprised a big media outlet hasn’t beaten down your door already

        I hope you get as much reward out of writing it as we get from reading it

        _________

        Hope this does come of as too weird, but every once in a while you write something that expands my idea of what it is to be human, The Idealolgy is Not The Movement especially blew my mind, that was great stuff

      • JuanPeron says:

        Alternatively: have you tried getting paid for things you’ve already written?

        Some of your less topical/hyperlinked essays, or your short fiction, seem to measure up to the standards of a lot of published writing. Emily and Control comes to mind – it might have narrow appeal, but the ending is punchier than a lot of professional pseudo-horror.

        I suppose Unsong is the obvious culmination of this (short stories are easier to publish if you’ve been published in a longer format), but I don’t know your plans for that or where it will end up.

      • LPSP says:

        This. People tell me on account of what I write for my teaching jobs, hobbies and correspondance with family that I should go into journalism, and it can be mind-numbing pointing out how elementally this wouldn’t work.

        Keep writing for glory, Scott.

  5. Anon. says:

    Friendly reminder that arguments of the type “if X were true, it would be awful, therefore X is false” or “if X then Q, I do not like Q, therefore X is false” are fallacious. I’ve been seeing these around here far too frequently.

    • Dan Peverley says:

      Inspired thought:

      Imagine a peculiar prediction market with the following available bet, perhaps posted by some random user.

      “Tomorrow, this prediction market will crash and no one will be able to access any payouts or currently invested money.”

      While a person who believes this to be unlikely can rationally short this proposition, anyone who is convinced of its truth will find themselves unable to bet on its behalf due to the fact that the prediction itself denies their ability to gain utility from being true. They can offload their shares in other bets, but participating in that particular issue is not profitable.

      I don’t know if there’s a word for this sort of process, but it strikes me as a bit like the view you mention as fallacious. Are there any other truths that it’s best to bet against regardless of their probability, due to the fact that things won’t matter at all if they end up being true? Example: The universe is a false vacuum, and it’s going to collapse tomorrow.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        Are there any other truths that it’s best to bet against regardless of their probability, due to the fact that things won’t matter at all if they end up being true? Example: The universe is a false vacuum, and it’s going to collapse tomorrow.

        Somewhat more mundanely: If you expect that a natural disaster will be of such scope that insurance companies with policies about it will go bankrupt rather than pay off, then you should not buy disaster insurance.

      • Andrew says:

        That last example isn’t a true one: Presumably people can put a probability on such an occurance (extremely low), and then act accordingly. Your “crash” example, on the other hand, can believed to have high probability but still resist betting- due to the lack of payoff.

        Assuming the current odds-ratio on the “Crash” favors buying “it will crash”, the appropriate answer is to not bet whatsoever- it certainly isn’t “best to bet against regardless of their probability”, as you mentioned.

      • Sid says:

        Are there any other truths that it’s best to bet against regardless of their probability, due to the fact that things won’t matter at all if they end up being true?

        For a slightly different reason: the nonexistence of free will.

        • MugaSofer says:

          Speaking as someone who’d claim to have dissolved Free Will if that jargon worked anywhere, what on Earth would it mean to bet against free will? It’s non-disprovable.

          • Matthias says:

            You could settle for an approximation, like http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1438 proposes.

            (Though may best stab at the problem so far goes via uncomputability: essentially the only way to predict what a Turing machine is going to do, is to run it. There are no shortcuts. Similarly, it could be that the only way to predict what a `mind’ is going to do is to run it, ie either wait for the mind to do its thing, or simulate it. In any case, the mind `experiences’ and does its decision.)

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Are you sure that naturalistic free will is not disproveable?

            Are you sure the existence or otherwise of free will has no consequences, for instance regarding the ability of humans to affect the future?

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Are you sure the existence or otherwise of free will has no consequences, for instance regarding the ability of humans to affect the future?

            Not the author of the parent subthread, but…
            Fairly sure, given my current understanding. If you can come up with a test that would distinguish ‘we are deterministic agents in a universe to computationally complex for us ever to be able to predict with great accuracy how that determinism will play out in our own thought processes’ from ‘we are non-deterministic agents in an otherwise deterministic universe, who are able to stand outside the flow of causality that otherwise keeps everything else (or everything that’s not alive and sufficiently agenty) ticking over’, then I’d be interested to hear it, though.

          • jes5199 says:

            Physics may argue in favor of some conceptions of Free Will : http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0604079.pdf

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Note that something’s being positivistcally indetectable isn’t at all the same as its being inconsequential. I have already indicated what kind of consequence FW could have: the ability of humans to bring about a future of their choosing. I struggle to think of anything more signicant than that.

            A dedicated positivist might be able to argue that there is no signjcance without confirmability, but the point is not obvious and does need to be argued.

            Dedicated, consistent positivists face other problems to.but, hey, you can always be a patchy, selective positivist.

      • Chrysophylax says:

        I think major reserve currencies probably count. Anything that makes dollars stop being tradable is probably going to leave me rather more concerned with personal survival.

        • Matthias says:

          Depends on the timeline. Dollar becomes untradeable in a year: probably collapse.

          Dollar becomes untradeable in a couple of decades: could be a lot of things.

      • EyeballFrog says:

        This seems related to the idea of “playing to your outs” from Magic: the Gathering. If you’re in a position where you are near-guaranteed to lose unless you draw a particular card, you should play as though that is certainly the next card you will draw. If it isn’t, you lose anyways. If it is, you’ve maximized your ability to capitalize on that good fortune.

      • LPSP says:

        I can’t think of any logic or real-life examples. But it strikes me as axiomatic of story-telling. Deux ex machinas, Diabolos ex machines and so on, no matter how likely they may seem, undermine the fundamental capacity of the readers to give a crap.

        If you’re consuming a tale and you think you see an arsepull on the horizon, after giving it a good calculation just to be sure you should stop reading. If it happens, you’re not going to be satisfied regardless.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        There is a great paper on this sort of thing with respect to certain ethical views: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~jacobmro/ppr/deflation-ross.pdf

        I’m not sure how readable it is for non-philosophers.

      • Zakharov says:

        I’ve heard it said that the correct way to hedge against a default on US treasury bonds is to buy canned food and ammo.

        • John Schilling says:

          The local militia then declares you a hoarder and takes your food and ammo – less any tiny quantity you manage to fire in their direction before their overwhelming numerical superiority puts you beyond complaining about the outcome.

          Societies do not break down to the level of atomic individuals, such that being the individual with the biggest gun and the biggest stash makes you the local big shot. Societies, at most, break down to the level of small tribal institutions along preestablished fault lines, some of which (e.g. the local police department) will be very good at organized violence. If you’re part of their outgroup and you have stuff that is valuable to them, you’re nothing but a defenseless target.

          The correct way to hedge against that sort of scenario is to stockpile the right sort of friends and the right skills. There is a very limited ability to trade stuff for friendship, but don’t overestimate it.

      • Probably off the mark, but the meaning of life, as in, the justification (or lack thereof) for doing anything at all.

        You can demonstrate game theoretic theorems by studying population models; e.g. you can demonstrate that 60% of 200 points is better than 100% of 100 points because with two subpopulations implementing either, the one implementing the former will outscore the latter.

        This breaks down with meaning, because a population implementing ‘do stuff’ as a dynamic always outcompetes the alternative, regardless of whether or not anything is worth doing[1].

        [1] For convenience’s sake, here I model nihilism as the assertion that given sufficient time, any capable reasoner would conclude nothing was worth doing. I am 90% that my reasoning is mathematically correct, and the only point of contention is whether meaningness actually works this way.

    • Outis says:

      I am more inclined to believe the opposite. Consider this: the food that is good for you tastes bad, and the food that tastes good is bad for you. This is a sign that our world was created by an evil demiurge. Thus, “if X were true, it would be awful; therefore X is true”.

      • Nornagest says:

        Counterexamples: salmon, scallops, lots of other seafood, eggs, Greek yogurt, fresh strawberries, coffee, most fresh herbs.

        And on the “tastes bad, bad for you” side, we have most things cooked in casserole dishes, and any cooked dish involving marshmallows except for s’mores.

        • Rowan says:

          Every single on of those counterexamples is a food I dislike. Checkmate, atheists!

        • Deiseach says:

          on the “tastes bad, bad for you” side…most things cooked in casserole dishes

          Good grief, what do Americans put into casseroles??? I can see the “bad for you” but certainly not the “tastes bad” – what do you do to the poor humble casserole to make it taste so yucky?

          • Nornagest says:

            Mostly butter and mayonnaise, as far as I can tell.

          • Deiseach says:

            Why would you put mayonnaise into a casserole?

            Never mind, I think this is one of those “I am appalled by Americans” thing I don’t want to know 🙂

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            People take vegetable of choice (fill in the blank for _____ casserole), dump it in the dish with sufficient cans of condensed “cream of ___” soup. Bake.

            There are some horrifying schools of taste that believe that Ma’s Good Ol’ Green Bean Casserole is only acceptable if they use already over-squishy no-longer-green canned beans. To them, using fresh ingredients is a travesty.

            (Disclaimer I love most things made in casserole dishes. But the pure disdain some parts of the South have for not overcooking what few vegetables they have into diarrhea-colored mush, floating in diarrhea-colored piss that’s 70% oil spots, is a bit much.)

            I’ve never heard of mayonnaise being used in casserole, though. Best/worst I’ve heard of is slathering mayo onto salmon, and then bake.

          • LHN says:

            It’s a holdover from the middle of the last century, coming out of the Depression and wartime rationing to the advent of “scientific” convenience foods, which were much more available than fresh out of season anyway. (Plus assimilation pressure for immigrants to eschew their often more interesting cuisines for proper American at a time when that meant pouring Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup over everything.)

            We didn’t quite burn our preexisting cuisines to the ground to the extent that, say, England did (the wars and rationing hit much harder and longer, and you had things like all the creameries from Stilton to Wensleydale being forced to produce a single cheddar-like cheese for a while), but it wasn’t our finest culinary hour.

            Things are at least potentially much better now. Fresh food variety and quality are both much better than when I was growing up thanks to improved transport, lower trade barriers, and larger supermarkets. (Californians can play with being locovores. It’s not an aspiration that makes a lot of sense in the Midwest.) But people like what they like, and if that casserole recipe reminds them of their childhood, it’s understandable that they’re not inclined to mess with it.

          • brad says:

            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/broccoli-casserole-recipe.html

            When I googled broccoli casserole that was the first link. It requires frozen broccoli and a cup of mayo.

          • gbdub says:

            Count me in the “green bean casserole doesn’t work with fresh ingredients” camp. Good fresh green beans are still a bit crunchy, and the only thing that’s supposed to be crunchy in green bean casserole is the fried onions on top. Even frozen green beans don’t work as well as canned. To me “casserole” really is something where everything is kind of melded together.

            Various varieties of scalloped potatoes are delicious.

            The cafeteria at college had a very popular “chicken and broccoli bake” that was chicken breast and broccoli florets in a creamy sauce. Delicious comfort foodstuff.

            But yes, a lot of southern “comfort food” veggies are decidedly high-butter, low texture, which I’m not a huge fan of.

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            @gbdub:

            You can soften up vegetables without overcooking them to questionable colors, though. I despise salad, so my only use for lettuce outside of adding crunch to sandwiches is in wilted form. But I only barely cook it long enough to wilt it. You can do the same with fresh green beans. Boil them a bit before dumping them in the casserole dish. You can also imbue a little more flavor in them that way, by, say, cooking them in broth, or adding spices to the mix. The beans will absorb them better than trying to mix the spices in with canned beans right before creaming and baking.

            (This is the same with pasta. Lack of texture aside, you can’t really re-flavor canned pasta.)

          • Nita says:

            Canned pasta? Is that an actual thing?

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Canned pasta? Is that an actual thing?

            Spaghettios, Chef Boyardee ravioli, etc..

          • Anonymous says:

            Nita: sure Campbell’s SpaghettiOs (they are worse than death).

        • LPSP says:

          I, uh. I don’t understand what this is trying to say. No correlation found.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Stuff that’s good for you doesn’t taste bad. They just make medicine and stuff taste bad because everyone refuses to believe it works otherwise.

        (And you only notice when food’s tastiness conflicts with your preferences – nutrients that are found in tasty food aren’t “important” because they’re easy to get, and nutritionless tasteless food is packaging material.)

        • suntzuanime says:

          Stuff that’s good for you tastes bad because you wouldn’t eat stuff that tasted bad if it wasn’t good for you.

          • John Nerst says:

            Exactly. Berkson strikes again.

          • LPSP says:

            Hot damn, you can one hell of a game out of applying that reasoning to other things.

            Satisfying victories are hard-won because you wouldn’t put a lot of effort ino a project if it wouldn’t satisfy you afterwards.

            Enjoyable things diminish with excess because you wouldn’t experience something excessly if you didn’t enjoy it.

      • John Schilling says:

        The question of which foods are good or bad for you is extremely complicated and context-dependent. The perception of asceticism as intrinsically virtuous is simple and nigh-universal. In a community that worships health and science, this will manifest as motivated reasoning and confirmation bias for TastyFood=BadHealth, and we’ll repeat the experiment as often as needed to scientifically prove the hypothesis.

        So our world may not have been created by an evil demiurge, but our minds may have been.

      • The Nybbler says:

        That’s just a sign that nutrition science is really a religion composed of proseltyzing ascetics.

        This probably isn’t literally true, but there’s plenty of evidence pointing that direction. Study shows that red wine or beer is good for you and teetotalers are less healthy than moderate drinkers. Result, follow-up studies attempting to prove the alcohol has absolutely nothing to do with it and pious pronouncements that they do not recommend teetotalers start drinking. Study after study fails to show deleterious effects of caffeine consumption until very high levels… result, continue to recommend low limits on caffeine. Studies show salt is linked to high blood pressure, result, recommend cutting salt. Studies show salt is not linked to high blood pressure, result, do not change prior recommendation. Recommendations of sawdust-like whole grain flour which is essentially nutritionally similar to evil white grain flour (except fiber, which you can get from the coffee you’re not supposed to be drinking)

        • See also articles saying that eggs aren’t actually bad for you. Now you can have 4 per week.

          • Deiseach says:

            Oh yeah, I was surprised by the reversal on that one. As I say, I’m old enough to remember how the cycle goes (be it dietary advice or what forthcoming plague, ice age, non-ice age or other disaster is going to kill us in the next ten years):

            Stage One: Eggs are nutritious, easy to cook, and good for you

            Stage Two: AHHHH! CHOLESTEROL! EGGS ARE FULL OF THE EVIL STUFF! THEY WILL KILL YOU! NO MORE EGGS!! EVER AT ANY TIME!!!

            Stage Three: Ignore Stage Two, now we say it’s okay to have eggs a couple of times a wekk.

          • Murphy says:

            @Deiseach

            The “ice age” thing is a myth.

            From 1965 to 1979 the vast majority of climate science papers were predicting warming. A grand total of 7 papers predicted possible cooling. But there’s been a hell of an add campaign by certain companies to push the “remember when they used to claim it was going to be an ice age” crap.

            Unless you got your news from sources on a par with the daily mail back then the consensus was not claiming ice-age.

            So the real stages are

            Stage one: Eggs are nutritious, easy to cook and a lot of people are eating vast quantities of eggs.

            Stage two: A couple of research papers come out saying that they’re possibly not perfectly good for you in vast quantities.

            Stage three: fad diet pushers, poorly informed journalists and naturalnews analogs decide that eggs now count as “impure” in their quasi-moral-diet system, ignore anyone who’s ever been near a researcher and start screaming AHHHH! CHOLESTEROL! EGGS ARE FULL OF THE EVIL STUFF! THEY WILL KILL YOU! NO MORE EGGS!! EVER AT ANY TIME!!!

            They invite “doctors” [phd in basket weaving from a fake degree mill like the Awful Poo Lady] to talk about it on daytime TV.

            This is the only stage the public notice.

            Stage four: More research papers come out saying they’re probably not good for you in vast amounts but are pretty good in moderation. Eventually the people from stage 3 age out of the system and/or die and finally people notice that the real researchers in the background have been quietly chugging away with boring, not very headline-friendly findings and the less exciting conclusions gradually shift into public consciousness.

            Stage five: People shout that since they only noticed stage 3 and the tail end of stage 5 science as a whole must be bunk and useless and their intuition must therefore be superior that really the healthiest food in the universe must be kale and OMG THERE’S THIS OTHER DEVIL FOOD EVERYONE SHOULD AVOID, LOOK I JUST FOUND THIS ONE RESEARCH PAPER SAYING IT’S BAD OMG!. [go to stage 3]

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Murphy:
            Pretty much.

            But, I will say that the reasons behind the whole cycle dovetail nicely with why we need the scientific method, peer review, published papers, basic research grants and the rest of the scientific institutions. The basic heuristics that our brains run on don’t do a good job of aggregating data in a systematic way.

          • Ant says:

            I like this explanation.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Deiseach
            CHOLESTEROL! EGGS ARE FULL OF THE EVIL STUFF!

            My simple heuristic: things that are easy to spell, like starch and fat, are real things. Things that are hard to spell, like cholesterol and poly-unsaturated, are theories.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Murphy:
            Us getting-oldish people remember the Ice Age scare because we actually remember it not because some alleged “ad campaign” is pushing that narrative now. In the 1970s the global temperature trend had been on a generally-declining trend for decades; this made it natural enough for doom-mongers to extrapolate forward, so we saw such extrapolations in all the usual places.

            When we’re in a cooling phase, scary “it’s getting colder” articles have the sort of traction that can show up in Time or Scientific American. When we’re in a warming trend, scary “it’s getting warmer” articles do the same. And what gets traction is what matters to public perception, not a count of how many articles there allegedly are in which subset of the literature.

            If you want to reacquire that mindset, I recommend watching the “In Search Of” episode in which Stephen Schneider was seriously asked if we should use nuclear bombs or spread black soot to melt the icecaps in order to stop all this cooling. (spoiler: “no”.) (Bonus: the narrator is Leonard Nimoy!)

          • William Newman says:

            (Murphy replied to Deiseach with a talking point I have heard before, “the ‘ice age’ thing is a myth”.)

            I was already an active reader by 1975. Clearly the ice age wasn’t a scare at the level of e.g. the famine-through-overpopulation scare. Nonetheless it was a prominent enough scare to make it into a 1975 article of which I happen to have a photocopy for other reasons: “Getting Along Without Doomsday” by Bryan Magee (British Labour MP) in Horizon Magazine.

            From the first page (of five 8.5x11inch pages of not-very-large print):

            “Mr. [Nigel] Calder [in a book published by the BBC] concludes that a new ice age cometh. What is more, it could come quickly; that is within the lifetime of most of us.”

            (From a bit of web searching I conclude that the book was probably _Weather Machine and the Threat of Ice_, 1974.)

            And later on the first page:

            “As an activist in left-wing politics I have been touched by each of the modern doomsday movements I listed earlier, except for the ice-age movement, which, as of this writing, hasn’t had time to catch on yet. In each case the pattern of my experience has been the same…”

            (I have kept the photocopy because it’s interesting how Magee described a pattern of politicized scares which can be compared to four decades of observations since. I recommend the article; it doesn’t seem to be online, but I found it in the UT Dallas library after my father talked about his memory of it.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Murphy, I remember the “are we heading for a new ice age?” thing precisely because the late 70s were the hottest and driest summers I’d ever seen up till then in Ireland (we had drought warnings!) so it was very ironic to me as only a year or so previously I’d seen media reports on “the next ice age – is it coming?”

            William Newman, thank you for the link about Nigel Calder – that’s probably what I saw being reported on in the media, as he was a science writer and at the time (in the 70s) not alone wrote books but made documentaries, as the one linked here (bolding mine, remember this was broadcast in 1974):

            The observatory perches beside the former glacier valley of the Hudson River. And down at water level Alec Nisbett of BBC-TV filmed Kukla for our multinational TV blockbuster called “The Weather Machine”, broadcast in 1974. By then the count of ice ages had increased still further and the reasons for the comings-and-goings of the ice were better understood.

            Narrator: Will a new ice age claim our lands and bury our northern cities? It’s buried Manhattan Island before, when great glaciers half a mile thick filled the valley of New York’s Hudson River. That’s what an ice age is all about. George Kukla is from Czechoslovakia, where he discovered signs that ice ages are far more frequent that most experts have supposed. Today he continues his work near New York City. For him, the next ice age is not at all remote.

            George Kukla: Well almost all of us have been pretty sure that there were only four ice ages, separated by relatively long warm intervals. But now we know that there were twenty in the last two million years. And the warm periods are much shorter than we believed originally. They are something around 10,000 years long. and I’m sorry to say that the one we are living in now has just passed its 10,000 year birthday. That of course means that the ice age is due now any time.

            So perhaps this is a case of “wasn’t a big deal in America but is remembered by us on this side of the Atlantic who were alive in the 70s and exposed to the British and Irish media” 🙂

            This is why dinosaurs like me are sceptical of the media reporting – WHATEVER THE ACTUAL SCIENCE MAY BE – about “Argh! We are all gonna die! SCIENTISTS doing REAL SCIENCE have proved it!” when it comes to climate scares.

            Yes, global warming climate change may be a really big deal. But when it comes to fancy infographics about “by the year 20— this coastline will be submerged beneath the waves, the citizens of New York will all have fled to the mountains to escape the rising waters of the melting ice caps, and civilisation is doomed” – we’ve seen those fancy infographics about “by the year 20— New York will be buried beneath sheets of ice and civilisation is doomed” before.

          • John Schilling says:

            So perhaps this is a case of “wasn’t a big deal in America but is remembered by us on this side of the Atlantic who were alive in the 70s and exposed to the British and Irish media”

            No, this leftpondian remembers the same thing, and I wasn’t exactly the most sophisticated reader in the 1970s. On the other hand, the High School library still had its 1970s books on the shelf in the 1980s, and I read pretty much the whole science section…

            In hindsight, yes, the peer-reviewed literature of the 1970s wasn’t as big on new Ice Ages as it is now on Global Warming, er, Climate Change. Some of that is presumably due to peer-reviewed literature being generally less prone to hokum than pop-science writing. But I wouldn’t assume the quality of modern peer reviewing is the same as in the 1970s either.

          • Anonymous says:

            For a numbers-oriented non-cherry-picked survey of the climate-change literature, see “What were climate scientists predicting in the 1970s?“. For an integrative survey of the science, see “Reflections on the scientific process, as seen in climate studies“.

            In summary, the degree of scientific consensus in regard to anthropogenic global warming has increased progressively and monotonically, throughout the past century.

            Fluctuations in the consensus opinion of the popular literature, and in public opinion, and in political acknowledgement of the scientific consensus, and in personal anecdotal memories, all have been substantially greater in magnitude than the fluctuations in scientific opinion (needless to say), and largely have been driven by political processes and economic motivations that are scarcely scientific and commonly are not even rational.

          • FooQuuxman says:

            @Murphy

            The Ice Age panic “myth” is a recurring background element of Dr. Who from that era. Unless you are going to claim that the ad-makers edited the episodes (must be some damn good photoshoping), or time traveled back the edit the scripts (maybe we can convince them to recover the missing episodes for us?).

          • Murphy says:

            @Glen Raphael

            You only remember it if your only source of information at the time was crappy poorly informed newspaper headlines.

            The vast majority of real research at the time was predicting the opposite: warming. What you remember is people who couldn’t find their arse with both hands at the time either making things up or pointing to a tiny fraction of the research at the time. Not the real majority of researchers.

            Repeating it makes everyone around you stupider. Daily mail headlines from 40 years ago don’t become more informative over time. They continue to be poorly informed tripe even with decades to mature.

            The whole problem is people pretending that “public perception” has much at all to do with what real researchers are saying and then using your poorly informed public perception from years ago to attack real researchers who have mostly continued to say exactly what they were saying before. You might as well cite your grandmothers belief in homeopathy to attack pharmacology while pretending that researchers back then believed in it just because your perception at the time was wrong and poorly informed.

            @William Newman

            A random British Labour MP is not a climatologist or researcher. I can dig out articles by british MP’s claiming that astrology should be used in the NHS to help with healthcare. That doesn’t mean the MP’s are remotely informed about real research and if your kin 40 years from now start complaining at someone that in their day astrology was the thing and cite this guy:

            http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/25/astrology-help-nhs-claim-conservative-mp-david-tredinnick

            Then all that will mean is that they were poorly informed readers who were more interested in poorly informed opinions from stupid people at the time. Not that current day epidemiologists wanted to bring astrology into the NHS.

            @FooQuuxman

            No, I mean it was a myth at the time. It wasn’t based on what most real scientists were saying at the time. Of course in more recent times people who want to attack those real scientists and their modern equivalents have signal-boosted that old myth and tried to strengthen the belief that it was what scientists were actually saying at the time, which is handily supported by any old-timers who didn’t pay too much attention at the time and only remember the daily-mail type bullshit headlines who’ll happily repeat “oh ya, it was all about the upcoming ice age back then! all this sciene stuff must be a load of crap”.

          • James Picone says:

            Some of you are talking about what the public thought, and some of you are talking about what scientists thought. Something something gelman amnesia. Notice that even today a not-insignificant number of people in the public manage to conflate the ozone hole and climate change.

          • Chalid says:

            Not going to get into the weeds here but I’m pretty unimpressed by that list of articles. It covers a whole decade and to get to 100ish articles they have to reach all the way down to the Bangor (population ~30k) Daily News?

            I’m guessing you could assemble a similar list of warming articles from any given week today.

            If *all* of the articles were from the NYT then I think I’d acknowledge that cooling got a lot attention.

            Someone with more free time than I’ve got should run some NYT archive searches and compare incidence of cooling-related terms in the 1970s to warming-related terms recently.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            [apologies if this multi-posts – I’m having posting issues]

            @Murphy:
            Alas, you’ve been fooled by propaganda.

            There are two issues in play here. First there’s the popular press, then there’s scientific journals.

            First, the popular press. There were hundreds of articles in the popular press – books and magazines and newspapers – discussing global cooling. And no, this wasn’t just the equivalent of The Daily Mail. Periodicals involved included the New York Times, Popular Science, The Pittsburgh Press, the LA Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe. A list of over a hundred such article references can be found here. And you know what these article writers did at the time? They talked to scientists and asked them what they thought. Surely if you wanted to know what scientists believe, what they say to newspaper reporters might be a good place to start?

            But no, you say we should ignore that and look at scientific journals. So heck, let’s do that. But there’s a teensy little problem, which is that a scientist saying outright “I PREDICT COOLING!” or “I PREDICT WARMING!” does not constitute a publishable paper finding. A scientist who wanted to simply express sentiments of that sort might be more likely to talk to a newspaper reporter. Or write a book. Hey, maybe we should look at book titles from the time! (hint: you don’t want to look at book titles from that time.)

            So how do we determine from the published literature whether it is “predicting cooling” or “predicting warming”? Do we (where by “we” I mean Peterson & Connolley 2008) look at whether the papers involved do that? Nope! Instead we invent a PROXY!

            Here’s how it works. Let’s first posit (just as an axiom, sans evidence) that in the 1970s “everybody knows” CO2 is increasing and “everybody knows” aerosols are increasing. While we’re at it, let’s also posit that “everybody knows” aerosols cause cooling and “everybody knows” CO2 causes warming. (I would have thought some of this was what we were trying to find out, but no matter…) And let’s ignore any other reason for cooling or warming expressed in the scientific literature, because finding those papers might be hard.

            So there are some papers in the literature about the effect of aerosols on climate – we can list and count them by year. And there are some papers in the literature about the effect of CO2 on climate – we can count those. And there are some papers that discuss both CO2 and aerosols – let’s count those as well.

            Now what? Well, given the postulated stuff “everybody knows”, to me it seems like for a paper to predict net warming or net cooling, that paper would have to consider both CO2 and aerosols, balance those factors out and conclude that one factor dominates the other. So clearly our “cooling papers” and “warming papers” must be a subset of the papers we’ve listed that discuss BOTH factors, right?

            …just kidding! Nope, papers that discuss both get classified as “neutral” and ignored!

            So what does get counted as “predicting cooling”? Any paper about the effect of aerosols. And what gets counted as “predicting warming”? Any paper about the effect of CO2, even if the essence of the paper is that it predicts less CO2-caused warming than earlier papers had.

            So when we add it all together, it turns out this claim:

            The vast majority of real research at the time was predicting the opposite: warming.

            Translates into: there were more papers in the (late) 1970s that discuss CO2 interaction than discuss aerosol interaction.

            Which is true but kind of irrelevant to predicting warming.

            Also, even by their own weird irrelevant measure of what constitutes a “cooling paper” or a “warming paper”, there were years when the “cooling” ones arguably dominated.

            Consider Figure 1 either in the original paper or at the SkS summary here. The caption says “In no year were there more cooling papers than warming papers” but you can see this is false by reading the graph: 1971 was such a year.

            In 1971, there were more “cooling” than “warming” papers (2 versus 1). They also looked at a citation count; in 1974, the most-cited paper that they counted as one or the other side was a “cooling” paper (Chýlek and Coakley 1974, with 38 references). And in several other years the “warming” and “cooling” counts are the same.

            The whole problem is people pretending that “public perception” has much at all to do with what real researchers are saying…

            No, the whole problem is people like you trusting unreliable sources.

            TL;DR: there was indeed a “global cooling” scare in the 1970s, and if SkepticalScience tells you the sun rises in the morning, you should get a second opinion before believing it.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Chalid:

            [responding to my now-misordered post that follows it] I’m guessing you could assemble a similar list of warming articles from any given week today.

            I’m sure you could…and that’s kind of the point.

            The point of that list is just to show breadth – that it’s papers all over the world saying it. Not just a few, and not just the most sensationalist ones.

          • Chalid says:

            If it is trying to show breadth, it should not include four articles from tiny Maine towns.

          • James Picone says:

            @Glen Raphael:
            Dude, you’re linking to a guy who thinks this is a good argument, who links approvingly to Joanne Nova and Tim Ball (!) in his blog sidebar, who seems to think that the nazi photoshopping thing is remotely probative, has an Energy&Environment banner down the bottom (link appears to be dead, but it certainly used to be E&E), considers Judith Curry too alarmist, etc. etc.. You do not get to throw stones about reliability of sources.

          • Murphy says:

            “In no year were there more cooling papers than warming papers”

            I agree it’s poorly phrased but that’s not saying quite what you’re parsing from it. It’s a statement about the cumulative totals shown in by the lines in the graph. ie, the blue line is always bellow the red line.

            I have a bucket, each year I throw some red,blue or yellow stones into the bucket. year 1 I throw throw 3 red stones in the bucket, in year 2 I throw 1 blue stone in the bucket. In year 3 I throw 2 more red stones in the bucket. In no year were there more blue stones in the bucket than red stones.

            But yes, I agree the phrasing is awful.

            Popsci is still not real science and just as with modern journalism most of the time they never bother talking to the actual scientists, they splash a clickbait title while the author is shouting, ignored, in the background that what the papers are saying has nothing to do with what they actually published.

            I’m perfectly happy with anyone who wants to piss on popsci. It’s the anti-science cranks who use their vaguely remembered impressions from popsci of their youth as an excuse to attack/disdain real science now.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Picone:

            You do not get to throw stones about reliability of sources.

            In this case I do, in fact, get to throw stones about reliability of sources.

            Here’s the difference: you guys took an argument you found at SkS and just plain believed it. You didn’t think to check. You trusted that when SkS says there are 7 papers that “predicted cooling” and a boatload of other papers that “predicted warming”, that it was true – that somebody must have found papers that did those specific things. Because you trust that source.

            Whereas when I pointed you at a list of 114 articles I found on a random site I checked it. I didn’t just assume the list is valid because I trust that particular source the way you guys trust SkS. I did a spot check and verified the links work. Some are google archive links that let you read the whole article, others (eg, the LA Times) link to the paper archive where you can verify the title is correct and in most cases that’s enough to make the point.

            I checked BOTH sites – both the one I was attacking and the one i was defending – with regard to the accuracy of the specific claims relevant to the argument I was making. Your site failed that test in this instance; mine did not. This should cause you to update on how much to trust your sources in the future.

            Dude, you’re linking to a guy who…

            No, I’m linking to a list that guy compiled. Which seemed like a good way to forestall more “I remember an article that said X – Yeah, but that’s just ONE ARTICLE” nonsense. If there’s anything inaccurate about that list I’d love to hear about it, but I’m not so interested in claims like:

            “that same guy once made some entirely different argument I don’t like”
            -or-
            “that guy’s site has a link to a journal I don’t like!”
            -or-
            that guy links approvingly to people I don’t like.

            That way lies madness…

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Murphy

            “In no year were there more cooling papers than warming papers”

            Ah, so you think they left out the word “cumulatively”. What they meant was if you count “cooling papers” and “warming papers” exactly the way we do and start your clock at the year we did, the “cooling” ones don’t ever cumulatively outnumber the “warming ones.”

            Of course, if you started the count in 1971 it wouldn’t be true. But fair enough, I guess have to upgrade that figure heading from “false” to “misleading”. (What makes it misleading is really more the term “cooling papers” and “warming papers” – the math thing was just an amusing extra bonus.)

            This whole affair reminds me of other Cook projects like the 97% thing. It feels like somebody said “it would be really convenient to our argument if we could just claim the bulk of the scientific literature said X, so let’s try to find a way to make it seem like it does that”. And thus, a paper was born. Sigh.

          • James Picone says:

            @Glen Raphael:
            I think it’s very relevant that approximately all of the septic blogosphere is one link away from conspiracist lunacy; it’s a question of priors.

            Also I really don’t give a shit exactly how the media got climate change wrong in the 1970s. I will happily believe that they thought we were all going to die in a new Ice Age any minute now; the media are shit. If you’re claiming that that was mainstream scientific opinion, you’re wrong, and you’ve provided no evidence for that claim.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Picone:

            I will happily believe that [the media] thought we were all going to die in a new Ice Age any minute now; the media are shit. If you’re claiming that that was mainstream scientific opinion, you’re wrong, and you’ve provided no evidence for that claim.

            The main piece of evidence for the claim that mainstream scientists – not just journalists – were worried about the prospect of a new Ice Age is Rasool, S.I., and S.H. Schneider, 1971: Atmospheric carbon dioxide and aerosols: Effects of large increases on global climate. Science.

            According to the source SkS relies on, from 1970 to 1974 that was the most highly cited paper related to “warming or cooling or neutral”(with 144 cites). Among the articles of its time, it was one of the few that really can be accurately described as “predicting cooling or predicting warming”. Here’s what it said (emphasis added):

            Effects on the global temperature of large increases in carbon dioxide and aerosol densities in the atmosphere of Earth have been computed. It is found that, although the addition of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does increase the surface temperature, the rate of temperature increase diminishes with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For aerosols, however, the net effect of increase in density is to reduce the surface temperature of Earth. Because of the exponential dependence of the backscattering, the rate of temperature decrease is augmented with increasing aerosol content. An increase by only a factor of 4 in global aerosol background concentration may be sufficient to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5°K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease over the whole globe is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age.

            It’s a striking finding, one that came out of some of the first efforts at climate simulation. Rasool and Schneider did the media circuit; Washington Post articles like U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming accurately reflected Rasool’s views; the rest of the media took it from there.

            Peterson & Connolley 2008 is best seen as an attempt to obscure how influential that paper was in the early 1970s. And sure, if you go outside the window of 1970-1974 you can find “warming”-designated papers that were more highly cited…but if you check those papers you’ll see they even they mostly aren’t making the case “we should be scared of warming” to the degree that that paper made the case “we should be scared of cooling”.

            (Another thing you’ll notice if you check the reference counts in Peterson & Connolley is that many of the papers counted as “predicts warming” have either one or zero citations. They weren’t influential, they’re just in the list to pad the “number of articles” chart. You might also notice they included books in the “warming” category but only peer-reviewed journal papers in the “cooling” category – that really helped bump up the “citation” count at a key point in the chart!)

            Face it: you were snookered. Hoodwinked. Duped. Spun. If you still seriously want to claim there wasn’t at least in the early 1970s a healthy consensus behind the possibility of cooling you’re going to have to actually look at the papers, like I did. Don’t just take Cook’s (or Connolley’s) word for it.

        • Murphy says:

          Most of the time those “studies” are run by beer/wine companies and use unsubtle tricks like including people who can’t drink because of health problems, including liver damage from previous drinking under “non drinkers” then amazingly show that people who drink wine/beer/spirits are healthier than “non drinkers”.

          You can indeed get tiny quantities of fiber from coffee. If you don’t mind drinking 8 liters of coffee a day you might meet your minimum recommended fiber.

        • LPSP says:

          I’ve actually gone teetotall recently (couple of months ago by now), and I’ve had health gains across the board. This was in the wake of ugly hangovers after intense nights out, but since then I’ve tried drinking in a wide range of amounts and just disliked the negative impact on my thought processes and the day after.

          I’m still fine with alcohol as a thing, if someone has opened a nice wine and they offer me a sip I’ll try it but I won’t have a glass. I feel no need to go out of my way to drink or be receptive to drink for the sake of it, and I’m happy. Some of my best experiences have been hardcore drunk and slightly tipsy alike.

        • Mary says:

          “Study shows that red wine or beer is good for you and teetotalers are less healthy than moderate drinkers.”

          Not if you disaggregate those who always never drank, and those who never drink because they used to abuse it.

        • Virbie says:

          > Study after study fails to show deleterious effects of caffeine consumption until very high levels

          Aside from the deleterious effects on sleep quality/quantity, which can be avoided by limiting your consumption to the former half of the day.

          > Recommendations of sawdust-like whole grain flour which is essentially nutritionally similar to evil white grain flour (except fiber, which you can get from the coffee you’re not supposed to be drinking)

          I hate to assume people are being disingenuous on SSC, but I find it harder to believe that you have a model of nutrition that’s based solely on adding ingredients together, irrespective of when and in what combinations they’re ingested. Drinking a soda and taking a multivitamin (and a fiber pill, later) isn’t the same as eating an orange. I’m being somewhat facetious with that comparison, but my point is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a credible source explaining why whole grains are healthier than refined without explaining that the manner of digestion of the grain’s starch is what makes the two different. Specifically, the fact that the accompanying fiber in whole grains slows the breakdown of the starch and the accompany insulin spike.

          I think you were probably joking with this latter part, but coffee is nowhere near a good source of fiber (except as a supplemental source). Four 8 oz cups of coffee[1] would get you roughly the amount of soluble fiber in a slice and a half of whole grain bread and the amount of insoluble fiber in zero slices of whole grain bread. This adds up to 1/7th and 0/7ths of the respective recommended amounts.

          [1] I’m not much of a coffee drinker because it makes me jittery, so I’m mostly basing this amount on the amount of coffee I see most of the people I know drinking (though this is of course affected to some degree by what the recommendations say). I don’t know that many people who would drink more than 3 cups regardless, in part because you’d have to drink them all in the earlier part of the day if you wanted to avoid sleep effects

          • The Nybbler says:

            The glycemic index of whole-wheat flour is only slightly lower than that of white flour. And an 8-oz cup of coffee has 1.5g of fiber, whereas a slice of whole wheat bread has 2g of fiber. (0.5g for white bread)

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            Similarly to what you said on manner of digestion making a difference, green/black tea can contain more caffeine than an equal volume of coffee, but other part of tea help you process it more smoothly.

            I mean, you have Asians drinking tons of green tea as a matter of course at dinner, and that doesn’t seem to screw their sleep schedules. Or in the UK, afternoon black tea time.

  6. stargirlprincesss says:

    What do people think about App Academy. Is it still a good option?

    • Anon says:

      Triplebyte found that bootcamp grads are about as hireable as recent (CS) college grads, in their (presumably biased) sample.

      On Twitter, one of the authors of that post said App Academy was one of the best bootcamps in their data.

      So, probably pretty good! Keep in mind that it largely requires you to give up the rest of your life for three months, though.

      • Amit says:

        This isn’t true. I graduated from App Academy last year and it wasn’t an overly stressful experience.

        Focused, certainly. And I was usually studying most of Sunday. By my guess, the average student put in 60 to 65 hours a week – which is a lot, yes; but less than the 80 or 90 their website claims.

        But keep in mind that 10% dropout is normal. Without a more detailed conversation, I’d say – if you have prior programming experience or have an IQ higher than 130, you’ll be fine.

        As for getting hired? Most people do, at a great salary, although with some degree of effort.

    • Sean Walker says:

      I graduated from App Academy last year, and am now employed as a software engineer. The curriculum continues to give a solid, broad base of skills for full-stack software development, and they’ve tightened up the job search part recently.

      If you’re looking to get into software development and can handle the high workload, I absolutely recommend it.

    • eh says:

      I work with someone who retrained as a dev at HackReactor. General consensus is that it, and other coding schools, teach you how to be a good developer but are light on theory, while a degree will teach you theory without as much practical utility.

      One important thing to note is that almost nobody needs CS theory in their day job, and when they do they just end up copying from obscure papers they found on google scholar. That, or the boss goes head-hunting in maths departments.

      • Matthias says:

        Some CS theory goes a great while passing Google-style job interviews.

        That probably says more about the interviews then about the usefulness of theory, though. I like theory, so I won’t complain too much about his state of affairs.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Much of CS theory is pretty useful, if you’re writing code which does things more complicated than taking data out of a database, performing simple transforms on it, and then putting it back into a database or creating a report (or web page). Unfortunately, this describes a rather large percentage of the code written. It’s also true that most of the basic applications of CS theory (and many of the more useful complex ones) have already been reduced to practice in code libraries, so you more need to know that they exist than how to write them.

          • Matthias says:

            Oh, I completely agree with you. My snarky answer was anticipating your point after “Unfortunately, …”

            Though I don’t think we should say “Unfortunately”, just the opposite: it’s a triupmh! `Normal’ programmers these days don’t have to reinvent sorting or finding paths in graphs; they can concentrate on the business / domain aspects of their problem.

      • Bryan Hann says:

        I pity the souls who end up trying to parse nested data with regular expressions. The horror.

        • eh says:

          One of the most horrifying gratifying experiences in life is realising that X is by convoluted means able to model a Turing machine, where X represents something that should not, under any circumstances, be used to model a Turing machine.

          Personal favourites include the C++ STL, Magic: The Gathering, the Haskell type system, and CSS3.

          • Chiffewar says:

            Wait what
            How can Magic: The Gathering be used to model a Turing machine?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Regular expressions, by definition, cannot model a Turing Machine. If you have an RE system that can model a Turing Machine, Noam Chomsky and Russ Cox will show up at your door to smack you with a wet fish.

            (To explain the joke: The Chomsky Hierarchy is a set of 4 types of languages; each of those languages maps to a type of machine (automaton) which can be used to recognize it. “Regular” languages are type 3, and can be recognized by discrete finite automata, which have no storage other than their internal state. Turing machines can recognize type 0 — unrestricted — languages. So if a regular expression library can be used to model a Turing machine, it can also recognize languages other than the regular languages.

            Languages with nested data are at least type-2, and hence are not regular and cannot be recognized by discrete finite automata.

            Russ Cox is the primary author of RE2, a regular expression library that really is limited to just the regular languages.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9SSOWORzw4
            )

          • eh says:

            The reason I brought up Turing machines is that I had no idea how powerful back/forward-references + recursion are in Perl’s “regular” [1] expressions, went to Google it, found an implementation of rule 110 that would take a row and output the next[2], was reminded of the CSS3 implementation, then went on a trip down memory lane.

            [1] Not actually regular. Side effects may include non-compliance with the pumping lemma, exponential running time, backtracking, and reclassification as a CFG/CSG. Consult your General Mathematitioner before use.

            [2] But not simulate the whole thing.

          • James Picone says:

            Another language that’s Turing-complete and probably shouldn’t be – UML.

  7. falennas108 says:

    I spent a decent period of time around someone with the flu the past few days, and above on not catching it myself other than lots of water and sleep?

    • Earthly Knight says:

      –Wash your hands incessantly.
      –Avoid touching your face-holes after contact with infected individual.
      –Get a vaccination six months ago.
      –If you’re an infant, elderly, or immunocompromised, get a prescription for oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in consultation with your doctor the second you start experiencing any symptoms.
      –Unless your friend/lover/child/workplace proximity associate has been diagnosed with the flu by a medical professional, there’s a very high chance that s/he does not actually have influenza. The flu season has run long (in America) this year, but it’s May, and the flu is rarer than other infections even in deepest winter. If the symptoms are predominantly respiratory, a cold is the most likely culprit; if they’re gastro-intestinal, it’s almost certainly food poisoning.
      –Scoff at anyone who isn’t a medical doctor and instructs you to ingest any substance for flu prevention. There is only rest and fluids.

      Note: I am in no way qualified to dispense medical advice.

      • Dahlen says:

        If you’re an infant, elderly, or immunocompromised, get a prescription for oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in consultation with your doctor the second you start experiencing any symptoms.

        ^This. Life-saver. If you got a bad case of the flu, it’s better to start taking it early rather than late, but better late than never. Note: you may not be either of the three and still be in need of oseltamivir. I found out about it after doing a Cursory Google Search while fighting asphyxiation and learning that trying to address the root cause of a flu with antibiotics and not antivirals is bunk. IIRC, Relenza is another such medication.

        (Also, presumably falennas108 is not an infant)

        • Deiseach says:

          If you got a bad case of the flu, it’s better to start taking it early rather than late, but better late than never.

          Interesting. About five years ago, we were in the middle of one of the “get inoculated against this year’s flu” campaigns and I decided to go get vaccinated on time for once but before I managed to get to the doctor, I got a dose of what was going round.

          So instead I asked my doctor for the Tamiflu prescription and his attitude was “Well, it’s no good giving it to you now , you’ve already got the thing”. But for once in my life I stuck to my guns, nagged him into giving me a prescription (I can feel Scott wincing from here) and it did cut the misery short remarkably.

          So is this just the remnants of an attitude in Ireland that you should suffer through things, or was the doctor wrong that it would do me no good? I certainly felt it did me good, but his attitude was clearly “it’s not going to stop you getting the flu now you’ve got it” (which is not what I thought it would do, to be clear).

          • Dahlen says:

            Tamiflu is at its most effective within the first 48 hours of contacting flu/experiencing the first symptoms. Your doctor seemed to have extended that into thinking it does nothing for you afterwards; as we both know now, it does.

            I’ve had a doctor try to talk me out of thinking about taking it (during a casual phone call, not a medical visit) based on the fact that she evaluated my discernment as trusting everything Dr. Google says, but fortunately the one that did evaluate me had the good sense to prescribe it. There just seems to be a general reluctance towards prescribing antivirals for flu. Dunno why that is. It certainly didn’t have any sort of horrible side effects… but I wonder whether the medical establishment worries about the situation with antibiotics repeating for antivirals (wherein people fail to take the medication for the prescribed period of time, after they stop having symptoms, which eventually leads to the natural selection of the most resistant strains and the creation of super-bugs).

            Edit: Oh, and it was also surprisingly unavailable in drugstores. Very limited supply. We tried 3 drugstores before finding one that had it.

          • Deiseach says:

            The push definitely seems to be towards getting people vaccinated rather than prescribing them antivirals, and maybe it’s for the reasons you say: worried about the same situation arising as with antibiotics.

            I normally would never have bothered with Tamiflu (my attitude, ironically, had been much the same as the doctor: “Well, if you’re already getting it, just tough it out with rest and fluids”) but since I had been knocked off my feet by the swine flu the year that was going round and it really drained all my energy and left me sicker than I’d ever been before, the next year I decided to get the inoculation and when I started getting fluey symptoms I went “To hell with this, I’m not risking it, I want the Tamiflu”.

          • keranih says:

            Public health officials are absolutely worried about resistance to antivirals. The CDC (and WHO) are already tracking resistant strains and the use of antivirals to manage influenza in poultry or swine is right out. (The response is to depopulate the infected group of animals and heat compost the bodies.)

      • Winter Shaker says:

        –Scoff at anyone who isn’t a medical doctor and instructs you to ingest any substance for flu prevention. There is only rest and fluids.

        I don’t know if it actually counts as ‘ingest’, but I am pretty positive about that Cold and Flu Nasal Defence Spray stuff that you spray up your nose that is supposed to coat your nasal cavity with a virus-killing goo. I like the Boots brand better than the Vicks brand – less gelatinous – and I seem to have been getting colds a lot less since I started using it. But if anyone has stats showing that is illusory (I am aware I’m a sample of one) then do link me.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          http://www.statsguy.co.uk/clinically-proven/

          “So, do I think that Boots Cold and Flu Defence is “clinically proven”? Absolutely not. There is no evidence whatsoever that it prevents a cold. There is no evidence whatsoever that it either prevents or treats flu.

          There is some evidence that it may help treat a cold. It’s really hard to know whether it does or not from the studies that have been done so far. Larger studies will be needed to confirm or refute the claims. If it does help to treat a cold, it probably doesn’t help very much.”

  8. HircumSaeculorum says:

    A while ago, you wrote a post that was, in part, about the lack of good poetry about hospitals. Have you read The Building, by Philip Larkin?

    • Deiseach says:

      There was the late Dannie Abse, doctor and poet, of Welsh-Jewish background:

      Pathology of Colours

      I know the colour rose, and it is lovely,
      but not when it ripens in a tumour;
      and healing greens, leaves and grass, so springlike,
      in limbs that fester are not springlike.

      I have seen red-blue tinged with hirsute mauve
      in the plum-skin face of a suicide.
      I have seen white, china white almost, stare
      from behind the smashed windscreen of a car.

      And the criminal, multi-coloured flash
      of an H-bomb is no more beautiful
      than an autopsy when the belly’s opened –
      to show cathedral windows never opened.

      So in the simple blessing of a rainbow,
      in the bevelled edge of a sunlit mirror,
      I have seen, visible, Death’s artifact
      like a soldier’s ribbon on a tunic tacked.

  9. Chiffewar says:

    Hi! I’m currently working on a research paper –– the kind that gets graded and probably not published, unfortunately –– on Jewish atheism. It’s tentatively titled “Repurposing Ritual: On Sincerity, Complex Motivations, and the Ethics of Jewish Atheism.” If you identify as a Jewish atheist or an atheist of Jewish background, and you want to help me out, answer the following:
    1) How would you describe yourself? Jewish atheist / atheist of Jewish background / other. Feel free to elaborate –– why Jewish? why atheist? If one of those identities is more important than the other, which and why?
    2) Which Jewish holidays / rituals do you observe, if any? Why? In what other ways do you interact with Judaism?
    3) There are some apparent contradictions in the term “Jewish atheist”. How do you resolve these?
    4) How do you view the ethics of Jewish atheism? Can you be an atheist and still lay claim to Judaism? Is it intellectually honest? Is it culturally appropriative? (If that phrase gives you hives, skip it.)
    5) Is there anything else you’d like to add, about either your experience as a Jewish atheist or your thoughts on Jewish atheism in the abstract? I would love to read anything you’ve got.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Does it count if I don’t identify as Jewish but have the minimum one grandparent for the Law of Return / Nuremberg Laws? There’s a fair number of us Mischlinge here I think, a lot of whom are atheists.

      • Chiffewar says:

        I’m most interested in atheists who still keep some Jewish observances, but if you have strong opinions on any of this, absolutely I want to hear them.

    • wintercaerig says:

      I’m a rabbi, and most of my close friends/family are also rabbis (LW MO, RW “halakhic egalitarian,” ex-hareidi, a mixture, except I should say that liberal Judaism in its classical form is underrepresented). I have not heard the attitude that Jewish atheism is in any way appropriative.

      I know many rabbis who are uninterested in the concept of God, although they would not deny that God exists — but neither would they be likely to bring the idea up, because the richness of religious discussion for them lies elsewhere (ie rabbinic literature and Jewish law). I think there is a traditional and honourable place in Judaism for the declining-to-speak-or-think-about-God person which seems to me perhaps oddly cognate to that slot in secular/Western culture called “atheist.” Perhaps there has been little pressure in many Jewish communities in history to explicitly deny God since belief in God has never really been used in and of itself as a marker of Jewish religious identity, and since Jewish law prefers a practicing atheist Jew to a God-believing non-practicing Jew.

      In one of my rabbinic exams, my teacher asked me what the reason was for a particular religious law. I said, “I guess the reason for it is that God said so.” This answer almost caused me to fail the exam because it was considered such a useless rationalization. The exam was in the context of Orthodoxy, although of course note that in very many subgroups of Orthodoxy, “God said so” is considered a perfectly valid explanation.

      • Chiffewar says:

        This is super interesting! You’re actually the second person who’s said that to me this week –– that “Jewish law prefers a practicing atheist Jew to a God-believing non-practicing Jew.” On one level I find that reassuring –– that Judaism demands actions but never prefers or flirts with preferring doublethink to honest mental dissent. But on another level I find it horrifying: how can someone decide not to care whether God exists? It’s the ‘encouraging others not to care whether God exists (and sweetening that deal with the promise of continued community membership)’ part that strikes me as most ominous. I don’t know. I’m reading Brothers K for an unrelated class; it’s all kind of blending together in my head, and my tired-brain is definitely grouping that idea with Ivan’s Grand Inquisitor. Which is not exactly an argument against it, but it doesn’t do much for the ominousness either.

        • suntzuanime says:

          “The great thing about religion is it works whether or not you believe in it”.

        • Shieldfoss says:

          how can someone decide not to care whether God exists

          I realize this is going to be the standard pithy atheists answer, but: For the same reason I don’t care whether Smurresaglkjadsrfgfdgs exists.

          • Chiffewar says:

            Well. Okay. “How can someone decide not to care if God exists, proceed to carry on with a bunch of really time-intensive ritual stuff that was originally predicated on God existing, and then decide not to think about that?”

        • Frog Do says:

          It is weird how deeply sola fide has become accepted as dogma when thinking about religion.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I think it’s because of how heavily dominated our culture is by Christianity – people assume that all religions are vaguely like Christianity, with notions of sin and salvation and orthodoxy (which of course means ‘correct teaching’). Just look at fantasy religions – the Faith of the Seven and the worship of R’Hlorr (no way I spelled that one right), to use a popularly known example, are both very Christian-looking religions.

            However, in actual human history and culture, the majority of places and times haven’t given a damn what you believed. Say that there is no god but Baal, fine, but just make this sacrifice to Caesar and we’ll be good. Hinduism today, for example, only exists because it doesn’t emphasize belief – if Hindus had to believe the same things as other people labelled “Hindus” they’d never consent to all being lumped together like that!

          • Nornagest says:

            Just look at fantasy religions – the Faith of the Seven and the worship of R’Hlorr (no way I spelled that one right), to use a popularly known example, are both very Christian-looking religions.

            This is actually a more modern trend. For decades, and still quite often, the norm was to use a pop-Roman flavored polytheism, with or without an implied monotheistic God that no one actually worships in the background; Tolkien, the prototype for this approach, had one but not all his imitators did. Sometimes that got replaced by a vague light/dark deal that looked kinda like Unitarian Universalism might if it had evolved out of Manicheanism instead of Protestant Christianity. Occasionally the two even coexist, as in Eddings.

            I’m actually a big fan of constructed theologies based either on Dharmic-flavored weirdness or on Abrahamic heresies, though; the old style tends to be very shallow. Even when the gods are characters (and they often are), they rarely show the breadth or the philosophical complexity of real-world pantheons.

          • Ruprect says:

            Peter Hitchens has written that A Song of Ice and Fire is a depiction of medieval Europe without the moderating influence of Christianity.

            I’m sympathetic to the theory, but I can’t say I’m entirely convinced – seems to me that the events in the story are fairly consistent with life in actual Medieval history.

          • LHN says:

            In Tolkien’s case it was deliberate, since Illuvatar was the Abrahamic (and specifically the Catholic) God, but Tolkien was writing about a period of prehistory prior to revelation. And while he was allergic to allegory, he was also unwilling to include anything theologically false by his lights.

            So good people couldn’t properly worship Eru (since they hadn’t yet been told to), but shouldn’t worship anything else. (Resulting in the fairly nonspecific respectful observances we see with e.g., Faramir.) The Valar are archangels, who are obviously supposed to be the original basis for pantheons like the Olympians and the Aesir, but they don’t seek worship. (Though the Elves invoke them the way Catholics do saints, as intermediaries to the divine with specific areas of responsibility.) The rest of the way to imputed divinity is mortals’ muddled misunderstanding.

            Everything else in mortal religious practice prior to Abraham is indicated to be a combination of that dim half-memory of the Valar with outright Satanic insipration (e.g., the late Numenoreans practicing human sacrifice and Morgoth-worship).

          • Frog Do says:

            My point was more a specific Protestant dogmas has been stealth-universalized.

        • wintercaerig says:

          “a bunch of really time-intensive ritual stuff that was originally predicated on God existing”

          Aha, so a question is to what extent Jewish law IS contingent on seeking to do the will of God. Do you know the famous story in the Talmud of the Oven of Akhnai?

          God’s will is not considered a good basis for making Jewish law, whereas changes in nature, very serious changes in a social reality, or in our understanding of either of these generally are considered good bases for change; for example, discovering that spontaneous generation is not actually possible made a big difference in some areas of Jewish law, yet as we can see if God were to somehow be revealed and say “Change the way you treat those insects,” we would simply answer, like R. Yehoshua, “We pay no attention to a divine voice.”

          I’m not exactly a scholar of Christianity but it seems to me that it is pretty strange that the same word is used to describe both of these systems.

          • Harkonnendog says:

            if God were to somehow be revealed and say “Change the way you treat those insects,” we would simply answer, like R. Yehoshua, “We pay no attention to a divine voice.”

            This is shocking to me. (And maybe it shouldn’t be that shocking after reading about Jonah.) You’ve given me a gift, a new way of thinking while reading the Bible. Thank you!

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I am extremely interested to hear why God’s will is not considered a good basis for making Jewish law.

            Could you expand further upon that?

          • Julie K says:

            @Forlorn Hopes:
            A basic principle of Judaism is that the Torah will never be changed.
            i.e., it is impossible that a prophet would tell us, “Okay, from now on Jews are allowed to eat pork.”
            A new revelation of divine will could not supersede the original Revelation.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            But why does that principal exist?

            And why is the authority vested in the origonal Revelation considered to come from something (what?) other than the fact it’s from god?

          • brad says:

            Click the Oven of Akhnai link in the parent post. There’s an exegesis here which gives more context: http://thisisjudaism.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/The-Oven-of-Akhnai.pdf

            Finally note that R. Jeremiah lies by omission in his quote of the Torah!

            — Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline.

            but the context was

            Thou shalt not utter a false report; put not thy hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou bear witness in a cause to turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice;

            He omits the critical not.

            My take is that this is one of those stories in the Talmud that you aren’t supposed to take literally. The basic lesson is that the age of miracles is over and so don’t think you can claim to be a prophet and take over the Jewish community. When it is stated as “God’s will is not considered a good basis for making Jewish law” it is really saying “God’s will as evidenced by anything other than the Torah and Oral Law is not …”.

          • Julie K says:

            No, here is the complete verse:
            “לֹא-תִהְיֶה אַחֲרֵי-רַבִּים לְרָעֹת וְלֹא-תַעֲנֶה עַל-רִב לִנְטֹת אַחֲרֵי רַבִּים לְהַטֹּת”

            The section you bolded is the first 5 words, whereas Rabbi Jeremiah is quoting the last three words.

            Here’s a discussion of the verse (in Hebrew): http://www.yeshiva.org.il/wiki/index.php?title=%D7%90%D7%97%D7%A8%D7%99_%D7%A8%D7%91%D7%99%D7%9D_%D7%9C%D7%94%D7%98%D7%95%D7%AA

          • brad says:

            Sorry, I see I bolded the wrong part. But nonetheless isn’t R. Jeremiah cutting off the quote in a very deceptive place?

            Looking a bunch of English translations (I don’t read Hebrew) it appears that the sense of the verse is “don’t bear false witness to go along with what the majority wants” yet it is being deployed to offer support for the idea that R. Eliezer should bend to the will of the majority.

          • wintercaerig says:

            I wouldn’t say R. Yehoshua is lying. The way the Oral Torah uses the Written Torah is generally different from what people expect. This is in part because the Written and Oral Torahs are considered co-dominant authorities. It seems weirdest when you expect the Oral Torah to be a mere commentary on the Written.

            Authority is invested in Torah scholarship because it is good. When the community perceives it is not good, change occurs. One example of this is Prozbul: a law that was meant to aid the poor was discovered to in practice literally do nothing other than injure poor people, and required a very radical and committed rabbinic work-around. This process of change comes from traditional machinery itself and is, I think, too complex and culturally specific to get into here. Classical rabbinic thought is too different to impart an intuitive-feeling sense in a blog comment.

            Ramba”m, in his letter to Yemen, explains that the reward for behaving according to Jewish law is a community which behaves according to Jewish law. He compares the way it works to a body. The outward appearance of the body is compared to Jewish law, the inner workings of the body are human nature and necessity. The law is thus intended both an expression of reality and a beautiful way of holding it together. He contrasts this unfavourably with the “pretty statues” of Christianity and Islam, which in his opinion imitated the legal style of Judaism (commandments, etc) without the messy guts behind it.

            You are obviously getting the opinion of someone very invested in the rabbinic system but I hope this helps explain the perspective from which things make sense.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Wow, for some reason it’s really strange to think a rabbi reads my blog. I’m honored.

        But I have a question about your statement that “Jewish law prefers a practicing atheist Jew to a God-believing non-practicing Jew”. I heard the Mishnah says that all Jews have a part in the world to come except heretics, people who don’t believe the Torah was divinely revealed, and people who don’t believe in resurrection. Doesn’t that suggest a preference for believing-but-not-practicing over practicing-but-not-believing?

        (I hate to bother you about this, but I’m neither believing nor especially practicing, and it makes me sad that if Judaism is true I won’t have a place in the world to come, and if that’s actually not the right interpretation then I want to know about it)

        • Outis says:

          I mean, it could have been worse. You could have been born a goy.

          • Julie K says:

            Why would that be worse? Judaism doesn’t say that no non-Jews have a place in the world to come.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s a couple too many negations there. I spent a minute on your sentence and still can’t tell what it means.

          • Julie K says:

            Anonymous: Sorry, let me rephrase. “Judaism maintains that the righteous of all nations have a place in the world to come.” (I was interested to see how readily Google auto-completed that sentence.)

        • Frog Do says:

          Out of curiosity, why are you honored if you neither believe nor practice? The honor would imply some level of either.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Really? I’d be honored if the Pope read my blog, but that doesn’t mean I’m Catholic.

          • Frog Do says:

            A priest would be a better comparison, or a pastor. But priest and pastor and rabbi have different perceptions, and one of the things I’m interested in is relative perceptions of status of religious leaders from the seculars.

            Anyways, I find it interesting is all. Thanks for the response.

          • wintercaerig says:

            My read was not that he meant that a rabbi is an impressive figure and therefore a prize blog reader (ha) but rather that a rabbi does not seem to be a natural part of the rationalist community, and so it is a happy thought that his blog has a wider reach than his own “choir.”

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            As a jewish atheist, I would feel honored as well. All of the handful of rabbis I have interacted with have been educated in a wide variety of topics and just wicked smart. As far as I can tell, this is not just my personal experience, which is why rabbis are extremely respected in the jewish community. Of course, I do not speak for Scott.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Reading that link led to to the Seven Laws of Noah.

          Do not deny God.
          Do not blaspheme God.
          Do not murder.
          Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
          Do not steal.
          Do not eat of a live animal.
          Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.

          Is it just me or is the seventh one so jarringly out of place that you have to laugh and laugh and laugh.

          • Frog Do says:

            What is out of place about it?

          • Fj says:

            If that is The Law then it makes sense to also demand the establishment of the enforcement of The Law.

            Like, just in case people are damn stupid and would be, like, OK, let’s have these Laws and then go back to the business as usual, lol.

            —————

            Reminds me of that part in the New Testament, where Jesus was like, you guys, give all you have to the poor, seriously. Because that’s how you know that you really believe that the God would take care of you, like he does of the birds and shit. So come on, give all your stuff away.

            And then, oh you think that you can be righteous without giving all your stuff up? Nope, like the weeds in your garden your material belongings would distract you from righteousness. And really, if you guys had enough faith for a mustard seed you could do awesome shit, but you don’t obviously, so give all your stuff to the poor already.

            And then, but really, I came to separate the man from his father and sisters and mother and wife, stop having families, give all your shit to the poor and go praise God with Me, because your family is your worst enemy as far as achieving enlightenment goes, if you care about your family you don’t care about loving God enough. Obviously.

            And then, ffs, I tell you now, you guys who think you’re following my commandments while still being entangled with this material world, when the time of judgment comes I will tell you: I don’t know you, go away.

            ————-

            I mean, it seems that the ancients were pretty good at figuring out the fault modes of a Commandment, namely that people would just reinterpret it in a way that allows them to keep doing whatever they were doing. That New Testament thing had like three levels of protection against that (and still failed of course, seeing all those American Protestants who believe that being rich means that you’re blessed, L-O-L).

            So, what I’m saying is, seeing the seventh commandment to be “and you’d better follow the first six ones or else” makes total sense. Real people need that kind of a stick to make them follow the rules.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            What is out of place about it?

            The others are all really simple, “follow this one rule”. The last one is a one meta level above them.

        • wintercaerig says:

          There’s a lot to say about that mishnah; but we can start by noticing that belief in God is not among those three things. In fact belief is not the subject of the mishnah at all, but speech: “One who SAYS there is no resurrection of the dead, one who says the Torah is not from heaven, and the apikorus” (heretic).

          But isn’t the heretic the atheist? We don’t have to guess because the sages clarify later in the chapter (Sanhedrin 99b) that the term was used to mean either one who disrespects a sage, or who disrespects their peer in front of sage. There is a sensibility here of divinity but that divinity belongs to a text and its students rather than a figure of God.

          It’s also worth noting that the one they were imagining as denying resurrection of the dead was not a skeptic but a Sadducee. Denying resurrection of the dead was for some reason one of their most prominent beliefs and a big wedge issue between them and the Pharisees/rabbis. So although denying the resurrection of the dead might also be something that you do, I hope you will feel less sad knowing that the mishnah is not talking about you. Just as if there was a wanted notice and you too happened to be a white male of height X, it would not mean that the police were looking for you.

          Finally, saying that someone has no portion in the world to come sounds harsh, but this is not the language rabbinic literature to express something very serious. For that they would specify an actual penalty (take away their ability to be honored, shun them, fine them, beat them, withhold community assistance/support, psychologically punish them by saying that if we were able we would subject them to the death penalty [throw them off a cliff, pour lava down their throat, etc]). Actual penalties are used with regards to the things that rabbinic Judaism cares about more, like Shabbat violation, criminal activity, etc. Here we see that the mishnah has no recommendations about how the community should respond, and since it is very free with those recommendations in other circumstances, this means it thinks no response is necessary.

      • Julie K says:

        Don’t all the Orthodox subgroups agree that there are different categories of mitzvot, and that “because God said so” is the correct reason for chukim, but not for the other categories?

      • Deiseach says:

        I said, “I guess the reason for it is that God said so.” This answer almost caused me to fail the exam because it was considered such a useless rationalization.

        Reminds me of the attitude of William of Conches:

        [They say] “We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.” You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.

    • brad says:

      1) I generally say I’m was Jewish but non-observant. Sometimes I’ll say agnostic or atheist instead. I consider the primary difference between the three to be social rather than epistemological.

      I strongly identify with the Jewish culture and history. I don’t identify with any organized group of non-believers or have a strong emotional attachment to non-belief.

      I went to a conservative day school and attended synagogue regularly into my early 20s (I’m in my mid 30s).

      2) I go to weddings, funerals, brises and bar/bat mitzvahes at synagogues and don’t otherwise go much. Rarely (a couple of times a year) I’m visiting my parents and they drag me along. My parents have two seders every year and do a lunch for rosh hashana, I attend all three. Sometimes I hum prayer melodies.

      3) I see Jewish as an overloaded term. I meet a lot of the definitions, including the internal one. I don’t meet the definition that some American Christians want to impose but don’t even rigorously apply to other Americans that identify as Christians. Fuck ’em. Also some atheists hate anyone claiming to be Jewish because they think it blurs their message. Fuck them too.

      4) I have no qualms in this area. See #3.

      5) I have a fair bit of contempt towards haradi. It is especially embarrassing / annoying when I observe or read about them cheating the government or business counterparties. I’m neutral to positive on MO. I have mostly positive feelings about the conservative movement. I don’t like reform services — they seem fake and hokey — but I have nothing intellectually against reform and reconstructionist.

      • Chiffewar says:

        Completely with you on the prayer-melody humming. Jewish music — prayer or otherwise — is catchy AF. My essay-writing playlist currently consists of camp Hava Nagila on repeat. (Possible content warning for anti-semitism. My Russian is too shitty and I’m too tired to piece together all the dialogue. But whatever else it is, it is gloriously camp.)

      • Pku says:

        “Mathematicians call it abuse of notation; we in CS call it overloading” – Dan Spielman.

    • zensunni couch-potato says:

      1) I’m a Jew who doesn’t believe in G-d. I’ll elaborate in #3.

      2) Growing up, my family observed Shabbat (though without the restrictions on electricity, etc), went to synagogue on “major” holidays, said the correct prayers before meals, and kept a kind of pseudo-kosher (seperate dishes for meat and dairy, no pork).

      When I was 13, the Conservative congregation where I went to Hebrew School informed my parents that since they hadn’t paid dues (separate from Hebrew School tuition) in two years, I couldn’t have my Bar Mitzvah there. My Hebrew teacher found a local Chabad House that was willing to host, which exposed me to the very charismatic Chabad rabbi’s influence, which led to a 2-3 year phase in which I prayed three times a day and generally tried to my best to observe all the parts of halacha that my family never did.

      By the time I was 16, a combination of new teenage priorities in life (like girls and fitting in, however unsuccessful I was at both enterprises) and greater exposure to science and humanities had led me to abandon my aspirations of orthodoxy, though I remained involved in a (largely secular) Jewish youth group.

      Today, I have a mezuzah on each of the doors of my apartment, but otherwise only attend to religion for family functions. The one exception being that after my each of parents died, I would occasionally attend services to say the mourners’ kaddish during the prescribed mourning period.

      Although I still (not unlike our host, I think) find myself fascinated by subjects related to Jewish theology, esp. the finer points of Jewish law and deeper mysteries .

      3) To me, Judaism is only one part of being Jewish. I have a strong sense of being part of an ethnic group that has beat thousands of years of adversity. I don’t believe the ethical, cosmological, or historical claims of Judaism, but so what? Any objective scholar will tell you that all that stuff, even the monotheism, has changed over time. I find my heritage fascinating, and I think it’s worth at least some effort to preserve that.

      4) a. I don’t think that “Jewish atheism” is an organized enough body of thought to have its own ethical system. A lot individual secular Jews have had enormous influence on ethical philosophy, but their views are as different from each other as it’s possible to be.
      b. Yes, for the reasons I gave in #3.
      c. I think it’s perfectly honest to identify with a culture without accepting all the claims made by the intellectual authorities of that culture throughout a very long and varied history.
      d. Even granting the assumptions of the worldview that says cultural appropriation is a thing, I think I’m entitled to treat my cultural identity however I want.

      Edit: 5) Apart from my personal interest as a Jew, I think there’s something oddly fascinating about the Jews and their outsized influence on the world. I find Cochrane, Hardy and Harpending’s explanation the most compelling, and possibly extremely important to mankind if we ever want the ability to improve the human condition through genetics.

      p.s: If you’re confused why someone with “zen” and “sunni” in their handle is talking about being Jewish, it’s an obscure Dune reference I’ve been using for years, nothing to do with my identity or beliefs.

    • Pku says:

      1) I generally say I’m Jewish but not religious. “Not being religious” isn’t really an identity, in the same way that not being french isn’t really part of my identity. Being Jewish is an identity in the way described in “the ideology is not the movement”.

      2) I observe some holidays (mainly Hannukah, Passover, and Sukkot) when I’m home with my family (which hasn’t happened in a couple of years). I also usually fast on Yom Kippur – partly as a way to connect with my cultural background, and partly because a 25-hour fast is long enough to be an interesting experience (without being particularly painful). I also sometimes get invited to sabbath dinners and such with more religious friends. I go along with it because, while I’m not religious, it’s a way to connect with people. (tribalism!)

      3) Again, “the ideology is not the movement.”

      4) I think so. I do actually feel a bit bad about cultural appropriation sometimes, but my more religious friends always stress that everyone (well, who’s jewish by blood) is welcome (often to an uncomfortable degree). And parts of my family are religious and do love me, so having parts of my clear ingroup who are also clearly religious gets me over it.

      5) There’s an interesting difference between american jewish and israeli jewish culture, to the point that jewish american culture is probably further from israeli jewish culture as the average american culture. But when I came here american jewish culture was super welcoming and nice to me, which was a bit strange (I don’t think they quite realize how different we are), but very nice of them.

      • brad says:

        FWIW, I’m quite aware of the alienness of Israeli culture. But to be fair to those that aren’t, the birthright program is pretty much deliberately designed to foster the deception of closeness.

        The part that I find most annoying is the implicit claim that it is the one true authentic Jewish culture, when actually Ashkenazi Jewish culture is better preserved in NYC than anywhere in Israel. In fact it looks to me like there’s been a conscious effort to erase that culture in Israel. It’s all humus and falafal as far as the eye can see. Nary a deli or appetizing store in sight.

        • Y. Ilan says:

          Why should Israel conserve Ashkenazi exile culture? Speaking as a completely Ashkenazi Israeli, I see nothing wrong with the organic fusion of Jewish cultures and traditions that has happened here throughout the years and continues to happen. It is for the best long-term that Israeli Jews are basically becoming one more-or-less united ethnic group. We’re not there yet, but ultimately I think that this kind of unity is important for our survival.

          • Deli seems like a loss. I’m not saying there’s a need to replicate the whole culture.

            Or is it that deli only makes sense in colder climates?

          • brad says:

            There’s nothing wrong with it per se, but the result is Israeli culture, which is a Jewish culture but not Jewish culture simpliciter. Many Israelis, in my experience, seem to either explicitly or implicitly deny this.

            Similarly, Israeli Prime Ministers don’t speak for the Jewish people. Never have and never will.

          • Y. Ilan says:

            There’re some nice deli places in Tel Aviv; there’s one specific place near Florentine I’m thinking about. Of course it’s not as common as falafel or shwarma, I think because those latter two (especially falafel) are just cheaper, but climate may be part of it.

            I guess Israelis do tend to consider their own culture as the “official” Jewish culture. There is some inherent antagonism when it comes to diaspora Jewish culture, which is one explanation for why a lot of us think that way instinctively. Anyways, the truth is that Jewish Israelis are a rapidly growing population while diaspora Jews are not really procreating, and especially in North America assimilating quite rapidly. At this point Israeli leadership does not represent all Jews; in the not too far-off future, for all intents and purposes, it will.

          • brad says:

            Time will tell. Perhaps never will was a bit much; certainly Bibi never will.

            In the meanwhile circumstances as they are now are what is relevant, not what may or may not happen a century or two from now.

        • Yehoshua K says:

          I’m fairly sure that there were no delis in the shtetls. That’s an invention of New York Jewry, not a preservation of “authentic ashkenazi culture.” Also, most Israeli Jews are not ashkenazim, but sephardim.

          • brad says:

            Most as in a plurality or most as in a majority? How do you count mixed ancestry sabras and Russian not-really-Jews?

          • Yehoshua K says:

            Most as in most. To the best of my knowledge, upwards of 50% of Israeli Jews are of Sephardic ancestry.

            Russian not-Jews are not Jews; Jews of mixed ancestry (say, blended Ashkenazi and Sephardi, or Sephardi and Temani) are still a fairly small percentage, though I expect that will change over the coming generations.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      1. Jewish atheist or atheist of Jewish background, either or. Atheist is probably more important since I feel bad about claiming the Jewish identity.

      2. I was Bar Mitzvahed, I used to go to synagogue for high holy days, now I have a mezuzah and sometimes pray informally and sometimes light shabbat candles but that’s it. I’ve been studying Judaism a lot for Unsong and I guess that’s where most of my interaction comes from these days.

      3. By saying “an atheist of Jewish descent who is interested in Judaism”

      4. I don’t think it’s culturally appropriative because all Jews and rabbis and authorities I know say it isn’t and that they want Jews to do that. I used to know a Chabad rabbi who was very insistent that even if you are only 0.00001% of the way to being any kind of an observant Jew, God and Judaism still prefer that you identify as such.

      • yaacov says:

        Why do you feel bad about claiming the Jewish identity?

      • Yehoshua K says:

        Personally, I don’t buy the whole idea that it’s somehow wrong to learn from or borrow from other cultures. In any event, certainly we (Orthodox Jews) prefer that secular Jews identify as Jews rather than not.

    • yaacov says:

      1) I’m a Jewish atheist. Jewish because my parents were Jewish, and their parents were Jewish, and so on… It’s a ethnic/cultural/national thing.
      2) I live in a co-op full of other Jews, most of whom are to some degree religious. So I do the stuff that other people in my community do. I go to my parent’s house for holidays (they’re Orthodox) to celebrate with them. The rituals I do keep are more-or-less Orthodox, because that’s what the people around me are doing.
      3) I don’t see ‘Jewish’ as primarily a religious descriptor, so I don’t see the term as contradictory. Orthodox Jews would call a Jewish atheist a Jew if his or her mother was Jewish. Being ‘Jewish’ has nothing to do with your personal beliefs, it’s just about whether or not you meet the tribal membership conditions (Jewish mother or conversion).
      4) I enjoy thinking about the Jewish religion. I talk about Hasidism or get into arguments about Halacha on a semi-regular basis. I don’t think the Jewish religion particularly influences my ethics though.

    • I think the reason belief in G-d is so unimportant in Judaism has to do with the idea that Jews had direct interactions with the deity, and that story/information was passed down through generations. In other words, G-d’s existence is taken for granted, as a matter of solid fact, not a test of belief.

      At some level, atheism (among practicing Jews) is like disbelieving in the existence of your landlord, someone perhaps you have never met in person. As long as you send in the rent checks on time, it doesn’t matter to your neighbors or the landlord what you think about him.

      • zensunni couch potato says:

        That’s a great metaphor

      • Yehoshua K says:

        I don’t think that belief in God is unimportant in Judaism. See, for example, the beginning of Mishneh Torah (Foundations of Torah 1:6), where Maimonides states “The foundation of foundations and pillar of wisdoms is to know that there exist a primordial Being; that He grants existence to everything that exists; and that everything that exists, whether in heaven, on earth, or between the two, exists only because of the truth of His existence. 2. In the event that He should not exist, nothing else would be able to exist. 3. But if nothing else were to exist, He would nevertheless exist. He would not be nullified by their nullification, because all creatures depend upon Him, but He, may He be blessed, does not depend on them, or on any of them. Therefore, His truth is unlike their truth…6. Knowledge of this matter is a positive commandment, as it says “I am Hashem your God.” Whomever thinks that some god exists aside from this One violates the prohibition of “You shall have no other gods before Me.” He denies the main point, for this is the main point upon which everything depends.”

        See also the first gloss of Rabbi Moshe Isserles (better know by his Hebrew acronym, the Rema) on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 1:1, where he states “‘I have placed Hashem before me always’ is a major principle of Torah and a major aspect of the good traits of the righteous who walk before God. For a man conducts himself differently when he is by himself in his house than when he is in the presence of a great king; neither is his speech when he is surrounded by his own family similar to his speech when in the royal palace. How much more so (will his conduct be refined) when he takes to heart that the Great King, the Holy One Blessed be He, whose glory fills the world, stands over him and sees his deeds, as it says ‘If a man hides himself in secret places, shall I not see him, says Hashem.’ Immediately he shall be seized by fear and submission before Hashem, the Blessed One, and shall be humbled before Him. (Source: Guide to the Perplexed, section 3 chapter 52).”

        See also the Mishna Brurah there, Biur Halacha that starts with the words “Is a major principle,” who explains that every Jewish man and woman is constantly obliged in six particular commandments; namely, belief in God, not to believe in other gods, belief in God’s unity, love of God, fear of God, and not to get involved in physical passions or heretical ideas. (The last should perhaps be divided into two separate commandments, making seven constant commandments in all.) He explains that in contrast to other commandments, which apply to some people but not all, or at some times but not all, or under certain circumstances but not all, these commandments apply to every Jew, man or woman, at every moment and under all circumstances.

        • Perhaps “unimportant” should have been modified by “comparatively”. Belief is so central to Christianity that, lacking very specific beliefs, one ceases to be considered a Christian. Almost every denomination of Christianity is defined by what its adherents believe. Yet a Jew continues to be a Jew, regardless of beliefs.

          • Yehoshua K says:

            From a religious perspective, what does it mean to say that a Jew who ceases to believe in Judaism remains a Jew? Simply that he remains obligated to obey the Torah in every detail, and will be called to account for his failure to do so, down to the smallest points. Obviously he’s not a member of the faith community of Israel, and this has practical ramifications in Jewish law.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      1) I am indifferent between “Jewish atheist” and “atheist of Jewish background”: the first is shorter, but possibly more confusing. The second is slightly more accurate.

      “Atheist” because I think it more accurately describes my beliefs, and is a better predictor of my values and opinions than “Jewish”. “Jewish” because, despite my younger self’s worries that it was somehow dishonest to identify with a religion/culture/identity whose important tenets I didn’t hold to, it seems impossible to deny that someone who was raised in a Jewish household, went to Jewish schools until I was college-age, celebrated and still celebrates many of the holidays, etc., etc. is in some sense “Jewish”.

      As to which one is more important–they’re important in different ways. Atheism is an identity I had to choose; I had to wrestle with myself for a while before I could accept that I was an atheist too. I probably have more in common intellectually and temperamentally with another de-convert than I do with most people of Jewish background.
      Judaism, on the other hand, is strongly associated with my family, and my family are quite close. Also, my childhood exposure to Judaism has probably strongly shaped me in ways that make my Jewish background an important part of who I am.

      2) I observe Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur and Pesach, and depending on my proximity to family I will also do things for Channukah. My family celebrates Shabbat every week, so when I’m nearby I will attend that too.

      I fast for Yom Kippur and will sometimes make an effort to avoid obvious bread products during Pesach, but otherwise I don’t really observe any rituals.

      Most of my interactions with Judaism happen during holidays, or through family, mostly at Shabbat dinners. I also maintain an interest in Jewish history, mythology, etc. I also suppose that I pay more attention to political and cultural issues involving Judaism in some way.

      3) As I mentioned above, a decade or so ago I really struggled with whether I ought to be considered “Jewish” in any meaningful way. I think the way I reconciled myself to the idea that I was Jewish despite being an atheist was to think of “Jewish” as referring to my cultural inheritance and upbringing: I was Jewish insofar as my family celebrated Pesach and not Christmas, for example, and was otherwise raised in a Jewish milieu. To me, the “Jewish” in “Jewish atheist” doesn’t refer to Jewish beliefs, it refers to Jewish cultural practices. This is why I will use “atheist of Jewish background”–I think it makes this point a little clearer.

      4) I don’t see why being an atheist would preclude me from laying some claim to Judaism, especially if my claim is a claim of cultural inheritance. I was unambiguously raised Jewish, my schooling was Jewish from ages 6-18, I attended shul regularly until my early 20s–I think my claim to Jewish culture is as strong or stronger than many people I know who are more religious than I am, and who identify more strongly with Judaism. It can feel a little appropriative to have opinions on religious issues (e.g., the recent decision by Conservative Judaism to allow eating kitniyot on Pesach) when I ultimately have no skin in the game, but it’s pretty mild.

      5) Nothing I can think of now, but I might add more later.

    • Anatoly says:

      1. I’m an atheist and I’m Jewish. They’re important in different ways and do not really conflict.
      2. “Observe” is vague. I observe most of them in the sense of being aware of them, having a holiday-appropriate table set up for my family, lighting candles on Hanukkah, and I go as far as read some portions of Haggadah on Passover. I observe none of them in the sense of going to the synagogue, actually intoning all the right prayers at the table etc. Why? – logistically it’s easy and expected because I live in Israel, culturally it’s fun especially for the kids now that I have some.
      3. You should be aware that the American way of treating “Jewish” as mostly/wholly a religious notion is not universal. Elsewhere in the world “Jewish” is often treated as an ethnicity not a religion, so “Jewish atheist” is exactly like “Irish atheist”. There’s no contradiction.
      4. “Can you be an atheist and still lay claim to Judaism?” “Lay claim” is vague. I see Jewish traditions, including explicitly religious ones, as a part of my cultural heritage I’m inclined to respect in a vague-half-empty way, but will choose to honor or ignore based on my ideals and beliefs.

    • Anthony says:

      1) Secular Jew. I call myself a Jew because I identify strongly with Jewish history, and especially with the lineage of Polish/German Jews that runs through my dad’s side of the family. I’ll elaborate on contradictions in 4. I call myself secular to distinguish myself from religious Jews. I don’t call myself a Jewish atheist because atheism has nothing to do with my identity, (though I am an atheist).

      2) None, basically. Passover, occasionally, if I’m at my parents, but even that is so half-assed it barely counts. How else do I interact with Judaism? I tell Jewish jokes, I have lots of Jewish friends, I read too much Philip Roth, and I use my prehensile beak to deliver earth-shattering clitoral stimulation (on shiksas only — I’ve never been with a Jewish woman comfortable with the act).

      3) I do not see the terms as remotely contradictory. “Jewish” can be a reference to religious belief or ethnicity. I apply the term to myself solely in the latter sense.

      4) First, I don’t think it’s intellectually honest to claim that there’s an “ethics” of Judaism, atheistic or not. Jews have been socialists, merchants, tax-collectors, slave-owners, abolitionists, conservatives, peasants, city-folk, and so on down the line till the end of time. I don’t think it’s intellectually honest, for that matter, to claim any ethnic tradition as one’s own. I don’t own my dad, or his dad or mom, and their experience is remarkably remote to me. If you were an alien coming down to earth, you’d view me (I think) as a human, an American, upper-middle class, and a lot of other classifications before you came to “Jew.”

      I identify as Jewish nonetheless. It’s pragmatic and emotional. Pragmatic because it gives me a legacy to live up to — I can choose to replace “Judaism” with “secular humanistic Judaism” and then behave in such a way that “Jews” (those among them that I care about) would be proud of my behavior. Emotional because… what’s the use of giving reasons for emotion?

      5) “LET’S PUT THE ID BACK IN YID!”

    • Julie K says:

      Jewish theist here, so this isn’t so helpful for your paper, but there doesn’t seem to be much concern in general about cultural appropriation of Judaism, maybe because we’ve had a couple centuries to get used to the idea of Jews who pick and choose what they observe, and repurpose and re-form Jewish rituals, maybe just because the charge of cultural appropriation is usually invoked when the person doesn’t have any ancestral link to the culture in question.
      That reminds me of an article I read about 15 or 20 years ago about some women who were created feminist pagan rituals based on the Jewish Rosh Chodesh observances. The article noted that this had the advantage, versus using Native American observances, that they wouldn’t be accused of cultural appropriation. (Possibly not using that exact phrase.) I remember thinking that it would be more accurate to say that no one whose opinion they respect would be offended.
      It would be amusing to tell someone who’s having a social justice Passover Seder that what they’re doing is cultural appropriation…
      By the way, speaking of atheism and Judaism, I was pleasantly surprised that the bits of the LW-o-sphere that I’ve seen don’t have the level of animus for right-wing Israelis and ultra-orthodox Jews that is typical among commenters at a site like the New York Times or the Washington Post.

      • Chiffewar says:

        ‘Social justice Passover Seder’ actually prompted a huge argument at the seder I went to this year –– people were very annoyed about the (apparently apocryphal?) orange thing.

        • Anonymous says:

          I wonder how many of those people complained about what my siblings and I used to call the cold war haggadah we used for a few years or the Hatikvah that seems to be springing up in every haggadah these days.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      1) Probably mixed Ashkenazi/Sephadi atheist. But I’m not particularly fussed about the exact words.
      2) Any that give me an excuse to see family I haven’t seen in a while. Not the same every year.
      3) I see no contradiction. The word “Jewish” is commonly understood to mean more than a religion. If you use it to mean an ethnicity or a culture, and that accurately describes you, then there’s no contradiction in Jewish atheism.
      4) It’s perfectly honest. If you don’t deceive people into thinking your religious or demand special dispensation on religious grounds despite not practicing there’s no ethical quandary. E.G. Don’t demand to go home on work early on Fridays if you’re going to use that time playing computer games rather than upholding the Sabbath.

    • Y. Ilan says:

      1) I’m a Jew who doesn’t believe in any sort of divinity. An agnostic more than an atheist – I don’t think that categorizing myself as a “non-believer” is useful for anything. I merely don’t consider the existence or inexistence of God to be something that I should concern myself with. My Jewish identity is paramount. I was born in Israel, lived in Canada for several years, and have been back in Israel for several more; I feel much better living amongst other Jews here in Israel, because of a shared culture, behavior and life experience. I am thus Jewish ethnically and culturally, which to me seems like enough of a strong identity without having to involve religion into it.

      2) Like most Israelis, I celebrate most of the major religious holidays with my family, although not all of them every year. I would say that Passover is the most significant, and sometimes we get to read all of the haggadah (which I actually tend to enjoy). I don’t fast on yom kippur nor do I rest on the shabbat; maybe once I have my own family I’d start including more of these rituals into my life, but who knows. To me taking part in Jewish religious practice is about tradition and family more than anything else, a way of keeping people together.

      3) I don’t see anything contradictory about the term “Jewish atheist.” Jews are an ethno-religious group, and thus being a Jew is firstly about ancestry (and the culture that comes with it) and only secondly about religious practice. The Druze, for example, are another such group; most Druze barely know anything about their religion (as it is somewhat secret), yet they still consider themselves Druze.

      4) Since I don’t believe there is any contradiction in the term, there’s nothing inherently unethical about being a Jewish atheist. At least as long as said atheist is not actively working against other, more religious Jews merely because of their religiosity. For example, I’ve met strident Jewish atheists here in Israel who are very malicious in their view of the more religious; they tend to hold a kind of patronizing outlook and reject all Jewish tradition and practice as primitive. If atheist identity involves this kind of conflict-mongering, only then does it become immoral.

    • Izaak Weiss says:

      1) Jewish Atheist. I’m culturally and (partly) genetically jewish, but I just don’t believe in G-d. (I usually don’t censor that, but for some reason I feel like I should in this context.)
      2) I observe the high holidays, passover, and hannukah, plus others whenever I’m with my more religious extended family or decide to, on a whim. This makes me more observant than most American Christians.
      3) Judaism is 3 simultaneous identities; Culture, religion, and ethnicity. People who have all three, or none, have no conflict. Those of us who do must struggle with it, and I tend to try and not resolve the question, but instead dissolve it into three questions which can be easily answered.
      4) I haven’t thought about this in the past, so I don’t really have a response besides, “hmm, interesting.”

  10. Jill says:

    Great colorful photo of Pentacost, Scott. Thanks. May we fill each other’s spirits with insights and inspirations.

    • Julie K says:

      Nice play on words (Pentecost = 50). And if you retain this title for the bonus open threads, you can use a picture relating to the Jewish Pentecost.

  11. suntzuanime says:

    Is there any chance you could make the open thread link link to the most recent open thread instead of a list of open threads? That extra click is a heavy burden to bear. Thank you for your consideration.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Scott could do it manually, but that’s a bad idea because of the catastrophic failure mode. Automatic is what he said he wants, but it looks like it requires code. Not too bad, though.

      • Bakkot says:

        With very little effort indeed I could arrange that some link, say http://slatestarcodex.com/tag/open/?latest, would automatically redirect you to the latest post on load. It would be two page loads instead of one, though.

        Someone with some PHP + wordpress background, or I with several more hours than I really want to spend, could make it actually link to the latest post, but I’m not sure it’s that much gain over automatically redirecting after load. Maybe?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I think that option has the cleanest code.
          Presumably your redirect will be relative. Scott should make his link relative.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Sure, do that and I’ll change the link.

          • Bakkot says:

            http://slatestarcodex.com/tag/open/?latest now redirects to the first post on that page, after a half-second or so. (This change to the site may not propagate to your browser instantly.)

            In the interests of elegance, this works for any tag: e.g.

            Leave off the ‘?latest’ to get the list unmodified. Which you might want to link to somewhere, so people can find old threads they were reading or participating in – maybe in the open threads themselves?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The tag archive is already linked in the fine print: “tagged open.” Most people probably won’t figure it out, but the complete archive link at the very top is pretty discoverable and serves most of the purpose.

  12. gbear605 says:

    Do new “silent” open threads appear on the RSS feed?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      No.

      The Hidden Test Post appears on neither the front page nor the RSS feed, but does appear in the “recent posts” sideboard on the page of a post, though not in the sideboard on the front page. This is because it is marked “hidden.” There may be other ways of hiding with other behaviors. Some people like it being hidden from the RSS feed.

  13. The History of China Podcast had an interesting episode on an economic debate that occurred in the court of the Tang Dynasty in 734. They faced an ongoing currency crisis wherein the official mints couldn’t produce enough coinage to “meet the demands of trade.” This led to rampant counterfeiting.

    This account of the crisis seemed a little odd to me. Shouldn’t any amount of money be sufficient to meet the needs of trade at the right price level? This crisis had been ongoing for decades, so prices should have adjusted to the amount of currency available.

    Reading the source material, I think I’ve figured out what the problem was. The Tang enforced a series of official price controls, and it seems plausible that they could have habitually set agricultural prices too high. None of the primary sources seem to have reached this conclusion, but economics was poorly understood at the time.

    The crisis sparked a very interesting debate between a laissez-faire Confucian named Chang Chiu-lin—who wanted to legalize private minting—and many Legalist officials in the Tang court. There were interesting points made on both sides, some of which are surprisingly modern.

    For instance, a Legalist named Liu Chih believed that legal private minting would increase inequality, and that increased inequality would destabilize the nation:

    Now when people have riches in plenty, they cannot be exhorted by promises of rewards and when they are poor and hungry, they cannot be controlled by intimidation. Therefore if the law is not enforced and the people are not well governed, it is all because of the uneven distribution of wealth. If you allow the private casting of coin, the poor will certainly not be able to carry it out. I am afraid that the poor will become even poorer and will submit to service in rich houses, while the rich houses will take advantage of the situation to become even more presumptuous. (quoted in Herbert, 1976, p. 281-2)

    This argument could easily have come from Thomas Piketty or Joseph Stiglitz in 2016, and yet Liu Chih was making it in 734!

    I encourage anyone interested Chinese history or economics to read my whole write-up of the debate. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • Mary says:

      No, there can be insufficient coinage just as there can be insufficent of anything to faciliate trade. Gold rushes have often been followed by economic booms because of the increased money in circulation.

      And there was a Roman emperor who decided to brag by having small coins minted with a boastful slogan. Economic boom because it made it so much easier to make change.

      • So that wouldn’t be a shortage of coinage in general but a shortage of particular denominations. This seems about right.

        This could easily be exacerbated by the official price controls, especially in a system that used both silver and copper coins. There are records of people hoarding and melting down the official copper coins, indicating that Gresham’s law was at work and that the official copper coins were overvalued. Counterfeiters generally made coins with lower copper content than the official coins, and people accepted them eagerly.

        • Mary says:

          Can be a shortage of coinage in general. After all, it was invented to facilitate trade. That some merchants have coins does you no good if you’re one of the merchants or his customers who don’t.

      • onyomi says:

        Isn’t a post-gold rush economic boom just a result of inflation, as opposed to trade being easier to carry out?

        • Civilis says:

          Gold has value both as a currency and as a resource. Yes, there’s inflation after a gold rush, but I’d think that’s because of the increase in wealth, not the increase in currency to facilitate trade.

          My problem in trying to wrap my head around the complexity of this is at one point currency had both value as means to facilitate trade and as a material. A shortage of coins means a shortage of gold and silver. I want something that used to cost a fixed amount of silver, say a quantity of salt or other tradeable good. There’s a currency shortage, so because currency is rare, I’m likely to get more salt for my quantity of silver. Is this because of the demand for silver in it’s function as currency, or the demand for silver as a trade good itself? The test is going to be: are people melting down non-currency uses of precious metals, such as their jewelry and silverware, to convert to currency usage?

          The closest I can think of in the present day to look for examples of currency shortages are either bitcoins or currencies in a regulated MMO economy. It would be interesting also to look at cases where there is a surplus of currency, like the stereotypical hyperinflation Weimar Germany wheelbarrow-full-of-bills. After all, paper has intrinsic value, even if that’s normally much lower than the value as currency. At what point in Venezuela’s economic collapse does it become logical to use the currency as toilet paper in place of currency to buy toilet paper?

          • onyomi says:

            In theory any quantity of money should be sufficient for all transactions because even if the world money supply of dollars is say, 4, I can still, theoretically buy a sandwich for .00000000004 dollars or whatever.

            Practically speaking, in a cash economy, if the cost of a sandwich is .00000000004 dollars and the smallest denomination available is .0001 dollars, you’ve got a problem. To some extent I think gold and silver probably suffered from this to some extent, historically, because even a very small amount of silver, to say nothing of gold, was probably a lot of money to a medieval farmer, meaning one had to shave and clip and weigh very carefully, I’d guess.

            With most money now existing as numbers in a computer, I’d say this practical aspect of the problem is mostly obviated.

            What continues to surprise me is how successful governments seem to be, historically, at shutting people down attempting to use alternate means of exchange besides the crown-issued currency. Certainly it’s happened many times, but in, e. g. Weimar Germany, why on earth did people carry around wheelbarrows of money and not just say, “uh boss, can you please pay me in silver or sacks of flour or something else??”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Strictly speaking, it’s not lack of currency that is the problem, it is deflation. In deflation, the trend is to stop buying things, as your money will by more things tomorrow. It’s the change in value of money, the money increasing in value over time, that is perilous to an economy. A typical case of deflation might occur with a fixed monetary supply and rising productivity per person,perhaps exacerbated by rising population.

            It sounds like in the case mentioned by OP, there were deflationary pressures that were being distorted by government requirements to keep prices fixed. That seems like it is going to lead to some weird outcomes like trying increase the supply of the money via other means (like counterfeiting).

          • onyomi says:

            “It’s the change in value of money, the money increasing in value over time, that is perilous to an economy.”

            Not always. Value of dollar went up big between Civil War and WWI and that was one of the best periods for the US economy.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            What continues to surprise me is how successful governments seem to be, historically, at shutting people down attempting to use alternate means of exchange besides the crown-issued currency. Certainly it’s happened many times, but in, e. g. Weimar Germany, why on earth did people carry around wheelbarrows of money and not just say, “uh boss, can you please pay me in silver or sacks of flour or something else??”

            Why on earth do you believe this didn’t actually happen? Sacks of flour are bulky and unwieldy, but tobacco-as-currency in Weimar Germany was a very well-known phenomenon. As another example, many divisions of the SA were paid in sausage and beer, because countries just love their own stereotypes.

            I also don’t think blaming governments is very accurate a thing to do; certainly there were no policemen and soldiers threatening to shoot everyone who was going to stop paying people in Mark and deciding to pay by other means. Germany had (and has) a very strong tradition of citizenry and faith in the state, and for people to continue believing in that even when times are bad is their fault more than anyone else’s.

            Hell, I can’t even really think of many ways where attempts to shut down the use of currency other than the official ones were very much made, let alone succesful. Prior to the modern age, most states did not have the means, ability or even the will to attempt to do such things.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            The Civil War caused a massive spike in inflation. Some chunk of the deflation just offsetting that seems like a reasonable hypothesis.

            And William Jennings Bryan delivers his famous “cross of gold” speech in 1896, which I believe is largely understood to be about the “crucifying” by deflation brought a bought by the gold standard. So, I don’t think your time line holds quite true.

            Deflation favors those who have money they can hold over those who need to buy goods. It’s not that there are only losers in periods of deflation.

          • onyomi says:

            Inflation favors those who get the new money first, i. e. the politically connected. No wonder politicians always favor it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Can’t tell if that is cynical or sarcasm.

            Assuming it’s cynical, inflation favors putting your money “to work” rather than stuffing it in a mattress, which is why the consensus economists’ view is that (a small amount of) inflation is good, and preferable to deflation.

            Frankly, I’ve never really understood why various libertarians think deflation is good. I understand why you might favor “gold as money”, but then you don’t come clean and say, “deflation is bad, but we will take it if we can get rid of currency controlled by the government.”

            I mean, I still think that argument is wrong, but it seems more honest to me. But the fallacy of the form “X is good, therefore everything about X is good” seems to be operating here, to my mind.

      • Julie K says:

        In 17th-century England, many tradesmen issued their own tokens due to a shortage of small coins.

        • LHN says:

          In the 30s, various US states, municipalities, and private organizations issued sales tax tokens to solve the problem of fractional cent taxes on goods when pennies (worth the equivalent of 15-20 cents now) were the smallest circulating denomination.

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

          I’m not seeing any sign that they were accepted as money proper (i.e., not as payment of sales tax). But I’d be kind of surprised if it didn’t happen on occasion.

    • MugaSofer says:

      >Now when people have riches in plenty, they cannot be exhorted by promises of rewards and when they are poor and hungry, they cannot be controlled by intimidation.

      This sounds like less an issue of inequality, but more an issue of wealth (in the libertarian sense of “wealth production”) – if this is true, even a very equal nation that lived in post-scarcity luxury would be impossible to motivate, and so would a starving post-apocalypse population.

      … except that you can offer rewards to the poor people and threats to the rich, so, y’know, whatever.

      • HircumSaeculorum says:

        The central idea of legalism is that people have things they love and things they hate, and that, therefore, they can be governed. I’m fairly certain that you’re right in your assessment of Liu Chih’s argument as one geared towards making the state governable and not toward creating prosperity or happiness.

    • Matthias says:

      In modern times we have the concept of `sticky prices’ especially for wages. We see unemployment rather than a big drop in wages in recessions.

      A modern solution to this problem could be nominal GDP level targeting. (See eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominal_income_target)

      Piketty, alas, has mingled labour and land. See eg https://www.prosper.org.au/2014/12/19/stiglitz-to-piketty-its-the-land/ (and http://www.henrygeorge.org/rem42.htm)

    • Bland says:

      Interesting write-up. Thanks.

      However, I do think the legalist Ts’ui Mien has at least the gist of a correct argument. I think you can cast his argument in modern terms as: Allowing private minting would cause labor and capital to move from other industries to the coin minting industry. Certainly this is true. You don’t seem to see this as a negative development, however, I agree with Ts’ui Mien that it is.

      Compare coin minting and agriculture as an example. Minting and agriculture are not equivalent industries. Agriculture produces food; the more people and capital that are employed in agriculture, the more food there is for people to eat. Coin minting is helpful to facilitate market exchanges, but increasing the size of the mint industry doesn’t provide anything that is inherently valuable, since the value of the coin was fixed by the price controls.

      So everyone is better off with a more-rice economy than a more-coin economy. I think the correct solution to the problem (assuming we can’t just remove the price controls) is to institute a system of government-backed promissory notes that are exchangeable for copper or copper coins at some future date.

      • Civilis says:

        My problem with this is understanding what private minting is supposed to do for the currency supply. Because the precious metals used have to come from somewhere, I can only come up with two ways private minting increases the currency supply:

        1. Decrease the precious metal content of the coins by making new coins from old coins, either smaller coins or coins with less pure metal content. This increases the number of coins, but not the amount of precious metal (value) in the system, unless the people trading for the coins are unaware that there’s less metal involved (in which case there’s a perceived increase in the amount of metal in the system). If the people trading for the coins are aware of the lower precious metal content, then all you’re doing is working around price inefficiencies caused by the larger coins for smaller purchases, I think. If I believe that my bail of rice is worth 10 100% silver 1-weight coins, I can accept either 20 50% silver 1-weight coins or 20 100% silver 1/2 weight coins. However, if I believe that fish you have is worth one half of a 1-weight silver coin (and that’s the smallest unit of currency), it would benefit me to have a 1/2 weight 100% silver coin to buy the fish with.

        2. Take precious metals not currently in the currency supply and convert them to coins, which increases both the number of coins and the amount of precious metal (value). It’s a lot easier to trade using constant weight coins than, say, your silverware set. This is important for two reasons: one, it’s an incentive for people to go out and find more precious metals. While a more-rice economy is likely better than a more-minting economy, a more-gold-and-silver-mining economy is likely better than a more-rice economy (you can buy food from somewhere else). Second, it eliminates most of the loss from people converting non-currency precious metals into currency. If the government makes the coins, you have to sell your silver-bearing rock you mined or your silverware to the government in exchange for silver coins, and you’re going to end up with less silver than you started with.

  14. Is anything known about how irritability works? There’s got to be a causal path from being overheated/hungry/PMSed/tired/etc. to finding the world to be infuriating.

    • Nornagest says:

      The obvious common factor there is just stress. Maybe this is one of those thrive/survive things.

      • Being cold doesn’t make people as irritable as being hot does.

        • The Saddest Marmot says:

          Does being cold really stress you out, though?

          As an anecdote the coldest I’ve ever been I just got progressively more and more tired, to the point where I quit moving and took a nap. I did eventually get up when I heard my brother get home and unlocked the house, but I think hypothermia is a relatively peaceful way to die.

          I think rather than stress, it might be repetition of a distracting stimulus? When it’s too hot you can feel the heat and sweat, when you’re tired you have reduced focus, etc

          • John Schilling says:

            I have done hypothermia to the point of unconsciousness, and what little I remember of the process was quite peaceful.

            But for less than hypothermic levels of cold, it’s kind of mixed. Feeling cold, yes, makes you want to cozy up to the fire, under a blanket, and/or in the embrace of another warm body, in any event doing nothing and thinking about nothing. But being vigorously active, makes you feel less cold in the first place. Which of these effects dominate is highly context-dependent.

            Also, if you cozy up under the blanket before you’ve finished taking adequate safeguards against hypothermia, you’re done for.

    • onyomi says:

      I’ve recently started thinking about psychosomatic health in what I find to be a more helpful and largely accurate way: all unpleasant sensations, mental or physical, are your body trying to bring you back to a state of health. At the most basic level, if you stab yourself with a fork, the pain is telling you to stop doing that.

      But in terms of the far more common case of dealing with pains, negative emotions, etc. which aren’t being caused at that moment by a bear or fork in the face, the feeling bad is actually the healing taking place (consider how people don’t usually feel a lot of pain when on an adrenaline high: that’s because they’re still in “don’t die” mode, rather than “heal” mode).

      People who suffer insomnia (myself included, sometimes) often find themselves flooded with worries and anxieties and other negative emotions seemingly as soon as they hit the pillow. This seems singularly inconvenient, given that they didn’t seem to be so worried during the day. Actually, it’s because it’s the first time all day you’ve stopped throwing new stimuli at yourself and therefore allowed some of the old to process.

      In other words, you may need more rest, but not in the sense of watching netflix and eating ice cream. Eating nothing and lying in a dark, quiet room is far better (fasting is especially helpful on this score, I’ve found).

      • Matthias says:

        That theory might try to explain too much.

        Eg the scatterbrain one has on ADHD is surely unpleasant, but you will be hard pressed to explain it as your body trying to bring you back to a state of health. (Especially since stimulants are a common and effective treatment.)

        • onyomi says:

          It is, of course, just a heuristic, and I don’t claim that the body’s attempts to restore homeostasis are always useful in every given circumstance; still, I find it both more accurate and helpful than thinking of e. g. worry as just something stupid that happens for no reason. Actually it is the brain trying (and sometimes failing) to get a grip on things, as, for example, bad dreams can actually be a way of helping you mentally prepare for something you’re worried may happen in real life.

          Less controversial example: everyone knows that all the symptoms of a cold or flu are actually the body’s attempt to get rid of the virus. You’d be in more actual danger if viruses were reproducing in your body uncontrolled and you felt great. I’m saying that thinking of a wider range of negative feelings beyond just runny nose as being, in fact, analogous to runny nose is helpful.

          • Matthias says:

            Sure. Though your body mainly cares about survival of the genes.

            Ie you could just promise “Ok, I have a cold, I’ll rest until I’m better.”, but the body insists on making you weak, and tired and unwilling to move. (Fever does help some directly, but the pain and tiredness is just to force you to abide the bed rest.)

            Mental health problems are complicated.

          • onyomi says:

            To whom would you make this promise? The body is basically a machine. You can’t make deals with it. And if it were possible to do so, do you think, knowing human nature, people would keep their promise? Of course, not. Everyone would say “I can’t just lay here today! I’m busy!” Far better for your genes to make you want to lie there.

          • jimmy says:

            Onyomi, how hard have you tried?

            I’ve actually had success with that kind of thing – but only since I’ve started taking the pain signals seriously enough to not *want* to renege on my “promises” to my body.

          • Matthias says:

            > To whom would you make this promise?

            Yes, that was exactly my point. You can’t make this promise—your body doesn’t let you.

          • Julian R. says:

            About the promises…
            On a number of occasions I have made myself not-be-sick to attend an important event (after feeling sick) and then been sick afterwards.
            The disadvantage is that you end up sicker than otherwise, naturally.

      • anon says:

        I have often noticed that beneficial self-healing processes are painful, and the question is, why would they be? Why are we hardwired to feel pain as we heal?

        • Nita says:

          It makes us slink away to some quiet corner where we can heal in peace.

          • onyomi says:

            Yep. Water-only fasting is a very interesting experience. Old injuries start to hurt again, but not because fasting is making them worse; rather, the body is taking the opportunity of not needing to digest/not wanting you to expend a bunch of energy running around with no new nutrition coming in to work on old problems and break down useless, old stuff for energy.

            If it makes you feel weak and crappy in the process, it’s not actually a symptom of malnutrition, but rather the body’s way of trying to make you hold still and not waste energy while it works on its old projects/waits for food to become available again.

            Of course, there is such a thing as “body needs nutrition or will starve,” but most people in the developed world never experience it. What we instead experience as hunger is “not eating on a regular schedule is a. causing unused stomach acid and a lack of usual endorphin stimulation and b. causing body to go into rest and deal with old crap mode, which makes me feel like crap.”

          • Psmith says:

            Old injuries start to hurt again, but not because fasting is making them worse; rather, the body is taking the opportunity of not needing to digest/not wanting you to expend a bunch of energy running around with no new nutrition coming in to work on old problems and break down useless, old stuff for energy.

            If it makes you feel weak and crappy in the process, it’s not actually a symptom of malnutrition, but rather the body’s way of trying to make you hold still and not waste energy while it works on its old projects/waits for food to become available again.

            Evidence?

          • Anonymous says:

            Thank you PSmith. You are lending weight to the HBC side of the argument here: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/19/teachers-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/#comment-361486

          • @Anonymous
            How do you follow links to specific comments? When I click them it sends me to the post in question, sometimes showing the linked comment for a hot second, then jumping to the top or bottom of the page.

            EDIT: Thanks Anonymous, waiting for the page to load and then recentering it worked.

          • Anonymous says:

            After the page completely finishes loading, go into the address bar and press enter. It’ll recenter on the linked comment.

          • Psmith says:

            That’s something, anyway. But I’m not sure what connection this would have to pain or feeling like crap. If declining rates of autophagy are substantially involved in the aging process, and if high rates of autophagy make injuries hurt more, we’d expect to be in more pain from a given injury and feel worse overall when we’re younger.

            Meanwhile, it appears to be pretty well settled that injury increases energy expenditure roughly proportional to the size of the injury and the rate of healing.
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Postburn+Hypermetabolism%3A+Past%2C+Present%2C+and+Future
            http://www.nature.com/pr/journal/v12/n3/abs/pr1978202a.html
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Metabolic+Response+to+Injury+and+Illness%3A+Estimation+of+Energy+and+Protein+Needs+from+Indirect+Calorimetry+and+Nitrogen+Balance
            http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/7209795
            Of course, these are about various kinds of acute injury, not chronic.

          • onyomi says:

            If injury increase the rate of energy expenditure then it makes all the more sense one would feel low energy when recovering from injury. Consider the body’s most drastic move to slow down/recover from catastrophic injury–the coma. (Which is not to say the body could, in every case, avoid falling into coma, or that all comas are restorative, but in case of e. g. a severe car accident, a coma may be the safest, most restorative state to be in, given the circumstances).

            So, yes, it stands to reason that injury would increase the rate of energy usage and lack of food intake would decrease it. But that doesn’t mean lack of food intake would decrease energy expended on injury recovery. Rather, it could be that times of low demand on the digestion, prompting low subjective energy, like sleep, are precisely the best time to carry out injury repair:

            http://www.woundsresearch.com/article/influence-short-term-repeated-fasting-skin-wound-healing-female-mice

          • Jaskologist says:

            @onyomi

            How long does the fast need to be to get this effect?

          • onyomi says:

            I think a fast of any length probably improves recovery. There is a weird powerlifter out there who claims to only eat during 1 hour out of the day. That is, even eating dinner early and/or breakfast late (with nothing between) will help.

            Longer fasts have different, more profound effects, most of which set in around day 3, in my experience, though they start to come on a bit faster the more often you do it. Your blood pressure gets low so you have to get up slowly. You start to have the aforementioned pangs in old injuries.

            One of the best effects for me personally, and one which I find interesting from a mental health perspective, is that it can fix insomnia, at least for a while. I think I am probably mildly bipolar, and I get into states sometimes where I can’t sleep till 4 am for a week or more (basically overly alert, active states, but it’s annoying, not pleasant).

            Fasting knocks this right back down, especially if carried on for over three days. Your body basically won’t waste the energy on being manic and kind of downshifts a bit. This could conceivably be bad, I guess, if one were of the “stay in bed sleeping all day” sort of depressive, but I am the nervous, can’t sleep type, so it’s very helpful to me. Related, though this tends to take a bit longer, the body starts releasing unnecessary tension held in muscles (like trigger points, etc.), a cause of a lot of chronic pain.

            This was not an effect I’d have expected prior to experience with longerish fasts (since normally I think “hungry=can’t sleep well”), but it’s true. I don’t sleep particularly soundly during a fast, usually, but a 3-5 day fast on only water is usually good for keeping me sleeping well for 3 or 4 months at least.

    • eh says:

      The best way to get experts to comment is for a layman to be wrong, so here are some totally uneducated guesses as to pathways by which things could stop your brain from getting as much energy:

      Hungry -> hypoglycemia
      Hyperthermia -> decreased cerebral blood flow
      PMS -> crazy space magic -> no idea -> hypoglycemia
      Tiredness -> lower oxygenation in blood

    • Lycotic says:

      I’d hazard a guess that it has to do with people being bad at understanding why they’re feeling anything, and so just misdirecting the bad feelings. I can see it in my kid all the time.

      I’m unhappy, so it must be *your* fault. See, you can’t deny you just slighted me [in this tiny way].

      I know a few smart but terribly unintrospective people who are really clever at blaming their hunger on the faults of others.

    • LPSP says:

      I’d hazard it has something to do with tolerance and satisfaction, combined with active versus passive states of mind.

      – When we are lacking something we need or feel we need (regardless of whether we recognise it or not), it becomes difficult to simply relax. It’s actually more calming to be engaged and occupied.
      – Activities that we percieve as productive and moving us nearer to accomplishment become soothing. Conversely, any percieved disruption or delay has a shattering effect, leaving us quick to jump and deal with it.
      – In social terms this leads to berating people and acting like there’s something wrong with their heads for not operating with this in mind.

      In this model, a breakdown is simply the end stage of enough disruptions and delays, the brain gives up on being satisfied and starts going through wild and desperate motions.

  15. sabril says:

    I think it’s worth talking about what went wrong with Metamed. I’m tempted to say that it was a lousy idea because it’s so difficult to charge people lots of money for advice unless you have a really good reputation.

    On the other hand, I believe it is Paul Graham who has pointed out that it’s common for great ideas to seem lousy. Besides, it’s plausible to think that there are nuggets of very useful information lurking in the oceans of medical research which have been going on for some time now.

    • Grort says:

      My thought was: “that sounds like a good idea, if I ever get a mysterious apparently-incurable disease I’ll be sure to look them up.”

      Then I remained healthy and they went under for lack of customers.

      Causation? Probably not. But it’s a data point.

    • MugaSofer says:

      I think it was a lack of Generic Business People skilled at penetrating the bureaucracy. Most businesses have too many of them after a while, but you need them for things.

      They were pretty good at researching medical problems, and pretty bad at being a business and making money. It happens to tech startups too.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Not to disagree with anything else you said, but …

        penetrating the bureaucracy

        They didn’t deal with a bureaucracy. Perhaps you meant “perpetrating”? But that doesn’t sound right, either.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      Yeah, basically very high price + lack of reputation that would justify such a price.

      • I recommended releasing their research for free relatively soon after it was given to the person who paid for it (six months?) as a way of building reputation, but they weren’t willing to do that.

        I can see them wanting to resell the same research to later people who asked the same question, but I suspect that was penny wise and pound foolish.

  16. Dualization: While I am not an economist, I think that the cause of dualization in a labor market seems to be a demand shock. 9/11 did it to airline pilots, the “Great Undoubling” to life science researchers, and so on. Econ 101 says that if the demand for employees drops, wages will adjust downwards.

    But this never actually happens. The ‘insiders’ will band together to prevent competing for their jobs with the hordes of outsiders who would gladly do them for less, maybe lots less. They come up with rationalizations why people who appear qualified, aren’t, not even to start in entry-level positions like they once did. Often some routine on-the-job training that used to be part of said entry-level position ends up cut, despite being apparently vital to the job duties. So the ‘outsiders’ end up temping for peanuts on a separate track. This work ends up performing vital functions for the insiders, so they can quite stably keep them there, perhaps waving the occasional Golden Child upwards.

    This seems to be distinct from the supply shock of ‘outsourcing’.

    • Brian Slesinsky says:

      A search for “Great Undoubling” doesn’t find much. What’s that about?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Isn’t dualization more of a distinction between jobs than within? Secondary market jobs tend to be described as low skill, which implies they are describing different jobs. Although it’s also true that temp jobs may do the same work and be less remunerative.

      I don’t think you have to posit much more than wage “stickiness”, and that’s not anything uniquely on the labor side of the equation. I think we know that wages are sticky, but don’t really know why. Although the fact the loss aversion is universal, and everyone knows it would suggest an answer. No one wants to work with someone whose wages they have cut.

      Although, you are suggesting that wage stickiness in general may lead to an increase in the secondary labor market over time as a general rule, and that is an interesting idea. I have to imagine there an economic papers on it, but I don’t know.

      • Chrysophylax says:

        As an economist, I can confirm that insider-outsider dynamics are a big thing in labour economics. The ratchet effect is definitely a thing and probably empirically significant. Unfortunately, labour economics isn’t my field, so I don’t know much more than that. It’s usually expressed in terms of unions (and similar bodies, e.g. the organisations that award professional services credentials) restricting access to the market, but that might be a historical artefact; I don’t know anything much about tacit restrictions like the ones Trollumination describes.

  17. i need a nap says:

    Since becoming a father, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep my son from running into the same problems I did growing up. From reading this blog and others, I’ve become convinced that my influence on my child’s success and happiness in life isn’t quite as powerful as a parent would wish.

    One of the issues I’ve dealt with in my life and which I fear my son will deal with is that of a sort of prolonged adolescence. My siblings seem to have had the same problem, though my female siblings have been more successful academically than my one male sibling and I.

    To make a long story short, I feel like I was excluded from a lot of opportunities in life because I simply took so much longer to mature. College is the biggest example I can think of – had primary school extended for another 7 years or so, I’m pretty certain that, in relation to my peers, I would have attended a much more competitive/prestigious university than I did. I simply wasn’t ready for college when I turned 18. This has affected my life a great deal since.

    Has anyone else dealt with this? Does anyone have any ideas for how to help a child deal with the same problem? I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure how helpful they would be, particularly because I now believe my influence is so limited.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      That might apply to me as well. All I can think of is a small piece of advice I wish I had been given at the start of college.

      You know how college’s a research institutions? They tend to take that seriously- professors generally have weekly meetings discussing the newest research (often professors presenting their own stuff). You want to attend those. It is extremely useful in answering the question “will I find this field of study interesting in the future”.

    • Cheese says:

      Unless you’re one of those rare people who seems to have a particular career path in mind from day dot, I tend to think, based on my own personal experience and opinions, is that ‘gap years’ and associated solo travel is the fastest way to ‘mature’ as an adolescent male. And not just going for a jaunt overseas for a couple of months. Most western countries have visa exchange programs which allow people under 30 to take out 1 to 2 year working visas very easily. With a bit of a savings buffer, you can quite easily spend a few years backpacking and working your way though places like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, the US, the UK and western Europe. You can also scoot off to places like Central America, SE Asia, Eastern Europe in between.

      I did Canada as an Australian (it’s almost a cultural expecation that you either spend a year in Canada or the UK as a young aussie) and went through the US and Europe after that. It gives you a kick up the arse with respect to managing your life independently and dealing with all different kinds of people.

      As for determining what career path you want to try to pursue academically, I have no idea how to speed that process up. But I think some of that can come from general maturity. I think you may be under-rating what influence you can have on your son’s life. Yes, with regards to measures like IQ, you may have limited (but not insignificant) influence on eventual outcome. However what you may be able to offer in terms of financial support and a framework in which your son can learn stuff that comes under the general heading of ‘how to adult’ is pretty significant in my opinion.

      • i need a nap says:

        A gap year and solo travel were actually exactly what I had in mind. If I could convince him to take the time off, I think it would be very beneficial. That’s a big If, though.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      You can tell your kids how you wish you had matured earlier and took life more seriously so you could attend a better college. Or you could just go dig a hole in the garden and fill it back up. Both will have the same results.

      Kids will make their own decisions. You want them to do well and do good and be happy, but you have limited control over that. Learn to let them be.

      • i need a nap says:

        I don’t really disagree, but as has been suggested, I think I have a chance to do something like encourage a gap year and time away from the traditional path (which for my family, peers, etc. is college immediately after high school graduation).

        I guess part of my concern is what in the hell DO parents have influence over besides passing on genes? I know my kid is likely to be a lot like me simply because he’ll get my genetics. But Scott’s recent post about education was pretty convincing to me that teachers do have a powerful influence over their students, though not in the way we would expect. How in the world can a teacher have more influence over my son’s future than my wife and I can? I’m skeptical that they do, but I’m honestly not sure.

        • Svejk says:

          Given your relatedness, you have a reasonably good model to predict the effect of your interventions. Would you have taken similar heartfelt advice from a concerned parent a your son’s age? If so, there’s a chance that your son will as well. If not, try to offer the most congenial environment and additional resources to support him that you can.

        • chaosmage says:

          I have an untested theory there, with only anecdotes to back it up.

          Children, particularly boys, have a tendency to fixate on something and find it intensely rewarding to learn more about that thing and acquire a skillset fast. And I don’t think those fixations really go away.

          See also: http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/06/30/the-lottery-of-fascinations/

          My hunch is that special large gifts, and a lot of time/attention explaining the gift’s awesomeness, at age 10 or earlier, have an outsize impact. Want your kid to get into programming? That’ll be a domain for the kid’s own perusal, an own web server somewhere in the cloud, and an entire weekend of one-on-one JavaScript tutoring to code some funny shit your kid can show to friends and brag about. Want your kid to love to read? Work your ass off to find exactly the kind of books that your kid loves, read them too, and discuss them. And so on.

          I also find that in the stories of how people got into their professions, there’s often a moment where they’ll travel somewhere new, meet a highly respected member of that profession, talk to that person, and receive some respectful recognition. Not sure how much of a difference these moments make, but they’re certainly flashbulb memories – and they can be arranged.

          I also find that kids will usually pay more attention to things that their siblings get excluded from, i.e. things that are just for them.

    • onyomi says:

      My experience may have been somewhat similar.

      Home school? Maybe encourage them to take a gap year or two if they don’t seem ready yet for college?

      Unfortunately college has become so ingrained as the thing 18 year olds do in our culture that you are probably actually penalized for waiting until ready to take it more seriously than most 18 year olds.

    • If slow maturation is a physiological thing, then I don’t see how advice is going to help.

      There might be some way of lowering the cost of maturing more slowly than average.

    • Alex says:

      You are working on the assumption that other people had their act together in their mid-20s and you didn’t. I think that is the wrong assumption. If you look closer, almost nobody really has their act together. It’s all outward appearance.

      In other words: don’t worry.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        Sorry for being snarky, but the poster specifically said that he lagged behind many of his peers. If you are right, that’s akin to saying: “Don’t worry that you never achieved your potential. You just never had much potential in the first place”.

        • Alex says:

          Sorry for being snarky, but the poster specifically said that he lagged behind many of his peers. If you are right, that’s akin to saying: “Don’t worry that you never achieved your potential. You just never had much potential in the first place”.

          He self-reportedly lagged with respect to “maturity”, which is a fuzzy metric at best, and gathered data on his peers, I presume from an outsider’s observation. What I’m saying is that this is a very weak basis to jump to conclusions. The OP made a statement about his maturing time relative to his peers and my comment is that he most likely misjudges peer maturity and probably should not worry.

          I’m not interested in discussing the OP’s potential. To me, what could have been is a moot point.

          • i need a nap says:

            My initial post was indeed unclear about what I meant by prolonged adolescence/maturity. What I meant is that I’ve observed myself mature more slowly not just in fuzzy areas such as emotional development or long-term planning (which I do believe was part of the case for me) but physically and cognitively.

            The prolonged adolescence from a physical maturity standpoint is pretty easy to see and I don’t think it would be difficult to argue that some people just mature more slowly physically than others. I didn’t reach my current height until later in my 20s. I didn’t start to put on very much muscle mass until about the same time, even though I’ve had an interest in personal fitness since I was an early teen. Other physical attributes were also late to arrive, such as facial hair.

            In other measurable things, like cognitive development, I also am pretty certain I was slow to reach my peak. I actually have hard numbers for tests (SAT, ASVAB, GRE) which, if they are indeed good proxies for IQ tests, show an increase in IQ over a 10+ year period, starting with the SATs at 16. Correct me if I’m wrong (which I may be), but doesn’t IQ usually at least stay flat after peaking in the teens? And more commonly decline, if only slightly?

            Maybe my interpretation of my own development is wrong. But it’s obvious that people mature (physically, cognitively) at different rates. I highly doubt those rates just kind of adjust so that everyone reaches their maximum at, say, 18 years of age. Which makes me believe that some people are slower to develop than others.

            Slow maturity in all areas discussed above seems to be something I’ve inherited, since I’ve observed similar patterns in my siblings and family members on my father’s side. Even if they don’t, I still think the question of what can be done for someone that is slow to mature is interesting.

            Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify myself.

          • Alex says:

            Correct me if I’m wrong (which I may be), but doesn’t IQ usually at least stay flat after peaking in the teens? And more commonly decline, if only slightly?

            IQ is calculated relative to the age cohort. Statstically speaking, you will loose “raw intellectual power” over the years, but not you advantage in relation to your age cohort. Individually if rise and decline of your “raw powers” really lagged behind “the norm” you would score higher in IQ points than someone who reached peak intelligence at a younger age. How likely it is, that this actually happens I do not know.

            But it’s obvious that people mature (physically, cognitively) at different rates. I highly doubt those rates just kind of adjust so that everyone reaches their maximum at, say, 18 years of age. Which makes me believe that some people are slower to develop than others.

            How accurate is this model really? Raw physical and cognitive ability peak at around 20, the rest is statistics. However, something else, lets call it “experience seeking”, does not peak, and so the youth of every generation spends their “best years” drinking and screwing around. [One could argue that drinking and screwing around without completely loosing it is only possible with the excess physical and mental capacity]. Ideally some time later the youth settles down and gets their act together.

            Conclusion: (a) peaking after being done with drinking might actually be a plus (b) the solution to most maturity related problems is waiting them out.

            I still think the question of what can be done for someone that is slow to mature is interesting.

            Along the line of the above model:

            Pro-College [although “The College Experience” seems to vary internationally and I can’t say anything about the US]:
            – Student’s brain is fed some thoughts while (statistically) at peak capacity.
            – Student can wait for maturity with very little risk to break something in the real world.

            Pro Travel-and-Work [as suggested by others]:
            – Student’s “experience seeking” is satisfied in ways other than booze and sex.

          • i need a nap says:

            Not familiar with this reply process, so I intend this to be a response to Alex’s reply that begins with “IQ is calculated relative to the age cohort…” Please correct me if there is a better way to address this issue.

            Raw physical and cognitive ability peak at around 20, the rest is statistics.

            From what I know, raw physical ability doesn’t peak at 20. I actually don’t have any articles to cite off the top of my head, but I think the age of Olympic gold medalists at time of medaling will support my assertion or at least cast substantial doubt upon the claim that peak physical ability is reached at 20. I’m certain my raw strength and speed-strength/power didn’t peak until my late 20s – maybe I didn’t train enough while younger, but I’m skeptical.

            Anyway, that’s not exactly the point. The point is, no one reaches their maximum potential at the same time. Obviously, some people will be on the tail end of the curve (in either direction). I feel myself and many other blood relatives were in the tail that is the opposite of precious. Is it not obvious that some people are slower to peak in physical/cognitive ability? Maybe I don’t fall into this category, maybe I only think I do, but I would be astounded to find that there isn’t a fraction of people that simply reach full maturation at a later chronological year than most of their peers.

          • Alex says:

            Not familiar with this reply process, so I intend this to be a response to Alex’s reply that begins with “IQ is calculated relative to the age cohort…” Please correct me if there is a better way to address this issue.

            There are only so many levels of nesting comments. The innermost level is linear.

            From what I know, raw physical ability doesn’t peak at 20. [etc]

            My mistake. But it is true for cognition, I think.

            Anyway, that’s not exactly the point. The point is, no one reaches their maximum potential at the same time. Obviously, some people will be on the tail end of the curve (in either direction). I feel myself and many other blood relatives were in the tail that is the opposite of precious. Is it not obvious that some people are slower to peak in physical/cognitive ability? Maybe I don’t fall into this category, maybe I only think I do, but I would be astounded to find that there isn’t a fraction of people that simply reach full maturation at a later chronological year than most of their peers.

            I share the feeling that we subtly miss each others point. So back to the beginning. My first comment was “don’t worry” and I still stand by that advice.

            Maybe this is a cultural gap or something but I think it doesn’t really matter at what age you hit arbitrary development milestones. Enter university later and graduate later (or enter the same and stay longer if you can afford it), who cares? Unless you are trying to optimize for life income, Robert style (elsewhere in this thread). But I still think his path is not for everyone.

            Also, I did not want to question your assessment of your own development. That would be madness. But with respect to your perception of your peer’s development, it is my experience that the few in the right tail of the distribution create visibility. They offer themselves as a point of comparison when you actually shoud compare with the largely invisible average. Maybe you already did that. I’m just offering the thought. At and below the average, in my experience everyone struggles, but most somehow manage. I admit that this could be taken as a cause for both, worries and equanimity. I suggest to go for the latter.

      • *raises hand*

        I did an effort / value calculation for school and career in high school, chose to apply to an in-state public university with a strong IT department, went from college to an IT job, and immediately began putting 15% of my salary into my 401(k) and another 15% into a down payment for a mortgage. So, I think I had my act together in my mid-twenties.

        On one hand, my friends and family have said “Robert turned 40 at 15.”, so I do accept that I am a giant outlier. On the other hand, I also do think that maturity and time-discounting is variable among people, and that it’s entirely plausible that someone could be aware of the fact that they turned 25 at 30 or whatnot.

        • Alex says:

          As for maturity, I’m unsure whether you named good proxies for it. But like I said Re: SolipsisticUtilitarian, it is a fuzzy concept anyway.

          As for having your act together, I somewhat congratulate you. But, if it’s not to personal, how old are you now?

          • 32 now.

            And there are offsets to the super-responsible life. It’s easy to get complacent; when you structure your life such that you don’t need to achieve great things to live comfortably, it’s hard to push yourself, and the vast majority of the people in my peer group have achieved better outcomes from small, short-term disruptions which I have carefully insulated myself against.

            On the other hand, some people haven’t, and while I do wonder at night about the degree to which I’ve settled in my job and career choices…I also know enough people who have bad jobs and unstable situations that I can’t not advocate doing the safe, boring, responsible thing.

            Drama should be reserved for games and stories. The portion of life referred to as ‘adulting’ should be predictable and automated as possible.

          • Alex says:

            Robert, I generally agree. Some additions:

            And there are offsets to the super-responsible life. It’s easy to get complacent; when you structure your life such that you don’t need to achieve great things to live comfortably, it’s hard to push yourself,

            I assumed as much. To be clear, I don’t think this is a bad thing at all.

            and the vast majority of the people in my peer group have achieved better outcomes from small, short-term disruptions which I have carefully insulated myself against.

            The lesson here, I think, is that great outcomes are not the result of having one’s act together. As in, if you happen to have your act together in your mid-20s, you can live a life in relative comfort but expecting more would overestimate the value of maturity.

            I also know enough people who have bad jobs and unstable situations that I can’t not advocate doing the safe, boring, responsible thing.

            Drama should be reserved for games and stories. The portion of life referred to as ‘adulting’ should be predictable and automated as possible.

            Some people thrive on drama like others thrive on boredom. I don’t think there is one solution for everyone. If anything, the OP should help his childeren realize which path is theirs.

    • Murphy says:

      I’m somewhat of the belief that humans tend to adjust to match the demands made of them.

      It’s part of why things like solo travel on gap years tends to be good: you have to start thinking like an adult and taking care of yourself because there’s nobody else who’s going to do that. On the other hand living at home during university/college tends to be bad because while it’s more economically efficient you’re still ultimately living with mom and dad.

      Even minor things like occasional weekends away hiking/camping without Mom and Dad in your early and mid teens can be good gentle practice for maturing.

      • Alex says:

        I’d go so far to say that only barely meeting demands is the normal mode of operation for most people ™. With respect to the risk of overinvesting this might be called efficient. Maybe I should have said “most people only barely have their act together” rather than “nobody has their act together”.

        Anyways. There will always be a few rockstars that meet demands seemingly without effort and there will always be a few lucky ones that managed their way into situation with low demands on them. I think comparing to either of those is probably a mistake.

        • One other topic which came up in a previous discussion is that different people have really different preferences for what qualifies as effort.

          For me, even 15-year-old me, sitting down with a spreadsheet and predicting the expected cost/return of a college degree was fun. Optimizing my finances and spending is still something I enjoy. My main hobbies are books and tabletop gaming, neither of which are money sinks, I dislike travel, and I don’t know (or care) enough about cars to even want a fancy new one, so a lot of the normal money-sinks for a person my age I resist without any effort whatsoever.

          Just like there are some people for whom sweets and fried food are icky, and running two miles a day every morning is easy, and for whom staying in great physical shape is easy, I found it easy to get and stay in good financial shape.

          I also wonder about the anthropic bias of assuming people can get it together if pressed. What if we just think this because the people in our lives who can’t get it together when required, we lose touch with as their lives slowly disintegrate?

          • Alex says:

            You are a wise man, Robert.

          • eh says:

            What if we just think this because the people in our lives who can’t get it together when required, we lose touch with as their lives slowly disintegrate?

            Could also be the friendship paradox.

            If success in life is positively correlated with how many friends you have, then for any given person, their friends will on average be more successful than them.

          • I am the same way, but basically at the start of that age. I actively enjoy creating and maintaining my monthly budget spreadsheets, planning D&D campaigns as DM, and don’t have the usual money sinks of my friends (don’t care about cars, concerts, or travel).

            I also second the year abroad people talk about, as I spent my senior year of high school at a Japanese high school. Really helped broaden my culinary tastes, my willingness to get in shape, and jump-started me on managing my finances to make my meager stipend go as far as possible. Learning how to deal with different types of people and learning a new culture/language were nothing to scoff at either.

          • Subbak says:

            @Eh:

            If success in life is positively correlated with how many friends you have, then for any given person, their friends will on average be more successful than them.

            That is not true in the general case, in particular if you assume friends cause success and not the other way round. For example imagine a tightly knit community in which almost everyone is friends with almost everyone, but some pairs don’t get on together. Everyone who is not among those will have more friends than their friends (who include those unfriendly pairs) do on average.

            If success causes friendship, you would have to define how exactly attachment works in your random graph (and wether there is a feedback loop with more friends meaning more success which means more friends), so I think your claim might end up true or untrue depending on specifics.

            But anyway the fact is, since most people want to appear more successful than they are, most people are under the impression that they are less successful than the average of their friends.

    • keranih says:

      Neither a young male nor someone who has raised a young male, so take the following with a grain of salt, but…

      Consider finding a responsible (adult male) relative/friend to whom you can apprentice your son to for one to two summers. A low paying job as a plumber’s assistant, or helping with a surveyer’s crew (it worked for George Washington!) or some such. Farm manager. Anything where the young man is 1) working physically 2) around adult men who are working and 3) not with parents. The idea is to put him in a position where he is being held accountable for his actions and is able to key off adults, not peers. This provides a niche to allow maturity to develop.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ keranih
        Consider finding a responsible (adult male) relative/friend to whom you can apprentice your son to for one to two summers.

        I agree*. Kind of fills the same half-way-house space as college back in the Good Old Days.

        * If expanded to all genders that match zis own.

        • My sister had an experience like that. She was studying an artsy subject in university and working as a restaurant hostess on the side. When she realized that the kitchen staff and waiters all had artsy degrees like the one she was working on, she promptly switched into a computer science program.

          Our education system segments age cohorts far too much. People can live to be twenty-two without ever having a friend who is more than a year older or younger than they are. Just meeting people who were five years older than her made my sister rethink her degree. As a PhD student, I find that the junior faculty—who are only about five years older than me—have some of the best advice and guidance I’ve ever received.

          The point I’m trying to make is that we can learn how to be adults and how to make adult choices by observing the successes and failures of the people who have recently made the same choices. By creating a radically age-segmented society we’ve taken away people’s opportunities to learn that way.

    • Fj says:

      I want to point out that the message that this blog really delivers is that statistically parenting doesn’t matter much. One should be really careful in applying this lesson to their particular circumstances. I mean, consider for example music: the decision to pay for the child’s music lessons is approximately 100% parents’, and if the parents don’t do that then their child has approximately 0% chances of becoming a professional musician, regardless of genetic determinism of talent. So it’s kinda weird to discard that choice as inconsequential (and not bother with it), especially if that’d make you join the approximately 100% of parents who in fact don’t bother and whose children the lifetime outcomes statistics talk about.

      • Murphy says:

        Since it only looks at averages that’s not strictly true.

        If you look at 100 children who’s parents provide with lessons and one of them becomes a successful musician yet on average there’s no benefit it can also mean that a reasonable portion of the other 99 suffered some loss, perhaps they were made to practice music they didn’t want to learn in the time that their peers used to learn how to code or to do magic tricks or dance and ended up doing slightly worse years later.

        • Fj says:

          Since it only looks at averages that’s not strictly true.

          My point was that it’s strictly unfounded, since it only says things about average parents who are kinda shitty on average.

          If we had a research that among parents who do get music lessons and programming lessons and judo lessons and whatnot for their kids, those still have the same chance to grow up amounting to nothing more than a burger flipper as the kids whose parents don’t do any of those things, then I’d have to reconsider my assumptions.

          As it is, all research looks at all parents, with the parents who actually do that stuff amounting to a minuscule part of the sample, so even the correlation between being rich and getting your kid into all those programs vs being poor and unable to afford it is totally swamped by average parents who just don’t do it, regardless.

          So you can’t use the statistics that say that if you’re an average parent who doesn’t give a fuck then your kid’s success in life would be determined mostly by their genetics, to justify not joining the minuscule number of parents who actively give a fuck.

          And I’d be really, REALLY surprised if such research existed, because it would have to somehow negate the fact that you can’t become a professional violinist unless your parents paid for violin lessons when you were like 5-7yo (if anything then just because most violin teachers wouldn’t take you, source: my professional cellist sister), and how is that even possible?

    • Pal says:

      My parents forced me to do athletics as a child against my will since they thought being on a team would be good developmentally for me. In high school, I went straight to the varsity baseball team and made lifelong friends; the experience changed my life and basically taught me how to succeed socially. Without it, I’m certain my teenage and young adult life would’ve been fairly isolated socially, and my entire life arc would’ve been different. No Jordan K., pitcher, to get me into the jazz records his older brother had left behind when moving out to serve in Afghanistan. No well-tuned social skills to integrate me into a close-knit group of friends my first week of college, which means an entirely different career from the one I have now and love. Finding a niche of people on that baseball team at 15, growing close to them like brothers, asking out my first girlfriend because I’d lost a bet with one, those were the experiences that ended the bitter, angsty misandry I was rapidly developing.

      From Jordan K.’s record collection, it was jazz piano lessons, with an unbelievable man who taught English at the local university and gave me a copy of the Iliad – the reason I’m a literature major today. I still think of my father when modeling the kind of person I want to be, the kind of work ethic. His healthy relationship to my mother is part of the reason I was never tempted by RedPill ideology and pickup artist shit, or else into becoming jaded, borderline misogynistic, or embittered towards romantic heterosexual relationships in the way so many of my male friends were at some point in their early adult lives: whenever I read or heard their propaganda about male female relationships or the female brain, the first thing that came to mind as rebuttal was my parents’ marriage and my mother.

      Statistically, I don’t doubt any of the research. I’m sure parenting is a mess. Plenty of parents don’t care or are selfish. Oftentimes, even well-intentioned parents fail, or drive their kids to opposite outcomes via rebellion. If my brain wasn’t disposed to jazz piano, or if I didn’t have the shoulders and hand-eye coordination which helped me excel at sports, it’s totally possible these efforts would’ve backfired. But they also never would’ve happened if not for my parents: I had no interest in sports until it would’ve been too late to start (and excel with my peers). I had patches of standard teenage depression and angst where I was ready to quit playing jazz and would have in a heartbeat if given the option if not for their pushing me to keep with it. Thank God. I can’t even imagine the reduction in quality of life if I didn’t have that around. They had the foresight I did not, and my daily existence is significantly, measurably happier and more wholesome because of it.

      We live our lives through the models we’re surrounded by; so much of what we’re exposed to comes from others exposing it to (or pushing it on) us for the better. People influence other people, and you have an incredible opportunity to influence a person (your son) for eighteen years of almost daily contact. Don’t give in to parental nihilism just because many people are apathetic, misguided, or ineffective parents – or because of a few recent, trendy studies leaning one way or another on the incredibly complicated question of nature vs nurture.

      • Psmith says:

        By way of a counterpoint, my parents also put me in team sports. I mostly spent games and practices standing around with my thumb up my ass–not that this was some kind of principled opposition, understand, I just didn’t much care one way or another–until the matter was quietly dropped around 7th grade or so and I was more or less left to my own devices, eventually taking up cross-country, wrestling, and cycling on my own initiative. It wasn’t torture or anything, but it cost a fair amount of money and it turned out to be pretty pointless. (Pretty similar story with music, now I think about it, although I took it semi-seriously for a few years before quitting.). You can lead a horse to water….

        • smocc says:

          Looking back on my childhood/adolescence I only now realize that my parents spent a lot of effort leading me to various watering holes to see if I would drink.

          I only drank the water at once or twice, but those times made all the difference, I think. I think in the end they weren’t wasting their time, it just took that many tries to find what would stick, and now I appreciate their persistence.

    • Chrysophylax says:

      Find a way to reliably make your child work on important, unpleasant things immediately, even when you aren’t physically present. The ability to get unpleasant paperwork done promptly is worth a lot of money and can seriously affect career prospects in some fields. Personally, I suggest Skype calls, occasionally saying something while they work and monitoring their focus; it puts System 1 into work mode.

      If the child is young enough, build the habit of working on unpleasant tasks promptly. This is the thing that has most held me back in life. You need to make doing nasty jobs reliably and quickly so ingrained that it happens automatically, even when the normal constraints disappear. (Test this. Going on holiday for a week and seeing whether the child kept to a good schedule while you were away should work.)

  18. merzbot says:

    Math people: I found this album cover that has a bunch of math notation on it in a weird flowchart-ish diagram. It’s also in Spanish. Is this gibberish or real math?

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      For reference:

      Dado = given
      si = if
      sea(n) = being (plural)
      curva de Jordan = Jordan’s curve
      consta de un único punto límite = has a single limit
      separa = separates
      estric. creciente = strictly increasing
      tal que = such that
      conexos disjuntos = connected disjointed
      y (symbol) es la frontera de uno de ellos = And (symbol) is the boundary of one of them
      sobre = divided by

      That’s most of them.

      • matemático anónimo says:

        A few corrections, from a speaker of both math and Spanish:

        sea(n) = being (plural)

        Rather, “let”. As in Sea S un conjunto, “Let S be a set”; Sean S, S’ dos conjuntos, “Let S, S’ be two sets”.

        curva de Jordan = Jordan’s curve

        Jordan curve (no “‘s”). (“…es curva de Jordan” should be translated “…is a Jordan curve”)

        consta de un único punto límite = has a single limit

        consists of a single limit (point)

        conexos disjuntos = connected disjointed

        disjoint connected

        sobre = divided by

        Literally “over”, which like in English is used for “divided by”, but also for the other mathematical uses of “over” (e.g. “a module over a ring”, etc.).

    • Chiffewar says:

      My Spanish is mediocre and I am still in the process of passing linear algebra. But, if I were a betting woman, I would put money on ‘real math’. It’s definitely not pure gibberish. It might be wrong, but it’s not gibberish.

    • Pku says:

      Mathematician here. Definitely real math, but I’m not sure what it’s about (looks like something geometric). The issue isn’t so much the spanish as the lack of context – contrary to stereotype, most of us are really bad at reading large sequences of symbols without more words explaining it.

      • EyeballFrog says:

        The only think I recognize is the statement of the Jordan curve theorem. I can’t figure out what it’s trying to prove, though.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      At the bottom it says “extension of differential equations.” Much of the diagram seems to about long term existence of solutions to a differential equation, specifically a flow along a vector field.

  19. GioD says:

    I know there are quite a few people here who use modafinil and other -afinils. I’m looking for something stronger than adrafinil but won’t be able to get my hands on modafinil or armodafinil for awhile because of where I’m staying. Does anybody have any experience with Flmodafinil/CRL-40,940 or hydrafinil? How do they compare to adrafinil? Has anybody experienced any negative side effects with them that they haven’t with adra-, moda-, or armodafinil?

    • Tsnom Eroc says:

      I tried two of the “finils” before.

      Just get some adderall, or some yohimbe + caffiene.

      • Winfried says:

        The biggest benefit to drugs like modafinil or Nuvigil is the lack of a crash. You will still be tired and unable to focus when it wears off but not any worse than you would be at that point anyway.

        If you use Adderall, when it wears off you are worse off than you would be at that point in time if you hadn’t taken it.

        • Tsnom Eroc says:

          I have taken adderall and modafinil.

          I don’t notice much of a crash. I don’t notice one with caffiene either. I *did* notice the adderall much much more than the modafinil.

        • Tsnom Eroc says:

          Not saying modafinil dosen’t work though. I didn’t notice too much, but it seems to be a well vetted drug.

  20. Outis says:

    Apparently, the word “love” is supposed to have universally positive associations. But it doesn’t work that way with me. “Made with love in San Francisco” causes me to feel immediate aversion. “Hosted with ♥️ by GitHub” makes me want to vomit. Does anybody else experience this?

    • Nornagest says:

      A perhaps less subjective counterexample: “love bombing”, a well-known cult recruitment tactic.

      It’s just a word. You’re probably reacting to the twee tone.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I hadn’t seen those particular phrases before you wrote them, but they’re creating exactly the same reaction here. Perhaps it’s because of negative associations with “San Francisco” and “GitHub” that I assume you have?

      • Outis says:

        Could be, but I think I get the same reaction in the rare instances where it’s “Made with love in Cleveland”.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Hrm. By contrast, I find the phrase “Made with love in Cleveland” to be rather endearing.

          Maybe it’s that San Francisco and GitHub are, to me, places/organizations that are inherently smug and manipulative towards negative ends. So when they start pretending to be nice I want to check that I still have my wallet and my right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

          • Anonymous says:

            Re: “Made with love in Cleveland”

            My unconscious reaction would probably to think it was crappy in some way. Sorry, Cleveland, but you are always going to be the Mistake on the Lake to me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Made with love in Cleveland” has a dissonant tang that cuts through the treacle.

            “Produced indifferently in Guangzhou” doesn’t sound so great, but I’ll bet if you put it in Chinese characters you could sell T-shirts and maybe get someone to get a tattoo.

          • onyomi says:

            I would totally buy something labelled “produced with indifferent efficiency in Guangzhou.”

          • Anonymous says:

            My first reaction to “Made with love in Cleveland” is a vague sense of dread that those smug, manipulative Bay Area types have escaped containment and set up a colony node in a third-tier American city (My town could be next!). “Love” in marketing seems to carry a very specific type of cultural significance.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      You might ask Deiseach.

    • BBA says:

      Love means nothing. Any tennis fan will tell you that.

    • Pku says:

      I mentally read ♥️ as heart, which makes it a lot less sticky. “Hosted with heart by github” isn’t so bad/

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think for me that’s more a reaction to fakeness. Nobody really makes a mass market product with love. It’s obvious they’re trying to manipulate you, so you feel annoyed.

    • Virbie says:

      I had exactly the same thought as Scott. Are all the examples you can think of marketing copy? Because if so, then drawing the conclusion that you have a problem with the world “love” itself is kind of odd.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Welcome to Costco, I love you”

      • Subbak says:

        Now I’m imagining this as an ad that might run in Nightvale, in Cecil’s deep voice.

    • Deiseach says:

      “Love” is a very over-used word. I can’t say it makes me want to throw up, but I would certainly snort with disdain at anything claiming to be “made with love in [anywhere]”.

      And companies trying to make you think they care about you as a person (instead of extracting the most cash out of you as a resource) with cutesy symbols and logos and catchphrases annoy the ever-living hell out of me.

      So you’re not alone – it’s not “love” the concept that has been made repugnant to you, it’s “love” the word that has been bastardised as a marketing tool.

      • HircumSaeculorum says:

        Do you, like me, get really annoyed when inanimate objects say “hello” or “welcome” to you? Or, god forbid, use your name (as in, “Welcome, *name*” when you start Windows)?

    • Anonymous says:

      Nothing, but nothing, has universally positive associations.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, there’s a reason Eliezer loves murdering babies..

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        Nothing has universally positive associations, but there are some words that broadly tend to evoke good feelings or bad. I’d say the vast majority of people have a positive association with love (because love itself is usually an enjoyable feeling), and so the word tends to be used in manipulative ways by people wanting to promote something. If you want to sell an idea or a cause, you just have to convince people that your side is about “love” and the other side is about something usually seen as negative–hate, fear, etc.

        As others have pointed out, I think people developing an aversion to the word love is usually a reaction against a perceived manipulation (or treacly cuteness). Though I’m sure there are people who just have negative feelings associated with “love” due to personal experience.

    • LPSP says:

      Not directly, but I’m sure I’ve experienced the same from similar things. I know of many other cases like it. Chalk it down to cultural factors and frame of mind. Language and symbolism to that effect is a direct appeal to tribalism – “we’re all good [X]ers, right guys? Haha, let’s crack a cool one and get cozy <3". Some people are always looking for that, and will jump at a cue for it. Others are the opposite, and are immediately suspect when something they expect to provide a formal and systematic service suddenly starts flirting with them.

      "I'm not your friend, phone-company, and I'm not a fucking hippy either. I'm going to another provider now, don't call me again." – the resulting train of thought. Of course, companies rely on this reaction in a sense. It gets rid of the "bad fits", leaving only customers and consumers who attend out of *loyalty*, maybe even *love*, rather than anything so mercenary as a contract.

      Was it Scott or Eliezer who wrote on how every organisation dreams of being a cult? Perhaps not all, but it's certainly a powerhouse for a business to no longer have to remain competetive or produce quality products, on account of customers "just feeling good" to be a "part of it". So many just give it a shot.

      • Randy M says:

        Reminds me of how Facebook will pop up old posts with the message “We care about you and your memories, and thought you’d like to see this old post of you.”

        • Nornagest says:

          God, I hate that shit. Especially since eight times out of ten it’s something embarrassing or trivial.

  21. zensunni couch-potato says:

    GoT/ASOIAF spoilers:

    Gur bevtva bs gur Juvgr Jnyxref cerfragrq va gur fubj va f6r5 pna or frra nf n cnenoyr nobhg NV fnsrgl.

    [EDITED BY SCOTT: Please put spoilers in rot13!]

    • Anonymous says:

      Please use rot13 or similar when posting spoilers.

    • alecjmills@ymail.com says:

      One wonders why, precisely, gur Puvyqera bs gur Sberfg thought that creating massive, spiky, godlike, glowing-eyed ice-demons gb qrfgebl gurve rarzvrf was a good idea in any circumstances whatsoever.

      Aside from that, I think that a parable about AI safety that

      a) involves people intentionally, willingly creating an AI that is intended to be destructive (though not towards them) rather than creating something innocuous that becomes all-destroying through some unforeseen logical loophole and

      b) involves an AI that can be fought or hidden from, in any way at all, no matter how obscure or magical

      is a poor AI safety parable. And, as a general rule, paperclip maximizers and computronium wireheaders are scarier than loose cannons.

      • thisguy says:

        I find it interesting that the white walkers jrer perngrq sebz n pncgherq uhzna. I wonder if that is supposed to be some sort of theme, the desperation that was required to do so.

    • Sivaas says:

      Forget that, we have gvzr geniry!

      Rira vs vg erdhverf Abivxbi frys-pbafvfgrapl, vg fubhyq or geviny gb rkcybvg gur obbgfgenc cnenqbk gung jr xabj vf cbffvoyr sebz Ubqbe gb ghea Jrfgrebf vagb n uvtu-grpu hgbcvn.

  22. Pku says:

    Assuming I want to give money to support green goals (sustainability/global warming/pollution/etc), does anyone know of a good analysis of how to do it effectively (something along the lines of givewell)?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      I’m not sure if there is one. Most environmental goals require improved technology; I guess you could throw money at research. Putting money into political advocacy is pretty much a money pit though.

      Could you be more specific? Because if your green goals include things like “record species before they are extinct”, there are programs that deal directly with that; biologists won’t turn away more funding.

    • Richard says:

      I would vote for reforestation programs as having a rather high positive impact, but there are lots of reforestation programs and most of them are probably run rather badly. I have no sane way of picking a good one.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        What’s more certain, is buying a few acres of forest land that is already in good, bio-diverse condition and protecting it.

    • keranih says:

      Others may know more, but to my understanding, various green goals conflict with each other (ie, more “sustainable”/lower tech branches of industry are less efficient and so pollute more per unit produced, reducing greenhouse gas emissions via nuclear energy vs trash combustion vs capturing methane from green fields; etc) and there is not yet an established common metric for exchanging trade offs, such as the dollar or the DALY. Carbon emissions regulation is apparently still fraught with issues due to lack of understanding functional equivalents and fraud.

      If I was wanting to put money into a specific goal, I would work on establishing/discovering/defining that common metric.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      They haven’t done what you’re looking for yet, but openphilanthropy.org is probably the organization most likely to do so in the future. They’re Givewell affiliated but with a generally broader scope.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      I have no expertise on the subject, but global warming seems like the biggest threat to the planet right now. So if your main concern is just making sure the planet will stay habitable as long as possible, donating money toward technologies that reduce carbon emissions or replace the things that cause global warming seems like a good bet.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        I think you are overestimating the level of risk. Global warming looks to melt the ice caps within 2200-3000 AD, raising sea levels, some climatic shifts and possibly make the temperature go above safe levels in some areas near the equator. This is bad, but it isn’t end of the world bad; I’d personally consider the ozone hole much worse.

        • dinofs says:

          That’s assuming that “some climactic shifts” don’t set off unstoppable negative feedback loops or damage things in ways we haven’t predicted, that the oceans will be able to survive increased acidification, and that flooding and unsafe temperatures won’t make big enough swathes of the planet unlivable as to set off something an order of magnitude worse than the current refugee crisis. None of those things are likely to mean extinction, but i’d give them decent odds to at least blow up global capitalism and the modern geopolitical order, which would be bad enough in my book to make global warming a top concern.

          • James Picone says:

            Runaway global warming (‘unstoppable feedback loops’, where the oceans boil off) doesn’t happen until ~30c about preindustrial on Earth, and there’s genuine scientific disagreement about whether it’s even possible here.

            Probably the scariest plausible outcomes are ‘Hansen is right; ice sheets can disintegrate very very fast’ and we get tens of metres of sea level rise in a century; and “acidification + warming oceans + clathrates leads to very large anoxic events and mass extinctions in the oceans, with flow-on effects to pretty much all of the biosphere”.

            (note: I do not think either of those things are very likely at all; maybe 1%, and only that high because unknown unknowns something something.)

            Whether or not you consider it worth funding against depends on a lot of things; I’m not claiming this makes global warming the best thing to fund if you’re trying to do environmental effective altruism, I really don’t know.

  23. Symantec’s malware-control systems turned out to be vulnerable to a buffer-overflow bug. They apparently hired Uriel.

  24. Richard says:

    On a discussion forum, I came across this tidbit on obesity:

    I’ve wondered about the human biome since the term was first coined, and with all the new stuff about nutrition (fat isn’t as bad for you as they said, for example), and the impact of gut bacteria on weight, I’m wondering if the obesity epidemic isn’t caused in part due to the destruction of the biome by over-use/misuse/incomplete use of antibiotics. If one overlays the timelines, from thin to fat with antibiotic use, they tend to match up.

    This seems to track extremely well with nations if you eyeball some wikipedia data: Less antibiotic use -> fewer obese people.

    On the other hand, it tracks badly on an individual level where many of the obese people I encounter (and they are many enough to count as data even if not formally counted) have never ever taken antibiotics.

    So for this to be a causal connection, prevalence of antibiotics needs to have a way of influencing the gut biome on a population level, not just on an individual level.

    I can’t find any research after 2 minutes of googling. Anyone here know of such?

    • Matthias says:

      There’s also often antibiotics in your meat..

    • Glen Raphael says:

      One popular hypothesis is that antibiotics in animal feed (which reliably makes animals fatter) somehow affects the people who later eat those animals. Or there’s some other sort of cross-contamination mechanism, like the artificially-fat animals serve as incubators for fat-friendly viruses? Or antibiotics used during childbirth or in response to early childhood diseases has a delayed effect in some people but not all people?

      Anyway, it’s an idea floating out there in the ether. Several papers have tried to test hypotheses along those lines though I don’t think any have panned out yet. Try these articles as a starting point:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/09/opinion/sunday/the-fat-drug.html
      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/antibiotics-linked-weight-gain-mice/

      • Richard says:

        Thanks.

        This tracks extremely well on my sample of fat people too. I live where antibiotics in farming is very tightly regulated and “regular” meat is largely antibiotics-free. All the obese people have been big fans of imported meats. This is interesting.

      • Nornagest says:

        Have vegetarians been getting fatter? I bet you the answer is “yes”.

        • Virbie says:

          @Nornagest

          Antibiotics don’t remain completely and totally locked up in the flesh of the animal that ingests them. Leaving aside the fact that only 0.5% of American vegetarians are vegans, and thus most probably eat dairy:

          Antibiotics in manure that seep into soil have been detected in carrots, lettuce, and green onions. Some antibiotics remain active for months after passing through the animal and are detectable in rivers miles from their use; a study of a river in Colorado found several antibiotics everywhere except for “a pristine site in the mountains before the river had encountered urban or agricultural landscapes.”

          from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/12/obesity-antibiotics-microbiome/421344/

          It doesn’t seem beyond the bounds of possibility of vegetarian exposure to antibiotics has increased as well.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Detectable” is a very low bar. If there’s an open flask of bleach on my desk, my nose will sense detectable levels of sodium hypochlorite in the air, and maybe some other stuff. Doesn’t mean it’s going to have effects on the same spectrum as chugging it.

            Dairy’s a decent point, though. I don’t know how much animal antibiotics make it into milk or eggs relative to meat, but the levels could plausibly be similar.

          • Virbie says:

            I didn’t mean to suggest that this means that vegetarians are definitely being dosed in ways that act the same way, just that it opens a window of plausibility for your objection. Particularly because the theory is also consistent with the fact that vegetarians have gotten less obese than meat-eaters (and vegans even less so).

        • Anon says:

          Hard to study well, since a majority people who claim to be vegetarian also report having having eaten meat in the last 24 hours.

          Anecdotally, I know zero overweight vegetarians (n > 10). But there are many, many confounds – if nothing else, merely paying any attention to your diet at all puts you at reduced risk of being overweight.

    • keranih says:

      Eh. I’d not reach for “antibiotics for animals are the orange soda” just yet.

      Yes, in conventional agriculture, antibiotics are administered in feed in order to promote better health and hence better weight gain. But it’s not fat, it’s muscle. Medications as growth promotants are specifically aimed at shifting metabolism to increase muscle growth over fat deposition. The modern consumer wants meat, and lean meat at that, and feed that is deposited as fat is pretty much wasted money. Outside of a certain thickness, it’s just cut off the carcass and discarded.

      (The hog industry took a major hit in the 1970’s because they were trying to stay with a traditional lard hog when the US consumer switched to vegetable oils and lean meat – it took quite a while for the industry to get over itself and retool to meet consumer demand. Meanwhile, the poultry industry was quite happy to provide all the turkey breast and skinless chicken (in standard sized portions, no less) that the consumer wanted.)

      On top of this, the majority of medications given to livestock that are listed as “antibiotics” are, well, not really antibiotics, but coccidiostats – specifically monensin, which are given to ruminants for the impact on the microbes & protozoa in their rumen vat – the largest stomach chamber. Which humans have not got, and don’t make use of the same biopathways. Pigs don’t have them either, and react the same way to monensin as humans, which is why monensin isn’t used as a growth promoter in swine.

      Additionally – medications given to animals are adsorbed and metabolized by the animal, and the metabolites excreted. Withhold periods of time are set between when medications are given and the animal can be sent to slaughter. (See: FARAD.) There are set allowable residues for any medication given to food animals, and while the limits are set on what would have an impact on the humans (ie, penicillin has to be at a level that it won’t cause a reaction in a person allergic to penicillin) the allowable amounts are really, really small. Compared to all the other things in our environment, the medications in animal meat are really not that great.

      A cavaet to this is that we know a lot about how to have young growing animals put on a lot of muscle weight – through genetics, husbandry, and feeding. We have a lot of experimentation on this. We have less recent data on trying to make older, mature animals muscular, because feeding older animals for slaughter is generally a salvage process rather than to maximize profit. And we really have next to no actual data on how to feed and keep humans to keep them at a good weight for the modern environment.

      It might turn out to be something we feed a section of livestock. But as different medications are given to different animals, and as swine, cattle and poultry all have different metabolisms, I’m really not thinking that universal fat gain in humans is strongly linked to medications for livestock.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        On top of this, the majority of medications given to livestock that are listed as “antibiotics” are, well, not really antibiotics, but coccidiostats – specifically monensin, which are given to ruminants for the impact on the microbes & protozoa in their rumen vat – the largest stomach chamber. Which humans have not got, and don’t make use of the same biopathways. Pigs don’t have them either, and react the same way to monensin as humans, which is why monensin isn’t used as a growth promoter in swine.

        But other antibiotics, even penicillin, are used to promote growth of swine

    • Jacob says:

      I’d be willing to bet this is a red herring. Antibiotic use and obesity both correlate with time, and development of a nation in general.

      Let me counterpropose a radical theory: Increasing obesity is caused by an increase amount of cheap food, which has been engineered to make people eat as much as possible. I wrote a series of posts about this awhile ago.

      • Julie K says:

        I think our increasingly sedentary lifestyles play a major role. On the other hand, I’ve heard even the Amish are getting fatter, and they presumably aren’t couch potatoes.

    • onyomi says:

      I think a possibly worse problem antibiotics may be more responsible for (at least, to a greater/more direct degree) is the big uptick in autoimmune problems. I don’t think we really have to look to meat, either. Just look to the fact that almost everyone in e. g. the US now goes through at least several courses of a variety of antibiotics during childhood and adolescence. There’s no way that doesn’t leave an imprint on the microbiome and your body’s reaction to it. May increase likelihood of aberrant immune reaction.

    • LPSP says:

      Not directly relevant to this post, but relevant to some of the talk in the thread – I’ve mentioned before, and I don’t want to go on about it, but I lost two and a half stone in maybe as many months just by starting a one day a week fast and no longer eating breakfast.

      ALL nutrition is highly personal, and what works for one is not guaranteed to work for another. But the results of just not eating anything for a day every week have been so staggering (I lost one stone in the first month, you should’ve seen my jaw drop) that I can’t not advertise it. From my (very personal) perspective, eating too much is the culprit.

  25. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #17
    This week we are discussing “Seventy-Two Letters” by Ted Chiang.
    Next time we will discuss “A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I hate going first.

      Someone else go first.

      Uh…I thought the DNA at the end was neat.

      If the main character had been more genre-savvy he could have realized that the kabbalist held the secret to his success days or weeks earlier and saved everyone a whole lot of trouble.

    • Fj says:

      This story exemplifies the unique brand of Ted Chiang’s craziness that I love so much about his fiction.

      There’s a common Sci-Fi trope where you have some pseudo-fantasy elements that turn out (immediately or eventually) to have scientific explanations, the proverbial sufficiently advanced technology indistinguishable from magic. Vampires are a different Homo subspecies, the Long Sun is long because the story happens on a seed spaceship, gods are ancient AIs, spells work because they are commands to nanobots (something I was totally sure Ted Chiang was going for in this story), and so on.

      And then you have stuff that is fundamentally incompatible with how our own world works. I was convinced until the very end that the whole weird preformationism thing was a red herring, a gag even. Nope, it’s Ted Chiang, instead of asking “what if nuclear fission was discovered by Romans” he explores how a world running on different metaphysics could look like.

      I like what it does to my mind, the feeling it creates as it breaks the pattern. Does anybody else know other authors who do similar stuff?

      • Richard Garfinkle, Celestial Matters— what if the four elements were how the universe actually works? Book includes an expedition to the sun to get some elemental fire.

    • Deiseach says:

      I really disliked Robert when he was introduced, so that cast a jaundiced light over the whole story for me. I’m sorry, Ted Chiang, but every story of yours that I read (that has to do with religion, which seem to be the ones I see recommended) I intensely dislike, and this was no exception.

      I think it was the general air of cleverality, of trying too hard. What were Robert and his associates trying to achieve, in the end? Never mind what they said they wanted to do, what did they do? It was mostly “we’re doing this because we can do it”. Robert has no more mind of what the future humans will be like than he did about his clay dolls at the start: all he was (and is) interested in is taking them apart, seeing what makes them tick, and putting them back in a way he has redesigned.

      • Nita says:

        As I understand it, the magic only works on living matter if you use the ~true name~ of the species, so the future humans should be exactly like the past humans. What do you think they should have done?

      • Aegeus says:

        What did they do? They made it possible for humans to continue having children, beyond the 5-generation limit they discovered. And he wasn’t mindless about it, he took steps to ensure that this wouldn’t let the government start sterilizing the poor or other shady stuff like that. A pretty good result, on the whole.

        We see the same thought process when he’s working on golems at the start – the reason he built a sculptor automaton with the dexterous names was that he didn’t merely want to put another occupation out of work, he wanted to make it so that everyone could have access to cheap automata. Robert is a guy who thinks big.

        It does feel kind of emotionally flat, but I don’t think it’s because of Robert’s character. I think it’s because five generations is too far away to have any direct impact on the story. There’s all sorts of strange and curious ideas on the horizon of the story – self-replicating machines, humans with their True Name written on them, custom-built organisms… but all of it is 100 years away. No character is trying to have children, engineered or no. No character is getting put out of work by automata. No character is starting a robot revolution. It’s all tell and no show.

      • Poxie says:

        I think it was the general air of cleverality, of trying too hard. What were Robert and his associates trying to achieve, in the end? Never mind what they said they wanted to do, what did they do? It was mostly “we’re doing this because we can do it”. Robert has no more mind of what the future humans will be like than he did about his clay dolls at the start: all he was (and is) interested in is taking them apart, seeing what makes them tick, and putting them back in a way he has redesigned.

        Strongly disagree, and very confused by your reading. I’m not sure how you get that out of this story.

        Also, I’m sorry, but your offhand dismissal of cleverarity seems pretty cleveraritous to me. Looking for a coherent reason for your negative reaction, in other words.

    • keranih says:

      I liked that this wasn’t excessively crazy, the way some of Ted Chiang’s work is. The rules of the universe were fairly well laid out and not frustratingly counter to each other. I really appreciated the untangling of the knowledge of names/DNA/taxonomy.

      About partway through, I realized this was one of those stories where there werent likely to be any named (or speaking) women characters at all, and was expecting some part of the finale to upset that part of the world’s social order. In contrast to this, the hero did come down on “the right side of history” re: population control of lower classes. I’m not sure what I think about how that was handled.

      Did I miss something in the number of letters? Was 72 representing something specific?

    • John Schilling says:

      Am I the only one who wondered whether the proposed solution was going to wind up replacing humanity with P-zombies in five generations? Obviously not where Chiang was going, but when you have a universe where vitalism works, and where there is a separate mojo for producing mindless inorganic automatons, dualism is a pretty appealing hypothesis and I’d be concerned that applying the mindless-inorganic-automaton mojo to an unfertilized egg might wind up missing something kind of critical.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I think worldbuilding is Ted Chiang’s greatest strength, and “Seventy-Two Letters” is a good example of why; the setting is lovely, and its details are coherently extrapolated to instigate the conflicts which drive the story.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Since Scott is posting decimal Open Threads so often, I am adopting a new norm of posting discussions only on whole number Open Threads. Hopefully that will give people time to read the next selection in line.

  26. Matthias says:

    Please poke holes in this business model for setting up a Georgist colony on private land:

    – Form a corporation, let it buy some land and divvy the land up into parcels
    – sell long term (transferable) leases to the highest bidders

    A lease comes with the following restriction:

    (1) the lessee has to publicly state the value he would sell the lease for
    (2) each year the lessee pays a fee of x% of that price to the corporation to keep the lease. (This encourages posting a low price in step (1)).
    (3) If someone comes and offers the posted price, the lessee has to sell. (This encourages posting a high enough price in step (1)).

    Add some clever shenanigans to only tax the value of the land, but not the improvements in this way. Eg any building put onto the land increases the value to be paid to hand over the lease but that extra value will be exempt from the fee. (Deprecate the value of the building by standard accounting procedures over the next ten years.)

    Now here’s the real kicker:

    – When paying the fee allow not only payments in cash, but also recognize (at fixed proportional discount perhaps) divers taxes paid to the government for economic activity on any of the corporation’s land. Said `tax coupons’ can be freely traded.

    (In the beginning, you will want to be cautious about which taxes to include to avoid making the system gameable in the wrong direction. The most clear cut case is the income tax of someone who lives and works on the corporation’s land. Or the value added tax for shops there.)

    This system is meant to emulate the effects of only taxing land rental values, and untaxing labour and capital.

    We can not reduce the overall tax burden without changing the government, but this scheme should lower the effective marginal rate (since every dollar paid in taxes and gone from your wallet, will still contribute to your land rent). (I propose taking coupons-for-taxes-paid at a discount in the bidding, mostly to give people an incentive to still hire an accountant and not bleed too much money.)

    In the steady state and with homogenous lessees, this scheme will not make any extra money: there’s no free lunch after all. My hope is that this arrangement would artificially induce gentrification:

    – lessees would initially come for cheap rent, later for the booming local economy
    – the corporation by taking a smaller piece out of a bigger pie, will see its holdings increase in value.

    (And if this all goes well, you could lobby various governments to follow Georgism directly.)

    • Wency says:

      1. The biggest problem I see would be in attracting people to join in. They would have to be both ideologically committed and be prepared to develop their own parcel without making any money from their development efforts, while having no idea if their project might be bought from under them at any time.

      2. I’d at least suggest a threshold between stated value and the price at which the parcel could be bought. E.g., to actually buy a parcel, you have to pay x% more than stated value. Also, I suggest the buyer be required to pay all legal and other costs to effect the transaction, for both parties. You need to balance the inefficiency of people understating their sell price with the inefficiency of value potentially being destroyed because someone with an aggressive estimate of value is willing to overpay and the lessees become reluctant to make investments in the land.

      3. Depreciating a building often doesn’t make sense as a way to find its value. Instead, look at replacement cost, which tends to increase rather than decrease because construction costs usually increase much faster than well-maintained long-lived assets actually depreciate. If you don’t adjust for this, it will almost always make sense to buy someone else’s (well-maintained) building out from under them after a few years rather than build your own. Which I suppose creates an incentive to simply not maintain your building.

      • Matthias says:

        Thanks. As a model, don’t think parcels in the middle of nowhere, think buying a few cheap blocks or so in Detroit. Initially, people can be attracted by cheap rent (after all, with an auction the price will be set to have supply meet demand), and this whole scheme is a way to hyper-gentrify quickly.

        > 1. The biggest problem I see would be in attracting people to join in. They would have to be both ideologically committed and be prepared to develop their own parcel without making any money from their development efforts, while having no idea if their project might be bought from under them at any time.

        If that’s the case, that’s a bug. The whole thing is meant to make sense for people to join without considerations of ideology. (Even though, people who dig the ideology are more than welcome.)

        Ideally, any improvement they make should be theirs.

        Things could only be taken from you if someone pays you enough money to hand it over—and the tenant can set that value yourself.

        (2)
        > E.g., to actually buy a parcel, you have to pay x% more than stated value.

        Sorry, how does that differ from just quoting an x% higher value in the first place?

        > Also, I suggest the buyer be required to pay all legal and other costs to effect the transaction, for both parties.

        I hadn’t thought of those costs. Thanks. I think, in the end it doesn’t matter who’s to pay, if the fees are reasonably easy to forecast for two reasons: first over the lifetime of a lease, every person is seller as often as they are buyer. Second, any additional cost or subsidy will be reflected in the price one way or another.

        (I see that, since it doesn’t matter from an economical point of view, this is an easy knob to tweak for its PR value.)

        Any costs imposed by the government for the transaction, like stamp duty, could be honoured with a `rental coupon’ like for other taxes. (The corporation looks very favourable upon transactions—to increase the economic efficiency of the allocation of the land.)

        > You need to balance the inefficiency of people understating their sell price with the inefficiency of value potentially being destroyed because someone with an aggressive estimate of value is willing to overpay and the lessees become reluctant to make investments in the land.

        I am not concerned about people with aggressive estimations getting proven wrong by the market. It’s their money. I am concerned about people unwilling to invest. That harks back to the first one: ideally all improvements to the land should be excluded from the base of `taxation’ by the corporation.

        Perhaps my idea of having people state the value of their land was too cute, and we need to rely on more traditional assessors. (Though even with assessors, the self-statement could still be useful in the common case, and the assessors are just there to audit claims.)

        > 3. Depreciating a building often doesn’t make sense as a way to find its value. Instead, look at replacement cost, which tends to increase rather than decrease because construction costs usually increase much faster than well-maintained long-lived assets actually depreciate. If you don’t adjust for this, it will almost always make sense to buy someone else’s (well-maintained) building out from under them after a few years rather than build your own. Which I suppose creates an incentive to simply not maintain your building.

        You are right that a well-maintained building keeps its value. The deprecation idea was too simple. So, assessors again, it is.

    • Murphy says:

      >(3) If someone comes and offers the posted price, the lessee has to sell. (This encourages posting a high enough price in step (1)).

      You might need some/vast quantities of fine print about people not creating systems to destroy land value…. somehow.

      For example I want to post a low land value but I also don’t want it bought out from under me.
      I have a chunk of good farmland which I keep in good condition but I publicly let it be known that part of the structures I have built on the land includes something that will destroy the land value during hasty teardown if I had to move.

      Effectively I pre-commit to salting the earth somehow while leaving if you come in and try to buy it out from under me for a low price. Of course I’d be much more careful if I had lots of time to plan my move after a consensual sale.

      • Matthias says:

        Thanks for the thought experiment. I see two avenues:

        – Make sure people on the whole land benefit from higher general valuations—eg distribute some of the rent the cooperation gets amongst all tenants. This is to encourage a social climate that cares about keeping land values up in general. (People don’t like being shunned.)

        – Use the courts. Ie use some fine print, but also use the notion that judges are not computers but humans with common sense.

    • Salem says:

      Why do you expect this to cause the economy around your land to boom?

      1. The presence of some businesses will only attract more to the extent that they are creating positive local externalities. However, you are not rewarding the creation of positive externalities, but merely paying taxes; these aren’t even remotely the same thing. A good anchor tenant is something like John Lewis – a shop that will attract people from miles around, and so other shops will pay a premium for the passing trade. The tenant you most attract is the registered office of a shell company, with a huge tax liability but minimal demand for space. You’ll end up paying them to locate their office there, but why is it particularly attractive for anyone else to want to locate my business next door to them?

      2. Developers are well aware that if they can kick-start a booming local economy, their rents will be higher in the long term – you are in a competitive market here. And they are already going much further than you – anchor tenants (i.e. lessees considered likely to create lots of positive externalities) are given huge incentives to go to new developments, sometimes not being charged rent at all, or even paid to go there. What makes your scheme more attractive?

      3. Lessees want security. Not being able to have more than a one-year lease is a cost to me, and it makes it harder for me to invest. I know you claim that I’ll get back investments in the land, but what about related investments? I’d like to run an advertising campaign telling local consumers that Salem’s Slippery Salamander Sales is now at Acacia Mall, but I’ll lose the value if I lose my lease, and yet that informational value isn’t going to be discounted.

      4. “Improvements,” like all capital, are specific, not some generic Cambridge K. My investments may have cost me a great deal, and enhance my use of the land, but do nothing to enhance your alternative use of the land, or even impede it. As such, my investments will often fail to raise the assessed value of the land, and so I will not make them unless I have sufficient security of tenure as to be able to enjoy their use.

      • Matthias says:

        > Why do you expect this to cause the economy around your land to boom?

        The crux of the matter. First, if a government would untax labour and capital and put the whole tax burden directly on land, I expect the economy to boom for the standard reasons. (I can elaborate, if you don’t agree here. The rest assumes you agree.)

        In our case, we are trying to emulate a single tax.

        My first idea was: the corporation takes rent by highest bidder (in cash), and out of that income refunds people’s taxes for economic activity on that land.

        Since that’s an awesome deal, I expect people to bid up the corporation’s land until the average person pays enough in rent to cover the taxes and then some. (Otherwise, there would always be a marginal person willing to move in at current prices from `normal’ land.)

        Note how the total amount of taxes paid is not reduced, but for any extra dollar a tenant earns, their tax gets refunded. (But for any extra dollar all the other tenants earn, they will bid up the rent a bit. A `tragedy of the commons’ in exactly the direction we want: everyone incentivised to produce more income.)

        Then I thought some more. Directly refunding the money for taxes paid, might count as income and might be taxed again. Thus, we instead net the refund out with the rent.

        This way it’s also harder to game the system in a bad way, since at most you pay zero rent. (But I want `tax coupons’ to be fully tradeable, so that people can pay their landlord at least partially in `tax coupons’, and the landlord just passes that part on.)

        My hope is that the construct of letting people bid for use of the land with cash and taxes paid will effectively reduce the marginal tax rate to zero.

        > 1. The presence of some businesses will only attract more to the extent that they are creating positive local externalities. However, you are not rewarding the creation of positive externalities, but merely paying taxes; these aren’t even remotely the same thing. A good anchor tenant is something like John Lewis – a shop that will attract people from miles around, and so other shops will pay a premium for the passing trade. The tenant you most attract is the registered office of a shell company, with a huge tax liability but minimal demand for space. You’ll end up paying them to locate their office there, but why is it particularly attractive for anyone else to want to locate my business next door to them?

        Yes, that’s a concern, and that’s why you need to be careful to only refund / count taxes paid on economic activity on the land itself. (The system doesn’t have to be perfect—we can err on the side of caution. Paying back less taxes will just reduce nominal property values a bit, and leave some economic deadweight loss from the taxes.)

        > 2. Developers are well aware that if they can kick-start a booming local economy, their rents will be higher in the long term – you are in a competitive market here. And they are already going much further than you – anchor tenants (i.e. lessees considered likely to create lots of positive externalities) are given huge incentives to go to new developments, sometimes not being charged rent at all, or even paid to go there. What makes your scheme more attractive?

        Good point. My scheme works automatically for all tenants, and not only for the people who have good lawyers to negotiate with the developer.

        Basically, participating in the scheme is useful for any new tenants who pays more taxes than the average old tenant. (Thus attracting people with more income over time.)

        > (3) related investments

        That’s a good argument for longer term contracts, indeed. (Alternatively, make people post higher valuations temporarily, to recoup their investment in the ad campaign from a potential buyer, while the benefits of the ad campaign last. Not sure whether that would work out.)

        I should look up how Georgists in general propose to solve this problem. It’s not specific to my private-sector emulation.

        > (4) improvements

        Good point. Same as for (3): I need to look up how Georgists who thought about this for longer propose to solve this.

        • Salem says:

          0. Economic boom

          You’re right that some kind of Georgist tax would likely be more efficient than our current system, and so would encourage economic growth over the long term (although boom is too strong). But if you levy a tax on land that is equal to 20% of the value added by businesses using the land, that’s a VAT, and the fact that you’re calling it a “land tax” doesn’t make any difference to its economic effects.

          Suppose the market rent of my land is $1m per year on normal terms. Suppose that there are a bunch of businesses with tax burdens somewhere around $500k per year interested in renting the land. So you’re thinking that on your scheme (assuming you solve all the flaws) a business bids $1.5m to rent it, as that will be the equilibrium price, but then expands sales such that its tax burden is $600k, because they’re facing a lower marginal cost, as the tax burden lowers their rent. But if the businesses know they can do that, they will bid the rent up higher in the first place, so the same tax system is still in place. You can’t dodge the tax system like that, it will all net out the same.

          In particular, the marginal incentives are unchanged in equilibrium. All that changes is the timing of the payment.

          1. You seem to take it for granted that lots of economic activity on your land is a good thing, from the point of view of a landlord. Interrogate that assumption. Is being a residential landlord (frequently, no economic activity allowed!) unprofitable? In fact, economic activity, by itself, is neutral from the landlord’s point of view. What matters to the landlord is any use of the land, whether economic or not, that improves its value to other (prospective) tenants. What I want is tenants who use the land in such a way that it draws in other tenants. For the same rent, I would prefer to lease my land to a church than a tannery. Businesses on your land may raise the value if they’re (say) all going to have lunch nearby, but the degree of their profitability is of no particular concern. Suppose I rent an office to an accountant. Provided he pays the rent and doesn’t go under, what do I care how profitable he is? I can’t charge the profitable ones more than the middling ones.

          2. Your system is wayyyyyy more legally intensive than negotiating a 20-year rent-free period. Think about the accounting and legal burden of what taxation could be fairly assessed to this physical location.

          • Matthias says:

            > (assuming you solve all the flaws)

            I think it’s an excellent idea to have two discussion tracks like you do here:

            – one steelmanning the idea to see whether we can shoot it down

            – one nitpicking as much as possible to see whether it’s feasible

            > 0. Economic boom

            I completely agree with your analysis if we had perfect uniformity: all businesses are identical and don’t change over time. I am still looking for an escape hatch from your argument.

            The first, more general principle is: each tenant tenant only pays enough to win the auction. Ie the public value of the land is what the second-best tenant could do with the land.

            Thus I imagine something like following scenario to play out:

            – assume a steady state equilibrium: all land values are bid up so that the net rent paid in cash after the tax rebate is equal to the rent across town under a conventional scheme.

            – a random unexpected opportunity comes along to make an extra buck. (Expected opportunities are already priced in—assume some form of efficient market hypothesis here.)

            The tenant has all incentive to exploit that unexpected opportunity. Each tenant knows perfectly well that the total stream of unexpected opportunities for all tenants taken together will eventually lead to total rent increase; yet it is still better for each tenant themselves to take any opportunity they can get.

            Since a tenant pays the opportunity cost—ie what’s needed to keep the second highest bidder out, not taking an opportunity (or being hit with a misfortune) doesn’t lower your rent, and taking an opportunity doesn’t increase it.

            > 1 “increased economic activity is good”

            `Economic activity’ is perhaps the wrong term. It’s a shorthand for `lots of income’. The landlord wants lots of rich people interested in his abodes. As you say, it’s not the well-off accountant that’s already renting with you that sets it’s the rent: it’s n+1-th accountant that doesn’t fit anymore that sets the rent. (Ie landlord can raise rent until all but n people are priced out of the market.)

            Getting a tenant / land use that directly increases the value of the surroundings to other tenants is a second order effect.

            > “I can’t charge the profitable ones more than the middling ones.”

            I think you summarized my reply to your objection in (0) here?

            > 2 “legal stuff”

            Yes, at least for a single tenant. I hope that if you work out the legalese once, you can re-use it. (The scheme does have the advantage that you only need the legalese, which is somewhat like software. Deciding on who’s an anchor tenant to get special treatment seems like a harder to automate business decision.)

          • Salem says:

            0. But remember that we expect some unexpected opportunities to come along (we just don’t know what they are). As such, the average number of unexpected opportunities are priced in. All the business is doing is buying variance. Businesses normally prefer to sell variance (i.e. buy insurance). As such, this will depress your rental income.

            1.

            The landlord wants lots of rich people interested in his abodes.

            Only to the extent that they’re able to charge a higher mark-up to them.

            The reason residential landlords want to rent to richer people is that richer people make better neighbours (positive externality). It’s not simply that richer people have more money and so can pay more rent – they demand nicer residences, which cost the landlord more, in exchange for their higher rent, so there’s no free lunch there. Indeed, there aren’t vast numbers of rich people, but there are economies of scale, so maybe you should aim the other way.

            But more profitable businesses don’t make better neighbours. Would you rather locate your business next to HSBC or Barclays? Would you rather rent to HSBC or Barclays? About the same, probably. They’ll pay you the same rent, they’ll be equally good neighbours. If I tell you that HSBC made about double the profits of Barclays last year, does that change your mind? Probably not…

            Let’s take a concrete example. Suppose there are a multiplicity of identical rental sites all renting to accountants, each charging rent of $1m per year. You’re using your scheme, everyone else is doing standard leases. The average accountant pays tax of $500k per year. The slightly more prosperous accountant rents from you because of his slightly higher taxes; his rent is $1.5m per year, which he pays as $950k cash and $550k tax rebate.

            So, you’re taking a loss of $50k per year to rent to this accountant. What do you get out of it? You can’t jack up his rent to $1.6m the next year and reclaim your money, because he’ll just leave and go to one of your competitors. Are other businesses particularly keen to locate themselves next to the slightly more prosperous accountant? No, they don’t care.

            So what exactly are you getting out of this?

            2. The point is that tax treatment is an incredibly complicated area, and the tenant now has to work out with you what amount of the tax is fairly attributable to that location. This will be a yearly process with huge amount of back-and-forth as to what fairly counts. That’s pure deadweight loss.

          • Matthias says:

            Thanks! I’ll chew on this.

            > 2. The point is that tax treatment is an incredibly complicated area, and the tenant now has to work out with you what amount of the tax is fairly attributable to that location. This will be a yearly process with huge amount of back-and-forth as to what fairly counts. That’s pure deadweight loss.

            The attribution doesn’t have to be perfect (simplicity is the virtue to aim for), and doesn’t have to attribute to the specific parcel rented—rather giving a tax credit for anything done inside the Georgist colony is enough. (The market will do the rest, if tax credits are tradable.)

            Your remarks about variance are interesting. I’ll have to think about them.

            I think, just talking about random opportunities would not save my argument, as you point out. I was lazy there. A good argument would have to talk about the cost of taking said opportunities.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      The most obvious objection that comes to mind is that the corporation appears to be operating at a loss. The amount it has to pay for the land originally equals the NPV of all the services the land will provide in the future, but the corporation is recovering only x% of the value of those services, further reduced by the discount for taxes paid to the government.

      • Matthias says:

        Thanks for the thought. I think I can handle these two specific objections:

        > The amount it has to pay for the land originally equals the NPV of all the services the land will provide in the future,

        Accepted.

        > but the corporation is recovering only x% of the value of those services,

        The x% is the amount of (capitalized) land value `taxed’ each year. Not the amount of land rent.

        Of course, we expect the auctions to set the land value at a price to make x% of the land value to have some relation to the land rent per year.

        http://www.masongaffney.org/publications/G2009-Hidden_Taxable_Capacity_of_Land_2009.pdf has a formula that relates interest rates, land value tax rate and captured land rent.

        He starts at:

        V = (a – tV) / i

        Where V is the value of the land, a is the annual rend, t is the proportion of land value taxes paid every year (our x%), and i is the interest rate. Solving for V gives:

        V = a / (t + i)

        tax per year = t*V = t / (i+t) * a

        Thus the effective tax rate is on annual rent is t / (i+t), an increasing function of t approaching 100% asymptotically.

        This formula says that even with thousand percent tax rate on land value each year, we will never recover 100% of the land rent.

        Hence my suggestion to allot the initial leases by auction to the highest bidder. The auction should recover the remaining NPV of the uncaptured rent. (Of course, in the model I described we do that specific auction only once; so we don’t capture any increase in that residue—the owners of the lease get it all.)

        > further reduced by the discount for taxes paid to the government.

        In the steady state in aggregate, these discounts just inflate the (deemed) value of the land. They don’t reduce the cash take.

        Ie people bid up housing (and thus land) to what they can afford. If you allow part of the bid to be made with funny money, they’ll just hand in a higher bid: all their funny money plus whatever cash they can spare. (Because if they didn’t somebody else would beat them to the punch.) The amount of cash they can spare is independent of how much funny money there is to go around.

        The funny money (ie discount for taxes paid) only has an influence on the margin on individuals. And that’s great: because any extra dollar earned, is ca 50 cent extra in real money and 50 cent extra in funny money (exact proportions depending on your tax rate), and an individual can use both interchangeably to pay rent. (And everyone would use all their funny money to pay rent first, because that’s the only use for funny money. If they still have any left over after paying rent, they’d trade it. But this should only happen for a few people.)

        Of course this sucks a bit, if you are behind the curve in terms of increasing income—in this case the other people will relentlessly bid up your rent. But that’s exactly what this system is supposed to be doing. (The intended reaction is to get people to use less land in this case, by eg moving into a high rise apartment complex.) A negligible marginal tax rate cuts both way: every dollar you earn less gross, is also a net dollar less.

    • John Schilling says:

      – Form a corporation, let it buy some land and divvy the land up into parcels
      – sell long term (transferable) leases to the highest bidders

      A lease comes with the following restrictions…

      …So how does the top-level corporation make a profit, or even avoid bankruptcy?

      The commercial real estate market is AFIK in rough equilibrium such that buying land and leasing it out, with only the usual restrictions, is marginally profitable. You propose to add restrictions. Restrictions in general reduce the market value of land; your proposed restrictions seem calculated to add extreme risk to anyone planning to do business on this parcel of land – no matter what, your lease can be bought out from under you at any time. So, to anyone who isn’t an ideologically committed Georgist, a lease on this land is worth less than a lease on an equivalent plot of non-Georgist land and they will only sign the lease if the rent+fees are below market rates. But the market isn’t going to sell you the land at a discount because you’ve got an ideology. So haven’t you just pushed the holding company from marginally profitable to unprofitable?

      I also caught this bit,

      When paying the fee allow not only payments in cash, but also recognize … taxes paid to the government,

      and I’m pretty sure the bank that loaned your holding company the money to buy the land in the first place, wants to be paid back in actual cash, not warm fuzzies from the land’s holders having paid taxes on their good use of the land.

      You mention attracting lessees with cheap rent, and sure, if you drive the rents low enough you’ll get takers and maybe even build a thriving local economy. But their prosperity doesn’t save you from bankruptcy.

      • Matthias says:

        Your first point is a very good one: how do we make sure our returns are at the least what other competitors in the market bring?

        My answer is to rely on the small effective marginal tax rate of tenants to stimulate economic activity. If that works, we can achieve better than average returns on developing the property. If it doesn’t, this private sector emulation of a Georgist colony is useless.

        About your second point: I don’t think that’s a problem. Just imagine people could pay their rent partially in M&Ms. In practice: people on average just bid all their funny money, plus all the extra cash they can afford for rent anyway. (Anything less is not an equilibrium.)

        Thus the `tax discounts’ are free to the corporation on average. They just redistribute effective marginal tax rates.

    • grort says:

      It sounds like the problem you’re trying to solve is that it’s hard to directly estimate land rental values. So instead of saying “we have an assessor whose job it is to figure out what your land rental value should be, based on demand for the property”, you’re saying “you tell us what your land rental value should be, and here are some incentives for you not to lie”.

      The problem is that, a few paragraphs later, you say: “any building put onto the land increases the value to be paid to hand over the lease but that extra value will be exempt from the fee”. How much does it increase the value by? Who decides that number? It sounds like you’re going to have to hire an assessor to figure out what the building value should be. If you’re going to hire an assessor anyway, you might as well have the assessor tell you the rental value of the property directly.

      I think supply-and-demand is good enough to compute property rental values in most cases. Divide a chunk of land into N lots of roughly equal value, then set the rental value low enough that nearly all of them are occupied. If all the lots are occupied and you start getting people saying “put me on a waitlist for if one of those lots opens up”, it’s time to raise the rent. If the lots start going vacant because people think the rent is too high, it’s time to lower the rent.

      If you do things this way, it’s also harder to game your system. I agree with Murphy, above, that there are too many ways for a property owner to mess with their land value — by building an expensive thing that only they can use, or by damaging the property in a way that won’t hurt their specific business. If you apply a flat average rent value, those incentives go away.

      • Matthias says:

        Thanks. Yes, assuming an assessor for land vs improvement values would solve some problems. (I think I am trying to hard to come up with a simple elegant system here.)

        See my reply to Murphy for the rest.

    • Alex says:

      Others have argued that this is to risky for the lessee or that it is impossible to valuate the improvements. I think the (only) solution is that the lessees post prices at which they are willing to loose land plus improvements, i. e. I think that incentive (3) will take precedence over incentive (2) every time.

      So lets do the math. The potential lessee will have to compare something like

      area * local lease per area unit

      to

      (area * value per area unit + value of improvements) * percentage - tax load

      rearrange the second

      (area * value per area unit * percentage) + (value of improvements * percentage - tax load)

      maybe you will want to design percentage so that approx.

      value per area unit * percentage = local lease per area unit

      i. e. the top level unit breaks even on unimproved land. This also simplifies things.

      You will attract (only) leesees for which

      value of improvements * percentage < tax load

      Maybe its time to think what kind of businesses these are and if your model will work with them.

      • Matthias says:

        > I think the (only) solution is that the lessees post prices at which they are willing to lose land plus improvements, […]

        Yes, something like this was my idea. But then only `tax’ people on the value of the land. (See eg this real world example.)

        Taxing the improvements as well is exactly the opposite of the Georgist setup I am trying to emulate privately here.

        See eg Wikipedia for why we care.

        • Alex says:

          OK, let me rephrase that:

          How do you think it is possible to evaluate land and improvement seperately, however hard your ideology wishes that it would be possible?

          • I ain’t no georgist, but people do this all the time, right now. They can figure out the land cost as a portion of house purchases, commercial building purchases, and plenty of other situations. It might not be as objective as a Georgian theorist would want, but it is certainly possible.

            Seems to me that a better critique is how those land values will be figure out in ways that limit how game-able they are, but I am not the person to make that critique.

          • Alex says:

            I ain’t no georgist, but people do this all the time, right now. They can figure out the land cost as a portion of house purchases, commercial building purchases, and plenty of other situations. It might not be as objective as a Georgian theorist would want, but it is certainly possible.

            Hmm. I Imagine the measures to be terribly crude, but my knowledge of real estate trading is very limited.

          • Mine too, but in the limited house hunting I’ve done and talking with building owners as part of designing buildings, there are at least measures to do this. I can’t vouch for how accurate they are, which is what I mean by that being a better line of attack. Otherwise, have at it with those filthy Georgists. =D

          • Chalid says:

            My impression from doing a little househunting is that *everything* about the real estate market is terribly crude.

          • John Schilling says:

            As others have noted, this is done all the time. As for how:

            When e.g. a house burns down, the owner almost certainly isn’t going to live in a hotel waiting for it to be rebuilt. So, after a bit of bulldozing, a plot of land is going to be sold on the open market with all the externalities associated with being in that neighborhood but with essentially no improvement. Six moths later, the same plot of land will sell with a nice new house on it. In the meantime, someone down the street will sell an older and slightly run-down house.

            Three empirical measurements of the value of identical plots of land in the same market but with different levels of improvement including “none at all”. Do the math, then average over all similar sales in similar markets.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            You don’t even have to go that far.

            In hot housing markets where a neighborhood is undergoing a large shift in housing stock, it’s not uncommon to see “knock downs” wherein a house is purchased for the sole intention of knocking it down to build a better/bigger/more expensive house on the property. Pretty easy to see the direct land value there, less the cost of the tear down.

    • grort says:

      I agree with you that taxing community resources such as land makes a lot more sense than our current scheme. If we had a good way to find a fair (ie, market-clearing) tax rate for each parcel of land, we could solve a lot of problems. In particular, places like the Bay Area have a housing crisis right now because homeowners want to prevent new homes from being built (in order to make the value of their own homes go up); this would solve that problem. I also agree that removing taxes on economic activity would improve the economy.

      I think it’s weird that you’re proposing to implement this using a corporation.

      If you use a corporation to generate a few blocks of Georgist-taxed land in the middle of a wide area of non-Georgist-taxed land, you’re going to get selection effects. The people who move onto your land are going to be the people who would pay much less tax under the Georgist regime than the existing one. You can increase the tax rate until you’re still making money, but it won’t be a realistic experiment because all the low-income homeowners will opt out of it.

      Also, corporations have to deal with a lot of additional headaches that governments don’t. You have to come up with a huge amount of starting capital; you have to buy a bunch of land and then entice people to move onto it. You have to make people buy the land from you, in order to recoup your cost from buying the land in the first place. This generates friction, because people have to figure out how to value this new land. Lots of people will accidentally value the land too high or too low, and they’ll lose a lot of money; this is what commenters are talking about when they say there’s “too much risk” in this system.

      If you’re a publicly traded corporation, you have a board of directors that will demand you make more and more profit every year.

      If I wanted to convert a region to Georgist taxes, I would find a friendly government (probably a city government) and start a lobbying campaign to convince them to add a Georgist tax. They could start small, like 10% of all tax revenue is Georgist, and increase slowly to make sure nothing bad happened.

      • Matthias says:

        Yes, the standard model for introducing Georgism is to lobby a friendly government. Alas, despite some filtration, it hasn’t worked all that well over the last >100 years.

        Hence my thought experiment about whether a private emulation is possible.

        > If you use a corporation to generate a few blocks of Georgist-taxed land in the middle of a wide area of non-Georgist-taxed land, you’re going to get selection effects. The people who move onto your land are going to be the people who would pay much less tax under the Georgist regime than the existing one. You can increase the tax rate until you’re still making money, but it won’t be a realistic experiment because all the low-income homeowners will opt out of it.

        More nuanced: people whose ratio of land demanded / taxes paid is higher than average will opt out. Ie a poor person who’s happy to live in a shoebox (or more realistically, a small apartment in a high rise) will still benefit.

        We don’t need to do anything to increase the taxes: the rich people will bid up the land values that we can tax at a fixed proportional rate.

        To the heart of your argument: these selection effects are exactly what we are aiming for in the private emulation. That gentrification of attracting richer and richer people (ie people who pay lots of income tax) is exactly how this scheme is supposed to make money.

        And that’s my answer for how to placate the investors. (The corporation already tries to capture 100% of the rental value of the land. There’s nothing more to take, even for the greediest investor. The `tax rebate’ doesn’t lower the net cash take.)

  27. Don't want to say just now says:

    It seems like a university close by is looking into psychedelic therapy studies right now (from the sound of it its Ketamin and Psylocybin). What are the general thoughts on participating in those types of studies (I have a lot of experience with THC, some limited experience with DXM – which I do not like at all – but none with full-blown psychedelics so far)?

    Edit: Mid 30s male on the far right of the bell curve with history of depression (these days more dysthimia) and social anxiety.

    • Matthias says:

      Are they trying to figure out whether these things help with depression?

      • Don't want to say just now says:

        That’s what the press says, yes (I have not yet actually found the supposed study online).

    • Tsnom Eroc says:

      Every antidepressant that really works well becomes illegal, like MDMA.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t really see how MDMA could be a good option for someone to handle a longstanding problem with depression. There’s no way you could take it every day without becoming completely burned out and even more depressed in short order. It might possibly be an emergency intervention for someone with severe, suicidal depression, but even then it would be quite risky, considering the comedown effects.

        • Nornagest says:

          Can’t speak for MDMA specifically, but recreational doses for most, ah, dual-use substances are usually a lot higher than therapeutic doses. That might take care of some of the tolerance issues.

        • Psycicle says:

          Yeah, even r/drugs of all places very strongly advises a 4x/year limit on MDMA.

          I think the hope with MDMA is that, like psychedelics, it is powerful enough to produce permanent personality changes. We already know it is capable of this with regards to PTSD, but I’m unsure of how it would do with depression. I do expect that it would be very helpful with strong social anxiety/hikikomori type stuff.

          • onyomi says:

            I have taken it a few times and would agree it would be much better for hikikomori social anxiety than depression.

            From what I’ve heard, SSRIs increase serotonergic activity long term, so if you take Zoloft for a year you are theoretically less prone to depression even after you stop taking Zoloft. I’m pretty sure MDMA has been proven to basically kill your serotonergic neurons or receptors or what have you, so I doubt it would have any positive long term effect of that sort. Probably the reverse.

            But with social anxiety I think there’s a strong element of exposure needed: every time you get up the nerve to ask a girl out it gets easier. So even if you have to be on low-dose MDMA the first time you attend a crowded party, it might make it easier for you to attend a crowded party sans-MDMA in the future.

          • Tsnom Eroc says:

            SSRI’s also eventually have the same tolerance issues. Thus sending the patients back to square one and worse.

            Why are SSRI’s even prescribed? In general, it dosen’t outperform active placebos, let alone clearly. Eventually, tolerance happens to that drug too, sending the patient back to square one and worse…and then, the possible withdrawal hell happens…what a mess.

  28. Bovinas says:

    What exactly does this cuddling thing that supposedly happens at lw meetups include? Is it sexual?

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      I haven’t been, but as someone who cuddles often with friends, I expect it’s not. We’re primates. It just feels nice to have another warm body touching yours sometimes.

      • Deiseach says:

        As a resolute non-toucher, the idea of people feeling free to put arms or hands on/around me is giving me goosebumps.

        • Bassicallyboss says:

          In my experience, it usually happens only with already-close friends, and only after asking permission. So at least in my circles, no one “feels free” to cuddle/embrace anyone; it only happens when mutually desired. I can’t speak for meetups, though.

    • Murphy says:

      There was none at a London meetup I attended. I think that’s a cultural thing with some of the bay area RationalSphere.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Alpha Male (Yudkowski) has sex with all the females in the cohort then asserts his dominance by writing a post explaining the other males how polyamory is the only rational approach to human relationships.

  29. Forlorn Hopes says:

    So there’s been a lot of Hugo / puppy discussion recently. But as far as I’m aware there hasn’t been any discussion of whether the puppies were right to say that the Hugos or Worldcon had a left wing bias that was politicizing the Hugo awards.

    What does everyone think?

    As a complete outside to Worldcon that just likes to read sci-fi / fantasy books there’s two things that make me think the Sad Puppies have a point. The first is the popularity of Requires Hate and the second is the enormous overreaction to the Hugo nominations in 2015.

    • Richard says:

      This says pretty much everything about the puppies that I wish I had said and puts it better than I could have.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        You know, I never thought of that before but it’s right.

        With blind first past the post voting for possible candidates it would inevitably end up with either a political party dominating the vote or something like Doctor Who getting multiple nominations every year.

        Thanks for the link.

        • Nornagest says:

          I haven’t been following the Puppy fight, but it seems obvious even on casual inspection that the voting process has big problems around the edges. Girl Genius for example has three Hugos in the comic category, and would have more if the Foglios hadn’t voluntarily dropped out, which I always thought was kind of a joke. It’s a decent series but it’s not that good.

          • LHN says:

            I’d say that independent of politics, the non-written categories have never really jelled all that well. Film, TV, and comics are less central to the electorate, and more prone to domination by enthusiastic fannish communities even prior to the late unpleasantness. Short Dramatic Work was threatening to become “best Doctor Who episode” for several years. (Maybe two or three of the five best SF TV shows every year for half a decade really were Doctor Who episodes, but there must be something there I just don’t see.)

            But by the same token, those media have never really taken the Hugo all that seriously. The only time I recall a movie caring it won a Hugo Award was when the “Galaxy Quest” writers were clearly thrilled back in 2000. Other than that, they generally don’t even bother to send a representative.

    • For what it’s worth, Requires Hate didn’t seem exactly popular, even among SJWs– she got more respect than I think she deserved, but it was “some good ideas (usually not specified) but too nasty”. RH was never central the way Vox Day was (is?) among the puppies.

      My current take is that the puppies had a point, but less of one than they think– that is, I’m willing to believe that they weren’t seeing the kind of fiction they want represented in the Hugos. I’m much less certain that what they like is of very high quality.

      Or it’s possible that the field has moved on and my taste isn’t well represented. I was just at a book discussion group about Have Spacesuit, Will Travel— there were people of various ages, but I was the only one who really liked the book.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        I think bringing up Vox Day in response to Requires Hate is a “two wrongs don’t make a right” situation.

        I can certainly grant that Vox is more central to the Rabid (but not the Sads) but that doesn’t help answer the question of whether worldcon tribe had a left-wing bias; since Vox clearly isn’t in worldcon tribe.

        I’m willing to believe that they weren’t seeing the kind of fiction they want represented in the Hugos. I’m much less certain that what they like is of very high quality.

        One question: Is the stuff that actually won the Hugo’s for preceding pre-puppy years any better?

        Jim Butcher seems to come up a lot as the example of what Puppies like to see, he’s on both sad and rabid slates and I’d agree that he’s not especially great. I grew board of the Dresden Files a few years back.

        But the Rivers of London series hit similar notes to Dresden Files, while being, IMO, all round better written. Have you read them? Broken Homes came out in the same year as Redshirts and I can’t see how Redshirts deserves to beat it.

        • My point was that Requires Hate was only moderately popular, but perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned Vox Day.

          Have puppies mentioned when they thought the Hugos started going downhill?

          I’ve read the first four Aaronovitch books, and I like them. I’m not sure whether puppies would count them as too SJW.

          I took a look at the novels from 2000 till now, and I’ve seen a good bit that I liked and it doesn’t look like an SJW grip to me. On the other hand, the novels have the widest readership.

          • Richard says:

            1994 holds some of my all time favourites

            1995 was the last year I actively went out and bought all the works

            2000 was the year I started deliberately avoiding buying nominees

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            My point was that Requires Hate was only moderately popular

            Sure. But given that this is RH, even moderately popular is very damning.

            I’ve read the first four Aaronovitch books, and I like them. I’m not sure whether puppies would count them as too SJW.

            The fifth one wasn’t as good IMO, still good, but not as good. I’m excited for #6 though. It’s provisionally titled The Hanging Tree and I’m a big Lady Ty fan.

            I wouldn’t count Rivers of London as SJW. It’s hard to say what an SJW book would be, because to me SJW is about tactics/attitude more than anything else. A book by an SJW author is probably the definition I would use.

            By this standard Redshirts is SJW, even though it’s not particularly political. (SJWs not practicing what they preach is practically a cliché now)

            Meanwhile an overtly political book wouldn’t qualify if the author was charitable to the outgroup and willing to debate beyond echochambers.

            I think when puppies say SJW in the context of the Hugos; we’re thinking more “RH was moderately popular” or “Sclazi is a SJW and he seems pretty central” than anything about the contents of the book.

            At least as a vaguely sad-puppy supporter that’s my view.

          • Richard, what did you see about the Hugos in 2000? I’m seeing a pretty distinguished set of nominees, and not especially left wing.

            I’m inclined to agree with you about RH as a negative reflection on SJW– I see her as a logical extrapolation of SJW, which I consider to be an elaborate self-sealing system of emotional abuse which nonetheless points out some real problems. Last I read, Laura Mixon, the SJW who took RH down, considers RH to be a betrayer of SJW ideals.

            In any case, I don’t think RH was a major player about the Hugos (except for being the subject of Mixon’s award winning essay), but I could have missed something.

            Forlorn Hopes, you’re making it all sound pretty tribal, but then I suppose it is. Judging SJWness by the author rather than the specific work might be missing the point of voting for specific works.

            As for my alliances, I find more people and fiction to like on the SJW side, even though I’m horrified by a good bit of the ideology. Puppy material tends to bore me, and I find that the ideology doesn’t work. It’s all very well to say that fiction should be entertaining, but I tend to not be entertained by puppy fiction.

            I will also note that Ken Burnside (double puppy nominee) has done the most I’ve seen to try to mend fences between puppies and anti-puppies, and the Sad Puppies did recommendations rather than a slate. Neither has gotten much praise for their efforts from the anti-puppy side, though Abi Sutherland (a moderator at Making Light) had good things to say about the improvements from the Sads.

            I’m standing with Treebeard– “I am on nobody’s side, because nobody is on my side.”

          • Richard says:

            @ Nancy

            First, I am not really very caught up in the whole puppy debacle. I am pretty much the quintessential representative of the link I posted above, but I’m not fussed about awards or slates or whatnot; since Amazon came along, I’m not depending on what the bookstores will stock and I can get my fix in regardless of awards 🙂

            2000 was the first year I steared clear. I should possibly have stated that as: “1999 was the year that turned me off” as that was a truly horrendous year, especially for novels. On the other hand, the only novel I can get behind from 2000 is Greg Bear – Darwin’s Radio. (And of course I bought Rowling, but that was to read to the kids – 8 and 4 at the time….)

            Stephenson makes me really struggle to keep suspension of disbelief going.

            Then again, my favourites are the mars trilogy from Kim Stanley Robinson and things from Niven and Pournelle, i.e: emphasis on the sci bit of sci-fi. I find most modern Hugo material to be drama thinly wrapped in pseudoscience.

            In fact, lately I’ve found more enjoyment on the fantasy side with Sanderson and Canavan keeping consistent enough world mechanics that I don’t give up in frustration.

            And, yes, Correias venture into high fantasy is a bit of a hoot.

            I believe this is independent of my politics as I think I’m pretty far to the left by US standards. The reason I don’t self-identify as e.g a feminist is that I live in a relatively sane and civilised country where things like gender neutral, no-fault divorce and equal inheritance has been the law of the land since 1275 and where from this POV, any country without legally codified paid maternity leave seems so archaic as to be practically indistinguishable from Saudi Arabia….

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Last I read, Laura Mixon, the SJW who took RH down, considers RH to be a betrayer of SJW ideals.

            IMO, that’s a tautology. But we’re clearly using different definitions for “SJW”.

            I define a SJW as either

            1) Someone who uses the appearance of Social Justice in order to get status or the endorphin rush of crushing their enemies; but has no actual interest in supporting the actually good principals of social justice.

            2) Someone who genuinely believes in social justice, but has been misled by people of type #1 into behaving in fairly similar ways.

            RH would be a #1. I think “Andrew Cord” from In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization is an example of #2

            And I define “SJW tribe” as a collection of social norms / memes that allows type #1s to easily rise in status and power; and thus lead the well meaning but young/vulnerable people who look up to them into becoming #2.

            In any case, I don’t think RH was a major player about the Hugos

            Indeed she was not. But unless I am mistaken RH had a measure of respect within the Worldcon community – which can be used as evidence when asking questions about the charachter of the worldcon community.

            Forlorn Hopes, you’re making it all sound pretty tribal,

            Well yes.

            I think the puppy / anti-puppy thing was basically a question of whether one tribe had taken over the Hugos, which used to be a multi-tribal shared space.

            I started this thread to ask if people agreed; and possibly to discuss it with them if they did not.

            In retrospect, I probably should have said “blue tribe bias” rather than “left bias”. Ah well, hindsight is 20/20.

            Judging SJWness by the author rather than the specific work might be missing the point of voting for specific works.

            Could you expand upon this point?

          • Forlorn Hopes, you said:

            It’s hard to say what an SJW book would be, because to me SJW is about tactics/attitude more than anything else. A book by an SJW author is probably the definition I would use.

            By this standard Redshirts is SJW, even though it’s not particularly political. (SJWs not practicing what they preach is practically a cliché now)

            Meanwhile an overtly political book wouldn’t qualify if the author was charitable to the outgroup and willing to debate beyond echochambers.

            I think when puppies say SJW in the context of the Hugos; we’re thinking more “RH was moderately popular” or “Sclazi is a SJW and he seems pretty central” than anything about the contents of the book.

            I’ve heard a lot of demands (mostly from the puppy side, I think) that people should only vote for the specific work, rather than being influenced by knowledge about the author or how the work got on the ballot.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I said “this is how I’d define SJW book”. I never said don’t vote for SJW books.

          • Forlorn Hopes, fair enough.

          • Nornagest says:

            Just from eyeballing the list of Best Novel nominees, I’m not seeing much SJ influence until at least 2002, and that’s kinda borderline — Perdido Street Station is undoubtedly political but it’s also a hugely imaginative book. It doesn’t look strong until a couple years ago.

      • DrBeat says:

        Also, “the puppies” are not a single thing. Vox Day made the Rabid Puppies specifically because he wanted to do damage the Sad Puppies were not willing to do, explicitly for the sake of causing damage. The Sad Puppies do not like Vox Day and do not support him and did not want to do the things he did and it’s pretty ridiculous to hold them responsible for the actions of a person who they explicitly opposed.

    • An analysis I like.

      More generally, the Hugo used to be an award that sf fans could agree was really an honor. I’m not sure there’s enough consensus for that to be possible any more.

      I don’t know that it was an overreaction in 2015– the awards were swept by a lot of sf which wasn’t very good. If the puppies had had stronger works to lead with, it might have gone differently.

      Also, it’s not as though the puppies made the Hugos *less* politicized.

      The most important thing I’ve learned from this mess is that people wildly underestimate how much their own insults affect people.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        I’m not sure about that analysis. Voting Boaty mcBoatface was free. Hugo’s cost a lot of money. People have to care enough about either scifi/fantasy or culture wars to pay up.

        I think the Sad Puppies are genuinely dissatisfied fans. I can’t call the Rabid Puppies for sure.

        I’m not sure there’s enough consensus for that to be possible any more.

        Yeah, I agree with this. Fandom has grown and diversified (good), but the award process hasn’t caught up with that.

        I’m not sure if it’s possible to do so. Though maybe splintering of into a verity of different awards; with a final meta award whereby only works that already received a respected award may be nominated for could do it.

        Perhaps each award also nominates a juror, who cannot vote for their own awards work.

        Also, it’s not as though the puppies made the Hugos *less* politicized.

        Absolutely.

        I think it’s moved from a state where one political bloc was stomping other groups under their boot to one where multiple political blocs are each giving as good as they get.

        I think that would be an improvement, except for the fact Vox Day is winning. Equally powerful sides incisivenesses people to look for a peace treaty IMO.

        The most important thing I’ve learned from this mess is that people wildly underestimate how much their own insults affect people.

        It’s always great to see someone from SJW tribe learning that very important lesson.

        Could you use your in-tribe status to tell people to lay of the BernieBros nonsense. Ok, that was a joke, but I’m genuinely worried that’s going to drive away potential voters just when they’re needed to prevent one of the worst potential candidates in recent USA history.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ Nancy Lebovitz
        I don’t know that it was an overreaction in 2015– the awards were swept by a lot of sf which wasn’t very good.

        Against a lot of PC stuff that wasn’t SF.

        • “Against a lot of PC stuff that wasn’t SF.”

          How much?

          There are only two classic puppy examples of that.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Nancy

            Okay, my “a lot of stuff that wasn’t SF” was me making a parallel sentence and perhaps not accurate by the numbers, dunno. What I was calling [completely] “not SF” were the dinosaur story and the rain falling from the ceiling story.

            Still, it’s possible that if we stripped all the PC/message/model-pronoun/”Oooh, a Chinese author” sort of stuff from the one side, and all the military/political/philosophic message stuff (if any) from the Sad’s side. the actual SF left on both sides might not appear so different in quality or quantity.

          • keranih says:

            If I had my druthers we’d all come to disgruntled bitchy accord over what we mutually liked and as one we would pester the authors who weren’t writing enough of it until they disowned the lot of us as entitled self-adsorbed brats who had no appreciation for Hard Work And Art.

            (Go on, tell me that standing hand in hand at WorldCon singing I’d like to give the world a coke is more likely.)

          • LHN says:

            I’d be inclined to add Ken Liu’s 2012 short story winner “The Paper Menagerie”, which struck me as a pure literary exploration of an immigrant experience with a tacked on (if lyrically described) sfnal element that made much of the story rather less plausible. A friend of an Americanized child of immigrants bored by and casually destructive of regular origami (or some other stuffy Old Country craft) as compared with cool action figures? Sure. Reacting with the same dismissal to magically animated paper animals? Pull the other one, it has bells on.

            Between that and Liu’s 2012 novella finalist “The Man Who Ended History” (which attracts arguably needed attention to an inadequately known WWII atrocity by way of a thin and implausible SF overlay), I was at the point of seriously wondering if Liu really wanted to write SF or if he had somehow found himself tied to it by market pressures despite wanting to write in some other field.

            Then his 2013 short story winner “Mono No Aware” at least was intentional SF (and I thought pretty decent), even if that year was kind of depressing overall. (Only three short stories managed to make it over the nomination threshold at all that year, reflecting the longstanding low interest in, and consequent low nomination numbers for, short fiction in general.) Likewise, the work he put in translating The Three-Body Problem points to a genuine interest in SF.

            But the earlier works on the Hugo ballot were on the edge of being Bat Durston stories. (Stories from other genres retrofitted into “SF” by changing the cowboy’s six-shooter to a ray gun or the detective’s car into a spaceship.) Their being nominated for the Hugo didn’t strike me as a great sign for the field at the time. (Even if I haven’t been overwhelmed by the alternatives presented more recently.)

          • Vorkon says:

            I always assumed that Ken Liu and Cixin Liu were related somehow. If so, that would mean that his work translating The Three Body Problem doesn’t necessarily show a particular interest in SF/F, so much as an interest in helping out his family. That would also give him a reason to be tied to the genre, despite possibly not caring too much about it, as you describe.

            It never occurred to me, until I read your post, that I had no actual evidence they were related, other than the name, which I believe is a fairly common one. Wikipedia doesn’t mention anything about it, and I’m too lazy to dig through the various other links Google gives me. Does anyone know off the top of their heads?

          • LHN says:

            @Vorkon They’re not related.

            (I think it’s mentioned in the forematter to the book, but the easiest cite I could google is http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2015/08/25/cixin-liu-becomes-first-asian-to-win-hugo-award-for-science-fiction/ : “the deft English translation of Mr. Liu’s works by American author and translator Ken Liu (no relation to Cixin Liu)”)

          • Vorkon says:

            Ah, thanks! I feel a little silly about that now, and am feeling a bit more charitable toward Ken’s other work.

            I only listened to the audio version of Three Body, and if it mentioned it there, I didn’t notice it.

          • Fair point about “The Paper Menagerie” not especially being sf.

    • Is there really an award show that isn’t biased? It seems hard to imagine how an award will not somehow reflect a bias favorable to the tastes/political affiliation of the majority of its organizers, jurors or public.

      Maybe it’s different in America, but in France it’s widely akwowledged that literary award shows are just that: shows, where the major publishers essentially pat each other on the back for how awesome their authors are.

      Really, it seems the only way to make a completely unbiased award show it to just give the prize to the best-seller in each category — but then that makes the whole charade redundant and puts the organizers out of job, so of course no one wants that and everyone is trying really hard to prove that the award show is prestigious and reflect a higher artistic judgement (and not just a combination of positive emotional answer to a given work + political bias).

      • Anon says:

        Not being able to make something perfect is not an excuse to refuse improving it. Yes having absolutely zero bias is likely impossible, but that doesn’t mean reducing current bias is also impossible. An award can be useful as a metric for certain marks of quality and signalling political/business/whatever affiliation should not be one of those marks of quality the award is chosen for.

    • keranih says:

      But as far as I’m aware there hasn’t been any discussion of whether the puppies were right to say that the Hugos or Worldcon had a left wing bias that was politicizing the Hugo awards.

      Yeah, there’s not a lot of discussion because there’s not a lot of disagreement that this was happening.

      The most charitable way to say it was not that the Hugos were being politicized but that left-leaning/progressive authors and editors were gaining prominence and promoting books that were the sort of thing that they liked. This is pretty much widely agreed on by everyone – you can look through the last few years of discussion and commentary on the field and see regular comments on the emphasis of women’s voices, anti-colonialism, and promoting non-standard sexualities in both characters and authors.

      The discord in the field, I think, comes from disagreements over 1) how much emphasis should be given to promoting progressive values in story and authorship, and 2) whether progressive (and/or anti-conservative) values are all that awesome to begin with. More people have issues with the first than with the second, imo.

      The first is the popularity of Requires Hate and the second is the enormous overreaction to the Hugo nominations in 2015.

      Don’t read too much into RH/WF/whatever they’re calling themselves now. (Or into VD, for that matter.) IMO, it’s more significant what the average writer/SFWA member/editor was doing, rather than what outliers were doing.

    • Peter says:

      I ought to say: I’m not getting involved this year (especially on SSC where the commentariat seems to have a pro-Puppy slant and Scott himself is very wisely Not Getting Involved). However, my levels of self-control aren’t as good as they could be.

      I’ve never been to Worldcon, I’ve never voted on Hugos, I have friends who do, I’ve been to various other conventions so I sort-of have a feel for that side of fandom, not least some friends who went to WorldCon in 2014 and got excited at the Hugo process and then got seriously annoyed when 2015 happened. Overall I consider myself anti-Puppy, but the whole thing is complicated; on a bad day, “too many houses, not enough plague…”

      My somewhat heretical take is that the Sads had something of a point, although not as much as they thought they had, and not enough point to justify the actions of 2015 (2013 and 2014… meh, whatever, it wasn’t too much of a problem, they didn’t sweep entire categories in the nominations); also they got overshadowed by the Rabids (who seem to be entirely lacking in point and overflowing with anti-point), at least in terms of practical impact on the nomination list. The Sads have caught an amount of flak for this, IMO some of it deservedly.

      RH was a problem; not so much RH herself as the fact that she was able to recruit lots of people to join in with her crusades, and have a variety of … not exactly defenders as such but people finding reasons to complain about anyone attempting to deal with the RH problem.

      AFAICT there are definite problems with some SF communities on the internet; how much this reflects the goings-on offline, or the mindset of the average Hugo voter is unclear to me.

      The key difference between RH and VD in this context is that I haven’t heard of RH trying to interfere with the Hugos.

      • keranih says:

        on a bad day, “too many houses, not enough plague…”

        Totally stealing that.

        At the risk of straining your good tolerance, could you expand on this:

        the Sads had something of a point, although not as much as they thought they had, and not enough point to justify the actions of 2015

        What were the “actions of 2015”, if I could ask?

        not so much RH herself as the fact that she was able to recruit lots of people to join in with her crusades, and have a variety of … not exactly defenders as such but people finding reasons to complain about anyone attempting to deal with the RH problem.

        Yeah. I mean, any barrel’s gonna have a few assholes in it. But that there were so many people who were okay enough with RH’s supposed goals that they excused/ignored/accepted her really horrific methods was deeply disturbing.

        (I completely get why people don’t like VD. But it’s hard for me to equate “getting a bunch of people to vote for works one doesn’t like, plus being an annoying internet troll” with the documented actions of RH. *shrugs*)

        I myself also hold that the same issue (over emphasis on progressive themes) with the Hugos also extends to other awards such as the Nebula, but that given the closed nature of the Nebula voting pool, meh. I’m crankier about the Hugos.

        • Peter says:

          Stealing that: Hey, I stole it first!

          Actions of 2015: Mainly arranging the slates so as to get a lock on certain categories, shutting out non-Puppy nominations. You say “getting a bunch of people to vote for works one doesn’t like”, I say “gaming the nominations” and “getting a lock” (also, you say “annoying internet troll”, I say “white supremacist”[1]. This sort of thing is why I told myself not to get involved this year and why I may yet decide to stop being involved…). Hence 2014 being much less of an issue. In 2016 the Sads (but not the Rabids) have restructured their thing to avoid lockouts, they’ve responded to criticisms, so the issue was a 2015-specific thing for the Sads.

          RH: piecing it all together is difficult, it’s hard to tell how many people were in RH’s inner circle vs how many people were supporters because they didn’t know all of what was going on[2]. Still, it was a sign that something was wrong in the community, and something was wrong with the ideology (or the way it was used – is there a difference?) that RH was able to hide behind. Again, I repeat my point that RH was not directly relevant to the Hugos in the way that VD was.

          [1] One huge problem with certain parts of the social justice/anti-racist movement is that they’ve diluted “white supremacist” (and “supremacy” etc.) so much that when the genuine article comes along you have to check twice to see if strange definitions are in play.
          [2] This is a mitigating factor, but not a complete excuse. In law there’s “negiligence” and “recklessness” to do with failing to take reasonable precautions to avoid causing certain sorts of harm, and I think the same applies to common everyday morality/ethics, and that one of those precautions is being suspicious of ideologies (e.g. “listen and believe”) that tell you not to take those precautions.

          • keranih says:

            @ Peter –

            Well, then, I’m stealing it back! No takebacks!

            Mainly arranging the slates so as to get a lock on certain categories, shutting out non-Puppy nominations. You say “getting a bunch of people to vote for works one doesn’t like”, I say “gaming the nominations” and “getting a lock”

            …tomatoes, let’s call the whole thing off.

            I think we’re seriously not going to agree at all on what happened then. You say “fixed” and “shutting out”, and I am just not seeing that, and feel there is a serious assumption of bad faith in those accusations. *waves hand* Old news. Under the bridge, so to speak. And we’re otherwise doing well so far.

            RE:VD – eh. I actually had a couple paragraphs typed out regarding defining VD as a white supremacist, but then decided against. The best defense against the influence of VD is, I think, to resist the temptation to make anything about him. VD likes something, and I am well. VD dislikes something, yet again I am well. His promotion of a work can not be of note unless the work is good, in which case his promotion is still of no note, because the work stands for itself. Which brings me to:

            Again, I repeat my point that RH was not directly relevant to the Hugos in the way that VD was.

            RH was directly relevant to the toxic SJW culture that came close to dominating SFF. It was this culture’s overreach that laid the foundation for the Sad Puppies. To me, while I agree that RH was not involved in the Hugos, the events of the last two years(*) are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a multitude of threads in this…movement? situation? whatever the hell this non-revolution kerfuffle is. [snips out rehash of various threads]

            Anyway. I do agree on the whole taking precautions, and making up ones own mind, and I do agree, sometimes there just isn’t enough pestilence in the day.

            (*) Which is part of the reason I am so frustrated by the “but you stacked the vote and locked out everyone else” meme. [snips yet another rehash] It wasn’t like people were cool with the SPs when they only got 1 or 2 works on the final slate – they hated the SP back then, too.

          • Peter says:

            Two things:

            1) I don’t think I ever said “fixed”. It’s not clear to me what the SPs intentions were in 2015, I think there were one or two categories where there were four nominations, I think I saw some signs that the SPs were surprised by the combined effects of the Puppy slates. Mainly I was talking about RPs though (in response to your comments about VD) and I’m quite happy assuming bad faith on the part of VD and the RPs; as I say, in terms of the final results, the RPs had the much larger effect.

            2) 2014 vs 2015 – there are two bits of evidence, one public. The private thing is the way my friends talked about puppy-nominated works online in the two years. Generally they seemed unimpressed in 2014 but nevertheless they were willing to properly consider them and decide whether they were Hugo-worthy, and some of them were – people who were willing to occasionally use No Award were nevertheless ranking some puppy picks above it. In 2015 there was much more anger directed at the whole thing. I think it shows up in the voting records for 2014 vs 2015; in 2014 most of the Puppy nominations did at least finish above No Award, with the exception of one of VD’s works, in 2015 things were quite different.

      • John Schilling says:

        The key difference between RH and VD in this context is that I haven’t heard of RH trying to interfere with the Hugos.

        Why would she want to, when the books and stories she likes are already the ones that are nominated and win?

        How that happened, and what role RH played, are interesting questions – but this is an example of asymmetric conflict, so expecting the same strategy from both sides is unrealistic.

    • Urstoff says:

      Given the left-wing boilerplate invective that came in response from several prominent sci-fi editors, I would say that the sad puppies were at least partially correct.

      However, I think it’s really only an issue for the Hugo’s, and not sci-fi writ large. Plenty of publishers, even Tor, publish books that right-wingers could enjoy (and, of course, Baen still exists and continues to exist). Even the top magazines don’t seem particularly political to me; Asimov’s and Analog both publish lots of different kind of stories, not just tedious exercises in gender studies (those are actually pretty rare in the print magazines; I think they tend to show up more in the online-only spaces).

      So yes, the Hugo’s have become a bit dominated by cultural studies via warmed over MFA sci-fi, but I don’t see much of a reason for a reader to care about the Hugo’s at all.

      • John Schilling says:

        but I don’t see much of a reason for a reader to care about the Hugo’s at all

        The informed reader, if reading is all they want to do, probably doesn’t care.

        If they want to be a member of a community, they might care if that community’s cultural institutions are captured by, at best a subset of the community and at worst outright entryists. If they want their community to thrive and to even in part represent their interests, they have reason to care that the community not be falsely represented to potential new members. And pretty much by definition, anyone who is even a supporting member of a Worldcon is a member of the fannish community, not just a “reader”.

        If the Hugos claimed to be anything less than the highest honor of worldwide science fiction fandom generally, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. There are dedicated awards and conventions for SJ-friendly science fiction and fantasy, as well as for the Puppy-friendly sort. None of which are terribly controversial. If Worldcon and the Hugos can’t be neutral territory, they should be done away with.

        • Urstoff says:

          You’re probably right about the community part (although there seems to be a distinction between the Worldcon community, which most SPs/RPs were never a part of, and the sci-fi fandom community), but I find pretty much any fandom community to be completely terrible.

          • John Schilling says:

            The idea that there is or ought to be a distinction between the “Worldcon community” and SF fandom in general, is I think part of the dispute. I believe that, traditionally, Worldcon fandom was intended to be a representative subset of fandom generally. That e.g. the forced migration of Worldcon and the big off-year regional conventions, were intended to force Worldcon to average over and recruit from the various local fandoms. And that the Puppies saw themselves as part of that tradition.

            To the extent that Worldcon has become dominated by a literal jet-setting elite that descends on and perhaps overpowers a different local fandom each year, this is I think a recent and dubious development. And a key part of the dispute.

        • Anonymous says:

          Claiming that there are entryists out there is a bit like claiming CIA agents are following you. It is literally possible, but in the overwhelming number of cases it says something about you rather than the CIA.

          There’s no secret cabal of people that don’t actually like SFF but who joined worldcom pre-2010 as a tactic in the greater global culture war. The only group that’s used a tactic like that are the rabid puppies and they’ve done so openly.

          No one has the coordination ability to pull of even a tiny fraction of the nefarious plots the paranoid alt right attributes to so-called SJWs.

          • John Schilling says:

            If someone had claimed there was a secret cabal, you might have had a point. As is, you don’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            If it wasn’t secret than where is the documentation showing that “an organisation or state encourage[d] its members or supporters to join another, usually larger, organisation in an attempt to expand influence and expand their ideas and program.”?

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            There’s no secret cabal of people that don’t actually like SFF

            No one says they don’t like SFF.

            Reread I can electorate anything but the outgroup. Puppies and anti-puppies are each others outgroup. That means they have a lot in common, including liking SSF.

            No one has the coordination ability to pull of even a tiny fraction of the nefarious plots the paranoid alt right attributes to so-called SJWs.

            The coordination ability needed to take over the Hugos is so minimal that Vox Day could do it.

            Someone who doesn’t have the disadvantages of holding Vox Day’s political views could probably do it in secret. Actually, Vox Day could probably do it in secret if he really tried.

          • Anonymous says:

            If the people in question all like SFF, then how does this sentence, specifically the last four words, make any sense?

            If they want to be a member of a community, they might care if that community’s cultural institutions are captured by, at best a subset of the community and at worst outright entryists.

            As for someone like VD but without his political views, someone without VD’s political views also would be less likely to attract a fanatical group of loyal followers. Convincing people to pay $50 to influence the awards of a genre they don’t like is a big ask.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            The bit you quoted: “They are a subset or entryists.”

            If they like SSF they are a subset.

            So the bit you quoted is a true statement.

          • Jiro says:

            There’s no secret cabal of people that don’t actually like SFF but who joined worldcom pre-2010 as a tactic in the greater global culture war.

            “Entryist” doesn’t necessarily mean “person who doesn’t like SF but has joined to set an agenda”. It often means “person who doesn’t like one class of SF and has joined to set an agenda to promote a different class of SF”. Someone who only likes leftist SF can “like SF” and be an entryist at the same time.

          • Anonymous says:

            “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

          • Jiro says:

            That does not apply when the word is used by large numbers of other people, with whom you are trying to communicate. You can use words any way you want, but you cant use them any way you want and still communicate.

          • Anonymous says:

            Indeed. Which is why your attempted redefinition of ‘entryist’ was inappropriate.

          • Jiro says:

            An entryist is someone who joins a group that is not about X as part of a movement to overwhelm the group with members that will make it X. It is certainly possible for X to be “left-wing SF” and the group to just be about SF.

        • Wrong Species says:

          The Academy Awards claim to be the highest honor in film and they constantly choose mediocre movies but no one cares that much.

      • Richard says:

        but I don’t see much of a reason for a reader to care about the Hugo’s at all.

        Admittedly, now that you can get everything on Amazon, I agree, but some of us remember the dark ages when your local bookshop would only carry the nominees due to small sci-fi market…..

      • Deiseach says:

        I don’t see much of a reason for a reader to care about the Hugo’s at all

        Unhappily, I think that is so. There was a time when “Hugo Nominee/Award Winner!” splashed on the front cover meant something I would probably be interested in reading and wouldn’t generally find awful.

        That day has passed.

        I’d be broadly sympathetic to the Sad Puppies, but since a fraction of one side seems to think such an admission means I only want to read about the Military Conquests of White Cis Het Christian Americans In Space, I want to beat them about the head with a copy of Samuel Delany’s Driftglass (a collection that blew me away when I was fifteen and found it in my local library) but to hell with them, why should I have to prove not alone my fannish credentials but that I am the Right Kind of Fan?

    • Anonymous says:

      The Puppies have lots of complaints, so probably some of them are more true than others. And, conditional on truth, people would probably not rank them all as equal concerns.

      One class of complaint was that the voters have bad taste. There are two versions of this: voters like fancy writing over action and voters like left-wing politics.

      The second class of complaints is that people were voting on aspects other than the contents of the book. There are many versions of this complaint. I believe that the spark of the first Puppy campaign was a couple of claims of whispering campaigns: don’t vote for this particular nominee (Correia and Hoyt?) because he or she is a conservative, even though you didn’t notice in the book. In the opposite direction, there is the claim that people vote for Scalzi because of his politics outside of his books. And then there is the complaint of of Cliques choosing books to promote.

      I think that the complaints of the first class are probably true, but I think that they have the simple solution of adding more voters. The second class of complaints contains many variants and I think some of them are more true and/or more serious than the others. I think it’s pretty hard to distinguish the above Scalzi hypothesis from the hypothesis that people read his blog for his politics and he reminds them to vote at all. And it may be that the existence of popular blogs warps the voting even if the bloggers don’t realize that they are running a Party. At the very least, it is pretty hard to avoid the strategic voting of only nominating works that look like they have a chance, which is highly influenced by their mention on popular blogs.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Much like the case with the ants, this seems to me like one of those things where someone makes an accusation based on faulty or incorrect evidence, that ends up being proven sort of right by something completely different.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Except that all the initial accusations of http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a were 100% accurate? It was afterwards that they started spinning out of control and accusing people of bias for donating to kickstarters or giving good games bad reviews.

        The initial accusation of http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a was “there is a conspiracy among games journalists to cover up http://pastebin.com/HYRAeVMC abuse” based on the speed and consistency with which every outlet banned discussion of it from their comments/forums, followed by the apparently-coordinated wave of articles appearing on a wide range of gaming sites on the theme of “Gamers are gross, eww, gamers”. Yes, they ended up being proven right by the discovery of the GameJournoPros mailing list on which the journalists were conspiring, but that doesn’t make the initial evidence faulty or incorrect, it just means that they were good at inference even without conclusive proof. Which we should all aspire to be.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Are you sure about the timeline? The Eron stuff and the TFYC stuff is kind of simultaneous, but I’d say that the “slept with reviewers to further their game” angle was the first big point of contention. It was really only with the “Gamers are Dead” party line that the ethics issue gained solid ground, finally being confirmed by the list.

          The abuse angle was kind of parallel to all of this, and it predates it by far if you consider the Wizardchan thing.

          Still, I admit my recollection of the events is fuzzy at best, and my attempts to find a timeline lead me to less than objective results.

          • suntzuanime says:

            My recollection is that TFYC came later, because the whole deal was that they were persecuted for being not unfriendly to http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a , which doesn’t seem possible unless http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a was already a thing. You’re right that the “slept with reviewers to further their game” thing was an important aspect of the initial accusations that I should have mentioned. My bad, I’d forgotten about it.

            And yeah, that particular accusation was never conclusively proven; although she was sleeping with reviewers, and her game was furthered, causation has not been definitively proven. I do think it’s where the smart money is, but “100% accurate” was not supportable by conclusive evidence and I apologize.

          • Anonymous says:

            The initial complaint was that ng had written positive coverage of zq’s game after sleeping with her without disclosing the relationship. Kotaku’s official stance on this is that their relationship only started the day after he wrote about her, I don’t think I have to point out how flimsy of an excuse this is.

            As time passed “positive coverage” was distorted into “positive review” which isn’t true as there wasn’t any positive review but you can probably find TB’s tweetlonger that made the whole thing mainstream and you’ll find that it doesn’t mention any review.

            PS. the TFYC thing happened before tzp, the reason they were attacked was either (a) because they required transwomen to have identified as women for a while to participate and (I don’t remember the exact wording), or (b) because the indiedev clique was protecting their turf from outsiders.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I kinda want to believe that excuse, actually, because implicit corruption is my favorite sort of corruption. Like how government regulators get cushy sinecures in the industries they regulated only after leaving public service.

            I could very easily be wrong about the timeline of the TFYC stuff. I guess what must have happened is that http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a latched onto TFYC due to their pre-existing feud with the corrupt bay area clique in order to demonstrate that they didn’t have a problem with women in gaming, only the clique. And then that provided the clique with another angle of attack, because everybody knows http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a are some lady-haters, which only proves that TFYC isn’t really helping women. And I only saw the last part and so I thought that was how the controversy started.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            To clarify the timeline. TFYC were persecuted by the bay area clique before http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a happened; but they were only noticed by http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a after everything had kicked off.

            But not long after. The Zoe Post was 16th August. Total Biscuit’s twitlonger was 19th. I can find evidence of 4chan donating to TFYC on the 21st – so it might be even earlier.

          • Anonymous says:

            What happened is that Matt from TFYC, when tzp appeared commented on reddit “I’m not surprised about this, she ddosed my website and got my project blacklisted everywhere”. TFYC involvement happened after tzp, after TB’s twitlonger but I think before the day gamers died.

            BTW nobody actually suggested that the coverage happened as counterpart to sex, except facetiously, the idea was always that it was accidental corruption.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I would be wary of saying “no-one claimed X seriously” when it comes to a grassroots movement borne out of 4chan and Reddit.

            I’d agree that taking that claim as a central position of said movement is the weakest of mannings (Peyton, btw).

          • Anonymous says:

            The only place I ever saw that claim made was in the intro of internet aristocrat’s videos which was a parodying Jesse Ventura.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Donating to kickstarters of people you’re covering is a violation of journalistic ethics.

          I saw a youtube interview with a professor of journalism being passed around late 2014 by supporters of http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a – sadly I can’t find it again.

          Also. The actual rule in the Society of Professional Journalists ethics code is to “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived“. Obviously that’s going to vary by audience, but once the game-journalism industry has been caught red handed in a conspiracy – it’s only natural that the requirements to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest will go up.

          Once they have shown the lengths they’re willing to go to to defend a member of the in-group, any information that suggests someone is their in-group, such as Patron donations, becomes a perception of a conflict of interest; and justifiably so.

          The accusations of bias for a low score (you’re referring to IGN’s Stellaris review?). Given the level of tribalism displayed by game journalists, is it hard to imagine that links to the other side will cause bias? I don’t think he dropped it from a 9 to a 6 out of spite. In fact I think the opposite, I think a lot of reviewers (and gamers) are giving it a free pass because it’s a Paradox grand strategy game – which means it will be awesome after a few expansions come out.

          But dropping it from a justifiable 7 to an undeserved 6 because of unconscious bias – I could see that.

          And even if he didn’t, saying stuff like

          When I was at ParadoxCon this his his name was said as someone who can sell games with mentions. I instantly felt worse about being there.

          is still extremely unprofessional and creates the perception of bias even if not actual bias. It was improper behavior for a journalist.

          (Context for that quote: https://i.sli.mg/m3N9qa.png)

          • suntzuanime says:

            When they say “real or perceived” they mean “perceived by a reasonable person” not “hallucinated by a lunatic”. When I give you money, that does not create a sense of obligation from me to you that could color my coverage. The obligation goes the other way! If game devs are donating to journalist Patreons, yes, absolutely, that should be disclosed.

            I was not referring to the Stellaris review; I wasn’t aware there was http://pastebin.com/ZKpWAN9a involvement in that controversy. But they’ve raised a stink over that sort of thing many times in the past, and it’s a real bad look.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            When they say “real or perceived” they mean “perceived by a reasonable person” not “hallucinated by a lunatic”.

            And when the industry is caught red handed in a corruption scandal, a reasonable person will adjust their priors for conflicts of interests to suggest it’s far more likely.

            When I give you money, that does not create a sense of obligation from me to you that could color my coverage

            I found the interview. A professor who researches journalism ethics explicitly saying that giving money to fund the creative projects of someone you write about is a clear violation of journalistic ethics: https://youtu.be/4-7RLxrsJ04?t=4m5s

    • Furslid says:

      Think about the academy award for best picture. Everyone knows that the academy award for best picture isn’t really for best picture, and a film can be insulted by calling it Oscar-bait. The nominees for best picture are likely to be serious dramas. They are by established players who have payed their dues in the industry. They are left wing, either in politics or worldview.

      Everyone knows what the best picture Oscar means. No one even tries to nominate any movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for best picture, even though the MCU contains profitable, well reviewed, popular, entertaining, well made movies. No one condemns movies in the MCU for not being considered for Oscars.

      The Sad Puppies crowd said the equivalent of, “What do you mean the MCU has had no nominations for best picture? None of those films even deserved consideration?” The response they often got was “That just proves your taste in cinema sucks. Learn to like better movies.”

      I have no idea of how to make the Hugos become more diverse. The Sad Puppies plan seems not to be working very well. It’s like demanding that this years Oscar be a superhero movie. Not that it be a good movie, just a superhero movie.

      • As far as my understanding of it goes, happening to follow a few blogs of people on either side of the puppy conflagration, is that both sides claimed that the Hugo awards are a fan* award. The Oscar equivalent in SF would be the Nebula award.

        *Some factions on both the puppy and anti-puppy and neutral sides would disagree, offering some reservations or caveats.

      • John Schilling says:

        @Furslid: Except that, as noted, the SF equivalent of the Oscars are the Nebulas, not the Hugos. And we all wrote off the Nebulas as hopelessly politicized years ago (except for those of us who embraced them as politicized, I suppose). The Hugos are a closer match for the People’s Choice Awards. Not a perfect fit there, either. But if the People’s Choice Awards all started to go to serious “Oscar bait” drama, you wouldn’t wonder if something funny might be going on?

        And in fact, Sad Puppies started out as an attempt to inject a calibrated signal into the nominations process to see if “something funny” might include actually tampering with the vote count. Which turned out not to be the case, but the echo chamber theory still looks pretty solid.

        [Ed: Ninja’d by Dice]

        • From what I’ve seen, the only claims of cabal come from 2014(2015?) when it seemed like a lot of people not nominated all knew about the puppies sweeping the nominations before the nominations were officially released. It doesn’t mean much in itself because what kind of secret cabal can’t even stop its supposed enemies from winning, but it would be evidence in favor of insiders who all know each other while being at the very least in sync if not working together. Having that sort of unannounced bias in the leadership or volunteers of worldcon was part of what the puppies stated goals were (unless that was a goalpost moved shorter to claim victory, IDK).

    • Walter says:

      My read on the matter is this:

      “You can mostly only vote if you pay to attend this literary convention” is what skews results. Folks who voluntarily attend Worldcon are progressives. If you said that in order to vote on these awards you have to attend Wrestlemania you’d see the opposite bias.

      The puppies are right that there is a bias, wrong that it is the result of anything more than the crtieria to vote.

      • John Schilling says:

        Agreed except that calling the Worldcon a “literary convention” might carry the wrong connotation. In some contexts, “literary” and “genre” are polar opposites, and SF has traditionally been solidly on the “genre” side. A genre which has flirted with the progressive from day one, but there isn’t an intrinsic expectation of progressiveness any more than there would be at a Louis L’Amour or Jane Austen appreciation society meeting.

        Also, I totally want those last two to be scheduled in the same hotel on the same weekend.

        • keranih says:

          The best part about the joint L’Amour/Austen cons would be that I could cosplay both with the same bonnet.

        • Protagoras says:

          Worldcon is a literary con, in the sense of literary as opposed to media (it does not completely ignore film, TV, etc., but big cons are never purely one thing; it is a very typical literary con except for being so big). That’s standard terminology for describing cons, even if it has some slight potential for producing confusion with the alternate sense of literary as opposed to genre.

    • Faradn says:

      Requires Hate has been defunct for a couple years now. The final post was the author apologizing for being mean to basically everyone.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I’m trying to form a more informed opinion on climate change and encountering some problems. My biggest issue is that both sides of the debate look shady as fuck.

    Climate deniers are clearly funded by corporations with vested interests and should obviously not be trusted. On the other hand Mann and his cohorts hide data they deem “confusing” (not my ideal way of making science) and publish questionable articles such as [0] (we conclude that the current temperature is unprecedented by excluding data that contradicts our conclusion because if it contradicts our conclusions its probably wrong).

    Let’s take for example the proxy divergence problem. Climate change deniers say that almost all proxies are diverging and that proves climate change is a sham.

    Climate scientists have two main retorts two this: (1) it’s not all of them it’s just tree-rings and not even all tree ring proxies (2) it’s because the current rise in temperatures is unprecedented causing proxies to fail.

    (2) is plausible but also tragically circular, so it’s not very interesting. Regarding (1), in principle it should be easy to prove or disprove this assertion but in practice I’m finding it very difficult. Other proxies seem to show signs of divergence however it’s hard to tell since I’m reduced to eyeballing graphs in scanned pdf articles that don’t have great image resolution to begin with and are often spaghetti graphs where lines overlap and it’s hard to tell if two lines are overlapping or one of the lines just ended.

    What I’m wondering is: is there a dataset of proxy data, in numerical form, that I can use to definitively prove or disprove the existence of proxy divergence?

    [0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11583829

    • Anonymous says:

      both sides

      I would suggest distancing yourself from this dichotomy. There are more ways to look at the issue without falling into one of the highly politicized camps. (I happen to think that both mainstream are wrong.) The politicization of the whole issue is essentially where the problem is – people having vested interests in proposing their version of the story, and damn any evidence otherwise.

    • James Picone says:

      Find a trained scientist or scientists you trust in a relevant field and ask them?

      I assume you’ve already poked around this, but on first blush it looks like what you’re looking for re: proxy data.

      I’m not sure there’s really a shortcut other than 1) determining who you’re willing to outsource trust to and 2) developing some understanding of the relevant science and doing a lot of work to find useful datasets. Everything else is just adjusting the balance between the two. 1 has the risk of outsourcing trust to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing (and how do you determine who’s trustworthy if you don’t have some understanding yourself?). 2 has the risk of Dunning-Kruger.