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Open Thread 51.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever.

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936 Responses to Open Thread 51.25

  1. stargirlprincesss says:

    For some time many people have claimed that top tier universities don’t add much value. Obviously people who went to Harvard do better on average than those who went to a tier 2-3 school. The issue is whether “people who went to Harvard” do better than “people who got into Harvard and didn’t attend a top tier school.”

    If you can get into a top tier undergrad you can probably get into a tier2 school with a scholarship (or at least into a tier 2.5-3). Is it actually worth paying for a tier1 education?

    • brad says:

      I don’t have data, so take it for what it is worth, but in discussions with fellow thirty somethings, the consensus is that it depends on what field you want to get into. If you are planning on going to medical school or law school, it doesn’t add much value. Maybe a slightly better chance of getting in to a top tier one but not enough to make it worth it. On the other hand if you want to go to work in the finance industry (i.e. Wall Street) it makes sense to go to the most prestigious undergraduate institution you can get into. Similarly if you want to work as engineer (including software), a degree from MIT or Caltech will have currency throughout your career.

      • JayT says:

        For what it’s worth, I have math and CS degrees from a third-tier university, and it hasn’t been any kind of a blocker for me in my career. I have coworkers with degrees from prestigious universities, and they aren’t any further along on their careers than I am. I also haven’t seen much difference in quality of employee based off of university. Pretty much all the best programmers I’ve ever known skipped college.

        Also, when I’m interviewing potential hires I don’t give the education section of their resume any more than a glance. Maybe if they’ve never had a job before I would put a little bit of weight on a better university, but once the interview starts I couldn’t care less where they went.

        • Brad says:

          Were you professionally active during the crash after dotcom 1.0? That’s the time in my career when traditional credentials seemed the most important.

          Also, fwiw I’m on the east coast.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think that’s the point really, Brad. When employers can’t get enough warm bodies (or if they didn’t go to Big Name U themselves), they don’t care where you got the training as long as you can do the job.

            Any kind of crash or economic downturn, where there are more applicants than vacancies, and then they start using credentials as a filtering process: it may not be necessary to have a Big Name U qualification, but if they have five hundred CVs landing on the desks in HR, winnowing them out by saying “Don’t consider anything from Nowheresville College” makes it a lot easier to cut down on possible interviews.

          • John Schilling says:

            but if they have five hundred CVs landing on the desks in HR, winnowing them out by saying “Don’t consider anything from Nowheresville College” makes it a lot easier to cut down on possible interviews

            I don’t think that happens in STEM at least, though it might in more network-dependent fields like e.g. investment banking.

            I’m told there will be about forty resumes on my desk tomorrow morning for an engineering position, and I won’t be roundfiling any of them for “wrong school”. What people have done, counts far more – and for recent graduates, that means internships, research, and relevant extracurriculars. If you’ve done nothing but study, I’ll be looking for someone who did graduate work with the best professors in the specific field, which isn’t quite the same as the best schools. If all else fails, coming from a top-tier university is a tiebreaker.

            Mostly, if you’re looking for a STEM job, the reason to go to a top-tier university is that it increases your odds of working under a top professor or getting the best internships – but you need to work at those things specifically rather than assume having the school’s name on your resume will do the heavy lifting. And if you know specifically what you want to be doing, look for the professors first.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Hiring of software engineers is full of voodoo. For such a technical field, it’s absolutely packed with “well, it feels right to me” reasoning when deciding who to hire.

        • JayT says:

          My career started in the early 2000s, after the dot com bubble burst, but before Web 2.0 took off. I am in the Bay Area though, so I’m sure we probably had less of a hit than the East Coast did. Also though, my career started with writing device drivers for a gigantic company, so I don’t think that job was all that affected by the bubble burst.

      • The Nybbler says:

        In software, MIT/Caltech/Carnegie Mellon/Stanford (probably a few others) are golden for your first job, especially if you want a job at one of the big tech companies. Late career, not so much. They’re still going to HELP, mind you, but not nearly so much.

        There are exceptions, however, that might be good to note. It’s well known that the big tech companies pulls strongly from Stanford… but Apple for some reason gets a lot of people from the far cheaper San Jose State, as does Yahoo. Microsoft pulls from the top-tier but public University of Washington.

        http://www.wired.com/2014/05/alumni-network-2/

      • windmill tilter says:

        For STEM the university does not matter

      • The claim I have seen is that, if you are accepted to a top school, going to that school instead of one a little lower will give you a higher salary in your first job but not thereafter.

        That makes some sense, on the theory that your performance in your first job generates better evidence than what school you went to, but I haven’t read the actual research so have no opinion on how good it is.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It shows engineering/computer science/math flat by rate of return, which would seem to mean that the most expensive school you can afford works out the best.

        • JayT says:

          They are basing it off admission rate though, not cost, so I’m not sure you would want to go to the most expensive school you could afford, you want to go to the most picky school you can get in to. A school like Cal Berkeley is hard to get into, but very cheap. A school like University of Phoenix is very easy to get into, but more expensive. Obviously, you would rather go to Berkeley.

    • onyomi says:

      I still think most people, given the choice between getting a Harvard education and being unable to put it on their resume and being able to put a Harvard education on their resume and not actually getting it, would do better on the job market in general with the latter.

    • Yes, Harvard is absolutely worth it. T1 schools are your single ticket for access into elite society.

      This may not make a difference in your ability to get reasonable paying jobs (what those studies tend to measure), at least if you’re looking at basically lucrative fields. (It may if your field is itself about access: traditional, non-quant I-banking comes to mind; you don’t get interviews unless they like your school and Tufts ain’t going to do it.) But it does matter if you care at all about being part of the higher society, which I think you should: they take care of each other in any number of ways. Do you want your problems to be the #1 concern covered by the media? Do you want your personal preferences to dictate national trends? Do you want your political predilictions to dictate the overton window? Go to Harvard and make friends. Either you or those friends will decide exactly what matters and what doesn’t.

      Also, the Ivies are the elite’s private dating service. I turned down an Ivy (not Harvard to be fair) to go to a very good but less well known STEM focused school because I thought the physics and computer science undergrad experience would be better. It was. That was also me setting fire to my best chance for ever getting married, at 17, without realizing it mattered. I could seriously kill my younger self. It’s been eleven years and I’ve never had any chance to get that near 5% as many young women interested in stable relationships as I’d have met in my first semester.

      • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

        My ex got her PhD in [STEM] at [Ivy] and pretty much spoiled me as far as girlfriends go; she’s the only one I could talk about rational-sphere topics with out of all of the women I’ve dated. Indeed, I think if we had stayed together/if I had been successful at getting back together with her fairly recently I would have asked her to marry me.

        But that ship has sailed…

        • “she’s the only one I could talk about rational-sphere topics with out of all of the women I’ve dated.”

          I went to Harvard for undergraduate, Chicago for graduate school (physics). Acquired no girlfriends as an undergraduate (one very serious interest who was insufficiently interested in me). Met and married my first wife when she was an undergraduate at Chicago, I a graduate student. That marriage lasted about four years and part of the reason it ended (at her initiative, not mine) may be that she wasn’t someone I could easily talk about ideas with.

          My current marriage (thirty-three years and still going) is to a woman I met at VPI, where I was an assistant professor and she a graduate student, and with whom I can talk about ideas without feeling as though I need a translator. VPI is not an Ivy or close.

          So some evidence that elite schools are not the only place to look for a romantic relationship with an intellectually interesting partner.

          • With respect, the marriage market (and society / how we find access to partners) has changed a lot in 33 years.

            Also, I think that the fact that you managed to escape the consequences of a bad choice doesn’t imply that it wasn’t a bad one: it seems to me that you’d have been even better off had you known what to look for while you were in undergrad; you could have found someone like your current wife then, and I’d bet it would have been easier, because the population of prospects would have been that much larger.

            You seem to be more making a comment about criteria by which to choose a wife, which I freely admit are important, than about the best opportunity to find one.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            @Andrew:

            I think he was just trying to cheer up people who did not go to Harvard.

          • I wasn’t commenting on the best opportunity to find a wife, but on an opportunity.

            I went to Harvard as a socially retarded sixteen year old, which may have something to do with my lack of romantic success. I met one woman there who I think might well have worked for a long term partner, but she was less interested in me than I was in her, perhaps because of my limited expertise in social matters.

            It’s possible that the population of potentially suitable partners was much denser at Harvard/Radcliffe than later, but that wasn’t my perception.

            How do you think the relevant marriage market has changed over my adult lifetime? My impression is that casual sex has become somewhat more common–but I was at the early stage of the sexual revolution (I entered Harvard in 1961). Probably more common then than I realized.

          • Richard says:

            From failing memory; Single person households went from 12% to 28% between 1960 and 2000 which would change the market significantly?

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            I guess I should have clarified that I actually didn’t attend the school that she did. I met her sort of randomly at a social event that we both happened to be interested in.

          • Lumifer says:

            Some data relevant to the marriage market (from here):

            Multiple studies show that college-educated Americans are increasingly reluctant to marry those lacking a college degree. This bias is having a devastating impact on the dating market for college-educated women. Why? According to 2012 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are 5.5 million college-educated women in the U.S. between the ages of 22 and 29 versus 4.1 million such men. That’s four women for every three men. Among college grads age 30 to 39, there are 7.4 million women versus 6.0 million men—five women for every four men.

            Though, admittedly, it deals with a slightly different level than the Ivy vs non-Ivy distinction.

          • Tibor says:

            @Lumifer:

            Not all college educated people are the same. I admit that I have a pro-STEM bias but at least in my experience there is not much of a difference between an average non-STEM college level educated person and someone without college-level education in terms of what David describes as “talking about ideas”. Now, most STEM people are like that as well (sadly), but those who are bright and open to ideas are more common, pushing the average higher (there are also probably more people in STEM than in other fields who are full of themselves and arrogant, who are sure that they know everything better…this seems to be especially the case with men though, at least from my experience, so not a problem for me, at least from the romantic relationship perspective).

            However, among STEM people, you have more men than women (not in all STEM fields, but on average you do).

          • Deiseach says:

            My impression is that casual sex has become somewhat more common

            That’s probably part of it; it’s a lot easier to get sex without needing to get married first, which has the knock-on effect that people are choosier about marriage. They may cohabit if it looks like a serious relationship, but the whole “marriage mortgage kids family life” package is a really big leap, and it seems to me that people are concentrating quite hard on their careers at that stage of their early adult lives so marriage on top of that is too much to handle.

            On the other hand, I think “I’ll find my Life-Long Partner between the ages of 18-22 when I go to university” is a very large expectation that may or may not work out. So the pair of you marry at age 23, but does that mean it’ll work out and you’ll still be married at 30? It’s entirely possible your criterion may be “I want to marry a woman I can talk about Big Ideas with” and after three or four years of that, she wants to leave because “He’s interested in nothing else but talking about Big Ideas, he never does anything I’d like to do”. EDIT: this is not in reference to what Professor Friedman said about his first marriage, this is a general observation. It’s very seductive to meet someone who is also interested in the things you like and can converse intelligently about them, but basing a relationship on a single thing is a shaky foundation, whether that be “We both like discussing theoretical physics” or “We’re the most beautiful couple in the entire university”.

            I do see how the chances of finding someone who is on the same level of intellect and general interests are higher when you’re all attending the same kind of courses, but what 20 year olds want and like may change a lot when they hit their 30s, and there is more to a life together than “We like the same kind of things” (though of course that makes it a lot easier).

      • Nonnamous says:

        99%+ of the country never went to an Ivy league school and they usually do get married, often quite happily.

        • TPC says:

          We don’t have a 99% marriage rate, it’s quite a bit lower from its historically high peak in the middle 20th century.

          That said, the Ivies are not necessarily the best marriage pool for people seeking marriage. It depends on what you want from a marriage.

          • Anonymous says:

            We don’t have a 99% marriage rate, it’s quite a bit lower from its historically high peak in the middle 20th century.

            That’s an understatement. Fewer than 50% marry nowadays. Some of these stats are really horrific.

          • “Fewer than 50% marry nowadays.”

            That graphic has no text explaining it, but the URL is “young adult marriage” and the label is “Percent married” not “Percent who get married.” If young adult is defined as (say) 18-25 and everyone marries at 26, the percent married would be zero.

            From Wikipedia, “As of 2006, 55.7% of Americans age 18 and over were married.” That suggests that your graph shows, for some age group, the percentage who are married, not the percentage who eventually get married.

          • Nathan says:

            Especially once you start looking at the very late age brackets you get a lot of people who have been married but are not currently. The majority of people die single.

          • Deiseach says:

            Getting married isn’t the problem, it’s staying married. Like the quip about respecting marriage so much, the speaker got married several times (like Henry VIII who liked marriage so much, he had six of them).

            I think marriage at a young age is probably likelier to end in divorce, especially now that we have no-fault divorces (yes, even in Ireland). Though over here what I’m seeing more of is that people leave their marriages, don’t bother to divorce*, are separated (either legally or informally) and enter into new relationships where they cohabit with a new partner and may or may not have kids by them. And that’s if they ever got married to someone in the first place.

            *Probably a holdover from the days before we had divorce when marriages were still breaking down and it became more socially acceptable to be separated. People who wanted second relationships couldn’t legally marry so they simply cohabited. One of our Taosigh famously had a long-term partner and didn’t divorce even when it was legalised, primarily because both he and his ex-wife were happy with the arrangement and his daughters didn’t like the new partner, and nobody in the country made a fuss about it, even though he did get scolded by the Archbishop of Dublin. He actually got more of a slating from (what likes to pass as) the ‘liberal’ media when that second relationship ended, since this particular newspaper was the organ of the opposition political party and its editor and star columnists lost no opportunity to present him as the Devil Incarnate 🙂

          • keranih says:

            I think marriage at a young age is probably likelier to end in divorce, especially now that we have no-fault divorces

            Yes, I think it’s held up by the data linked above that the rate of divorce among people who marry young is higher than that of people who marry later.

            However, that doesn’t change the difference in rates of being married – people of the groups who marry young are more likely to be married at, say, 40, than people of the groups who marry at 35. Like child bearing, marriage is not just delayed, it is also prevented in current social patterns.

            My eyeteeth for a quick and easy solution to the issue, but I don’t think there is one.

      • TPC says:

        Woman who was accepted to Harvard in the 1990s and didn’t attend. I’m a housewife to a husband with no college degree, who works in STEM and pulls a top 5% income, and we have more than two kids. I couldn’t have gotten that attending Harvard. In fact I am unlikely to have been able to have married at all. I might have been the first black female STEM something or other though, and childless and single. Another data point.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Your background sounds really interesting. Would you mind providing more detail? Social class, how you met your husband, how on Earth one gets a high-paying STEM job without a degree, etc?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          My immediate social circle has a number of women from very elite schools who are housewives. Getting an awesome degree doesn’t shackle you into the job market if you want to leave it, if you are a woman.

          • TPC says:

            I’m black. An elite degree would indeed have made it much much much harder for me to be a housewife or even get married at all, much less doing the SAHM thing. However, that is not why I didn’t attend Harvard, that’s just something I learned by observing which black women ended up housewives at an age where they could have more than two children before age 40. There’s pressure to achieve First Black Female X status that is probably not there for your immediate social circle’s housewives.

          • Deiseach says:

            Getting an awesome degree doesn’t shackle you into the job market if you want to leave it, if you are a woman.

            Oh ho ho ho, no. But you will be publically scolded by lady columnists for letting the side down, for wasting your education to ‘just’ be a stay-at-home-mom, for not using your opportunities as a mentor in the workplace for other women, for not having an awesome career and thus setting an example for young women to aspire to more than marriage and motherhood, for not working to break down the glass ceiling and Da Patriarchy from your position of power to lift other women up with you – I could go on, but it gets tiresome.

            tl; dr – you will be accused of betraying the sisterhood and snide remarks about privilege and class will be made – it’s fine for you, with an expensive education and wealthy husband to support you, to decide you want to play Mommy at home but what about the poor young women of ethnicity who don’t have the same range of choices available to them? You are crushing their hopes and dreams and rubbing their noses in the fact that you could have it all and threw it away while they can’t get out of where they’re trapped!

            *Lest you think the “setting an example” scolding is an exaggeration on my part, when Cherie Blair (the wife of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair) became unexpectedly pregnant in her late forties with an unplanned pregnancy, there were some lady columnists writing for English newspapers who tut-tutted that she should have chosen to have an abortion as an example to young women who found themselves with an unplanned pregnancy, to show that it was perfectly fine to have an abortion and you did not have to be condemned to having a baby if you didn’t want one:

            Cherie Blair can call herself a feminist all she likes, but any feminist worth her salt would have made a point of having a termination – on the NHS, naturally – when she got knocked up the last time. Wantonly giving birth to a fourth child on a planet buckling under the strain of overpopulation certainly isn’t any sort of example to set for gymslip mums, who can at least plead ignorance and rampant fertility.

          • Mary says:

            There was at least one doctor tuttutting at Sarah Palin for letting Trig live because while she could cope, she might encourage other mothers to do the same, and they might not be able to cope.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            That Blair thing has to be just about the most heinously evil thing I’ve ever read.

            I’m not even against abortion: I work with stem cells after all, kind of hypocritical to gripe about how the sausage is made. But suggesting that someone should abort a viable pregnancy simply to demonstrate feminist street cred, while adding on the Scrooge-like surplus population argument and weird contempt for the proletariat (in the original Latin sense)… it just hits all the wrong buttons.

          • Mary says:

            Adn then there is this:

            No doubt if you’re the sort of lumbering, self-obsessed poltroon who believes that seeing Mommy kissing Santa Claus 30 years ago irrevocably marked your life, you wouldn’t get over an abortion, as you wouldn’t get over stubbing your toe without professional help. But you choose to be that way, because you are weak and vain, and you think your pain is important. Whereas the rest of us know not only that our pain is not important, but that it probably isn’t even pain – just too much time on our hands.

            Even on a purely rhetorical level, that’s an insane thing to say if you want to claim that your abortions were no problem at all for you.

      • Peter says:

        From my side of the Pond I was under the impression that the Ivies weren’t such a dating service these days. Google for “Harvard hookup culture” – there seems to be an idea that no-one has the time for proper dating anymore, but don’t want complete abstinence either.

        Of course, this could be journalists etc. being up to their usual tricks, I’m of the wrong generation and on the wrong continent, what do I know?

        • Pku says:

          Currently at Ivy leauge school. This is fairly accurate for most students (some long-term relationships start, of course, but I’d say significantly fewer than other places with people of comparable age).

    • Lumifer says:

      I think that “top tier” defined as the top ten or so is worth it. Below that, not so much.

      The advantage is not that you’ll learn more better, the advantage is that you’ll spend four years surrounded by very smart people, will be able to plug into a highly useful network, and will have a piece of paper which will open doors.

      • Randy M says:

        This is what I’ve heard and find plausible. You can find comparable education elsewhere for less, but you can’t find comparable connections or signalling potential.
        Most of what people want the former for benefits from the latter two assets even more.

        • Anon says:

          “For less” is a bit misleading – most of the high-end private schools have very generous financial aid. Stanford, for example, waives tuition in full if your family makes less than $125k/yr.

          (If your family is too rich to qualify, marry a fellow student for the duration and thereby redefine your family unit.)

        • Lumifer says:

          I actually think the most value is not in connections or signaling. It is, to repeat myself, in spending four years among very smart people. That will set your standards and expectations, establish good habits, push you to do your best, and generally keep you on your toes intellectually speaking.

    • Peter says:

      Over in the UK, the argument rages about whether Oxford and Cambridge offer real extra value over the rest, and I have little to add to that beyond “I think so”. Certainly if you want to impress the average Joe then Oxford and Cambridge carry the same weight as Harvard and Yale, and if you look at global university rankings then they tend to be competitive with the top American universities. Imperial isn’t bad either if you’re a STEM type.

      It’s quite a different system over here (both at the undergrad and graduate level), but every now and again I hear about Americans pondering between Oxbridge and top Ivies. I have no idea how the costs work out for international students, or how the scholarships work out. It seems to be more usual for international students to come as graduates rather than undergrads.

      • Anonymous says:

        For people planning on coming right back to the US, HYP edges out Oxbridge. First because the alumni network is mostly here rather than mostly there and second because the degree system is different and so a little harder to understand. That said a random M Phil can be an excellent investment. Again, no one knows what it is, but unlike the undergrad degree they are less likely to dig. Also, especially if it is from Oxford it will unconsciously be associated with the Rhodes scholarship program.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        One relevant difference between the UK and US systems is that pretty much all of our universities cost the same (in fees at least, although living costs are higher in London (but so are bursaries)). So the tradeoff people seem to mention in the US of elite expensive university versus cheap less prestigious state university doesn’t exist.

        • Nonnamous says:

          Do Oxford or Cambridge give you the same kind of ticket to success as Harvard? I’m told people in the UK are very obsessed with class and it doesn’t sound like something that attending the right university can give you. In the US, I think it actually works that way to an extent, you go to the right school and bam!, you are now part of effective aristocracy.

          • Peter says:

            I think it might depend on your field; if you’re planning to make a killing in the financial services industry, I don’t know. With some industries… there’s the whole “unpaid internships” thing, but that’s more about money than class as such.

            If you’re looking for a STEM job, like mine, then class as such doesn’t really enter into it – people who want to hire smart people stereotypically look out for Oxford or Cambridge on your CV. If you want a top job in the Conservative party, then these days it helps to have gone to a famous school like Eton before going to university.

            If you get an Oxbridge education, then one thing that might annoy you is all of the people promoting stupid Oxbridge stereotypes and harping on about Oxbridge graduates and all that. For the class warriors who want to take it out on the toffs, getting an Oxbridge degree is totally enough to make you a part of the hated enemy class.

            To a large extent, class is about the accent you speak with, and if that accent is “American” or even “mid-Atlantic” then that seems to be more or less outside the class system. A regional American accent thick enough to be recognisable to clueless Brits, maybe a thick Southern drawl… might be an issue, but I’m guessing here.

            I mean, I keep saying class as such. These days no-one’s quite sure what class they really are, all of the things that go towards class like accent and education and accent and money and accent and taste and accent seem to have an effect though.

            Put it another way: social mobility isn’t exactly what you’d call “good” in the UK, but it’s there all right, and when people do international comparisons, then the UK comes out as being on a par with the USA, usually slightly better.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            My impression is that you could ingratiate yourself with the upper class students who all went to Eton together and join the upper class that way, but that isn’t mandatory (or particularly frequent). Upper class people are disproportionately represented at Oxbridge, but because they are such a small part of the population the majority of students are solidly middle-upper-middle class, including many of those who go on to become politicians (and hence join the actual ruling class).

    • Matt M says:

      Haven’t the VERY elite schools (I’m thinking of Harvard specifically here) adopted a model of “If you can get in and if you can’t afford it, you automatically get your tuition on scholarship?” Obviously this won’t apply to everyone in all cases (most notably, those with parents who *can* afford it, but insist the child pay their own way), but in general, I feel like the top universities are working pretty hard to make it so that the “cost” of picking Harvard over, say, UCLA, isn’t all that much.

      • gbdub says:

        This is true to some extent (notably Northwestern and Stanford that I’m aware of, not Ivies but still elite), but a) even if “tuition” is free, housing, fees, and supplies still aren’t super cheap and b) the “sticker price” of Ivies and other elite private schools are well above $50k/yr – so you could be getting a pretty substantial scholarship/discount and still be paying as much or more as at an in-state public university (and 125k a year in income might seem like a lot, but it’s certainly not enough to afford $50k a year out of pocket in tuition per kid, unless they live quite austerely).

        • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

          But dont those schools operate on a need-blind, demonstrated financial need basis? Meaning that admissions and the department of financial aid are indepent in their decisions from each other, and that if you get admitted you will get as much money as you need based on your parents’ income? At least this was the case when I applied to Harvard and Co. as an international student. (This might be a case where the middle class gets the short end, because parents do have reasonable amounts of money but for some reasons can’t use that to finance their kid’s education.)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s called perfect price discrimination. They look through your taxes and decide how much you can afford. How nice of them.

            (Although going completely tuition-free, as some of the elites do, is a nice move away. Do note that if they give free tuition to people from families making under $125,000, that indicates that there isn’t a huge number of incoming students coming from families that poor.)

            (Fuck, when did $125,000 a year become poor?)

        • brad says:

          A couple of points:

          -Financial aid grants can include the full “cost of attendance” including room, board, travel and books.

          -The formulas used generally divide parental income by however many students are in college at the same time (but that doesn’t impact expected student contribution).

          For example, using the Harvard calculator, a student whose parents had gross income of $125k and non-retirement, non-home equity assets of $200k would be expected to cover $14,600/yr. From that amount $3975 would be for personal expenses and travel, so the actual bill from Harvard for tuition, fees, room & board would be $10,625. With a second child in college that would be reduced to $8,625.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I went to a very well-regarded, internationally-ranked school, instead of a lower-tier but still respectable school where I would have had a free ride. My brother chose the lower-tier free ride. I’m glad I chose the better school, because all the people saying that socializing is what matters are correct. I have a far stronger social life than he does, and it has benefited me in various ways, more than what I studied did – although I did spend a good amount of time partying instead of studying, so take that in mind. Also, I am not a STEM person, so their strange and foreign ways and customs are beyond my knowledge.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Anyone in Germany who uses melatonin? Where can I buy some? Amazon gives me lists of green bio-friendly food supplements which may or may not be what I’m looking for.

    • I am not a legal expert, but I am told melatonin is illegal without a prescription (!!) in Germany. At least, my brother-in-law took a bottle he had bought in American to a pharmacist to ask a question and was told coldly “OK, leave that bottle on the counter, walk away, and I won’t call the cops.”

      YMMV!

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, there’s a surprising amount of medicine that’s freely available in my country but prescription-only in Germany. They seem to only sell aspirine without prescription around here, so I really should’ve expected that.

      • Dahlen says:

        Illegal?! It’s sold OTC around here!

        Well then, I suppose it’s confiscated OTC over there.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I think that it is legal to by it from an EU country such as the Netherlands, France, or Italy. That link is the 0.1mg dose. Most people take doses that are way too big. Some people say that 0.3mg is optimal. Others say that the legality of importing changed a few months ago.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      Things have changed, Melationin is now legally available without a prescription, daily doses have to be below 2 gram.

      Online some German forums recommend this merchant, I have never orderem from them personally though: https://www.medizinfuchs.de/preisvergleich/melatonin-1%2C5-mg-kapseln-60-st-espara-gmbh-pzn-4128530.html

  3. John Woolley says:

    So I discovered this wonderful blog about five months ago, and since then I’ve devoured the entire archive and started looking around the internet for more Scott Alexander to read. I’ve been gravitating also towards Less Wrong and the rationalist movement in general, and become a lot more cognizant how I think about certain issues and situations.

    Yesterday I noticed something that concerned me a little: I stumbled upon a YouTube channel dispensing very forceful libertarian-flavoured videos, and I was having mixed reactions to them, oscillating between intrigue and a kind of repulsion. Before I knew it I found myself searching Slate Star Codex to see if Scott had ever mentioned the person who made the videos. I realised that essentially I was hoping that Scott would tell me what to think about what I was watching, so that I could feel more certain in my attitude.

    Obviously it’s a bad habit to be so enamoured with one particular person or community that you just agree with them no matter what, but on the other hand, after thinking about it for a while I came to the conclusion that reading what other people think about something before you make a decision about it doesn’t sound like a terrible idea – and, of course, nobody has time to exhaustively investigate every controversial issue.

    I wondered if anyone had any thoughts on this – is it possible to be surrounded by a certain flavour of opinion without, to some extent, letting those views prevent you from developing your own?

    • Jill says:

      >Is it possible to be surrounded by a certain flavour of opinion without, to some extent, letting >those views prevent you from developing your own?

      That may depend as much on you as on what you are surrounding yourself with. Humans influence one another to be sure. If you are concerned about that, perhaps you could read some Left Wing media sources too, in addition to Libertarian sources, to balance things out.

      Also, you could do some inner work, through psychotherapy, or meditation, or various personal growth techniques, with the aim of developing a stronger sense of who you are, how you feel, what you think etc. That might help you to have more awareness of who you are, rather than jumping too quickly to imitate others too completely in their ideas or behaviors.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Well I think part of your instinct was absolutely correct: there’s a definite hazard in forming an opinion right away, particularly on a topic outside of your area of expertise. You can easily get “stuck” on whatever crazy idea you first settle on, with inertia making it more difficult to adjust your beliefs later as better evidence comes along.

      That said, Scott is a very smart guy and an excellent writer but he isn’t the pope of rational analysis. I’m often curious what he has to say but ultimately each field has it’s own experts and fact-checkers. Looking into questions of political economy in principle shouldn’t be too different from looking into a question any other soft science. Find a review on the subject by a reputable author, use that as a starting point to further investigate the issue, and see where it takes you.

      I’m not worried about occasional Scott-olatry here because, unlike Big Yud, he actively discourages it. I don’t think we’re overly at risk of falling into cultism here.

      • Zorgon says:

        That said, Scott is a very smart guy and an excellent writer but he isn’t the pope of rational analysis.

        HOW DARE YOU SPEAK OF THE RIGHTFUL CALIPH IN SUCH A FASHION!

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      Opinions are sort of like musical styles. No one’s drops down from the sky without some previous influence.

      It certainly isn’t wrong to look up an influential thinker to see what their opinion of a topic is. Instead of treating their opinion as authoritative, treat their opinion as Bayesian evidence.

      • Bone Man with Shiny Hat says:

        Opinions are like assholes: the internet’s full of them.

        If you’re going to outsource your rationality, there are worse people to outsource it to than Scott. Yeah, he keeps encouraging us to think for ourselves, but seriously, who’s got the time? Especially after spending hours catching up with the comments here….

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      Scott’s disposition to charitably interpret and evaluate contradicting claims sure does provide some trust that I am not ready to give to a lot of other people. Still, I think that there are some issues where his writing occasionally shows more bias than is usual for him, *cough* sjws *cough*, so I would take his reviews of these topics with a grain of salt.

      That being said, if I am totally honest with myself and disregard my cultural conditioning to always form an opinion by myself:
      P(Scott being correct about something)>P(me being correct about something)

  4. onyomi says:

    I’ve been kind of beating around this bush for a while, but would like to try discussing it explicitly:

    I’m going to take a strong anti-intellectual property position here (though could possibly be convinced that some much weaker version than we have now is advisable or necessary):

    Ethical case against:

    Intellectual property is not “property.” It’s an idea. You can’t own an idea. If I taste your delicious tuna casserole and start cooking it for my guests you don’t lose the ability to cook tuna casserole. If I love the design of your house and decide to build one just like it on my property, you still have your house. Property is a claim on something scarce. Ideas and specific arrangements of words, sounds, and concepts are not scarce. By telling me I can’t arrange certain words or sounds or concepts in certain ways without paying you, you are actually claiming a right to control how I use MY body and MY property.

    Practical case against:

    We produced lots of great literature, art, inventions, etc. before IP. Certainly certain kinds of creativity are helped by IP and would be hampered without it, but the reverse is also true. Hollywood films now are massive affairs and this, in part, is made possible by a certain guaranteed revenue stream over a long period of time partially inspired by IP; but I’m not entirely sure this results in more good movies.

    Consider how hard it seems to make a new movie not based on an existing franchise. Weaker or non-existent IP might result in a larger number of lower-budget, higher risk movies (or books, or songs…) getting produced. Total consumer satisfaction with this state of affairs might actually be higher, and though there would probably be fewer megastars (maybe JK Rowling would have net worth 10 million instead of 1 billion, but I’m sort of okay with that), there might be more opportunities for people to make a merely decent living as an actor, musician, author, etc.

    Some industries like fashion and cooking have no IP protection and they seem to do fine; if anything, very competitive and fast-moving, but thriving.

    And there’s also the issue of most people underestimating the degree to which most or all creative work is somewhat derivative. If new book, movie, or song seems completely new to you, it’s probably just because you haven’t read or listened to the person’s major influences. Also, certain types of creativity which freer IP would enable are unambiguously curtailed. Should Vanilla Ice have been allowed to sample Queen’s “Under Pressure” for the backbeat of his new song? I don’t see why not. He was still creating something new which people enjoyed.

    Not sure about the effect on new drug production, but I’m generally pretty unimpressed with the new drugs created in recent decades, most of which are for things like erections or else are sexier versions of things we could already kind of do more simply before. In order for this to work, the FDA requirements might have to be weakened or the approval process streamlined, but it’s not at all clear to me that IP protection is necessary for new drugs to happen.

    One area where it seems to me that weak IP might be more necessary is trademark. I’m okay with telling customers to do their own research to some extent, but if some company in China is allowed to exactly imitate all the labels on your product while putting in a completely different, presumably lower quality actual product, then that seems like a problem. Maybe this could be handled at the distributor level: Wal Mart would guarantee to buy only legit brands and not their imitators, but not sure. Or maybe it could be considered a form of fraud and therefore not require recourse to IP?

    • You may want to look at Against Intellectual Monopoly, which is a book arguing the anti-IP case.

    • John Schilling says:

      Intellectual property is not “property.” It’s an idea.

      No, it is an execution of an idea.

      “Bunch of swashbuckling rebels brings down the Galactic Empire while one of them carries out a Cambpellian Hero’s Journey” is an idea, and it is not intellectual property, it cannot be patented, copyrighted or trademarked. “Star Wars”, as executed by Lucasfilm et al, is intellectual property, and it is far more than an idea.

      The idea that IP means restricting “ideas”, is a common and pernicious misconception.

      By telling me I can’t arrange certain words or sounds or concepts in certain ways…

      When I tell you you can’t make copies of “Star Wars”, I am in no way telling you that you can’t arrange certain words or sounds or concepts in certain ways. Because when you show up with a bootleg “Star Wars” DVD or novelization or whatnot, we both know full well that it wasn’t you that arranged those words etc in that specific way.

      Property is a claim on something scarce

      There are a finite number of “Star Wars” DVDs. There are a finite number of opportunities to watch “Star Wars”. This is scarcity.

      It may be trivially easy for the guy who creates this scarce resource to expand those opportunities nigh unto infinity, but he is not obligated to do so and you don’t get to decide for him.

      • onyomi says:

        “Because when you show up with a bootleg “Star Wars” DVD or novelization or whatnot, we both know full well that it wasn’t you that arranged those words etc in that specific way.”

        I own paper; I own ink. If you tell me I can’t sell my paper and ink because it spells out “Chewbacca,” then you’re telling me how I can use my property. My paper and ink are scarce. The idea of talking about a furry guy in space and arranging the ink so it spells “C,” “h,” “e…” is not.

        Re. your distinction between “idea” and “execution,” I don’t see the difference. “Hero named Luke Skywalker goes on a journey in space” is just a more detailed version of the idea “hero goes on a journey.”

        • Skivverus says:

          I believe the point is that there’s a (probably fuzzy) threshold of detail beyond which scarcity does in fact come into play. Mathematics might not be a precise analogy, but I think it’s relevant here: many solutions to equations are (much) harder to generate than confirm, and likewise many solutions to real-world problems are harder to solve than to copy.

          • gbdub says:

            The thing that is “scarce” are “opportunities to sell / otherwise monetize” the idea.

            Intellectual property rights are intended to ensure that the creator gets first crack at the loot the idea can generate.

          • Jill says:

            gdub, yes. Mega-corporations might love there to be no patent rights, because they would get 100% of the loot. The creator would get nothing at all. It’s amazing that we still do have patents, given how controlled the world is by mega-corporations. But I suppose patents are also of use to mega-corporations in some ways, so I guess that’s why they exist.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t see why no IP would disproportionately benefit “mega-corporations.” If anything, I’d expect the opposite.

            It’s companies like Disney, as well as smaller patent trolls, who prevent small start-ups from springboarding off their ideas and “properties.”

            Independent artist, Nina Paley, on the difficulties faced selling her movie, which used 1920s vocals in a completely novel setting:

            “It’s about the songs themselves. All the research I did was on the recordings, which are not covered by federal copyright law, which is great. However, the compositions that underlie the recordings are not only controlled, they’re controlled by corporations that have no regulation on what they can charge. For me to get permission from them to use these 80-year old songs would have cost me more money than it cost to make the entire film. The songs were supposed to be in the public domain in the ’80s, but everything’s been extended by big media corporations for various reasons. It poses quite a challenge to tiny little low-budget artists like me. What they’re asking for is a really a drop in the bucket for a big studio or a big production. But it’s completely untenable for me.”

          • Nornagest says:

            Mega-corporations might love there to be no patent rights, because they would get 100% of the loot.

            This is almost totally backwards. It’s true that patents were historically intended to spur innovation by guaranteeing a revenue stream for inventors and other small innovators, but that has very little to do with how they’re now used: you should think of them less as revenue centers and more as legal tools (or, in the degenerate case, legal weapons). Larger companies generally having better-developed legal departments, that’s where you’ll find most of them: places like IBM file for thousands of patents without making a penny off licensing, just to defend themselves from patent trolls.

            On the other side of things, it’s actually not uncommon for smaller companies to deliberately avoid filing patents for processes or inventions that can’t be trivially reverse-engineered, because patents are publicly available and they have to include details that could give away essential points of competitive advantage.

            It’s kinda perverse, but adding more legal and regulatory superstructure generally favors big organizations (not necessarily, but including, corporations) over small and small ones over individuals. The reason for this is resources: compliance usually involves large fixed costs, and the bigger you are, the more money, bodies, and connections you can spare to throw at them. Pharma’s the famous case, but there are lots of others.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:

            This is almost completely backwards.

            No, it’s not completely backwards. Or if it is, then its opposite is also completely backwards.

            In other words, I think it goes in the category of “not even wrong”.

            In a world with no IP, you will have some perverse occurrences. If anyone comes out with a decent idea, corporations large and small will rush to copy it. My bet is that the largest corporations over time will be those who do the “best” job of copying.

            But the biggest companies of today would not love this, because one way they got big is by knowing how to play the IP game correctly, and eliminating IP would destroy that edge they have over the market.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m… not seeing how that contradicts anything I said?

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think you want zero IP. You just don’t want IP to extendible indefinitely, which is where you’re seeing the most abuse (e.g. Disney). The other area of abuse is in getting patents on vague things that aren’t really nonobvious innovations, and/or that you have no intention of actually monetizing except through lawfare. But giving an inventor or author 10-20 years to make bank before opening things up seems reasonable.

            As for who a no IP regime would favor, probably depends on the product. Complex inventions would be hosed without IP because the startup costs for R&D and production are huge. Little guy needs a big guy to help him get to market, but with no IP, little guy has no leverage to strike a decent deal.

            On the other hand, for creative works, no IP would probably help the smaller businesses that could piggy back off of existing properties.

            Really, it’s not feasible for GE to continue making a ton of money on an 80 year old invention without continuing to innovate. But Disney can sit on Mickey forever, because it’s not like you can make a cartoon character obsolete.

            Short IP seems best for both worlds.

          • onyomi says:

            By the way, I have met the creator of Sita Sings the Blues, which I highly recommend everyone watch and support, and she said she made more money off the film, in the end, with the “creative commons” license she was forced to release it under (due to inability to pay for rights to the music) than she ever expected to had she released it with the normal copyright protections. It just required thinking of different ways to monetize it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            Well, the way it contradicts what you said is that you imply that small companies will win when IP is done away with, and I think that is flatly incorrect.

            Large companies will still have a big advantage, but they just won’t get an advantage from their IP lawyers.

            Certain large companies will, in fact, make lots of profit off of this, and will love it. Amazon, for instance, could very well love, love, love it.

            Because the game becomes exclusively one of “how fast can I get it into the consumers hands” and they already excel at that part. First cut out the high markup guys with novel products by going to the cheapest/best knock-off shop. Then potentially build the knock-off shops yourself.

            You already see this with various Amazon branded products that aren’t subject to IP now.

          • Nornagest says:

            Big organizations get their advantage from applying leverage, integration, and economies of scale. Small organizations get their advantage from agility and specialization. Stripping some or all IP protections could lead to opportunities for either, depending on the details, but in the specific context of patents, I think the present scheme gives such an advantage to large players that removing (specifically) those protections would be an almost unalloyed loss for them.

            The situation around copyright, for example, is more nuanced.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            If Amazon can start selling Fitbits that have no connection to the Fitbit company n months after the Fitbit company does, surely that has a negative effect on the Fitbit company? n being how long it takes their crack “product acquisition” team to reverse engineer their hardware and software.

            If you are saying Amazon couldn’t do this due to TM or copyright, then we have different interpretations of what onyomi means when he says “all IP”.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, as I said, trademark strikes me as a harder case, and I’m less sure about it. Amazon making their own “Fitbot” to compete with “Fitbit,” is one thing, but Amazon making “Fitbits” which are superficially indistinguishable from the other company’s product seems almost to border on fraud, unless they make it clear to the customer that that’s what’s going on.

          • But the thing about Amazon releasing their own Fitbit in n months is that the Fitbit team has had that much time to get rolling on the next step in the fitbit development. Amazon will always be behind Fitibit, unless they decide to put their own spin on the product or take it a different direction. They’d have to sell cheaper or be available to people who couldn’t get the fitbit due to limited supply. But, unless they somehow make the fitbot cheaper than the original, their profits are lower or non-existent. If they start to innovate the base design on their own they are doing what every mobile phone company has done with regards to the iPhone.

          • “And they asked me how I did it; and I gave ’em the Scripture text,
            “You keep your light so shining a little in front o’ the next!”
            They copied all they could follow, but they couldn’t copy my mind,
            And I left ’em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind.”

            My favorite description of first mover advantages.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Dice without Rulers:

            But the thing about Amazon releasing their own Fitbit in n months is that the Fitbit team has had that much time to get rolling on the next step in the fitbit development.

            But that is still worse for Fitbit than Amazon not being allowed to just straight up steal it. If I have no protection for my IP, I will need to act as if my IP can be legally stolen, and that affects how I behave. You end up putting a lot of effort into protecting the IP by other means.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            Amazon making their own “Fitbot” to compete with “Fitbit,” is one thing, but Amazon making “Fitbits” which are superficially indistinguishable from the other company’s product seems almost to border on fraud

            Sure, and I think another line of argument that holds some water is that Amazon won’t want their brand tied up with the idea of being a “knock-off”.

            But what if Amazon’s take is: “The Amazon Fitbot, every innovation in the Fitbit, but we can sell it to you for less. We have carefully reverse engineered it (and our Fitbot is even made in the same factory).”

            In other words, every technical innovation becomes a commodity with incredible rapidity.

          • But worse enough to create a policy that could stifle someone who can take the base tech of the Fitbit and turn it into an ultra-cheap health monitor for the elderly? It isn’t like fitbit was going to invent its product and then sit around making money doing nothing, it is going to keep innovating and improving anyway. Plus there is already the current threat of another company just making a product that does the same thing already, see the iPhone, personal mp3 players, etc. Unless we have a weird set of laws requiring that companies publish their blueprints but not have a monopoly over them, competitors have to spend effort reverse-engineering, copying the basic idea, or coming up with their own product.

            Basically, I think it is obviously bad for plagiarists to win, but I don’t think IP law actually stops plagiarists. They are a fringe case at best, and hard cases make bad law. The overwhelming majority of cases are going to be competitors and innovators trying to work with, on, and around their competition’s products. We had this at my last job where we’d see how our competitor controlled their adhesive mixer, and we adapted their best ideas into our next iteration while keeping our own best ideas.

          • onyomi says:

            “In other words, every technical innovation becomes a commodity with incredible rapidity.”

            Sounds like it might result in more innovation?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Dice without Rulers:

            Basically, I think it is obviously bad for plagiarists to win, but I don’t think IP law actually stops plagiarists

            IP law doesn’t stop the plagiarists that IP law doesn’t stop.

            There is another set of potential plagiarists that IP law does stop, and you can’t prove anything about the size of that set by referring to the fact that the first set exists.

          • John Schilling says:

            In other words, every technical innovation becomes a commodity with incredible rapidity.

            Every technical innovation that is actually made and not subsequently kept as a trade secret. That’s a smaller set, and how much smaller depends on how innovators respond to the proposed change in incentives.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            “In other words, every technical innovation becomes a commodity with incredible rapidity.”

            Sounds like it might result in more innovation?

            You know that sword has two edges, and I am really surprised to see you play the naif here.

            What is my incentive to innovate unless I already know I can “outmanufacture” the competition?

            To me it looks like established companies fight viciously with each other and try not to release products until they think they are hard to reverse engineer. Huge efforts are put into secrecy. The little guy doesn’t even try and compete on that front, they just try and build a niche brand. They have no incentive to make something new unless it also in some way bespoke.

            It becomes a very different world when a company that already has a a good reputation can straight up steal your product. I don’t want to buy Fitbit, I wait for Fitbot, because it’s going to be cheaper and better. This is a really different situation than buying a “Fitbjt” knock-off.

            And there are other failure modes as well.

            Have you noticed how you frequently see 2 or even 3 movies released withing months of each other, all based on the same expired or non-IP concept? And how they are all almost always not very good? Do you understand what is going on there?

            Someone writes a script and starts shopping it, some studio buys it, but two other studios that lost the bid write “similar concept” scripts and then they all rush to try and release first. You don’t get great innovation, you get rush to market.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            Every technical innovation that is actually made and not subsequently kept as a trade secret

            In other words, unless you can do something to make sure your innovation is unable to be reverse engineered, you have less incentive to even pursue it.

            Which means you spend a great deal of effort turning your “simple” idea into something that can’t be copied. Which is ultimately dead-weight loss, and I am doubting that dead weight loss is better than the dead-weight loss we have in IP protections today.

            I certainly don’t think IP protections are without trade-offs, if that is what anyone is seeing me as arguing.

            But, if I can come into your field and pick the fruit from your tree, and it’s completely legal, what is your incentive to plant, water and fertilize the tree for the four or ten years it takes to get the tree to maturity?

          • onyomi says:

            I definitely don’t claim that weakening or eliminating IP would have all upsides. Any level of IP, including no IP will incentivize or deincentivize different types of creativity. The question is which is better, on net.

            Also, this strikes me as analogous to the immigration debate in that I think we set the default wrong. Most people work with a default assumption that a nation shouldn’t have to let anyone in unless they have a very good reason to come. I think you should need a very good reason to stop someone coming in, as the default assumption should be that if you want to buy some property or work for someone and a local wants to sell to you or hire you, then you should be able to do so unless the local community has some very good reason to stop you (say you are a known violent criminal).

            Similarly, I think the default assumption right now is that content creators “own” intellectual “properties” like they own physical property and should be able to therefore exercise a high degree of control over how they’re used. Other people have to ask your permission to implement your idea even with their own property.

            For the ethical reasons listed in the OP, I believe this is the wrong default. There may be some very good practical reasons for needing some level of IP, but I think there have to be reasons. The default assumption should be that someone else’s intangible, non-scarce, non-rivalrous ideas shouldn’t restrict how I can use my actual body and physical, scarce property.

          • @HBC You’re right about set theory and that aspect of it. I tend to think that the marginal plagiarists stopped by IP law are not very numerous and the ones that are already unscrupulous enough are already doing it or are already adjacent to it in things like patent trolling or in the knock-off industry or bootlegging. I wonder though, now that I think about it how much the culture of being against knock-offs and plagiarists (or against them in terms of not seeing them as high quality or valuable) might change if we change IP law but I don’t want to turn this into another thread on Chesterton’s Fence. I mean, why is there such a big kerfuffle about who Chesterton sells his ill-gotten and plagiarized goods to, anyway?

          • Nornagest says:

            If Amazon can start selling Fitbits that have no connection to the Fitbit company n months after the Fitbit company does, surely that has a negative effect on the Fitbit company? n being how long it takes their crack “product acquisition” team to reverse engineer their hardware and software.

            If you mean reproducing Fitbit’s functionality, patents aren’t what’s stopping Amazon from doing this; Fitbits aren’t far off from commodity hardware (microcontroller, heart-rate tracker, Bluetooth, some accelerometers), and while the company certainly has a number of software patents surrounding the concept, they can’t effectively stop other companies from doing slightly different things that hash out to the same feature. Lots of companies do: your smartphone’s health app for example is basically a Fitbit in a different form factor. They can sue those other companies for patent infringement, but software patents are incredibly murky and it’s not clear to what extent a lot of them are enforceable. Companies often just decide to go for it anyway.

            If you mean Amazon releasing its own knock-off and actually calling it a Fitbit, that’s not covered by patent law and so it’s not what I was talking about.

          • John Schilling says:

            The default assumption should be that someone else’s intangible, non-scarce, non-rivalrous ideas shouldn’t restrict how I can use my actual body and physical, scarce property.

            If the idea was truly non-scarce, you’d be using one of the many others rather than the copyrighted one.

            But the default assumption has nothing to do with someone else’s ideas, which as already noted are not IP. And it has nothing to do with your physical property, because whatever it is you are upset about not being allowed to do there are an infinity of other things that you are allowed to do that are physically indistinguishable except for their intellectual content.

            The default assumption is that the agreement you made when you acquired a piece of knowledge, whether physically manifest or not, restricts what you can subsequently do with that knowledge. And that when you e.g. buy a legal copy of a “Star Wars” DVD, you are agreeing to not make any unauthorized copies of it or write stories using the characters from it or whatnot.

            We make this the default agreement because we know full well that nobody is going to pay a hundred million dollars to make “Star Wars” without also binding everyone they sell tickets, DVDs, novelizations, etc, to not make copies and to not pass on the original without so binding the new owner ad infinitum, and we’d rather not deforest the Amazon basin for the otherwise-inevitable paperwork.

          • onyomi says:

            What if I don’t buy any authorized versions of any Star Wars merchandise and therefore never agree, explicitly or implicitly to not copy the idea “hero named Luke Skywalker has a journey in space”?

            And then I make my own movie about a guy named Luke Skywalker going on an adventure in space. Why is the default that I “owe” it to Lucasfilm or Disney or whoever to ask permission to use this idea when I never committed explicitly or implicitly not to (and they never asked Frank Herbert, either, btw)?

            And “100 million dollar movies won’t get made if we don’t have laws saying people get exclusive rights when they make 100 million dollar movies” is just a statement about how things might change; but it’s not prima facie better for one 100 million space opera to get made instead of 10 10 million space operas.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            but it’s not prima facie better for one 100 million space opera to get made instead of 10 10 million space operas.

            I’m just going to repeat the argument I already made:
            Have you noticed how you frequently see 2 or even 3 movies released withing months of each other, all based on the same expired or non-IP concept? And how they are all almost always not very good? Do you understand what is going on there?

            Someone writes a script and starts shopping it, some studio buys it, but two other studios that lost the bid write “similar concept” scripts and then they all rush to try and release first. You don’t get great innovation, you get rush to market.

          • onyomi says:

            I wouldn’t dispute the notion that weakening or eliminating IP would likely result in a larger absolute quantity, and probably a higher percentage of lower-budget, lower-quality films getting made. Though I’m not at all sure that the absolute number of good films floating to the top of that number would be lower, and have a sense that more innovative, risky ideas with unknown actors and unknown premises might get tried.

            It might very well be more like the fashion industry which is definitely competitive and fast-moving, but also quite profitable and innovative.

            I wouldn’t claim to be certain that overall artist and consumer satisfaction will definitely be higher without IP, but the arguments thus far that they would be much lower are also not nearly convincing enough, to me, to overcome what I see as the prima facie ethical reasons to oppose IP.

          • John Schilling says:

            What if I don’t buy any authorized versions of any Star Wars … and then I make my own movie about a guy named Luke Skywalker going on an adventure in space?

            Then you are a fictional character yourself, because the odds of any real person doing that are about nil and the law isn’t required to pretend otherwise.

            Well, I can think of some plausible scenarios, but they all involve deliberate fraud. And the law isn’t required to facilitate almost certain fraud either.

          • onyomi says:

            This strikes me as more status quo bias/question begging: taking what “the law” say now as a given and then working from there.

            For one thing, even under the current legal regime, I don’t see how me buying a bootleg copy of Star Wars or just reading about its story somewhere else would constitute a legally binding contract, nor do I see why buying a bootleg constitutes fraud of any kind.

            And anyway, even buying an officially licensed copy of a movie which says on it “copying is prohibited,” really isn’t a legal contract, it’s just a warning saying we can prosecute you if we want to under the current legal regime.

            Now if every book or DVD said in big letters “by buying this you are promising never to try to make any money off the ideas herein!!!” then that would be one thing, but I think people would also be a lot more careful about what they buy in such a case.

            But without IP, no one would buy copies of anything that legally bound them never to make use of the ideas therein, so in the “no IP” hypothetical, it’s moot. Stating what people are or are not agreeing to, explicitly or implicitly, when they buy something in the current system, again, is question begging, because the question is whether or not the current system is justifiable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            but I think people would also be a lot more careful about what they buy in such a case.

            My first reaction is “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Snort. Gasp. Oh that’s a good one.” (Not kind, I know. Sorry.)

            More seriously, have you read what is in the “standard” software disclaimer? How careful do think that people are about this?

            Also, you and John are talking at cross with each other. You are talking about bootlegs and he is talking about people who have really never seen Star Wars.

          • onyomi says:

            Well yes, the point is taken about people not reading the fine print, but that’s a whole other issue (and, I think, a real problem–not with the buyers but with the legality of including so much fine print that no one will ever read it until it’s too late). And we are also talking about media companies, not just individuals.

            But generally speaking, when I buy, say a DVD from a store, even now, I’m not entering into a contract with the media company who produced it. I’m engaging in a transaction with the store. If the store had to buy it from the media company then maybe they are committed to not, say, charging admission to show the film without permission, but I am not committed to the same agreement just because I bought the DVD from a store that bought it from the original content creators.

            And even if John can convince me that yes I AM committing to that by buying a DVD covered in fine print, that still assumes the current legal framework, which is what is at issue.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Unless the producer requires that the distributor requires that the theater stipulate such as part of the ticket sale contract.

            Just like how, when buying software through a reseller, you still end up agreeing to the same contract.

            Edit (based on your last paragraph edit):
            But the right to freely contract is part of your overall philosophy, the framework you are trying to fit this into, right? I don’t think you have a leg to stand on there. You would have to make those kinds of contracts illegal to accomplish what you want and that seems to be in contradiction to your stated philosophy.

          • John Schilling says:

            Now if every book or DVD said in big letters “by buying this you are promising never to try to make any money off the ideas herein!!!”

            You are, I suspect deliberately, conflating ideas with specific exmpressions. Ideas, for I think the third time, ARE NOT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. They cannot be patented, copyrighted, or trademarked. Your thinking on this subject would be clearer and your arguments would be more persuasive if you never used the word “idea” in this context again.

            That said, every book or DVD sold in the civilized world today comes with an implied but binding legal agreement to never try to make money by using copies of the specific, novel expressions therein(*).

            And anyway, even buying an officially licensed copy of a movie which says on it “copying is prohibited,” really isn’t a legal contract,

            It is close enough as makes no difference under the present legal regime. And under your preferred legal regime, make no mistake, it will be an actual contract, quite possibly ink on paper in the presence of a notary, that you have to sign before you can open your account at Amazon and order your first book or DVD.

            Which, incidentally, means that “no IP” in law gives large corporate enterprises even more power in the real IP market, because they can better absorb the overhead of a network of pedantically detailed explicit agreements between everyone who trades in IP.

            * Modulo fair use, licensed use, etc.

          • onyomi says:

            Well you still haven’t explained, so far as I can tell, the difference between “idea” and “execution.” Maybe you are working with a narrower definition of “idea” than I am.

            To me, the idea of writing a story about a hero on a journey and the much more specific, detailed idea about a hero named Luke Skywalker who goes on a journey with Leia, Han, Chewy, et al are all ideas. If all that is just “idea” and not execution, then is it okay if I copy the script and not the movie based on the script? At what point does the script become detailed enough that it is “execution” of an idea and not just an idea?

            Is the actual movie an “execution” of an idea? Okay, but it’s still an idea in the sense that it is not tangible. The “movie” is not any particular film reel. The movie is a particular arrangement of information. The movie, like the script it’s based on, IS an idea to arrange sounds and images and pixels in a certain way, else it would not be reducible to 1s and 0s for copying onto my computer.

            And if it were really about the physical instance of the idea, then once the movie was copied onto my hard drive, playing on my monitor, through my speakers, then it would be mine. But it’s not, of course, because what Paramount or whoever owns is not the speakers playing the music, but the right to arrange information in a certain way. Information arranged in a particular way is what I call an “idea.”

            If you want to split hairs and say IP is not owning a particular arrangement of information, but rather owning the right to arrange physical property, like hard drives and paper and ink, in a particular pattern according with a specific arrangement of information, then okay. That still sounds a lot like “owning” an “idea” to me.

        • Bone Man with Shiny Hat says:

          …it’s not prima facie better for one 100 million space opera to get made instead of 10 10 million space operas

          Star Wars was an $11-million-dollar space opera, which is roughly $44 million in today’s dollars. The original budget was $8 million ($32 million).

          Compare with Jaws, whose $4 million ($16 million) budget had ballooned to $9 million ($36 million).

    • bluto says:

      I think the proper treatment of intellectual property requires a balance, there should be rewards for creating something, but the rewards shouldn’t last all that long either.

      Personally, I’d prefer to see either a short max of 2 18 year terms (so the creator of a work gets an automatic 18 years exclusive use and can renew that once if they wish to pay a modest fee) or some sort of system that had an exponential cost curve (so Disney can keep Snow White protected as long as they’re willing to pay but the cost 50 years after the fact is well into the billions of dollars). With the exponential curve aimed at allowing small works to profit for a few decades, and major works to profit for 30-50 years depending on their market value. That way things are falling out of copy protection before they’re too long forgotten.

      • onyomi says:

        I would certainly be in favor of making it harder/more expensive for companies to keep renewing the rights.

        But I think the idea that IP law must strike a balance between incentivizing and rewarding creation and not preventing further innovation is somewhat question begging. It assumes that some IP (if not maximal IP)=more artistic creation, which I don’t take as a given.

        Right now, for example, Marvel and Stan Lee could not make an X-Men movie if they wanted to. I understand they sold the rights and have nothing against a contract saying, in effect, “we won’t make a movie with these characters for x number of years,” but that shouldn’t bind everyone else, which is what Sony owning the “rights” to X-Men effectively does.

        In other words, we’d probably have more X-Men movies by now without IP than with, and the original creators would probably be making more money off it too.

        So stronger IP=more art, more rewards for creators does not seem a given to me at all (nor that there is a “sweet spot” of moderate IP encouraging maximal creativity; what if no IP is the sweet spot for maximum creativity? I’m not saying I’m sure it is, but I also don’t think we can take it as a given that “some IP”=more creative work.)

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          The funniest part of that agreement was that Fox and Disney had to go before a judge and argue whether Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were Avengers or X-men.

        • Anonymous says:

          what if no IP is the sweet spot for maximum creativity? I’m not saying I’m sure it is, but I also don’t think we can take it as a given that “some IP”=more creative work.

          We can take that as a given because of a thing we have called history. IP developed because the natural standard is no IP and that caused tons of problems with adulterated bootlegs, creators being disincentivized to create and so on — issues that exploded after the invention of the movable type printing press. So authorities started issuing bans on copying for five, ten, or fifteen years; a so-called motu propio. (Goofy as this fact is, the best place I can think of to easily get hold of a translation of one of these to see what it was like is Mondschein’s translation of Agrippa’s fencing treatise of 1553.) Those eventually evolved into the modern system of copyright the same way everything else evolved into modernity.

          (In fact, long before the printing press and the Renaissance there were some famous copyright cases, such as that where an Irish court in the early middle ages determined that the owner of a book also had the rights to determine who could and couldn’t copy it — a famous book was stolen so that an illicit copy could be made, then returned; the owner of the original demanded the copy be turned over to him. Cattle breeding law was applied to determine the correct principle, IIRC.)

          A lot of pirate types tend to treat IP as though it were a tool developed by Disney to shit on the little guy’s (apparently pure and entirely unmotivated by potential financial gain from use of a well-known character) desire to make his own Mickey Mouse comics, but in truth it’s a gradually developed mechanism to deal with observed real-world problems.

          • onyomi says:

            The history you describe could just as easily be interpreted as: with the rise of printing technology, opportunities to make money selling writing exploded, but it was really competitive and the producers started lobbying the crown for various protections to make it easier on them.

            China had no effective IP, but popular literature still exploded around the 15th-16th c. Publishers took various means to distinguish their editions as official, “authorized” editions–including special commentaries and illustrations, etc.

          • Jiro says:

            apparently pure and entirely unmotivated by potential financial gain from use of a well-known character

            Why shouldn’t the little guys be able to use a well-known character like Mickey Mouse?

            Copyright is supposed to be temporary. It’s supposed to expire at some point. The big companies have lobbied to extend copyright so far that people have started thinking that permanent copyrights are the natural state of things. And yes, Disney is one of the biggest ones.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:

            Why shouldn’t the little guys be able to use a well-known character like Mickey Mouse?

            So, Universal is the little guy now?

    • miko says:

      I am a composer. Do you think I should have ownership over my own works?

      Intellectual property is very important in music. It helps to prevent direct plagiarism and is very simple for the composer, legally, so that no one has to apply for special licenses or pay anything. If you make something, it is protected, unless it is a direct copy of someone else’s work. Simple.
      Arrangements of other people’s compositions, recordings of public domain works, among other things, are technically intellectual property. People rip off of others all the time, that is 99.9% of music, but they rarely plagiarize.

      Sure, it creates inconveniences for listeners when people don’t give 100% free and wide access to their music, like Prince, but those are their rights to do what they see fit with their music. If you don’t want to pay for the music, that’s fine, but you shouldn’t expect the artists to work for free. Works enter public domain after something like 130 years, too long imo, but publishers like their money. I think it should be shortened to something like 80 years. That doesn’t mean I think we should strip composers rights and tell them that their music is not theirs because they heard someone else play a certain chord progression or listened to Bach once.

      There is a reason people don’t want someone like Trump using their music at his rallies. It creates an association that could be damaging to the music itself. Therefore the composer should have the right to prevent that damaging association. Kind of like how you would not want McDonalds setting up a billboard on your front lawn because “the earth should be for everyone” or something, especially after you have put so much time and energy into the landscaping.

      All music is cleverly disguised thievery, but that doesn’t mean it is stolen, and it certainly doesn’t entitle everyone else to take it. IP may not be important in every situation in the world, but that does not mean it isn’t important in some.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m pretty sure there was nothing approaching our idea of intellectual property in 18th c. Vienna, yet Mozart and Beethoven still managed to get credit for and get paid for their work.

        Plus, the internet may make it easier for people to copy and distribute one’s songs without paying (with or without IP), but it also makes it easier for smaller artists to reach an audience without the intermediary of record labels, etc. I get the impression that things like “patreon” (reminiscent of the “patronage” people like Mozart enjoyed) are probably more profitable for a lesser known composer to get paid directly by a small core of fans than being paid cents on the dollar for CD sales. Without IP, I’d predict you’d get fewer mega-stars able to make hundreds and millions of dollars off their creations, but a larger number of people able to make a decent living.

        You also concede that most composition is at least somewhat derivative. How do you draw a non-arbitrary line about who gets to “own” these ideas (and that’s what a song is, really: the idea to arrange sounds in a certain way)?

        The idea of McDonald’s setting up a billboard on your front lawn is not analogous to a politician you don’t like playing your song at their rally. The lawn is a physical, scarce piece of real estate. Whatever part of it is occupied or blocked by the sign is part of your lawn you can’t enjoy.

        A politician you don’t like playing your song at his rally doesn’t detract from anybody else’s ability to enjoy the song, and I don’t see why anyone should get control over how their ideas are perceived. We would certainly think it ridiculous if an author were able to sue someone for writing a negative review, for example.

        • LHN says:

          A politician you don’t like playing your song at his rally doesn’t detract from anybody else’s ability to enjoy the song

          While the general distinction between rivalrous and nonrivalrous goods is well taken, this can actually be untrue. Acquiring bad associations can detract from people’s ability to enjoy a work of art. (Albeit in ways that may or may not have anything to do with IP.) A fair number of people avoided Wagner’s works in the post-WWII era due to the music’s associations with Nazism, even though Wagner himself obviously predated the Nazis. I likewise suspect it’ll be a while before we see “The Cosby Show” in wide syndication again, even though nothing has changed about the show itself.

          If a particular song becomes associated with a political figure, it’s not unlikely that it will inspire revulsion in that figure’s enemies for a while afterward. Whether that should give the creator (or the copyright holder, which in popular music probably isn’t the creator) the right to prevent its use is a separate issue, but it’s not an imaginary concern.

          • onyomi says:

            To clarify, I don’t mean to imply that songs and other works of art can’t acquire all kinds of associations in the minds of all kinds of audiences–some of them, I’m sure, the artist wouldn’t be happy about. I, for one, can certainly not think of “Like a Rock” without thinking of a Chevrolet truck.

            But I don’t take it as a given that an artist should have control of how others perceive his work. If a critic can hurt peoples’ view of a piece of work by writing a negative review of it, why should a politician have to ask permission before playing a particular piece of music at an event, especially assuming he’s not charging admission?

            This also relates somewhat to the issue of defamation, which seems a somewhat harder case, but I’m also not sure one is “entitled” to a particular reputation in the eyes of others. I find it really despicable (though seemingly pretty impotent most of the time), for example, when businesses try to threaten people into taking down negative online reviews (has happened to people I know). One can certainly imagine more pernicious cases of personal defamation, which I guess would count as “libel,” but that sort of gets into another territory(?)

        • miko says:

          For the first part, Are you an expert on 18th c. views of intellectual property? I am not, but I will guess that you aren’t either. That is a weak argument to make, and way beyond the scope of this topic. Though I will make one assumption, plagiarism was taken as seriously then as it is now. Maybe more.

          Second part, specifically how something is sold will always be in flux, and this has nothing to do with the topic. I am also going to assume that you don’t know much about this area and are guessing still.

          Third part. So what? Everything in existence is derivative. That doesn’t make ownership of material or intellectual property null. The language we speak is entirely derivative, but we do not make literary works public domain because the language used for them is not 100% original. I don’t think it is possible for humans to make a non-arbitrary line. I would love to see them try. I am happy that people made a choice to protect artists in their legislation.

          The fourth part. This is where it gets VERY grey and disputed. Here is where the actual issue lies. The analogy isn’t good, it’s true. But it’s not entirely bad. When I said “It creates an association that could be damaging to the music itself.”, I should have said, It creates an association that could be damaging to the reputation of the composer. which could then be damaging to the music itself. Which is still a weak argument. Do people have a right to protect their reputation? I don’t know, I suppose it is not a question that can’t be answered generally, it is situational.

          And no, I don’t think authors should sue over negative reviews, though that is also entirely situational. Think of the libel laws that were in place to prevent intentional smear and slander by rivals, etc. They were horrible pieces of legislation that led to gross ambiguities and censorship of speech, though they probably had good intentions. That’s how experiments in political science work. It is complicated.

          Music is universal, yet I want to be acknowledged for the hard work and time and money it takes to create interesting music. And there is always a market for music. The intellectual property rights exists so that musicians can survive in an already intensely competitive world. If musicians couldn’t own their own compositions, I think there would be new meaning to the words “starving artist”.

          See online piracy
          See libel laws

          Debates about this issue are all over the place

          I realize that some of what I write comes out somewhat condescending. I apologize for the tone

          • onyomi says:

            “Music is universal, yet I want to be acknowledged for the hard work and time and money it takes to create interesting music. And there is always a market for music. The intellectual property rights exists so that musicians can survive in an already intensely competitive world. If musicians couldn’t own their own compositions, I think there would be new meaning to the words “starving artist”.”

            This strikes me as question begging.

            Musicians deserve to be able to make a living writing music. Therefore, laws which supposedly exist to protect that ability function as intended and are a good idea. Doesn’t follow.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            plagiarism was taken as seriously then as it is now. Maybe more.

            Indeed, that is a very strong argument against intellectual property. The existence of laws causes people to care only about the enforcement of laws and not actual plagiarism.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, notice that the same people who made “Copying is not Theft” and “All Creative Work is Derivative” also made “The Attribution Song.”

          • miko says:

            I think you might be placing too much emphasis on the patent troll kind of people and the ones that abuse the system. Like focusing on the rotten apple instead of looking at the healthy ones. The only time most musicians care about IP laws are when they hear someone else copying their music EXACTLY, like sampling, or so close to exactly that it is not likely it was accidental. Because the possibilities in music are approaching infinity, making a series of notes and rhythms the exact way someone else did is extraordinarily improbable, barring out things that are basic. You can’t copyright a chord for example, or a progression. Harmony is a language, but melody is like a series of words in a sentence. There really are not many musical plagiarism cases.

            What the big music corporations do is strictly business, in the name of making money, and entirely different. Their laws are mysterious and oppressive, don’t confuse them with actual musicians who just want to protect their work. These guys twist and interpret laws incorrectly, and spend unholy amounts of money making sure the law works exactly the way they want it to to maximize profit. That’s a fault of our justice systems, not IP laws.

            You might find Carl Jung’s collective unconscious concept interesting.

            I understand why IP laws are in place, why people want to own things, and I also understand that some people think ownership of materials or ideas itself is a strange concept.

            I’m not sure if you guys create things, but once you put yourself in that position, your view might change. Maybe the feelings of ownership and protection are primal, like the instinct to protect your child. They are selfish, but the right kind of selfish, the noble selfishness.

            Also, B.F Skinner has some interesting view on this exact topic in relation to music in his book Walden Two. It’s only a few paragraphs, I’ll see if I can find them later.

          • onyomi says:

            I am an academic writer who has published articles and who is currently trying to get a book published.

            As David Friedman has described elsewhere, I fear more that no one will steal my ideas than the reverse. I released my dissertation under an open license making it free for everyone to download online. I would be upset if someone else tried to take credit for my ideas without attribution, of course, but that’s plagiarism–attitudes about which, as stated, seem to be unrelated or even inversely related to strength of IP laws (cultures without strong IP laws strongly frown on plagiarism).

            Of course, as an academic, I write for reputation and prestige, which can translate into a good academic job, not for actual book sales, which, outside the case of a very popular textbook, never amount to much, so it’s true my livelihood may not seem to depend on IP as much as that of a professional composer. That said, I do create things and I don’t feel proprietary about them in the way you describe. I worry more about no one reading my stuff than about them copying it too closely, even without attribution (though obviously I’d strongly prefer for people to attribute when they really have been influenced by me).

          • miko says:

            I think I share the feelings you describe.

            I put many of my compositions online for free, I even offer the transcriptions for free if requested. That is slowly becoming the norm. Soundcloud and youtube and bandcamp etc. make all that simple.

            But I still value IP because it provides a sense of security. If people could just take my music or my research and call it their own, I wouldn’t offer it so freely. Maybe you don’t worry about your work being copied because plagiarism is so rare. It isn’t a normal thought for most people because there are protections in place. I don’t worry about my work being copied or stolen, because I am used to the sense of security our culture has established in artistic and academic fields.

            I’m working on writing a book of etudes, and also some practical analysis of a certain composer. Things like that I would charge a small fee for, because I put so much effort in to them. If I couldn’t claim the works as my own intellectual property, how could I sell the books? Please don’t say charity and crowd funding.

            Have you heard of the guy with the enormously expensive violin, one of the best violinists in the world, going into the new york subway, playing, and being completely ignored? That is what it is like when people don’t know your reputation. IP affects reputation and, therefore. often, how people view the work itself.

            I suppose if art were directly subsidized by a type of government, it would be a different story. If artists were paid a living wage based on their contribution to the cultural landscape or something. I think some countries have laws that help artists financially, like Ireland. But the US only subsidizes banks and oil. Things like that

          • onyomi says:

            See, if it’s about reputation, then I think IP is irrelevant, or even counter-productive. IP is just about having exclusive rights to monetize certain content in certain ways, not about claiming the reputation as a creator. Often times the best way to gain reputation is by giving away something good for free.

            There is the case of the famous violinist getting ignored when playing in the subway, but I don’t think the issue was the failure to charge money, but rather the setting. If he had advertised “world famous violinist gives free concert on world famous instrument” at Carnegie Hall, he probably would have packed the place.

            Reputation outside pop music and Hollywood films and professional sports may require trappings or expert approval for the average person to recognize (the average person doesn’t know, without being told by an expert, the difference between a nice violin and a Stradivarius or a merely good violinist and a really great violinist), but that doesn’t mean it requires monetization of a particular kind. The reputation in such cases comes from the acclaim of the experts.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Consider how hard it seems to make a new movie not based on an existing franchise.

      Do you have a theory about this? I think you should really explain what you mean, rather than leaving it as a rhetorical exercise.

      When you say franchise, it makes it sound like really mean a blockbuster action movie, not a movie in general. Such movies probably bank on the existing fandom. Without copyright on the source material, those dynamics might be very different. If people want to see stories about familiar characters, maybe that could be better provided without copyright and maybe that would be better.

      But the general statement is also true. Most movies are based on existing IP, but usually obscure. Film adaptations usually serve as advertisements for the books, rather than vice versa. I recently asked a screenwriter about this and didn’t get much of an answer. Partly it may be protection from copyright suits. But she thought that producers were bad at judging movie proposals and like source material as a concrete thing to grasp onto.

      • onyomi says:

        Though I don’t think this is the only reason for the trend (and if I recall, there are some real statistics backing up the apparent increase in percentage of new movies based on existing franchises, and I don’t think that even counts, for example, a new film adaptation of a novel), where I see IP contributing to this trend is the following:

        Hollywood films have tended to become bigger and bigger budget affairs. Audiences seem willing to go to the theater, especially, for the “wow” factor a big budget can buy. But big budget=big financial risk. One way to mitigate this risk is by choosing films with a built-in audience (also hiring the same stars to play every role, but that’s another issue): you know there are just a certain number of people who are going to see a new Star Wars or Batman movie no matter how bad it is. Thus, it’s almost a safe bet. It’s not guaranteed to be a huge money maker, but it’s almost guaranteed not to be a loser.

        But part of what makes it a safe bet is IP. If there were twenty other independent Batman films being produced that year and your giant budget monstrosity turns out not even to be one of the better ones, then you could be out a lot of money, especially when the unofficial DVDs hit the streets almost immediately.

        Thus, without IP, I predict fewer really big budget films would get made, but a much greater variety of lower budget films would get made. I know, this is beginning to sound like Bollywood, but I’d rather watch the best of 10 different X-Men movies that came out this year than the one huge budget movie produced by the one authorized producer starring the same people who are in every movie.

        So, I’m not even sure a greater percentage of new films would be completely novel without IP (due to the fact that now everyone can make a Batman movie with soundtrack by Aerosmith without paying anyone), but it does seem like a greater total number of new or unfamiliar franchises (as well as actors) might be given a chance, since the risk-reward ratio would change (seemingly in favor of trying more new ideas and people on lower budgets).

        • Michael W says:

          Look up Nollywood, the Nigerian Film industry. It’s the most productive film industry in the world, maybe second behind Bollywood. Yet you’ve never heard of it, the reason being that its films are garbage. Although Nigeria is a large market, it has poor protections for intellectual property, so a week after a film comes out, everyone’s selling bootlegs. As a result, studios have no incentive to invest in high quality writing, directing, or visuals. If they produced a blockbuster, it would be the bootleggers who profited. Instead the best way for them to maximize their profits is to churn out a new film every week so that by the time bootleggers get their hands on one, they’ve already released the next.

          Some of what you’re saying sounds nice, but I feel you’re looking at the positives and failing to imagine the downsides. Its just as easy to imagine that in your world, instead of exporting its culture across the globe, the US watches the films of whatever country stepped in to make expensive films a viable investment.

          • Jiro says:

            Hong Kong has pretty poor protections for intellectual property. Anything can be bought bootlegged there. Hong Kong still has managed to produce movies for a long time, which we *have* heard of.

            Furthermore, even if your argument was correct, it would only mean there should be intellectual property that last at least a week. Not 95 years. There are lots of media that would be lost if it wasnt for piracy, computer games being the most notorious, but also including old time radio.

    • keranih says:

      We produced lots of great literature, art, inventions, etc. before IP.

      Yes. Generally of very limited distribution, to suit the tastes of the wealthy who could afford to be a patron of the talented creators.

      IP laws allow a means for the creator to sell his wares to the masses without some other creator skimming the profits, and so promotes the Sort of Thing That Is Liked by the common man.

      • onyomi says:

        I think the better part of the democratization of media has been due to, well… new media. Books appealing to the common man got produced when printing technology made books affordable for the common man, which also made it easier to learn to read. The gramophone and radio turned every home into a concert hall, etc.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      As a sinologist (correct assumption?), do you think China produces a lot of innovation? Because effectively, piracy is rampant and IP does not exist in China , or at least did not up until a handful of years ago.

      There seems to be broad agreement that creatively modern China has not much to offer. The Party has to literally limit or ban many foreign shows to make their own people watch Chinese media. They even banned the Big Bang Theory, for god’s sake.

      Regarding technical innovation, people often argue that China now files the most patents in the world, but as far as I know this is largely the result of universities being evaluated per amount of patents filed. Again, the consensus seems to be that China has very little cutting edge innovation.

      This is obviously a difficult example, since we have some confounding factors, namely an education system built on rote learning and a political environment not exactly conducive to free thought.

      • onyomi says:

        The question of whether the Chinese, in fact, are innovative, and if not, why not, is a big one among Sinologists, to be sure. Historically the answer is a pretty obviously “yes,” and they didn’t have IP then.

        More recently, I think the answer is still “yes,” but it tends to happen in more non-obvious, incremental ways–lots of little improvements in the way things are done–and may have a lot more to do with culture and style of education than the law or lack thereof. The Chinese education system, for example, famously rewards a lot of rote memorization.

        Also, they did lift the ban on Big Bang Theory, which I’m pretty sure was never effectively enforced, anyway.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Intellectual property is not “property.”

      The entire concept of property is man-made. Just because you don’t lose it if I take it doesn’t mean it’s not property.

      Land is “real property.” That distinguishes it from portable property, like a diamond ring. If someone doesn’t like the concept of people, shudder, owning land, they could simply come up with an arbitrary rule, and say “if you can’t take it with you, it’s not property” or “since I can use it without you knowing about it, it’s not property.” “Do you know some people have ‘property’ and they aren’t even around to defend it? And they demand the government spend time enforcing their, snicker, ‘property rights’?”

      Going forward, the interesting things aren’t going to be who can make the most shoes. It’s going to be who can decide what shoes are best.

      • onyomi says:

        Yes, property in land and stuff and one’s one person are all just social conventions, but the fact that intellectual property is non-scarce and non-rivalrous makes it pretty different from those others. And, as stated before, IP is really a claim about how other people can use their own scarce, rivalrous property, so that is a pretty big difference as well.

    • Deiseach says:

      Mmmmm – just arguing for the hell of it.

      Tuna casserole case: I and you are both private citizens. You are not churning out casserole dinners based on my recipe for sale. Were I a restaurateur/celebrity chef whose signature dish was “you will not believe plain old tuna casserole could be so good”, and you try to reverse-engineer it and work out my recipe so you can sell cheaper knock-off versions of my casserole in your chain of casual dining restaurants, and your version gets eaten enough so that people think my tuna casserole is the same thing, only overpriced, so they don’t bother eating my tuna casserole which gets a bad reputation due to your inferior version – I think I have a right to seek legal recourse. You are affecting my livelihood, both in taking custom away from me and in tarnishing my reputation (potential customers think all my dishes are probably as bad as the knock-off version you made of my tuna casserole) so that I lose not alone current but future custom, as well as giving me the repute of being bad at my trade (that I am a bad chef who cooks lousy food).

      Intellectual property is not simply an idea (that would be conceptual art and if a lot of it stayed at the “this is the idea” stage it’d be better for the long-suffering public), it involves the creation of something. There is physical effort and labour involved as well. I had to think of a variation on tuna casserole, I had to try out different recipes before I found one that worked, I had to source the ingredients, I had to perfect the preparation and cooking and serving of the dish. You had no contribution in all that, you stole my recipe and are using it for your own profit without permission or paying me.

      That, I think, is different from “you come to my house as a private person, I cook tuna casserole for the meal, you enjoy it and ask for the recipe, I freely give it to you, you cook it at home for your own family and friends, no money or profit is changing hands or being made by anyone”.

    • Deiseach says:

      Property is a claim on something scarce. …you are actually claiming a right to control how I use MY body and MY property.

      Human bodies are not scarce. We currently have seven billion of them and indeed, we have so many that people are saying it would be best if we lost a large percentage of them. It’s easy to churn out new human bodies, one couple can replace themselves many times over. Human bodies are such a not-scarce resource, you have no claim on “my body is my property” if you’re relying on the scarcity argument. Why shouldn’t a people-trafficker sweep you off the streets and sell you as domestic labour/factory labour? You are not your own property with property-protection rights!

      RE: J.K. Rowling – there have been two cases (at least) taken by authors/their estates claiming she had ripped off their work. If we accept your argument, even if she had been a plagiarist, the person taking the case would not have been entitled to recourse and Rowling’s success would have been defence enough – she got rich and you didn’t because people liked what she did with your idea better.

      Not sure about the effect on new drug production, but I’m generally pretty unimpressed with the new drugs created in recent decades, most of which are for things like erections or else are sexier versions of things we could already kind of do more simply before.

      The reason they’re all making erection/sexual dysfunction drugs is that is where the money is. That’s why the “female version of Viagra” (or rather, something to treat low libido in women) is visualised as such a money-spinning dream; there’s half the population out there that could be tapped for this! Visions of billion-dollar sales led Sprout Pharmaceuticals to buy the licence for the drug, then start a pressure publicity campaign to get the FDA to allow it (after it had already refused it) and then they were sold to Valeant, which doesn’t do R&D itself either, simply buys old drugs and marks up the prices, also because they imagined all that free money lying around to be scooped up. Reality has not been quite so rosy (and I can’t find a shred of sympathy in myself for any of the vultures and jackals involved, from the company founders to the billionaire willing to pump capital in).

      • Anonymous says:

        Human bodies are not scarce.

        I think they might be using ‘scarce’ in the meaning ‘not effectively unlimited’. If you could churn out humans at the rate, cost and difficulty that you can churn out copies of a computer file, then they wouldn’t be scarce in this meaning. But since they’re finite, and it takes a lot of time and effort to raise every single one, they’re not scarce.

        • onyomi says:

          You mean, they are scarce.

          Mao Zedong famously said “what China has is people.” One can imagine the negative possible consequences of a political leader with such an attitude.

          More importantly, human bodies are very scarce for their owners. I only have two arms, two legs, one pancreas, etc. and most of these parts are still not replaceable.

      • “Human bodies are not scarce.”

        Then why are wages positive?

  5. Dank says:

    What does the commentariat think about ranked ballot voting?

    https://ballotpedia.org/Maine_Ranked_Choice_Voting_Initiative_%282016%29

    To the extent that democracy has upsides, I think that the upsides are maximized when voters can express their preferences in more detail. I’m a little surprised that these types of initiatives don’t get more attention, because they seem like the rare process improvement that is almost all upside. Maybe that lack of controversy is why it doesn’t get attention?

    • brad says:

      It’s a chicken and egg problem. In order to generate interest in voting reform you need a relatively strong third party pushing it (because the duopoly parties have a disincentive to do so), but you are unlikely to get a relatively strong third party in a system with single member districts and plurality voting.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Well, what do you mean by “ranked ballot voting”? Any decent voting system requires ranking the candidates. That’s not a specific system. Apparently the specific proposal you link is discussing Instant Runoff Voting?

      Well, since you didn’t specify, I’ll discuss the topic in general. Short answer: 1. It depends on the system; 2. Most of the ones people actually propose would be an improvement (presumably); 3. Personally I’d say the correct answer is range voting; 4. There may be a way to get around brad’s chicken and egg problem.

      So, #1: The basic problem with first-past-the-post is vote-splitting — having multiple similar candidates decreases the chance that any of them wins. Ideally we want a voting system that is “clone-independent”, i.e., one where as we add duplicates of a candidate to the candidate pool, the chance that that candidate or any of their duplicates wins remains the same. Most of the ones people actually propose have this property. But one must be careful! Because, say, the Borda count has the opposite problem — teaming. Multiple similar candidates increase the chance that any of them wins. That sounds even worse to me; imagine if every political party were constantly trying to nominate as many candidates as possible.

      (It is of course not obvious that switching to a more democratic voting system would actually improve things over the 2-party system, but I, like you, would certainly expect it to, anyway.)

      #2. So, yeah. If you get rid of the vote-splitting problem and don’t introduce any other problems that are too horrible, sure, sounds like an improvement to me. Personally I am wary of IRV because, y’know, non-monotonicity. But it’s what seems to actually get used when places implement ranked voting systems. Presumably because it’s simple to understand; I think it’s safe to say you’re not getting anywhere to implement Ranked Pairs or something, or at least not straight off the bat!

      #3. As I said above, my favored system is range voting (with some sort of quorum or fake-vote-padding to prevent “unknown person with a few fanatic followers wins” scenarios).

      Why? (Note: A few of these arguments I’ve basically copied from http://rangevoting.org/ )

      It’s basically free of pathologies — Ordinal voting systems are subject to Arrow’s Theorem; range voting isn’t. It’s as monotonic and independent as you want. Nothing crazy going on here. Its definition alone makes that pretty plain.

      (The downside of a cardinal voting system, of course, is that it’s not at all clear what on earth a vote means. To which my response is, so long as the system works better… who cares?)

      It’s extremely simple to understand — This seems like it’s been a big barrier to improved voting systems. But range voting is simple. Apparently it can even be implemented on existing voting machines.

      There’s very little to be screwed up by people voting strategically — Do you want to deal with people trying to vote strategically in an IRV election? Ugh. But strategic voting under range voting just turns it into approval voting, and that’s hardly so bad.

      Nursery effect — Approval voting, though, while better for outsider parties than FPTP, is still hard on them. But range voting, if people vote honestly, provides outsider parties with a path to the spotlight; if a whole lot of people vote for them a little, well, next year a whole bunch of people may be putting them first.

      All that said, IRV may still well be an improvement on the current system (despite non-montonicity), and for whatever reason it seems like that’s the one people tend to rally around.

      #4: So how can we beat brad’s chicken-and-egg problem? Well, here was rangevoting.org’s strategy, when it was at all active; it’s up to someone else now, I guess, to try to carry it out. The strategy is, convince the existing parties to use it for their primaries (especially prominent early ones). They want to nominate the best candidate, right? (Perhaps 2020 could be ripe, if the Republicans want to avoid a shitshow like this year.) If that ever happens, the path to getting it accepted in official elections becomes a lot easier.

      Now OK presumably the parties know this. But, well, there’s two of them. It might just be possible to get one of them to grab for that momentary advantage over the other. Also, primaries are run by the state parties, not the national parties. Those may be more easily influenceable.

      #5. Note that there was a big push for a ranked voting system in the UK not too long ago. It went to a referendum, which failed. Probably worth looking into why it failed if you want to make a push for it elsewhere!

      Of course, for the most part the issue just doesn’t come up. I think the reason it usually doesn’t get much attention is the obvious one — it’s too “nerdy”. Too complicated, too non-obvious in effect, and lacking in obvious opportunities to directly “stick it” to the outgroup. (OK, I suppose that last one is a little bit like “not controversial enough”, but…) And I suspect that to a lot of people, voting just means first-past-the-post; they don’t even think of it. Finding a way to sell it to most people will be crucial. But again — it’s been done before, or at least gotten to the point of a referendum. So that problem does seem solvable.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        I was one of the people who voted for the Alternative Vote system in the UK referendum, and I think I even did a little telephone canvassing for the cause (well, I did *something*, because I remember turning up to an office, but I can’t remember the specifics, it was a while ago), and the AV lost badly. Then there was the Scottish independence referendum, and the independence campaign also lost conclusively, but not by nearly so big a margin.

        I was surprised, because Scottish independence seems like an obviously non-one-sided issue, with pros and cons on both sides, whereas going from First Past the Post to Alternative Vote seems like an obvious improvement*, albeit a small one – but one which could be leveraged to eventually get to something much closer to a proportional representation-like system. Yet from my perspective, ‘obvious small improvement’ was rejected by the electorate far harder than ‘genuine good arguments on both sides’.

        I raised this issue on Facebook and someone suggested that AV lost so badly because it was the flagship policy of the Liberal Democrats, at the time the UK’s third-biggest party (who obviously stood to benefit from it) and the referendum was one of their conditions for entering into a coalition government with the Conservative Party, who didn’t have quite enough seats to form a government on their own. Once in coalition with the Conservatives, the Lib Dems then reneged on their manifesto pledge to oppose any increase in tuition fees, and the hypothesis is that many people voted against AV to punish the Lib Dems over tuition fees.

        I’m not sure how much there is to that – either FPTP has major advantages over AV that I’m just not seeing, or a hell of a lot of people are willing to cut off their nose to spite their face.

        *I do remember trying to explain AV to my grandfather; the conversation went something like:
        -AV allows you to pick second choice candidates, so if your top choice doesn’t win, you still have some influence over which of the other candidates will win.
        -But I just want to vote for the Conservatives.
        -You can still do that under AV; if you are genuinely indifferent about all the other candidates, you can just put a ‘1’ against the Consevative candidate and ignore the rest. But for people who do have a clear second choice, AV allows them to do that.
        -But I just want to vote for the Conservatives.
        -Seriously, nothing about AV prevents you from doing that
        -I’m still against it because I just want to vote for the Conservatives.
        -[repeat ad nauseam]

        • Sweeneyrod says:

          I think it was a combination of nose-cutting, and the fact that both of the largest parties opposed it. I get the impression that most Conservative voters are far less tribal than Republicans across the pond, but many are still willing to vote whichever way their party says, regardless of the details of the evidence.

        • Salem says:

          going from First Past the Post to Alternative Vote seems like an obvious improvement, albeit a small one – but one which could be leveraged to eventually get to something much closer to a proportional representation-like system. Yet from my perspective, ‘obvious small improvement’ was rejected by the electorate

          Both you and the electorate agree that AV is a watered down version of, and a step towards, PR. The difference is that the electorate strongly prefer first-past-the-post to PR.

          The purpose of elections is not to choose a legislature. It’s to influence government policy, and to hold governments to account. That necessarily means coalition formation. The question is, do we want to reward politicians who present their coalitions to the electorate before the election, thus maximising the electorate’s input (FTPT), or do we want to reward those who form their coalitions after the election, thus giving maximal leeway in post-election bargaining (AV, PR)?

          As the former is obviously preferable to the latter, the AV referendum was an easy win. Proponents of AV, still fixated on the idea that the composition of the House of Commons is what matters, missed the boat.

        • Anonymous says:

          Your grandfather may have been cleverer than you realize. Suppose for instance that he lives in a currently solidly Conservative district but where the Lib Dem candidate takes votes solely from the Labour candidate who would win if he had those votes. It’s much in his interest that the eliminated Lib Dem voters don’t get a second shot. (And indeed, this may seem unfair to many people; why should they get to vote twice? It’s very common to dismiss this type of concerns as a partisan of something, especially of the rational-leaning sort, by going “pah, I have constructed in my mind a logical (or in many cases ‘logical’) argument for why it isn’t unfair! So that’s not a concern!” and forget that people still think it is anyway, despite your masterful elench.)

          Also,

          going from First Past the Post to Alternative Vote seems like an obvious improvement*, albeit a small one – but one which could be leveraged to eventually get to something much closer to a proportional representation-like system.

          Many voters probably agreed with you on the latter part here, and (IMO correctly) saw this as the thin end of the wedge for changing the UK system to a proportional-vote one, which they strenuously did not want. Electing specific candidates for specific districts does have strong, obvious, and major advantages over merely voting for national parties whose candidates are answerable to the party alone, rather than to any specific set of constituents. I myself would oppose PR on this basis.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          It’s been a few years, but I seem to recall that a lot of the pro-AV arguments were about how voting yes would help lock the Tories out of power forever and let Britain’s “progressive majority” take its rightful place at the helm of government. Naturally this made AV a hard sell to anybody who didn’t self-identify as part of said progressive majority, which as it turns outs is rather smaller than some people believed.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            On the other hand, UKIP were pro-AV, and Labour were a bit ambivalent. On a side note, my favourite political statement on the Wikipedia page: ‘The Socialist Party of Great Britain adopted a neutral position, arguing “what matters more is what we use our votes for” in the context of class struggle’.

        • BBA says:

          AV helps “minor” political parties and hurts “major” political parties. In the UK it would hurt Conservative and Labour and help the Lib Dems, UKIP, Monster Raving Loony, etc.

          More people supported Conservative and Labour than everyone else combined. Thus the AV referendum failed.

          Abandoning plurality voting can be in a major party’s interest when you get dynamics like Australia, where the allied Liberal and National parties were winning a majority of the votes together but splitting the right-wing vote so Labor ended up with a plurality. But that’s pretty unusual. (Yes, the Australian Labor Party uses the American spelling in their name, and no, I don’t know why.)

      • Dank says:

        I just realized that Scott has already written about voting systems

        http://lesswrong.com/lw/dp6/imperfect_voting_systems/

    • Ryan Beren says:

      Plurality voting < ranked ballot voting < range voting < futarchy < ???

      The first three are for all the reasons others gave earlier. Futarchy adds in one wonderful new feature: there's a connection between "what people want" and "a good policy for achieving what people want" that doesn't rely on your average voter knowing what policies are useful.

      The last item, which may not exist, would have a way to transform "what people want" into "what people would want if they didn't believe falsehoods".

  6. yarbel says:

    I am not sure if this is violating any of Scott’s implicit rules and to reflect my uncertainty I am posting it here, which would have less visibility–but I invite readers to read my blog, Battle of the Forms, which I think would appeal to a subset of the people here.
    Feedback genuinely welcome!

  7. keranih says:

    Related to the bee culture topic of recent memory:

    Urban farming in the 1600’s – Fruit Walls.

    For me, the most interesting part was tracking the shifting construction of greenhouses – and the assumption that modern, all-glass houses require significant (fossil fuel) heating.

    I am not sure that I buy that older styles had less overall cost, in terms of outlay, upkeep, and limited space. I would have to check the math.

    • Eggoeggo says:

      I’ve got fig trees growing on the south side of a wall, and it’s a tremendous advantage. They wouldn’t even survive without it—by the end of winter every branch that grew outside the wall’s protection is wind-scorched and dead.

      Even a hippie can grow food in spring and summer: you can just spread seedy compost on the ground and water it. It’s keeping a good supply of greens going in the winter that makes a really interesting challenge. Nothing beats a good coldframe against a wall for that.

      I’d actually consider living in a city if walled gardens, thick stone walls, and interior courtyards made a comeback. Maybe we’ll see it when energy prices start going up? Although we’d need to rebuild the US concrete industry from the ground up for that…

      But boy, all those comments about how fossil fuels “did humanity a disservice”…
      Guess they’re the kind of people who think they were a duke eating english-grown pineapples in a past life, rather than a factory worker living on black bread, old sausage, and a saucer of jam a week.

      • keranih says:

        I’d actually consider living in a city if walled gardens, thick stone walls, and interior courtyards made a comeback.

        This is where I actually think that Europe has a better idea. The notion of each home having an English style lawn is…well, we’ve had better ideas.

        But boy, all those comments about how fossil fuels “did humanity a disservice”…

        *sigh* Upsides and downsides to everything.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Anybody know why fruit trees seem to have fallen out of favor in America? There are lots of trees that you can grow that will produce year after year with minimal effort (although apples and pears probably aren’t), and fresh fruit is much better than what can be had in the store. And yet, we put useless maple trees everywhere instead.

      It seems like just about every suburban home grows tomatoes in the summer, so it’s not like we’re opposed to growing our own fruit. Yet edible landscaping is rare.

      • JayT says:

        One issue is that fruit trees require a lot of clean up compared to a tree that doesn’t fruit. There’s no way you could eat all the fruit off your tree unless you have a giant family or you like to give away a lot of fruit, but even then, picking the fruit is time consuming and labor intensive. However, if you only pick what you eat, then you are going to have a large amount of rotten fruit sitting at the bottom of the tree that is messy and smelly.

      • brad says:

        The most popular fruits for Americans are: oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, watermelons, strawberries, and peaches. Banana, orange, and peach trees can only be grown in small parts of the US and watermelons, grapes, and strawberries don’t grow on trees. That leaves just apple trees among popular fruit, and as you say they are fairly labor intensive.

      • Matt M says:

        Fruit trees that actually yield edible fruit are something of a hassle to maintain. I grew up fairly out in the country and we had three pear trees. They required yearly pruning, yearly insecticide spraying, having to pick all the actual pears once they were ready to be picked, etc.

        • Anonymous says:

          My parents have two apple trees. No maintenance, but picking the fruit is a pain. Pretty sure if mom didn’t do it nobody would, we’d end up with a bunch of rotting apples on the ground, and then dad would chop them down before the next year.

          Each year it results in many baskets of apples whose numbers we can’t really put a dent in with just eating. Mom has tried making jam from them, but a lot eventually spoil in the baskets.

          So yeah, all we have to do is go pick the free fruit and it’s still too much work because there’s more of it than we want.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s another inconvenience though that I forgot to mention. Even with just three trees you end up with bags and bags and bags of pears that you have to do something with.

            And yes, as a child, one of my chores was to pick the rotten fruit up off the ground and throw it in the compost (in addition any pears we didn’t get in time, we had a wild (inedible) apple tree that contributed to the rotten fruit on the ground issue)

          • Anonymous says:

            Apple sauce is a good choice. If you jar them correctly it’ll stay good until opened for quite a while. Not even that much work if you don’t mind pink.

            Cider is a traditional choice but I don’t know what’s involved in that.

          • Matt M says:

            Making cider is a good half day-long effort for a small group, assuming you already have the apples picked/gathered and ready to go. It also requires a cider press, which is a fairly large and expensive piece of machinery, but you can usually rent them just for a day (a neighbor up the road had a lot of apples, and used to do this as a yearly event for everyone nearby to come help out and take some cider when it was done)

          • Nornagest says:

            My grandma had a cider press when I was a kid, and filled a few gallon jugs every year with juice from the Gravenstein apple tree in her backyard. Pretty simple work, if moderately strenuous and liable to make everything you’re wearing a little sticky.

            You could probably home-ferment it into hard cider with a little more work, too, if you don’t mind microbe wrangling. No personal experience there, but cider’s supposed to be one of the easier alcoholic beverages to get right.

            (Crabapples can be used to make pies and chutney, incidentally, and probably applesauce too. The harder flesh isn’t a problem if you cook it long enough.)

          • keranih says:

            So yeah, all we have to do is go pick the free fruit and it’s still too much work because there’s more of it than we want.

            Let us all give thanks for having so much food that we will let it go to waste like this.

            A more cynical me would make the same note about paper garbage, random couches, and loose aluminum cans in “impoverished” neighborhoods in the USA – that the people there ain’t that poor, because if they were, every bit of something that could be burned for heat or sold for scrap would be off the street within hours of being tossed on the curb. If American poor were *that* bad off, they’d be grafting blackberries in backlots and alleyways.

            But the problem is far more difficult than that, and realizing this crimps my joy at the existence of cheap food quite a bit.

            OTOH – there are oilmen in the Dakotas and orchard keepers in Idaho who earn their bread off the laziness of the rest of us. Tis an ill wind that blows no good.

          • Matt M says:

            I remember reading some article about propaganda that mentioned that regime in North Korea brags that there are no rats in North Korea.

            This is technically true, but not because the country is really clean. It’s because any non-human mammals roaming wild would immediately be killed for their meat – rats included.

          • keranih says:

            Or how the vast bison herds found by the Europeans were not the natural state of affairs – that the end of a cyclical drought and the death of (at least) hundred of thousands of American Indians due to disease allowed the bison population to explode.

            Or – and this is better yet – the vast thorny wilderness of the African savannas populated by Cape buffalo and elephant were there only because the native cattle populations – and the people who depended on them – had died off after bovine plura-pneumonia swept across Africa (*).

            We humans wreck change on the environment, it’s what we do. But we do much more when we’re starving.

            (*) In one of those relatively rare instances where a disease going into Africa caused devastation – the trend is very strongly in the other direction. The loss of the cattle was important because cattle grazing kept the population of specific varieties of tsetse fly down.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            Store them properly, if they’re the right variety. Good ones will last 9+ months in a box in the basement, and you can pull a few out at a time for chopping into breakfast cereals, cooking, etc.

      • keranih says:

        IMO – time preference, and a failure to appreciate the fruits of indigeous/regional varieties.

        (By failure to appreciate I mean mostly “having not been exposed to” – there is no accounting for taste.)

        Fruit trees take time to mature – and even with the modern dwarf trees, we’re talking three to five years – more time than the purchase-to-sale horizon of the 90’s and oughts.

        Brambles are much faster producing, but messy. Blueberrys are picky about soil acidity. Figs are great but temperature sensitive.

        If I had my way, far more American households would be planting Chickasaw plums, persimmons, and pawpaws, as well as the multitude of apples and pears adapted to each region. But, again, there is no accounting for taste.

        • Loquat says:

          I’d also like to spread the word about hardy kiwis, aka kiwi berries, which are basically grape-sized furless kiwi fruit that can survive an actual winter. If I had more yard space, I’d grow them myself. (They are, however, a vine rather than a tree, and will need something to climb on.)

          • keranih says:

            For those who might be interested in exploring this more…

            The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto (she also did a decent book on various berries) and Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden by Lee Reich (this one is now on kindle, woot!) are good starting points.

          • Thanks for the links keranih! I keep a regular list of various orchard sites, plant lists, and a set of rotating favorites at any given time. Once I get some space (i.e. not living in an apartment) I intend to break ground right away on some blueberries, cherries, and maybe even walnuts. Too bad my climate is too cold for growing Japanese plums, but I might give it a go anyway with some of those south facing walls, they are cold hardy enough for my region but a late frost will kill its early blooms and it won’t fruit.
            Anyone in a higher hardiness zone 6/7-10 want grow Ume trees and send me their fruit? I can send you back delicious Umeshu every year.

            http://www.treesofantiquity.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=10&products_id=574

        • Jaskologist says:

          Your last paragraph is close to what I was going to say. Sure, apples and pears have a lot of pest/disease pressure (perhaps due to their popularity). But those are hardly the only options. Why have we neglected the American persimmon, which is candy on a tree, and completely forgotten the pawpaw, which is native, almost pest-free, and huge? It’s not like we had to stick with European and tropical fruits.

          (Mulberries are also underappreciated. And if you’re interested, Kousa dogwood fruit is good eating, and great for urban foraging, because it’s a popular landscaping tree and nobody knows they can eat it.)

          (And even with apples, I’ve foraged up fruit that was pock-marked and black with sooty fungus, and was still just as good as store-bought. Don’t judge a fruit by its cover.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            You originally said that fruit trees had fallen out of fashion. Were you talking about native fruits? Were they ever popular in the colder suburbs? Or was it only apples that were ever popular?

          • Nornagest says:

            American persimmon was traditionally cultivated, but I don’t know about pawpaw.

            Personally I’m a big fan of quince, which is non-native and can’t be eaten raw (you can eat it after bletting, but I wouldn’t recommend it), but which is frost-hardy, prolific, and delicious when made into pie, chutney, or jam. I don’t have the property anymore, but for years I was giving jars of quince jam to everyone I know.

          • keranih says:

            In recent years, one fellow has taken on the challenge of making pawpaws more commerically/backyard viable – see here.

            Mulberries are great but make a tremendous colorful mark on cars and sidewalks.

          • The persimmons and pawpaws won’t grow as far north as I am, but the dogwood certainly sounds like something to add to my list of possible fruit trees to get when I have land. Mulberries would also work in my winter zone 5a-5b but everywhere I’ve seen them they make a horrific purple mess and also turn birds into purple poop dispensers. Also geese like them and geese are the biggest jerks.

          • Loquat says:

            There was a large backyard mulberry tree in the house my parents bought when I was a child, but they had it cut down after a few years. Partly so the space could be used for other things, partly because it made a godawful mess. I remember liking the fruit, though.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Geese are pretty delicious though.

          • Dahlen says:

            @Jaskologist:

            Candy on a tree? The persimmons I buy from the supermarket are, admittedly, a bit sour, but passable. (Although every fruit or vegetable we get from our farm is better-tasting than the supermarket version.)

            Speaking of which, about a year ago or less I had the worst experience with supermarket tomatoes. I bought a bag of tomatoes which were unusually red for that season. When I cut them, they bled with a purplish juice or fluid. Same as Easter egg dye. I gather that it was purple dye, meant to make orange-ish tomatoes look bright red. Really, just how low can producers go?

            BTW, nice topic. I’m trying to grow my first ever avocado trees in my apartment. We had a series of seeds which failed to sprout, and now my first ever seed has cracked on the bottom. Any idea what to do next?

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            I… what? No, tomatoes are not dyed. That wouldn’t even be cost-effective, let alone legal. Some varieties of tomato are just juicy.

          • “Personally I’m a big fan of quince, which is non-native and can’t be eaten raw (you can eat it after bletting)”

            I was going to suggest that you were confusing quince with medlar, but I checked online and quince can indeed be bletted. I should try that. I use the quinces from my tree for cooking, including a very simple and tasty quince preserve from a 10th century cookbook.

          • Dahlen says:

            @Nornagest: That’s good to know. Custard… hmmm… I guess I’ll have to make some once and taste it myself. Heard of it, but I mostly mistake it for mustard.

            @Homo Iracundus: Tomato juice is not purple verging on blue. If there’s anything I know about vegetables, it’s that. Try being in a country without very strong rule of law.

          • Nornagest says:

            Oh, custard’s easy. Basically just a cooked emulsion of eggs and cream. If you have an oven and can operate a whisk and follow timing directions, you can make a pretty good custard.

            I’m not sure what to compare the flavor to, though.

          • Jaskologist says:

            American persimmons and Asian persimmons are different, though I am a fan of both. The Asian varieties have developed for thousands of years, so they’re much bigger, but I think the taste of the American is more interesting. However, you have to eat them when mushy and wrinkled, or you will regret it, which is why you probably haven’t seen them in the store.

            On quinces, keep in mind there there are two different fruit under that name. One is from a Japanese bush usually planted for its flowers. That fruit is rock-hard, but you can still process it into a good jam. I’m not sure if bletting would also work. The other is a close relative of apples and pears, and looks like a lumpy cross between the two. I’ve only had a few, but I liked them, and they didn’t need any special processing.

          • Nornagest says:

            The quince I was talking about is the one related to apples and pears, and the specific cultivar I grew ended up looking like a fuzzy, yellowish pear, about the size of a regular pear but rounder. (I’ve also seen larger, bare-skinned quinces at farmers’ markets.) When grown in the Bay Area it never softened enough to be edible without processing, but Wikipedia informs me that some types can, in hot climates.

            The jam they make is astonishingly good, tasting something like apples crossed with rose hips.

          • My quinces also are cydonia, not Japanese quince. Also grown in the Bay Area. I haven’t tried bletting them, but when they are picked, or fall, they are suited for cooking, not eating out of hand.

            I like to describe a quince as smelling more like an apple than an apple does.

          • keranih says:

            American persimmons are ambrosia, surenuf. Yes, they have to passed through the astringent phase, but oh, my.

            As for “purple” tomatoes – there is a fairly popular American heirloom tomato called the Cherokee Purple – it’s been a few years since I grew any but the fruits are deep red and the juice had a distinctly violet/mulberry shade. I doubt it’s the only strain that does that. I’m having a hard time working out the physics of injecting a purple dye into individual tomatoes, but I suppose it could happen.

            I haven’t grown avacados, sorry.

          • I have grown avocadoes. The larger of my two trees has quite a lot of fruit on it at the moment.

            One odd thing about avocadoes is that they don’t get fully ripe on the tree. You pick them hard, put them in a paper bag, and in a week or so they are soft and good.

            I wouldn’t be inclined to grow one from a seed if I wanted it for fruit. Fruit trees generally don’t grow true, which is why they are grown from grafts. But I don’t know about the specific case of avocadoes.

            My tree took a long time, I think more than ten years, before it started bearing, and it bears irregularly, I think about every other year. But now, when it bears, it bears heavily. And the other side of not ripening on the tree is that the fruit stays on the tree for a very long time, so we have avocadoes available for several months.

            Unfortunately, I’m the only one in the family who really likes them, so we give a fair number away. There are five in the back of the car at the moment, to be given to Betty’s brother in Denver, where we arrive this evening. If it turns out that he and his wife don’t like Avocadoes, we will be visiting friends near Chicago in another few days.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Cherokee Purples are the biggest thing missing from my garden this year. They’re the best tomato ever—so thick and juicy you can eat them like steak.

  8. Lately, it’s really feeling like society considers any method I might have to meet women a critical security flaw in need of immediate patching.

    People always advocate social dance events (“There are always way too many girls to go around, everyone will want to dance with you, it’s great!”) First off, it’s flatly not true, at least on the west coast these days: I’ve literally never been to one of these mythical social dance events with a good ratio. I’d be thrilled to see 1:2. Hell, I went to a contra night a while back where there were more men in dresses than women, and no, there’s not an ambiguity in that sentence. But the real knife to my gut was when I started seeing sneering blog posts talk about how awful it was that men went to {blues, swing, contra} with the intention to dance with women and maybe even chat with them. How the community needed to put in safeguards to stop this menace. One commenter recommended expelling or even calling the cops on single men who showed up and approached strange women. As soon as losers started trying to use dance events as a way they could possibly interact with girls, everyone freaked out.

    Okay, dance is out. Another thing you’ll see recommended: volunteer at your local animal rescue, or homeless shelter, or other charity de jour! Volunteers skew women (and, some of the advisors will point out, they’re obviously kind women too!) I’d always dismissed volunteering as an inefficient source of utilons, more about resume-padding and virtue-signaling than doing good, but sure, this is a good point–I can spend time doing low-value volunteer work and still donate to AMF. Certainly I yield more utils than just going to a bar, and if I treat it as a substitute for that…

    And then I start looking for volunteer opportunities in Seattle. I immediately find an event announced by $PROMINENT_CHARITY, sounds fun, I look for details–and realize the description spends fewer words (yes, really) on what we’d be doing or why it’s goo than on warning us (in caps) that this was NOT FOR MEETING PEOPLE and that ANYONE HITTING ON OTHER VOLUNTEERS WOULD BE EJECTED WITHOUT WARNING. Again: someone found out I might be able to talk to a girl there and, before I even did, freaked the fuck out.

    This happens again and again. Anywhere people tell me is a good place to meet girls, I find that first it’s already common knowledge and swarming with other men, and second that our presence is the biggest problem in the whole community. What’s more, let’s not fool ourselves: at all these dance events, people meet potential partners and flirt and sometimes exchange numbers (or saliva…). I’d bet some coffee dates are planned every time $CHARITY has a meeting. But that’s OK for some people and not for others, and we all know which ones are allowed to do this and which aren’t.

    Honestly, it makes sense. Take a Hansonian perspective: we want to signal mate fitness, and our potential mates want those signals kept honest. So we build societal infrastructure so that the men given access to good situations to meet women have, by getting that far, provided good evidence that they’re good mates. Any of this infrastructure I can access is, ipso facto, not doing its job, and needs replacement. This is the real reason most people hate the idea (not any particular unpleasant implementation) of PUA-type skills, and it’s why people say things like “just be yourself”: the entire goal of romancing someone is demonstrating that you’re a good mate, and if you can learn to produce these signals without actually having the qualities they signal, that’s dangerous.

    But still at this point I’m feeling somewhat akin to the protagonists of the “Untitled” post: I know I don’t have a right to dates…but can we may stop treating my wanting them an unforgivable sin? Is that too much to ask?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think your pond might be overfished and polluted; the Seattle male-female ratio is very high. I’d suggest you get off the left coast (which will help some with the pollution — that is, anti-male culture warriors) and find somewhere the male-female ratio is more in your favor.

    • Jill says:

      Your problem is that you have no social skills. How do I know? Because you live in Seattle, and no one there has social skills. I used to live there.

      Have your heard of the Seattle Freeze? Makes it very hard for people to meet one another. Also, a huge percentage of the population seems to have depression due Seasonal Affective Disorder but doesn’t know it. Almost everybody is depressed and socially withdrawn and trying to pretend that they feel just fine.

      I met someone from Maine who lamented how non-social people in Seattle are. Maine.

      I agree with the Nybbler that you definitely ought to get out of that place. It’s a fantastic place for an introvert. But for someone who is trying to make social or dating connections, it s**ks big time.

      When we lived there, my husband and I were amazed that any single people ever met and eventually got married at all. We couldn’t introduce single people to our single friends of the opposite sex, because we didn’t have any friends either, when we lived in Seattle.

      If you want to make social connections of any kind, it really helps to be in a place where people speak and make eye contact. That’s not exactly the way it is there– no speaking or eye contact– but almost.

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

      http://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/our-social-dis-ease-beyond-the-smiles-the-seattle-freeze-is-on/

      BTW, I don’t think the social group mentioned there is still going on. It’s hard to keep anything social continuing, in Seattle. Most things social just fall apart.

      People do meet in groups that go on and on sometimes. But they are task oriented groups, not social groups.

      A fellow psychotherapist from the midwest, then living in Seattle, once proudly announced in our peer consultation group. “I’ve finally figured out the Seattle culture. Socializing is a means to an end here– not an end in itself. “

      • How do I know? Because you live in Seattle, and no one there has social skills. I used to live there.

        This is true. I too used to live in Seattle, and will attest to the fact.

        (Except in college. In college I met lots of people and had girlfriends. I have no idea how I would have had anything like that success after college.)

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      What is the worst thing that could happen if you made an advance at someone? Like just started talking to a woman you come into contact with (not at work).

      You linked to your Google Page and you seem to have a reasonably handsome face and are in really good shape. I can’t imagine you making an advance would be a huge deal.

    • Peter says:

      For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.

    • sohois says:

      The issue you face is that your thinking is dominated by ‘meeting girls’. Think about the first few people who went to dance clubs and found they were good places for potential dating; chances are they went in the first place because they were interested in dance and it just happened that they could also meet people with similar interests. It would thus be easy for them to interact and flirt with others since their primary interest is not flirting, and this is obvious. It’s fairly natural that people with an interest in dancing would be able to hook up and have a relationship, however even if the well wasn’t poisoned and you yourself could go to these events to meet people, chances are you would find it considerably more difficult just because you don’t share the common interest. The people that initially recommended such ideas likely did so because it worked very well for them, and perhaps a handful of early birds, but most wouldn’t get anything from it simply because they aren’t dancers or whatever.

      In the end, the real reason these events have become hostile to single men isn’t really to do with keeping out ‘losers’ or preventing men from hitting on women, and is about preventing these events being filled with people that have no interest in them. Let me give you a hypothetical: imagine if, for some reason, rationalist meetups were described as an excellent place to meet potential dates. The events would become filled with boorish people with no interest in discussion, solely looking for a mate. How awful would that be for the few people generally interested in rationality?

      When people go online saying that dance events, or volunteering, are an excellent way to meet people, the advice to take is not to just imitate them. The advice is that social events in general are a good place to meet people, assuming you have a genuine interest.

      Now, I’m sure at this point there are some crying out “But all the things I’m interested in are dominated by males! It’s impossible.” OK, obviously you’re not going to have much luck with a [insert your nerdy hobby here] meeting. All I can recommend to you is to find a new interest and work at it. Do you think if you went to a bunch of dance lessons and got really good at it, that anyone would have an issue with you flirting at some social dance event? I’m gonna say no. You would be there for a legitimate reason. You would be an actually interesting guy with a range of interests that you pursue actively. Anyone that has several social hobbies that they enjoy would have no trouble meeting partners.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m told there used to be social events arranged by the local (parent) community with the primary purpose of exposing their kids to each other, and arranging marriages between the mutually acceptable. I wonder if anyone resurrected them yet under some business venture yet.

      • Peter says:

        Anyone that has several social hobbies that they enjoy would have no trouble meeting partners.

        Hahahahaha hahahahaha hahahaha. This is not my experience. It might work for some, but not for others.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        Groups of people who get together to volunteer for a political candidate shouldn’t be that picky.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        I do think that these events, definitely volunteering activities and most likely also general social events, are hostile to male sexuality. I volunteer at my university, and it’s quite apparent that some people go to our events to find friends or engage in social activity. This is often even explicitly advertised as one of the reasons to join by similar events or groups. For some reason, people assume that a person who considers a group of people to be good potential friends has the right personality for the cause, but a person who considers a group of people to be good potential mates is creepy.

      • The Nybbler says:

        When I was in Philadelphia, quite a few people went to dance events to meet people for potential dating. Both men and women. Those who succeeded were of course interested in dancing (I tried it and unfortunately it turns out I’m terrible at dancing, but that’s not a problem with the event), but going into it with the social/dating factor first and the dancing second wasn’t a disqualifier. The great advantage of dance in particular, is you’re expected to ask women to dance and to dance with them; this gives you a chance to check each other out in a setting that isn’t explicitly dating.

        • Tibor says:

          I completely agree. I think I am mediocre at dancing, but I enjoy it. With practice I could (and hope to) become reasonably good, probably not great though, but that’s fine. I don’t share the experience Andrew has with dancing events at all. Of course, I live in a different city, different continent even and sometimes go to a local salsa party. I also attend a dance course. I met a girl that way with whom I have/had kind of a romantic relationship (it is more complicated than I would like it to be or would care to explain 🙂 ) and met a lot of other people, mostly women, with whom I am in regular contact with (I live in a relatively small town though, around 100 000 inhabitants, even though it is a university town, i.e. more people in their 20s and early 30s than average, if you go to a salsa event, you know you will meet a lot of the people you know). I also really like hiking, so I organized some trips and met some other people that way..and through those people I met others.

          What is important is that while meeting people (and particularly women) was one of the objectives of those activities, I would not try to figure out “the best way to meet women”, I would just try to do stuff I like anyway which involves other people and which does not necessarily involve the same old group of people I know from work for example. That way, you meet a lot of people in a short time and then you get invited to some of their events and there you meet even more new people. This is generally the best recipe to meet a partner I think – just be exposed to people enough and try to do it while doing something you like anyway. That has two advantages. One is that you actually enjoy yourself in the process instead of regarding it as a chore and therefore you are more likely to do it often (I also just tried going to bars and talking to strangers, but that was quite stressful for me, I had no idea what to talk about and given the rather random nature of the people who you meet at a bar, probably not the best way to find a good match either). The second is that you have both a topic to talk about (the activity you are doing) to people and a common interest. Both make making friendships/romantic relationships easier.

          And as mentioned, the great advantage of dancing, especially if you are rather shy with women (like me) is that you are actually expected to come a to a woman you don’t know and ask her out to dance (of course, I am talking about the kind of music which you dance in pairs to). Then the conversation starts in a much more natural way than if you try to start it with a stranger in a bar. Also, for me at least, the feel I get from the dance with a particular woman also has an influence on how I feel about her, I feel that you actually can tell something about the personality of your dancing partner from the way he dances (obviously not as much as by actually getting to know him but it provides more information than you usually get in the first few minutes).

          • Anonymous says:

            the great advantage of dancing, especially if you are rather shy with women (like me) is that you are actually expected to come a to a woman you don’t know and ask her out to dance (of course, I am talking about the kind of music which you dance in pairs to)

            You and I clearly have very different definitions of the word “shy”.

          • Tibor says:

            @Anonymous: Ok, so the difference between this and between coming to someone random in a bar and starting a conversation is that here you have sort of formal way to do that where it is entirely clear how you start – you just come to her and ask if she’d like to dance. So in this sense, it is definitely easier.

      • “Think about the first few people who went to dance clubs and found they were good places for potential dating; chances are they went in the first place because they were interested in dance and it just happened that they could also meet people with similar interests.”

        As it happens, I met my current wife at folk dancing. The reason I was there was that a friend’s wife had suggested that it was a good place to meet girls (this was after my first marriage had broken up).

        One of the ways in which my second wife was better suited to me than my first was that she rapidly figured out that I couldn’t dance. We did, however, have other and more important things in common.

    • Anonymous says:

      In general, it seems to me that we have largely lost the social/cultural ability to matchmake for fairly boring average people who just want to find a tolerable mate, have some kids and grow old together. The requirements to successfully find a partner in life seem to have been grossly inflated.

    • Ruprect says:

      “I know I don’t have a right to dates…but can we may stop treating my wanting them an unforgivable sin? Is that too much to ask?”

      All that stuff about these social systems acting as some sort of effective selective mechanism is rubbish – the society we live in (particularly the dating aspect you are talking about) is very recent – it’s a mutation that hasn’t yet been subjected to selective pressure.

      I don’t think anyone thinks it’s a sin – you’re probably just over-sensitive about what people might think of you (and that’s what people are talking about when they say “be yourself”). Check this out -http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3koh9x
      I dunno… maybe try a dating agency?

      • Jill says:

        Yes, a lot of people seem to have success with on line dating.

        • Anonymous says:

          Really? What sort of success?

          • Peter says:

            I’ve heard of people getting married as a result. Even I have managed to get the odd second date off it. Then again, I’ve heard of people winning the lottery.

            All that said, it’s a lot of effort and a lot of heartache for most likely not very much reward; it’s probably a better strategy than buying lottery tickets and hoping to flaunt your millions, but only probably. I’ve also heard it said that people who get success from online dating are also the sorts of people who can get success offline but who just want to speed things up a bit.

          • Matt M says:

            Online dating is pretty much the only way I can ever get any dates at all. So in that sense it has been “successful.” But it has not led to anything even remotely resembling a functional, long-term relationship – so in that sense it hasn’t been successful.

            And what Peter says is absolutely correct. Don’t enter online dating thinking that you’re only competing against others like you who have no other recourse. The “normal” guys who don’t “need it” are there too, and they can out-compete you there too. The only real viable strategy for making it worth your time is coming up with a reasonably clever introductory message, and copy-pasting it to literally every girl the site matches you with. Any reasonably cute/interesting girl is getting hundreds of messages a day – mostly from guys you can assume are more attractive and better at talking to women than you are.

          • Jill says:

            > people who get success from online dating are also the sorts of people who can get success offline but who just want to speed things up a bit.

            Probably so. So if a person doesn’t have social skills, then they need to go to a community college course, or to a coach or therapist, or somewhere to learn social skills. If a person doesn’t have social skills first, then here is where they are going to be able to find a romantic partner is: nowhere.

            Social skills are essential.

          • Salem says:

            I met my wife through online dating, and have several friends who did likewise. I also found online dating to be incredibly helpful in improving my ability to deal with women.

          • Peter says:

            @Salem

            Good point – I may have been unnecessarily bitter about the whole thing; I was writing with tunnel vision about the end goal and forgetting to remark about the good stuff to be had along the way. My bad.

            It does indeed seem to teach something. I could feel my skills getting noticeably better, year on year… for a while at least. That’s strong motivation to keep at it. And the experiences to have along the way can be quite nice too. Putting too much pressure on myself to get The Result I think was what made it hard for me, every now and again I think of going back to it.

            In my bitter moments I had the thoughts, “I’m learning social skills here, and if we extrapolate, success is at the end of the line – however, it looks like dying of old age is likely to happen first.”

          • Jill says:

            Regarding social skills, here are some social communication classes that might be helpful for those willing to put in the effort. For those who are not willing to put in any effort though, of course, it’s not the thing.

            It’s important to realize, in our desires or goals
            —which ones we just want to fantasize about
            — which ones we just want to get a few tips about and try them out and see if we get any results
            –which ones we are willing to put in the time, effort, and possibly expense, to try to make some substantial progress.

            Nonviolent communication workshops, classes, and practice groups
            https://www.cnvc.org/

            And here is an communications expert of a sort, where maybe the web site could help you find a workshop, class, or coach in your local area.
            http://www.susancampbell.com/

          • JayT says:

            I would have to think more carefully about it to know for sure, but I would guess that half the people I know in long term relationships got there through online dating. I never tried it (I probably should have), but from what I’ve seen, it’s been very effective.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I met my wife online. But not on a dating site. I got zero results from any place I paid a membership to.

            By zero results, I mean zero in-person dates.

          • Loquat says:

            I met my husband on a dating site, and we’ve been married over 5 years. It definitely didn’t happen instantly – I was on the site for a few years and had unsuccessful dates with several other men I met there before I met him.

    • Zorgon says:

      I advise you make several million dollars as soon as possible. That’ll fix all your dating problems right up.

      • Peter says:

        Well, that’s about as practical as most of the impractical practical advice out there, but at least it’s honest about it.

        • Zorgon says:

          I don’t have any good dating advice for him. My entire romantic life, pretty much, has consisted of “sit in rock clubs being pretty and get hit on by aggressively sexual women”. I don’t know how transferable I can make that…

          (Also, since I’m not 21 any more, I really REALLY plan on keeping hold of my current partner. I would hate to try to meet new people now I’m no longer a pretty boy.)

          • Peter says:

            Sometimes the acknowledgement that there’s no good advice to be offered is all that’s needed.

        • ChetC3 says:

          It’s also not as much of sure thing as people tend to assume. Unless you use that several million to just buy “dates” outright, but he could probably afford that already.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m actually legitimately curious about this. I’m not nearly at the “several millions” phase but I recently accepted a job over six figures in my early 30s. Generally frugal – good with money – no debt, so my expenses are low.

            How do I start transforming this money (such as it is) into dates, short of activities that are obviously illegal?

          • Jill says:

            If I were you, I would shop around to find a highly competent life coach or therapist, and use this money to work on my social skills. It would be best if the person had experience in helping people in that particular area. And if one can’t help you, it’s very possible that another one will be great for you. Different therapists and coaches work in very different ways.

            I would also make sure I join social groups and organizations, so I have somewhere to practice social skills.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Matt M,

            It’s about presenting yourself as successful. The money per se isn’t the big draw, although it is a pretty big one, but rather that it signifies that you’re a winner.

            Ironically, that means your frugality is working against you. If you had a sleek car and tastefully expensive tailored wardrobe it would advertise you as a man who can afford to drop money on luxuries. But by not indulging in those luxuries, the money you save doesn’t really impress anyone.

            Think about it as if you were a medieval lord rather than an accountant. You’re supposed to be doing to modern equivalent of throwing lavish feasts and scattering jewels amongst the peasants from your carriage. Visibly watching your expenses makes you seem like you expect to suddenly lose your wealth, and makes you look more boring.

          • Anonymous says:

            1) Live in a place where six figures puts you reasonably close to the top. I.e. not the Bay Area, NYC area, or LA.

            2) Put photos in your dating profiles that subtlety but unmistakably signal wealth. A picture in front of your Ferrari is gauche, a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower is perfect.

            3) Be open to dating women in their late 20s and early 30s. Bonus points if you are open to women with a child from a prior relationship.

            4) There is no four.

          • @Jill:

            Do you have any evidence that life coaches actually work, provide useful help? My casual and cynical impression, based on very little data, is that “my coach” today is the equivalent of “my shrink” forty years ago, with the only advantage being that the coach doesn’t have to acquire expensive degrees before going into business–and that neither was/is terribly useful. It’s someone you pay to pay attention to you.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M
            Buy a Porsche. Be seen in it. Carry the key visibly. Include it (with you in it, not in front of it) in your profile pics.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s not quite the same scale – but I bought a (used, but only a couple years old at the time) Lexus when I was 25 at a time when everyone in my relevant peer group was driving beat up Subarus. Didn’t do me any good whatsoever. Seemed to make zero difference.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Lexus sends the wrong message (except the sport coupes, maybe). A used Lexus a very wrong message. A Lexus is a more or less sensible luxury car. Boring. The idea is to get attention. A sports car is better. New. In a bright color. I don’t guarantee it will get dates, but it will get female attention. Parlaying that attention into dates is up to you.

            Of course this works best in areas where you can be seen driving it; not so well in NYC (but in NYC you’d be competing with multi-millionaire bankers anyway)

          • Matt M says:

            Just curious – but do any of you personally know someone who traveled this path? (socially awkward – near zero success with women, became wealthy, and was then swimming in available dates)

            It seems like one of those “conventional wisdom” things that people just tend to believe must be true.

            I also feel like wealth and social skills probably correlate well enough that it’s something of a confounding variable. Basically – even if you’ve noticed rich guys having a ton of dates, it’s entirely possible that they also had a ton of dates before (I’m more willing to believe that being rich increases the “quality” of the women who will consider you, just not necessarily the quantity)

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      Unrealistically optimistic suggestion: I’ve heard fan fiction communities being recommended to rationalists, because women are in the majority and also of the nerdy type. Due to the format, you can demonstrate your value by your writing before being labelled a creep, whereas at a dance or volunteering event it’s more difficult to prove you are not a loser. I have, however, no idea how these communities work and how you are supposed to meet them in real life.

      Realistic, but depending on your circumstances maybe impossible, suggestion: The only thing that reliably still works for the average guy (sadly only for white people): go to Asia. Since from your google profile it seems that you are quite decent in shape and practice martial arts, I presume a little self confidence and less worry about being shamed might be useful. You will have no trouble getting female attention in China or Japan. If you are a student, you can maybe join some exchange program, if you graduated already you will find a job teaching English easily. The biggest surprise will be how it’s like to have people (including girls) just be *nice* to you, even without any sexual interest.

      • Anonymous says:

        Realistic, but depending on your circumstances maybe impossible, suggestion: The only thing that reliably still works for the average guy (sadly only for white people): go to Asia. Since from your google profile it seems that you are quite decent in shape and practice martial arts, I presume a little self confidence and less worry about being shamed might be useful. You will have no trouble getting female attention in China or Japan. If you are a student, you can maybe join some exchange program, if you graduated already you will find a job teaching English easily. The biggest surprise will be how it’s like to have people (including girls) just be *nice* to you, even without any sexual interest.

        Since you appear to know something about this – what do you think is the upper age for a white male to get that sort of attention from pre-Christmas Cake women there?

        • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

          Can only speak for China, but one teacher I was friends with was in a serious relationship with a girl who just graduated from college. He was in his mid 40s. Since that is the concern coming up most often: She was not out to get a visa out of China, quite to the contrary, their relationship ended when the guy was not willing to commit to settle down in China.

          • Anonymous says:

            Very interesting. My boss recently divorced and moved to HK, and told me that the parents of his new Chinese wife were annoyed at his globalist, lots-of-flying job – that he wasn’t settled down enough.

            How common is that notion – that moving to China is the vastly preferred solution in mixed marriage?

          • Emile says:

            I don’t know how much it’s vastly preferred, but I also know of cases where the parents live in China and would prefer the whole family to come live in China rather than having their daughter live in some faraway land. I don’t think *that* big a proportion of Chinese people want to move out.

          • Anonymous says:

            How common is that notion – that moving to China is the vastly preferred solution in mixed marriage?

            I am by no means an expert, but my uneducated impression is that the expectation is for children to take care of their parents in their old age, and this is the reason the one-child law led to a superabundance of boys in China. Presumably the same circumstance would lead the parents to strongly disapprove of their one child leaving the country entirely (and no doubt many old Chinese people would look upon the prospect of moving to a Western country as only marginally better at most, even supposing the daughter and the in-law were to make the offer).

        • h says:

          Over 60 definitely. I remember attending a restaurant opening party and having my mind blown by meeting this international school teacher with a girlfriend who was around 30, spoke very good English, had lived in England and gotten a Master’s degree while living there. That’s in Shanghai. A different guy, who I know more than glancingly met and had sex with multiple girls on a two week holiday in Japan. He was a balding early 30’s nerd with bottom quartile social skills. A friend told me last week about meeting a 19 year old Filipino girl whose boyfriend was 70.

          In the Philippines there does not appear to be an upper limit. The same is true for Vietnam/Thailand/SEAsia but there appear to be a lot more mercenary girls.

          Personally I’d recommend the more first world Asian countries or the first tier cities in China. It is only a little harder and you won’t be dating peasants.

      • Emile says:

        I also think that “go to Asia” is sensible advice, and a disproportional number of geeks seem to have Asian girlfriends/spouses (including myself, tho I didn’t meet her in Asia).

        • Jill says:

          A friend of mine’s son just got married in Thailand. He has Asperger’s or something on the autistic syndrome and could never find a woman here ever. But he got a girlfriend very quickly in Thailand. He is a professor though, and I think that’s a well respected profession there.

      • Anonymous says:

        If every time you meet a group of people they come away from the encounter thinking you are a creep, have you considered the possibility that you are indeed a creep? I mean just as an alternate hypothesis to the whole “these people are so hostile to male sexuality” thing.

        • Jill says:

          Good point. If you are a creep, then you probably should get a coach or therapist, and learn both social skills and how to not be a creep.

        • Peter says:

          Kick people when they’re down much?

          • Jill says:

            Well, he might have said that more gently. But the truth is often useful even when it hurts. If someone comes off as a creep to others, then they need to look at getting their creepiness fixed- getting coaching, counseling, taking a community college class in social skills etc.–, rather than blaming the other people.

            If EVERYONE thinks you are __________, then the problem is more likely to be your own weaknesses, not the other person’s. The rare exception is in a place like Seattle, that is so non-social that no one appears to want to connect with anyone else. But even there, a person could learn social skills and then go to groups to meet newcomers to the area, who are still social people.

          • Peter says:

            On the other hand, a wild, and insulting, guess is not welcome. Furthermore – it wasn’t just him that could have said it more gently. You echoed his words and boosted his signal and did precisely nothing to make it more gentle.

            Back in a previous thread I talked about all the things that add insult to injury, that all add to the OMG I must pair up so I can shake this accursed stigma thing. You, and the things you’re saying here, are a part of the problem. As big a part of the problem as the locker room crowd. For me, I think, bigger. Substantially bigger.

            Yeah, there’s a million-and-one hoops that people could try jumping through and magic fixes they could try taking, a million-and-one ways people could be beating themselves up for not trying hard enough or having X, Y and Z things wrong with them, and at some point, you just have to say “enough”.

            I’m sure you’re familiar with situations where lots of “well-meaning” people keep offering “practical advice” that turns out to be deeply unwelcome for all sorts of reasons.

            My meta-dating advice: don’t take “hard truths” from people on the internet. Especially not anonymouses. It can quite literally be bad for your mental health.

          • “taking a community college class in social skills”

            This is the second time you have mentioned that. I didn’t know such classes existed–indeed still don’t.

            Does anyone here have any experience with such things and evidence as to whether they work?

          • Peter says:

            I had a clinical psychologist who attempted some social skills training when I was seeing her. It didn’t do very much and we soon gave up on it. Admittedly… it had the problem that things I was more-or-less capable of doing when they actually needed done, just not very well, turned into huge stressdoom nightmares when the pressure of it being “social skills training” was on, and so we ended up calling it off because of the distress.

            Possibly another roll of the dice would given me a different outcome, therapists are a bit chancy like that.

            Good way to burn money though.

          • Anonymous says:

            Kick people when they’re down much?

            I didn’t realize this was supposed to be a safe space where we whisper sweet nothings to each other.

            at some point, you just have to say “enough”.

            That’s one way to avoid coming off as creepy.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            @Jill:

            Overall his point is indeed useful, if only because there is no point in blaming or hating other people, it’s not going to change anything.

            Practically, he didn’t at all say that he comes of as a creep all the time. If I read the OP correctly, all he wants is a socially sanctioned place to meet girls without fear of being shamed. He does not act entitled, he explicitly acknowledges that he has no right to date, he just does not want to be labelled a creep for even trying. His problem maybe his insecurity or his desire to be socially agreeable, creepy as a catch-all term on the other hand basically says that everything about you is wrong.

          • John Schilling says:

            “taking a community college class in social skills”

            This is the second time you have mentioned that. I didn’t know such classes existed–indeed still don’t.

            Is that a bug or a feature? Usually when the king tells the hero to go slay a dragon or whatnot before courting his beautiful daughter, the actual intent is that the guy go away and never pester the king’s daughter again.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            @Anonymous:

            No, this is not a safe space, but it’s a place where people try to be nice and charitable to each other. Your point brought a new idea to the discussion, which is good, but could have achieved the same thing without being mean.

          • Jill says:

            Too bad your experience with the clinical psychologist didn’t work out, Peter. It sounds like you needed some way to deal with the emotional distress that came up in these situations, but that particular psychologist wasn’t knowledgeable in that area.

            People get very different results with different therapists. Some folks interview a few therapists before beginning therapy, in order to get a feel for what therapists of different backgrounds and schools of therapy will do to help someone with their particular problem. I know someone posted a how to get therapy url. Here is the one on web md.

            http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/how-to-find-therapist

            There are many others too on the Net if you google it. But I don’t see the one that someone posted here recently.

          • Jill says:

            Yes, there are community college classes in assertiveness training for sure (I’ve seen plenty of them listed in catalogs I’ve received in the mail) , and perhaps in other kinds of social skills. If one can’t afford therapy or coaching, then that is another alternative. Even if one is already assertive, one could take the assertiveness training course if that is the only social skills related class the community college has.

            And then one could talk to the teacher, after the class, after he or she knows you a little better, and ask for recommendations of how and where to learn the particular social skills you need most.

            When I was younger, I took an assertiveness training class at a local community college. I was very impressed with the teacher and talked to her after class sometimes. I was learning a lot. And I could see that there were different layers of learning and that one could end up very skilled eventually, if one kept going deeper and adding more and more different skills. I ended up so skilled that I ended up becoming a psychotherapist for a living and doing quite well at it.

            I don’t have Asperger’s, or any autistic spectrum disorder, as some here do though. So there weren’t many limits on my capacity for going very far in learning advanced social skills.

          • Jill says:

            I did echo whoever’s words those were who called him a creep. And I could have been more gentle too. But if this person is dealing with all the stress of feeling rejected already, being called a creep is likely not going to make it much worse. And it may very well be accurate that people do think of him as a creep. And if so, he needs to face it and do something about it– whether resigning oneself to not having a romantic partner but gaining some trusted friends over time, or whether learning social skills.

            Life does not treat people gently whom other people perceive as creeps. Life can be considerably crueler than the comments section here.

            The guy did ask for advice. And it’s true that sometimes even asked-for advice can be unwelcome. And if he is in the habit of taking unwelcome advice or unwelcome other things, then he DEFINITELY ought to try an assertiveness training class through the noncredit class section of his local community college.

            And again, we’re all flying blind here. These questions about social skills are best handled by people who have SEEN you interact socially, and who also have your best interests at heart– such as a competent life coach, therapist, an assertiveness/social skills teacher at your community college, or a particularly stable trustworthy person you might meet at a church or Conversation Cafe or other organization you have joined.

          • Anonymous says:

            He doesn’t need to face the fact that he’s a creep, he’s obviously aware of it from sentences like:

            As soon as losers started trying to use dance events as a way they could possibly interact with girls, everyone freaked out.

            Calling someone a bad writer isn’t constructive criticism; saying “dude your sentences are too long” is. Maybe you can’t give constructive criticism without seeing someone “in the field”. I certainly couldn’t. That doesn’t make calling them a scribbler acceptable.

          • Peter says:

            But if this person is dealing with all the stress of feeling rejected already, being called a creep is likely not going to make it much worse

            And you think it is us who need the social skills training??? Seriously, this is Not Unnecessarily Hurting People 101 – you don’t need to be neurotypical to manage that. You could also do with a refresher course in basic reading comprehension.

            The guy did ask for advice.

            Where? Anonymous responded to SolipsisticUtilitarian, who responded to Andrew Hunter, the OP. I didn’t see any request for advice in any of those posts. He’d been talking about advice he’d been given, but the post was not a request for advice. I saw questions:

            I know I don’t have a right to dates…but can we may stop treating my wanting them an unforgivable sin? Is that too much to ask?

            That doesn’t look like a request advice, that looks like a cry of frustration. And a request to stop adding insult to injury, which of course lots of people answer with an “implicit” no and proceed to do the thing they were requested not to, to drive the point home.

            Neither can I see anything in what the OP said where he personally called creepy. The guy said he’d been given advice, followed some of it in reasonable depth, followed other bits of it in a lot less depth, and people were calling the thing that he had been advised to do creepy. That’s very different.

          • Ruprect says:

            “These questions about social skills are best handled by people who have SEEN you interact socially.”

            As a side point, I recently had the opportunity to watch recordings of my social interactions, and uh… the things that seemed like awkward, potentially insane moments to me as I did them, actually looked entirely normal from the outside (for example imagined awkward pauses were actually more or less instantaneous reactions). So, if you’re feeling socially awkward, might be a good idea to get your reactions recorded to see if things are as bad as you think/ if there is any room for improvement.

            Also – on creeps -I’ve met really socially awkward people before, and I think that calling people ‘creeps’ for being awkward, as opposed to aggressive is a fault on behalf of the person making the accusation. It’s a kind of bullying.

            That said, it is possible that someone might be aggressively sexual and insensitive in their social interactions, and that large numbers of people might call them a ‘creep’. But 1) real creeps probably don’t care, 2) the greater problem is people calling *themselves* creeps, and imagining that others might think the same, when they probably don’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            FWIW, and I lean strongly towards this meta-debate about how nice or not nice I am being a waste of time, I was referring to SolipsisticUtilitarian not Andrew Hunter.

            The sentence that triggered the response was “Due to the format, you can demonstrate your value by your writing before being labelled a creep, whereas at a dance or volunteering event it’s more difficult to prove you are not a loser.” coupled with the earlier post that said “I do think that these events, definitely volunteering activities and most likely also general social events, are hostile to male sexuality.”

            Finally, my entire post was framed as contingent — hence the first word.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            @Anonymous:

            Oh, I was already surprised why you replied to me. If you disagree with my statements, sure attack them, but I see no point in merely attacking me, although I can see how what I wrote may sound creep-ish.
            And since you brought it up: I dont have the problem of being labeled a creep, simply because I rarely feel attracted to total strangers and whenever I do feel attracted to a girl it’s because there is at least some mutual understanding between us. So I was not speaking from a place of personal resentment.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I did echo whoever’s words those were who called him a creep. And I could have been more gentle too. But if this person is dealing with all the stress of feeling rejected already, being called a creep is likely not going to make it much worse.

            Jill: So, I have a suspicion you are using the word “creep” differently than many here are used to. Like, you seem to be using it in a morally neutral manner, where “creep” is just a neutral descriptor of those who have, for whatever reason, done something that resulted in another person being creeped out.

            But the word “creep” is frequently used with… rather stronger moral implications or connotations than that. To say that someone is a creep, in this context, is to say that they are a bad person. And often not merely a bad person, but an entitled rapey priveleged sexist misogynist, etc., etc., etc., who should be barred from civil society and never taken seriously by anyone ever again.

            So yes, it’s quite a difference. Being rejected just means you failed to get what you want. Being called a creep means you’re evil.

            I have a suspicion that you may not be so familiar with this point of view, especially what it looks like from the other side. It’s a nasty trap, and it’s hard to escape from. When you’re convinced that the slightest step out of line will get you publicly outed as a monster — and you’re not a monster, you just did something you thought was inoffensive, you don’t deserve this — but you are a monster, you did it, obviously you should have known better, the worst part is that you entirely deserve the exile you’re facing. Isn’t that contradictory? Yes. People’s thoughts often are, especially when you constantly threaten them (explicitly or implicitly) with that same fate for questioning the matter at all.

            (Meanwhile, the people pushing these norms on you don’t actually follow them. They say they follow them, and they honestly believe they follow them; but that’s because they don’t know how to take things literally, how to notice what they’re actually saying. They keep filtering it through their common sense — but it’s the common sense, not the stated norms, that is actually doing most of the work. As such it’s more or less impossible to get them to admit any instance of their behavior contradicting their stated norms, since they’ll just tell you that actually it matches perfectly, why don’t you understand that?)

            Maybe this is familiar to you, I don’t know. But I suspect you’re lacking some background here (this is about the zillionth time this sort of thing has come up here, it’s a familiar go-around by now). Here are some links I would recommend, which while not necessarily the most relevant to the matter immediately at hand I think are very good for understanding the situation more generally.

            Hugh Ristik’s “When You Have Feminist Guilt, You Don’t Need Catholic Guilt”

            On our host’s old blog, the “Meditations” series — here’s the first one, you can page through for the rest, except the (crucial) fourth one which was taken down but there’s an archived version here. (Also, various related stuff both on this blog and the old blog.)

            Scott Aaronson’s “infamous” comment 171, and also a good note on the matter by The Unit of Caring

            A good observation by Ozy on one particular manifestation of the stating-false-rules problem (but it goes way beyond that)

            Like I said, apologies if this isn’t all really so directly relevant right now; but this is one of those interminable discussions that (used to) come up all the time here, and I thought maybe I should help you get up to speed somewhat.

          • Anonymous says:

            But the word “creep” is frequently used with… rather stronger moral implications or connotations than that. To say that someone is a creep, in this context, is to say that they are a bad person. And often not merely a bad person, but an entitled rapey priveleged sexist misogynist, etc., etc., etc., who should be barred from civil society and never taken seriously by anyone ever again.

            That’s not what’s meant or how it’s understood by most people. As much as I sympathize with people that have crushing mental issues, I don’t thinks it helps anyone to validate wildly irrational responses. And because these reactions are so irrational, I don’t see what good changing the word would do. An entire paranoid edifice could be built up over whatever new word was picked to mean “those who have, for whatever reason, done something that resulted in another person being creeped out.”

        • Matt M says:

          The problem is that “creep” is one of those words that is so ill-defined that in a practical sense, it seems to mean “whatever it is that I do.” Telling someone “don’t be a creep” is completely useless unless you can identify specific things they are doing and teach them how to improve.

          • Anonymous says:

            The first step is admitting you have a problem, as opposed to everyone being out to get you.

          • onyomi says:

            Related to the above, reflecting on it, I think the number-one key to my eventual romantic success, such as it is (hardly Don Juan, but I’ve had a few decent LTRs and am now engaged), is improving my ability to sense when women are and aren’t interested.

            If a woman is interested, she is not going to rule lawyer you about how one is not supposed to be hitting on people at the social dance. And if she’s not interested there’s no way you can possibly pursue her without possibly being dismissed as a “creep” (which usually is code for “man I find unattractive hitting on me”). But most women prefer men to make the first explicit move.

            Perceiving interest, or the lack thereof, without straight up asking “want to go on a date,” then, is crucial.

            Mostly it is experience, but I would offer the following general tips: women who are interested in you romantically will also seem to be very interested in everything you have to say in general. If she is easily pulled away from a conversation with you, or seems able to easily ignore your presence, that is a bad sign.

            That said, a woman being nice and friendly to you is NOT a good indicator of romantic interest. In some cases they’re just genuinely nice, friendly people. Others have a “flirtatious personality” (these are the most dangerous)–a habit of acting flirtatious with people in general, and that must also be distinguished.

            Obviously nice and friendly is a better sign than cold and uninterested, but generally speaking, a woman being super comfortable around you right away is actually NOT a good sign. Just think how you feel when meeting a woman you find really attractive–probably a little nervous right? Same thing.

            Last tip, which sounds almost circular, but isn’t: women who seem interested probably are; women who don’t seem interested probably aren’t. If you’re like me, you will tend to have a bias toward wishful thinking and find it hard to be objective when attempting to read the signs of female interest or the lack thereof. It is easy to come up with reasons why the person you’re really interested in may actually be secretly interested in you, even though there aren’t many obvious signs of it; conversely, it is easy to overlook or willfully ignore interest on the part of women who don’t interest you, or whom you assume to be “out of your league.”

            Imagine instead that you are evaluating the interaction from an outside perspective: if you were watching how this woman were behaving toward you in a movie would you say “oh yeah, she’s so into that guy?” The signs of interest and disinterest are actually pretty obvious when viewed from a disinterested perspective–one that is hard to maintain when it comes to something so emotional.

          • bluto says:

            I think SNL defined it best.

            http://www.hulu.com/watch/295600

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t get the point of a youtube video that’s just someone talking at you. This is why we invented writing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Anyway, it is completely true that very attractive people can say and do things that unattractive people can’t. You can either rail against the unfairness of the universe, or you can take that fact and from it conclude:

            1) It is a terrible idea to take romantic advice from / emulate people that are much more attractive than you are.

            2) If you want to have romantic successes it is a good idea to do those things that are in your power to be more attractive.

          • Matt M says:

            “2) If you want to have romantic successes it is a good idea to do those things that are in your power to be more attractive.”

            This is true – but it’s also why people get annoyed at the “creepy” descriptor. It seems to be a term that was entirely invented so that girls can say “No, you’re too ugly” without actually saying that – because in our current society, caring about physical appearance a great deal makes you “shallow” and is considered to be a net negative attribute.

            So instead, we pretend that the man’s actions are at fault, because it’s not shallow to reject someone for poor behavior. But this is all a smoke screen – a lie we all seem to accept.

            And of course accepting the premise of the lie and trying to modify your behavior as if the lie was true (“I just need to find better places to meet women and ask them out”) will yield no positive results. The venue isn’t the problem. You are. And the problem is deeper than “figure out a few good pick up lines” or “take a class where you learn social skills” or anything like that.

          • Peter says:

            @onyomi

            Yeah. There was this time when I was at a party with a friend, and got a bit of an odd feeling, and asked another friend the next day, “this sounds silly, but do you think she was flirting with me?” and got “wasn’t it completely obvious? She was all over you” and a couple of parties later I made a move using an incredibly embarrasingly cheesy pickup line and it wasn’t a problem at all. Alas for complicated extraneous reasons this didn’t have the potential to last more than one night.

            It would be kinda nice if this sort of thing happened more often than once every two-decades-and-counting. It would be nice if the actual mores were in actually in favour of actual open communication and not relying on mystic telepathy what may as well be mystic telepathy or just permanently keeping your mouth shut.

            Most of the time, I’m pretty fine with women, they’re no more complicated than men, I’ve got quite a few female friends, it’s all good, except when I get the stupid idea that I might be interested in one of them, and doom results.

            Also a nice thing about being only-mostly-straight and only-mostly-male is that you occasionally get to sample things a bit from the other side of things, there have been a couple of times where some guy does something, and I thought, “I could get mortally offended at this and think this man a complete creep, or I could roll with it and see where it goes.” Both times I tried rolling with it it went somewhere rather nice. Ah, a temporary exit from the male gender role. Bliss. Again, circumstances meant there was no long-term potential and we all knew it. And, y’know, the other side of “only mostly straight” is that I can’t see myself in a long-term relationship with a bloke – that side of my sexuality feels pretty fragmentary and half-formed, whereas the straight guy side feels more complete (likewise I don’t foresee a permanent exit from the male role working out for me, not something I’d even want). Apart from the interest-detection thing.

          • onyomi says:

            I like when people offer an audio version of some written text, though it is nice if there’s a transcript too. I process information well aurally, and like being able to do something else while I listen.

          • Jill says:

            And being attractive means not just physically but having– or learning– social skills also.

          • onyomi says:

            “Other men were stronger, faster, younger, why was Syrio Forel the best? I will tell you now. The seeing, the true seeing, that is the heart of it.”

          • Matt M says:

            Physical appearance isn’t 100% of the equation, but it’s probably over half (in my own personal experiences, at least).

            And you make “social skills” sound like this simple thing. It isn’t. It deals with the complete entirety of how you interact and relate to people outside yourself. It’s a HUGE part of what makes you, “you” and you can’t simply “learn better social skills” in the same way that you might learn to line dance. It’s going to be a very long and very painful process whose end result is a dramatic change in your identity and personality. If someone is up for that, then fine, by all means, a community college course might be a reasonably affordable and available place to start. But if you aren’t up for that, nibbling around the edges will be no more effective than a PUA seminar that teaches you how to properly “neg” or whatever…

          • Anonymous says:

            This is true – but it’s also why people get annoyed at the “creepy” descriptor. It seems to be a term that was entirely invented so that girls can say “No, you’re too ugly” without actually saying that

            Matt M, that’s a good way of putting it. I’m not really sure that woman going around saying you are ugly would feel much better than you are a creep, at least for most people, but I see what you are saying.

            the venue isn’t the problem. You are. And the problem is deeper than “figure out a few good pick up lines” or “take a class where you learn social skills” or anything like that.

            It’s deeper than that, but not all that much deeper. The dirty little secret of the romanceless is that IME they tend to have a fairly narrow criteria for what they are looking for (not universally, but a strong tendency). There’s nothing wrong with that per se, people are attracted to what they are attracted to, but it saps a bunch of sympathy.

            If you are a relatively unattractive guy and you aren’t interested in relatively unattractive women then how sympathetic am I supposed to be that you aren’t having any luck?

          • Jill says:

            True that most people aren’t really willing to go to the effort and trouble of learning social skills if they don’t have any or many. It’s a lot of work.

            And if you aren’t getting something you want, because you aren’t willing to do the work, well then you don’t get it. It’s like wanting a great career but not being willing to get the relevant training and experience, not being willing to learn the skills needed, because it takes too much time and effort.

          • Nita says:

            @ Peter

            It would be nice if the actual mores were in actually in favour of actual open communication

            It would be nice, yes. On the other hand, many people already are willing to use open communication when others are OK with it.

            You can create local deviations from the standard customs during the conversation. For instance, you could have asked, “Are you flirting with me?” (works best with a smile). At worst, you would get an awkward few seconds, at best — both a romantic opportunity and more open communication.

          • Tibor says:

            @onyomi: These are actually really good points.

            Maybe one more – if a girl gives you her phone number don’t celebrate. There is still a good chance that she will just be “busy” the whole time (this happened to me even with a girl who actually came to me at a party on her own accord and who, when I asked about her for her phone number told me “well, I’ll just give put my full name here”) or that she is not looking for a romantic relationship but just a friend. I guess it is uncomfortable to say “no, I won’t give you my phone number” (it actually happened to me maybe once or twice only, and the last time the girl told me she is in a relationship and that she’s sorry but she does not give out her phone number to anyone), also people usually try to be nice (although I prefer this to being given the number and then being told she does not really have time to meet me), or possibly she can simply be unsure about you and change her mind later.

            At the same time, my previous relationship, which lasted two years, started in a pub where every one of my friends this was just a flirtatious girl (well, she actually was a little bit) and either a one night hookup for me or nothing. She would also mention having a boyfriend on our first date, at which point I actually expected that to be over (not just the fact that she had one, many women simply switch one relationship for another and are almost never actually single, but the fact that she would mention him). But sometimes things go against your expectations. Generally, I kind of subscribe to the idea of not overcomplicating things. If you feel like there is an interest, there probably is and at the end of the day, that is usually all that matters. Also, in retrospect when I go through some previous attempts, especially those during my teens (but even one when I was 26 actually), there were cases where the girl was obviously very interested but I just could not see it at the moment. But it gets (very slowly) better. Also, some women show interest more obviously than others (and I prefer that, on the other hand those also tend to be the kind of “flirtatious” women who sometimes show interest even when there is none, so if she acts like that with everyone one should not celebrate just yet 🙂 ).

          • orangecat says:

            And being attractive means not just physically but having– or learning– social skills also.

            This is not wrong, but it’s incomplete. As Scott said in “Radicalizing the Romanceless”, it’s “a kind of social skills which is not necessarily the same kind of social skills people who want to teach you social skills will teach”. Getting better at job interviews or public speaking isn’t going to help much in this context.

            Improv is the best mainstream “training” I know of that might be useful, especially if you can learn to role-play somebody with higher status.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Anyway, it is completely true that very attractive people can say and do things that unattractive people can’t. You can either rail against the unfairness of the universe, or you can take that fact

            We (well, not me, but you know what I mean) rail against a lot of injustices in the universe, and spend a lot of resources to fight them. I’m not sure why this one is particularly different.

          • Anonymous says:

            If anyone has even vaguely reasonable ideas about how to fight the unfairness of disparate attractiveness, I have yet to hear them. You know the serenity prayer?

            God, give me grace to accept with serenity
            the things that cannot be changed,
            Courage to change the things
            which should be changed,
            and the Wisdom to distinguish
            the one from the other.

          • Zorgon says:

            The complaint is not actually that attractive guys have romantic advantages over unattractive guys. That’s just the strawman.

            The complaint is that social constructions are put in place (by women) which inflict unfair punishment on unattractive men for wanting to pursue romantic relationships. These are, of course, definitionally not applied to attractive men.

            Now, you might agree or disagree that these constructions exist or that the punishment they inflict is unfair. But just pointing to the existence of attractive men and saying “WHATCHUGONNADO?” doesn’t really seem to engage with the argument.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I’m late to address this, but..

            Matt M, that’s a good way of putting it. I’m not really sure that woman going around saying you are ugly would feel much better than you are a creep, at least for most people, but I see what you are saying.

            I don’t speak for all autists, but even so I will say that yes, it would feel much better.

            Being called a creep is outright maddening. It is very intangible, and can lead to any one person getting immensely frustrated over what they’re doing: is it my body language? Something I said? A joke they took wrong? To someone who already isn’t very good in social situations, this is the exact kind of thing that makes you throw up your hands and say ‘fuck it’.

            In comparison, being called ugly is simple. The end result is the same: no romance for you, not interested. But even then, it is more to the point, as being ugly is a problem anyone can readily work on, understand, and keep in mind. Being called creepy in maybe a truthful maybe not maybe it’s this maybe it’s that way is much more frustrating than that.

          • Matt M says:

            This might sound a little vindictive – but I ‘d also prefer it because it would force the woman to admit (to herself) that she’s rejecting me for largely physical reasons – and deal with the implications of that.

            People can accept or reject me for any reason they want – such is their right. But as I’ve already discussed, the purpose of the word “creepy” is to get rid of a guy who you dislike for his inherent traits, while pretending you are uninterested due to his behavior.

          • Zorgon says:

            It’s worse than that, even. The point of the word is to provide a catch-all, inarguable and unrecoverable means of inflicting social damage on someone else, in this case specifically on a man that’s trying to initiate romantic or sexual interest. A superweapon.

            Now, the reason for using that superweapon is probably quite variable. The woman may be put off by the suitor’s manner, looks, or anything else that takes their fancy; they may fear a social status hit from even permitting an advance from someone that low on the status ladder; they may be aware that the person in question is disliked in their social context and wish to bolster their status by attacking them. There are a LOT of reasons why someone might pull out the “creepy” bazooka.

            None of this, however, is encoded in the word itself.
            “Ugly” is an information statement. “Weird” is more difficult to interpret but still actually tells you something. “Dodgy” is a good one I’ve seen used; “Handsy”, “Rapey”, and so on tell you particularly nasty things. But they all actually contain information about why the person isn’t interested.

            “Creepy” doesn’t. “Creepy” doesn’t tell you why the person is unhappy with you. It’s not meant to. It’s a statement which says “I wish to do you social harm.”

            Funny how the “oppressed” group are so easily able to create social superweapons to use against their “oppressors”, isn’t it?

          • Anonymous says:

            The complaint is not actually that attractive guys have romantic advantages over unattractive guys. That’s just the strawman.

            The complaint is that social constructions are put in place (by women) which inflict unfair punishment on unattractive men for wanting to pursue romantic relationships. These are, of course, definitionally not applied to attractive men.

            That may be what you want to talk about (and talk about and talk about) but it isn’t what the discussion you joined was about.

            The “punishment” in question is not for “wanting to pursue romantic relationships”. It is for violating social norms. These social norms include different rules for the attractive and for the unattractive both absolute terms and in terms of the difference between the two people in question. Unattractive people are allowed to pursue romantic relations but they can’t do so the same way that attractive people can. That’s the unfairness that one can either rail against or accept. Disregarding it isn’t an option — well it is, but it is going to get you labeled creepy.

            Separately, anyone, even someone quite attractive, is going to get called creepy if he continues to pursue a woman that has clearly (if not verbally) indicated a lack of interest. Don’t do that.

            I don’t speak for all autists, but even so I will say that yes, it would feel much better.

            I can’t speak for non-autistics, but I don’t want to be called ugly. I don’t want to be explicitly rejected when implicit will do. I don’t want a world where everyone is always saying hurtful or embarrassing things because “it’s true!”.

            These preferences seem diametrically opposed, and there are more of us than there are of you.

          • Zorgon says:

            “No, you have to accept MY framing!”

            Yeah, turns out I don’t. That’s not actually an argument, GreenAnon.

            In addition… if you’re willing to repeatedly visit a thread to accuse someone of being a desperate creepy asshole in whatever way you can in order to attempt to undermine their post about their anguished fear of being a desperate creepy asshole, then there’s someone here who wants to “talk about and talk about” it, and it ain’t me.

            As for the rest… your attempts at implication are, to be honest, kind of insultingly crude and you should either find a new tack or maybe an easier group of marks. As far as I can tell, no-one here is particularly interested in your approval, no matter how large a group you darkly hint at representing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The point of the “creepy” thing is that unattractive people aren’t allowed to pursue romantic relationships at all. The claim that “Unattractive people are allowed to pursue romantic relations but they can’t do so the same way that attractive people can.” is the basic lie of “creepy”; there’s nothing different that unattractive men can do to avoid being labeled “creepy” except

            1) As SNL suggests, “be handsome, be attractive, don’t be unattractive”. This is somewhat impractical, after a point.

            2) Do not pursue romantic relationships at all. This is what the people using “creepy” want; if it works, it means they’ll have a population of suitors depleted of unattractive people.

            The way out is that when the “creepy” word gets brought out, it’s not a “what”, it’s a “who”. That is, 99% of the time, as onyomi pointed out, “creepy” just means “a man I find unattractive hitting on me”. So, take it as a rejection but not as an indictment of yourself. If someone is pontificating about a whole class of people doing normal things like approaching women for dates as “creepy”, they can simply be ignored; as John Schilling said, they’re the “enemy”.

            The other 1% of the time — the part that’s used as cover for the use of the word — you’re doing something wrong. But if so, someone will probably use other words to describe it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Whatever Zorgon. Have fun stewing in your resentment.

            —-

            @The Nybbler
            You are missing a who — who are you hitting on. Is it really so wildly unfair that someone that refuses to spend even 30 minutes a day on dressing and grooming isn’t “allowed” to hit on someone that spends hours every day on those tasks?

            Then there’s the issue that onyomi pointed out of continuing to pursue someone after being rejected. Again, is it so terribly unfair for there to exist a social norm against that, even if it isn’t universally enforced?

          • Zorgon says:

            Ain’t nuthin’ like a victory on a cool June evening.

          • Jill says:

            I think the best thing to do when someone seems interested in you sexually or romantically whom you are not interested in, is to let them know “You’re not my type” and leave it at that.

            A lot of people are attracted to a lot of other people. And a lot of people are not attracted to a lot of other people. What difference does it make, why? Just move on and keep looking for your type. And be realistic, in that, if you are not great looking, you’re probably not going to get a great looking partner. Not that you need to turn them down, if they show interest, but it’s unlikely.

            Women go through something similar, but it’s actually worse. They’re called fat pigs and all kinds of other names. Look at what Donald Trump has said about women he didn’t like– and they were not even hitting on him. They were just going about their lives, doing what they do, and he had the urge to insult them.

            I think there are a lot of misunderstandings in general when people try to communicate anyway. There are tons of misunderstandings on this board. But sexual/romantic interest situations are worse than most, because people want so much to be attractive to people who are attractive to them.

            Also there is this shame factor that seems to originate in more than one place– traditional religious attitudes toward sex for one origin. Another origin is both traditional and current rank and status hierarchies among humans.

            There are wealth, career, attractiveness, small group, and social status hierarchies that people pay attention to. And if someone is lower than you are in rank– or you consider them to be, then maybe you abuse your rank and insult them, which is unnecessary and quite unkind.

            There is a recent and excellent book about abuse of rank. It’s not specifically about unpleasant interactions where someone is searching for romance, but those are certainly one subset of what the author is talking about

            Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank Paperback – April 1, 2004
            by Robert W. Fuller

            https://www.amazon.com/Somebodies-Nobodies-Overcoming-Abuse-Rank/dp/0865714878/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465586411&sr=8-1&keywords=Abuse+of+Rank

            Another book that’s great by a psychology workshop leader about how he facilitates conversations about abuse of rank, among other issues, is this one. A terrific book. Very amazing and forward thinking. Shows ways to get groups to function more effectively by talking about subjects people usually are afraid to talk about.

            Sitting in the Fire: Large Group Transformation Using Conflict and Diversity Paperback – September 17, 2014
            by Arnold Mindell
            https://www.amazon.com/Sitting-Fire-Transformation-Conflict-Diversity/dp/1619710242/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1465586749&sr=1-4&keywords=arnold+mindell

          • Matt M says:

            @Anon: “You are missing a who — who are you hitting on.”

            Nah, this isn’t really true. I know a girl who is significantly overweight, recently flunked out of community college, unemployed, not particularly intelligent or well read, I could go on and on.

            All she ever does is complain about all the “creepy” guys who message her on dating sites.

            “Creepy” isn’t just “you are hitting on me but instead you should target someone more to your own social level.” As others have said, it’s “you are generally unsuitable and should be eliminated from the dating/relationship pool entirely for the good of ALL women.”

          • Matt M says:

            Jill,

            I don’t think anyone here would object to being told “You’re not my type.” It’s not particularly helpful or actionable, but it is fair, and reasonable, and carries no particular ill-intent.

            In other words, if a woman says “you’re just not my type” (and honestly means it), she might entertain the notion of say, introducing you to one of her single friends.

            As Zorgon and Nybbler pointed out though, “creepy” is not this. Creepy is code for “you should not be ANYONE’S type.” If you get hit with the “creepy” label, they are also actively insisting that their single friends avoid you.

          • Jill says:

            Orange Cat, improv would be excellent, for those willing to try it. However, many people who are not particularly anxious on the whole are nervous about taking an improv class.

            But even if very nervous, you could just throw yourself into the class and ask the teacher to help you.

            For other folks, practicing talking to people in social groups, or taking a Nonviolent Communication class
            https://www.cnvc.org/
            or getting therapy for those who can afford it and are willing to do the work, might make a great difference.

            Business communication classes, like Dale Carnegie, would actually probably be of help, although they are not aimed at this particular purpose. But there is a fair degree of overlap between business and personal social skills. And there is the added benefit that they could also help one in one’s career.

          • Sky says:

            @oyonomi, you give good advice. However it is only something that can be learned by doing, and doing it wrong makes me a creep.

            I don’t think “creep” is simply just code for “ugly”. As others have said it also includes a sense of violating social norms. One of those being “unattractive people shouldn’t hit on attractive people”.

            My cynical thought is that a large part of “creep” is that when a man flirts/hits on a woman who isn’t attracted to him its a blow to the woman’s esteem. Consciously or not its a statement that this unattractive man thinks this woman is at his level, and is therefore just as unattractive. Hence the vitriolic response, not often said to the man, but to her peers. This man was *wrong* to hit on her, he was a creep.

        • ChetC3 says:

          If every time you meet a group of people they come away from the encounter thinking you are a creep…

          My first assumption would be that hasn’t happened much in, you know, real life, but mostly in the overactive imagination of someone with severe anxieties.

          • Zorgon says:

            It’s not even that. As far as I can tell, he’s not imagining people calling him a creep, he’s observing the use of social manipulation by influential people in those contexts painting people like him, with an extremely broad brush, as creeps by default.

            Now, internalising that and developing anxiety as a result is probably indicative of a tendency toward anxiety, true. But the observation of the phenomenon is separate from his reaction to it.

        • Jill says:

          Thanks, Sniffoy, for the links.

          I do think that the whole romantic interest conversation area needs to be revised in our society so that people are clear that lots of people may be interested in lots of other people, and that that is nothing to be ashamed of. And there should be very clear signals that people know they ought to give if they are not interested in someone who is interested in them.

          This is embedded within shame issues, status hierarchy issues, and habits of passive aggression that are used in a tons of other situations in our society also. It would be better if people can just say No to unwanted attentions and leave it at that, without any insulting going on.

          This kind of thing has gone on forever. I haven’t watched the new movie about Anita Hill, but in real life this was a situation where the woman was shamed for having supposedly shown interest in a man at her work place, who then eventually sexually harrassed here. And some took the attitude that she brought the harassment on herself if she did indeed initially show interest in him. Of course, no one really knows for sure what happened in that case.

          Anyway, women are often caught in these shame and status and sometimes passive aggression issues too. Sometimes people are too passive to say out loud directly and immediately “I’m not interested.” So the other person keeps trying for a long time, because they don’t know.

          As someone said somewhere in this thread earlier, a lot of the problem here is that people can’t tell when someone else is uninterested because people are often indirect about it. So until society changes in this way, people can benefit from learning how to read the indirect signals that uninterested people give.

          I remember thinking when I watched Gone with the Wind. “Darn it, Ashley, just tell Scarlett out loud directly that you are not interested, so that she knows that. ” So she won’t be devastated when she finds that out, years later.

          There are lots of issues here, for both women and men.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        One thing to remember about China, and other Asian countries, is that (for obvious reasons) the local majority doesn’t see themselves as a minority and that you are the exotic stereotyped foreigner.

        For China in particular:
        *Most Chinese have a great deal of difficulty telling white people apart by our faces. Combine that with the popularity of Hollywood movies and you’ll “look like” a movie star to a not-insignificant percentage of the population.
        *Even in the big cities, most white guys are either foreign buisnessmen or college-aged english tutors. So depending on the image you present, you might be seen as rich or a philandering bum.
        *Speaking of, we have a horrible reputation over there for cheating and generally being very sexually aggressive. Don’t count on a girl’s parents or friends being very supportive of a relationship.
        *A lot of girls have a very predatory mindset to dating, particularly in Shanghai (they have a reputation for being particularly materialistic and vain, look up “zuo”). So make sure that any girls you pick up are actually interested in you rather than immigration, money or just having a white boyfriend as a fashion accessory.
        *Nobody expects you to know any Chinese at all, so even picking up a basic grasp of the language will impress a lot of people. No level of fluency will stop people from thinking you’re an easy mark though.

        That said, I like Chinese girls and the Chinese culture. It’s a good suggestion, especially if one doesn’t want to learn the skills needed to date American women.

      • Matt M says:

        One potential issue with the “go to Asia” advice is that it ignores the potential ramifications for ego/pride/societal acceptance.

        The OP hasn’t told us much about his mental state and his motivations for seeking a partner. But if the motivations include things like “I feel pressured by society that this is a thing I should be doing – that I am less of a man for not achieving it,” then uprooting your life and moving to a place where the entire practice is assumed to be easier will not necessarily solve that issue.

        When I was in the Navy, a decent amount of guys picked up their wives while stationed in or passing through Japan/Korea/Thailand/PI/etc. While nobody would come out and say it aloud, there was always something of a floating stigma to this – something like “What’s the matter with Joe – couldn’t figure out how to get an American wife so he had to use the money/wealth angle to entice away some poor Thai girl?”

        If you are 100% sure that companionship is the only thing that really matters to you, this may be a reasonable strategy. But if there’s some sort of “I need to live up to society’s expectations for me” part in this, you might not find the end result totally fulfilling…

        • Anonymous says:

          The OP hasn’t told us much about his mental state and his motivations for seeking a partner.

          (…)

          If you are 100% sure that companionship is the only thing that really matters to you, this may be a reasonable strategy.

          Maybe he wants to mate and breed, like most any reasonable living creature.

          • Nornagest says:

            Hey, some of us want to reproduce by budding.

          • Anonymous says:

            Darn, that’s my sexually-reproducing-species privilege showing. Mea culpa.

          • Matt M says:

            “Maybe he wants to mate and breed”

            If it’s just mating – then prostitutes are almost certainly the most efficient (even factoring in the conditional probability of legal problems – which is VERY small if you do some research on the matter)

            If it’s just breeding, then you should probably exclusively target 35-40 year old overweight Christian women.

            But most people don’t adopt those strategies, which indicates that for the vast majority of us, there are in fact other competing values in play.

          • Anonymous says:

            If it’s just mating – then prostitutes are almost certainly the most efficient (even factoring in the conditional probability of legal problems – which is VERY small if you do some research on the matter)

            Sure, sure. Prostitutes are fairly inexpensive compared to a lifestyle of clubbing while trolling for one-night stands.

            If it’s just breeding, then you should probably exclusively target 35-40 year old overweight Christian women.

            What? By that age, those women are highly likely to be infertile. Could take years to make even one kid. And the Christian part would just make convincing them to join his harem of desperate baby-wanters more difficult.

            If one wanted to relatively safely, if dishonestly, maximize their offspring, they ought to go into the sperm bank business and provide (almost) exclusively their own input.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Curious here, do prostitutes ever decide that they will just keep a baby with a wealthy man?

            It sounds easier than being a prostitute.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’d be extremely surprised if that had never happened.

            Common, though? No idea.

          • Anonymous says:

            If one wanted to relatively safely, if dishonestly, maximize their offspring, they ought to go into the sperm bank business and provide (almost) exclusively their own input.

            This sounds like one of those things that are a lot easier said than done.

            Curious here, do prostitutes ever decide that they will just keep a baby with a wealthy man?

            That’s more a mistress thing than a prostitute thing. A high end prostitute makes a lot more money than she’d get in child support from all but the wealthiest man. Maybe not if you count 20+ years worth, but certainly in the short run.

          • Anonymous says:

            This sounds like one of those things that are a lot easier said than done.

            It has happened at least once. I would be surprised if technicians employed in these institutions don’t at times add their own contributions when nobody’s looking.

    • Emile says:

      I can understand your frustration as being treated the way you are – but on the other hand, I can understand the people organizing those social activities not wanting them to have the mood spoiled by *too* many people primarily motivated by looking for dates, and not interested in the thing itself.

      I don’t know what I’d do in your place (I’m married now and all that), I’d probably still try to join clubs and the like, but carefully avoid giving the impression that I’m primarily there for dating (and the best way to do that is to *not* primarily be there for dating, e.g. be interested in the thing itself).

      For some perspective on this, maybe see what women have to say about it: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskWomen/comments/150gxk/md_post_faq_qa_where_is_it_appropriate_to/ (tho they’re saying “Conventions, hobby groups, book clubs”, which seems to be what you’re doing)

    • Universal Set says:

      This is unfortunately going to be completely useless for Andrew (who is, I believe, atheist), but just in case there is someone reading whom this will help:

      If you are a Christian man, hands down the best place to find a mate is going to be at a church (or — better yet, if you are in college or grad school — a parachurch organization such as InterVarsity).

      1. There are many more women than men who are active in church and religious organizations; I think it approaches 3:2 in many churches.
      2. Women who go to church or participate in parachurch orgs are more likely to marriage-minded, and the culture is not going to be opposed to young people looking to get married.
      3. Presuming you’re not going to church disingenuously (only to find a mate without actually caring about the religion part), you’re likely to have substantial things in common — including values, which matter a lot — with other members.

      Looking back on it, it’s kind of amazing how many people I know who got married to folks they met in InterVarsity (either undergrad or grad school): upwards of 50% among people I knew in grad school IV. (I met my wife there as well.)

      • Anonymous says:

        I checked out some pilgrimage stats in my country – some two-thirds of participants were women, out of which nearly 40% were in the 15-25 age bracket. And (more than nominally) Christian women are preferable to the alternative too (as the Romans found out); lower chances of promiscuity, adultery and divorce.

      • Jill says:

        No, it’s not useless. If he is an atheist, he can join a Unitarian Church. There are plenty of atheists there. And there are a number of different Unitarian churches in each major city in the U.S.

    • Jill says:

      I think you need to develop some social skills. A community college course might be of help there. Take any class related to social skills, even e.g. assertiveness training even if you are already assertive– just take whatever they have.

      You also need to expand and try to meet different people, not just girls to date– guys, platonic female friends etc. Then your platonic friends, besides being great in other ways, may help you to find people to date.

      If you must stay in Seattle, it’s not an extroverted place at all. But when I lived there, I found it possible to connect with people who “just got off the boat.” That is, if they just recently moved to Seattle, then they may have moved from a place where it is considered normal to be social. So, unlike born and bred Seattle people, they will know how to connect socially and will want to do so.

      • “You also need to expand and try to meet different people, not just girls to date”

        That was one of my conclusions, thinking about what I should be doing after my first marriage ended. Expand your social network. Friends have friends, some of whom might be women of potential long term interest. And, of course, some of what you want a girlfriend for is non-sexual social interaction, which isn’t limited to potential girlfriends.

        Did it work? Yes and no. As I mentioned in another comment, I met the woman I am now married to by following the advice of a friend’s wife (to go to folk dancing), but she wasn’t actually a friend of a friend.

        • Tibor says:

          But you probably went to that folk dancing event with a friend (that friend?) and would be less likely to go there alone. Or not?

          This is another way friends can help you with finding a romantic relationship – they go places with you, so you don’t just stand there awkwardly knowing nobody and trying desperately to look for someone who might talk to you 🙂 Of course, it is easier if it is a more “formal” event, such as a dancing evening, but still it is more pleasant to have someone there with you.

          • “But you probably went to that folk dancing event with a friend (that friend?) and would be less likely to go there alone. Or not?”

            Not. I went by myself.

            After the dancing, people were sitting around eating. I heard Betty explaining calculus to one of the others and fell in love on the spot. At least, that’s how I like to remember it.

          • Tibor says:

            Yes, I can see how that’s attractive 🙂 An interesting thing is that when I find a woman attractive intellectually or personality-wise, I even see her as prettier physically (or rather I am unable to distinguish those two sources of attractiveness afterwards). Also, if I find her intellectually unattractive, I usually start seeing her as physically less beautiful as well. I guess that physical beauty works the same way and clouds the judgment of character and intellect, but it is harder to observe the influence on yourself (because the moment you see someone you know what he looks like but not what he is like).

            Anyway, bad example I guess, but generally, friends go to places and it is usually more pleasant to go places with than than to go alone, at least for me. There is of course the danger of just hanging out with the friends the whole night instead of meeting new people, but it is not so likely to happen if those friends are not the same old friends the whole time (of course it is also nice to meet with those and talk the whole night but usually not when one intends to meet new people).

      • Anonymous says:

        I think you need to develop some social skills.

        I don’t think social skills in excess of what he has should be required to find a girlfriend/wife, and something is very, very wrong since they are.

        • Anonymous says:

          Your claim that “something is very, very wrong” is noted.

        • Jill says:

          How do you know what level of social skills he has? Have you met him in person?

          Why would it be something very very wrong if his social skills were less than great? A lot of people’s social skills are not very good.

          • Anonymous says:

            My reading of his point is that OP’s skills shouldn’t have to be great. “Your social skills are less than great, therefore you can’t find a wife, go practice them” sounds like a really effective way to wipe your society from the face of the earth in a couple generations by making all the people whose skills are less than great stop reproducing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Your conclusion doesn’t follow from your premises.

            Population growth, to say nothing of maintenance, doesn’t require every member of society to reproduce.

          • Anonymous says:

            Premises:
            A lot of people’s social skills are not very good.
            You need great social skills to have a high chance of reproducing.
            No polygamy.

            Conclusions:
            Population growth goes negative as many people fail to reproduce, OR
            The slack of those failing to reproduce is picked up by a few serially monogamous Chads and single mothers.

            Is that better?

            EDIT: I’m dumb, of course it can also be picked up by normal families having lots of kids; if one in five men has great social skills, the average family needs to just have six kids. Ignore me..

          • Anonymous says:

            How do you know what level of social skills he has? Have you met him in person?

            I looked at his Google+ page. He isn’t some kind of abnormal shut-in. He appears to have considerable non-work-related interaction with other people. I’d approximate his social skills at average+.

            Why would it be something very very wrong if his social skills were less than great? A lot of people’s social skills are not very good.

            What yellow shuriken anon said – one shouldn’t need to have great social skills to find a mate. In the 1960s (I can’t find any good data on before that), 85+% young adults were married. Now it’s more like 50%. The average age of marriage has gone up six years. I sincerely doubt that those former 85% had truly exceptional social skills.

            This, to me, suggests a rather serious problem – for whatever reason, young people now are having difficulty finding mates and getting married. Where previously, only the least capable 15% – whether by inclination or inability – could not find a life partner. Now the lower half of the bell curve can’t do it. The trend isn’t very optimistic. Will it be, in fifty years, that only one in four young adults will be able to find a suitable spouse?

            It is possible to have a society where most people find wives/husbands, as evidenced by the relatively recent past. What changed?

            a really effective way to wipe your society from the face of the earth

            I don’t think the current marriage and reproduction problems will wipe the society out. It’s just that the future citizens will overwhelmingly be descended from dissenters against common norms – criminals, Amish, Quiverfullers, tradcaths, Muslims, etc. – and also quite possibly from a lot fewer men than women, given that *effectively* we do have polygyny (polygamy is prohibited, but there’s no law I know of that prohibits having multiple girlfriends and impregnating them). Whether that’s good or bad is a matter of opinion.

          • Zorgon says:

            Thinking about it – one good estimate of lesbian/gay numbers is around 5%. So given that 85% was pre-gay-marriage, that leaves us with 10% unmarried, which I’ve always correlated with Lizardman’s Constant. And I have no idea if lizardmen marry, but I assume probably not with humans.

          • Anonymous says:

            What yellow shuriken anon said – one shouldn’t need to have great social skills to find a mate. In the 1960s (I can’t find any good data on before that), 85+% young adults were married. Now it’s more like 50%. The average age of marriage has gone up six years. I sincerely doubt that those former 85% had truly exceptional social skills.

            This, to me, suggests a rather serious problem – for whatever reason, young people now are having difficulty finding mates and getting married. Where previously, only the least capable 15% – whether by inclination or inability – could not find a life partner. Now the lower half of the bell curve can’t do it. The trend isn’t very optimistic. Will it be, in fifty years, that only one in four young adults will be able to find a suitable spouse?

            Since that graph is context-less I don’t know what young adults are defined as. Whether or not it supports the conclusions you draw from it depends in no small measure on the definition. The second chart leads credence to the idea that we need not worry. The average age of marriage for women is still 10 years before their fertility starts dropping off a cliff. Finally, you are a equivocating between marriage and reproduction and begging the question as well as assuming that desire for a “life partner” can be held constant and it is the ability to do so that is falling.

          • Anonymous says:

            Since that graph is context-less I don’t know what young adults are defined as. Whether or not it supports the conclusions you draw from it depends in no small measure on the definition.

            It’s from this article. Young adults are defined as ages 25-34.

            The second chart leads credence to the idea that we need not worry. The average age of marriage for women is still 10 years before their fertility starts dropping off a cliff.

            10 years at already somewhat reduced fertility is not a lot of time to have more than 1-2 kids. Especially if you’re not particularly zealous about it – how many couples have unprotected sex every day? The US total fertility rate is already below replacement, especially so among native-born. Further, a late start on childbearing increases risks of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, not to mention causes all sorts of bad things for the offspring, due to advanced parental age. The cliff is a lot closer than you think.

            Finally, you are a equivocating between marriage and reproduction and begging the question

            That is what the institution is for. Attempts at separating the two so far have had very meager results.

            as well as assuming that desire for a “life partner” can be held constant and it is the ability to do so that is falling.

            I am not. I did mention “inclination or inability”. Apologies if I weren’t clear enough. I put them in the same bag, because for the purposes of the point I was making, their differences are not relevant – it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t marry and have kids because they can’t find a partner, or because they are unwilling to find one.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            This, to me, suggests a rather serious problem – for whatever reason, young people now are having difficulty finding mates and getting married. Where previously, only the least capable 15% – whether by inclination or inability – could not find a life partner. Now the lower half of the bell curve can’t do it.

            This is worth calling out and, frankly, writing in the sky with fireworks. We’re talking about the most basic human — hell, biological — urge there is, to pair up and reproduce. All those lonely awkward people out there are by definition descended from people with similar lonely-awkward-prone genetics who were able to find a mate in the past. Why is it so much harder now?

            What went wrong with our society, and how do we fix it, and fast?

          • Nornagest says:

            by definition descended from people with similar lonely-awkward-prone genetics who were able to find a mate in the past.

            This is not necessarily true. Your loneliness and awkwardness may not be genetic in origin, and if they are they might be recessive or arise through some other more complicated form of gene interaction, or (if we’re still talking about men) they might not be passed through your dad’s side of the family.

            We could even be dealing with one of those sex-differentiated-fitness situations where the trait improves reproductive fitness for girls and decreases it for guys. Wouldn’t that be hell?

            if one in five men has great social skills, the average family needs to just have six kids

            Twelve kids. If there’s no polygamy involved then we’re also looking at five frustrated spinster aunts.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ blue Anonymous at 4.13

            What has changed?

            Well, for one thing, women have more options now, other than marriage. They can have careers, be single moms if they want to, be in a poly group, have a female partner, etc.

          • And for another, and I suspect more significant, thing, men have the option of sex without marriage, thanks to reliable contraception and legal abortion.

            That’s the central point of the Akerlof and Yellin explanation of the increase in single mothers–the precise opposite of what was supposed to happen as a result of those changes. In the past, women were reluctant to have sex without a guarantee of help supporting any resulting children, which made it difficult for men to have sex without marriage, or at least a commitment to marry in case of pregnancy. So most men were willing to make such a commitment.

            Now, women who like sex but don’t want children have that option and so are willing to sleep with men without any guarantee, and their competition makes it harder for women who want children to get a husband.

          • Matt M says:

            I would also guess that the self-esteem movement has something to do with this.

            People feel more entitled now – everyone is taught that they should find a partner that meets every possible criteria. People will date (or sleep with) someone with flaws, but are reluctant to marry them. Ease of divorce has made failed marriages more publicly noticeable (in the past, your imperfectly matched friends may have fought a lot at home, but kept up appearances in public and stayed together for the kids – now they separate and you get to witness them both trash each other on Facebook). Meanwhile, people are dating and cohabitating for longer periods before getting married at all (giving you more time to find/expose a flaw that you can easily convince yourself is a “dealbreaker.”)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M:

            That sounds correct. And it’s something both men and women do – both men and women, in general, seem to feel entitled to someone who is, to be frank, higher quality (in various ways) than they are.

            The distaff counterpart to the heterosexual male complaint “why don’t girls like nice guys” is the heterosexual female complaint “where are all the good guys?”. Difference seems to be that the latter is usually found in women late twenties or older, whereas the former is timeless. You get articles by men complaining they didn’t get the hottie they were promised, and articles by women complaining that now that they want to settle down, where are the decent reliable respectful men that they promised? (Quick answers: with more desirable men/with women who snagged them earlier).

            That there’s a sense of entitlement on both sides of the equation as to the partner they should get can’t be overstated: for every guy who’s of average or below average attractiveness (physical or otherwise) who thinks he deserves a supermodel-calibre virgin who is still somehow amazing in bed, there’s a woman of average or below average attractiveness who thinks she deserves a 6 foot tall lawyer-doctor-CEO with abs. Neither of them is remotely likely to get what they want, and if they just paired off with each other instead of holding out for a hero they’d almost certainly be happier.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @dndnrsn,

            You have a good point, but I think you’re lumping two distinct complaints together.

            The guys saying “I can’t find a good girl!” and the girls saying “I can’t find a good man!” could solve their problems by lowering their standards. The problem is that, as you’ve said, they vastly overestimate their own value as partners.

            The guys and girls saying “I can’t find anyone!” have a different problem though. Lowering their standards doesn’t help, because they have some issue which essentially renders them undateable until it’s fixed or compensated for. Telling them they’re too picky is anti-advice, since it gives an out to avoid looking for and focusing on the underlying issue.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ dndnrsn
            if they just paired off with each other instead of holding out for a hero they’d almost certainly be happier.

            This makes me think of the old, old thing of common interests. Things you both like to talk about or do. Someone to do those things together with.

            Which activities conveniently give you a chance to meet someone else who likes them too.

          • Matt M says:

            “This makes me think of the old, old thing of common interests. Things you both like to talk about or do. Someone to do those things together with.”

            And my point is – I think this USED to work, but I’m not sure it still does. I think in the past, the pressure to marry and the sense that it was a somewhat practical arrangement meant that you found someone with one or two good qualities: Maybe she’s attractive OR intelligent OR funny OR you share common interests. Maybe you demand two of that set. But that would be enough to give it a go, and marriage being deemed somewhat “sacred” through societal peer pressure meant that when you had differences, you did your best to work them out.

            But today is different. We are brought up to believe that there is a “perfect” partner out there for us who is attractive AND intelligent AND funny AND shares common interests. The OP of this discussion, who goes to dances to meet women, might have done well in the former society – where potential partners would see the common interest and allow him in to the decision set. But today it’s reversed – they see the lack of social skills/attractiveness/whatever and immediately exclude him from the decision set. There is no societal pressure to marry – so you can be as picky as you like (until you wake up one morning and you’re 35 and the only people left on the market are overweight unemployed single parents). If you date someone for awhile and find imperfections, you break it off and move on. If you marry them and find imperfections, you divorce and move on.

            I’ve had multiple relationships end by my refusal to tell the woman I was seeing that she was literally perfect. The notion of “being settled for” is more abhorrent to most, by today’s standards, than the notion of dying alone. Maybe this will diminish as I age, but so far, any sort of honest/rational approach to dating is almost a guaranteed failure. You either lie and pretend that you totally agree that life works out just the way it does in romantic comedies – or you are seen as some sort of bottom-feeding jerk who is simply using a woman for sex.

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            Your comment about people not liking to feel that they’ve been settled for reminded me of a throwaway joke from the beginning of Zootopia.

            The main characters parents are telling her that when they got together, they were simply settling for each other (“We settled hard.”) This is treated as one of the biggest laugh lines in the scene, and for the characters. However, from everything we see from them, they have a stable, loving relationship. It’s like the writers had to get a little dig in about settling for a partner, but still recognize you can be happy. I think it can say something interesting about how we look at romantic pairing these days.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Dr Dealgood:

            The guys and girls saying “I can’t find anyone!” have a different problem though. Lowering their standards doesn’t help, because they have some issue which essentially renders them undateable until it’s fixed or compensated for. Telling them they’re too picky is anti-advice, since it gives an out to avoid looking for and focusing on the underlying issue.

            I think the lines get crossed, to some extent at least. A lot of people saying “I can’t find anyone” are exaggerating – they can’t find anyone they think is up to scratch. When in fact there’s an imbalance between what they have to offer and what they think they deserve. I recall an article by a woman with the “where are all the good men?” complaint that included her saying, roughly paraphrased, “where’s my dream piece?” – the thought that, now that she’s decided to settle down, a perfect guy isn’t waiting for her doesn’t seem to have occurred to her. The same thing is true of mediocre-or-worse guys who think they deserve a hottie.

            I also think there are a lot of people (mostly male, as it is generally down to men to initiate in heterosexual relationships) who are actually more appealing than they think they are, are unreasonably afraid of rejection, don’t really have much of a clue of what to do, etc.

            @Matt M:

            But today is different. We are brought up to believe that there is a “perfect” partner out there for us who is attractive AND intelligent AND funny AND shares common interests. The OP of this discussion, who goes to dances to meet women, might have done well in the former society – where potential partners would see the common interest and allow him in to the decision set. But today it’s reversed – they see the lack of social skills/attractiveness/whatever and immediately exclude him from the decision set. There is no societal pressure to marry – so you can be as picky as you like (until you wake up one morning and you’re 35 and the only people left on the market are overweight unemployed single parents). If you date someone for awhile and find imperfections, you break it off and move on. If you marry them and find imperfections, you divorce and move on.

            First, we should note that the OP neither flat-out said he’s awkward etc, nor outright said he has an anxiety problem or whatever, and more than one person here (myself included) has observed that he’s a good looking guy. So, we don’t know what’s going on. My money’s on anxiety. Or maybe Seattle sucks as much as everyone here says.

            I think to some extent the problem is that everyone – regardless of gender – has been sold a life plan that only ever really worked for men of fairly high status (socially and economically): have fun in your 20s, and then when you’re an established and successful in your early 30s, settle down. This doesn’t work for men who are not going to be successful, and maybe not even established. It flat-out doesn’t work for women: witness all the women who are established and successful in their early 30s wondering where the good guys are. This is heterosexual-specific: as I understand it, people pursuing same-sex relationships have different problems.

            I think to some extent more opportunities drives pickiness. The longest relationship I was in was a “meet-cute” situation, basically. I think both of us tried waaaaay harder to make things work than there is an incentive to do with, say, people met online: it is actually not that hard, in my experience (and I am not especially good-looking or suave, and my job is neither glamorous nor lucrative) to get dates and get into relationships. “If I break up with this person, I could find someone else in 2-6 weeks” does not really lead to “therefore, I should try really hard to make this work.”

          • Matt M says:

            I take the fact that the OP was reading articles about “where to go to meet women” as evidence that he has some type of social problem (exactly what it is I don’t know – but it isn’t particularly relevant).

            The alpha bros don’t read those articles. The women find them wherever they happen to go.

    • Matt M says:

      You probably aren’t going to like this as I assume you’ve already tried it and not had much success – but if you’re someone who is particularly sensitive about not wanting to come across as creepy/desperate/whatever, you may have to just stick with the dating site game.

      Yes, I know the selection is poor. I know that the response rate is probably below 1%. I know that it’s generally a soul-crushing experience. But it’s also the one venue in which the social expectation is that you’re going to be asking the person out.

      Other than that, my advice is even worse and more depressing. You seem to recognize that you don’t have the “romantic skills” necessary to easily obtain companionship in regular settings. But as you are discovering, the same skills apply regardless of the setting. So you need to stop looking at the problem as: “Where can I go that my lack of skills won’t matter?” (because the answer is: nowhere). Start looking at the problem as: “How do I improve my skills such that I’m able to deal with women regardless of where I may find them?” (Don’t think of this as PUA stuff exclusively – social skills are near universal. The same general skills needed to attract women are the same ones needed to attract male friends, network in a professional environment, etc.)

      If you don’t think that’s possible for you – I would recommend starting to mentally adjust to the likelihood of remaining single for most of your adult life. I know that sounds terrible, but once you resign yourself to it, it can also be somewhat liberating…

      • orangecat says:

        But it’s also the one venue in which the social expectation is that you’re going to be asking the person out.

        Speed dating is also good in this regard, probably even better because it guarantees that you’ll have a chance to introduce yourself rather than adding your message to an overflowing inbox.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      I went to hang out with a friend for a week in Seattle. It was during one of the fusion dance exchanges back in October. During the week I went to the weekly Wednesday blues dance and then on Friday I went to some other blues dance.

      As someone else said, Seattle seems to in general have more men than women, and I think this has led to a lot of the sort of antagonism towards men looking for dates in the dance scene over there.

      The fusion dance I went to seemed to have a good ratio, maybe more women than men, but that’s more than likely not representative of typical dance nights in Seattle.

      The dance I went to on Wednesday had a very low turnout, but everyone there seemed really cool (caveat, I’ve been dancing for 15-20 years, and helped run a dance scene for a bit, so I probably don’t come off as someone just looking for women). It also had about a 1:1 ratio, but with only about 10 people total.

      The Friday night dance seemed to be a bit more standoff-ish towards my presence, being a new face and all. Someone actually pulled me aside and said that I could do certain moves… certain moves that I had been doing at blues dances for like a decade!

      So the attitude that you shouldn’t go to dances to meet people/women might be more pronounced in Seattle than elsewhere, based on my experience in my one week visit there.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        In any place where there are significantly more men, I’ve observed a vicious cycle of

        1. men get aggressive,
        2. women get defensive to deal with the aggressive men,
        3. but when the women want dates, they just turn down the defensiveness a little bit and take what comes in, so it is the most aggressive men (who were disliked in step 2) who get the dates

        The inconsistency between #2 and #3 blew my mind, and made me buy into the “women only like jerks” thing, which doesn’t help anyone.

        So I’d recommend trying some place else, too.

        • John Schilling says:

          The inconsistency between #2 and #3 blew my mind, and made me buy into the “women only like jerks” thing, which doesn’t help anyone

          Well, it seems to help the most aggressive men. And the women in those places aren’t changing their strategy…

        • Matt M says:

          Note that “place where there are significantly more men” includes virtually every Internet site (all dating sites for certain) with the exception of maybe some sites devoted to very niche female-dominated hobbies (I’d guess that forums about horses are female dominant maybe?)

          • Matt M says:

            This is where I get stubborn and say “I simply don’t believe it. They are lying because it benefits them to claim this.”

            There was that scandal with Ashley Madison and all the fake accounts. I suspect something similar is going on here.

            Edit: Or that women are far more likely to visit but not register, or register but not be very active, or be very active but not proactively message, etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can only speak for OKCupid, but they release a great deal of data (or did, a while back when I used the site) about their demographics and user behavior. At the time, I seem to recall the userbase being significantly but not catastrophically slanted male (which makes the current near-parity interesting), but almost all conversations were initiated by men, and a message sent by a man to a woman was vastly more likely to go unanswered than any other situation.

            You needn’t treat that as a deal-breaker, but it should inform your strategy if you want to go that route.

    • John Schilling says:

      Okay, dance is out

      Why is dance out? Just because lots of people there don’t want you to achieve romantic success there and are hostile to your efforts in that area? Those people are your enemies; they don’t want you to achieve romantic success anywhere. Well, not anywhere near them anyway, and there are some of them everywhere you might go. What do you care what your enemies think, and why are you letting them make these decisions for you?

      If you were planning to go to the dance to meet women, go to the dance to meet women. Expect that you will eventually be kicked out, or made so unwelcome that you might as well be kicked out. But you’ll learn something along the way, and you might meet someone who isn’t your enemy – because there are some of those everywhere, too.

      Also, whatever the raw gender ratio, if men are generally discouraged from “hitting on” women, the actual competition you’ll be facing is smaller than the raw gender ratio suggests, and your doing it anyway will demonstrate self-confidence and non-conformity.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        Some not so nice areas of the internet might call the last paragraph “passing the shit test”. I don’t think they would be totally wrong.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why is dance out? Just because lots of people there don’t want you to achieve romantic success there and are hostile to your efforts in that area? Those people are your enemies; they don’t want you to achieve romantic success anywhere. Well, not anywhere near them anyway, and there are some of them everywhere you might go. What do you care what your enemies think, and why are you letting them make these decisions for you?

        This. Quoted wholesale for emphasis; I can’t tell you how much I agree with this.

        I find in general that a serious problem for “nerd-types”, for lack of a better term, is that they tend to take the word of this type of person as *) representative of “all the normal people”, and *) gospel, rather than the noise of an equally insecure enemy. (I believe also that part of the allure of PUA culture is breaking this supposed law and discovering that actually, nothing bad happens and good things may, producing a rush of freedom.) In fact, these people are pissy nobodies, and the correct attitude to them is “Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross”.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Have you considered PUA as a serious solution?

      I haven’t been part of the scene for a few years: for obvious reasons I stopped picking up women when I was with my ex and haven’t “checked in” on them again after I got back into the dating scene. But there was a lot of solid advice out there: both step-by-step guides to picking up women at clubs / bars or in casual daytime environments, as well as general fitness and fashion advice for generally making yourself more attractive. As I was leaving I even saw some data-driven advice for building successful dating site profiles. There’s some stupidity mixed in, so you have to approach things with a skeptical eye, but it’s still leagues above any other advice you’ll get from mainstream sources.

      Anyway, it’s kind of a cliche now but getting “redpilled” actually does improve a lot of guys’ romantic success and, contrary to the what people say, make them a lot less bitter about women. As long as you come into it with realistic expectations on the learning curve and the knowledge that you will be rejected before you start racking up successes you should be fine.

    • Salem says:

      Some thoughts:

      1. I sympathise with your problem, and have been there myself. That said, if you want a broad societal change in how we treat you “wanting” to get dates, that is too much to ask. Society is not going to change how it feels about single men just for your benefit. Fortunately, you don’t need that. What you need is (a) to find a supportive group of friends who can help you with your problems, and (b) to find a suitable partner. Both of those are in your control. Focus on what you can change, not the unfairness of your situation – dwelling on the latter is unhelpful, and will only make you come across negatively.

      2. Make yourself more attractive. You’re focusing on meeting women (good!) but you also need to improve what you have to offer, in the same way that if you’re unemployed, you should be looking for available jobs, but also looking to improve and demonstrate your marketable skills. Personally, I find PUA materials extremely helpful, in that they helped me realise that “be confident” means “project confidence,” and that you need to give women reasons to like you, rather than just hoping that some magic will happen. “Just be yourself,” which you mock, is actually good advice, if you take it to mean that you shouldn’t treat a girl as someone special if she hasn’t earned it – just treat her as you would anyone else. She’ll like you more that way. But much PUA stuff is just flat-out unnecessary; you don’t need to go around “peacocking” or “negging” if you just want a girlfriend.

      3. Online dating is great. You sound like you have difficulty meeting women, and so getting rejected by one you like is a huge deal. This understandable makes you nervous and less attractive, and it also means you have less opportunity to get better at dealing with women. But online dating will let you practice being more attractive, as in (2), in a relatively consequence-free environment, where you won’t be kicked out of $PROMINENT_CHARITY just because you’re clumsy.

      More, I found that once I’d absorbed the lessons in (2), spending a few hours a week on OKCupid gave me as many dates as I could handle, so now I genuinely didn’t care if someone wasn’t interested. Once you’re in that place, you will find, paradoxically, that women are much more interested in you, and so you will be the lucky one who has no problem getting dates at your dance scene or $PROMINENT_CHARITY.

      • Matt M says:

        “(2), spending a few hours a week on OKCupid gave me as many dates as I could handle”

        *Results not typical.

        I spent months on OKC and got zero dates. I had better luck on POF and Tinder, but the quality of the women I was seeing was pretty low. I’m not the most amazing catch myself, don’t get me wrong – but still. And this was hardly “as many dates as I could handle.” It was like, “one new date every other month or so”

        • Salem says:

          I don’t think our experiences are that dissimilar; when I initially joined, I was getting a new date about once a month. It doesn’t sound like much, but that was so much better than my offline abilities that the practice was incredibly helpful, and the confidence boost immense.

          It was only once I got much better that I was able to get 2-3 dates/week. That required practice.

    • dndnrsn says:

      OK, I am going to second God Damn John Jay: you are a good looking guy. You’ve got a nice face, you’re in good shape*. Maybe try a different haircut – I always think that guys with sorta-curly hair at that length end up looking goofy – but I’m not your target audience. Also, I have no idea how you dress. Anyway: you seem to be going into this with the assumption that you’re not a fit male, but you’re a good looking guy in good shape who practices a legitimate martial art and is confident enough to compete and do OK** at what I am guessing is one of the “middle of the bell curve” weight classes, where there’s the most competition.

      Plus, you don’t seem to be describing getting rejected, getting called creepy, getting kicked out of volunteering, etc. You’re describing seeing stuff that you interpret as saying that. How often do fit, good-looking, decently-dressed guys with OK social skills get excoriated as horrible creepy weirdos without doing something objectionable? So, without more details from you, I’m guessing either you’re bad at social skills and/or do objectionable stuff, or you have issues with anxiety and so on, or both. It’s possible to learn social skills, and it’s possible not to do objectionable stuff, and anxiety can be dealt with.

      My advice is online dating. I’m less pretty and less slim than you are, and I’m hardly a ladies’ man, and I did OK (I think I was batting something like a .100 or .200 for getting first messages returned and lots of guys complain they get like 1/100 returned, I went on a bunch of dates, I went on a few second dates, and had a couple of relatively short-lived relationships out of it) on OKCupid. Generally, making sure your profile is good (the old OKCupid blog has some stuff about this), your messages avoid the most common greetings, and making sure that your messages briefly indicate you’ve read her profile and you have shared interests while giving her something to respond to, seems to do the trick.

      But overall looking at the photos of you it seems like you are not the unfit male you seem to think you are. You should have yourself in higher esteem than some random internet person.

      *also I am pleased to see I’m not the only member of the commentariat who does BJJ. Also, straight ankle locks are fine at white belt, but toe holds aren’t – I’m surprised they would be teaching toe holds to white belts, as they’re only legal at brown and up. With a straight ankle lock you’re fine as long as you don’t reap or do anything that might hit the knee (if the other guy rolls the wrong way and explodes his own knee, that’s his problem).

      **2-2 and 3rd place in first comp is good. Caveat: I am neither an avid nor a successful competitor.

    • Outis says:

      1)

      But still at this point I’m feeling somewhat akin to the protagonists of the “Untitled” post: I know I don’t have a right to dates…but can we may stop treating my wanting them an unforgivable sin? Is that too much to ask?

      Yes, it is. The sin has to be on you so that it’s not on them. If you are a man with low social skills, people don’t want to be around you. However, they cannot simply say “you are beneath us, begone”, because their culture makes that a sin. Instead, they have to make you the sinner: you cannot simply be less fortunate, you have to be malevolent and predatory.

      2) It becomes much easier to meet girls if you stop caring about dating girls. I know that sounds like bullshit, but it’s true. Just try to make friends, and soon you’ll have more girls in your life.

      • Eggoeggo says:

        Nobody wants to ride a thirsty horse.

        • Pku says:

          While I get what you mean, I don’t get the metaphor. Why wouldn’t someone want to ride a thirsty horse? I mean, presumably it’s better to ride a healthy horse, but why is the horse’s thirst a deal-breaker?

          • Anonymous says:

            Why wouldn’t someone want to ride a thirsty horse?

            Because the horse pulls toward water no matter where you try to make it go.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      To be honest I think the best thing you can do to get a date is to stop caring so much about getting a date. Which sounds paradoxical, I realise, but if you don’t feel like you need to be in a relationship it’s easier to avoid coming across as all creepy and desperate and scaring the women away. That’s been my experience, at any rate.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve had similar experiences, but on the other hand it is easy enough to say you could have gotten a date when you never actually asked (i.e. because you were in a relationship).

      • anonymous poster says:

        Can confirm, every relationship I’ve ever been in fell into my lap when I didn’t care and wasn’t actively looking for it.

        Now if only I could stop caring about money and happiness…

      • Garrett says:

        How well does that work as a strategy if most of the activities you enjoy doing are solo activities? Woodworking, programming, etc. For some people, the only reason to go out and be social for something other than work is to find a spouse. Otherwise, they have better/more important/more enjoyable things to do.

    • Pku says:

      I’ve had the same issue with swing dancing here on the east coast. The people who run the thing pulled me aside once or twice to comment, in a very serious tone, that someone had complained to them that they’d had an impression that I might be hitting on her. At the time, this caused me to have a borderline panic attack. It’s only later that I realized how ridiculous their complaint really was. (Rationally; emotionally is harder)

      It helped when I realized there are two kinds of people who go to those things. To put it bluntly, the crazy SJWs as the normal people. (This isn’t completely fair, since there are a number of reasonably nice people there who believe in SJW ideals, but they tend to be subservient to the crazy ones). And while it’s a problem that the crazy SJWs are the ones running it here (and thus are the only ones who show up reliably every time), the other group is there, would probably be perfectly fine with being asked out, and I can still have a good time if I go on a night with a good nice people/SJW ratio (and when I’m not letting the SJWs psych me out).

      • Zorgon says:

        I spent quite a while noticing this phenomenon (SJWs taking over social clubs and turning them into minefields of unwritten rules designed to exclude) and getting terribly conspiratorial about it.

        Then I suddently realised, They Live style, that the people in question hadn’t actually changed from a few years previous. They were still ubiquitously female, middle class, comfortable socialites with an extremely active interest in other people’s doings; it’s just that now they have bright blue hair and problem glasses as their cultural signifiers.

        Turns out I was mistaking busybody fashion trends for entryism. How embarrassing!

    • Go to church. It’s the only social milieu that I’ve been in where dating and getting married is positively encouraged, and it’s accepted that the single men and women in the church will all be actively checking each other out.

      (People might look down on you if trolling for dates is the only thing you do, though. Also, you’ll have to find a church that has a significant number of singles, which may be a non-trivial problem, especially in Seattle.)

    • multiheaded says:

      I don’t know how helpful it is, but every relationship/intimate connection I’ve been in so far has started through me, uh… doing some blogging and people becoming interested in *me*. Including the one not-so-long-distance thing that I had, and also my current primary.

      So yes, have a casual life/interests/chit-chat blog like a tumblr, and express yourself and make people interested in you. I personally cannot conceive of trying an online dating app even when I’ll actually have the life circumstances to use one (right now it’s a non-starter) – but I think blogging is much much better for actually establishing connections in a non-forced and non-awkward way.

      Seconded that you are pretty damn good looking.

    • Urstoff says:

      Step 1: be less bitter. Catch more flies with honey, etc.

    • Sky says:

      This post kind of makes me feel better. I was damaged in my early years since the impression I got from society was anyway I could interact with women was wrong (“in need of patching”). There were no examples of “correct” expressions of male sexuality, and even asking for help w/ such things made me a bad person. So I did nothing, as I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do. Eventually I just figured something was wrong with me and gave up.

      It wasn’t until I encountered theredpill that I realized there was nothing wrong w/ my desires, and that many things I had told were taboo actually aren’t. But at this point I’m not even sure its worth going through to learn the skills I should have learned in my teens and 20s.

      Right now I’m just focused on improving my quality of life in other aspects, but I don’t know if I just say that as an excuse to avoid learning how to interact romantically with women.

    • Matt M says:

      Re: “Creepy”

      It’s not just “slightly less attractive than me and having the nerve to hit on me” – it’s code for “likely rapist in waiting”

      http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/brock-turner-creeped-women-prior-2015-rape-article-1.2669094

      • dndnrsn says:

        What he’s described as doing in that article seems to be pretty unambiguous sexual assault – he was going to parties and groping women without their consent.

        Terms like “creepy” and “creeping on” seem to have a really wide range.

        • Matt M says:

          Go to any club or party on a weekend with young people and everything described in that article (minus the rape) will be absolutely common and often completely welcome, if done by the right sort of person

          “Groping women without their consent” is also known as “dancing” these days.

      • Anonymous says:

        “likely rapist in waiting”

        The funny thing is, according to that facial-criminal-appearance, women are less accurate than random chance at spotting rape convicts. Which sort of stands to reason – successful rapists would tend to be those that women don’t run away from at first sight.

    • Bone Man with Shiny Hat says:

      I’m assuming you’ve seen the Godfather movies. Remember how they keep saying, “Nothing personal: just business”? And remember how riraghnyyl lbh ernyvmr vg’f NYY crefbany?

      Same thing with “no looking for a mate”.

  9. James Bond says:

    As someone who is off to college in a few months, what tips does SSC have for college and life in general ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Study something employable/marketable.

      Don’t take student loans.

      Get employed (in the field) during college, drop college once with enough experience (you can always finish it later if you really need to; experience trumps education).

      Oh, and find a marriage candidate. Higher education tends to have a fair bit of women who want to earn a Mrs Degree. 🙂

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Try and find something you enjoy that also has a clear path to employment.

        If the choice is to take student loans, or not go to college, take student loans. Keep in mind what the monthly payment on that is likely to be after college and what that means for your cash flow. Don’t take them unthinkingly.

        If you like college, finish your degree. Not having a degree lets the person in a hiring chain who knows the least about the job (HR) keep you from even being interviewed.

        Form relationships when you are in college. You may find that you form friendships that last a lifetime. We still go on our annual vacation with the same four couples/families, all of whom met and lived on the same floor of our college dorm.

        And for God’s sake, don’t use the term Mrs Degree unless you know how to spot, on sight, the kind of person who would be intentionally looking for one and does not mind being referred to as that kind of person, and you know that this is what you are looking for. In other words, don’t use the term Mrs Degree unless you are trying to offend someone.

        • Anonymous says:

          If the choice is to take student loans, or not go to college, take student loans. Keep in mind what the monthly payment on that is likely to be after college and what that means for your cash flow. Don’t take them unthinkingly.

          I struggle to imagine a situation where it is impossible to study without taking student loans in the contemporary west.

          If you like college, finish your degree. Not having a degree lets the person in a hiring chain who knows the least about the job (HR) keep you from even being interviewed.

          Fair point. It’s a good idea to guard against insane bureaucracy; chances are, you’re going to encounter insane bureaucracies.

          And for God’s sake, don’t use the term Mrs Degree unless you know how to spot, on sight, the kind of person who would be intentionally looking for one and does not mind being referred to as that kind of person, and you know that this is what you are looking for. In other words, don’t use the term Mrs Degree unless you are trying to offend someone.

          Also a good point. Some people think there’s something wrong with using college as a marriage market.

    • Zorgon says:

      The US university system isn’t exactly like the UK, so I’ll go for the most general advice I can:

      – It’s very likely going to get a bit crazy in the first few months. Accept it, enjoy it, and for crying out loud don’t try to eke it out over your entire college career or it’s gonna screw you over.

      – There’s a non-zero chance that any mental health problems you have will become significantly worse in the next few years. If you start coming off the rails for reals (not just partying too hard and having the occasional crash), then do not be afraid to seek help. Support networks exist and you should use them.

      – Student politics feels like it’s the entire world. It’s not, it’s just that there are some people who have built entire empires within academia and they have no intention of letting the icky outside world get in… but you’re gonna be leaving that world relatively quickly, so don’t let them fuck with your life too much.

      – Keep fit. Most universities have excellent facilities for sports and fitness and you’ll likely never have such easy (and inexpensive) access to them again. Getting yourself a good base of fitness by your early twenties will do a lot to offset the Mid Twenties Collapse when the hormones start dropping off. (Also it helps with the mental health stuff I mentioned earlier).

      Can’t think of anything else I’m sure crosses the Pond. Hope it’s helpful.

      • Randy M says:

        Student politics feels like it’s the entire world.

        You mean “informal interpersonal relations between groups of students”, right? Rather than referring to the people elected to student office? Because Student body president never felt like anything remotely important.

        • Zorgon says:

          Gawd no, I mean things like activism and tribal tonality of the kind you mention.

          • James Bond says:

            Actually I plan to compeletely can politics in college. I am a libertarian however Im not gonna advertise that fact using a massive banner. As far as I can tell, having a strong political opinion can only cause you to lose connections, status, or friends. So I think that I will be as apolitical as possible in college. No need to shoot yourself in the foot for no reason by telling everyone how much you love absolute freedom of association.

      • Jill says:

        Acting apolitical sounds like an excellent idea– maybe not just in college but maybe most places. It seems that usually not much constructive happens in the current atmosphere as a result of political discussions/arguments.

    • eh says:

      Talk to people whenever possible. Talk before a lecture starts, after it ends, when you’re in line for paperwork, and when you’re doing a lab. If someone is offering you free pizza at a meetup or event, then they’re already interested in talking to you, and if you’re at all interested you should go.

      If you’re introverted, talking to people will suck at first, so make sure you start off with non-threatening small talk in a public place or course-related chitchat, where both of you can easily walk away.

      I didn’t start consciously seeking out conversations until my last year, but it improved the experience tremendously.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Prefer classes with professors you like to classes with topics you like. A bad prof can spoil any class.

      Meet people. Networks are one of the most valuable resources you can have, and college is a good place to build them.

      • Matt M says:

        While this is true, I would throw in the caveats that just because you meet a professor and like their personality does NOT mean they will be a good teacher.

        And taking the advice of classmates is generally a bad idea. One of my favorite teachers had a terrible reputation among the rest of my classmates. Don’t listen to anyone else’s feelings on this unless you know them REALLY well and trust that they have the same tastes and preferences as you.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Watch your diet, get some exercise, try to balance socializing and schoolwork (remembering that if you’re not learning something of direct use, socializing might help your future more than study), don’t drink too much (either all at once or chronically – getting blasted at every opportunity is bad, but so is having several drinks in the middle of the day, by yourself, just because), don’t smoke too much pot, don’t do anything harder, don’t have unsafe sex, don’t put yourself in any positions of liability, and try to take classes where you’ll be graded by professors instead of TAs.

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      “Do not go to places where people binge drink” excludes all UK universities, not sure if that was your intention(!)

      • Zorgon says:

        Something is definitely sick in the UK’s culture. Unfortunately no-one can really agree on what it is, let alone what to do about it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Mark Atwood: reifying prejudices into laws of the universe for more than forty years!

      • John Schilling says:

        Something is definitely sick in the UK’s culture. Unfortunately no-one can really agree on what it is, let alone what to do about it.

        From what I’ve seen, heard, and read, much of the UK is pretty clear on binge drinking being a big part of the problem. What’s causing the binge drinking, yeah, they don’t much agree on that.

      • Zorgon says:

        I’m willing to put a significant amount of figurative money on it having an awful lot to do with the near-complete absence of venues for informal social interaction which don’t involve alcohol.

        Now, whether that’s caused by Thatcherite “no such thing as society” ideology or de-industrialisation or post-imperial malaise… that’s where everyone dissolves into pub brawls.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        I think it is at least partly because we hit the sweet spot between the European culture of drinking moderately with meals from a young age, and American social disapproval of alcohol and high drinking age.

      • Ruprect says:

        Hmmmm… I dunno… that *is* our culture.

        I would be more inclined to say that modern society causes problems for our binge drinking than the other way around.

      • John Schilling says:

        To be fair, I’ve seen lots of Europeans drinking moderately with meals. I’d even say most of them stop drinking not long after the meal is over.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        My experience with yuros is that they drink moderately with meals and drink not moderately afterwards.

    • Pku says:

      If at some point you find yourself considering grad school, make sure to get some undergraduate research done. It’ll help you get into a good grad school, but more importantly, it’ll help you decide if that’s something you can really see yourself doing professionally.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Even easier- attempt to attend the meetings the professors have every week where they talk about the latest research in the field. They might not be willing to have additional people, but if you can get in, you get a good idea of what the current stuff people are expected to be studying is.

    • keranih says:

      What Mark said.

      Set your alarm in the am to a standard time and get up every day then. Don’t stay up all night playing video games and don’t let your roomie do it either.

      During regular work hours – whenever that is for you, schedule at least eight hours a day doing school work – if you are not in class, go study. Like people say – take breaks, chat at people, enjoy the weather when its good and the warmth of the library when its not. But remember that your job is to study.

      If you focus on working during “work hours” and spend half an hour cleaning your place/cooking/laundry and making the list for the next day, you will have HOURS every day for gym/wandering in the sunshine/watching movies.

      But not if you don’t put the first things first.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually go to class, actually do the reading, actually do the homework, actually take practice exams. Getting really good grades in good classes is not superhuman, it just takes ordinary diligence.

      Less than ordinary diligence if you are reasonably intelligent and haven’t sought out the toughest classes. Grade inflation is real and massive.

    • Cheese says:

      The fact that you’re on here suggests to me you’re probably going to be reasonably studious, and not have any illusions about chasing dreams in a field where there are no jobs.

      Although I would suggest talking to recent grads (tutors, lab demonstrators, etc) about job options/markets with reference to whatever you’re doing. It can be hard to discern what things are actually like outside the garden.

      The main advice I have would be socially: join clubs that interest you, talk to people in class/outside of class. Go to events. Participate in them. University is basically your last chance to (easily) make friends outside of small, confined circles. The wider a social network you can create (and then maintain), the better. This will help you with career/relationship/general well being later on.

    • orangecat says:

      For the average student, the advice from Mark and keranih is correct. (And won’t be followed 100%, but will definitely steer you in the right direction).

      But given that you’re on SSC, there’s a decent chance that you’re like me (mumble) years ago: very introverted and sufficiently book-smart so that classes are relatively easy. In that case, here’s what I wish I could have told myself: put a strong emphasis on developing your social life. Go to clubs, parties, study groups, etc, ideally with a reasonable gender ratio. If you don’t drink, learn to do so (RESPONSIBLY). Take any opportunity to date (again, responsibly). Of course take your coursework seriously, but don’t kill yourself going for a 4.0. Once you’re out of college, meeting people is much harder than learning stuff.

      And the obvious universal advice: pick a economically reasonable major, get relevant work experience if you can, and actually finish your degree so you can have the employability ticket.

      • James Bond says:

        Actually im a bit odd for SSC in that im a massive extrovert. I love to talk to people, and I have above average social skills ( at least in my Silicon Valley bubble). People tend to describe me as charismatically douchey. On the nerd to jock spectrum of high school most people at my school would put me squarely in the jock category. I am concerned for my academics though, because although I am reasonably intelligent (still well below SSC average), I have fairly massive ADD. I get distracted super easily and my library study sesh ends up with me and my friends accidentally going on a hike. I am definitely gonna work on the social aspect of college, make sure i date , get in even better shape, and overall have a blast. But I also want to make sure that I get a good gpa ( trying for above 3.5) so that I have access to well paying jobs and stuff in the future. My parents are sinking a lot of money into my college and I want to make sure that I make the most of it.

        • keranih says:

          But I also want to make sure that I get a good gpa ( trying for above 3.5) so that I have access to well paying jobs and stuff in the future.

          Pardon me for a sec whilst I put on my old cranky person hat:

          Nobody, but nobody gives a fuck what your grades are out in the real world. Nobody. Freaking forget grades.

          Instead, focus on:

          – mastering the material
          – learning where and how to gather more information
          – how to learn the skills (ie coding, article analysis, etc) to complete assigned projects
          – finishing projects in a steady, timely manner
          – understanding projects and material well enough to step back and look at it from a holistic perspective, so you can ask the next question
          – interacting well with others in your field – learn to form working attachments and to push back on group think

          To do all that, in my (non-universal) experience, you need to put in the sweat equity at your desk, computer, and library, and you will generally get good grades as you go. But grades themselves? *snort* Nobody will care. Employers will care if you can do the job you’re hired to do. Co-workers will care if you can do the job without being an ass. Subordinates will care if you can do the job and teach them how to do the job.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nobody, but nobody gives a fuck what your grades are out in the real world. Nobody. Freaking forget grades.

            Can confirm. People care if you have a degree or not, sometimes, but never what grades you had.

          • smocc says:

            Except grad schools. Which maybe aren’t the real world, but they are a real option.

            However, doing the things in that list will get you good grades and you’ll learn the important things.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The difference between a 3.55 and a 3.45 is essentially nil. The difference between graduating with some honorific title and not is bigger. The difference between graduating with a 3.5 and 2.0 is actually consequential.

            Mostly it’s consequential for what opportunities you get in college and what opportunities you get right out of college. After that, a degree is a degree.

            But I agree that if you put in the work to learn, everything else flows from that and stressing about grades in particular doesn’t matter.

            One way that I dealt with my ADD (undiagnosed at the time) was that I used my AP credits to let me drop classes that were not taught well or that I did not find interesting. I always registered for a full course load, but I dropped courses 5 out of 8 semesters. That’s one way to help avoid having too many things on your plate that are just a grind.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, what they said. GPA will only matter for:

            The VERY elite-level employers in your particular field (this will typically manifest itself as a “don’t bother applying if you’re below 3.5” kind of cutoff, rather than a “we’re going to take the 3.9 guy over the 3.8 guy” final decision)

            Grad school admissions – but it’s just one of many factors. You can get away with a lower GPA if the school you’re going to is highly regarded, and/or if most of the bad grades happen in your first year or so (helps you tell a “I was lazy at first and then got motivated and improved” story, which tends to go over well)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’ve had one employer insist on seeing my college transcripts, and then ding me for them. (They were doing what would later be called negging.) But those were Russian entrepreneurs and Russians are extremely hard negotiators, and they gave me so much bullshit in offer letters and on-boarding that I quit before I start.

          • JayT says:

            I’ve had to show my transcripts once in my life. It was when I was right out of school and I applied to the NSA.
            Unless you are thinking of going to grad school, I recommend focusing on classes that will pertain to what you plan to do for a career, and put less effort towards the general education classes. Mastering your subject will be a lot more useful in life than an “A” in your underwater basket-weaving class.

          • James Bond says:

            I want to make sure that the jobs in fields like finance and consulting stay open. Consulting looks very interesting to me and I wanted to make sure that stays an open door. And most of those jobs care quite a bit about GPA. That is why I am concerned.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “I want to make sure that the jobs in fields like finance and consulting stay open.”

            Probably the better way to put this is in terms of tilting the odds in your favor, rather than simple open/closed formulation.

            But you are correct, a high GPA will affect how likely a firm is to want to interview you and hire you right out of school. After that GPA is pretty “meh”, but you still have to get to that point.

          • Matt M says:

            I know a guy who was recently hired by McKinsey who insists nobody ever asked him about his GPA (note that this was a graduate-level, not undergad, position).

    • Matt C says:

      Others have said this already, but don’t make drinking into a hobby. Sometimes this can be easy to do. One of my big life regrets is deciding back then that getting drunk was a cool and manly way to pass the time.

      I wish I had tried harder in college to be more social and outgoing, but it sounds like you have that under control.

      Be intentional about what you’re there for and think ahead. If you think you want to get into consulting, start working toward that early on. Seek out internships and the like. Don’t wait until you’re about to graduate to start working on your post-college options. (This is obvious to clued-in people, but a lot of college kids aren’t.)

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        Yeah, the difference between “people who arranged summer internships freshman year” and those that didn’t eclipsed all the variance between majors.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The question is whether a given person is able to consistently drink as much as is needed to reduce nerves when socializing a bit, without messing up their judgment and so forth – or whether once they start they can’t stop at the right amount. The latter people shouldn’t drink.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          ^Can confirm as someone who needs to have strict rules about drinking. The first and only drink always makes a second drink seem like a much better idea.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I quit drinking, besides periodic occasions where I’m in circumstances where I can’t go overboard, in large part because 4 to 6 beers makes me feel amazing, but while Sober Me is great at planning to stick to 4 to 6 beers, 4 to 6 Beer Me is not great at sticking to those plans.

          • keranih says:

            “The man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.”

        • Matt C says:

          When I first started drinking it wasn’t too bad for me. I didn’t get drunk all that often, I didn’t usually get wasted, and often it was a lot of fun. It took a few years to get to the point where I was drinking at least every weekend, sometimes way too much, and mostly wasn’t even enjoying it any more. You can gradually get yourself into a bad way with booze.

    • Bone Man with Shiny Hat says:

      Normally, I’d read everyone else’s reply first, but I don’t have time right now, so sorry if this is repetitive.

      1) You don’t have time for the news. None. I wasted at least an hour a day reading the New York Times and sometimes the Wall Street Journal in college, and I wish I hadn’t. They weren’t even as interesting as my textbooks, for crying out loud. If you want to be an informed citizen of the world, you can always start in four years. You don’t have time for TV, either, but I’m not sure if that’s still a thing for present-day 18-year-olds.

      2) Work during the day on weekdays. You’re likely to be in a 40-hour-a-week job after graduating anyway, so you might as well start getting in the rhythm. Figure 2.5 hours of lecture or lab a day, plus 5.5 hours of reading, problem sets, papers, and study groups. Nights are for bull sessions.

      3) Never plan to do work on the weekends (which I define as 6:00 PM Friday until 6:00 PM Sunday). If there’s a giant paper due and you’re behind, the weekend will be the slack that saves you. If you feel like you should be making some academic progress on Saturday afternoons, use it to do supplemental reading, or peruse journals related to your major.

      4) Distractions are distracting. Go study in the library. I didn’t do this until my final year, which was a mistake. If the main library’s full, go find an unpopular library on campus (the Engineering library worked for me). Only take one or two subjects’ materials with you, and nothing else. Disable WiFi if you can, or maybe rig up some kind of portable Faraday cage for yourself.

      5) Extracurriculars are great, but you can’t do three or four like you did in high school. Stick with one, try out some new ones, and don’t make commitments you can’t keep. A program house counts as one extracurricular.

      6) The main advantage college has over reading things yourself is not the professors—it’s the students. Study socially. Join your major’s student society, if only for the free pizza and beer. Get advice from older students about what courses to take when.

      7) Start saying “Hi” to people you don’t know the first day you’re on campus. It’s a good time to start the habit, since all the freshmen will be new and won’t know many people yet either. In college, I rarely struck up a conversation with someone I didn’t know, but those conversations always went well, and gained me not just a couple of friends, but some very interesting acquaintances.

      8) Don’t plan to party during the week: that’s what weekends are for. Lower-key social stuff is fine: getting together to see a movie or a lecture, bull sessions (seriously underrated), dinners.

      9) If you find yourself getting anxious, withdrawn, or with low mood, get screened for depression. Somehow despite multiple contacts with campus counseling services, and concerned deans, nobody diagnosed mine. I basically wasted half of what I could have gotten out of college (and several subsequent years).

      10) You’re probably wise to avoid politics. Consider forming a secret libertarian society, though. You can publish anonymous pamphlets with cool pseudonyms, like those Federalist Papers guys. If you completely cease thinking about politics, the pervasive miasma of campus leftism will probably penetrate your brain, like that thing Khan puts in Checkov’s ear in the first good Star Trek movie.

      I’m sure I’ve forgotten some stuff; hope this is helpful. (And bookmark this thread and put a note in your calendar to re-read it the first week of college.)

  10. Ruprect says:

    Much of my time is spent thinking about doing things I don’t really want to do because other people tell me I should be doing them. Probably spent more time in my life on things like this than anything else (edit: not true, spent more time pretending to be doing these things than anything else)

    My question – is it possible to identify your own “sour grapes”? It feels bad that I’m not having sex with a thousand women a year, because I fear that the only reason I don’t want to, is I can’t. Same with having a high-flying managerial position.
    How can I tell if I’m bad at these things because I don’t want to do them, as opposed to not wanting to do them because I am bad at them?

    Same with belief – am I a Christian because I can’t stand the heat of reality, or does Christianity make reality more bearable because there is some truth to it?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think this is a fairly common experience, certainly I have spent periods where I had similar thought patterns.

      For me, the issue frequently revolves around two things. One is just that I have ADD, and so the boring but most “productive” things I could be doing is a huge mental labor.

      Second, is that from childhood into my 30s, I did not read social situations very well, and consistently under estimated how well received I was in any particular social situation. This is not a happy place to be, as almost all of us are social creatures. That leads to overestimating what you “need” to do in order to be happy (socially).

      I could try to structure my career to get a CIO position, and I would have a very good shot at being successful at attaining that position somewhere at a small company. I have come to realize I would be miserable in that position, at least at this point in my life. I really just want to write code. It makes me happy. I still have ADD and depression, but I’m managing those or accepting them, day by day.

      So, as sappy as it sounds, you have to figure who you are, and accept it.

    • Anonymous says:

      My question – is it possible to identify your own “sour grapes”? It feels bad that I’m not having sex with a thousand women a year, because I fear that the only reason I don’t want to, is I can’t. Same with having a high-flying managerial position.

      You very probably can’t have sex with a thousand women a year, short of being Genghis Khan or very unafraid of STDs while nomadically roaming the land in search of cheap prostitutes who you haven’t yet slept with. The high-flying managerial position might be more achievable, but it’s still probably out of reach without dedicating one’s life to the goal or having a heaping of natural advantages.

      I don’t see what’s so bad about not wanting to do these impractical and/or nearly-impossible things. It would be much worse if you wanted this and still couldn’t, like a personal hell. If you don’t want to, then you don’t want to; there’s no reason to drill this matter.

      How can I tell if I’m bad at these things because I don’t want to do them, as opposed to not wanting to do them because I am bad at them?

      IMO, you would be trying and failing anyway if you really wanted to.

      Same with belief – am I a Christian because I can’t stand the heat of reality, or does Christianity make reality more bearable because there is some truth to it?

      Why not both?

    • Peter says:

      So all I wanted in the end
      Was world domination and a whole lot of money to spend
      A little place to call my home, like a planet that was all my own
      Well that’s not much to ask, it’s really not
      It’s not much to ask, just the same as anybody else

      I suppose things divide up into various categories, the examples are for me.

      “Things that would be pretty sweet if I could have them, but realistically, it’s not happening, and I’m not worried about it.” – eg having £1 billion.
      “Things I think I genuinely believe aren’t actually good, but other people might call sour grapes.” – e.g. immortality. Christians and transhumanists alike might be alarmed by my point of view, but there it is. Also, world domination.
      “Things where I have a sour grapes reaction and know it.” – no example here, evidently I’m not self-aware enough in the right ways
      “Things which are kind of ambitious, but I’m still a bit cut up about not having access to.” – e.g. becoming a scientist in academia making big important discoveries.
      “Things which don’t seem that ambitious but which I’m still a bit cut up about” – e.g. not pairing up, when I’m in the wrong mood.
      “Things which don’t seem that ambitious but which still seem out of reach for me, would be kind of sweet but meh, whatever” – e.g. not pairing up when I’m in the right mood, not being able to dance, not being able to keep up with my friends on a bike.

      Possibly I’m mis-reading your “sour grapes” – I’ve always read “sour grapes” as “thinking the thing out of reach is worthless” rather than merely not setting your heart on it.

      Being modest in your ambitions I think is a virtue, even if parts of society think otherwise. Stereotypically, Americans are less likely to think this than Brits, I don’t know what it’s like in reality.

    • Jill says:

      I guess I wouldn’t worry too much about why I am a Christian if I tended to be overly worried or obsessive anyway. If you worry too much anyway– then if it works, don’t fix it.

      As for wanting things that you can’t have– and that the vast majority of other people can’t have either– I agree with Peter that being moderate in your wishes, or at least your expectations– is a virtue.

      Ask yourself: What are all the many things I would get out of being a manager or having sex with a lot of women? E.g. money, sex, confidence, feeling socially accepted and not isolated etc. etc. Are there other ways you can get at least some of whatever your needs are, met, maybe just a little bit?

      How could you get at least something similar to what you want? E.g. maybe you could take a business class or 2 that would help you if you ever get a promotion at work, or get a better job. Or you could develop skill in a hobby unrelated to work, to boost your confidence.

      E.g. If you can’t have sex with 1000 women, why not talk to 1000 women? You could go to churches, or to Conversation Cafes or Socrates Cafes or other social groups or organizations in your area. Then you could practice talking to women. And to men too. And see what it’s like to not be socially isolated, sitting there locked into your own thoughts and feelings of frustration.

      Sometimes people want something huge and incredible, partly because they are not getting their more common and smaller needs met. The more frustrated they feel, the more they fantasize about something better and better and more and more out of reach. Not a productive cycle there.

      So, rather than focusing on wanting big big things that you are not getting, why not look at what smaller things you can get or do in your life?

      And if you find you have major problems functioning, you might consider going to a coach or counselor or psychotherapist for help with that. Some people go, even if they have only minor problems functioning. It can be very life enhancing to get individualized help, focused on what you as an individual need, rather than following general advice.

      We’re all flying blind here to some extent, trying to answer your concerns, because we don’t know you as an individual, so your needs aren’t really clear to us.

  11. Waring says:

    One reason not to read newspapers, and to a lesser extent magazines and blogs, is that you only get a surface-level understanding of the issues. It would be far more useful for a layperson to read 100 pages of an economics textbook than 100 pages of the Economist.

    Unfortunately, reading standard textbooks is tough. Partly because they can be dull, but mostly because it’s a huge chunk of text that is hard to get into. By contrast, reading (relatively) short posts, via RSS feeds, is simple and easy. (And even slightly gamified; crossing off things you’ve read).

    Question: is there a simple way of breaking down (ebook) textbooks into short chunks and delivering them via RSS?

    I could split them manually and set them to upload to a free blogging platform, but that’s too much effort and has potential copyright violation issues. If it makes a difference, I use feedly.

    • “Unfortunately, reading standard textbooks is tough.”

      Part of the reason is that the decision of what textbook to buy is made by the professor who assigns the book, not the student who will (or won’t) read it. That gives the author an incentive to write for the professor, who is a very different audience. I remember one horrible example in my field, where the first chapter consisted, so far as I could tell, entirely of hooks to hang references on, with nothing that would actually teach anything to someone who didn’t already know it.

      I was struck by this point when writing Hidden Order, which was my price theory text rewritten for the intelligent layman market. It occurred to me that if at any point the reader lost interest, I would lose him. So I designed each chapter to start with a hook, some interesting question or idea that would hold the reader’s interest to the end of the chapter. Measured by sales, it was my most successful book.

      So instead of looking for books to be broken up and delivered online, you might look for books aimed largely at the intelligent layman market, people reading the book for fun and curiosity not because it was assigned. My standard example is The Selfish Gene.

      • Waring says:

        Thanks for the advice! I’m in academia (law too), so I’m certainly aware of some of the systemic problems with textbooks.

        I’m reasonably confident that I can find relatively interesting texts – I had a look at Mankiw’s intros to economics, for example, and had no trouble staying for a chapter. The problem is delivering the chapters (or parts, if long) into chunks as if it were a blogging platform.

        Having said that, the idea of middle market books is helpful. I found Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow revelatory at the time (and was one of the things that lead me here), so I should probably go further in that direction. (And will look up Hidden Order!)

    • miko says:

      Short answer: Learning requires time, failure, and hard work. In that order. There is no short and easy way.

      Also, textbooks are not always what they seem. I wouldn’t call history textbooks reliable sources of information, for one. Plagued with cultural framing, false information, omission, and censorship. Anything that condenses information is robbing you of perspective. That is why good teachers bring in lots of outside sources of perspective and information, to help fix and fill the holes in textbooks. They are mostly reference tools promoting further study. Which is definitely useful.

      Look into how the big textbook corporations write their textbooks. Sometimes it is low paid English majors copying information from Wikipedia “in their own words”, sometimes it is genuine people trying to make a difference in education. Big corporations are not exactly known for the quality of their work, and that is who dominates the textbook market. Figuring out which textbooks are good quality and which are poor quality is an enormous task in itself.

      It definitely depends on which subject you study. I would call most math textbooks reliable, for example. That would be pretty hard to mess up it seems.

      I agree with you that people need to broaden their perspectives though. Textbooks is a good suggestion, though super expensive.

      I like your idea of gamified learning.

      • Waring says:

        It’s fairly easy to find university reading lists online. From there you can figure out a rough consensus as to what’s useful, and what’s not. (E.g. discount endorsements by people from the same university). (I also work at a collegiate university, so I can talk to people in various fields for further advice if need be).

        I take your point that textbooks are not an end point – I tell my students exactly the same thing. But all those problems you mention are generally worse for newspapers and magazines. In particular, my usual sources tend to involve simplified presentations of new research findings, rather than covering a base of knowledge. This is true of even the best outlets (e.g. Scott on ketamine vs. an intro to molecular biology). My aims are modest: I’d just like to have a rudimentary feel for the lay of the land.

        (As to expense, I was assuming that you can find more than reading lists online…)

  12. Ruprect says:

    Re: male privilege

    Am I the only one who has been given a bit of a confidence boost by all this talk of male privilege?

    Also, if we must counter it, wouldn’t a bit of agree and amplify be in order?

    “Yeah, you’re damn right I’m privileged – that’s why YOU have to shut up and listen”

    • brad says:

      Reminds me of an old Jewish joke.

      In the late 1930s, a Jew is traveling on the subway reading a Yiddish newspaper, the forward. Suddenly, to his shock, he spots a friend of his sitting just opposite him, reading the local New York Nazi newspaper. He glares at his friend in anger, How can you read that Nazi rag? Unabashed the friend looks up at him. So what are you reading? He asks. The forward? And what do you read there? In America there is a depression going on and the Jews are assimilating. In Palestine, the Arabs are rioting and killing Jews. In Germany, they’ve taken away all our rights. You sit there, and read all about it, and get more and more depressed. I read the Nazi newspaper. We own all the banks. We control all the governments. We are all rich and powerful.

      • Jill says:

        LOL. A good one there.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        From the Russian jokes Wikipedia page: “Rabinovich calls pampas headquarters, speaking with a characteristic accent:” Tell me, is it true that Jews sold out Russia?” “Yes, of course it’s true, kike-schnabel!” “Oh good! Could you tell me please where I should go to get my share? “

    • The Nybbler says:

      If you just want to piss off intersectional feminists, that works fine, but annoying them is simple anyway. But they will attack you for bragging about privilege; that’s the same thing that got Justine Sacco in trouble, after all (with her tweet ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m White!’)

      I have a counter-line “The only privilege I’ve had as a white male is the unshakeable assumption that anything bad that happens to me is all my fault.” I’ve seen others with similar formulations, some saying explicitly that this really is a positive and not (entirely) sarcasm.

      • Ruprect says:

        I think your argument demonstrates disagreement rather than exposing contradiction – the key to destroying your opponent is to get them to disagree with themselves.

        If anyone criticises my position I can just shrug my shoulders and say “listen, I agree with you – that’s the society we live in” or something to that effect – “I’m a man, you have to listen to me, it’s called “male privilege”, look it up on the faqs”

        edit: I think it’d be a lot better if it was “greatest” privilege rather than “only” – then they’ll actually listen to what you say.

        • suntzuanime says:

          You don’t destroy your opponent in a conversation. You can either persuade them or humiliate them. The former requires them to be receptive, and the latter requires a receptive audience. Telling an uppity woman to go make you a sandwich will only “destroy” her in a context already favorable to you.

          • Jill says:

            Rather than persuading or humiliating someone, you might actually seek to understand them. You might ask for examples of what they are talking about, for example, and seek to understand where they are coming from.

            Everything in life does not need to be a battle. I know it’s not a popular practice in our bashing society, but people really can strive to understand one another. And people can also be aware that they do not have to agree with one another.

            There is a form of conversation called Bohm Dialogue where the goal is to progress from clarity to confusion. The idea is that most of the time, when we think we understand some complex issue, we really don’t. So we can benefit from listening to others, so that we are no longer “clear” and are more “confused” because we are learning things about the complexity of the situation, by considering other points of view. Again, you don’t need to agree– just to look from a different perspective and see if you notice anything new about the situation.

          • Nornagest says:

            Call me a cynic, but I’ve never seen a problem solved in the long run by that sort of language game. Most of the time it successfully masks the problem, but it sneaks around the back and emerges in a new and invariably more sinister form.

            (This includes the rationalist custom of “Taboo”, unfortunately.)

          • Ruprect says:

            I think you can reach the point where you are in the deep dark forest, 2+2=5, and the only way out is to reject your own central beliefs.

            Maybe I’m just regurgitating the plot of inception here, but I think it is possible to plant the seed of doubt in someone’s mind, to persuade them something is wrong, and if that ‘thing’ is central enough to their identity – uh… destroy them (in a manner of speaking).

            Sure, no-one is going to break down there-and-then, but people change their minds after exposure to the arguments of others. I’ve had my mind changed before.

            And, if you don’t trust me and I tell you a fact, you won’t believe me. But if your own statement provides the initial grounds for my argument, there is less room for doubt.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Anyone using the language of intersectional feminism can be presumed with high probability to be both anti-rational (that is, they do not believe in the use of logic and reasoning to find truth) and not persuadable by argument (particularly not argument from someone who is ‘privileged’). Therefore there is really no point in trying to persuade them of anything.

            You can show them contradictions in their worldview, but this will not shake them because they do not accept the reductio ad absurdum.

          • James Bond says:

            Trying to destroy your opponent in a conversation is a risky, risky game. Only attempt if you have significantly more social status than the other person ,and you are sure that you can crush them in an insult contest. Also make sure that you dont engage with someone whos social status is low enough that there are no winning situations for you. In high school the people who took the most shots at my social status were those who were sufficiently low in the chain that they lose nothing if they lose the status game.For them a draw was a win , since they managed to siphon some social status away from me and towards them.. For me it was a no win scenario, since even if I win against the low status opponent, well there is no real gain in social status.Plus i look like an asshole, and lose some social status in that. The social status games between me and people of similar status were very interesting, because they involved multiple levels of thought, and the ability to be best-buddyish , friendly, and still competitive. But the general moral of the story is that if you are trying to openly humiliate someone ( a blatant social status grab), be sure as fuck you have you cards lined up.This is why i generally dont recommend blatant humiliation as a social status enhancing strategy , its way too risky, and there is very little gain. Being nice is not just a good thing to do, but it is often best practice for social status and winning friends. Open insult wars please Moloch. Dont please Moloch.

    • Eggoeggo says:

      “Holy crap, white men must be gods to do all this! No wonder they should run the world!”

    • gbdub says:

      The thing about being told to “check your privilege” is that it’s deployed mostly in situations where the target is actually at a disadvantage. Privilege is very context dependent, and the sort of people who complain loudest about male privilege (and explicitly name it as such) don’t typically frequent the sort of environments where male privilege is abundant.

      • Bone Man with Shiny Hat says:

        it’s deployed mostly in situations where the target is actually at a disadvantage

        What if someone claimed the opposite: that it’s deployed mostly in situations where the target is indeed at an advantage? How would you determine which statement is true? Could you even do so?

        Having said that, yeah, mostly when I’ve heard it it’s functionally equivalent to “Shut up!” I just don’t have any basis to generalize my personal experience very far.

    • Pku says:

      Damn, I have to try that sometime. Though there’s a decent chance I’d get punched.

  13. Jill says:

    BTW, I don’t have time find the thread up above where this was mentioned now, but if you decide to go to a therapist for social skills issues and you have a lot of anxiety, you may want to look for a psychologist who specializes in “social anxiety”– not just any nice therapist you hear about who might know very little about this particular area of psychotherapy.

    You can call the state psychological association in your state and ask for names of psychologists who specialize in this area. Some have had quite a lot of training in it and it’s one of their primary areas of specialization.

    • Matt M says:

      Does “social anxiety” cover things like “I’m just not good at talking to women?”

      I always got the idea that it was basically a “I’m too terrified to leave the house because of all those scary people out there” sort of thing.

      I’ve been getting a ton of Facebook ads for this online-therapy sort of company about social anxiety, but never really looked into it much because I wasn’t sure it was the same sphere of problem.

      • Jill says:

        I would never advise going to online therapy for any sort of social problem. They can’t see you in person and see how you appear, talk etc. Even if they use Skype, that is not good enough.

        “I’m too terrified to leave the house” is agoraphobia.

        “I’m just not good at talking to women” could possibly be social anxiety.

  14. Anonymous Comment says:

    I feel like I don’t have “free speech.” It is pretty clear that I would face sever social and economic repercussions for expressing my views on race and gender publicly. For example I believe in HBD. Among other things my girlfriend’s family would probably become extremely hostile and I could actually lose my job. Being able to express my political views publicly is pretty important to me.

    So I find it hard to care about threats to free speech for other people. Why should I cry that some other people might have to walk a mile in my shoes. The obviously example is Trump. On some level I don’t want him to stifle criticism. But on the other hand I can’t really manage to emotionally care.

    Maybe on some level I understand the Black Lives Matter style protesters. They feel like society has screwed them over hard. So they find it hard to care about society screwing over others.

      • “Human bio diversity”, in this concept. Attempting to describe without endorsing or condemning: significant genetic differences exist between identifiable racial clusters, and these genetic differences lead to meaningful phenotypical differences in abilities, temperaments, and measurable qualities and outcomes.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          How is that politics? Isnt politics about what a society ought to do?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Well, yes. A lot of the idea’s proponents and opponents strongly believe that endorsing it would lead to certain courses of action (to put it dispassionately and neutrally).

          • TPC says:

            Except (to Evan) a number of people have pointed out to those proponents that we already live in a world where those ideas are practically speaking applied to the population at large.

            To wit, one of their main policy implication views is that people with really great test scores would have a leg up in the job market and especially higher level administrative goverment work (policy setting and the like) and yet when it’s pointed out that this is already the case to HBD proponents, well, that tends to be met with silencia.

    • Jill says:

      Yes, Anon Comment, if you think certain races are inferior, people of those races would be pretty pissed off at you, and the friends and relatives of people of those races would be pretty pissed at you. You are, of course, free to say it, but there are consequences.

      Most people do not believe in HBD. But most people believe in something that, if they said it, especially to certain people, it would piss those people off. That’s the typical human experience. In many neighborhoods, a guy can’t say “Your mother is a ____” even if she, in truth, is one. But few people consider that a hardship. You just don’t say it, at least not to him.

      Talking about politics at all often has negative consequences in American society today.

      If this is what constitutes a big problem in your life, you are very very lucky.

      Free speech does not mean that you are free to say any thought that comes into your head, and that other people are required to not be pissed off, or not to have their feelings hurt, and then are required not to react to you in a negative way.

      I am sure there are other people you could talk to about this, who also believe in HBD. But you also might consider how likely it is that you may be wrong.

      You might consider how it would be for you if whatever race or weight or ethnic group or whatever you are– whatever your characteristics– if people said that you and all others in some category you are in, are inferior– and said or implied that people in your category ought not be allowed to vote or go to a university or own property or have certain types of jobs or have various other rights etc.

      • Ruprect says:

        I think you’re right on a personal level – that we shouldn’t go out of our way to personally antagonise people by talking directly to them about things that they find offensive – but I’m not sure that is a rule that you can rightly apply to public discourse in general. There really seems to be no end to the things that people might find offensive – and I think people have to have the freedom to make general points (i.e. “single parenthood has worse outcomes than couples” should not be censored, whereas “you are awful because you are a single parent” perhaps should be).

        Anyway, on the point of race, I read recently that the Igbo tribe of Nigeria has a higher average IQ than indigenous British whites. As a white British person I didn’t find this news to be particularly upsetting, just as I’m not upset by the idea that European Jews have a higher average IQ than other Europeans.
        I guess that’s because I don’t fear that I will be dehumanised because of these facts(?).

        • Jill says:

          “I guess that’s because I don’t fear that I will be dehumanised because of these facts(?).”

          Yes, if you were getting discriminated against in the job market, if there were videos all over the Internet showing police killing unarmed people of your race, if people of your race were in prison in droves for nonviolent drug offenses– offenses which people of other races were committing but almost never getting arrested for– then it might have a different effect.

          • Miller Lite says:

            I’m being slightly pedantic here, but there is a well-understood (among those who know the issue well anyway) explanation for the disparity in non-violent drug offenses you mentioned.

            Often, gang members are caught committing serious crimes. The police, already overstretched, know it takes a lot of time and work (not that it’s impossible, just that it takes a lot of time and work) to collect the evidence needed to prosecute them for those crimes, and their incentive is to bust up drug gangs anyway. So, they get the gang member to plead guilty to a non-violent drug charge that carries a lighter sentence (the gang makes money by selling drugs, so the gang member usually has a drug charge along with whatever else) in exchange for some information about his higher-ups. It’s a win for the cops who don’t have to do as much work and get information out of it, and it’s a win for the gang member who gets a lighter sentence. (See “The Wire” for a nice realistic illustration of this pattern.)

            Whereas the random white person who gets busted for drug possession/use usually isn’t in a gang, and he can usually get off by promising not to use/buy drugs anymore and take a drug education class.

            This has been going on for decades upon decades, contributing heavily to the racial disparities seen in prison.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Does the lack of videos all over the Internet about it make it better that cops are killing unarmed people of my race?

          • Jill says:

            Re videos: Of course not, but when you see the videos, then you know cops are killing these unarmed people. And many people did not know that before. When the videos do exist, it is information about what is going on.

          • John Schilling says:

            If cops are killing unarmed members of Nybbler’s race, and nobody else knows or cares about that, and Nybbler knows that nobody else knows or cares about that, does that make it better?

            When the videos do exist, it is information about what is going on

            There are so many other sources of information about what is going on, that the videos are of little value there. Where the videos are valuable, is as information about what people care about.

        • Jill says:

          Ruprect, the single parent issue certainly may have some different interpretations. If single parenthood has worse outcomes than couples, then that does not necessarily mean that it would always be better if parents would marry, or if they would stay married if they already are.

          It’s possible that the explanation is that some people find a compatible, responsible, caring partner and they wisely marry the person, or stay married if they are already. And any kids there benefit.

          And other people may find a partner, have a kid, and then realize that the partner is irresponsible, or abusive, or criminal, or consistently spends more than the household income each month etc.

          In that case, the more responsible partner wisely chooses not to marry– or not to stay married to– the irresponsible or abusive partner. But that does not mean that the kid would be better off if these parents were married.

          Similarly, with race. Many American black intellectuals have discussed their growing up years in their books or speeches– and said that they were put down and ridiculed a lot by their peers, for being studious and interested in school.

          So if American black kids, on average, score lower on scholastic tests, it could have more to do with this practice of ridiculing studiousness, or with other environmental situations that are more common with blacks than with whites, rather than being due to genetics. Most kids stop doing things that bring ridicule from peers.

          • Ruprect says:

            Definitely. But I think it’s a discussion we should have.
            I like to think of this as the holocaust denial problem. Throughout my life, I’ve always equated holocaust deniers with mad racists. A few months ago I watched a video on youtube by a holocaust denier and I realised I had absolutely no idea whether what they were saying was true or not, and that I’d never actually heard any of their arguments before.
            I have no idea if holocaust deniers have a legitimate point, and I’m pretty sure most people have even less idea than me, but I’m pretty sure that if people started denying the holocaust they’d face some pretty severe social consequences (and perhaps in the UK, criminal charges).
            I’m guilty of that kind of mob mentality. I also suspect that whatever we might gain in avoiding thinking about the fantasies of mad-men, we lose more in submitting to an illogical group-think.

          • Jaskologist says:

            In my day, we occasionally had actual holocaust survivors come into school and talk about their experiences. I realize that this is probably no longer an option, but in that context, it would have seemed silly (putting it very generously) to also address mythicists.

          • Matt M says:

            Ruprect,

            On a similar note, I just finished reading “Blacklisted By History” – essentially a conservative revisionist work on the career of Joe McCarthy which largely presents him as someone who was mostly correct, concerned about the security of the nation, and destroyed so liberals (and “moderate” conservatives) could score some political points and cover up for a lot of their friends (many of whom totally were communists).

            I tried to discuss the book with some of my liberal friends and they were having nothing of it. They wouldn’t even listen to the arguments. It was an immediate shoutdown – “Everyone knows McCarthy is evil, therefore any book that portrays him as non-evil is an obvious lie.”

            For the record, the book is 600 pages and is very thoroughly footnoted, and relies upon many sources that have been de-classified and made public AFTER the majority of the standard histories of “McCarthyism” were already written. This information did not seem relevant to them.

          • keranih says:

            If single parenthood has worse outcomes than couples, then that does not necessarily mean that it would always be better if parents would marry, or if they would stay married if they already are.

            No, it means that on average the child of a single parent is worse off than if that child’s mother had gotten married when she realized she was pregnant.

            Population stats don’t say anything about individuals – they talk about general trends.

            In terms of race and gender, we have simple tests to see if someone is academically inclined and will succeed in school – they are called grades. These are much better indicators than skin color of the ability of a particular student to succeed, and so we should look at grades, and not skin color – as so unfortunately generally happens – to see if a student is succeeding or not. And we should look at averages of grades – not skin color – to see if a school system is succeeding at educating its students.

            We don’t, right now, have good ways to test individual women to see if they can raise children at a level equal with the average quality of a two-parent household. Failing to have that test, it makes sense to use the more general metric and urge her to get married to the child’s father (and failing that, to the best option she has to hand) in order to best provide for the child.

          • Anonymous says:

            If single parenthood has worse outcomes than couples, then that does not necessarily mean that it would always be better if parents would marry, or if they would stay married if they already are.

            No, it means that on average the child of a single parent is worse off than if that child’s mother had gotten married when she realized she was pregnant.

            Population stats don’t say anything about individuals – they talk about general trends.

            No, Jill is correct. You are selecting from separate populations. Without carefully and comprehensively correcting for that, you can’t draw the conclusion you do.

          • keranih says:

            Not so. You assume that Jill’s caveats apply to a majority of unmarried women – that their only options are criminals who beat their wives.

            Again, it is not true that every child of an unwed mother will do better with the mother marrying her lover (or anyone else.)

            It is, however, so that more children will benefit from this than will be harmed.

          • Anonymous says:

            No, that’s just one example of a possible confounder. Not the only one. Until and unless you correct for drawing from separate populations you can’t connect the different outcomes to the treatment. This is stats 101.

          • keranih says:

            Demonstrate to me that when studies control for everything else and still show a difference in outcomes between children of single parents and children of two parent households, that they are “drawing from different populations”.

            They are not.

          • Anonymous says:

            If you have such a study at hand, that’s a horse of a different color. That’s not what jill mentioned, nor have I laid eyes on such a thing myself.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            There are no perfect studies. The IRB is not going to approve killing fathers. Draft randomization is pretty good, but the casualty rate is too low to make good studies. Other studies of widows are pretty good. The children of widows do better than the children of other single mothers but worse than the children of intact families. Part nature, part nurture.

          • Johnjohn says:

            “I also suspect that whatever we might gain in avoiding thinking about the fantasies of mad-men, we lose more in submitting to an illogical group-think.”

            I can’t see how that could possibly be true. If you had to, in any meaningful way, evaluate the claims of every mad-man out there, you would not have time left to spend on anything else.

          • Ruprect says:

            “I can’t see how that could possibly be true. If you had to, in any meaningful way, evaluate the claims of every mad-man out there, you would not have time left to spend on anything else.”

            Yeah… that’s true. I guess we should aim to treat ‘offensive’ fringe beliefs as we treat ‘harmless’ ones. I don’t feel inclined to check out the latest research on astrology, but I’m not too bothered by people discussing it and don’t demonize those who do so. Theoretically, you might reach a point where an idea is so damaging to society that it has to be suppressed, but I think in practice, where severe social sanctions for ideas have been tried, it hasn’t really been effective, instead simply encouraging bad ideas to proliferate.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @Ruprect

            I think you might underestimate how many bad ideas have been stopped from spreading by social sanctions. It’s a difficult thing to notice because the whole point is that the bad ideas aren’t visible.

        • Anecdote:

          I was a grad student in physics at Chicago in the theoretical group. There was one black in that group. He was an Ibo.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Of the black people I met in university (fairly high-level undergrads plus fairly high-level grad students of all stripes), something like half were Nigerian or of Nigerian ancestry, and that group is majority or entirely Igbo.

          • Matt M says:

            I just completed a graduate degree at a Top-20 level business school. This was also my experience – we had very few black students – maybe 15 at most (out of a class of like 150), at least five were of Nigerian ancestry and three were Nigerian nationals.

      • Miller Lite says:

        Anonymous Comment said he believes in HBD, not that he thinks certain races are inferior. Andrew Hunter gave a pretty good short definition of it, which you can refer to if you’re confused.

        I think what Anonymous Comment might have been getting at is the fact that a lot of people (especially on the Blue Team, in my experience) are able to speak candidly about their political beliefs without any consequences, because those beliefs are aligned with and protected by the officially endorsed dogmas and those “in the drinking water” so to speak. People who have beliefs at odds with those ideas are in a precarious position because there is no official ban on their ideas but they know they could be arbitrarily punished for expressing them anyway.

        (Libertarianism is an exception; libertarians seem to mostly enjoy the freedom to express their views without punishment, so long as they avoid talking about freedom of association.)

        I’m going to take a wild guess that Anonymous Comment is white, so he probably has indeed heard lots of people expressing the belief that white people are inferior–or evil, or at least collectively responsible for the problems of the world–and has witnessed the fact that other racial groups are given institutional and cultural privileges that are denied to white people (for example, the right to form their own student unions at universities, hiring or admittance preferences at jobs and schools, more leniency with regard to how they can talk and behave in public, and having their race downplayed in the news if they commit crimes).

        Anonymous Comment never said that people of other races ought not to be allowed to vote or go to university or own property or have certain types of jobs/other rights. In my experience there are a few rogue voices in the HBD commentariat who suggest these things, but for the most part they really aren’t part of HBD, which instead is a paradigm adopted mostly by people earnestly trying to think and talk about race in a realistic, informed way.

        • Jill says:

          I wasn’t saying Anon Commenter said those things that he didn’t say. I was just giving examples, to try to be specific about what might offend people, since he didn’t specify exactly what he might say that he thinks might lose him his job or his girlfriend if he said it.

          Anon Commenter never said those things you said above either, as I am sure you are aware also.

          Anon Commenter, are those the kinds of opinions you were referring to, that you feel you can’t say in public? The examples I gave? Or the examples Miller gave? Or something different?

          • Miller Lite says:

            Yes, I prefaced my comment with “I think what Anonymous Commenter might have been getting at” rather than just put words in his mouth.

          • Jill says:

            And I myself said “IF you think certain races are inferior.” Not SINCE or BECAUSE or anything of that kind.

            There are a lot of good people here. But also a lot of people who love to criticize others constantly. If you didn’t say anything incorrect, they just make something up, claim you said that, and criticize you for it.

          • Miller Lite says:

            Fair enough. But I’d say your “if” is a pretty big leap given the starting point of Anonymous Comment’s comment, though I’m familiar with HBD and some of the major voices/core ideas in that area. To someone who isn’t as familiar, your if is probably not a big leap.

          • Skivverus says:

            There are a lot of good people here. But also a lot of people who love to criticize others constantly. If you didn’t say anything incorrect, they just make something up, claim you said that, and criticize you for it.

            Par for the course for humanity, no? “You have the right to remain silent: anything you say will be misinterpreted, and then used against you.”

            More seriously, though, language is a fuzzier concept than it looks, with everyone having their own minefield of slightly-to-drastically-different definitions (aka “idiolects”), in the same way everyone has their own minefield of cultural assumptions (that American Civil Religion comes to mind, for one).

          • gbdub says:

            Certainly, most people hold some beliefs that at least some other people would find offensive. There is a difference though – some people’s offense is deemed to matter, and some isn’t. This seems to be getting worse as “I am offended!” increasingly becomes the strongest assertion of power someone can make (if they’re in the favored group).

            For example, at your average American university, if a white person were to say “I am offended by your assertion that white people invented racism”, they get laughed at. “Too damn bad, that’s your privilege talking!” Whereas if a black person says “I find your factual discussion of relative violent crime rates among racial groups offensive!” he will be supported and the crime discusser will be told to shut up and be more sensitive.

            Jill the fact that you don’t seem to get this vis a vis HBD kind of illustrates the point – HBD, when done well at least, posits testable hypotheses, and deals in verifiable data (for a flip side controversy, consider AGW). Uncomfortable or not, it is either a fact or it isn’t, but you write the whole field off as an offensive opinion not even worthy of being discussed.

            But anyway this whole discussion is just reinventing the concept of an Overton window, isn’t it? If you’re outside it your ability to easily engage in free speech is certainly curtailed.

          • Anonymous says:

            What about if you aren’t talking about a university, but your girlfriend’s family? They aren’t entitled to be offended by what offends them? They have some sort of moral duty to be polite to an edgelord?

          • gbdub says:

            Nobody has a “duty” to be polite to anyone or any idea, except insofar as we are attempting to promote a culture of truly free speech. That doesn’t mean you can’t have standards of etiquette, and it’s certainly reasonable to consider “dinner with potential in-laws” as a more restrained environment.

            I do think it’s fair to expect reciprocal politeness / freedom though. If you’re in “free speech zone” that should apply to all ideas, even if some people consider them offensive or “edgelord-y” (especially if they are offensive but plausible, as HBD is). Likewise with a “no politics zone”. Don’t spout off on your political beliefs regardless of my feelings, unless you’re willing to give me a fair hearing too.

      • Anonymous says:

        Most people do not believe in HBD.

        Source? My impression is that most people totally do, on a gut level, believe in HBD. They’re not scientific about it, but they do know that race is genetic, and most if not all traits are genetic.

        • JayT says:

          I’m not so sure that is true. For example, I think there are a lot of people out there that think that the difference between a smart person and a dumb person is the quality of school they went to, or how much their parents taught them growing up.

          • Randy M says:

            Most people’s beliefs are not self-consistent. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is a common expression indicating traits are largely hereditary, but it coexists with attitudes that consider parenting styles almost determinitive.

          • JayT says:

            It is definitely true that most people aren’t always intellectually consistent. Even then though, I still think most people lean more towards nurture rather than nature. Perhaps it’s different in other countries, and the US is an outlier because our culture is more anti-monarchy than most.

        • Matt M says:

          Most people who argue about politics online do not believe in HBD.

          Most people who exist in the world almost certainly do.

          • JayT says:

            Even there I don’t know if I agree with that. If people truly believed that most traits were genetic, then why is there so much focus on raising your kids “right” or “wrong”? If people really believed that a person’s outcome was mainly genetic, then why would they worry about things like spoiling kids or things of that nature?

          • Matt M says:

            Doesn’t like a third of India still (unofficially) operate under a caste system?

            I think the notion of your family determining your eventual worth is probably quite common in the developing world.

            The fact that Chinese “tiger moms” devote so much energy to their children doesn’t mean they think “most” factors are nurture rather than nature… it may indicate that they think nature is so dominant that a ridiculous amount of effort must be put towards proper nurturing in order to give their middle-class child even the slightest bit of chance at competing with the elites.

          • “If people really believed that a person’s outcome was mainly genetic”

            Where does the “mainly” come from?

            I expect most people believe that heredity is one important factor in what people are like. If you combine that with “and the distribution of heritable traits is different in different populations” you are making a claim that some will regard as offensive.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think nurture notions are largely a leftover of the days before mass education. In those days, education really did make a large difference, because there is a large difference between being literate and illiterate. Nowadays just about everyone in the first and second worlds is sent to school; we have reached the point of diminishing returns from education a long time ago. And since that variable has been largely made the same for almost everyone, other variables – such as genetics – are now relevant towards outcomes.

          • JayT says:

            @David Friedman

            In the original post the commentator said “They’re not scientific about it, but they do know that race is genetic, and most if not all traits are genetic”, and I was saying that I don’t think that the average person thinks that genetics make up more than 51% of a person’s traits.

          • Matt M says:

            Does the 50% figure really matter here?

            I’d guess that nearly everyone agrees that genetics make up somewhere between say, 30% and 70% of a person’s traits. Whichever way you swing on that, it’s still significant (yet still not the ONLY significant thing)

          • JayT says:

            Well, that was the original point that I was objecting to, and pretty much the whole point of this conversation. I don’t disagree that people think some part of who a person is is genetic. I just disagree that at any level average people think genetics are the majority factor.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          Motte =/=bailey. In asmuch as HBD is a political movent it is not some purely descriptive, value neutral thing.

          Remember that Anonymous Coward described HBD as a political view. Several people then tried defend HBD as some value neutral thing,.,.well, value neutral or political, you can only pick one.

          And we already have a term for the descriptive science of genes…its called genetics.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          Which HBD?

          • Anonymous says:

            I meant the “genetics determine outcomes to a large extent” idea.

            Jill said that most people did not believe in HBD. If she meant the political-scientific movement based on internet blogs, then her statement has no substance – almost nobody, in human population terms, has even heard of it. So I took it to mean the underlying argument, rather than the movement itself. Jill’s replies so far indicate that I have interpreted her correctly.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            You can speak prose without knowing that you are speaking prose, and you can disagree with right wing race..sorry genetics…based politics without knowing that anyone ever called it HBD.

            Genetics determines outcomes isn’t a political argument. Genetics determines outcomes more than environment is a bit closer, but the gap still needs to he closed.

            If you give a purely scientific statement of HBD then you can portray your opponents as ignorant, which serves some purposes…but then how can it be a political opinion? Don’t be surprised if people fill the gap out of their darkest imaginings.

      • “if people said that you and all others in some category you are in, are inferior– and said or implied that people in your category ought not be allowed to vote or go to a university or own property or have certain types of jobs or have various other rights etc.”

        Do you have any reason to believe that the poster you are responding to believes, or wants to say, any of that?

        The usual HBD claim is that the distribution of characteristics is different in different populations. That does not imply or even suggest that “all others in some category are inferior.” Nor does it imply the rest of your list. The claim that the distribution of height is different in men than in women, with men on average taller, is true and uncontroversial. It does not imply that I am taller than you are, and I’m probably not.

        It sounds as though you are rejecting a wildly distorted parody of the views the poster feels not free to express.

        Suppose he stated what I conjecture are his real views, something along the lines of “the distribution of IQ’s is wider for men than for women, with a larger fraction of men at both the high and low end,” or “The distribution of IQ is higher for East Asians than for Europeans, higher for Europeans than for sub-saharan Africans.”

        Do you regard those views as obviously false? Obviously wicked to hold? Implying that some people should not be allowed to “vote or go to a university or own property or have certain types of jobs or have various other rights etc.”?

        How would you describe someone whose image of those who disagree with her is wildly distorted in a negative direction?

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          If HBD has no practical consequences, why proselitise it? There is information the fact that someone chooses to say something, as well as in wh is said.

          Remember that Anonymous Coward described HBD as a political view. Several people then tried defend HBD as some value neutral thing,.,.well, value neutral or political, you can only pick one.

          • Anonymous says:

            Belief in HBD as a political issue among the decision-making class, if HBD as a scientific argument is true, is likely to lead to better choices regarding, for example, education. Less wasted money.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If HBD is true, it should be accepted. To reject a true statement is likely stunt the growth of affected fields. There will be research you cannot do (or cannot report) in the fields of genetics because it would support HBD. This could spread upwards to (valid) techniques of research which would be rejected because they lead to studies which support HBD.

            The statement of HBD is value-neutral; the question over whether it should be allowed to be accepted is political.

          • I think the most neutral application of HBD is that if we are trying to root out things like sexism, racism, etc. then we should know what the actual base rate of things are. If Pacific Islanders are SD higher in IQ or improved social skills but are not proportionally represented in high IQ or high social skills professions, then that is evidence of some sort of problem or confounder. If Spaniards are not represented proportionally in soccer team rosters but their height and lung capacities are on average much lower, then that should be applied as a confounder for how much of their lack of representation is due to other factors rather than directly related ones.

            HBD is a basic premise I agree with, but statistical trends of different populations are only useful in population level analysis. Any info you might glean from population trends are blown out of the water by the information you get just by seeing how they carry themselves, their personal hygiene, etc. A first visual impression’s information is an order of magnitude less information than you’d get by seeing how they act, how they interact with other people, and how they talk. This is still orders of magnitude less information than seeing their direct performance over time on the given task or criteria. The only time when race should matter among individuals is when you don’t have enough information and your actual first step should be to get more.

          • John Schilling says:

            If HBD has no practical consequences, why proselitize it?

            HBD has significant practical consequences, which do not include disallowing people to vote, go to a university, etc.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Nothing thar is purely descriptive has any poltical consequence unless you add some values into it.. that’s how you get across an is ought ga.p.

            Plugging unknown value X into HBD, doesn’t lead to any particular poltics, furthermore. Someone who bases some particular politics on HBD has some particular but unstated values in mind. Thats a problem.

            The sanitised version of HBD, that genetically defined populations differ genetically, is not sufficient to tell you anything about education.
            You at least need the further claim that genetics sets a ceiling n achievement.

            We have already had examples of people saying that the obvious response to failures is to a/ spend more money AND b/ stop wasting money. Preteding that it is somehow all just science is incredibly unhelpful.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If (accepted moral premise)+(truth of sanitized HBD)–>(one political policy), while (exact same moral premise)+(falsity of sanitized HBD)–>(completely different and incompatible political policy), then sanitized HBD has political consequences.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can say HBD is value-neutral and scientific and non-political, but that ain’t gonna defend you when you start making claims that displease a political majority. No amount of “but I’m not a politician” will save you from the politics.

            If you refuse to plug in any value into HBD, people will assume you’re plugging it in implicitly and penalize you anyway. They have no way of knowing if you’re honestly being clueless or if you’re stirring the pot feigning innocence since we’re pretty good at ambiguity.

            Maybe you were even filling the gaps for me and assuming what political group I’m making implications about with my neutral-value statements, as you were reading my comment!

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Sanitised HBD can have political consequences without determining a unique political stance.

            I am not saying HBD is anything in particular, just noting mismatches between how it is presented, and what people do with it.

            Suspcions that HBD is a trojan horse fr some far right philosphy can be allayed by putting forward an explicitly political, explicitly non right wing version,…for some values of ‘can’.

      • keranih says:

        You might consider how it would be for you if whatever race or weight or ethnic group or whatever you are– whatever your characteristics– if people said that you and all others in some category you are in, are inferior– and said or implied that people in your category ought not be allowed to vote or go to a university or own property or have certain types of jobs or have various other rights etc.

        We could do that. Or maybe we could focus our attention to things that are actually on the table, and not get distracted by side projects.

        For instance, maybe we might want to provide a good education – one that pushed each student to the limits of what they themselves could learn. We know that this will vary from student to student so we don’t expect every student to equally excell. And if we have a system where one subgroup of students repeatedly doesn’t do as well as another, it’s worth our time to see if the system is failing to educate this group as well as the others. And if the shortcoming is in the system, then we need to adjust the system, so that all student groups are treated the same.

        But if this one group of students is actually different from other, better performing groups of students, then it would be a mistake to treat all the students the same, because they’re not. In order to meet our goal of getting the best outcome for all students, we’d have to treat the groups that were different, differently. Maybe they need hearing aids. Maybe they need more classes in English language. Maybe they need individual prescriptions for eyeglasses. Maybe this group has had FAS and we need to understand what the likely top performance is.

        HBC is a means to grapple with various causes of different outcomes in order for us as a society to reach the outcome we want. Refusing to consider HBC’s implications traps us into the false notion that all people are just alike in strengths and weaknesses.

        The only people I can think of who would rationally want everyone to be thought of as the same would be the sort of people who have come to the conclusion that they have more strengths under the current system than other people, and don’t want the other alternative strengths of other people to be acknowledged or valued – nor for additional assistance to be available to those people who need it in order to succeed (*) in the current system.

        To which I can only say, what mean-hearted selfish racists.

        (*) Note that I say “succeed” – not “be equal”. We’ve already established that one person differs from the next, and when society tries to impose attribute equality – instead of, say, equality under the law – it never ends well.

        • Jill says:

          Why look at average racial differences when you could be looking at individual characteristics? It seems that when people do this, they often want to stereotype every individual with the average characteristics of their race.

          Education can be done by looking at individual kids’ needs.

          This kind of stereotyping is most crazy in the case of gender. Do you realize that around 50% of the people in the world are male, and around 50% are female. There is great variation within each group, of course. To treat an individual in school a certain way because of their gender, rather than their individual characteristics, is absurd.

          • “Why look at average racial differences when you could be looking at individual characteristics?”

            And goes on to talk about the case of gender.

            One obvious answer is that people routinely make factual claims that hinge on the unstated assumption that there are no relevant differences in the average characteristics by gender (or race).

            When you read a claim about the male/female wage difference or how much less blacks make on average than whites, it is taken for granted that it demonstrates the existence and scale of discrimination. That claim depends on an assumption about average racial (or gender) characteristics–an assumption which there is no evidence for and lots of evidence against.

            And if anyone points that out he gets the sort of response Jill recently demonstrated–the assumption that anyone who points it out want to ban blacks or women from certain jobs, not let them vote, … .

            The obvious explanation for that behavior is that people making the discrimination claim know that the evidence they offer does not support the conclusion they reach without the assumption that average characteristics are the same, and so want to shut up anyone who points out that the assumption is false.

            Perhaps Jill can offer an alternative explanation more flattering to her and those who share her views?

          • Jill says:

            You’ve heard about racial and gender discrimination before, I am sure. And decided that all evidence for it that you’ve ever heard was invalid. I expect that nothing I can say will change your mind.

            Why do you think such huge percentages of women have gone into professions such as law, medicine, science and engineering in the last few decades, as compared to the previous few? Are you thinking these professions were totally open to them all those previous years, and there was never any discrimination at all, but they just suddenly decided to go into them recently? Because female genetics changed? Or what?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think that Jill is right about gender discrimination. There are a lot of women since, say, the 1970s or so (as I understand it, the 1970s saw the first generation of young women who really got a chance to enter the professions in a big way) who entered professional/managerial careers in large numbers (less affluent women always worked – they had to) who previously would have only had secretarial jobs open to them.

            To put it another way, women who had the capability to be doctors, lawyers, etc, were previously confined to jobs they were overqualified for, and “jobs” not “careers” – the assumption was usually that they would quit their job when they got married and had kids.

          • Ruprect says:

            After her children were grown, my grandmother had the opportunity to go back to work, and my grandfather forbade it, because he would have considered it a comment on his ability to provide for his family.
            So, there was discrimination and social pressure preventing women working. Then again, when my grandfather was made redundant he fell into a deep depression and believed that he was worthless – he only snapped out of it when my grandmother threatened to leave him – then he cheered up and enjoyed early retirement.
            So… maybe the best way of looking at it is that there was a social system where gender roles were fairly strictly defined, but actually men were equally “locked-in” to their roles as women, and there was always a degree of give and take in terms of how men and women interacted with each other on a family level.
            Also, even now, there are certainly professions, which, as a man, I would hesitate before getting into (nursing, primary school teaching), even though there might no direct discrimination, in exactly the same way as women might feel discouraged from entering certain professions.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            @Jill:

            David obviously did not imply that there is and never was discrimination against women or blacks.
            His point was:

            P1:There are racial differences in some form of accomplishment .
            P2:We know there are no differences between races.
            C1: Therefore blacks are being discriminated against.

            He is criticising the whole reasoning , based on questioning P2. Just because there are differences in outcome, we cannot say that they are based on discrimination.

          • “You’ve heard about racial and gender discrimination before, I am sure. And decided that all evidence for it that you’ve ever heard was invalid.”

            Your ability to predict my views is about as bad as your ability to understand other people–you are living in a world created by your own imagination.

            When my sister went to Bolt (Berkeley Law School) in the late sixties, women were about ten percent of the class. One year, of the two top students in each of three classes, five of the six were women. That’s pretty strong evidence that, for one reason or another, it was much harder for a woman than a man to end up in a top school, hence that the ones who did were, on average, abler than the men. Currently, law schools are about 50/50, and there doesn’t seem to be a big difference in how well male and female students do.

            That’s good evidence that the reason for the earlier situation was not a difference in the distribution of innate ability, although one can’t tell if it was discrimination in the admissions process or social pressures such that only women who really wanted to be lawyers and were good at it end up in top law school.

            My point is not that there was no discrimination. Your insistence that I must believe that is evidence that you are unable to understand views different from yours. To repeat:

            One observes a difference in outcomes by race or gender. That difference might be due to discrimination (broadly defined–I’m including the social pressure case), it might be due to innate differences.

            Jill and those who agree with her confidently announce that the difference is due to discrimination.

            In order for that conclusion to follow from the evidence, they have to believe that there are no relevant innate differences. They have no evidence to support that belief.

            When someone points that out, hence that they don’t know how much of the difference in outcome is due to what, they attack him as a racist and insist, as Jill has just done, that he must believe that none of the difference is due to discrimination.

            Is it true:

            1. That people with your views routinely attribute observed differences in outcomes to discrimination?

            2. That in order to do so, one needs to be confident that there are not innate differences that could explain them.

            3. That there is no good basis for such confidence, hence

            4. No good basis for the conclusion. The difference might be due to discrimination, it might be due to innate differences, they don’t know which it is but pretend they do.

            Which of these four claims do you disagree with?

          • Jill says:

            David, what evidence do you have that the racial differences in performance are innate? If the gender differences were not innate– those differences in the percentages of women vs. men in professions– percentages that shifted hugely in recent decades– then what reason do you have to believe that the racial differences are innate?

            There could I suppose be innate differences. But there could be cows jumping over the moon too, in their space suits, coming from other planets. What reason do you have for positing innate differences between blacks and whites?

          • “What reason do you have for positing innate differences between blacks and whites?”

            What reason to you have for positing that there are no such differences ? Your argument depends on that assumption, since you are the one who claims that differences in outcome are due to discrimination. I don’t know what innate differences there are, so don’t know how much of the difference in outcomes is due to discrimination. Similarly for gender.

            My grounds for positing that some differences exist are pretty obvious. We believe, or at least I believe, in Darwinian evolution, which implies that humans are “as if designed” for reproductive success. The characteristics that are optimal for reproductive success depend on the environment. Sub-saharan Africa is a strikingly different environment from Europe or East Asia, so we would expect a different distribution of optimal characteristics for each. That fits what we see for easily observable characteristics such as skin color, build, facial features. Why would you assume that all of those differ, but less easily observable characteristics don’t?

            Yet your argument depends on that assumption. Do you have any reason to make it other than that assuming it leads to conclusions you like?

            Your position is even less defensible in the case of gender differences. We are as if designed for reproductive success. The essential difference between male and female is their role in reproduction. It would be an extraordinary coincidence if the characteristics, physical, psychological, or whatever, that were optimal for the male role in reproduction were identical to those optimal for the female role.

            And, of course, observable physical characteristics are noticeably different, not only in ways directly linked to reproduction. As we would expect.

            I am repeatedly struck by the fact that people on the left make fun of people on the right because some of the latter say they don’t believe in evolution–and then refuse to accept the most obvious implications of evolution when those implications don’t fit their ideology.

          • Jill says:

            I don’t think it follows from Darwinian evolution that average genetic differences between races are necessarily the reasons for average differences in social or economic status between/among races.

            Certainly it’s possible. But not likely, in my view.

            My concern is that such views are very very often used for the purpose of justifying discrimination against certain categories of people. I happen to be more concerned with the effects of beliefs on our society than with the actual beliefs themselves.

            Everybody has their right to their own opinions. But it makes a BIG difference whether certain views are typically used to harm certain categories of people.

            The belief that average genetic differences between races are necessarily the reasons for average differences in social or economic status between/among races– or that they should be– this belief has a troubled history. It’s been connected to ethnic cleansing and all kinds of other brutalities.

            Look at this article. It happened only 10 years ago.

            https://www.theguardian.com/science/2005/jan/18/educationsgendergap.genderissues

            “The president of Harvard University has provoked a furor by arguing that men outperform women in maths and sciences because of biological difference.”

          • “I don’t think it follows from Darwinian evolution that average genetic differences between races are necessarily the reasons for average differences in social or economic status between/among races. ”

            I am not sure it has gotten through to you yet that nobody in this conversation says that such differences are necessarily the reason. Why do you keep talking as though that’s the position you are arguing against?

            As I have said over and over again, I don’t know how much of the difference in outcomes is due to what cause. You pretend that you do.

            “Certainly it’s possible. But not likely, in my view.”

            And your reason for thinking it is not likely is? So far you have only given a reason to want to say it is not likely–whether true or not.

            You might want to look at what the president of Harvard actually said. You will discover that in that case as in this, you are misrepresenting “X is a possible explanation for Y” as “X is the explanation for Y.” Or, more probably, believing other people who misrepresent it in that fashion because that fits your prejudices. You are thus supporting the idea that if someone makes a true statement you disapprove of, he should be punished for doing so. As in that case.

            I offered four statements and asked which you disagreed with. You did not answer.

            If your real view is “for all I know racial and gender differences are responsible for the difference in outcomes, but we should pretend to know they are not and attack anyone who disagrees as a racist” you might at least have the honesty to say so. At this point, that’s the only sense I can make of your position.

          • Jill says:

            I don’t think our communication is working here, David. And I am at a loss to guess how/if it might be able to work. I think we have different goals and values about what a conversation is.

          • ” I think we have different goals and values about what a conversation is.”

            That’s possible. You keep attacking a position nobody is arguing for and ignoring the position actually being argued for–straw manning at the extreme. I can’t tell if you are unable to understand the views of people who disagree with you or if your real position is one you are unwilling to defend in public.

          • erenold says:

            I did not believe in HBD until I read @David Friedman’s summary above. When stated as above, I have to say I find HBD’s conclusions quite disconcertingly convincing.

            Can I ask a question in good faith, as someone with little to no knowledge of evolutionary biology whatsoever. I would presume that a minimum number of generations must pass before tangible differences would arise both within (gender differences) and without (racial differences) a population. I seem to recall that in yeast experiments, the required number of generations was in the many tens of thousands. Have there been anything like enough generations for something like human diversity to take form, since our racial populations diverged?

          • Richard says:

            @erenold
            The most striking example is perhaps the russian fox experiment (eminently googleable). The short version is that given sufficient selection pressure, ten generations is enough to give major differences. There has been plenty of time for humans.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            David, I think Jill is being honest here. They literally said that even if HBD is true, it’s better to pretend that it’s not. Maybe they are just following through on that statement.

            Besides discrimination and HBD, there is another explanation for different outcomes: Cultural conditioning. Obviously the female gender role is different from the male one, so they behave differently and make different choices. However, I don’t see how this is something that is unequivocally bad because there are trade-offs. Women earn less than men, but are more satisified with their life.

          • Anonymous says:

            Can I ask a question in good faith, as someone with little to no knowledge of evolutionary biology whatsoever. I would presume that a minimum number of generations must pass before tangible differences would arise both within (gender differences) and without (racial differences) a population. I seem to recall that in yeast experiments, the required number of generations was in the many tens of thousands. Have there been anything like enough generations for something like human diversity to take form, since our racial populations diverged?

            I seem to recall an experiment on rats that showed significant effects after four generations.

            As others have mentioned, divergence rate varies with selection pressure. Sufficiently deadly environments would cause rapid changes in any surviving populations – consider the prevalence of Black Plague immunity among western Europeans. To this day, there are regions where bearers of the mutation that immunizes them are like 80% of the population, where in unaffected regions of Europe, it’s approximately 0%. (Overall, about 10% of modern day Euros bear the immunity gene. It also immunizes vs AIDS.)

          • Anonymous says:

            David, I think Jill is being honest here. They literally said that even if HBD is true, it’s better to pretend that it’s not. Maybe they are just following through on that statement.

            That’s a strange definition of honesty.

            Besides discrimination and HBD, there is another explanation for different outcomes: Cultural conditioning. Obviously the female gender role is different from the male one, so they behave differently and make different choices. However, I don’t see how this is something that is unequivocally bad because there are trade-offs. Women earn less than men, but are more satisified with their life.

            Women earn less because they work different jobs. The calculation used to show the wage gap is about as dishonest as statistics can get.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.” — Megan McArdle

          • keranih says:

            @ Jill –

            You said:

            Why do you think such huge percentages of women have gone into professions such as law, medicine, science and engineering in the last few decades, as compared to the previous few?

            To me, the far more interesting question is why are there huge differences in the percentage of women who have gone into medicine and health-related professions vs the percentage who have gone into (equally male dominated) professions such as physics, construction, and truck driving? We can agree that there were social pressures that across the board limited the number of women in the work force. When those pressures lifted, why did women only enter some professions, and not all of them?

            Edit – forgot to add this link to a 1970s to 2010 comparison of occupation segregation.

          • John Schilling says:

            I seem to recall that in yeast experiments, the required number of generations was in the many tens of thousands. Have there been anything like enough generations for something like human diversity to take form, since our racial populations diverged?

            Yeast reproduce asexually, which tends to greatly reduce the rate of evolutionary adaptation. They do have an alternate mode of sexual reproduction that emerges under environmental stress, but even then they aren’t very good at it and don’t do it too often. Possibly on account of the inherent creepiness of being fungi.

            So, a thousand or so yeast-generations, but only a fraction of those are the evolutionarily-useful sexual type. As others have noted, mammals under stress can show significant evolutionary adaptation in ten generations or so.

          • John Schilling says:

            “After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.”

            You’ve also lost the power to learn from them, because why should anyone try to teach you anything new when you are doing such a good impression of not listening?

            All you can do is live in your bubble, and maybe wear yourself out preaching at the “ignorant masses” outside. The bubble is more comfortable.

          • Jill says:

            “You keep attacking a position nobody is arguing for and ignoring the position actually being argued for–straw manning at the extreme. I can’t tell if you are unable to understand the views of people who disagree with you or if your real position is one you are unwilling to defend in public.”

            Interesting. I would say the same about you. I also find you to be rather insulting and demanding. And I’m hearing you accuse me more than once, of accusing other people of being racist, which I have not done.

            There are lots of people on this board who aren’t insulting, demanding or accusatory– or at least not very often. So I prefer to converse with them instead.

            If you want to entice someone into a discussion with you, you have a strange way of doing it. However, I don’t imagine you are aware that you are doing these things at all. So there’s nothing that can really be communicated here, as usual.

            The best of luck to you and those who get something out of discussing matters with you. I don’t think I am ever going to be one of them.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Once you start going on about Truth you’ve already convinced most people you’re a hopeless zealot.

          • “And I’m hearing you accuse me more than once, of accusing other people of being racist, which I have not done.”

            The beginning of this was your explanation of why someone who believed in HBD and said so might get a hostile reception. That explanation took it for granted that “believe in HBD” meant thinking that some races were inferior, should not be allowed to vote, should not be allowed to hold some jobs. I think most people, including you, would describe that view as racist. You don’t have to use the word.

            You then repeatedly attacked the view that every member of a race was inferior, a view nobody here was proposing. Probably also within your definition of racist.

            But if you are unwilling to respond to my arguments, for whatever reason, not arguing with me may be prudent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            For a very knowledgable academic, you can be surprisingly uncharitable in debate/discussion.

            Sometimes I think it’s because you can’t imagine where the other person is coming from. But much of the time I feel like it’s motivated by a desire to “crush your enemy” … or something.

            Here is the question, then. Is the following a central example of a position held by those who ascribe to “HBD”?

            “1 in 5 American blacks are borderline retarded and the average Sub-Saharan black is borderline retarded.”

          • @HeelBearCub:

            It’s possible that your explanation is correct, but from my side if feels like frustration at someone who refuses to respond to the argument. Over and over again. Possibly linked to my being an academic and so not expecting people to behave like that.

            So far as your question, I don’t know what makes something qualify as a central position. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people who believe in HBD would say that.

            But even if every believer in HBD believed that it would not justify Jill’s version since it does not imply anything about all blacks.

            I’m waiting for someone to point at a believer in HBD who thinks Thomas Sowell is of below average IQ.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Jill seems to me like she is not familiar with many of the “standard” conservative arguments. I think she some times glosses over points because of this. (Sorry to talk about you in the third person, Jill. This is just my impression, I could be wrong.)

            “since it does not imply anything about all blacks.”
            I assume you are saying it doesn’t imply anything about any individual black person.

            All, I can say is that, assuming -2SD IQ among Sub-Saharans is a central HBD position, it is certainly saying something about the vast majority of people. Saying 95% of Sub-Saharans aren’t as intelligent as someone in the lowest 6% of American whites is a pretty large claim. I mean, that would put a huge chunk of Africans in group homes if they lived here.

            And I have seen the 2 SD claim not infrequently. I believe it is bog-standard in self-described HBD circles. Do you have some evidence to the contrary?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            2 standard deviations isn’t the HBD position. 2 standard deviations is what the current IQ tests results are.

            That doesn’t mean the genetic IQ is 2 standard deviations below; I don’t think the HBDers (or mainstream genetics evidence) has come up with a definite value as much as a range.

          • “Jill seems to me like she is not familiar with many of the “standard” conservative arguments.”

            Or libertarian arguments. Or, so far as I can judge, any serious arguments against her standard model progressive orthodoxy. A few days ago I described her to someone else who reads the blog as pleasant but naive.

            That explains the first time that she responded to someone by explaining that it wasn’t surprising if people reacted negatively to his telling them that members of some racial groups shouldn’t be allowed to vote or have the same rights as other people. That, presumably, is what people on the left believe that people on the right believe.

            But she kept on ignoring straightforward arguments, never responding to them, imputing to other people arguments they hadn’t made. At some point naivete becomes an inadequate explanation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            In reading back, Jill’s position seems to (roughly) be that a) every child should be treated individually and as close to optimally as possible, b1) this is not happening, b2) and poverty disproportionately affects black children c) therefore, the deviations in outcomes pointed to by HBD advocates aren’t good evidence of innate differences, d) therefore, saying there are innate differences is to call blacks inferior, e) which sounds an awful lot like arguments that were made in the recent past.

            But, people want to concentrate on (d) and (e) rather than the whole chain.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Samuel Skinner:
            If the 2 SDs isn’t the genetic difference, and we don’t know how much of the difference is genetic, then why would one claim to know that there is a genetic difference at all? The whole argument (we know blacks have innately lower IQ) falls apart, doesn’t it?

          • Anonymous says:

            a) every child should be treated individually and as close to optimally as possible, b1) this is not happening,

            It’s not happening because it’s impractical, unless you want to advocate homeschooling. (Which is a decent proposition in its own right.)

            b2) and poverty disproportionately affects black children

            If we take “whites” as the standard, AFAIK, every racial grouping is going to have a different rate of affectedness vs whites.

            c) therefore, the deviations in outcomes pointed to by HBD advocates aren’t good evidence of innate differences,

            How does that follow? White children aren’t being catered to specially here – they attend the same mass education facilities as black children, Asian children and Hispanic children.

            d) therefore, saying there are innate differences is to call blacks inferior,

            Inasmuch one considers differences in intelligence grounds for the “inferior” label.

            e) which sounds an awful lot like arguments that were made in the recent past.

            Guilt by association, eh?

          • “therefore, the deviations in outcomes pointed to by HBD advocates aren’t good evidence of innate differences,”

            This has the argument backwards. The claim isn’t “deviations in outcome are good evidence of innate differences.” It’s “there is evidence for innate differences and there are reasons to expect them, hence differences in outcome are not good evidence of the existence or magnitude of discrimination.”

            I thought I had made that point several times over already. The bog standard argument assumes that differences in outcome must be due to discrimination. Once you recognize that innate differences may exist, that assumption becomes indefensible. You then have to either provide evidence that, in this case, innate differences are too small to explain much of the difference in outcome, which nobody seems prepared to do, or concede that you do not know how much, if any, of the cause of different outcomes is discrimination. Which Jill and those who agree with her seem unwilling to do.

            Or insist that differences in outcome must be due to discrimination and anyone who denies it is a bad person.

            Jill mentioned the controversy over a talk by Larry Summers in which he discussed why there were relatively few women professors in fields such as math. He suggested that one possible reason, in addition to discrimination and women being less willing to make the commitment in time that success in such fields required, was that the variance in relevant abilities was greater for men than for women, hence more men at the very high (and, although I don’t know if he said, low) end of the distribution.

            And for offering that possibility he was ferociously attacked. The position isn’t “You can’t be sure innate differences are responsible,” which is true, it’s “You can’t consider the possibility that innate differences might be responsible.” And, if you do, should be punished.

            Even when, as in that case, there is evidence for the relevant difference.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            No, I don’t think I have the argument backwards. We see large differences in outcomes between blacks and whites and HBD advocates assert this is essentially due to innate differences.

            This is very different than asserting that some portion, perhaps very tiny, perhaps large, we don’t know, and we can’t draw an conclusions is due to innate differences in some sub-population which we can’t precisely define.

            Do I need to go find some examples of the people who are asserting the measured 2SD deviation in IQ in the Sub-Saharan population is due to innate differences? Would that change your position?

            The Larry Summers brouhaha is perhaps not so illustrative because he was (more or less) speaking off the cuff and therefore has no prepared speech text to fall back on to show what he meant one way or the other. But my understanding is that he gave the impression to some that he was asserting that gender differences in Academic field selection might be the result of innate differences, full stop. In addition, he said multiple times that he was “trying to provoke”, which suggests that he was trying to be offensive (in some way). Acting surprised when people were then offended seems , well, asinine.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            HBD advocates assert this is essentially due to innate differences

            gender differences in Academic field selection might be the result of innate differences

            Can you see the difference between these positions, and why one who speaks the latter may be displeased at being accused of the worst behavior of those who speak the former?

            How likely is someone who says “I think there are statistically significant gender and race differences in preference and innate ability” to be labeled an HBD advocate, despite not saying all that other stuff you object to and not self-identifying as such? How might this contribute to a usage different than the one you’re proposing?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Inferential Distance:
            You should parse what I wrote as “might be completely the result of innate differences”.

            Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

          • @HBC:

            “We see large differences in outcomes between blacks and whites and HBD advocates assert this is essentially due to innate differences.”

            What you wrote and I responded to was:

            “therefore, the deviations in outcomes pointed to by HBD advocates aren’t good evidence of innate differences,”

            Which implies that the HBD advocates claimed the deviations in outcome were good evidence of innate differences. That was what I described as getting the argument backwards.

            Can you point at someone who deduces the innate differences from the differences in outcomes?

            A different claim would be “Here is the evidence for innate differences. They are large enough to fully explain the differences in outcomes.” I don’t know if anyone says that, but it wouldn’t astonish me. It doesn’t prove there is no discrimination, but, if true, it proves that the outcome differences are at most weak evidence for discrimination.

            The case where such an argument might be doable, at least approximately, is gender. You could calculate what percentage of math professors at top schools were female, somehow estimate how far out on the tail of the distribution math professors at top schools are, use the data on the IQ distribution to estimate the m/f ratio that far out on the tail, and compare. There are a lot of problems with that argument, but it would at least tell you whether it was plausible that that explained much of the difference.

            In the general case, I don’t see how you could do anything much more than demonstrate the existence of substantial innate differences.

            Perhaps you can point me at web pages that provide evidence of exactly what argument people who identify as believers in HBD make? I’m judging by what arguments I have seen online.

            I don’t think I have seen anyone say “we observe that black students have SAT scores two standard deviations below white students, that shows us how large the innate difference in ability between the races is,” which I think would correspond to the argument you are attributing to them.

          • (about Larry Summers)

            “But my understanding is that he gave the impression to some that he was asserting that gender differences in Academic field selection might be the result of innate differences, full stop. ”

            According to the summaries I saw, he offered three possible explanations. That was one of them. Presumably if that’s a possible explanation, it could be the entire explanation.

            Why do you find that offensive, assuming you do? Do you disagree with the factual claim that for some measurable traits (I think the example is IQ) the female distribution is tighter than the male distribution? If that is true, wouldn’t it provide an explanation for fewer women than men who were very good mathematicians? If so, is there some reason people should pretend it doesn’t?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            If the 2 SDs isn’t the genetic difference, and we don’t know how much of the difference is genetic, then why would one claim to know that there is a genetic difference at all? The whole argument (we know blacks have innately lower IQ) falls apart, doesn’t it?

            This may shock you, but there are black people who don’t live in Africa.

          • Anonymous says:

            The case where such an argument might be doable, at least approximately, is gender. You could calculate what percentage of math professors at top schools were female, somehow estimate how far out on the tail of the distribution math professors at top schools are, use the data on the IQ distribution to estimate the m/f ratio that far out on the tail, and compare. There are a lot of problems with that argument, but it would at least tell you whether it was plausible that that explained much of the difference.

            La Griffe du Lion did just that.
            http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math.htm
            http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math2.htm

          • Anonymous says:

            You should parse what I wrote as “might be completely the result of innate differences”.

            I believe that HBD is true, and that statement is wrong. “Mostly” is as far as it goes.

            If you want to read someone who believes in HBD (indeed, advocates it) and isn’t a Death Eater, look up JayMan’s blog.

            https://jaymans.wordpress.com/jaymans-race-inheritance-and-iq-f-a-q-f-r-b/
            https://jaymans.wordpress.com/hbd-fundamentals/

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            “Why do you find that offensive, assuming you do?”

            I was talking about how people at the conference reacted and potentially why. You can’t just ignore the part where I pointed to Sumners being intentionally offensive (he indicated that his intent was to provoke people). No one should be surprised if he succeeded at offending people.

            This is one of the things that drives me up the wall when having a conversation with you. You take one sentence and ignore everything else and then pound it like you are on debate team.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You should parse what I wrote as “might be completely the result of innate differences”.

            Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

            I was talking about how people at the conference reacted and potentially why. You can’t just ignore the part where I pointed to Sumners being intentionally offensive (he indicated that his intent was to provoke people). No one should be surprised if he succeeded at offending people.

            He offered three explanations, phrasing it as solely advocating for the one you like the least is disingenuous. Yes, some people behave irrationally (i.e. ignoring the other explanations), a rational person should expect that some people will behave irrationally. That does not excuse the irrational behavior, however. Bad things are still bad even if they’re predictable.

            One of the three explanations (the limited pool of women to draw on) is so empirically strong as to be beyond arguing. One of the three (women focus on raising children which harms their ability to compete) is ostensibly sexist (innate gender difference in preference), but is again borne out by the evidence, to the point that feminist lobby groups advocate for maternity leave and support for children’s day-care to help women have careers. Even the third explanation has evidence supporting it, though not to the degree the other two do.

            Additionally, you are repeatedly focusing on “HBD” as it is practiced by the most objectionable group of people who adopt the term (“1 in 5 American blacks are borderline retarded and the average Sub-Saharan black is borderline retarded.”). However, none of the people in this thread have advocated for that particular brand of “HBD”, and the existence of people who ascribe to “HBD” and do not agree with the aforementioned highly objectionable people is sufficient evidence for the category “HBD but not absurdly racist” to exist. Furthermore, you have not answered the question about people accusing others of being proponents of “HBD” for holding positions far less objectionable than the ones you keep pointing at.

            Finally, I posit that there is an important difference between believing in “HBD” and holding one’s belief in “HBD” to be a central identity, and that focusing on the latter category of people is deliberately weak-manning the concept of “HBD”. That’s like criticizing science because science fans keep getting science wrong.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Inferential Distance:
            “He offered three explanations, phrasing it as solely advocating for the one you like the least is disingenuous.”

            You seem to be ignoring some of the words I am using, which leads to you incorrectly parsing my statement. First you ignored “full stop”, now you are ignoring “might”. Clearly if I have the word “might” it admits that there are other possibilities (although I didn’t explicitly say they were discussed). I also said I didn’t think the Summers flap was particularly illustrative. I think it depends too much on reported impressions, and Summers can’t point at an actual text of his remarks.

            IOW, the Summers flap is not a very good example of a central position on HBD. I’m not even sure he describes himself as an HBD proponent.

            As to your point about me arguing against HBD positions not being advocated by anyone here: a) The question is not whether anyone here is doing it, but whether it is the central position of those who label themselves HBD proponents, and b) the OP that onyomi wrote was asking why there was a reaction against the term or a reluctance to use it, which necessarily depends on the central perception of the phrase, not even the central use.

            Finally, I want to point out that in this sub-thread I came in mostly because I thought Friedman was doing a bad job of parsing Jill’s argument. A fair amount of the conversation confuses my summation of what I presume to be Jill’s position as if it was my own. My position would be more nuanced than Jill’s.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You seem to be ignoring some of the words I am using, which leads to you incorrectly parsing my statement. First you ignored “full stop”, now you are ignoring “might”. Clearly if I have the word “might” it admits that there are other possibilities (although I didn’t explicitly say they were discussed). I also said I didn’t think the Summers flap was particularly illustrative. I think it depends too much on reported impressions, and Summers can’t point at an actual text of his remarks.

            No, I didn’t ignore your words, I picked the verb “to phrase” and the adjective “disingenuous” very carefully. Firstly, “full stop” wasn’t part of the sourced article, and the fact that he proposed 3 mechanisms suggests that he thinks the outcome is a result of all 3 mechanisms. Secondly, what you chose to omit in your summary matters, and that your word choice technically allows for the truth does not justify the spurious focus.

            In fact, a direct quote of Summers from the article: “The real issue is the overall size of the pool, and it’s less clear how much the size of the pool was held down by discrimination.”.

            You were framing for heat instead of light.

            a) The question is not whether anyone here is doing it

            Bullshit, this whole comment chain started because Jill implied that Anonymous Comment believed some races “are inferior– and said or implied that people in your category ought not be allowed to vote or go to a university or own property or have certain types of jobs or have various other rights etc.”.

            whether it is the central position of those who label themselves HBD proponents

            Then the people you are defending are begging the question, because it has not been determined that “1 in 5 American blacks are borderline retarded and the average Sub-Saharan black is borderline retarded” is a central HBD position. I have seen the assertion, but not the evidence to back it up, beyond pointing to the non-zero number of people who hold said position (contrasted with the non-zero number of people who don’t hold the position).

            You have again not answered the question regarding the label “HBD” being weaponized against far less objectionable positions. I assert that it does get weaponized that way, and people who don’t have prior exposure to the term, because they do not hang out with horrible racists on the internet, will understandably adopt a definition that denotes something far less objectionable than “horrible racism”.

            Finally, I want to point out that in this sub-thread I came in mostly because I thought Friedman was doing a bad job of parsing Jill’s argument. A fair amount of the conversation confuses my summation of what I presume to be Jill’s position as if it was my own. My position would be more nuanced than Jill’s.

            In case you missed it, Jill didn’t know what HBD meant, so Jill couldn’t have been confused by a non-central usage of “HBD”, even assuming your definition of central “HBD” is correct. The definition given was not the highly objectionable version. Your constant references to the highly objectionable version are irrelevant.

            Jill implied Anonymous Comment thought certain races “ought not be allowed to vote or go to a university or own property or have certain types of jobs or have various other rights etc.” because they said they believed that “significant genetic differences exist between identifiable racial clusters, and these genetic differences lead to meaningful phenotypical differences in abilities, temperaments, and measurable qualities and outcomes.”.

            If Jill did not mean to cause such offense, she may wish to choose her words more carefully in the future. For example, if she wishes to communicate that other people are making assumptions, she should say “they assume you also hold [MEAN BELIEF]”, not “if you hold [MEAN BELEIF]”. A conditional statement is only explanatory if the antecedent is true or the consequent is false, and we know the consequent is true (that people are upset at Anonymous Comment for his beliefs); therefor, by Grice’s Maxim of Relevance, Jill was asserting the antecedent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “therefor, by Grice’s Maxim of Relevance, Jill was asserting the antecedent.”

            OK, I actually laughed here.

            I don’t think Jill is very good at argument. I don’t think she parses statements very carefully. I don’t think she has absorbed the source material of what she is arguing about. I don’t think she uses language carefully. I’m not sure if my opinion on that matters to you or not.

            But, none of that should necessarily prevent us from steel-manning or strong-manning what she is saying.

            As to your problems with my statement about Summers, let me go back and repeat the sentence in full: “But my understanding is that he gave the impression to some that he was asserting that gender differences in Academic field selection might be the result of innate differences, full stop.”

            So, I put lots and lots of caveats in that statement. I wasn’t even referring to the article that Jill linked. Just to my understanding of the the origin of the brouhaha. Further I said (twice now) that I didn’t think it was a good example of anything!

            As to the quotes directly from Summers, those are given to the Globe after the whole thing has become an issue, so they don’t tell us what he actually said in the conference.

            As to whether the phrase “HBD” is “weaponized”, I don’t know. My suspicion is that the people who say “HBD” (probably on both the pro and the con side) the loudest have turned it into a polarizing and simplistic term.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Steel-manning is not done to excuse the behavior of less thoughtful commenters. An insult is still an insult, even if the argument can be made without it. Insulting language is still objectionable even if the commenter doesn’t consciously realize it’s insulting; to forgive ignorance first requires acknowledgement that there was an offense to forgive.

            You’re correct that you did not literally say that Lawrence Summers said that gender differences in Academic field selection are be the result of innate differences. On the other hand, can you understand how phrasing “Dr Summers offered three explanations for the shortage of women in senior posts in science and engineering” as “he gave the impression to some that he was asserting that gender differences in Academic field selection might be completely the result of innate differences” might give the impression to some that you were asserting fault with Summers and not with the people who ignored the other two explanations?

            Edited to add:

            Transcript of Summers

            Vindication!

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ anonymous

            Thanks for posting that link. Here is what
            Ctl-C found when I searched for ‘provo’.

            I asked Richard, when he invited me to come here and speak, whether he wanted an institutional talk about Harvard’s policies toward diversity or whether he wanted some questions asked and some attempts at provocation, because I was willing to do the second and didn’t feel like doing the first. And so we have agreed that I am speaking unofficially
            ….
            And I think one sees relatively little evidence of that. So my best guess, to provoke you, of what’s behind all of this is
            ….
            I will have served my purpose if I have provoked thought on this question and provoked the marshalling of evidence to contradict what I have said.

          • “You can’t just ignore the part where I pointed to Sumners being intentionally offensive (he indicated that his intent was to provoke people). No one should be surprised if he succeeded at offending people.”

            Being provocative doesn’t translate as being offensive.

            We know about what he said. Whether or not he thought it would offend people, the question is still why people would be offended at it.

            “This is one of the things that drives me up the wall when having a conversation with you. You take one sentence and ignore everything else and then pound it like you are on debate team.”

            If I give a detailed response to everything in your comment and you give a detailed response to everything in my response and … the length of our comments will grow exponentially. Also very fast.

            I respond to what I have something I want to respond to. So far as “hammering,” when I make an argument I think important and get no response, I keep trying. Either the other person didn’t follow my argument, in which case I should explain it again, or he is deliberately evading because he has no response, in which case he should be (verbally) hammered.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @houseboatonstyxb
            Some selected excerpts of said “provocation”:

            That’s not a judgment about how it should be, not a judgment about what they should expect. But it seems to me that it is very hard to look at the data and escape the conclusion that that expectation is meeting with the choices that people make and is contributing substantially to the outcomes that we observe. […] Now that begs entirely the normative questions-which I’ll get to a little later-of, is our society right to expect that level of effort from people who hold the most prominent jobs? Is our society right to have familial arrangements in which women are asked to make that choice and asked more to make that choice than men? Is our society right to ask of anybody to have a prominent job at this level of intensity, and I think those are all questions that I want to come back to.

            So my sense is that the unfortunate truth-I would far prefer to believe something else, because it would be easier to address what is surely a serious social problem if something else were true-is that the combination of the high-powered job hypothesis and the differing variances probably explains a fair amount of this problem.

            The most controversial in a way, question, and the most difficult question to judge, is what is the role of discrimination? To what extent is there overt discrimination? Surely there is some. Much more tellingly, to what extent are there pervasive patterns of passive discrimination and stereotyping in which people like to choose people like themselves, and the people in the previous group are disproportionately white male, and so they choose people who are like themselves, who are disproportionately white male. No one who’s been in a university department or who has been involved in personnel processes can deny that this kind of taste does go on, and it is something that happens, and it is something that absolutely, vigorously needs to be combated.

            First, it would be very useful to know, with hard data, what the quality of marginal hires are when major diversity efforts are mounted. When major diversity efforts are mounted, and consciousness is raised, and special efforts are made, and you look five years later at the quality of the people who have been hired during that period, how many are there who have turned out to be much better than the institutional norm who wouldn’t have been found without a greater search. And how many of them are plausible compromises that aren’t unreasonable, and how many of them are what the right-wing critics of all of this suppose represent clear abandonments of quality standards. I don’t know the answer, but I think if people want to move the world on this question, they have to be willing to ask the question in ways that could face any possible answer that came out.
            […]
            Second, what about objective versus subjective factors in hiring? I’ve been exposed, by those who want to see the university hiring practices changed to favor women more and to assure more diversity, to two very different views. One group has urged that we make the processes consistently more clear-cut and objective, based on papers, numbers of papers published, numbers of articles cited, objectivity, measurement of performance, no judgments of potential, no reference to other things, because if it’s made more objective, the subjectivity that is associated with discrimination and which invariably works to the disadvantage of minority groups will not be present. I’ve also been exposed to exactly the opposite view, that those criteria and those objective criteria systematically bias the comparisons away from many attributes that those who contribute to the diversity have: a greater sense of collegiality, a greater sense of institutional responsibility. Somebody ought to be able to figure out the answer to the question of, if you did it more objectively versus less objectively, what would happen. Then you can debate whether you should or whether you shouldn’t, if objective or subjective is better. But that question ought to be a question that has an answer, that people can find.

            Let me just conclude by saying that I’ve given you my best guesses after a fair amount of reading the literature and a lot of talking to people. They may be all wrong. I will have served my purpose if I have provoked thought on this question and provoked the marshalling of evidence to contradict what I have said. But I think we all need to be thinking very hard about how to do better on these issues and that they are too important to sentimentalize rather than to think about in as rigorous and careful ways as we can. That’s why I think conferences like this are very, very valuable. Thank you.

          • “I’m not even sure he describes himself as an HBD proponent.”

            I’m pretty sure Summers doesn’t. But Jill offered his case as evidence of the terrible consequences of HBD beliefs. That’s where he came into the argument.

            “As to your point about me arguing against HBD positions not being advocated by anyone here: a) The question is not whether anyone here is doing it, but whether it is the central position of those who label themselves HBD proponents, and b) the OP that onyomi wrote was asking why there was a reaction against the term or a reluctance to use it, which necessarily depends on the central perception of the phrase, not even the central use.”

            If I remember the sequence correctly, someone posted that he couldn’t describe his (HBD) beliefs without getting attacked, and was bothered by that.

            Jill’s reply assumed that the beliefs he expressed included people of some races not being allowed to vote or to take some jobs, and pointed out that it wasn’t surprising if he was attacked for expressing those views.

            That struck me as a wildly distorted picture of HBD beliefs, so I said so. I offered Jill a similarly distorted picture someone might have of progressive beliefs to try to convey how wildly and unfairly distorted I thought her picture was, but she didn’t respond.

            If my memory of the sequence is correct, the question is either what views the original commenter had expressed, which we don’t know, or what views one might reasonably think he had expressed. I don’t believe the view Jill described in explaining why people would react negatively to it was anything close to a plausible guess at the latter. It was as if Jill described herself as a progressive and someone responded on the assumption that that meant a Stalinist.

            At a later stage in the argument, Jill was interpreting the view she was arguing against–I’m not clear if it was supposed to be mine or some generic HBD believer’s–as being that all individuals of a race were inferior. I never did get a response from anyone pointing me at an HBD supporter who thought Thomas Sowell had a below average IQ, which is what that would imply.

          • ” Clearly if I have the word “might” it admits that there are other possibilities (although I didn’t explicitly say they were discussed).”

            I think I, if not ID, read that correctly. The obvious question is why saying “here are three possible explanations, for all we know any one of them might explain the entire difference” would offend anyone.

            So far as your view that Summers was trying to offend people, what he said is perhaps relevant:

            “Summers opened his remarks by saying that he had been asked to be provocative, and he noted that women in science are not the only group “whose underrepresentation contributes to a shortage of role models for others who are considering being in that group.” For example, he said that statistics would reveal that Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking, which is an enormously high-paying profession in our society; that white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association; and that Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and in agriculture.”

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ InferentialDistance

            Maybe I should have added my personal opinion to my quotes from Summers.

            Ctl-F found four instances of ‘provo’. Three of them were things like ‘provoke discussion’ or ‘provoke gathering of evidence’. The fourth did not have that kind of predicate noun. It could be read either in the same way as the other three, or as an outlier indicating ‘annoy’ or ‘anger’ instead. The latter seems very unlikely (though there may have been a shade of it, suggesting ‘ get you interested’, ‘motivate you’, ‘challenge you’ to give him the arguments/evidence he is requesting.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            To all, re Larry Summers:
            First, thanks for the transcript. Second, I don’t think there is vindication in there for you, Inferential Distance.

            His three reasons for female underrepresentation, he summarized as (at the beginning): the job is “high powered”, “aptitude”, and finally “socialization” and “discrimination in search”. And then he says, “And in my own view, their importance probably ranks in exactly the order that I just described.”

            So he starts off by saying, he isn’t speaking as the Harvard president because he wants to be provocative, and then he says his opinion is that discrimination is the least of the issues (and implicitly says that discrimination once hired isn’t an issue at all).

            No one should be surprised that some people at the conference took that as “women don’t want to work hard, they aren’t smart enough, and, sure, they get some unfair discrimination”.

            I will just say that if you are trying to get people to listen to what you are saying this is a remarkably bad start. And some people at that point stopped listening to him.

            And this is not just a problem with the summary, because in the part of the speech where he addresses socialization and discrimination, he is essentially dismissing it as a possible explanation. Where he discusses the high-power part of the job, the entire thing is predicated on the idea that women innately can’t work as hard without being childless. The entire speech, taken as a whole, really does give the impression that he thinks that women, on average, have a lower ability to excel in the fields in which they are underrepresented, and if their is anything to be done about it, we will need to make the job somehow easier. But he very much wishes that this is not so and that he should be proved wrong, of course.

            And this could be true! I happen to think that both overt and unconscious discrimination plays a bigger part than he thinks, but that’s neither here nor there. However, to say his speech wasn’t fairly characterized is just plain wrong.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @HeelBearCub
            For a self-identified charitable reader, you can be surprisingly uncharitable in debate/discussion.

            Sometimes I think it’s because you can’t imagine where the other person is coming from. But much of the time I feel like it’s motivated by a desire to “crush your enemy” … or something.

            Here is the question, then. Is the following a central example of a statement that might give the impression to some that one is asserting that gender differences in Academic field be completely the result of innate differences?

            “The most controversial in a way, question, and the most difficult question to judge, is what is the role of discrimination? To what extent is there overt discrimination? Surely there is some. Much more tellingly, to what extent are there pervasive patterns of passive discrimination and stereotyping in which people like to choose people like themselves, and the people in the previous group are disproportionately white male, and so they choose people who are like themselves, who are disproportionately white male. No one who’s been in a university department or who has been involved in personnel processes can deny that this kind of taste does go on, and it is something that happens, and it is something that absolutely, vigorously needs to be combated.”

            ——

            I mean, you’ve literally walked back from “gave the impression that gender differences in Academic field might be completely the result of innate differences” to “gave the impression that discrimination might account for less than 50% of gender differences in Academic field”, but without acknowledging the distinction.

            I will just say that if you are trying to get people to listen to what you are saying this is a remarkably bad start. And some people at this point will stop listening to you.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @HeelBearCub

            And some people at that point stopped listening to him.
            […]
            However, to say his speech wasn’t fairly characterized is just plain wrong.

            Are you asserting that refusing to listen to what a person says is fair and charitable interpretation?

            Edited to add:

            No one should be surprised that some people at the conference took that as “women don’t want to work hard, they aren’t smart enough, and, sure, they get some unfair discrimination”.

            Again, bad behavior does not magically become good merely because it is predictable. That’s victim blaming, and you should know better.

            And this is not just a problem with the summary, because in the part of the speech where he addresses socialization and discrimination, he is essentially dismissing it as a possible explanation.

            No, he literally says that discrimination is absolutely, 100%, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a thing that exists and needs to be addressed. What he does is dismiss it as the majority contributor to outcome. As in, he asserts that discrimination accounts for less than 50% of difference in outcome. To phrase that as “dismissing it as a possible explanation” is incredibly uncharitable.

            The entire speech, taken as a whole, really does give the impression that he thinks that women, on average, have a lower ability to excel in the fields in which they are underrepresented

            because that’s what the evidence says! Leaving out that part is super, mega, insanely unfair. Deliberately leaving out the evidence is mischaracterizing the speech, because it makes “he’s a horrible sexist” as likely as “he followed the evidence” (more likely, given most people’s priors). “The evidence shows this outcome is to be expected even in the absence of bias” is extremely non-central sexism, and framing it as central sexism is the height of bullshitting.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ HBC

            I very much disagree with you, on many points. Here are a few of the shortest.

            You are using the word ‘hard’ for what he called ‘high powered jobs’. That’s mischaracterization. He is not talking about difficulty of the work, but about the long hours required (including home time on call). Remember the striking junior doctors?

            “Where he discusses the high-power part of the job, the entire thing is predicated on the idea that women innately can’t work as hard [ie as long hours] without being childless.”
            For this there is good evidence: a survey of women at the higher levels that showed that very strong pattern (Summers may have cited it).

            “and if their is anything to be done about it, we will need to make the job somehow easier.”
            ‘Easier’ is parallel with ‘hard/harder’, but distorts Summers’s meaning of ‘high-powered’ jobs even worse. ‘Hard’ is sort of a generic referring to any sort of difficulty or problem, so ‘long hours’ may fit under it. But ‘easier’ does not stretch that far that, er, easily

            “And some people at that point stopped listening to him.”
            There, I agree with you. As a 1970s feminist, I disagree with them. As professional women, they should have listened and got the right version (to rebut as requested).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Inferential Distance:
            I am trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to say two separate and distinct things:
            1) Larry Summers should not have been surprised by people taking offense and being unreceptive to the message of his speech. He started out in a way that was highly likely to prime some chunk of his audience to reject his message. That was my suspicion based on what people said after the fact and now that I have the transcript I view this suspicion as confirmed. This is essentially a stylistic critique, and therefore doesn’t make it actually a very good measure of any substantive arguments about “HBD” .

            2) Now that I have a full transcript of the speech, it appears that it is not even correct to assert that Summers views discrimination as an important or substantive factor in determining gender ratios in STEM academic representation.

            The part of the speech you quoted the beginning of is fairly explicit on this. The part you quote condemns discrimination when it occurs. I don’t think it is fair to say that Summers agrees with or condones discrimination. If that is what you understood me to be saying, I apologize for not being clear enough.

            But let’s quote the conclusion of that section:
            So my best guess, to provoke you, of what’s behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people’s legitimate family desires and employers’ current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong, because I would like nothing better than for these problems to be addressable simply by everybody understanding what they are, and working very hard to address them.

            Clearly Summers is saying that discrimination and socialization pressures exist, but that they don’t matter much compared to the other issues. Note that he says that factors 1 and 2 are “by far” responsible for gender imbalance. He repeats the phrase “to provoke you”, which indicates that he is being deliberate in causing anger, annoyance or some other strong emotion, by the dictionary definition. He is dismissing discrimination as an important factor and he knows that will make people mad. But he isn’t being provocative by saying something he doesn’t believe but thinks needs to be addressed. He specifically rejects that by repeating several times that he believes what he is saying.

            I’m not trying to “crush” Larry Summers. I admitted that what he is saying is possibly true! (although I don’t find it likely and I think is contraindicated by other evidence). I’m trying to accurately parse what he said.

            Am I trying “crush” you? Probably a little bit. I am human after all.

          • HeelBearCub says: