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OT54: Threadical Doctor

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. There are hidden threads every few days here. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Sorry for the low volume of blogging lately. My promotion to fourth-year resident has left me with less time and I’ve yet to find a way around that.

2. Thanks to everyone who donated to the Help Multiheaded Get Out Of Russia fund a couple of months ago. I’m happy to report that Multiheaded did in fact get out of Russia and is now in a European country. She can say more if she wants.

3. Latest person who needs help: Alison is originally from the Caribbean but has been in the US San Francisco Bay Area for a few months. She’s having immigration issues and for some reason being able to stay in the United Kingdom for a little while would help. If you are in the United Kingdom and willing to host somebody who many people in the rationalist community can vouch for being not an axe murderer, read more here.

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1,194 Responses to OT54: Threadical Doctor

  1. Lemminkainen says:

    Oh, my girlfriend is asking the same sort of question that I’m asking above. She’s about as smart as I am, I think. Both her undergrad degree and the PhD she’s currently pursuing are in early modern English literature. She’s previously worked in arts administration, serving the New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where she did a lot of coordination and event-planning type work. She has a gift, unusual among academics, for writing really funny and vivacious prose. She has more experience editing than I do, and with teaching writing at the collegiate level (which involves editing a fuckton of student papers.) She can read Middle English, Medieval French, and Latin, and she’s also a domain expert in literature, the history of Renaissance England, medieval and Early Modern European medicine, witchcraft, opera, and horror film.

    It’s important for her to find a job that would provide her with health insurance, or at least pay her enough to be able to afford it, because she has an autoimmune disease which needs regular medication.

  2. neonwattagelimit says:

    Serious question: what percentage of Donald Trump’s fame – and here I’m talking going back decades – is attributable to the mere fact that he has an unusually catchy and memorable last name?

    I mean, if his name were, say, Donald Schmidt, would he have been plastering that all over everything? I have to think not. Schmidt Tower, or Schmidt Hotel & Casino, does not have quite the same ring to it. This, plus a talent for manipulating the media, is what initially made Trump famous. The guy has literally been capitalizing on his name for his whole life – both because his father’s connections got him his start in business, and because his actual, literal name was weirdly easy for everyone to remember after he starting shouting it from the rooftops.

    • Lumifer says:

      if his name were, say, Donald Schmidt, would he have been plastering that all over everything?

      Well, there is a large chain of Gaylord hotels and convention centers.

    • Nornagest says:

      The Wynn Casino (built by Steve Wynn) comes to mind.

      • neonwattagelimit says:

        Fair enough. He may have plastered his named on his buildings. But neither Steve Wynn nor whoever created the Gaylord chain (Gaylord?) is remotely as famous as Donald Trump. I think his last name definitely helped him out.

        • Lumifer says:

          So you think that a guy with a weird AND politically incorrect last name like, say, Schwarzenegger would have difficulties in achieving success?

    • Pku says:

      I’ve seen this asked about Kevin Bacon.

  3. Lemminkainen says:

    I suspect this may get buried, so I might need to post it again next week, but here goes:

    So, I’m an academic historian who’s doing pretty well, but I acknowledge that there’s still a pretty decent chance that when I reach the end of my PhD program, I won’t be able to get a decent-salary-and-benefits academic job, or be unable to get such a job that doesn’t make me miserable.

    When you pursue a high-risk career, you’ve got to come up with a good plan B, something else you can do if your ideal doesn’t work out. I would like your help with that.

    My qualifications/talents:

    I have a BA in both pure mathematics and history from a top-20 American university. In a few years, I’ll also have a PhD in history. I speak and read French and Spanish fluently, speak and read Arabic well enough to effectively do archival research in the Middle East (and am getting better at it all the time), and I am currently learning Turkish and German. My IQ is around 148. I have a remarkable associative memory, which has allowed me to acquire a nigh-encyclopaedic knowledge of history, literature, the arts, politics, philosophy, and the social sciences, as well as a fairly strong layman’s grasp of the physical and life sciences. (I have expert-level knowledge in my actual domains of study.) I’m good at autonomously developing plans of action and following them through with minimal supervision (indeed, anybody who gets a PhD in my field has to have that skillset), and I’m fairly good at navigating unfamiliar environments. I would say that I’m also a fairly good writer, and I have a lot of experience editing others’ work (as both a peer and a teacher). I have fairly good social skills in small-group and one-on-one settings, and I’ve gotten praise from my students for communicating effectively on those scales. I used to be a fairly good programmer, but I haven’t written code in years.

    Problems/Constraints:
    I’ve never had a “real job.” I’ve just had a research internship at a pharmaceutical company in high school, REUs in college, and some TAships at my grad program (where I’m fully funded and earn a fairly generous stipend). My circadian rhythms are owlish, and I tend to function well below peak in the mornings (although a bit better if I get breakfast and coffee.) I also lose function much more quickly than most people do if I can’t get enough food (at the right times) and sleep. My alcohol tolerance is shockingly low for a tall man whose ancestors are northern Europeans. I’m still not great at speaking in front of large groups. (Although I expect I will get better at this with practice.)

    Things which could be either pros or cons:

    I’m bisexual, and tend to ping people’s gaydar. I have fairly strong, but unorthodox leftist political beliefs which probably wouldn’t be too hard for anybody to dig up. (I think that I’m somewhat better at not marking people as OUTGROUP ENEMY than most people are, which I guess is part of what makes me unorthodox.)

    Preferences:
    I like having autonomy, being treated with respect by bosses or clients, and having a flexible schedule or enough time off that I can have appropriate amounts of time for exercise, sex, and media consumption.

    So, what do you guys think would be good career options for me?

    • The original Mr. X says:

      You could try becoming a private tutor.

    • Lumifer says:

      Which end of the axis (work hard + make lots of money) vs (have a relaxed job + make little money) do you prefer?

      Also, are there spheres of work to which you have ideological objections — e.g. law, finance, etc?

      • Lemminkainen says:

        Probably the latter. I never plan to have children, and I live pretty comfortably and happily on about $24k/year now. I would like to have more money than that, certainly, but I’d be perfectly content with a less-than-six-figure salary.

        Possible exception: jobs that are really, really interesting or engaging.

        I dislike capitalism, but I also recognize that I can’t get rid of it by refusing to participate in it. There are probably some subfields of law, finance, government, etc. that I would find repugnant, but I wouldn’t put any of them off-limits globally.

        • Lumifer says:

          How about Foreign Service?

          If you don’t go for hard work, I wouldn’t recommend law or finance. High end there can be pretty good, but requires work (at least to start) and probably another degree for you. The low end isn’t great.

          • Lemminkainen says:

            I do seem to have most of the skills that the foreign service seeks.

            I guess that I should clarify that I’m not lazy, and I’m willing to work quite a bit, I just like having more flexibility and autonomy, and I don’t want to spend so much time working that I never get to enjoy my compensation. (So yes, the high finance and big law tracks would probably be bad for me. 100 hours a week at the office just sounds ghastly.)

          • Lumifer says:

            Yes, I wasn’t implying laziness but was talking about what’s often called “life-work balance”.

            It is quite possible to do high finance and not work 100-hour weeks but that usually happens on the quant side which I’m not sure is up your alley.

    • brad says:

      Do your political beliefs preclude work in the general sphere of the intelligence-military contractor world? Is there any reason you couldn’t get a security clearance?

      • dndnrsn says:

        That’s what I thought at first, but the preference for autonomy and a flexible schedule might clash with that.

      • Lemminkainen says:

        I’m pretty sure that at some point, I’ve publicly expressed a belief that the US government’s policy in the Middle East is both evil and ineffective. I’m not sure if that’s disqualifying. I don’t have any sort of criminal record.

        I have some ethical qualms about intelligence/defense type work, but they’re at least somewhat mitigated by the possibility of having at least some influence to make things less horrible. From a consequentialist perspective, it’s better for me to get my hands dirty than stand aside if, by getting my hands dirty, I can avert some bad outcomes that would have occurred if I hadn’t gotten involved at all.

        • brad says:

          RAND corp seems like it would be worth considering then.

        • James Picone says:

          I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but I know several people here in Australia who have been in marches protesting against the Iraq war and were still quite capable of getting security clearances. The Vietnam war too, for that matter. If the defence sciences side of things never hired any scientist with left-wing views they’d have a very small hiring pool.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Pretty much. Weren’t a decent chunk of the Manhattan Project scientists communists?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ dndnrsn

            …and how well did that work?

          • dndnrsn says:

            They performed well as scientists, but they weren’t so good at the “not funneling information to the Soviets”.

            It’s a tricky question – were there enough scientists of the right sort who didn’t have communist sympathies for the program to work?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ dndnrsn

            Isn’t America great? It got commies to build it the atomic bomb and it got Nazis to build it the rockets for ICBMs and space.

          • dndnrsn says:

            “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
            That’s not my department,” says Wernher von Braun.

          • James Picone says:

            Honestly most of the control over anything that isn’t seriously super-secret-squirrel is just 1) need to know 2) not hiring people who are actually members of revolutionary groups and make it obvious 3) giving extra scrutiny to people who’ve been to the Middle East in the last two decades (and probably Russia I guess, I dunno). Also that it’s mostly really boring. And not of any significant intelligence value.

    • dndnrsn says:

      How willing are you to live out of a suitcase or a backpack, living a minimalist, nomadic lifestyle?

      If you’re good with languages, good in unfamiliar circumstances, want freedom, but don’t care that much about money … you could always just bum around, travelling the world and cataloguing your exploits.

      • At a slight tangent, bumming around the world and writing travel guides might be an option.

        • Lumifer says:

          You think writing travel guides can bring in noticeable amounts of money? I thought the situation in that area is similar to travel photography — unless you’re really exceptional in some way there is no way to make a living there.

      • Lumifer says:

        That’s not a job/career, that’s a “bail out” choice :-/

      • Lemminkainen says:

        Although being a modern-day Richard Burton certainly sounds cool, I don’t think that I would actually enjoy it.

    • John Schilling says:

      You seem to be well-qualified to work as a spy; the question is, for which side?

      More generally, I’ll second the recommendation for the Foreign Service, with or without the spooky aspects. Being a leftist and thinking current US policy is evil are not going to disqualify you so long as you are willing to work with people on the other side. Civil service jobs are quite good for work/life balance, and I believe the Foreign Service is better than most on the autonomy side.

      How do you feel about travel and, given your language skills, travel to gay-unfriendly places?

      • Lemminkainen says:

        I like travel (although I have an opposite-sex partner who might not be happy with every location– she’s also trying to figure out what her alternatives to academia would be). I can deal with gay-unfriendly places, because it seems like gaydar is at least somewhat culturally contextual, and I don’t seem to ping it in the Middle East (or, to the extent that I do, people probably just write it off as me being a foreigner)

    • You could find some classic work in Arabic or Turkish that hasn’t been translated and should be and translate it. Here “should be” is a market measure not an academic measure–a work that, if translated well, would be likely to sell.

      If your Arabic is good enough, you could get a job as a translator. Someone I heard recently said she was offered quite good pay to do translation in (I think) the UAE.

      My daughter is building a career as an online freelance editor. Making a decent living at that, if possible, probably requires at least a year or two building up a reputation, but it sounds as though it fits your constraints pretty well.

      • Eric Rall says:

        I was going to suggest translation work as well.

        Another possibility, beyond David’s suggestion of literary translation and the upthread suggestions of intelligence and foreign-service work. is software UI localization. Most major software companies market their software worldwide in local-language versions. The way this usually works is for the programmers and UI designers to write up English-language versions of all the text in the software and sent it to translators who make French, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, etc versions. I think the translators are usually independent contractors who get work through agencies and who work at home and get paid by the volume of work they take on, which would give you the independence and work-flexibility you’re looking for.

      • Anonanon says:

        Or if not something that will sell well on the mass market, something that’s likely to be interesting to the kind of people who might want to hire someone with his skill set.
        Which would tie in nicely to the suggestions given above about foreign office work.

      • Lemminkainen says:

        I imagine that I could also improve on the existing translation of some classic work.

        (I would probably have to be creative with this– you need to take a lot of liberties with Arabic poetry and literary prose just to give it a parseable syntax for English speakers, and probably even more to make it sound good.)

        • Abu Zayd is a literary genius/con man who swindles his way across the medieval Islamic landscape. I’m sure there is a translation, but perhaps a better translation would make a popular book.

    • Lemminkainen says:

      Oh, I’ve realized that the long list of languages is probably the most salient and attention-getting thing about what I wrote above, so I should mention that I was one of the three best students in my year at theoretical math. I didn’t abandon that path because I was bad at it, but because I burned out on the way that research in the field worked.

      I kick ass at linear algebra, and I have some formal training in statistics and game theory, although I’m not at an expert level in either of those fields.

      I’m not sure what exactly I would need to transition into the programming/data science/etc world, though.

      • Eric Rall says:

        If I’m reading your original post correctly, you’re currently in grad school. You should be able to sign up for Computer Science intro classes (the ones for undergraduate CS majors, not the “programming for …” that are offered as breadth courses for people majoring in non-computing STEM fields). These will give you enough of a grounding to self-teach some more specialized knowledge (buy textbooks for intermediate and advanced courses, or find online tutorials, or tell your CS professor what you’re doing and why and ask for advice). The specific math fields you mentioned probably carry over most directly to image processing, cryptography, and data mining.

        The best way to develop marketable credentials for an entry-level programming job (short of changing majors and getting a CS-related degree) is to develop a portfolio of personal projects: put highlights on your resume and have code samples and more detailed descriptions ready in case you’re asked about it. If you can make substantive contributions to well-known open source projects, or if you can get a project published as an academic paper, that adds quite a bit of heft to you resume above a private hobby project.

        If it isn’t too late to change your major from History, Econ might be worth exploring as an alternative to a programming career path. There’s enough overlap between Econ and History that you might be able to repurpose progress you’re already made towards your thesis, and your combination of Social Science and theoretical math backgrounds sounds perfect for an Econ program. From what I gather, Econ PhDs are in fairly high demand for think tank and public policy jobs, and it’s pretty common for big companies to hire economists as advisors to their finance departments.

        • Nornagest says:

          It won’t apply as directly to crypto; that’s mostly number theory, though statistics is useful around the edges. Machine learning and data mining are going to be some combination of linear algebra and statistics, though (IME ML more the former and data mining more the latter), and image processing is almost pure linear algebra.

      • Lumifer says:

        So you’re a smart generalist.

        Another suggestion for you, though an uncool : -/ one — go into business. No, not make a start-up, but become a manager in a large company and start climbing through the corporate ranks. In an appropriate company on an appropriate career trajectory you’ll be able to exercise both your math side and your humanities side. People who can do both are fairly rare.

        • Lemminkainen says:

          The most straightforward way to get into that would be management consulting, right? I got an interview with BCG back when I was an undergrad…

  4. name says:

    How many people here have a minimalist lifestyle? Can anyone give a decent intro? One prominent camp I’ve noticed is the ‘backpack’/’briefcase’ camp, where people try to fit their belongings into a briefcase. (Maybe reddit and a Mark Manson article isn’t the best representation, but whatever) Otherwise I don’t know much.

    • Anonymous says:

      Buy cheap food, non-processed raw materials are a good bet on being cheaper than the mostly-finished product; learn to cook.

      Don’t have expensive hobbies. Internet browsing and video game playing is cheap.

      Never rent anything bigger than a single room; in fact, prefer nepotistic arrangements with acquaintances over the open market.

      Don’t own a car, use a bike. Do you own repairs as much as you can.

      Overall, be a miser with regards to just about anything. Don’t buy anything you don’t need if you can help it.

      This book‘s a decent intro into personal finance for young men.

      • Zombielicious says:

        Adding to that, consider learning to live without heating and air conditioning. Can save thousands a year, and while it’s uncomfortable, anything above 45 F and under 90 F is fairly tolerable. Beyond that it’s doable (up to a point) but becomes a major distraction to pretty much any other activity.

        For cheap food it doesn’t get much better than beans, rice, and pasta (though any sauce besides straight tomato is relatively pricey). Just make sure you aren’t pushing the costs down the road into healthcare expenses from a poor diet and lifestyle.

        • Anonymous says:

          Adding to that, consider learning to live without heating and air conditioning. Can save thousands a year, and while it’s uncomfortable, anything above 45 F and under 90 F is fairly tolerable. Beyond that it’s doable (up to a point) but becomes a major distraction to pretty much any other activity.

          That’s a good one. Personally, I find it easy to tolerate barely-above-freezing inside temperatures, while finding it hard – but not impossible – to tolerate anything much above 25 C. Still possible.

          For cheap food it doesn’t get much better than beans, rice, and pasta (though any sauce besides straight tomato is relatively pricey). Just make sure you aren’t pushing the costs down the road into healthcare expenses from a poor diet and lifestyle.

          See a doctor sometimes, have him do you some tests to see if you need any nutrients. Overall, eating lots of fruit and vegetables (which are generally cheap) takes care of most of that. Eggs are very good for saving, too – cheap, nutritious, filling.

  5. JDG1980 says:

    So, the latest political tempest-in-a-teapot is about Melania Trump (Donald’s wife) giving a speech that had portions of two sentences which were identical to those in Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008. She’s being accused of “plagiarism”. And that might indeed be the case – if this were an academic paper and not a political speech full of banal generalities. These accusations bother me because they are part of a larger trend that might be called “academic imperialism” – trying to force everyone in the country to follow the norms and culture of the college-educated academic elite.

    There are good reasons why academia has strict norms against plagiarism. Academics need to be able to trace the chain of transmission of ideas, and they don’t want other people taking credit for their work. But applying these norms to political stump speeches (and by a candidate’s wife) is absurd.

    • herbert herbertson says:

      If that had been the approach Trump had taken, this would have been nothing more than a quick chuckle for snarky liberals on Facebook yesterday morning. Ditto if they had just said, whoops, sorry, but NBD right? It’s the weird, reality-denying reaction that gave this one its legs.

      • Corey says:

        John Rogers pointed out the Trump campaign seemed to have no idea how to throw people under buses (or just didn’t want to, for inexplicable reasons). But they seem to be learning.

        • herbert herbertson says:

          You’d think they’d at least be prepared to go with “sure, but who cares, it doesn’t matter.” No busses required for that one.

    • Emily says:

      Yeah, I saw some comment from a college administrator on facebook about how this would be grounds for immediate firing if she had been a faculty member. I find this both doubtful and irrelevant.

      • Jaskologist says:

        No reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.

        • gbdub says:

          At this point, what difference does it make?

          • Martin Luther King is an interesting case.

            He plagiarized much of his doctoral thesis. If he had not been both famous and dead at the point it was discovered, I expect the university would have removed his PhD.

            A bit of his most famous speech was lifted from a speech someone else had made. I don’t think that was a serious offense against oratorical norms and am not sure it was an offense at all.

            Melania’s plagiarism makes her look silly, but that’s all it does.

          • Agronomous says:

            I expect the university would have removed his PhD.

            Really? I expect a university would not actually care enough to do anything—and that’s if it were Joe Schmoe. For MLK, I think they’d offer a full-throated defense, and maybe pressure the original author to admit to plagiarism instead.

            [Edit: I thought it was an Ed.D, but I was mistaken.]

            The whole thing did nothing to lower my opinion of King, and a bit to lower my opinion of schools of Education. I frankly wish we could have somebody on today’s political scene with half his integrity.

      • Corey says:

        Facebook really needs an “eyeroll” button amongst its reactions.

        • Nornagest says:

          Facebook will never offer a reaction option that unambiguously implies disagreement. They’re in the business of making echo chambers, not fostering debate.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          That sounds like a slightly better idea than resurrecting Hitler and a genderbended Stalin and then having them mate.

          • Lumifer says:

            Why did you decide to have a trans-Stalin instead of a trans-Hitler?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Stalin was more handsome than Hitler, so he’d probably make for a better waifu.

          • Lumifer says:

            So I googled “waifu Stalin” and my faith in the powers of teh internets was reaffirmed 8-/

          • Nornagest says:

            No, fifty genderbent Stalins!

          • Anonymous says:

            When I google “waifu stalin” I get more images of waifu hitler than waifu stalin.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Anonymous, Google must think you’re more interested in Hitler than Stalin, based on its vast records on you. I definitely get more Stalins than Hitlers (though I do get a few Hitlers. Also some Putins).

          • Anonymous says:

            To be clear, I get mainly unmodified Stalins. But of the results that are waifu, mainly they are Hitler. Sometimes accompanied by normal Stalin, sometimes alone.

            I clear my cookies religiously. The only search I did before this had to do with cargo cult flower arrangement.

      • Certainly not in a speech. As undergraduate lectures almost never come with citations, professors copy without attribution all the time in their oral lectures.

    • Anonymous says:

      Those damn elitists!

    • a n o n says:

      According to wikipedia, Plagiarism is “the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” The word doesn’t seem limited to academia, nor to a legally punishable act, and seems to fit here.

    • smocc says:

      Personally, I don’t think of it as a great crime, and I’m not outraged at the plagiarism.

      But I do think it’s hilarious. It would be one thing to rip off an old Nancy Reagan speech; it’s a much higher level of comedy to rip off a speech of the wife of the opposite party incumbent your husband has spent the last eight years attacking.

      I’m also disappointed how little focus is being given to the fact that it seems like she Rickrolled the entire convention.

      • gbdub says:

        The comedic aspect, including the Rickrolling, kind of makes me think it was a setup. I mean, the lines stolen were complete banalities. Even if you were plagiarizing, it would be very easy to obscure it a bit more with a little paraphrasing. Maybe an act of rebellion by a NeverTrumper in the writing staff?

        Anyway, isn’t Biden the speech plagiarizer extraordinaire? And wasn’t Obama accused of a similar speech-lift in 2008?

        This campaign cycle has not increased my faith in the media. Or my social media for that matter – apparently this is a far greater crime than mishandling classified email and then lying about it.

        • tcd says:

          Definitely a setup. They were looking for another disproportionate response and they got it.

      • John Schilling says:

        it’s a much higher level of comedy to rip off a speech of the wife of the opposite party incumbent your husband has spent the last eight years attacking

        “I think he’s doing a really good job…he’s totally a champion”
        – Donald Trump on Barack Obama, less than eight years ago

      • Corey says:

        Could be that she non-ironically thinks “Never Gonna Give You Up” is a good song – it’s the most romantic song I know, after all.

    • onyomi says:

      The things that bother me about this particular “scandal” are

      1. it’s the sort of thing nobody cares about even a little when it’s their guy who does it. If Michelle Obama’s convention speech had had a few bits lifted from a speech by Laura Bush, no one currently claiming to care about this (and, in fairness, I think even most liberals treat it as mostly a joke) would care even a little (though maybe in that case some conservative outlets would be trying to make a big deal out of it).

      2. people trying to blame Melania for something she obviously just read off a teleprompter. If there was plagiarism, it wasn’t her who did it, but her speech writer. Why they don’t fire the speech writer (Trump’s “never apologize; never admit fault” philosophy?) who couldn’t come up with a few new platitudes, I don’t know.

      3. what we should all really care about here is not “Melania Trump is a plagiarist,” but political speeches are mostly vapid and interchangeable. This has been an interesting season because of the way it has sort of pulled back the hood on politics to reveal just how fake most people already kind of knew it was.

      The other prominent example was Marco Rubio’s robotic talking point broken record, but even there, the real takeaway shouldn’t have been “Marco Rubio can’t think on his feet,” but, rather, almost all the candidates are reciting canned talking points all the time because that’s what works. Going off script is dangerous. Hammering home your same few points is effective. To some extent this is okay, I think, because not everyone who has good ideas can express them on the fly in front of cameras with eloquence without practice. But it also reveals how difficult it is in our politics to have a real conversation about anything (the British seem much better at this with “question time” and the like, though that can also descend into a different kind of point-scoring-over-substance).

      • Randy M says:

        Is there a politician who has a “apologize occasionally” philosophy? Bush didn’t; Obama only apologized for Bush and for not explaining his successes well enough.
        A politician who admits fault is likely a doomed one.

        As for the Banality of speeches, I really doubt “Hope and Change” started the trend, but it sure hung a lampshade one it.

        • Nornagest says:

          Campaign slogans have always been banal.

          (I think my favorite on this list is Woodrow Wilson, 1916, “He Kept Us Out Of War”.)

          • LHN says:

            I appreciate the unusual policy specificity of Polk’s.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s fun how you can tell just from looking at the slogans that 1884 and 1964 were unusually combative elections.

          • Mercer says:

            1844 Henry Clay really should have gone with “Who the F*#@ is James K Polk?”

            Some of these are amazing…”Keep Cool With Coolidge”….why god why…

          • The original Mr. X says:

            To be fair, I don’t think “He kept us out of the war” is a banal slogan, even if it turned out to be somewhat ironic in hindsight.

          • Zombielicious says:

            These are all good, but how has no one mentioned the genius of James Blaine: Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Blaine was also the “beneficiary” of the most disastrously non-banal campaign slogan ever: Rum, Romanism, and rebellion.

      • James Picone says:

        Australia has a question-time setup, not sure if it’s similar to the british one. It mostly works like this:

        – A member of the government asks the prime minister a question like this: “My question is for the honourable member of Safeseat, Govtown. Have you noticed how this cherry-picked economic indicator has gone up recently? Why are you so good at your job?”

        – The prime minister stands up and says “I’d like to thank the member for Dingo Woop Woop for their question. Our party is the party of economic responsibility and is much better at that than the other people, as your cherry-picked economic indicator shows. Indeed, your cherry-picked economic indicator will always be lower under us than under the other people.”

        – A member of the opposition stands up and says something like “My question is for the honourable member for Prettysafeseat, Ministertown. So have you heard about this week’s thing we’re trying to make a big deal and talking to all the news channels about? You know, the way the department you’re minister for mislabelled and then misplaced three paperclips? I think you should all resign!”

        – Everybody yells a lot; “he’s supposed to ask a question that statement at the end isn’t allowed!”, “Go fuck yourself Pyne!” etc. etc..

        – The speaker says “Order! Order! The honourable member for Safeseat, Oppositiontown will retract that statement”

        – Oppposition member retracts the statement.

        – Minister for whatever ministry it is stands up and is all “I thank the member for the question. Have you heard that cherry-picked economic indicator is up? I think that indicates that nobody should care about whatever the latest controversy is.”

        – Yelling, “He didn’t answer the question!” “Go fuck yourself Pyne!” “Order Order!” etc. etc.

        – Repeat.

        I don’t think anything of consequence ever occurs during Question Time.

  6. Ruprect says:

    I really hate cars.
    Has there actually been any advantage to having cars? I suspect that it might be one of the worst “advances”, in terms of its impact on individuals, that we’ve ever had. It’s probably not quite up there with the introduction of agriculture for screwing up the individuals exposed to it (not quite), but, at the same time the motorised society doesn’t have the same degree of molochian advantage over train using societies that agriculturists have over the hunter-gatherers, or industrialised societies have over agricultural ones. It wasn’t a technological advance driven by some inexorable social force – it was just a really rubbish thing that we chose to do.

    Cars = smoking?

    When I was at school they used to show us pictures of the first cars, where they had to hire a man to walk in front carrying a red flag, and it was like “ha ha ha, silly people in the past”. Why the hell did they get rid of that rule? That was a brilliant rule. I’ve got so many friends and family who’ve been killed or injured by cars – but motor use is such an established institution, there is a tendency to just shrug your shoulders and treat it as an act of God.

    So. If I was the lawgiver, my first suggestion would be, “let’s have a sizeable area of our country where there are no cars” Everything important that is achieved by cars could be achieved by trains, and people walking.

    Is this just me? Am I missing some vital thing that cars do?

    • Artificirius says:

      Not without a staggering number of trains, or the acceptance of far more inefficiency. It might have worked if that had started before cars took off, but I really doubt many people would be willing to not switch when they hear that folks down the line don’t have to travel for a couple hours to get to the hospital.

      • Ruprect says:

        You could have an emergency rickshaw station in every neighbourhood that would rush you to the nearest train station. Hospitals and the like would have to be near the main hubs, I suppose.
        It’s definitely doable though.

        • Artificirius says:

          And you would have standby trains for emergencies? How do you coordinate that? Do you just accept that people will have to wait on train schedule, subject to the foibles thereof?

          Do we spread out medical staff? How does that work when the concentration of medical staff and equipment is a significant enabler of our better care, certainly where more than general health care is concerned. I don’t see great trauma centers being parcelled out every hundred miles or so.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m guessing you’ve never lived outside a major city.

    • Skivverus says:

      Main things that come to mind are rails versus roads, and scheduling based on population density.
      In the first case, roads are cheaper up-front, especially dirt ones that you might have already been using horse-drawn carriages for.
      In the second, which is at least partially due to the first, if you don’t get enough passengers to justify the train going to/past destination X every ten minutes, you might increase the interval between trains to every fifteen minutes… or every hour… or maybe once a day… or maybe just never, because your passengers have all gotten impatient and hired a taxi (gas-powered or otherwise) to get to X and back in less than that day. Or, y’know, just bought one of whatever the taxi driver was using, because “how hard could it be?”.

    • Sandy says:

      My family lives in a suburb near Princeton. It’s impossible to get anywhere without a car. All the malls, supermarkets, cinemas, and townships are at least a 30 minute drive away. Walking is out of the question, and you’d need a lot more train lines.

      • Urstoff says:

        The interesting counterfactual, though, is what would cities and their surrounding areas look like had cars never been invented or come into widespread use.

        • Lumifer says:

          In this counterfactual first you don’t have very big cities (the bandwidth of carless transportation is insufficient to supply everything a very big city needs), and second everything will be covered in horse manure.

          • John Schilling says:

            Cars, also, are insufficient transportation to supply everything a very big city needs, and there are some potentially interesting edge cases where cars do not exist but trucks do. But the more central issue is that it is certainly possible to build very large cities using rail or river/canal transportation. Those cities will be very interesting, in part because they will necessarily not be monoliths with a single urban culture but segmented into districts defined, perhaps by design, by ease of rail transit.

    • onyomi says:

      Someone on SSC, I forget who, pointed me to the work of this guy, who has a lot of bad things to say about the design of…just about every city designed in the last 200 years. Basically, making roads big enough for everyone to drive results in everyone needing a car which makes a dearth of fun places to walk, results in everyone having to drive farther…

      As an American, I enjoy the freedom to go basically anywhere on the continent whenever I want which owning a car provides. Within urban areas, however, I do strongly prefer the “traditional” city design, where things are more tightly packed together and walkable. It encourages all kinds of good things, like beautiful architecture, window gardens, courtyards, street food…

      • John Schilling says:

        Basically, making roads big enough for everyone to drive results in everyone needing a car which makes a dearth of fun places to walk, results in everyone having to drive farther…

        Not making roads big enough for everyone to drive results in not being able to drive delivery trucks to peoples’ homes or places of business. Or to the sites where homes and places of business are even going to be built in the first place, so how do you get the construction materials there?

        I suppose if you are absolutely certain your first round of construction will be the last you ever need you could overbuild the roads at the end, but that would still leave a tricky problem in delivering goods.

        • onyomi says:

          They make it work in the old parts of traditional Chinese cities, though, admittedly, there’s not usually a lot of new construction going on there, except when they’re torn down. You’d be surprised how much you can get on the back of a motor scooter…

          Also, the little honeycomb hutongs even in olden days would be separated at intervals by larger boulevards.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve spent an afternoon in a Hutong, and that’s enough thank you. Anyone whose criticism of modern western cities is that they are insufficiently Hutong-like, is I think not going to be convincing to many western urbanites.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think you need to go quite as far as a hutong to make your point. The streets of, e.g., Rome are often quite narrow and windy, and people seem to manage alright when moving something from A to B.

    • Pku says:

      I’m vaguely optimistic that with the advance of self-driving cars, we might someday manage to reduce the number of cars on the road by an order of magnitude or two (and, hopefully, eliminate most parking lots). The invention of cars does seem kinda molochian, but given where we are, our best hope is probably to try and power through it.

      • gbdub says:

        In many cities the parking is a bigger pain in the arse than the driving. Eliminate the need to park close with self driving personal cars or cabs that can be summoned on command, and you free up extra space for traffic (no street parking) and can build denser (no downtown parking garages – and no traffic-clogging lines to get into them).

    • Lumifer says:

      Yes, it’s just you : -P

      Look at what people in the countries transitioning to middle-class levels (Japan in 50s, Korea in the 70s, Russia in the 00s, etc.) buy. They buy cars. These vehicles are expensive, often badly made, need maintenance — but people still buy a great number of them. Why, do you think?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Well, obviously it’s because the evil automobile companies bought up the streetcar systems in all those countries and shut them down.

    • Tekhno says:

      My only problem is that I’m too poor (read: stingy) to buy a car.

      What’s great about cars is that they allow choice. Public transport can get you places fast, but not always to the place you want to go, and not always when you want to go. Cars allow a freedom that I think offsets their dangers, and their effects on the structure of cities (the suburbs being too large is mostly an American problem anyway, not a European one).

      Without widescale mass transport, I’m not sure we could have the modern economy we have. You can’t just build trains everywhere, and there would be far too much horse crap everywhere (I seem to remember that before the car, some people feared that an exploding population would end up burying us in horse crap). Horses are scarier than cars anyway.

  7. I plan to be in New York City and vicinity for several days, spanning this coming weekend. If any NYC-area folks are interested in meeting up for coffee or lunch, let me know. My gmail address is my surname.

  8. name says:

    Gymrats of SSC, what’s your observations about what makes a good gym?

    Also, what makes a good beginner weightlifting program for an early 20s male?

    • Mercer says:

      The more squat and power racks, the better. Theyre popular and a single person can use one for a long time. I also like my gym to have deadlifting platforms and if it allows chalk thats even better, but its not a dealbreaker.

      Upper/Lower splits are a good place to start out. 2 upper body days and 2 lower body days a week (can also do 2 upper/1 lower or 2 lower/1 upper if 4 days a week is too much). Focus each day around a big compound movement like the squat or bench press.

    • Anonymous says:

      Gymrats of SSC, what’s your observations about what makes a good gym?

      Good ventilation. Weights/machines for every muscle.

      Also, what makes a good beginner weightlifting program for an early 20s male?

      What are you trying to accomplish?

    • Psmith says:

      what’s your observations about what makes a good gym?

      Most of the clientele being stronger than me. (or better-built, I suppose, if my goals were more physique-related).

      This will account for a good deal of the equipment selection and rules and so on as well, and I don’t think the residual matters very much.

      Also, what makes a good beginner weightlifting program for an early 20s male?

      In the absence of specific information about your goals (and the multiple other comments that I assumed would be giving this same recommendation), reading Starting Strength and Practical Programming is a good place to start. They’re not right about everything, but they’ll get you to a point where you have enough experience to figure out the relevant individual variation for yourself and adjust your training accordingly.

    • Emily says:

      I was a gym rat for long time (pre-baby).

      If you have enormous self-control or really thrive on being part of some kind of community, this may not be the case, but otherwise a major attribute of a good gym is convenience. Lower the barriers to going to the gym. Obviously there also needs to be equipment you can work with, but if you’re lifting, that’s not a lot of stuff. Definitely check it out before joining, but most normal gyms are going to have a squat rack, someplace you can bench, and a bar for pull-ups. If you want to do deadlifts, there’s some specialized equipment that it’s definitely nice to have (and maybe necessary to have if you are lifting at normal-guy amounts, I don’t know) and that not everyone is going to have, like bumper plates.

      I’d say something similar about what makes a good beginning weightlifting program: it’s something you’re going to stick to. Going from not-lifting to lifting as a young man, you’re going to get stronger so long as you are regularly lifting at an intensity that is difficult and not injuring yourself. When that stalls, if you still want to make gains, figuring that out will be a bigger deal. There are two major programs that get recommended a lot for beginners, stronglifts and starting strength. I’d say they’re pretty similar, but I’m sure you can find a lot of stuff on the internet about how they’re totally different. I would also say as a note: there’s a lot of variation in terms of how easily people learn form. Some people can watch some videos on the internet and then do a motion correctly. Some people need a lot more coaching. You may have a sense of where you fall on this already from your experiences with gym class/sports. Unless you’re really great, I’d suggest initially getting some feedback on your form. You can get a trainer or friend or take videos and post them to r/fitness.

      Also, while there are some advantages to doing a barbell-based program, you really don’t have to. There are body weight programs. There are also machine weights. If you really struggle with form or you just hate barbells, you will make a lot more progress just switching programs then stopping entirely.

    • name says:

      Thanks to everyone who replied! My goal is to figure out if it’s even for me. I’m looking for a simple program, and I got to this (http://ironstrong.org/topic/1157-the-average-fn-program-a-simple-and-efficient-training-template/) from reddit.

      My only problem is that there’s a bunch of conflicting ideologies on the net, and that as a beginner, it feels like jumping into a bottomless pool. It seems kind of reckless but sometimes I wonder if maybe I should just do things instead of thinking about them too much.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Important question: are you skinny, or fat?

        Beyond basic considerations like that, people like to argue about programming or number of sets or whatever but you are right that just doing things is the major issue – provided the program isn’t terrible or inappropriate, of course. When I fiddle with my programs and try to put in some cool thing I just read and so on, I don’t do as well as when I just lift the weights. That program looks fine.

        • name says:

          Male, 5’4, weight fluctuates between 57-59kg (125-130lbs).

          My main issue is that at a very low level, which is my level, it kind of feels that it’s glorified grocery bag carrying. You probably won’t wrap a grocery bag with a watermelon to your neck, and hell even if you did that’s still something you can easily solve. It seems like it’s just much better to sign up to a gym, try whatever workout you believe in, make sure your form is correct, and just repeat. Despite all the good people trying to help others, with so many conflicting things, it just leads to more confusion and probably more inaction.

          It just feels that a lot of bodybuilding advice misses the forest for trees. In the end, the only thing I’ve noticed were a bunch of recurring topics which were compound exercises, form stability, and progressive increase of load. If I missed something feel free to add (nutrition excluded)

          Or maybe it’s just my own issue – has anyone else tried to study something and just felt more confused rather than more informed?

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, you’re normal weight – always been that way? Basically, there’s a decent argument to be made that someone who wants to lose fat should be doing higher reps with lower rest periods relative to someone who is focusing on strength, maybe even relative to someone aiming for mass. Someone who used to be fat is probably going to have to be extra careful putting weight on, as well.

            And yeah, there’s a lot of information out there and it conflicts. I kind of enjoy it, but I spent too much time in university reading scholarly arguments, so two guys arguing over whether High Intensity Training works or not amuses me.

            Add to that list keeping your movements balanced: pushing should be accompanied by a roughly equal amount of pulling in the opposite direction (eg you shouldn’t be benching twice a week but only rowing once), if you’re doing something that overwhelmingly hits the quads (like front squats) you might want to do something for the hamstrings (like Romanian or stiff-legged deadlifts), etc.

            One thing that I’ve learned that some people are really dogmatic about is that you can totally substitute exercises, within reason. Only powerlifters need to do the straight bar deadlift, regular squat, and barbell bench.

          • name says:

            Actually I was about 10kg more with the same fluctuations and after age 19 which is probably when puberty ended I dropped to my current weight. I’m not sure if my eating habits changed as I never really regulated them. I did some running at age 16-17 but got bored after a year. At that time my weight was the same as my current weight. My unscientific conclusion is that I store less fat after puberty.

            Now my problem about the ‘resting period’: from a consequential point of view the body did x amount of effort. What physiological benefits does lower resting periods give that you recommend them? AFAIK the whole point of lifting while losing fat is to upkeep your muscle so that after you lost the fat (not weight) you won’t look like an A4 paper. In the long term, it looks like a diminishing return to me, and probably nothing you can’t fix by throwing and extra 5kg on the bar later on (in case you do lose some more muscle).

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s sorta bro science, but people training for mass or for fat loss often recommend shorter rest periods. It’s supposed to result in greater post-workout calorie expenditure, and greater growth hormone release. The bro-est of the bros just say that if you rest too long between sets you lose your pump.

            The bigger worry from a practical point is letting yourself rest too long: you’ll see people who aren’t doing low-rep maximum strength work rest as though they are. If nothing else, it means you take too long in the gym.

          • gbdub says:

            One thing my trainer had me doing that seemed to help from the calorie burn / fat loss standpoint was to have active supplemental exercises between sets of the big exercise.

            So I’d do a set of squats, then immediately do some unweighted jumps and side lunges, grab a swig of water, and go back for the next set of squats. Get the tempo right and the muscles you’re working will be exhausted on the last big set and you’ll be getting winded. This is hard but seems to get your cardio fitness up quick.

          • Pku says:

            Something that’s really helped me avoid long rests is training with other people. It can be hard to find a group to exercise with and there are inconveniences if you do, but it’s worth trying out if you can.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You can also do “compound sets” where you do a set of one thing, then a set of an “opposite” exercise, with little to no rest in between (I generally only rest long enough to jot down sets in my book and get a drink). For instance, front squats hit the quads hardest and require isometric work from the abdominals, and Romanian deadlifts hit the hamstrings hardest and require isometric work from the lower back. Or, bench presses and rows are basically the exact opposite movements.

            It basically means you can pack x sets of one and x sets of the other into a little more time than it would take you to do x sets of one.

          • Psmith says:

            What physiological benefits does lower resting periods give

            None that you can’t get better from conditioning on the rowing machine, the fan bike, or pushing/pulling a sled.

            Don’t rest so long that you get cold. Apart from that, take as long as you need. It takes about 8 minutes to replenish ATP stores in skeletal muscle, and the weight, not the rest time, is the stimulus to which we want to adapt. (Otherwise, erg/bike/sled.).

          • dndnrsn says:

            If you’re doing submaximal loads, though, how important is it to fully replenish ATP? Plus, if someone is just lifting weights for general purposes, pure strength isn’t the only desirable adaptation.

          • Psmith says:

            If you’re doing submaximal loads, though, how important is it to fully replenish ATP?

            Not as, but still somewhat. I didn’t mention it as an absolute minimum rest period for anything anyone will ever do. More by way of a benchmark, since so many people seem to think of two minutes or so as a really long rest period.

            (and, of course, a set of 10 at 8.5 RPE is going to need a longer rest period than a single at 9.5. There are other variables.).

            Plus, if someone is just lifting weights for general purposes, pure strength isn’t the only desirable adaptation.

            Yes, that’s why I mentioned conditioning (which I think is important for nearly everyone, actually, titrated to appropriate volume and intensity.). I suppose we could construct a hypothetical under which we should maximize total weekly volume over ~75% 1RM by limiting rest periods–advanced trainee (requiring specificity), limited training time, in part of a training cycle where they don’t need to worry about exposure to weights closer to 1RM than minimally necessary for hypertrophy. But I submit that anyone in that position will be able to figure it out for themselves. Meanwhile, I have talked to quite a few otherwise healthy young men who have been squatting 2 plates and benching a plate and a half for the last three months and can’t figure out why, who upon further investigation turn out to be taking 3 minutes between their work sets. Hell, I don’t have the relevant training logs at hand, but I’m pretty sure I was one of those guys myself at one point. So I think telling people to think about keeping their rest periods short probably does more harm than good.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A caveat I should have thought of: I lift weights for a few reasons, but one is as an adjunct to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, where pure strength is less important than muscular endurance, work capacity, and being able to recover quickly.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Good maintenance of good quality equipment. Weigh the Olympic bars: they should be 45 pounds. I remember one gym where they must have blown all their money on machines of various sorts, and the Olympic bars were of low enough quality to be off by several pounds.

      EDIT: Also, further indicators there may be enough interest for a regular exercise thread.

      • Anonymous says:

        The transformation will be complete when SSC becomes a bodybuilding forum.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Pedantic nitpick: you’re looking for 20 kg, not 45 lbs. The equipment standards were defined in metric, and those of us who use pounds and inches round 20 kg = 44.1 lbs up to 45 lbs by convention in order to make the math easy.

        A good black-iron gym might also stock 15 kg and 10 kg Olympic bars (conventionally rounded up to 35 and 25 lbs respectively). 15 kg bars are the competition standard for Women’s Olympic events (they’re also slightly smaller in grip diameter, making them easier to grip for people with smaller hands), and 10 kg bars are there for weaker novices who aren’t yet strong enough to lift a competition bar.

    • Pku says:

      Related question: It seems like whenever I go to the pool, most of the people there are out of shape and/or overweight. I always hear swimming’s supposed to be good exercise, and I haven’t seen this problem with runners or weight people. Does anyone have an explanation?

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Swimming is (relatively) easy, so a lot of the people who sort of want but will never actually lose weight gravitate to it. It’s also the choice of people coming back from injury and old people, skewing it further.

        Also, what kind of pools?

        • Pku says:

          Usually college gym pools. I also tend not to go super early, which I think is when the really serious people go.
          Also, if swimming is relatively easy, is an hour of swimming comparable in benefits to an hour of running or weightlifting?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Also, if swimming is relatively easy, is an hour of swimming comparable in benefits to an hour of running or weightlifting?

            Depends on the swimming, the lifting and the running.

            What I mean when I say it’s “easy” is that you can swim at a very leisurely pace and still be considered to be swimming, if you’re just walking in the park, you won’t be considered to be running, and if you’re doing 20 knee push ups every other day, you’re not grouped in with lifters.

    • Urstoff says:

      Get the Starting Strength app on your phone and do what it tells you. There are only 4 different exercises it asks you to do: squat, deadlift, bench press, and standing barbell press. Aside from the bench press, these are all exercises that use tons of stabilizer muscles.

      • Nornagest says:

        Five; it starts asking you to do power cleans after you can deadlift your own weight (which is not very hard).

        SS is weak on upper-body pull and anything to do with arms, but that’s relatively easy to deal with. Most straightforward way is probably to add pull-ups (pronated or neutral, for preference) and maybe dips as accessories. Barbell row would also be a decent option.

        • Urstoff says:

          Right, but at the start, it’s just four. And I’d worry about trying to learn the form of the power clean without personal training (you can learn the others pretty well by watching various videos).

        • dndnrsn says:

          Pretty sure the latest edition of SS includes chinups.

          As for power cleans, beyond learning them, there’s the issue that they require specialized equipment: either a floor you can drop weights on, or bumper plates. Or both.

          • Eric Rall says:

            It does. The novice progression starts out with Squat, Bench, Press, and Deadlift, then adds power cleans a couple weeks in, then adds chins a bit after that.

            I do power cleans at home without specialized equipment. You just lower the bar quickly to the hang position (expend just enough energy to control the bar; don’t try to do a reverse curl with it), then lower it to the floor like the second half of a deadlift. It’s pretty easy to get the hang of — I’ve never come close to dropping the bar, although I’ve gotten bruises on my thighs a few times. The main downside, apart from the occasional bruise, is that you’re doing a little more work so you can’t train the power clean quite as aggressively as if you have bumper plates.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      The presence of racquetball courts. 😛

  9. LaochCailiuil says:

    I’m not sure how your readership feel about Aubrey de Grey, I think he’s one of the more down to earth famous Transhumanists. In any case he’s doing an AMA
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Futurology/comments/4t65ay/aubrey_de_grey_ama_ask_about_the_quest_to_cure/

  10. Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

    I’m fairly new here, and was reading through some old posts. And I found one about it I just had to say something. The Untitled post, it seemed that so many in the comments reacted wrong to the story about younger Aaronson asking the doctor for chemical castration. They were horrified that he asked, but the horrifying thing was that the doctor refused. Going with how Aaronson described his situation then, asking for the chemical castration was very much the right thing to do. We are a society trying to end harrasment sexually of women, no?

    • Outis says:

      Low-effort troll.

    • Anonymous says:

      They were horrified that he asked, but the horrifying thing was that the doctor refused.

      Suppose you, yourself, feel uncontrollably lustful. Do you think self-sterilization is the right thing to do?

      Going with how Aaronson described his situation then, asking for the chemical castration was very much the right thing to do.

      I don’t see why. Especially given that his feelings were not abnormal, and definitely were not despicable, criminal or worthy of elimination from the genepool.

      We are a society trying to end harrasment sexually of women, no?

      Not really.

      • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

        But it is not about being “uncontrollably lustful”, or “elimination from the genepool”, it is about the sexual harrasment. Mr. Aaronson was right to seek to stop harrasing his female peers with his desire, and the doctor wrong to make him keep harrassing.

        • Lumifer says:

          Still a low-effort troll…

          • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

            I don’t see why you call me a “troll”. And for “low effort”, do you mean I need to say more, explain it to people in more detail.

            To quote Mr. Aaronson,
            “I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison.”

            He was wrong on the expelled or jailed part (unfortunately, this society does far too little to punish and prevent sexual harassment), but the rest was right and proper. If he was at all correct in his assesment of his unattractiveness, then letting any of his female classmates learn, in any way, of his desire for her would make him “a creep and a weirdo” and ” an objectifier or a stalker or a harasser or some other creature of the darkness.”

            The commenters here skew male and to, shall we say, sexually unusual (and to the right wing on non-economic matters), so you may not understand normal women. But if a man is sufficiently unattractive, then simply knowing that he is attracted to us sexually, however we learn of it, directly or indirectly, gives us a physical disgust. It is why words like “creepy” are used, the mere knowledge of his desire makes us uncomfortable. And anything that makes a woman uncomfortable sexually is harassment.

            So if Mr. Aaronson was as unattractive as he said, then any failure to completely conceal his desires from the targets of those desires, or from anyone who might inform those targets, would constitute sexual harassment of those young women. And I think men underestimate how many signals of interest they put out. So I’m sure he did not, in fact, fully hide his desires from his female classmates, and so remains an unpunished sexual harasser. And since such attraction generally cannot be perfectly hidden, the only way for such an unattractive man as the young Mr. Aaronson to cease harassing young women with his disgusting sexual interest is to make that interest go away. And so, castration was the proper route to seek.

          • Pku says:

            It means you’re clearly just looking for position based on being offensive rather than philosophical or moral defensibility. Please go away.

          • Lumifer says:

            That’s a bit more effort, but still insufficient. You must work harder at being a good troll. LEAN IN!

          • Nornagest says:

            Effort or no, that doesn’t pass the Turing test for me. The content’s dumb but plausibly falls within Poe’s Law, but the framing is all manosphere.

            I’ll give you this one for free, Anita: next time you feel like doing something like this, find the right jargon first. Or at least be more euphemistic.

          • So if Mr. Aaronson was as unattractive as he said, then any failure to completely conceal his desires from the targets of those desires, or from anyone who might inform those targets, would constitute sexual harassment of those young women. And I think men underestimate how many signals of interest they put out. So I’m sure he did not, in fact, fully hide his desires from his female classmates, and so remains an unpunished sexual harasser. And since such attraction generally cannot be perfectly hidden, the only way for such an unattractive man as the young Mr. Aaronson to cease harassing young women with his disgusting sexual interest is to make that interest go away. And so, castration was the proper route to seek.

            This text is a caricature of what a terrified and embittered young man might imagine a feminist woman believes about him. Nothing can be hidden, because women will read your mind in search of things to be disgusted by. Castration is advised as treatment for thought crimes. It is so over-the-top that it is hardly even interesting.

            They were horrified that he asked, but the horrifying thing was that the doctor refused.

            At first, I thought this was the actual question being raised. Yes, like most, I am horrified that he asked, but what are the doctor’s obligations under these circumstances? What is the appropriate boundary between individual autonomy, and protecting the patient from himself?

          • Sky says:

            Anita you need to work harder. You are coming across as a Red Piller who is writing what he believes women think, not as a women writing what she actually thinks.

            >If he was at all correct in his assesment of his unattractiveness, then letting any of his female classmates learn, in any way, of his desire for her would make him “a creep and a weirdo” and ”
            >And anything that makes a woman uncomfortable sexually is harassment.
            >But if a man is sufficiently unattractive, then simply knowing that he is attracted to us sexually, however we learn of it, directly or indirectly, gives us a physical disgust

            These are all straw-men of what feminists/women believe. I’ve never actually seen a feminist/woman claim to believe this, I’ve only seen red pillers and the like say that this what is actually going on in a woman’s head.

          • Pku says:

            I’ve seen both. I’ve also seen liberals who act exactly like republican strawmen of liberals and vice versa. They’re uncommon, but Poe’s law exists for a reason.

          • Anonymous says:

            And anything that makes a woman uncomfortable sexually is harassment.

            No. It isn’t.

            At first, I thought this was the actual question being raised. Yes, like most, I am horrified that he asked, but what are the doctor’s obligations under these circumstances? What is the appropriate boundary between individual autonomy, and protecting the patient from himself?

            I think it’s pretty clear – the doctor presumably swore to do no harm. If he, in good faith, believes that the patient is asking for something that is harmful to himself, he is obligated to refuse.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m pretty sure the reason Poe’s Law exists is so that when we are taken in by a troll, we can use that as further evidence of how crazy the other side is, rather than look inward.

          • Jiro says:

            I think it’s pretty clear – the doctor presumably swore to do no harm. If he, in good faith, believes that the patient is asking for something that is harmful to himself, he is obligated to refuse.

            The question arises because we’ve abandoned that principle in the first place. What if the doctor thinks in good faith that contraceptives are harmful? What if the doctor thinks gender reassignment surgery is harmful?

          • BBA says:

            This reminds me – Roe v. Wade was originally decided on grounds of abortion bans infringing the doctor’s autonomy to decide the best course of action. The notion of a woman’s right to choose never entered the court’s decision.

          • Pku says:

            Can doctors not decide that? my impression was that they’re considering (or have passed) laws forcing insurers to cover these things, not forcing doctors to perform/prescribe them.

          • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

            @Anonymous

            And anything that makes a woman uncomfortable sexually is harassment.

            No. It isn’t.

            Bullying: The Ultimate Teen Guide says,

            “Anything sexual in nature that makes you uncomfortable is considered sexual harassment. If, on the other hand, someone you are interested in is flirting with you and you enjoy it, then this is not considered sexual harassment. The key is how it makes you feel.”

            gurl.com says,

            “Well, let’s set the record straight. Any kind of unwanted behavior that’s sexual and makes you feel uncomfortable is sexual harassment.”

            The Ohio Department of Health says,

            “Sexual harassment can take many forms. Anything sexual that makes one feel uncomfortable – whether it is a look, touch or a story – is considered sexual harassment. Most importantly, teens should remember:
            If it makes you uncomfortable, it is not OK!

            Ask A Manager says,

            “You can’t really report a vague creepy feeling. But you do have that vague creepy feeling, and you should trust it.”

          • Anonymous says:

            Props for the citations. (I still disagree, because that definition is ocean-wide and insane.)

          • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

            @Anonymous

            I still disagree, because that definition is ocean-wide and insane.

            You’re perfectly free to be wrong. And how is that definition “insane”? And is it “ocean-wide”, or are other (wrong) definitions too narrow, not wide enough to cover all the wrong done to women in this area?

          • Artificirius says:

            Because the transgression is question is not predefined. Unless you are implicitly assuming that this is behaviour occurring after being asked to stop.

          • Anonymous says:

            You’re perfectly free to be wrong. And how is that definition “insane”? And is it “ocean-wide”, or are other (wrong) definitions too narrow, not wide enough to cover all the wrong done to women in this area?

            “Sexual harassment” is a legally actionable event. You get arrested, tried, fined, imprisoned, etc for doing this. Therefore, the definition needs to be not solely based on one person’s say so – otherwise you run the risk of ruining lives of innocent people on a single instance of perjury. This good justice does not make.

            Further, if your goal is to reduce the amount of harassment, rather than arbitrarily terrifying men of contact with women, it needs to be something that they can look at and apply consistently. “Do not cause women to feel uncomfortable” is not a clear instruction, since women are not all clones, and the workings of other peoples minds are occluded. Unless you think men are telepaths, such a formulation will be useless to them when determining whether to do any particular action; it will tend to create two types of men – those who play it safe and avoid any relations with women, and those risk-takers who don’t give a fuck about your silly rules and do what they please anyway. Are you secretly some kind of misogynist, who wants to increase the amount of sexual harassment by eugenically making sure that only the rule-breakers reproduce?

            If I were to make a rough draft for a definition of sexual harassment, it’d be something like:
            “Actions towards another person that are, a) intimate in nature, whether somatic (such inappropriate touching) or verbal (such as lewd suggestions), and b) directed towards a party who is either an inappropriate target for them (such as a married person, or coming from a married person to someone not their spouse), or has explicitly rejected the notion of romantic involvement (preferably in front of witnesses).”

            Notice how persistent, but polite, attempts at courtship are not harassment here – and neither is touching your wife’s butt.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Anonymous –

            Please stop feeding the troll.

          • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

            @Anonymous (pink)

            “Do not cause women to feel uncomfortable” is not a clear instruction, since women are not all clones, and the workings of other peoples minds are occluded. Unless you think men are telepaths, such a formulation will be useless to them when determining whether to do any particular action;

            How is this not simply the common complaint of men that we women are somehow expecting men toread our minds“?

            When, of course, we’re just asking you to read the basic emotional signals. It’s not hard if you just pay a little attention; we do it all the time without even thinking about it, so if you are not picking up the obvious signals, then you must just not be paying attention.

            it will tend to create two types of men – those who play it safe and avoid any relations with women, and those risk-takers who don’t give a fuck about your silly rules and do what they please anyway. Are you secretly some kind of misogynist, who wants to increase the amount of sexual harassment by eugenically making sure that only the rule-breakers reproduce?

            The first, let me repeat myself. Eugenics is a discredited pseudoscience. And the second, only the “rule-breakers” reproducing would only matter if you are a genetic determinist who thinks that behavior like the “rule-breaking” is genetic (rather than, like pretty much all behavior, being cultural and social in origin), and this is Nazi thinking.

            And for your proposed definition, note that the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center includes “sexual or “dirty” jokes”, and WomensLaw.com, this law firm sexual harassment Q&A and another law firm discussing the Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc. ruling also all include the telling of “dirty jokes” as included under sexual harassment. Where does this fit in your definition? And for the “explicitly rejected” part of your proposed (b), to quote the definition given not only in Lina Gonsalves’s “Women and Human Rights“, but many other places,
            “The courts have generally concluded that a victim need not say or do a particular thing to indicate unwelcomeness.”

            Thus, your proposed definition is even narrower than the insufficient legal and common use in place today. I still maintain, with many others, that “anything sexual that makes a woman uncomfortable” is the one and only correct definition.

          • Anonymous says:

            How is this not simply the common complaint of men that we women are somehow expecting men to “read our minds“?

            No, just a subset of women does this. Including you, apparently.

            When, of course, we’re just asking you to read the basic emotional signals. It’s not hard if you just pay a little attention; we do it all the time without even thinking about it, so if you are not picking up the obvious signals, then you must just not be paying attention.

            Or are incapable of it. This is equivalent to mind-reading to many people (mostly men), doubly so those on the autism spectrum (of which men make up the bulk). Detecting subtle cues and accurately inferring what they mean is not easy, and is far from reliable. And definitely should not be required legally.

            Eugenics is a discredited pseudoscience.

            No, it isn’t. It’s just taboo to apply it to humans explicitly. It is in continuous productive use for domesticated animals, and has been for the whole history of our association with them.

            And the second, only the “rule-breakers” reproducing would only matter if you are a genetic determinist who thinks that behavior like the “rule-breaking” is genetic (rather than, like pretty much all behavior, being cultural and social in origin), and this is Nazi thinking.

            All behavioural traits are heritable.

            And for your proposed definition, note that the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center includes “sexual or “dirty” jokes”, and WomensLaw.com, this law firm sexual harassment Q&A and another law firm discussing the Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc. ruling also all include the telling of “dirty jokes” as included under sexual harassment. Where does this fit in your definition?

            Nowhere, because it isn’t. It may be inappropriate, but it’s not harassment.

            And for the “explicitly rejected” part of your proposed (b), to quote the definition given not only in Lina Gonsalves’s “Women and Human Rights“, but many other places,
            “The courts have generally concluded that a victim need not say or do a particular thing to indicate unwelcomeness.”

            That’s what the first clause of that point is. If she isn’t known to by married or otherwise off-limits, then she is fair game until notified otherwise.

            Thus, your proposed definition is even narrower than the insufficient legal and common use in place today. I still maintain, with many others, that “anything sexual that makes a woman uncomfortable” is the one and only correct definition.

            The current-day use could use a narrowing.

          • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

            @Anonymous

            Or are incapable of it. This is equivalent to mind-reading to many people (mostly men), doubly so those on the autism spectrum (of which men make up the bulk). Detecting subtle cues and accurately inferring what they mean is not easy

            This is nonsense excuse-making. We all have pretty much the same basic brain, “psychic unity of mankind” an all; if it’s easy for one group (and it’s easy for me and by girlfriends), then it’s easy for everyone without a real mental deficit, and “autism” is massively over-diagnosed (as it’s become the new excuse for male misbehavior). Claims of “incapacity” are simply “selective blindness” employed by men as an excuse to ignore women’s obvious discomfort. And any real differences between men’s and women’s ability in this area is purely the product of sexist cultural forces that should be fought (any and all claims of “innate” mental differences between men and women are “straight-up” sexist). But even if I accepted your sexist claim that men are collectively “inferior” at this basic human ability, why then should women be the ones to suffer for this male defect? This is the “logic” of the burka, where men’s issues are framed as the “fault” of women, and women made to suffer for it.

            Eugenics is a discredited pseudoscience.

            No, it isn’t.

            The state House of Virginia has officially called it “the now-discredited pseudo-science of eugenics”, and plenty of people agree.

            All behavioural traits are heritable.

            Yes, people inheret traits from their parents… culturally and socially via their upbringing; genetics and is irrelevant for differences in human behavior (read some Stephen J Gould). Genetic determinism, like in that awful link, remans racist, sexist nonsense.

            If she isn’t known to by married or otherwise off-limits, then she is fair game until notified otherwise.

            The idea that a women who doesn’t “belong” to some other man is therefore “fair game” to male predatory and harassing behavior is stupendously sexist.

            The current-day use could use a narrowing.

            Anyone with the slightest concern for women can see it needs widened; only a blatant misogynist could believe what you said.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Stop feeding. This is the troll designed to push all the buttons.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Anita
            if [reading non-verbal signals is] easy for one group (and it’s easy for me and by girlfriends), then it’s easy for everyone without a real mental deficit[….] Claims of “incapacity” are simply “selective blindness” employed by men as an excuse to ignore women’s obvious discomfort. [….] But even if I accepted your sexist claim that men are collectively “inferior” at this basic human ability, why then should women be the ones to suffer for this male defect?

            1970s feminist here. If the guy ignores a non-verbal signal, give him a verbal one.

            Slip out the back, Jack
            Make a new plan, Stan
            Hop on the bus, Gus
            Just drop off the key, Lee

            If you don’t like those, there should be another 46 around somewhere.

          • Anonymous says:

            We all have pretty much the same basic brain, “psychic unity of mankind” an all; if it’s easy for one group (and it’s easy for me and by girlfriends), then it’s easy for everyone without a real mental deficit, and “autism” is massively over-diagnosed (as it’s become the new excuse for male misbehavior).

            No, men and women have considerably different mindsets. This is obvious from their different behaviour.

            Claims of “incapacity” are simply “selective blindness” employed by men as an excuse to ignore women’s obvious discomfort.

            Which doesn’t begin to address situations where the discomfort isn’t obvious. Or when a woman isn’t uncomfortable before you start with the courtship – but by then, by your standard, the sexual harassment has already occurred.

            And any real differences between men’s and women’s ability in this area is purely the product of sexist cultural forces that should be fought (any and all claims of “innate” mental differences between men and women are “straight-up” sexist).

            Reality is sexist and the differences are biological in nature.

            But even if I accepted your sexist claim that men are collectively “inferior” at this basic human ability, why then should women be the ones to suffer for this male defect? This is the “logic” of the burka, where men’s issues are framed as the “fault” of women, and women made to suffer for it.

            Mere discomfort is not ‘suffering’. And notice how I do think there are limits on what is acceptable to do. Just not by the barking mad standard you propose.

            The state House of Virginia has officially called it “the now-discredited pseudo-science of eugenics”, and plenty of people agree.

            Hitler officially blamed the Jews for all of Germany’s problems. Plenty of people agree.

            Yes, people inheret traits from their parents… culturally and socially via their upbringing; genetics and is irrelevant for differences in human behavior (read some Stephen J Gould). Genetic determinism, like in that awful link, remans racist, sexist nonsense.

            No, upbringing has next to no influence. It’s mostly genes and random factors. Which you would know if you cared to understand what Jayman wrote there.

            The idea that a women who doesn’t “belong” to some other man is therefore “fair game” to male predatory and harassing behavior is stupendously sexist.

            I am stupendously sexist by your standard. Somehow, this does not make me feel bad.

            Anyone with the slightest concern for women can see it needs widened; only a blatant misogynist could believe what you said.

            Anyone with the slightest concern for humans can see it needs to be narrowed; only a blatant misanthropist could believe what you said.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HouseBoatOnStyx – “If you don’t like those, there should be another 46 around somewhere.”

            Some better than others.

      • Brad (The Other One) says:

        >Suppose you, yourself, feel uncontrollably lustful. Do you think self-sterilization is the right thing to do?

        Under certain contexts, sure, uh, why not? Everyone is acting like this is bizarre conclusion to come to but I don’t see why, particularly since it’s voluntary in this case.

        >I don’t see why. Especially given that his feelings were not abnormal, and definitely were not despicable, criminal or worthy of elimination from the genepool.

        What if an individual wanted to be chemically castrated not because some weird self-loathing, but just because of some idiosyncratic (but otherwise harmless) personal preference, like a person who shaves their eyebrows or someone who insists on tattooing large parts of their visible upper body? Would you support such a person’s choice to self-chemically castrate in that case?

        • Anonymous says:

          Under certain contexts, sure, uh, why not? Everyone is acting like this is bizarre conclusion to come to but I don’t see why, particularly since it’s voluntary in this case.

          Not everything you want is good for you. Especially not if you’re very far from thinking clearly (which itself is not an especially good standard for making good decisions, given the human condition).

          What if an individual wanted to be chemically castrated not because some weird self-loathing, but just because of some idiosyncratic (but otherwise harmless) personal preference, like a person who shaves their eyebrows or someone who insists on tattooing large parts of their visible upper body? Would you support such a person’s choice to self-chemically castrate in that case?

          That’s even worse. Scott Aaronson at least had a logical reason to want to do so – misguided, but a direct product of the axioms he assumed. In this case, the doctor should refuse and have such a requester tested for severe mental illness.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            Your responses bother me. I would think you would prioritize the autonomy of a person to their own body. I realize this is controversial, but we respect the wishes of people with body dysmorphic disorder in requesting hormone therapy, albeit with barriers and oversight to so that they only get it if they’re really, really certain about their condition and their decision.

            Let us say our person requesting chemical castration is tested for major mental illness and they are found to be of sound mind. Unless there are major side-effects from chemical castration, or the drugs are controlled substances/dangerous/illegal, etc. why should he not be allowed to have such treatment? (Particularly since, to my knowledge, chemical castration is reversible.)

          • Anonymous says:

            but we respect the wishes of people with body dysmorphic disorder in requesting hormone therapy

            Who is “we”, comrade?

            Let us say our person requesting chemical castration is tested for major mental illness and they are found to be of sound mind. Unless there are major side-effects from chemical castration, or the drugs are controlled substances/dangerous/illegal, etc. why should he not be allowed to have such treatment?

            Provided he pays for it himself, I find little *civil* reason to deny it. But on the other hand, why should be allowed? Where’s the benefit of permitting this?

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            @Anonymous

            >Who is “we”, comrade?

            Allow me to explain that I speak as a devil’s advocate: I have my own feelings on body dysmorphic disorder, but I am aware – or at least believe (and perhaps this belief is incorrect) – support for the gender reassignment procedures exists on this forum. But it struck me as strange that, for a board where I might expect support for gender reassignment to be the norm, (such reassignment being requested voluntarily by individuals, and involving hormone treatments) that there would offense at a person voluntarily requesting hormones to suppress their sex drive. Surely if one is permissible, the other would also be permissible. But it seems that many people here (the “we” in question) find one permissible and the other impermissible. Perhaps I am not being charitable and the community here has a broader range of views than I initially assumed, and the person who find CC impermissible would also find Sex reassignment impermissible (and vice-versa). However my confusion was that I assumed that support for Sex reassignment was commonplace here, and so opposition to CC seemed strange to me.

            >But on the other hand, why should be allowed? Where’s the benefit of permitting this?

            The ostensible benefit of chemical castration would be akin to the ostensible benefit of sex reassignment: the well-being and peace-of-mind for the individual voluntarily choosing it. This is the logic I believed would be in play, not that this reflects my personal views.

          • Anonymous says:

            However my confusion was that I assumed that support for Sex reassignment was commonplace here, and so opposition to CC seemed strange to me.

            This place is pretty diverse. Personally, I object to SRS because it amounts to plastic surgery with bonus castration. I will be much more willing to support it were it actually able to turn a fully functional individual of one sex into a fully functional individual of the other sex.

    • Ruprect says:

      I think this is a good point – obviously testosterone is involved in violence, but I always wonder how many of the awful things we see are a result of sexual desire gone wrong. If you could keep the testosterone but somehow reduce the sex drive, would that change the crime rate?
      Even if that isn’t possible, is our testosterone worth all of the terrible antics that young men get up to anyway? We might be better off as eunuchs.

      And finally, why should a sex drive be a good thing? I can enjoy eating without getting hungry. Wouldn’t the same thing be desirable for sex?

      • Anonymous says:

        Without hunger, you would likely starve in short order. (Just as without pain, chances are poor that you’d be able to survive infancy without stabbing yourself in the eyeballs repeatedly for shits and giggles.) The sex drive is there to make you reproduce, which is a good thing.

        • Brad (The Other One) says:

          >The sex drive is there to make you reproduce, which is a good thing.

          A good thing in what capacity? To whom?

          What are your feelings on birth control? What about procedures like tubal ligation or vasectomies?

          Surely if the latter, with their complications and difficult-to-reverse nature are permissible, why should chemical castration be treated differently?

          • Artificirius says:

            It is a good thing in that is the mechanism by which we exist as a people.

            It is also not a wrong thing to possess, even though the specific need to have people reproduce is not as strong as it once was, if it really exists as a need now.

            Women don’t possess a right to non-attraction of themselves. Neither do men, though this is not a commonly held principle either.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            @Artificirius: I am not saying, if I understand your response correctly, that reproductive capacity or libido is bad thing to possess. I am asking: Why is it wrong for someone to use drugs to dull or stop their libido, if they choose to do so of their own free will (and they are not mentally ill, and the drugs do not have outstanding harmful side-effects)?

            >Women don’t possess a right to non-attraction of themselves. Neither do men, though this is not a commonly held principle either.

            I don’t know what this means or how it pertains to a discussion of individuals choosing to use chemical castration. I’m parsing it as: “individuals can’t keep people from being attracted to them”. If this is mistaken, please correct me, and clarify in a more general sense, if you’re inclined. I also believe you’re bringing this point up because you think I’m the same person who brought this topic up originally, which I am not.

            Regardless, I’m not talking about interpersonal relations between strangers who may or may not be attracted to each other. I am asking why it would be wrong someone to seek chemical castration aside from A: dangerous side-effects (I’m not aware of beyond issues with bone density and higher lifetime risk for things like heart disease) B: liability(s) for a doctor who gives such a prescription, which I am not aware of, beyond the above listed side effects.

          • Jiro says:

            Why is it wrong for someone to use drugs to dull or stop their libido, if they choose to do so of their own free will (and they are not mentally ill, and the drugs do not have outstanding harmful side-effects)?

            There is a big gray area between “mentally ill” and “mentally competent” where someone may be competent to decide some things but not others. If we are only permitted to decide that someone is or isn’t mentally ill, that’s a binary decision that doesn’t take those nuances into account.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            @Jiro

            And what if the person is someone categorized as a “mentally competent”, in addition to the other exclusionary criteria previously mentioned, for someone voluntarily undergoing such a chemical castration procedure? That is, of sound mind, mentally competent to understand the implications and take full responsibility of the risks (which I presume are sufficiently understood by this individual), there are no legal complications, etc?

            Is there any further criteria we can throw up to explain why this willing, ready, able, non-crazy, not-stupid person cannot get what they desire in this case; that is, chemical castration?

          • Jiro says:

            For someone to be mentally competent to decide on chemical castration and to actually want it is unlikely. Asking what I’d do if it happened is like asking what I’d do if a mentally competent person said he wanted his own (healthy) hand cut off and eaten.

            In reality, the mere fact that someone states such a desire is strong Bayseian evidence that he is incompetent to consent to it. The hypothetical in which he actually is competent anyway is logically possible, but pretty much never applies to real human beings, because of the nature of human beings.

          • @Jiro, aren’t you pretty much assuming your conclusion? I don’t see why chemical castration (assuming it is temporary and has no serious side-effects) should be inherently undesirable. If someone’s sex drive is causing them to suffer, under circumstances in which no other reasonable option exists, why would wanting the suffering to end be a sign of mental incompetence?

          • Anonymous says:

            A good thing in what capacity? To whom?

            I, for one, think that it’s a good thing that the human species exists. I may be biased, being human. In many ways, it is also beneficial to the individual in question. (Do you actually want me to justify that reproduction is preferable to extinction?)

            What are your feelings on birth control? What about procedures like tubal ligation or vasectomies?

            Against and against.

            Surely if the latter, with their complications and difficult-to-reverse nature are permissible, why should chemical castration be treated differently?

            If.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            @Anonymous

            Oh, okay. I kind of assumed you were more left-than-right leaning on these matters, and knowing that generally people who lean left support similar procedures in other contexts, I thought there was some contradiction at work. But your stance seems to be consistent all the way through.

          • Artificirius says:

            Why is it wrong for someone to use drugs to dull or stop their libido, if they choose to do so of their own free will (and they are not mentally ill, and the drugs do not have outstanding harmful side-effects)?

            The example was someone terrified of people reacting poorly to the mere existence of said person’s desires. This does not fit the category of reasoned/lucid/sane.

            In general, it’s pretty easy to say if person X is reasoned/lucid/sane, anything they ask for is therefore reasoned/lucid/sane, when the reality is you should look at what they’re asking for, and more generally extrapolate from that as to their mental state.

            A woman in the states has a firm belief that she should be a parapalegic. She wants a doctor to sever the nerves at the base of her spine to attain this desire. By accounts, she is quite calm, perhaps reasoned/lucid/sane.

            My gut intuition is that barring a medical need, performing medical procedures is not a great idea.

    • Anon. says:

      People. Trolling is like the tango. It takes two. If you don’t reply, if you don’t react, it simply doesn’t work and disappears.

      Stop feeding them.

  11. Alliteration says:

    One of the disadvantages of open borders is that the policy could cause irreversible change to a nation. (Assuming that the nation unwilling to do something nasty like mass forced emigration) Even if we think that open borders will have a net positive effect, social polities often have unexpected effects. Thus, it could be useful to test open borders on a limited scale.

    Thus, this proposal. The nation would choose a coastal city and allow an unlimited number of immigrants into that town. However, the immigrants would not get full citizenship, and their visas would only allow them to live in the coastal town. If open borders fails horribly, the nation will have only destroyed a single city. If open borders is a great success, the special zone can be expanded to a larger area.

    The primary difficulty of this proposal is keeping the immigrants in the special zone. If the nation sets up boarder controls, that will isolated the city economically and make life difficult for the natives. Without boarder controls, it seems likely that the immigrants would sneak into the rest of the nation, defeating the point of the special zone. Other disadvantages include not getting the full benefit of the immigrants working in the agricultural sector (because the immigrants are stuck in the city), and bad press from forcing the immigrants to live in a slum if the experiment fails.

    • Sandy says:

      Doesn’t seem fair to the natives to turn their city into a testing ground for potentially disastrous social experiments.

      • Agronomous says:

        My understanding is that a bunch of cities, San Francisco among them, have essentially volunteered.

        • Sandy says:

          San Francisco may have volunteered but it’s not as deeply invested in the experiment as other cities. SF’s population is still largely white and Asian. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is nearly 50% Hispanic, with a huge illegal population, and it has seen a corresponding decline in many indicators of urban prosperity.

    • “Thus, it could be useful to test open borders on a limited scale.”

      The first hundred and forty years of U.S. history don’t count?

      Not quite open borders because of restrictions on Chinese immigration toward the end of that period, but close enough. The French even gave us a handsome statue to celebrate the success of the experiment.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think you are confused about the statue.

        • Anonymous says:

          Which statue? The one in New York Harbor: the Statue of Immigration? The one that has the preamble to the Constitution (written by Emma Lazarus, natch) engraved on the pedestal?

      • Jiro says:

        The first hundred and forty years of U.S. history don’t count?

        Only if you’re testing open borders without giving the immigrants social services.

        • My impression is that that’s what most supporters of open borders, at least among libertarians, would prefer. It’s what I proposed in the relevant chapter of my first book.

          • Bassist Pig says:

            What are some of the main reasons immigrants would come here at all, if they knew they would not receive social services? Here’s my answer:

            The safety and opportunities afforded by our culture, institutions, and infrastructure–or at least by proximity to them–would be available to immigrants even if we didn’t give them welfare.

            So, are these things unlimited, maintenance-free resources? If not, should we still make them available to immigrants? If not, how can we do that except by not letting people immigrate in the first place?

      • Alliteration says:

        Society had different norms back then. Our more tolerant society may assimilate immigrants slower. Also, there is no frontier to be settled. More immigrant might come because of improved communications and transport technology. The immigrants might be more different because they would be coming from all over the world instead of just Europe. There is now a welfare state; people are unwilling to have slums locally were it is easy to notice them. A cultural distaste for inequality. Just because it worked historically does not insure that it will still work now.

      • Randy M says:

        Open borders has a different meaning at every point along the world population graph.

  12. TomA says:

    Is it reasonable to presume that a future AI may be able to provide efficacious psychotherapy in the same manner as an app?

  13. Agronomous says:

    Hi, Scott. Just your regular reminder that you banned D3is34ch 34 days ago, and a gentle suggestion that a month is plenty.

    Soooo….. ?

    • Montfort says:

      Can you give it a rest? There’s no need to have another big D*****ch thread with its attendant old drama.
      If you honestly think Scott may have forgotten, you can just send him an email.

      • Agronomous says:

        I gave it a two-week rest; my previous comment on the topic was on July 4. You make it sound like I bring up D.’s ban every day.

        As for whether Scott’s actually forgotten, or he’s procrastinating because he doesn’t know quite how to handle lifting the ban, or he’s the victim of an Ugh Field, or this is a weird variation on [Awkward Silence]: I have theories, but they don’t actually matter. D.’s ban, and in particular the indefinite term of it, affect the commenting community; that’s a reason to bring it up in the comments.

        If you think this is courting excessive drama, (a) avoid Twitter like the plague and (b) click the Hide link.

    • Seth says:

      This is just speculation, but given the initial “I’m going to get myself banned for sure this time!”, I don’t think she’ll be unbanned without an apology and a promise not to do it again. And, further speculating, I doubt either will be forthcoming.

      I’ve been thinking about that ban as a case study of the issues regarding some contentious theories about social norms. But maybe that whole hornet’s nest is better left unstirred.

  14. Bassist Pig says:

    Is there a term for when someone “softly” cuts off contact with another person by agreeing to respond to communication but never originating it? E.g. will sometimes answer emails (often with reluctance and a long delay) but will never write to you out of the blue. And I’m specifically talking about the case where there are bad feelings behind it, not just that the person is absent-minded.

    Maybe the Germans have such a term?

    • Acedia says:

      I’ve seen “the slow fade” used in several places to describe ending a relationship by gradual and deliberate neglect.

    • Outis says:

      I call that “friendship”, because it’s the closest thing I have to it.

  15. Tsnom Eroc says:

    Also, from a man whose blog I should read more

    https://terrytao.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/it-ought-to-be-common-knowledge-that-donald-trump-is-not-fit-for-the-presidency-of-the-united-states-of-america/

    Terry Tao, current leading man in the “Smartest person in the world” contest and absolute winner of “Best mathematician of today” , his article on why Trump should not be president.

    Also, from the Quantum Computer guy the blogosphere knows and enjoys, Scott Aaronson

    “I think people support Trump for the same reason why second-graders support the class clown who calls the teacher a fart-brain to her face. It’s not that the class literally agrees that the teacher’s cranium is filled with intestinal gases, or considers that an important question to raise.”

    • Anonymous says:

      IQ is everything. Except when it is totally irrelevant. Tough to figure which is which.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      We chewed this over a couple of open threads ago. I’d put it to you that a mathematician is going to know any more about politics than any other random shmoe ranting from a barstool.

    • Loquat says:

      I believe that was discussed on a previous thread some time earlier, and the general opinion was that Tao has made a fundamental error: Trump’s unfitness is not a common knowledge problem because (a) lots of people do in fact believe that he is fit to be president, and (b) lots of people who believe he’s unfit have been saying so loudly for quite some time, on the right as well as on the left.

    • Civilis says:

      There’s also the matter that for most people fitness isn’t a binary value. I suspect that most Republicans don’t think Trump’s fitness for office is particularly high when compared to, say, Romney or McCain, it’s just that it’s higher than Hillary’s fitness for office.

      For many people, it’s also a combination of ‘fitness’ and ‘electability’. I certainly know people that think Johnson is more fit for office than Trump, but consider his ‘fitness x electability’ too low, and I’m sure there are people that consider Jill Stein more fit for office than Hillary, but likewise think Stein’s electability is too low to risk voting for her over Hillary.

    • Pku says:

      There’s an interesting point to make here. Unlike, say, Bill O’reilly or Stephen Colbert, who bravely just say things their viewers already think, Tao is actually trying to think one level deeper – he knows his followers already dislike Trump, and he’s trying to do something with it rather than just resaying “Trump is bad”.

    • Agronomous says:

      I think Other Scott A. is a little closer to the truth than TT is. Looking at first-order things like Actual Policies can’t explain Trump’s success. Even looking at second-order things like Likely Actual Effects of Nominating/Electing him can’t explain it. This is some iterative second-least-worst punishment strategy or something: I think Trump supporters aren’t even that interested in who he is and what he’ll do; they’re happy enough just to keep the usual suspects out of power, and figure (rightly, I think) that at least the Republicans will pay more attention to their concerns after four years of Trump.

      A couple months ago, I said voting for Trump was how white working-class people riot. I seem to have gotten the demographics wrong, but I’m still pretty sure it’s a riot: i.e. something that’s somewhat self-damaging to the rioters in the short-term, in an effort to intimidate and motivate more-powerful groups to change their behavior.

      • Tsnom Eroc says:

        I think people keep forgetting what Trump did almost 6 years ago, and how that effects him now. He kept calling for Obama to release his birth certificate, loudly, and as a popular media figure (and a billionaire businessman) that made his voice heard loudly as a “credible” figure amongs’t the around 30%+ of republicans who believe Obama was a muslim from kenya. No other republican was so loud on that, and linking himself to Obama releasing his birth certificate really rolled in the votes.

        That in itself could make someone win the current voting system, while losing in a perhaps more rational system of voting

  16. Mercer says:

    Gavin Long, in his last video before his actions in Baton Rouge, says “Don’t affiliate me with nothing”. This after he had earlier claimed the Dallas police shootings were “Justice”

    From an article on the daily caller: “Law enforcement officials said Sunday that the shooting does not appear to have been race-related. At least one of the officers killed in the attack was black.”

    Isn’t this a bit surreal? A man commits a heinous crime, knowing full well we’re going to associate him with a racial movement. He protests this inevitability. Soon afterward, we get a statement from officials that the crimes aren’t race-related. What is the standard for “relatedness”, that this doesn’t pass muster? Am I supposed to pretend BLM rhetoric has NOTHING to do with Baton Rouge?

    If you were to argue Gavin Long was not representative of BLM, just as Micah Johnson was not representative, I’d be inclined to agree. But not related?

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Am I supposed to pretend BLM rhetoric has NOTHING to do with Baton Rouge?

      Yes, you are supposed to pretend that.

    • Zombielicious says:

      What is the standard for “relatedness”, that this doesn’t pass muster?

      I think the standard is that he was killing cops, without regard to their skin color (i.e. one of them was black), as opposed to killing white cops specifically. It was anti-cop, not anti-[some race] (afaik – will retract if further evidence comes out).

      People are then motivated to politicize it in order to blame it on whatever they’re opposed to. Depending on which of your enemy ideologies you want to target, you could stretch it farther and blame it on atheism, liberals, libertarians, gun culture, the military… really pretty much anything. And of course pundits gladly will. Some of those are bigger stretches than others, but when white cops and black cops get shot and killed by the same guy and you claim it was racially motivated then you’re already stretching.

      • Mercer says:

        A black man can kill another black man out of racial motivation. He may believe a black man who decides to be a cop is a race traitor. I would rate it likelier than not that this is what Gavin Long believed, based on the type of rhetoric he embraced

        Perhaps Gavin Long was anti-cop and but not explicitly anti-white. But that feels like it requires much more stretching to believe than the converse.

        • Zombielicious says:

          He can, but when he’s killing black and white cops together, it requires adding in a lot of other additional assumptions to make it race-related. He’s clearly targeting them because they’re cops, not targeting white people because they’re white and also coincidentally black people who he considers “race traitors” – and not even “race traitors” for being cops, but specifically because they’re supporting white stuff, otherwise you’re just back to “it’s because they’re cops.”

          Now if he had killed white civilians and black cops at the same time, or just white-anyone while avoiding black-anything, you’d have a better case for it being a primarily racial attack.

          The main thing though is that if you’re going to blame otherwise non-violent groups, movements, ideologies, whatever, for all the unstable crazy people they might inspire, literally no one will be left. At least if you consistently apply that principle across groups. If you don’t, then you’re just another person selectively politicizing current events to attack opposing groups and ideologies (e.g. this kind of thing). So it doesn’t seem reasonable that all the non-violent people trying to achieve goals in specifically non-violent ways should be held accountable for the randoms that might go nuts in the name of their cause, despite having actively discouraged that kind of extremist behavior.

          • Mercer says:

            He is clearly targeting them primarily because they are cops. Absolutely correct. Why is he upset with cops? Because cops are perceived as racist, and this perception is a major part of current pro-black rhetoric. I believe I have to make one assumption in order to demonstrate “relatedness”, which is that anti-cop rhetoric and pro-black rhetoric are bound up together in our current discourse. I don’t even know that this qualifies as an “assumption” anymore?

            “Primarily a racial attack”….well, if its primarily an attack on cops, can it not also be secondarily an attack on white power? And perhaps thirdly an expression of black solidarity? Is that not enough for “relatedness”?

            Blaming non-violent groups for unstable crazies they inspire is how I think BLM would like to characterize criticism of them in the wake of these attacks. I, for one, am not blaming them, specifically. The blame is Gavin Longs. But I am criticizing them. And I am certainly “affiliating”.

            Consider the case of Anders Breivik and the far right. He wrote a manifesto that was explicitly rightist, then went on a killing spree. Of course, the far right wanted no part of being “affiliated” with Anders Breivik. He’s just a lone crazy. Of course he’s a lone crazy in one sense, but in another he’s also clearly a part of something we’d call “the far right”, no matter how much anyone in the far right would protest against that.

            Its difficult to listen to Gavin Long’s youtube videos without thinking of BLM. You are free to disagree with that assessment. You speak of groups that are “otherwise non-violent” that go on in “specifically non-violent ways”. If you’ll indulge me even further, consider the difference between MLK and Malcolm X. The former is explicitly non-violent, so much so that nonviolence is almost as definitive of him as anything else. The latter stands for by any means necessary. Whose descendent is BLM? When you pay homage to Assata Shakur, isn’t your rhetoric starting to blur the lines a bit on being “specifically non-violent”? Not to either condemn or praise Assata Shakur; she was many things, but nonviolent was not one. If BLM stood for nonviolence, they could be a good bit more explicit about that. As it stands, it looks like to me nonviolence is just the bailey to the “by any means necessary” motte

          • Zombielicious says:

            Re: the “one assumption,” it seems like a long chain of specious reasoning (no particular offense intended). He’s targeting them because they’re cops, because cops are perceived as racist, because of anti-cop rhetoric, which is tied up with pro-black rhetoric. To take that where it’s obviously going, therefore “pro-black rhetoric” is bad because it incites black men to shoot cops.

            This might be easier to debate if conclusions were stated more directly. If this is true, what should BLM people do about it? Not exist? Make stronger denunciations against violent or extremist behavior? Blame their problems on themselves or the black community instead of systemic stuff?

            Like I said in the previous OT, I was at one of the protests a few weeks ago, and it was all openly and blatantly non-violent. They had a large team of volunteers in orange vests that they told people to contact if they saw anyone trying to agitate the crowd or otherwise cause problems. They specifically warned people about trying to provoke the crowd or cops. When some random bystanders would try and agitate people (e.g. shouting “blue lives matter” at the protesters) they would get between the groups and keep it from escalating. Nothing that was said by any of the speakers with megaphones was even remotely encouraging of more aggressive tactics. The closest thing I saw to violent tendency was two random guys who got into an argument (out of a crowd of thousands of people) and were threatening to fight before people separated them. There was absolutely no sign of encouraging “by any means necessary” tactics in undertones while pretending to superficially promote non-violence.

            The thing seems to be organized at the local level in each city, so I can’t say what the situation is in other places, and you do see more aggressive groups sometimes getting involved (e.g. Black Panthers in Baton Rouge marching with open carry shotguns). You also see neo-Nazi biker gangs trying to provoke the crowd, and cops arresting people for giving interviews or pointing rifles at unarmed civilians.

            So if a bunch of bikers decide to also march “in support of law enforcement,” and some of their group is joined by skinheads with Confederate flags, and Confederate flags have been associated with white supremacy and slavery, and maybe the founder of one of the gangs was also friends with an old KKK member, does this then mean that “supporting law enforcement” means supporting slavery and lynchings? Because this is basically the same level of argument you’re making. Is it not possible that while some people might be actual racists who really do think blacks should be slaves, that most people who think positively of police at some level are tacitly using a motte and bailey for their real support of slavery and violence towards blacks? Or that while some people who join a protest group like BLM are actual Black Panthers supporting black power and such, most people aren’t actually supporting violence and just want less racism, less cops shooting people, and less impoverished communities of minorities (among other things I may be forgetting)?

            Given the recent spate of police shootings though I am really expecting to see the organizers of the local groups try to distance themselves from, and put more effort into discouraging, the extremist stuff. They already seem to be doing that, e.g. the previous one I mentioned was only a few days after the Dallas stuff and they were obviously focused on discouraging people from trying to provoke or escalate things. Unfortunately all it takes is someone pulling a gun or throwing rocks at cops and you can quickly end up with a chaotic situation which then reflects badly on everyone else, and then the added toxoplasma effect where the peaceful protests get largely ignored but the Black Panthers and Confederate bikers are all over the news.

          • Mercer says:

            It is difficult for me to envision Gavin Long as anything but racially motivated. If you can do so, then we have nothing more to discuss on that point, unless you feel like offering me insight into how you do it. Watch his videos, if you haven’t.

            What is more compelling is the question of what is to be done. “Not exist? Make stronger denunciations against violent or extremist behavior? Blame their problems on themselves or the black community instead of systemic stuff?” Well, no organization is going to pick option A. They could do try option C, but if your position is that “systemic stuff” is a bigger problem that issues internal to the black community, then why would you? I think the opposite, but what I think is not important, so lets grant that “systemic stuff” is worth protesting. That leaves us with Option B.

            My take on this, and it applies to all movements left and right, is that if you’re not explicitly nonviolent, you are inviting violence to ride under your flag even if you yourself detest it. What I mean by explicitly nonviolent is that your movement espouses nonviolence as a core philosophical principle. This is a binary choice.

            There’s a contingent of BLM that is trying to do this. “The movement began as a call to end violence. That call remains.” Well, a claim is one thing, but you need to enforce. There’s also a contingent that chanted “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like Bacon”. It’s no use assigning blame to the better elements in BLM. But my criticism is that they need to oppose the other element, consistently. Ditch the bailey, completely. Calling Long and Johnson lone crazies doesn’t do this. They did not fall out of the sky. They are not the only ones to think as they did; they are so far just the only ones to act.

            Pro-black rhetoric (I regret this particular phrasing, give me an appropriate replacement) and anti-cop rhetoric do not have to be connected. One need not imply the other. That they currently ARE connected is not my invention. In the battle to improve the condition of blacks in society, BLM has chosen as its fortress the racism of cops. I disagree with their position, and if you like, I can argue the case that the racism of cops is overstated. But regardless, my opinion on the matter is hardly definitive and cops shouldn’t be immune from criticism or protest.

            So, can you criticize cops without inciting? Only, I think, if you preach nonviolence as forcefully as you can, and exile anyone who strays from the position of absolute nonviolence. The first part is not that difficult to do, but it can be difficult to be heard over competing voices. It has to be loud. Even so, I’ll acknowledge toxoplasma is a bitch. The second part is very very difficult, I think. It involves casting out past icons like Assata. And it involves treating the “Pigs in a Blanket” folk not as unfortunate allies but as enemies, exactly as racist cops are enemies.

          • Sandy says:

            The sad thing is I can imagine someone affiliated with BLM or who sympathizes with their larger cause arguing that ostracizing the “Pigs in a blanket” people would amount to “respectability politics”.

          • gbdub says:

            Zombielicious, I suppose you were not at the protest where “pigs in a blanket, fry em like bacon” was an organized chant? Or the freeway protest that devolved into hucking concrete and fireworks at police? Certainly, there are many, many nonviolent protests, but its also clear that provocation and violence at these rallies is something that ought to be considered an expected outcome. The level of enforcement of nonconfrontation you saw at your rally seems to not be universal.

            It’s kind of absurd to argue that BLM is not a racial organization. It’s called “Black Lives Matter”, not “End Police Violence” (or “End Violence in our Communities” which would save more black lives). They are explicitly anti-cop, and they explicitly assume that any death of a black person at the hands of the police is caused by racism.

            Their tactics are, even if non violent, generally confrontational rather than cooperative (not to say this is universal, certainly there have been cases of them peacefully engaging with authorities). Protest rallies, interrupting speeches, etc. That’s what they get known for. In our previous discussion on the topic you argued that disruption is necessary to get your point across. And that may be true, but the more disruption you encourage, the more likely that some subset of your supporters are going to take that as a call to violence.

            That doesn’t make them “responsible” for nutjobs being inspired by their rhetoric. But they should still be cognizant of this, and I think at some point if you organize an intentionally disruptive protest and don’t take the sort of precautions you described, there’s a level of negligence there (I would apply the same standard to neo-Nazi bikers). “I didn’t intend to start a wildfire” is not a complete defense to playing with road flares in a dry forest.

          • Immortal Lurker says:

            @Mercer

            I have a nitpick. I am not certain that nonviolence as a core principal is always necessary to prevent violence from entering the movement. I don’t recall the tea party or occupy wall street being violent[1].

            But I think we all agree that the interesting question here is how to implement option B. And I think that the answer depends entirely on the ratio of protests like the one Zombielicious described to protests like gbdub described.

            I have no idea how to get that number. Blindly Googling it would probably devolve into a game of “which pundit is more trustworthy?”, in which case you can just declare your tribal affiliations beforehand and save yourself the trouble. Is there any method we can agree upon for capturing how violent a movement is?

            At the moment my probability distribution for how violent the BLM movement is looks a lot like total ignorance.

            [1]Shooting from the hip here. If am wrong, I’ll need to rethink this bit.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Groups/movements/ideologies that have no centralized authority mean that basically everything is a No True Scotsman.

            You can find BLM and related groups that are outright nonthreatening (I categorize stuff like people surrounding an individual, getting in their personal space, yelling in their face, etc as threatening) and are admirable in their commitment to this – this is what Zombielicious describes.

            You can find BLM groups whose tactics are quite threatening. I can’t think of any examples of outright violence (physical violence – I don’t buy the definition creep that’s happened with the word “violence”), but there definitely have been cases of either promoting violence (“pigs in a blanket” etc is not just some thing that some right-wing author somewhere made up) or using nudge-nudge-hint-hint language (stuff about “revolution”, for instance).

            There isn’t necessarily a connection between rhetoric and violence – I’m somewhere where there’s been no violence and next to no threatening behaviour by the local BLM group, no non-BLM mobs (see below), and no attacks on police officers, but one of the main BLM organizers has a history of poorly thought out social media use.

            I will wager that BLM is far less violent than the disorganized mob violence that can happen: eg, a black guy gets shot by the cops, and riots/looting break out. It probably acts as a safety valve.

            But you can’t really say “BLM is xyz” because there isn’t a central office with a membership test, is there? It’s more “BLM are”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I really like the “BLM is” vs “BLM are” formulation, and will try to use it in the future about other things.

          • Mercer says:

            Given that we’re dealing with a “BLM are” and not a “BLM is”, I have to reconsider some things. I take for granted in my analysis the existence of a central leadership which on second thought is probably hard to justify

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Jaskologist:

            Thanks. I find that using the English-style “are” for things that are grammatically singular, but not in reality singular, is very useful for discussing ideological issues where there’s a low bar to entry for a particular position. Plenty of obvious examples. Really helps defeat the “No True Scotsman” that pops up in these situations.

          • Lumifer says:

            Central leadership is an interesting thing.

            For a certain kind of groups/movements it is highly advantageous to have a core which is more or less centrally controlled and listens to orders, plus a large fringe of allies, co-travelers, sympathizers, etc. who are allowed to use the branding of the core but who are quite deniable if need be.

            The fringe often includes violent elements who can be (indirectly) pointed at enemies, and who can be publicly disavowed but privately encouraged. Think about the Sinn Fein – IRA relationship, for example.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Lumifer:

            I think that in the case of BLM and Occupy the refusal to have a central authority is as much a political choice as it is a practical one. They’re not the first left-wing groups to behave this way, either.

            This, of course, doesn’t always turn out well:

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

          • Zombielicious says:

            I’d like to have responded earlier but can’t be around the computer all the time, so since this OT is nearing an end I’ll try to just address the main point about whether BLM is net-good/bad because of potential violence…

            It seems weird to blame the cop shootings on the BLM protests or particular signs held at them (edit: mistake, gbdub was referring to a chant, not a sign, which implies more people involved) when the elephant in the room is the repeated videos going viral of cops shooting unarmed black people. Whatever contribution BLM protests, or the things advocated at some of them, might have contributed, I can’t imagine it doesn’t pale in comparison to the videos of police brutality themselves. The Castile video is particularly messed up. Gavin Long specifically cited it as a reason for his shooting (edit: “cited” might be technically incorrect – I didn’t actually watch his videos from after it happened).

            Now the videos and the protests are certainly tied up, but what are people really expecting from them? If you really want to prevent these kinds of attacks on cops, you’re only real options seem to be getting cops to kill less unarmed, innocent people, or trying to suppress the videos themselves when they do, or telling people that they shouldn’t protest it when police kill an unarmed person. Sure, the protests should absolutely discourage violence, if only because the violent extremist stuff tends to delegitimize them. But just having semi-weekly viral videos of cops murdering people + protests against them bringing public attention to it is going to attract that kind of thing.

            At that point, when some unstable person decides to kill a cop over it all, blaming the BLM protests for not having “incorporated nonviolence as a fundamental part of the movement” seems like a huge distraction meant to delegitimize the protests. Since there will likely still be people shooting cops as long as the videos are going viral and there’s a huge public discussion about it, and embracing some philosophical principle within the core group of organizers (whoever they are) isn’t likely to stop it much, it basically makes for a neverending attack on BLM protests by blaming them for things beyond their control and demanding changes that they’re basically powerless to enforce. They might manage to discourage one or two people, but most likely crazy shooters gonna shoot, and they’ll just add into their youtube rants how BLM isn’t effective because of it’s nonviolence and pacifism. Micah Johnson is a good example since he seemed to think exactly that (Long did too, apparently), and was even blacklisted by the black power groups that do believe in armed attacks on whites.

            As an anecdote, I’ve had some really shitty experiences with cops myself – from having guns pointed at me over trivial stuff (imo), or blatantly just to scare me, to a guy I went to high school with who was killed by the cops after they tasered him 17 times while already having him handcuffed with six cops sitting on him, to protecting some people while they kicked down the door to my house and robbed me (and then lying about it on the police report), to beating the shit out of my friends when arresting them for smoking weed or blaming another woman I knew for her own kidnapping and defending the guy who had done it. This is not an exhaustive list, and all this from a middle-class white person. I have trouble being overly sympathetic, to put it mildly, to the cops when something like one of these shootings happens, and I imagine a ton of the protesters asking for non-violence feel the same way deep down inside. But there’s a big difference between genuinely hating the cops and encouraging people to kill them. Most people at these protests probably view the cops as an occupying enemy army, most have probably had similar experiences to the ones I described, not to mention having grown up hearing stories from parents and grandparents who lived through segregation, Jim Crow, and were themselves the children of slaves (edit: former slaves, rather – lived into at least the mid-20th century) . It’s hard to get overly worked up about any kind of sign that someone thinks might be “indirectly promoting violence” when just driving by a cop on the street makes you wonder if you only have minutes to live (and most people I know feel this way to some degree or another, though I think I get harassed a lot less now due to increasing age, skin color, and the type of car I drive).

            Again, the protests should discourage violence, but after you’ve done that, chasing the marginal returns of it by spending all your time policing the language of your supporters, rather than the people who are actually out killing you, just to placate the people least sympathetic to your cause anyway, becomes some self-defeating diversionary tactic. The comments about non-violence (separate from non-disruption) as a core principle and distancing themselves from fringe elements seem like good advice, and I don’t disagree, but people should consider the potential bias of the criticism compared to the major influences on cop shootings (viral videos coupled with people’s negative experiences with cops, way more than signs and protests), and when you’re telling them to be far more concerned with the potential safety of the cops killing unarmed innocents than the people regularly getting abused or killed by them.

          • gbdub says:

            Why are you billing “promote nonviolence” and “protest about our grievances” as if they are a mutually exclusive choice? Do both! Nonviolence is a tactic for protest, not a renunciation of protest.

            “you’re telling them to be far more concerned with the potential safety of the cops killing unarmed innocents than the people regularly getting abused or killed by them.”

            Another false dichotomy. Killing cops is bad. Cops shooting people who shouldn’t be shot is bad. It is possible to be concerned about both. To the extent that BLM supports this dichotomy (your own comment does – you’re basically saying “you’re not allowed to complain about cops dying until cops stop killing black people”), this is bad.

            “Most people at these protests probably view the cops as an occupying enemy army”

            Do you believe that encouraging this view is likely to make things safer or less safe for black Americans?

            “It seems weird to blame the cop shootings on the BLM protests or particular signs held at them (edit: mistake, gbdub was referring to a chant, not a sign, which implies more people involved) when the elephant in the room is the repeated videos going viral of cops shooting unarmed black people.”

            Why is it justified to treat “the cops” as a unified block, each one of them equally responsible for the actions of the others, but unjustified to do the same for BLM and their various fellow travelers and inspired nutjobs? This is especially relevant given that at least some of the cops getting killed are exactly the sort of cops that we want to work with (Jackson definitely if his Facebook post is representative, and the Dallas PD has apparently put in a lot of effort to reduce violence and racial disparities in policing). You’re stereotyping your opposition, and No True Scotsmanning your own side.

            And yeah, videos are going to piss people off. They probably should. But it would be helpful to have an organization on the generally-sympathetic-to-BLM side willing to tap the brakes a bit rather than throw a riot as soon as a video comes out. Certainly, rational investigation into the Michael Brown case changed the narrative a lot, and honestly the BLM supporters came out looking unreasonable to a lot more people because of that.

            A quibble – neither Castile nor Sterling were “unarmed”. That does not mean they were posing a threat worthy of deadly force at the time they were shot (as you say, Castile’s shooting looks especially messed up, as does today’s video of a guy taking one in the leg while trying to help an autistic patient). But being “unarmed” doesn’t mean you aren’t a threat. That’s part of my issue with BLM, they seem to go from “unarmed” black man shot -> racism is ONLY explanation -> let’s throw a riot without a lot of thought in between, and that’s going to lead to a lot of actions that look unjustified in retrospect. It’s certainly stoking rather than soothing general tensions between the cops and black people – and yeah, you need to do that to protest a real issue, but my point all along has been that if you’re going to stoke the tension, you do bear some responsibility for keeping it appropriately directed.

          • Mercer says:

            Unsure if its any good putting another long post in an old OT, but whatever. I’m confident this topic will come back around, so on the one hand these ideas can wait, but since you went through the trouble of posting a lengthy response Zomb I’ll reciprocate in kind.

            Your experiences with the cops sound horrible. Though I personally haven’t had any poor experiences with police officers (I’m white…surprise?), I’m not so thick as to believe that police corruption and abuse of power aren’t serious issues. Even if we pretend 99% of cops are good, 1% of cops is a heck of a lot of cops to be afraid of. And of course I’ve just pulled 99% as a figure out of thin air. If it were closer to 75%/25% it would be a complete disaster. There are occasionally reddit threads asking “good cops” to tell stories about corruption they’d seen, and its always pretty brutal.

            So maybe it IS a complete disaster. I don’t have the real percentage or know where to get it. But regardless, policing is necessary, and it is by its nature a profession that demands a certain level of ugliness. Though we could have a better police corps than the one we have now, I’m neither smart enough nor knowledgeable enough to figure out what policies we should enact to create one, and frankly I’m dubious of anyone who claims to have the answer. Go too far in one direction, and you have a draconian monstrosity, too far in the other, and you have weak and ineffectual policing. You say cops feel like an invading army. What is authority supposed to feel like? Is the only acceptable number of people killed by the police accidentally zero? If Philando Castille was murdered (I’d say yes), was Alton Sterling (I’d say no)? Would it be fine, if they just wouldn’t be racist? If only

            Herein lies the crux of the matter. Your whiteness didn’t stop you from being abused by the cops. And Dylan Nobles didn’t stop him from getting shot. Is the elephant in the room the videos of police killings? Or is the elephant that police killings are, statistically, not racially biased, but actually are proportional to the number of violent criminals of that race? From no less than this blog :

             As you can see, a person shot at by a police officer is more than twice as likely to be black as the average member of the general population. But, crucially, they are less likely to be black than the average violent shooter or the average person who shoots at the police. 

            This is referring to stats from New York in 2011, I believe, but if you google them you’ll find corroborations of the same for other places and timespans. This does not mean that cops themselves are not sometimes racists. But there is seemingly no racial bias in who they kill. If every cop in America woke up tomorrow cleansed of their racist feelings, would that solve our police problem? Would they be better, worse, or about the same at combatting criminals? Does Black Lives Matter move on to the next issue confronting Black America? Do they disband? I imagine our answers may not be the same.

            I wasn’t bringinng this up because I want to work from the assumption that BLM’s complaints about cops are legitimate, and if they are legitimate, how do they go about making them in a way that doesnt feed into violence. That I actually doubt the claims, at least somewhat, shouldn’t be a factor.

            Your position is that Gavin Long and Micah X. Johnson are responding directly to the videos capturing the actions of the police, and are therefore best understood as being parallel to Black Lives Matter, which, while also responding to said videos, do so in a completely different way.

            Another thought experiment. Pretend we’re in a world where Black Lives Matter received a tenth of the attention they currently get. Or better yet, if you can manage it, imagine they don’t exist at all. Cop behaviour doesn’t change, but people judge them in the context of different ethnicities having different levels of criminality, so they don’t attribute wrongful deaths caused by cops to racism. In this world, two videos get released on back to back days showing cops killing young black males in controversial circumstances. Is it less likely, more likely, or exactly as likely that a Gavin Long or a Micah X. Johnson will respond to these videos by attacking police officers?

            My answer is: less likely. Black Lives Matter, disband immediately! Well, no, this is just our Option A from before, and we ruled it out as being unfair to people who wanted to express grievances with police. Not to mention its basically impossible.

            Yet another hypothetical, because why not beat a rhetorical device into the ground? Imagine a world where Black Lives Matter are exactly as prominent as it is now, but are reported as being adamantly opposed  to violence in all forms, and a sizeable portion if not a central authority regularly denounced people perceived as being « on its side » when they stray from total nonviolence. Lets go even farther, and say this version of Black Lives Matter not only says it cared about black on black crimes (which it currently does say) but also devoted as much of its energy and time to the issue of black criminality as it did police violence. By the standards of “oppose the people who are actually killing you”, certainly you can’t exempt criminals, who end far more black lives than cops. Once again, two videos come out on back to back days with similarly appalling content. Is retribution now less likely, more likely, or exactly as likely? And second question, will the fringe of such a BLM movement be less populated by believers in violence, more populated, or exactly as populated?

            To the first question, I again answer less likely…probably. This is related to my answer to the second question, which is a resounding I’m not sure. Its possible that by disowning violence, the BLM movement would push so many believers in violence into the fringe that they’d then form an alternative « group », parallel to BLM in its opposition to cops but embracing methods which exclude it from our more aggressively nonviolent BLM. This is what someone who places Gavin Long and Micah Johnson outside the BLM-sphere proper might say is already happening, I think. In which case, our hypothetical BLM has changed its behaviour for no reason. Crazy gunna cray. But there is a second possibility, which is that by being aggressively nonviolent BLM might effect a change in the discourse that helps starve violent rhetoric and shame people who embrace it. This would shrink the total population of people who see violence as legitimate, which shrinks the population of people who might entertain violent retribution. And it doesnt have to be more than the one or two people who get discouraged; Long and Johnson are just two people.

            To put it another way, if you think the number of violent actors out there is more or less a constant, then BLM policing itself (themselves?) would have no real impact except to make said crazies more isolated and potentially even more dangerous. “Crazy shooters gonna shoot”. If you think that the number of violent actors shrinks and grows depending on the character of the discourse high-media profile groups engage in, then maybe you’re more optimistic about the potential for BLM to minimize future retributive attacks. Which all sounds kind of obvious and makes me wonder why I had to type so much to get to this point.

            I admit, I had not thought this out anywhere near as much when I made my initial post. So thanks for sticking this out this far, Zomb. I wasn’t really expecting your last reply and it helped in my reflection.

          • Zombielicious says:

            So I agree with Mercer that it’s probably best to wrap this up, but to clarify a few perceived misunderstandings (particularly with what gbdub replied)…

            There’s a few things that I didn’t mean to say or imply. In particular:

            1) That discouraging violence and protesting are mutually exclusive.
            2) That “you’re not allowed to complain about cops dying until cops stop killing black people.”
            3) That “it’s justified to treat ‘the cops’ as a unified block” (at least in regards to all being murderers/racists/etc – you could still make arguments about even good cops helping perpetuate a bad system).
            4) That “racism is the only explanation” for every police shooting. (Some people may actually claim this, but I’m not one of them.)

            These are simplistic, black-and-white statements and a pretty uncharitable interpretation of what I thought I said. My point was about the marginal returns of trying harder and harder to discourage violence, versus the rhetorical tactic of opponents using the (technically epistemologically true) position of “BLM could do more to discourage violence” as cover for the instrumental goal of “BLM protests and criticism need to stop.”

            (A good parallel for this is the similar statement “when will moderate Muslims stand up and denounce the violence done in the name of their religion?” Of course it’s technically a valid argument that non-violent Muslims could always be doing more to discourage violence, but when said in the context of the same people asking that question also wanting to ban all Muslims from entering the country, it’s pretty transparently a way of masking the actual implication “all Muslims secretly promote terrorism even if they publicly claim not to.”)

            That’s the problem with calling No True Scotsman in a discussion like this; it’s kind of meaningless since it can be thrown around any direction. E.g. some people who criticize BLM as promoting violence, or not doing enough to discourage it, just use it as an attack on black communities or anti-police-brutality activism in general – and if anyone claims that’s not the real argument being made, just call No True Scotsman on them. (Can make parallel arguments against HBD supporters, by the way.) Of course the validity of an argument shouldn’t depend on the motives for making it, but there are instrumental differences in which arguments we choose to act on, and the argument “BLM could do more to discourage violence” isn’t much different (imo) from “BLM critics could do more to eliminate racism and police brutality.”

            This is why I was trying to find some common ground (which also seemed a way to keep the discussion from going on forever) by saying essentially “BLM should definitely do whatever it can, within reason, to promote itself as a non-violent movement, but also people encouraging them to do that should ensure that their criticisms don’t obstruct progress being made towards eliminating police brutality, racial inequality, etc.”

            “Most people at these protests probably view the cops as an occupying enemy army”

            Do you believe that encouraging this view is likely to make things safer or less safe for black Americans?

            It’s kind of irrelevant to the question of what extent the view is true or not. But that’d be another long debate we probably don’t have time left for, unfortunately.

            @Mercer:

            Thanks for the discussion, my only comment would be that, re: the thought experiments, a lot of it changes depending on how much you consider minorities to be affected by various forms of systemic racism. E.g. it’s possible that minorities have different levels of criminality, and that arrests and shootings still result from racism, if you consider it systemic racism rather than the racism of individuals. Discussing that would be another long debate, but the argument would generally involve stuff about poverty, laws differentially targeting minorities (e.g. crack vs cocaine sentencing discrepancy), social differences leftover from historical systemic racism, etc. (I’d recommend the documentary The House I Live In if someone wants to see a well-made version of that narrative.) Essentially “black people may commit more crimes, but that’s mainly because white society has been systematically impoverishing us for centuries, and either continues to or only mostly stopped really, really recently.” Since a lot of the people in BLM would probably agree with that type of assessment, it explains why they’d think the “racial injustice” component of the movement would be as important as the “police brutality” component. Even though police brutality obviously effects far more than just black people and minorities.

            I did say previously (maybe the last OT) that my main criticism of BLM was it’s focus on racism as the cause of police brutality at the exclusion of other factors, such as being young and male. My guess is a 19 year old white male is probably at higher risk of being shot by a cop than a 50 year old black woman, though maybe not for other forms of police abuse. Nor do I particularly blame the shootings on racism so much as other reasons (in particular, lack of convictions or punishment for cops who kill innocent people, general preference for the safety of cops over the safety of the public). But the attitude that the police force/society in general is racist, higher crime rates among black people (as judged by “has been arrested or convicted before”), and historical treatment of black people in the U.S. (especially by police departments), is closely related to why it’s “Black Lives Matter” and not just “Stop Police Brutality.”

            Fwiw, I’m fine with letting this go now, unless anyone else has anything to add. At least if I don’t reply again it’s because of feeling a need to drop it more than not having plenty left to say on the subject.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think the standard is that he was killing cops, without regard to their skin color (i.e. one of them was black), as opposed to killing white cops specifically. It was anti-cop, not anti-[some race]

        That would be all well and good if BLM was anti-white. But that’s not what they say.

    • Jaskologist says:

      For surreal, check out the newspaper that apologized for accurately saying that the Dallas gunman targeted whites.

      • Mercer says:

        I would like to steelman the editors decision here but im having trouble coming up with anything coherent

    • Pku says:

      I’m pretty sure poor black communities have strong anti-cop sentiment that precedes BLM. This is definitely from the same source as BLM, but that doesn’t mean it’s caused by it.

  17. Tsnom Eroc says:

    Who else is worried about the ages of the leading presidential canidates?

    Hillary would be 68 at election, trump 70. Trump would be older than Reagan, and Hilary about the same age, a few months difference.

    Theres a bunch of weird stories about a blood clot in Hillarys brain, and Trump is already the angry old man yelling about everything and seemingly forgetting what he said just a day ago(how else to explain the daily flip-flops…kidding, hopefully).

    http://www.brainhealthhacks.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/fluid-and-crystalized-intelligence3.png

    The graphs are a lot worse for age then the text.

    http://news.mit.edu/2015/brain-peaks-at-different-ages-0306

    The research is fairly consistent. Your brain peeks at age 19-25, in terms of raw learning ability and speed. At age 60, you start declining quickly. At age 70, you are much much slower mentally, with a much lower IQ then at age 20 when you first impressed people. You also start getting at much higher risk of well, absolutely serious processing and memory disorders.

    The optimal age for a president, the blend of intelligence and life information, is probably in the 40’s.

    • Lumifer says:

      Not with these two. You have two of the most hated people in the US as your only choice for a President and you care about age?

    • Zombielicious says:

      Another issue is that people in that age range have around a 5-10% chance of death during an 8 year term, so it’s basically guaranteed to happen eventually if you keep electing them, and even assuming it isn’t during some kind of major crisis, you then end up with whatever awful VP was picked just to “balance out the ticket” (e.g. imagine a Sarah Palin presidency if McCain had been elected and died in office). The actual risk of death from old age might be higher/lower due to the ridiculous stress of the job or having access to probably best the health care on the planet.

      And aside from lower fluid intelligence, you also have the problem of the head of state being someone whose opinions and worldview may be out of touch by several generations (you’d think voting would help with that, but I’m not so sure). Most people working at that level of government have been there for decades – e.g. Clinton as first lady in the 90s and Cheney and Rumsfeld working in the Nixon and Ford administrations. The continuity between administrations, even over three or four decades, just contributes to inertia and groupthink in the various branches of government.

      • Pku says:

        The actual risk of death from old age might be higher/lower due to the ridiculous stress of the job or having access to probably best the health care on the planet.

        Presidents tend to die significantly younger than average for their demographic (can’t find the citation now), probably because of the job stress.

        • Salem says:

          Or perhaps because four of them have been assassinated.

        • Corey says:

          An interesting study I can’t be arsed to Google up right now compared Presidents who died of natural causes with the people they defeated in their respective elections (so similar demographics, etc), finding a significant effect (died a few years earlier IIRC). N is small of course, can’t really help that.

    • SJ says:

      I think that the age profile of the nation was a little younger in 1980 than it is today.

      Does that change the comparison with Reagan?

      Another question: what has been the typical age of Presidents in recent history?

      Since 1944, Presidents have been:

      FDR (First elected in 1932 at age 50. Aged 62 at time of election in 1944.)
      Truman (age of 61 when he became President in 1945. Age of 64 when he won in election of 1948.)
      Eisenhower (Age of 62 when elected in 1952.)
      Kennedy (age of 43 when elected in 1960)
      LBJ (age of 55 when he became President, aged 56 when he won in election of 1964)
      Nixon (age of 55 when he won in 1968)
      Ford (age of 61 when he became President, aged 63 when he lost to Carter)
      Carter (age of 52 when he won in 1976)
      Reagan (age of 69 when he won in 1980)
      GHW Bush (age of 64 when he won in 1988)
      Clinton (age of 46 when he won in 1992)
      GW Bush (age of 54 when he won in 2000)
      Obama (age of 47 when he won in 2008)

      I didn’t look carefully at the age of both big candidates in that time span. But I get the impression that the younger candidate usually won.

      I can’t think of a Presidential election in that time-span in which both parties fielded candidates older than 65.

    • Pku says:

      Reagan’s age was apparently a major problem with his presidency, especially towards the end. He’d be useless if he didn’t get enough sleep, and by the last year or two he was going pretty senile. This is probably going to be a problem.

      • Tsnom Eroc says:

        That is exactly my fear and worry.

        Does this count as a stroke?
        Its said it isn’t, but at the least it counts as damage. There are 8 possible more years of this type of damage…

        • Pku says:

          Let’s say four – eight assumes reelection, which, between their ages and their general unpopularity, I don’t think either of the current candidates can count on.

          On health grounds, I’d give the advantage to Hillary – she’s a few years younger, women generally live longer, and she can probably pick a better VP than Pence in case she gets another stroke. More generally, we should probably worry more about the VP choice in this election than we usually would.

  18. walpolo says:

    Two studies I’ve recently seen shared on the topic of police brutality against black people:

    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0141854

    “It is sometimes suggested that in urban areas with more black residents and higher levels of inequality, individuals may be more likely to commit violent crime, and thus the racial bias in police shooting may be explainable as a proximate response by police to areas of high violence and crime (community violence theory [14, 15, 23, 35]). In other words, if the environment is such that race and crime covary, police shooting ratios may show signs of racial bias, even if it is crime, not race, that is the causal driver of police shootings. In the models fit in this study, however, there is no evidence of an association between black-specific crime rates (neither in assault-related arrests nor in weapons-related arrests) and racial bias in police shootings, irrespective of whether or not other controls were included in the model. As such, the results of this study provide no empirical support for the idea that racial bias in police shootings (in the time period, 2011–2014, described in this study) is driven by race-specific crime rates (at least as measured by the proxies of assault- and weapons-related arrest rates in 2012).”

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w22399

    “This paper explores racial differences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings.”

    Thoughts and/or criticisms about either study?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      No useful comments, other than to suggest that you add those to the (currently semi-dead) SSCience discussion thread above.

      Ctrl+F “~ S S C i e n c e ~” without spaces or quotes.

      EDIT: Forgot one of my own rules. I don’t think it’s possible to have an apolitical discussion of these studies unfortunately, although I wish that we could.

      My useless comment is below:

      We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings.

      I spent way too much time on LW it seems, because I’m now grinning ear to ear thinking about Officer Clippy. We need way to mathematically prove that police cadets will be Friendly once they self-modify into cops, dammit!

    • Aido says:

      My social circle passed the same two studies around and I remember at first thinking they were contradictory. I changed my mind after a closer read. Please offer corrections if I run off course, but here’s my attempt at a summary:

      Study 1 compares across race total numbers of police killings, and finds that Black Americans are more likely to be killed by police. This is in contrast to Study 2, which examines single encounter outcomes, and instead looks at the metrics of nonlethal force and shootings. Study 2 finds that Black Americans have it worse on an encounter-by-encounter basis for nonlethal force, but when it comes to shootings they find Black Americans are shot at an equal or lesser rate. One would tend to think that shootings lead to killings, so how is this possible?

      Two potential explanations (I think both are probably true):
      1. Police begin encounters with Black Americans more frequently, even after accounting for racial differences in crime-rate.
      2. Police use higher levels of force with Black Americans: when they engage nonlethally, they do so with more force; when they shoot, they shoot more.

  19. Ian says:

    I have a psychiatry question. My wife and I had our second child last week, and my wife is suffering from some postpartum depression. She went to her OB/GYN today who diagnosed her with the condition and prescribed Sertraline. My question is: is there anything else I or we can do to help her feel better? Thanks!

    • Randy M says:

      IANAP, but I’ll remind you of the usual things that might help–get sleep, eat healthier, get whatever exercise her current condition allows, get some sunshine, social interaction, etc.

      • Julie K says:

        Help with the housework (hire help if necessary). As a new mother I found it incredibly depressing to have a messy house and be too tired/busy to do anything about it.

        Oh, and congratulations!

    • Tek Tek says:

      Yeah, get her off of Sertraline.

      Shes getting on a med where most of the positive effects during short-term studies are seen with placebo, down-regulation mostly nulls any initial positive SSRI effect, and ends up eventually giving permanent sexual side effects, and if you have another child and she is on that SSRI, say hello to a horrific at-birth withdrawal effect.

      Seriously. People who feel horrible on drugs like this with diarrhea and sexual dysfunction who drop out of studies are not even counted as against the drug itself. Its a horrible statistical trick for a drug that markets itself as an antidepressant.

      You really are better off with MDMA, when taken intelligently. You know to take it sparingly, every other week or so for a great experience. Shame research on the drug had to be banned.

      • James Picone says:

        Counterpoint: I have taken Sertraline for depression and definitely benefited from it.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I’ve also taken Sertraline for depression. It’s difficult to tell how much I benefited from it, because several other things in my life changed at about the same time as I started taking it, but I haven’t noticed any side-effects from the drug.

  20. jseliger says:

    Did you read Jacques Delacroix’s 2015 article “Religious Bric-à-Brac and Tolerance of Violent Jihad?” It reads like something you might write, if you were a retired American professor living in France and then trying to explain French Islam (and many other topics) to a wider audience. I don’t mean that purely in content terms; I also mean it in the sense that Delacroix ranges widely but intelligently and writes in a way that is hard to excerpt well, because the parts are so well integrated into the whole.

  21. Friday says:

    Deliberate food waste before the point of consumption doesn’t account for a very high proportion of losses of edible food, even in developed countries. (Source.)

    Yeah, it’s probably a good thing if a supermarket coughs up a couple bucks so that their substandard produce goes to the local homeless shelter instead of the garbage, but it seems like activists exaggerate the impact of deliberate food waste.

  22. NN says:

    Now that the 3 day moratorium on politicizing a tragedy has passed…

    Isn’t it weird how quickly the Nice attack vanished from the public consciousness? The second worst terrorist attack/mass killing (similar to Orlando, this looks to be a mix of Radical Islam and personal mental health issues which makes it a bit hard to properly categorize) in Europe in the last 10 years has garnered surprisingly little attention outside the city and country where it happened, and certainly much less attention than, say, the Orlando shooting, the Istanbul airport attack, or the Brussels bombing, all of which had a significantly lower death toll.

    A major factor is surely that the attempted coup in Turkey happened immediately afterwards and drew the world’s attention away, but even taking that into account there still seems to be something very strange about how quickly the story vanished from the headlines. If the Turkey coup had happened right after the Paris attacks last year, I highly doubt that people would have immediately forgotten the latter events.

    I think that one of the major reasons may well be that the attacker’s primary weapon was a truck, and cars and trucks simply aren’t scary for most people in the same way that guns and bombs are, even though they are empirically capable of wreaking similar amounts of havoc. Most people just accept it as a fact of life that cars and trucks kill thousands of people every year (in France in particular, there are more than 3000 road fatalities every year), and their reactions don’t seem to change much when some of those deaths are intentional rather than accidental.

    In short, what if this was a terrorist attack that failed to effectively terrorize people because it looked too much like part of the plan?

    • Bassist Pig says:

      On one hand, I think a lot of mass killings, whether fundamentally caused by Islam or by mental illness or whatever else, are to a large degree inspired by the publicity afforded previous mass killings. So, when the media shuts up about them a bit, it helps clamp down on copycats and the like.

      On the other hand, I am suspicious of the degree to which journalists are hoping that if they don’t give attention to these kinds of incidents, glaring holes in their soothing narratives about mass immigration will be overlooked or forgotten.

      There could of course be other reasons I’m not thinking of.

      • Outis says:

        I think that’s an often-overlooked aspect. A big reason why America has so many mass shootings is that it’s just a cultural meme over there.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      The coup in Turkey, the slayings of police officers in Baton Rouge, and the upcoming Republican convention probably all served to crowd out coverage of the Nice attack. But there are still new articles about Nice on the home pages of the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN, and in the World section of the Washington Post, so it is false that “the Nice attack [has] vanished from the public consciousness”. I suggest you should be more diffident about your ability to make sweeping, impressionistic judgments of how much news coverage an event is receiving– this seems like an open invitation to let confirmation bias or apophenia run the show.

    • Civilis says:

      It’s hard to take a look at coverage of a single news event in isolation from what else is happening around it, to include previous stories of a similar nature. There is surprisingly a lot going on (Nice, Turkish Coup, British PM, US Police Shootings, Donald Trump Republican VP Pick (a two-fer)). For me, I was startled to see the Pence as VP story relegated to a small bottom corner of the Washington Post front page.

      As for me, in the Washington DC media market the Nice terrorist attack hasn’t completely dropped off the radar yet, in part because of some of the sob-stories about the US victims. I don’t know where you are, but from what I saw both the Washington Post and the Wall St. Journal paid more attention to Nice than to Istanbul. Likely the same for Brussels, but that’s not as fresh in my mind.

      • Civilis says:

        As a follow-up, the Washington Post this morning had a full page, with three separate articles, dedicated to Nice.

    • Urstoff says:

      Has it been established as a terror attack, or was it, like Orlando seemed to be, just a mentally unhinged guy who wasn’t a true believer but just used ISIS as an excuse to kill a lot of people he hated?

      • E. Harding says:

        This dude’s banned, but he has the best explanation for what happened:

        https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/toxic-arab-masculinity/

      • NN says:

        In general the similarities between the Nice attacker and the Orlando attacker are almost uncanny. They both had serious mental health issues, a history of violent conduct, no known contact with any terrorist groups, and a not particularly religious and/or radical background. So from the information that is available now, I would put it in the same category as Orlando and the Sydney hostage crisis.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        My impression is that on the continuum between unstable maniac and calculated terrorism it fell closer to being organised than Orlando (where the perpetrator seemed not to understand that pledging allegiance to ISIS and Hezbollah is contradictory) — the terrorist in Nice seems to have been an impious petty criminal who was prone to violent outbursts, similar to the terrorist in the Toulouse and Montauban shootings of 2012.

      • John Schilling says:

        Surely if I were to use my orbital mind control laser to command some susceptible nutcase to randomly murder a whole bunch of innocent people in the name of my cause, that would constitute a terrorist attack. Is it less so if we substitute “internet propaganda and engagement” for “orbital mind control laser”?

        Because that’s been a major part of ISIS’s strategy for the past couple of years, and Al Qaeda before that.

        • NN says:

          There is the question of how many of these people might have done something similar even if ISIS had never existed. For example, multiple witnesses claim that the Orlando attacker made repeated threats/”jokes” involving shooting up his school or workplace long before ISIS came into existence.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Yeah, but multiple witnesses were also claiming that he used to frequent all the gay bars, and that didn’t pan out, so who knows?

          • NN says:

            I believe at least one of these reports was backed up by credible outside evidence. Specifically, IIRC the police academy that he was attending investigated reports that he had joked about bringing a gun to class and killing people.

        • Mary says:

          One notes that the anarchists were big into propaganda of the deed by the same technique. Some ugly results.

    • Creutzer says:

      It could also be that this is becoming a bit too frequent for people to react with the same extremity every time, and that they are slowly coming to accept that the regular occurrence of such events is now part of reality.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        this.

        Before nice was Orlando, Dallas, the Brexit vote, and several black men shot by police, and then immediately after was a coup, another police shooting, and now an axe attack in Germany. Rolling horror, there’s no time to digest.

    • TomFL says:

      Terrorist attacks are becoming mundane. The shock value is wearing off, which is a good thing. There is certainly a media bias for what type of attacks result in “flood the zone” coverage. Orlando disappeared pretty quickly as well.

      These type of attacks from a state which holds territory would be an act of war in almost every other circumstance. It is a bit perplexing as to why these do not result in a harsh response from France or other countries being attacked. The IS specifically asks for and receives these attacks from those they inspire. The line between inspired and directed is semantics to me. The “fear” that responding harshly will be counter productive is misguided in my opinion, it only shows weakness and invites further attacks when the IS knows there will be no price to pay for its actions.

      It is distressing that the media walks in almost unanimous lock-step on this issue. Somebody should be making the case for over the top retribution, not that I agree with that particular path, but I note the complete absence of argument for this case which is the playground response to stopping this behavior.

      • According to Wikipedia: “In retaliation for the November 2015 Paris attacks, the French Air Force significantly intensified airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria, hitting among other the Syrian city of Ar-Raqqah, the de facto capital of ISIL.”

        It’s a bit soon for any military response to the Nice attack. It may come, although I don’t know if they can escalate much further without sending in ground troops, which I gather is considered undesirable for domestic reasons.

        PS: I know (almost) nothing about this. Don’t take me seriously.

        • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

          Also, the country airstrikes against IS are flown out if just had a coup attempt?

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          The West, or at least the United States part of it, has been bizarrely reluctant to apply meaningful force to the Islamic State despite its overwhelming air power. I can’t be the only one who’s wondered why exactly there is one brick still on top of another brick in Ar-Raqqah.

          • Sandy says:

            Isn’t it because there’s still a large civilian population in Raqqa and the West has to at least pay token service to jus in bello?

          • anon says:

            Yeah, Sandy’s right. I think Iraq eventually taught the top brass that air power is not actually effective for this purpose, so in addition to being needlessly punitive to the civilian population, most air strikes against ISIS positions are a waste of money. Even Russia has been pretty restrained, as far as I can tell.

            The exception to the above is the petroleum infrastructure (wells, convoys, etc). These seem like legitimate military targets to me, and the US was pretty slow to strike them, although eventually they started doing so I believe. I don’t know the real reason for this. It could be that they thought it would be wasteful/expensive to have to pay to rebuild this stuff after the civil war ended, and ISIS had enough alternate revenue streams that the planners didn’t think striking the oil infrastructure was necessary or worthwhile. That might even have been a correct calculation, although eventually the optics led them to change their mind. (Anecdotally — and I don’t know how much Western media reports are to be believed on this point — it does seem like ISIS’s finances have become significantly worse in the past year, although they don’t seem close to collapsing.)

          • Outis says:

            Well, when ISIS falls, we’re going to have to give the Kurds a state, and that’s going to be a yuge can of worms with Turkey. I assume Western politicians are in no rush to precipitate that crisis.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Isn’t it because there’s still a large civilian population in Raqqa and the West has to at least pay token service to jus in bello?

            Does it? Who’s gonna make us if we don’t want to?

            But that aside, I was specifically thinking of the Islamic State’s structures of government. They have an HQ; they have police, secret and otherwise; they have communications. They have infrastructure. Not one brick of that infrastructure should be standing and it is incomprehensible that literally years into this war, with absolute air superiority from day one, it still is.

            Well, when ISIS falls, we’re going to have to give the Kurds a state, and that’s going to be a yuge can of worms with Turkey. I assume Western politicians are in no rush to precipitate that crisis.

            I hope that’s not what they’re thinking. That’s the sort of too-cute-by-half diplomatic logic that leads to world wars.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I hope that’s not what they’re thinking. That’s the sort of too-cute-by-half diplomatic logic that leads to world wars.

            I assume the point was that Syrian Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan are already more-or-less de facto independent countries, so when the dust settles, the USA is probably left with a choice of either a) recognising them as official independent countries or b) getting dragged into potential conflict if they side with a re-stabilised Syria into trying to take back all of its Kurdish territory (I don’t know if that is a realistic risk with Iraq as well). Option a) pisses off Turkey, option b) means getting involved in a conflict where the optics are absolutely terrible, given the Kurdish contribution to fighting I.S.

            The Turkish Kurdistan problem … well, if you can’t either a) make your country into a polity that all its ethnic minorities are overwhelmingly willing to be part of, or b) assimilate them or expel them, then your only choices are c) agree to let their territory go independent or d) accept that you will be in a state of continuing low-level warfare with them forever.

            I get the impression that Turkey’s leadership actually does prefer option d), but I don’t see why ‘have a legally binding referendum on Kurdish independence’ couldn’t be part of the accession requirements for Turkish membership of the EU.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t see why ‘have a legally binding referendum on Kurdish independence’ couldn’t be part of the accession requirements for Turkish membership of the EU

            It could be, but the one non-negotiable requirement for Turkish membership in the EU is unanimous consent of all other EU members. This is sufficiently unlikely to ever happen that Turkey is not going to make any real sacrifices for the sake of removing lesser barriers to EU membership.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Winter Shaker: Oh, absolutely, that’s a terrible diplomatic problem and I agree that it’s a problem we would not have in any ideal world.

            However, if we’re somehow attempting to drag out the war against ISIS in order to kick that can down the road, that’s the sort of diplomatic scheme I’d be dismayed at. For one thing, ISIS continues to hurt innocent people both locally and abroad as long as it exists, and if we’re going to claim to be fighting them it’s immoral to half-ass it; for another we just aren’t competent enough to carry out N-dimensional chess games like that without horrendous blowback. Talleyrands are thin on the ground in Western diplomatic corps these days, to put it charitably.

      • Mary says:

        The real problem is that as they become mundane, the incentive is to increase the attack by whatever means is necessary to do so.

      • NN says:

        The problem with over the top retribution for attacks like this is that because they really are inspired rather than directed or funded by IS, reducing IS’s funding/territory/resources would do absolutely nothing to reduce the ability of people to carry out these attacks. In fact, like Harry Johnston said, a coalition of military forces from various countries have significantly reduced IS’s territory over the past 2 years (this is what IS looks like in Iraq and Syria now). While this has happened, has the number of people killed by IS inspired/directed attacks in the West increased or decreased?

        I’m starting to think that at this point, letting terrorist attacks become mundane may be the best option.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I’m starting to think that at this point, letting terrorist attacks become mundane may be the best option.

          Even if that was mathematically the least harmful option, you will never be able to put it into practice. Eventually the people will get angry and fed up with constantly being murdered by foreign enemies while the government shrugs impotently, and turn to a man on a white horse. Then you’ll wish you’d addressed the problem in a less destructive way when you had the chance.

          • NN says:

            Car accidents kill tens of thousands of people every year without mobs storming car company offices with torches and pitchforks. Like the Joker said, nobody panics when things go according to plan, even when the plan is horrifying.

          • Artificirius says:

            Be that as it may, at least a significant number of car fatalities are authors of their own demise. Another significant number are really due to the intersection of human fallibility/limit of ability and chance, and/or some combination of these two.

            Were there significant sign that a car company was out to get car owners (like, say, televising/broadcasting their evil plots to kill said car owners), then I fully expect a lack of ‘business as usual/all according to plan’ attitude.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Car accidents kill tens of thousands of people every year without mobs storming car company offices with torches and pitchforks.

            Yes, and my point was that people get pissed off at getting attacked, even if the consequences of the attacks are minor. Your choices are to deal with it yourself, or be replaced with Putin/Erdogan/Napoleon/name-your-strongman. “Convince everyone it’s no big deal” isn’t on the table.

          • Mary says:

            More to the point, the terrorists live and breathe for “not mundane” status. Once they are mundane, they will escalate. (Well, try to. But some will succeed.)

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Quite.

            I’m pretty sure everyone here was bullied in grade school. Often, the powers that be told us to just ignore the bullies. Did it work? Or did the bullies simply increase their attacks until they got a response?

          • Anonymous says:

            Eventually the people will get angry and fed up with constantly being murdered by foreign enemies while the government shrugs impotently, and turn to a man on a white horse. Then you’ll wish you’d addressed the problem in a less destructive way when you had the chance.

            So, when do you think the Russians will revolt against all the terrorism that various separatists/islamists have been doing there for decades now?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            So, when do you think the Russians will revolt against all the terrorism that various separatists/islamists have been doing there for decades now?

            It was a while ago. You may have noticed that Russia already has an oppressive, warmongering autocrat as President, yes?

            Remember, I didn’t say that the strongman would (or would not) be effective in the anti-terrorism job. Just that there one would inevitably come along if the non-strongman government is not believed to be taking the problem seriously.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            “I’m pretty sure everyone here was bullied in grade school. Often, the powers that be told us to just ignore the bullies. Did it work? Or did the bullies simply increase their attacks until they got a response?”

            Spazzing out sure didn’t work.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Spazzing out sure didn’t work.

            Speak for yourself.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ ThirteenthLetter

            I’m pretty sure everyone here was bullied in grade school. Often, the powers that be told us to just ignore the bullies.

            Not in my case. My parents were quite insistent that the first line of defense was to avoid, but if that didn’t work you hit back and fight as hard as you can.

            Excellent advice. I wasn’t bullied.

          • onyomi says:

            “but if that didn’t work you hit back and fight as hard as you can.”

            I actually think this is correct, but it’s the sort of advice you can never put on a PSA or what have you. Bullies pick easy targets; as soon as you fight back you stop being one.

          • NN says:

            I actually think this is correct, but it’s the sort of advice you can never put on a PSA or what have you. Bullies pick easy targets; as soon as you fight back you stop being one.

            If you are good at fighting. If you aren’t (and chances are good that the bully has significantly more experience than you do), then trying to fight back only makes things worse.

            Fighting back also carries the risk of getting you punished by the authorities along with or even instead of the bully.

          • onyomi says:

            Well you don’t have to go straight to punching. You can start out with some choice profanity. Of course, it also depends on how tough and violent your school/situation is. But even in cases where you might get into a fight you could lose, the very fact that you fought back at all will make you seem a bad target. You know that joke about how you don’t need to be faster than the lion, you just need to not be the slowest person in your group? I feel like bullying works like that. You don’t have to be the toughest kid around; you just need to not be the easiest target. A black eye is arguably better than years of being verbally and/or physically harassed.

          • Pku says:

            I’m pretty sure everyone here was bullied in grade school. Often, the powers that be told us to just ignore the bullies. Did it work?

            Actually yeah. Once I switched from responding with anger to calmly asking them to leave me alone and walking away, I got much better results. (But then, this wasn’t in America; I hear school is different here).

          • Lumifer says:

            @ NN

            If you are good at fighting. If you aren’t (and chances are good that the bully has significantly more experience than you do), then trying to fight back only makes things worse.

            Nope. You’re misunderstanding the advice — it does not assume that you’ll be able to beat the bully. What it assumes is that bullies react to incentives and that some pain now is worth less pain in the future.

            also carries the risk of getting you punished by the authorities

            Yes, so?

            Again, you choice is not between pain and no pain. Your choice is between some pain now or more pain later.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            “Speak for yourself.”

            Ok. My natural reaction to being provoked was anger and violence, and the amusement my provocateurs got from doing so was in fact the main reason they did it. When I learned to be more calm and controlled, the provocation dried up. I’d suggest that 10-year-old Herbert the Spazzy Spaz has a lot more in common with America than your prototypical bully victim, and that uncontrolled overreaction has always been the primary goal of Wahhabist/Salafist terrorism… but I’d also be willing to meet you halfway and just deny the usefulness of the international terrorism :: schoolyard bullying analogy altogether.

      • TomFL says:

        A case for over the top retribution.

        1. Punish their civilians at greater levels than they punish yours. Deterrent. The Japanese would execute 10 prisoners any time an escape attempt occurred. Effective.

        2. You are many times fighting the next war, not this one. Over the top retribution prevents future attacks from future opponents who know a heavy price will be paid for any aggression.

        3. Nuking a city every time a suicide attack occurs will give pause to the enemy. Executing people for jaywalking will stop jaywalking as well.

        4. Just like the west, the failure of leaders to protect civilians will cause them to pressure their government to change their ways. Their civilians likely see no reason to protest their government’s actions because they aren’t paying a price.

        5. This is the way human nature works. Nobody picks on the biggest baddest bully because it always ends badly for them. The US is basically acting like a big strong feminist academic football player. The US being predictable, restrained, and rational is not a feature in this type of conflict. Being unpredictable and occasionally irrational is a good thing in conflicts. It feels good and right to crush a bad guy.

        6. Morale. Just sitting back and taking it when you have the power to inflict large levels of retribution make the citizens feel helpless and weak. It gives rise to the Trumps of the world. People want to feel that somebody is effectively fighting for their protection, not trying to win peace prizes.

        7. Would the world really not understand if Raqqa was carpet bombed every time a terrorist attack occurred? The usual suspects would scream but the silent majority would approve.

        8. Go in with ground troops, kill everyone who shoots at you, then leave. Attempt no rebuilding, leave it a big smoking hole as a message to the next guy. Repeat as necessary.

        9. If I was running a weak country and starting mercilessly attacking a much stronger opponent’s citizens, what would I expect as a response? A measured kinder gentler war? I would expect the US to crush me like a grape.

        There are many good counter arguments of course and history has something to teach us here, but don’t over learn those lessons. There is a valid debate to be had here that the media won’t touch. The diversity of thought in the media is approaching zero.

        • Sandy says:

          Nuking a city every time a suicide attack occurs will give pause to the enemy.

          It will also aggravate that enemy’s neighbors for no reason. Wind spreads nuclear fallout around.

        • Lumifer says:

          You are going straight to the “feared and hated, really REALLY hated” status. I don’t think this is a good position to be in.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think the best way, from a Realpolitik perspective, would be to mercilessly crush your enemies and fight like lions for your friends. Offering potential allies a carrot as well as a stick will make you considerably less resented.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ The original Mr. X

            From a Realpolitik perspective, to quote Lord Palmerston, nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.

            The enemies which you mercilessly crushed will remember your lack of mercy when you’ll need them as friends.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It is better to be loved than to be feared, but what if your only choices are between being hated and being feared?

          • Anonymous says:

            Sorry if I’m missing the joke, but Machiavelli said that it is better to be feared than loved. And hated vs feared is easy. Hated is bad. Feared is good.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Jaskologist

            but what if your only choices are between being hated and being feared?

            …so you choose both? Did you mean the choice between (feared + hated) and (not respected + taken advantage of) by any chance?

            In such situation I suggest you choose Pikachu.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Well, I say “mercilessly crush”. When they’re crushed enough to no longer be a threat to you, you can spare them and make them into your allies. This was pretty much the Romans’ modus operandi, and it served them pretty well.

          • Mary says:

            Machiavelli also observed that above all else, you had to avoid being hated.

        • TomFL says:

          The point being some level of retribution will very likely stop the behavior. Nukes were given as an extreme example. Exactly how important is stopping this behavior to the US? It is actions that answer this question, not words.

          Being feared and respected may be the best option. I might hate the neighbor who shoots everyone who goes on his lawn, but I’m definitely telling my kids to stay off his lawn. And once people stay off his lawn, there are no more shootings. He accomplished his goal, and it wasn’t to be loved by his neighbors.

          The question is what is the best deterrent to prevent similar future attacks? Perhaps increasing their hatred on the whole makes it worse, but this is by no means obvious given human behavior. There doesn’t seem to be much of a carrot to offer the IS, so the answer might need to be all stick, and a big stick.

          • Pku says:

            This doesn’t seem to work for terrorism, unless you’re willing to go over the top and commit actual genocide. Israel kills thousands of people and destroys hundreds of thousands of buildings in Gaza every couple of years, without really deterring Hamas. Because Hamas just doesn’t care much about their people’s well-being. Do you really think ISIS cares more? (Hezbollah, strangely enough, apparently kinda does).

          • Lumifer says:

            The point being some level of retribution will very likely stop the behavior.

            No, I don’t think so. You’re assuming rational actors and those are in short supply. What level of retribution will scare off a suicide bomber? You’ll nuke her city? That’s fine, the end of the world will come sooner, that’s a good thing.

            I might hate the neighbor who shoots everyone who goes on his lawn, but I’m definitely telling my kids to stay off his lawn.

            Actually I don’t think that’s true. The first time your neighbor shoots someone on his lawn, you’ll make damn sure he’s not your neighbor, ideally because he’s in jail. If you’re living next door to a crazy, telling your kids to avoid his lawn doesn’t sound like a solution.

            The question is what is the best deterrent to prevent similar future attacks?

            Ask the Israelis. They have a LOT of experience.

          • TomFL says:

            I doubt ISIS cares much, but nobody wants very unhappy taxpayers or an exodus of such.

            The question on Israel has to be examined on what would happen if they didn’t do what they do every few years. I read an article describing this aptly as “mowing the grass”. No-one is fooling themselves into believing this is a permanent solution, only managing a hopeless situation. I think there is some deterrent here even if it is on a rinse repeat cycle. The plague of suicide bombers in Israel stopped, I’m not sure exactly why. International pressure? The wall? (Trump would love that answer).

            In this case terrorism is from a state that holds territory. They could be relieved of that privilege.

            No easy answers, but alternatively using a big stick doesn’t really hurt us much either in my opinion, it is good for domestic morale We can probably look forward to mowing the jihadi grass for many decades to come.

            I’m only arguing the big stick half heartedly. I probably would choose a mow the grass strategy similar to what we are doing now, except with a more agressive remove the IS territory holding.

          • NN says:

            In this case terrorism is from a state that holds territory. They could be relieved of that privilege.

            Many attacks have only come “from” that state in the loosest possible sense of the word. The Nice, Orlando, and San Bernardino attackers all had absolutely no contact with anyone in ISIS territory.

          • TomFL says:

            Let’s call it state sponsored terror, still a very bad thing, and worthy of a response. They really don’t even have plausible deniability here when they accept responsibility for these things.

            If they disavowed these attacks and took down all propaganda asking for these attacks to occur then there might be a case for not holding them responsible.

          • NN says:

            The point I’m trying to make is that ISIS’s amount of territory and resources have absolutely no bearing on the ability of its supporters to commit lone wolf attacks, because lone wolf attacks by definition are carried out without the support of a larger organization. It is theoretically possible that these attacks might all have happened even if the US military had managed to kill every single person who openly identifies as a member of ISIS.

          • Nornagest says:

            @NN: They do have an effect on ISIS’ ability to pull supporters. The equipment needed for the kind of propaganda they’re doing may as well be free — you could get a GoPro, an Internet connection, and some pirated editing software for everyone in a battalion for the price of dropping a smart bomb — but they do need some level of talent and organization, which tends to degrade when bombs are falling on it.

          • NN says:

            @Nornagest: How many of ISIS’s videos are edited inside of its own territory, rather that by supporters living in places that bombs aren’t falling on?

            I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m honestly curious.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t know for sure, though I suspect most of them. I model ISIS mainly as a local phenomenon or rather a set of local phenomena: ISIS-aligned forces in e.g. Libya and Yemen seem to be operating more as franchises than under central control. Similarly, its media strategy is sophisticated in some ways but large-scale coordination is not one of them. But that still doesn’t completely rule out co-conspirators in, say, Saudi Arabia.

          • TomFL says:

            Everyone hopes that the ISIS ideology will burn itself out in the long run. Rational people believe it is unthinkable this ideology could continue to grow, it being closer to a cult than a government. Rational people may be wrong or blinded by a perceived universal belief in a liberal world order.

            I would classify the current strategy as “contain and let it burn”. Basically putting out a wildfire without having to go in and pour water on every tree on fire.

            This may be the best strategy, but it is not without risk. Some of these risks have already borne fruit in a mass exodus of Syrians and weekly terror attacks across the world. Nobody anticipated this from the JV team. The US is staying the course on this strategy.

            It is a plausible argument that an aggressive defeat of the IS early on (i.e. ground war) would have prevented both of these outcomes. Giving an enemy sanctuary is never a good idea.

            Amazingly most people predict alternate outcomes that match their prior biases, myself included.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ TomFL

            Rational people believe it is unthinkable this ideology could continue to grow, it being closer to a cult than a government.

            I think that’s exactly what was said about Khomeini in Iran in late 1970s…

          • Pku says:

            They weren’t entirely wrong about Iran. The government’s still pretty bad, but the actual society’s become pretty secular and western.

        • Nornagest says:

          The US being predictable, restrained, and rational is not a feature in this type of conflict. Being unpredictable and occasionally irrational is a good thing in conflicts

          Nixon agreed with you.

          (Note that it didn’t work in that case, though.)

          • TomFL says:

            The Soviets seemed to be convinced we would perform a first strike if we could survive retaliation during the Cold War, and MAD was a very good deterrent for both sides.

            As with most things, using a pure version of any strategy usually has big flaws. You have to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em, and pundits will declare you wrong no matter what.

            It’s hard to imagine what Obama would do during a Cuban Missile Crisis, but he wouldn’t play poker. Brinkmanship isn’t his style, and it seems he would take invading Cuba off the table early on….just because. Obama would negotiate favorably with another Obama, not so much with a seemingly irrational player who doesn’t respect red lines with good reason. I’m no war games expert.

            The IS acts irrationally in a rational sort of way. I think they are careful to not poke the hornet’s nest too hard, but do enough to embarrass the west for their own domestic jihadi consumption. They would prefer to build their strength until they are ready for a showdown. That plan may not be working so well.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Reminds me of a case in the 70s when terrorists kidnapped a Soviet official in Lebanon. The Soviets’ response was to kidnap the head terrorist’s brother, cut his balls off, and deliver them to the terrorists. The official in question was promptly released, and the Soviets never had trouble with that particular terrorist organisation again.

        • Nornagest says:

          Terrorism response is not about stopping terrorism at all costs. Stopping terrorism isn’t even high up on the list. And in some ways it shouldn’t be; if we prevent a couple of shooting sprees but at the cost of destroying our relations with a couple of regional powers, that is not a win. It’s probably not even a win in terms of body count, since the damage done to trade networks is likely to drive up prices and cause a few more people somewhere to starve to death on the margins, but the political damage is even greater.

          Are we optimizing for theater rather than effectiveness? Yeah, we are. But that doesn’t mean that full-bore salt-the-earth ISIS-delenda-est tactics are the right solution.

          (Personally, I think the lack of local awareness is probably doing more damage than anything else, so the first place I’d throw money might be the Defense Language Institute.)

        • erenold says:

          Would the world really not understand if Raqqa was carpet bombed every time a terrorist attack occurred? The usual suspects would scream but the silent majority would approve.

          Wait, is this serious? Because the answer is absolutely, no. For one, inside the part of ‘the world’ that particularly matters for this thought experiment – i.e., the moderate Islamic world – this would be incredibly inflammatory, provocative and generally unwise. There’d be a hundredfold increase in ISIS recruitment and corresponding attacks on Western countries. And it’s difficult to think it wouldn’t be entirely deserved, by the way.

          For another, if the target is explicitly to punitively kill civilians, there would be no international support whatsoever for this proposal. None. Zero. Witness how hard it’s been to get the UK to commit to pinprick airstrikes in support of the French effort in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Nor would it be possible to get international support for… just about anything America ever wanted again, inside a generation.

          Diversity of thought is always good, agreed. But these seem like very bad ideas in general.

          • TomFL says:

            Hey, I didn’t say these were good ideas, ha ha.

            See WWII.

            Some of the mass casualties were due to the inability to bomb accurately, but for example the fire bombing of Tokyo had no pretense of military targeting. The world was not outraged, nor was there a win the hearts and minds of the Japanese strategy employed. Now we are close allies.

            The IS is intentionally targeting and killing our civilians. Perhaps we don’t wantonly carpet bomb but instead target electrical (why do they have electricity exactly?) and other infrastructure.

          • TomFL says:

            What if I care more about stopping attacks in the US than international unity? We are bombing the IS every day, should we stop because it might make them mad or because Belarus might object? IS propaganda has us intentionally killing civilians regardless of the truth.

            The US has basically been going it alone for decades. Europe ran out of bombs during the Libya intervention in less than a week. It’s nice to have international support, but not required when the issue is domestic security. Other nations will continue to do what is in their strategic interest regardless of whether we carpet bombed Raqqa or not. International shaming is simply not very important in the grand scheme.

            This is part of the current split between globalists and nationalists. Trumpsters want a perceived US first strategy, and the globalists need to convince them the liberal world order * is * a US first strategy. At the moment I see a lot of assertions this is true, but little actual effort to convince someone it is actually true.

          • Nornagest says:

            What if I care more about stopping attacks in the US than international unity?

            Then get your priorities straight. Any major drop in international stability (I’m not going to follow “unity”, because it is not very united and unity is only important insofar as it fosters stability) and we’d be losing a lot more than fifty or so people a year, even if we managed to avoid major wars.

            ISIS isn’t even targeting the US in any kind of systematic way. The anti-Western propaganda, the declarations of allegiance, the execution videos — they’re all there to draw jihadis into Syria and Iraq, where ISIS’s actual near-term goals are. The occasional wannabe driving a truck into a crowd is just a secondary effect, albeit one ISIS has reason to be pretty happy about if it keeps them in the news.

            (Contrast Al-Qaeda, which has similar ideology but actually is trying to operate on an international stage.)

          • TomFL says:

            If you want to make a case that the “minimal” deaths from terrorism are not worth worrying about, make that case. I happen to agree with this.

            For some reason, a politician would rather be waterboarded than make this case. The amount of money spent on anti-terror national security versus what else we could spend it on (tax cuts, ha ha) is a calculation that needs to be front and center.

            Unfortunately the public’s perceived risks are actual risks to a politician’s career. The diversity of thought should include a very strong and compelling argument that we should just absorb these events and spend money in other places. How many people have died of heart disease and cancer since 2001?

            The counter-argument would be that we need to nip this problem in the bud before it gets out of control and you simply have to follow voter priorities in a democracy. Ignore terrorism won’t get you elected even if it is rational.

          • John Schilling says:

            What if I care more about stopping attacks in the US than international unity?

            Without international unity, the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians, etc, are turning a blind eye to any terrorist activities based out of their country but targeted on the Great Satan. An ISIS or Al Qaeda that can operate freely out of secure bases in Riyadh, Cairo, and Amman is far more dangerous than one based in Raqqa.

            If you plan to then carpet-bomb Riyadh/Cairo/Amman, consider that without international unity, the Russians, Chinese, and French will be selling them state-of-the-art air defenses and the like. The EU, meanwhile, will be accepting refugees from these lands, and conspicuously not labeling their new passports or giving us access to the databases that would note that Bob from Belgium who wants to visit New York was last year Mustafa from the Maghreb.

            If you then plan to carpet-bomb Paris, Beijing, or Moscow, they have nuclear missiles. And no, they aren’t going to surrender without a fight. Not even the French.

          • John Schilling says:

            We are bombing the IS every day, should we stop because it might make them mad or because Belarus might object?

            We are bombing specific military, political, and economic targets in IS territory, in a manner calculated to minimize civilian casualties. We should not stop doing this. We are not “carpet bomb[ing] Raqqa every time a terrorist attack occurs”. If we were to do that, it would not just be Belarus that objects, but our closest allies. We should not do that.

            IS propaganda has us intentionally killing civilians regardless of the truth.

            Fortunately, our closest allies don’t believe IS propaganda. For that matter, most of our enemies don’t believe IS propaganda. But if you make it the truth, they will start believing it. Please don’t do that.

          • TomFL says:

            I’m not buying the slippery slope argument. Most countries crack down on terrorist organizations not because the US is their friend, but because they know their own government is the next target.

            What if I care * more *….

            This is not an argument to totally disregard international affairs but to prioritize them differently. If Saudi Arabia gets upset because we killed the IS’s citizens in response to them killing ours, then so be it. That region of the world is not known for their restrained responses to domestic threats (gassing of the Kurds, Syria, etc.) and is quite used to government via an iron fist. It is blindingly clear that their value of innocents is an order of magnitude lower than the west’s.

            So we get international bonus points for fighting a more humane restrained conflict. The question is how valuable are these? If the perception is you value these more than the lives of your own citizens then the rise of Donald Trump becomes less mysterious. A compelling argument for this case should be made, not assumed.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not buying the slippery slope argument. Most countries crack down on terrorist organizations not because the US is their friend, but because they know their own government is the next target.

            Have you not noticed that the first response of most governments threatened by terrorism is to look and see if there is someone else the terrorists hate more than them, and see if maybe they can quietly arrange for the terrorists to leave them in peace if they leave the terrorists alone to go after their #1 foe? That doesn’t work for the United States, obviously, but it has traditionally worked quite well for e.g. the Saudis. And even the French.

            The bit where, when the United States ruthlessly murders a hundred thousand or so terrorist-adjacent civilians, historically terrorist-friendly governments will somehow decide to ruthlessly murder the actual terrorists for us, is a naïve fantasy. The safe move for them is to join the terrorists, not fight them. Even if the United States is threatening to bomb Riyadh, the safe move is to support the terrorists rather than fight them.

            The thing where we can sometimes see the Saudi government and the French government and all the rest actually fighting against the terrorists? That comes from that “international unity” thing that you don’t care about.

        • James Picone says:

          You only benefit from the moral high ground if you actually occupy it. Leading retaliatory strikes against civilians and nuking cities in response to terrorist attacks gives up the moral high ground.

          • TomFL says:

            You can ask the citizens of Iraq and Syria if they think the US occupies the moral high ground. I believe I saw a poll in which 87% of Iraqi’s said the US is their biggest enemy.

            The moral high ground is in the eyes of the beholder and mostly for domestic consumption. It is important to understand that you can go too far with trying to occupy the moral high ground at the expense of effective warfare. It is a balance that result in the rules of engagement.

            The quantification of the actual benefits of the moral high ground are unclear., and in my opinion way overvalued by those who hold them dear.

            There hasn’t been a war in history in which the moral high ground wasn’t the first thing to be tossed out once the outcome became questionable.

    • Tek Tek says:

      It really was a bad idea to allow lots of Islamic Immigration, now wasn’t it?

      France already got rid of one overbearing religion. Here is another one, with much more violent means of removing dissidents, and a shorter GOTO violence exit-branch.

      • Outis says:

        Yes. Many European countries have been permanently damaged by it. It will take a century before the effects are absorbed. The politicians that keep doing it are basically guilty of high treason.

    • tcd says:

      #NiceAttack certainly had a funny ring to it.

  23. NeshSelg says:

    I figure that this comments section has a good number of people who can write well, and understand game theory so I’m going to quickly ask here as well as posting a online add or two.

    I’m looking to hire someone to help with applying for jobs. I want to get someone willing to take on more of the risk and incentive than normal, and be willing too to be paid by the number of interviews they land me. I would like hire someone to customize and send off cover letters and any other methods if they produce results. I’d want to work with someone confident enough in their abilities and in my basic application to be able to give me an estimate of how much pay they would require for for each each interview based on there expected value. I would be willing to pay what i would expect to work out to between 20-50$ an hour, though potentially more if someone manages to find a way to improve results I haven’t considered.

    I have graduated a Rails boot camp and have additional experience coding in Python and C. I have a few different I have a few different completed algorithm test code samples along with a web development project. My available coding work displays a sufficient level of technical coding skill though it is a bit sparse and lacking presentation.

    If your interested or want more info or my work samples send me a email at neshselg@gmail.com

  24. Bassicallyboss says:

    It’s been mentioned a few times on here (for example, in Scott’s review of On the Road) that it’s much more difficult to get a job in the U.S. than it was 50-100 years ago. I don’t recall where exactly, but I think I’ve seen someone submit this as one argument for moving in a direction of less government regulation. After all, we expect it might be a hassle to get a high-skill job, but getting a job at a local gas station or Wal-mart ought to be a simple affair.

    However, it doesn’t seem like most of the hassle is directly due to government. Obviously, requiring that employees submit proof of citizenship/right-to-work is one such burden. But most of the rest seems to be due to corporate standardization. These are a few reasons I can conjecture for why a business might need to do so much more screening for minimally skilled work than in decades past:

    1: Fear that customers will sue the company for something bad an employee did.
    2: Risk of former employees will sue for wrongful termination makes it difficult to fire someone who does bad work or is otherwise a liability
    3: Risk of employees deliberately sabotaging the company (by stealing from the company, or trying to discourage customers as part of a personal vendetta).
    4: It’s more of a hassle to add a new employee to the pay schedule, for tax or banking reasons.
    5: A bigger company has more employees and therefore a greater risk that one of them will do something like 1-3. I.e., it’s not that the expected disutility-per-employee from 1-3 is any worse than in the past, but that a higher percentage of jobs are with nation-wide/multinational companies, and these companies find it more worthwhile to do additional screening/paperwork.
    6: In 1916, towns were smaller and managers were more likely to know employees personally prior to hiring them. Since that is no longer the case, managers’ discretion is less useful than in the past and the corporate screening process grew up as a replacement.
    7: The quality of the employee pool is lower. Could be because undesirable traits like drug use and psychological instability have risen in society as a whole while desirable ones like work ethic, and responsibility have declined. Or perhaps working at Wal-mart or McDonalds has lower status or relative wages than it used to, so a higher percentage of applicants to these jobs are those who can’t get a job elsewhere (presumably due to undesirable personal traits).

    Thoughts? I could see 1,2, and 4 (if true) being things the government could realistically be partially responsible for, but I expect that most of the reason is actually due to 3,5, and 7.

    • Nornagest says:

      If litigation is doing much of the work, then low-end employment should be higher in states where it’s harder to sue for wrongful termination. (We could look at at-will vs. non-at-will states as a first cut, though I suspect the difference there isn’t huge.)

      If it’s scaling effects, then that predicts it should be easier to get a job at Mom and Pop’s Corner Store than at the 7-11.

      Similarly, if it’s the size of the town, then it should be easier to get work in Bumfuck, Arizona than in Phoenix. (You’d need to control for the overall health of the economy, though, which could be tricky. A lot of small towns with high per-capita GDP are that way because they’re bedroom communities.)

      If it’s quality of employees, then we could look at local metrics for drug addiction, psychological admissions, etc.

      • Evan Þ says:

        “We could look at at-will vs. non-at-will states as a first cut…”

        There’s exactly one non-at-will state: Montana. Confounding effects would be huge from a single example.

        We could also try looking at at-will foreign countries, as a lot of people have tried already… but there’re also large confounding effects between the US and Europe.

    • John Schilling says:

      #1, 2, and 4 are attributable to government. Different tax policies, civil liability rules, etc give different results.

      #3 was as true 50-100 years ago as it is now, at least for the sorts of sabotage a low-skill worker could do, so if people could walk in off the street and get jobs then, something else must have changed. And that leaves the relevant parts of #5 in the government’s domain as well.

      #6 seems contradicted by the relative ease of getting a walk-in job while, er, On the Road, back in the day.

      #7 might be plausible, but if so the difference isn’t anyplace easy to verify like educational achievement.

      • James Picone says:

        Does US civil liability law really differ that much from 50-100 years ago?

        • John Schilling says:

          Not sure about the laws themselves, but the practice of civil liability law has changed dramatically. Prior to 1977, lawyers were not allowed to advertise their services in the United States. Lawsuits happened when someone was sufficiently aggrieved to go out of their way to look up a lawyer. Since 1977, lawsuits also happen when someone is watching TV and sees the nice man in a suit telling them they are entitled to $bignum because [X]. With this blatant change, the legal community’s mostly-informal distaste for lesser forms of barratry has been weakened and you also get more blatant sorts of ambulance-chasing.

        • The abolition of the requirement of privity about a century ago (by a court decision–MacPherson v. Buick) is one major change.

          A car dealer buys a car from G.M., sells it to you, something goes wrong with it that imposes costs on you. Under the old rule, you can sue the dealer, the dealer can sue G.M., but you can’t get damages from G.M. directly because you have no contractual relation with G.M. Now you can.

          My impression is that there were a lot of more minor changes in how the law was interpreted which affected things in the same direction, but I’m certainly not an expert.

    • Corey says:

      My guess (from the relatively job-market-privileged position of a programmer) is that short-term-ism in corporate governance has more or less killed on-the-job training. That is, employers will hold out until they have a drop-in replacement, however long that might take.

      In tech, you see this often in easily-mockable form – equivalents to “We can’t hire you because your experience is with Milwaukee sawzalls and we use DeWalt sawzalls here”. To be fair, I don’t know how common this is in jobs that involve actual sawzalls.

      I know a lot of business behavior is driven by lawsuit-aversion, but I wonder how rational that is – any company big enough to have more than a few locations is being constantly sued, over matters both frivolous and not, no matter what they do.

      Another factor is feedback loops applying to individuals – e.g. most (nontrivially-sized) employers check credit scores, so if you have financial difficulties that result in bad credit, it can be harder to get a job, leading to inability to fix bad credit, … Likewise, being out of the labor force for nontrivial amounts of time (say, 6 months) will cause most employers to insta-reject, so good luck getting back in…

      • Chalid says:

        short-term-ism in corporate governance has more or less killed on-the-job training

        surely part of it is increased willingness of employees to switch jobs, too? No sense training someone for 6 months when they’re going to get poached at the end of it.

        • Urstoff says:

          Which makes me wonder why new hire work contracts aren’t more common. Are they even legal?

          • Chalid says:

            IANAL, but my understanding is that you can’t make a contract that signs away the employee’s right to quit. You can create a noncompete, but that is unenforceable in some parts of the country.

            AFAICT deferred pay works, but seems to only be practical for the most lucrative jobs.

          • brad says:

            You can sign away your right to quit, it just isn’t enforceable by specific performance.

            In some industries it is a common occurrence for a company to have a contract that says “we’ll pay for your executive mba but then you need to work for us for three years. If you quit before then you need to pay us back for the mba.” That could be structured as a forgivable loan, but AFAIK it is perfectly enforceable as an ordinary contract.

    • Chalid says:

      Other hypotheses:

      Economic growth rates were higher 50-100 years ago than they are now, so labor would have been more in demand. (This would be my bet – I’d guess it was not harder to get a job in the 1990s boom than it was in Jack Kerouac’s day.)

      It takes more skill to do a “minimally-skilled” job today than it did in 1916. If this were true (I have no idea) it would have similar effects to #7.

      A variant of your #3 – it is easier for a bad employee to non-purposely destroy value for a firm than it used to be. One bad employee can destroy a whole team’s productivity. Tyler Cowen laid out an argument along these lines in The Great Stagnation.

      Minimum wage.

      Maybe it’s not actually harder to find work now. Jack Kerouac anecdotes are interesting but are not strong evidence.

    • Jiro says:

      If 1, 2, and 4 count as government, then 5 should also count as government, because 5 includes the risk of being 1 or 2.

      • Bassicallyboss says:

        I agree that government policy could be affected by 5, but I disagree that it’s primarily an issue of government policy. 5 conjectures that there’s an economy of scale of sorts.

        Basically, there’s a certain per-employee risk of 1 or 2. If we assume that a more burdensome application process lowers this risk but has some cost (in management man-hours, for example) that grows less than linearly with a marginal application, then it’s plausible that there is some number of employees, N, below which a burdensome application process has negative utility, but above which it has positive utility.

        Government affecting 1 and 2 can change what value N has, but unless 1 and 2 disappear entirely as risks or become extremely likely for everyone, they can’t change whether N exists. 5 is the hypothesis that N exists, is greater than 0, and is finite. A bit pedantic, perhaps, but that was why I didn’t count it as an issue primarily of government policy. That may have been a mistake of categorization, as I do agree that government can influence the extent to which 5 is a factor.

    • JayT says:

      I think there are two major things the government does that makes it more difficult for companies to hire people as compared to 100 years ago.
      1) it’s much harder to fire a bad employee today then it was back then, so companies are more picky about adding new people on.
      2) The minimum wage. If you are only going to get $5 an hour of utility out of an employee, but employees cost $7.50 an hour, then you won’t hire them.

      A third issue is that now if you have too many employees then you have to offer health insurance, so there are also companies that will avoid hiring to avoid that.

      • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

        Increasing mandatory, non-wage payroll expenses, too.

      • Corey says:

        it’s much harder to fire a bad employee today then it was back then

        Is it, actually? Approximately every job is at-will, so no reason is necessary. Jobs are short-term, so it’s easy to just cut someone loose at the next layoff.

        Government policy has added more discrimination categories, but AFAIK it’s very difficult for an employee to win a wrongful-termination suit (especially if the company bundled said termination in with a group layoff).

      • John Schilling says:

        Approximately every job is at-will, so no reason [for firing someone] is necessary

        If your ex-employee says “I was fired because I was [insert protected class here]”, and your defense is “I fired them for no reason whatsoever”, I’m guessing you’re going to be writing them a rather large check in the near future.

        • Corey says:

          Every job requires employees to agree to binding arbitration at application time, and every layoff comes with severance pay contingent upon again waiving the right to sue. So someone would have to be confident enough in a win to turn down the severance pay, so it’s only deep-pocketed protected-class employees that are unfireable.

        • anonymous says:

          Most ridiculously absurd exaggeration of thread.

          That’s your second in a row after your recent insistence that “Jill” is a “communist”.

          Corporate can and will have everything it wants-
          but you overreach when you attempt to add victim status to your heap of prize and privilege.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      See Scott’s comment on his paranoid rant.

      • Anonymous says:

        Scott knows that the name-is-banned-from-mention-on-this-blog right-ist philosophy is correct. The left is about the psychological descendants of New England Puritans and Jews making sure that all avenues where you can succeed without high verbal intelligence are choked off. Hey, you can do anything if you can justify it to the left’s lawyers, right? Which works out great if you’re of the temperament to argue about things rather than do things.

        Don’t worry, he’ll never draw any conclusions from this, after all, he’s great at obfuscating the truth so even if the particulars may annoy him, the alternative is terrifying.

  25. Anonymous says:

    When I was a wee lad my parents would sometimes buy tang (or generic versions of it). I’ve been looking for similar in grocery stores in Germany nowadays and there’s nothing; if you want fruity water you have to carry the whole bottle of fruit juice from the store.

    Even if the powders got banned for unhealthy I would’ve expected demand to make it worthwhile to offer a replacement. The best alternative I’ve found are the multivitamine pills you dissolve in water, resulting in a fruity slightly fizzy drink. Are they the replacement for tang?

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Do fruity drinks sold as a concentrated liquid not exist in Germany? I think they’re more common than the powder versions in Europe.

    • John Schilling says:

      Not familiar with the German market, but for individual pouches of dehydrated beverage you might want to check a backpacking / outdoor-sports store.

    • Protagoras says:

      Powders are small, low mass, and so pretty ideal things to get by delivery. Have you checked out what Amazon has available?

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks to everyone for replying. Yeah, I’ve already found them on Amazon, I was more curious about their disappearance from grocery stores since I would have expected the stuff to be in sufficient demand.

      Sports stores are an interesting idea, would’ve never thought of that.

  26. multiheaded says:

    Thank you, folks! Sincerely, thank you. My situation is… mostly safe and somewhat secure. It feels so great to be out and free! I will not forget this community’s kindness in my hour of need.

  27. Mengsk says:

    An Article in the New Yorker about Donnald Trumps Ghost Writer in the Art of the Deal. This certainly colors how I read Scott’s own review of the Art of the Deal, since the ghostwriter is giving his perspective on (and typically taking credit for) some of the passages in the book that Scott found the most compelling.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Heh, I came here to post this!

    • Nornagest says:

      Interesting. Though when a writer draws a portrait of a guy as a brash, intuitive charmer, and then later draws another portrait of the guy as a thuggish, nepotistic manchild, you’ve gotta wonder how much of either one was drawn from life.

      If this had come out two years ago, maybe… but election season is not a time when I expect a lot of objectivity.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Yeah, Schwartz reminds me of no one so much as David “Trust me, I lied” Brock.

      • anonce says:

        “If this had come out two years ago, maybe… but election season is not a time when I expect a lot of objectivity.”

        Nature equips the demagogue with an auto-therapeutic reassurance system, as seen here.

  28. Edward Scizorhands says:

    How can I tell if I am eating enough food?

    I know this is a weird problem to have, but through some determination and patience and luck, for the time being I am able to ignore hunger signals from my body, which would normally have me overeating.

    In the absence of hunger signals, what should I do to make sure I am eating enough food? The #1 risk that would return me to overeating is that my body gets me to panic that I’m going to starve. I need to able to logically convince myself that I am getting enough.

    Counting calories seems difficult, because a lot of my food is home-cooked without nutrition labels, and I wouldn’t know how to calibrate that number anyway.

    • Lumifer says:

      How can I tell if I am eating enough food?

      Being alive is a pretty good sign.

      Otherwise, watch your muscle mass (or bodyfat %). If it drops below what you want, you’re not eating enough food. It if doesn’t, you are.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Counting calories isn’t that hard, there are a lot of apps or websites with extensive lists of nutrient information for any random ingredient or dish. Even Google will just tell you the calorie content of foods if you ask it to. It doesn’t need to be exact anyhow: not starving is an extremely low bar to clear, so even a cursory calorie count will be weirdly alliterative help confirm that you’re ok.

      As for hunger signals I’d suggest just pointedly ignoring them. It sounds dumb, but once you make it clear to yourself that you aren’t going to act on them they tend to go away. I’ve done that successfully in ketogenic diets with carb cravings and in intermittent fasting / time-restricted eating diets with day long fasts. You aren’t really in any danger and your body knows it, so you can get it to stop whining by denying it attention.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        As for hunger signals I’d suggest just pointedly ignoring them.

        I’ve gotten to that point, with luck and work. My body has mostly, but not completely, given up on trying to force me to eat. These days its best strategy is telling me “oh, you won’t be able to concentrate on work unless you give me some food! C’mon, just one little PB sandwich, then you will be fine until dinner.”

    • Glen Raphael says:

      In the absence of hunger signals, what should I do to make sure I am eating enough food?

      Get a Withings scale and weigh yourself daily. Have a target weight range, look at the charts occasionally and resolve to eat “more” of whatever you’re eating if the trendline seems alarming.

    • Anonymous says:

      Calorie counting is about the only way to do it. There are various apps and things to help if you’re into that. Get a kitchen scale.

      I wouldn’t know how to calibrate that number anyway.

      This requires measurement also. Get a bathroom scale. Many of those apps have the ability to input your weight over time, automatically perform some smoothing/averaging, and give you a calorie target to shoot for depending on what your goal is (cutting/maintaining/bulking).

      • Eric Rall says:

        I’ll second the kitchen scale recommendation. If you have and use a kitchen scale and know how to use a good tracker app, it’s a lot easier to count calories for home-cooked meals than for restaurant food.

      • Lumifer says:

        Frankly, I see no point in counting calories. You are interested in the net energy balance and unless you measure energy expenditure (which is quite inconvenient to do), the sum of calories in the food you consume isn’t a terribly useful number.

        • Nornagest says:

          Weight gain, loss, or maintenance is an equation with two free terms. There aren’t any really good ways to nail down the TDEE term (algorithms exist for estimating it, but they kinda suck and are more useful as a starting point than as gospel), so you count calories to establish a firm value for the other. From there you can modify your intake (or activity levels, but intake is easier) until you see the desired effects.

          (ETA: accidentally edited instead of replying, reconstructing this comment from memory)

          • Lumifer says:

            But why don’t you just directly observe the targeted variable (weight, or better bodyfat %) and modify your intake based on what it does?

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s what you’re doing. The issue is that you can’t reliably modify your intake if you aren’t measuring it in any way — it’s really easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re eating more, or less, than you actually are.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Nornagest

            I don’t think you need to measure your intake in order to modify it. It’s just a laggy control dial and you don’t really need to calibrate it. If you want less bodyfat, eat less. If it not working well, eat less. If it’s still not working well, eat less. You can do this kind of control without any measurements.

          • Johnjohn says:

            “Eat less” is a meaningless concept if you’re not counting calories.
            It’s not the actual volume of food that makes you fat. Unless you’re eating sludge (or Soylent), knowing what to eat less off is not completely obvious. It doesn’t take a lot of peanut butter to tip the scale

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Johnjohn

            I don’t agree. I have little trouble modifying my food consumption without any calorie counting.

            In practice I basically use two “dials” to adjust. One is the feeling of hunger/satiety. If, for example, I’m trying to eat less I will make it so I’m hungry more often and for longer. The other one is the when-and-how of eating: for example, I might decide that there will be no midnight snacks, or that at social events I will not eat if I’m not hungry even if there’s free and tasty food all around.

            It works well for me, but YMMV, of course.

    • Corey says:

      A veteran of calorie-counting diets here.
      To calibrate calorie counting, just measure and track weight. A 500-calorie daily deficit will translate to a pound of fat loss per week. You could start with a nice round 2000 and go from there.

      To see where weight is going, use a moving average, since ~11lb of stuff goes through a typical human body in a day. I’ve successfully used “today’s average = 0.9*(yesterday’s average) + 0.1*(today’s weight)” with the first entry for average being the first weight.

      It should be fine for anyone to lose a pound a week; I wouldn’t go faster than 2lb a week (measured by moving average) without consulting a physician.

      A delicious(?) irony(?): it’s easy to count calories on fast food because the ingredients and portion sizes are rigidly controlled. Home cooking’s actually not so bad either. Full-service-restaurant meals are impossible to count and it’s best to assume that any such meal has a calorie count of “too many”.

      • AspiringRationalist says:

        Many of the big chain sit-down restaurants post calorie counts on their websites, and calorie country apps often let you select those menu items. Even if you ready at smaller restaurants, you can still use the numbers from the big chains as rough approximations.

        I personally find calorie counting too burdensome to do regularly, but very occasionally tracking everything I eat for one day helps me calibrate my intuition about calories. I can estimate how many I’m getting based on how much more or less I’m eating than I did on a day that I tracked.

        I also second the recommendation to weigh yourself regularly and maintain a target range.

    • Anonanon says:

      I can guarantee training yourself to ignore hunger signals will eventually lead to terrible results, just like ignoring other important warnings.

    • Eric Rall says:

      For me, a short-term episode of “not enough food” without associated hunger signals tends to show other symptoms (lightheadedness, irritability, a slightly queasy feeling in my stomach, etc). Monitor yourself and figure out if you get similar early-warning symptoms.

      Some other heuristics:

      1. When you’re not getting enough food on a medium-term basis, your metabolism slows down to compensate. An easily-recognizable symptom of this is if the tip of your nose is noticeably cool to the touch without an obvious environmental reason for it to be cold.

      2. Try doing some form of exercise (pushups, sprints, a weightlifting set, etc). If you run out of steam before you’d normally expect to (you need to establish a baseline in order to judge this), you’re probably hungry, tired, or stressed.

      3. Eat a bite of a snack you neither strongly like nor strongly dislike (raw carrots fill this role pretty well for me). If you find yourself craving more a minute or two later, you’re probably not eating enough.

      In the long run, your best bet is to weigh yourself regularly and monitor the trend line. If you’re losing more than two pounds a week on an ongoing basis (assuming you’re trying to lose weight), you’re not eating enough. If you’re just trying to maintain your weight, any sustained deviation beyond your normal noise range (establish this by tracking the highest and lowest numbers you regularly see on the scale) is a warning sign that you’re eating too much or too little.

    • Jill says:

      Geneen Roth writes some good books like Feeding the Hungry Heart, about seeming “hunger signals” that are actually due to emotions or emotional needs. They are mostly geared toward women. But it is a big problem for people who overeat, in American society, where most of us are fairly compulsive and addictive in various ways.

      If one uses food for emotional release, here are some alternative emotional release methods. And of course, exercise, getting a friend who will listen to you vent, and other types of emotional release are possible.

      Here is an Eye Movement Therapy you tube. It’s sort of like watching a tennis game. You follow the green light with your eyes. Some people like it with the sound on, some with it off. The idea is to experience one’s distress and then to let it pass on through your body and and out of it. So the standard way of doing it is to let distressing feelings or thoughts occur in one’s experience, or even to “wallow in them”, rather than to try to avoid them, while doing this.

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

      This is just one of the EMDR youtubes. Just type in EMDR or eye movement therapy into youtube.com to get others, if this one doesn’t suit you.

      Here’s an article about EMDR.
      http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/07/emdr-trauma/399650/

      There’s also self tapping of acupressure points—Emotional Freedom Technique—a different technique for the same purpose, here.

      http://bradyates.net/videos.html

      There are affirmations he says with the tapping. If you like them, you say them with him. If you don’t like them, you turn the sound off.

      The theories of how these 2 methods work are different. But I suspect that they actually work in similar ways.

      • I’ve read a number of Geneen Roth’s books, and found them interesting and plausible.

        However, when I looked at her life as described in her books, I decided to never read anything of hers again. Arguably, it might be more sensible to reread her books carefully and thoughtfully to figure out what she’s gotten wrong and what I was missing, but it’s unlikely that I’ll do that.

        She had a theory of how to lose weight. Carefully figure out what you want to eat, then eat the least tolerable amount of it. I found that if I tried it, just taking the edge off of being hungry left me feeling hungry again inconveniently soon.

        However, Roth lost weight. Life was good. Then it turned out that she had a yeast infection, and peanut butter was one of the few foods that didn’t feed the yeast. In other words, figuring out exactly what you want to eat isn’t a good guide for what keeps you healthy/ what doesn’t make you sick.

        Also, she gained weight.

        Then she figured out an emotionally challenging way of losing weight. Sorry, I don’t remember the details. She set up workshops for her emotionally challenging method of losing weight, and made a bunch of money.

        She lost all the money to Bernie Madoff, and wrote a book about connections between emotional issues and money problems.

        It’s possible that she just has bad luck, but I suspect she’s making some fundamental errors I can’t see, and I don’t want the risk of amplifying those mistakes if I’m making them.

    • Tek Tek says:

      >Counting calories seems difficult, because a lot of my food is home-cooked without nutrition labels,

      Step 1.

      Start buying food with nutrition labels.

      Step 2.

      Buy measuring cups and spoons

      Step 3.

      Start following recipies and use a calculator.

      If you live in America, im mostly shocked most of the food you have is without nutrition labels. Unless you are organic-from-the-source mania, it should not be hard to adapt.

      Oh, and listin to anonanon

      “I can guarantee training yourself to ignore hunger signals will eventually lead to terrible results, just like ignoring other important warnings.”

      Unless you were really worried about being overweight, don’t do that.

      • Lumifer says:

        If you live in America, im mostly shocked most of the food you have is without nutrition labels.

        LOL. Let’s see. Fruits and veggies, no nutrition labels. Meat, chicken, fish, no nutrition labels.

        Oh, you mean various cans and boxes? That’s not food.

        • Virbie says:

          Given the context of the discussion, the only relevant part of the nutrition label is the calorie count.

          > LOL. Let’s see. Fruits and veggies, no nutrition labels. Meat, chicken, fish, no nutrition labels.

          Fruits and vegetables are (generally) low-calorie enough that the error from Googling “granny smith apple calories” is going to be inconsequential. Meat, poultry and fish are either bought packaged or with a label stuck on specifying the weight, and the calories are again easily googlable.

          • Lumifer says:

            I can certainly find out the caloric and nutrient content of almost everything I eat. What I was snorting at is the horror (“I’m mostly shocked”) of buying food without standard nutrition labels as, in fact, most of the food I buy comes without them.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            A bunch of stuff goes into the pot to cook. Portions come out to be shared among the family. My wife would go nuts if I was walking behind her asking just what she was adding.

            I’m trying for approximations and experimenting with calorie-counter apps nonetheless. “SparkPeople” seems close to what I want but it is also loaded with visual noise, with filling my food log with “sample menus” of stuff I’m not eating.

    • Virbie says:

      > I know this is a weird problem to have, but through some determination and patience and luck, for the time being I am able to ignore hunger signals from my body, which would normally have me overeating.

      I have a fairly similar issue atm. Skipping meals and ignoring hunger pangs was always easy for me when necessary, but over the course of an 8-month backpacking sabbatical I abused the crap out of this ability to the point that I basically stopped feeling hunger signals once I got back (about 1.5 mos ago). I’ve also started cooking regularly since the job that I left before my trip used to feed me all week and I’d eat at restaurants all weekend, so I’m trying to get in the habit of doing groceries and cooking regularly. Luckily enough, this also allows me to keep a reasonably precise account of how many calories I eat, along with keeping an eye on the scale and physical symptoms for undereating. A couple more weeks of this and I feel like I’ll have a reasonable level of confidence in the acceptable range of calories I can eat (currently it seems like ~1900 is maintenance for me and I can eat as low as 1500 on any given day without it bothering me).

      > Counting calories seems difficult, because a lot of my food is home-cooked without nutrition labels, and I wouldn’t know how to calibrate that number anyway.

      I’ve home-cooked almost every meal for the last month, in large part because it’s by far the easiest way to get a sense of how many calories I eat[1]. Is there a reason you’re having trouble counting these? Just add up the calories of the ingredients and skip ingredients that are probably negligible (e.g. baby spinach).

      [1] Obviously short of only eating pre-prepared microwaveable meals or whatever, but eating only pre-prepared meals seems like the most unpleasant of all options.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I’m not necessarily the one who does cooking at home. But maybe I don’t need to track as closely as I think I do. Putting in a generic “chicken-and-veggie stirfry” entry might work. Of course, the app that I’m working with tracks that by “servings,” not volume or mass.

    • Mary says:

      I will, just to make your life more complicated, point out that calorie cutting doesn’t cut it. You probably need to pay attention to your micro and macro nutrients, too.

      Mind you, a broad-brush approach, like that to calories suggested above will probably cut it.

  29. Dr Dealgood says:

    SC Science & Scholarship Commentary Thread
    ~SSCience~

    What is this?
    > A lot of us come from academic backgrounds, or just occasionally stumble across interesting research, and think “what will people at SSC make of this?” Well now there’s a place to find that without reading 84 quadrillion comments first. Just Ctrl+F and search for ~ S S C i e n c e ~ without spaces.

    How does it work?
    > On the fractional Open Threads commenters are welcome to post links to and suggest for consideration any articles, and I will put an updated list of those suggestions in the top-level post for each.
    > During the integer Open Thread, I will select one article from the list for general discussion.

    Who can participate?
    > Everyone! Just read the article you plan to comment on or suggest, at least past the Abstract, and then feel free to post away.

    How do we keep it from descending into murderous anarchy?
    > This thread is strictly apolitical: even if you think an article has “policy implications,” this is not the appropriate place to discuss them. Violators will be drawn and quartered.

    Suggested Articles:
    1. Alliteration suggested the preprint study Genetic evidence for natural selection in humans in the contemporary United States, in the 53.25 Open Thread.
    2. Ilyusha suggested the extremely bizarre study Does comedy kill? A retrospective, longitudinal cohort, nested case–control study of humour and longevity in 53 British comedians, in Links 7/16.
    3. I suggested Enhanced Longevity by Ibuprofen, Conserved in Multiple Species, Occurs in Yeast through Inhibition of Tryptophan Import in the 53.5 Open Thread
    4. keranih suggested Executive Decision-Making in the Domestic Sheep in the 53.5 Open Thread

    Article chosen for today’s discussion is Executive Decision-Making in the Domestic Sheep, suggested by keranih.

    • Lumifer says:

      So far my favourite sentence in the paper is: “Welsh Mountain sheep… were naïve to cognitive testing”

      • Bassist Pig says:

        It does read in an amusing way. I assume you already know this, but in case you don’t:

        In academic paper jargon, “naive to” means “not exposed to concepts or research experiences in a way that would introduce bias”.

        So, sheep that are naive to cognitive testing means sheep that haven’t been put through experiments and therefore are not acclimated to either the experimental or control conditions.

    • Guy says:

      Suggestion for next time, before I read about sheep: Living in a Void: Testing the Copernican Principle with Distant Supernovae.

    • Skivverus says:

      “New Zealand gradually develops an outsized reputation as the place to go for higher-order cognitive research”.

      Edit: okay, that might read as political rather than mildly humorous. Hm.
      At any rate, I might be overly credulous in general, but the study does seem plausible to me; can’t speak to the Huntington’s Disease end of things though.

    • Ilyushechka says:

      Distilling the US Census Bureau’s “Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012” (document P20-575), we find that three-of-ten women are bearing six-of-ten children (rounded to nearest integers). Discussion points that arise include:

      (1) Don’t these numbers indicate that the human genome presently is under strong selection pressure (nowadays, just as it always has been)?

      (2) Aren’t these large reproductive differentials evident in all genders, ethnic groups, all nations, all religions, and all wealth-levels (nowadays, just as they always have been)?

      (3) Wouldn’t increased selection for any one trait (ratiocination for example) necessarily be correlated to decreased selection for the remaining traits (empathy for example)?

      (4) In particular, isn’t it scientifically credible that we humans already are about as smart as hominids can evolve to be, without becoming concomitantly worse parents overall?

      (5) After all, doesn’t basic thermodynamics already stress human DNA repair mechanisms to their informatic limits (ouch)?

      (6) So perhaps there’s not much coding-space available for further genetic optimization, isn’t that plausible?

      (7) Isn’t it credible, therefore, that existing human courtship-and-reproductive mores are (like democracy in Churchill’s famous phrase) “the worst of all systems for hominid reproduction, except for every other system that has ever been tried”?

      (8) So isn’t the following proposition credibly grounded in “~SSCience~”?

      Resolved  Our best practices — both as individuals and as collective cultures — are simply to make the best use of our own innate resources, and to deal with our fellow humans with all the empathy and compassion (and good humor) that we can muster.

      The above “~SSCience~” considerations are offered with a view toward refuting various dystopian forms of moral apartheid that (nowadays especially) are deplorably evident as metastasizing cankers at the repugnant hearts of many ideological ‘isms’.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I’m honestly not really sure what you’re saying, although that could be because I’m very very tired. I will reread this in the morning and try to get a better grasp.

        Anyway, I appreciate the use of the S S C i e n c e tag for rhetorical purposes but I would appreciate it if you left the tildes off next time or inserted spaces. Like the n e w tag, this is supposed to help people easily find the thread. Having it quoted repeatedly makes searching for it unnecessarily more difficult.

        • Lumifer says:

          Hmm… “~ S S C i e n c e ~ ” looks very much like the Slytherin version of science pronounced with a Parseltongue accent. There are even stylized serpents surrounding it : -/

        • Ilyushechka says:

          Dr Dealgood says:  “I’m honestly not really sure what you’re saying.”

          It boils down to “science against racism.”

          Expressed as an enumerated list of eight tough-but-natural questions, `cuz racist cognition is specialist to avoid even asking these tough-but-natural scientific questions. … much less answering them. Isn’t it?

      • Nornagest says:

        1 is plausible. 2 is non-obvious, but plausible if you allow a reasonable level of variation. 3 is only true if you hold selection pressure constant, which we have no reason to. 4 is speculative. 5 is also pretty speculative as far as I know, though a related concept is true (the constraints are related to mutational load, and only indirectly to DNA repair), and irrelevant to 4 either way: genome size is not directly related to intelligence. 6 is speculative, 7 is wildly speculative, and the answer to 8 is “no”.

        More generally, you can spin an evolutionary just-so story for just about anything by picking your facts well. Evolutionary arguments get pretty shaky once you add more than a step or two of implication, and here you’re proposing eight; I haven’t seen that many in e.g. the sketchiest evopsych arguments for gender roles, and I have a feeling you’d reject those.

        Oh, and I’m still pretty sure you’re John Sidles.

        • Ilyushechka says:

          Nornagest observes  “You can spin an evolutionary just-so story for just about anything”.

          Didn’t Theodosius Dobzhansky say pretty much the same thing way back in 1973? Specifically in Dobzhansky’s much-cited and much-quoted essay of the same title?

          Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution

          Appreciated as a biological phenomenon, doesn’t racist cognition — like many other forms of denialist cognition — make so little rational sense, so little scientific sense, and so little moral sense, that its prevalence across cultures and centuries requires Dobzhansky-type evolutionary explanations?

          For example, how else can we understand the ongoing phenomenon of the Trumpocalypse?

          As a mode of political cognition, isn’t it true that “Trumpicination” makes zero rational sense, zero scientific sense, and zero moral sense?

          Further Readings

          Sociobiologist Ed Wilson’s novel Anthill (2010) is an extended and scientifically informed Dobzhanskyian parable upon the evolutionary roots and practical consequences of cognitive modes that are irrational, unscientific, and amoral.

          Appreciated in this progressive evolutionary light, Anthill provides a gratifyingly illuminating and enjoyable reading experience … remarkably so, for a first novel that was written when Ed Wilson was 81! 🙂

          • Anonanon says:

            John, you really need to change your style if you want to stop getting banned.

          • Ilyushechka says:

            Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus?

            A prudent Chief
                not always must display
            His Pow’rs in equal Ranks,
                and fair Array,
            But with th’ Occasion
                and the Place comply,
            Conceal his Force,
                nay seem sometimes to Fly.
            Those oft are Stratagems
                which Errors seem,
            Nor is it Homer Nods,
                but We that Dream.

            A principle that savvy politicians like “Hillary Potter” — slogan: “Let’s Make America Hufflepuff Again” — understand full well! 🙂

          • Ilyushechka says:

            Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus?

            A prudent Chief
                  not always must display
            His Pow’rs in equal Ranks,
                  and fair Array,
            But with th’ Occasion
                  and the Place comply,
            Conceal his Force,
                  nay seem sometimes to Fly.
            Those oft are Stratagems
                  which Errors seem,
            Nor is it Homer Nods,
                  but We that Dream.

            A principle that Hillary Potter — “Let’s Make America Hufflepuff Again!” — seemingly appreciates full well! 🙂

          • FacelessCraven says:

            From the provided link:

            “His language achieves poetic transcendence when describing “the decency of ants,” whose disabled members “leave and trouble no more.” When the nest must be defended, its eldest residents — with the least long-term utility remaining to them — become the most suicidally aggressive, “obedient to a simple truth that separates our two species: Where humans send their young men to war, ants send their old ladies.””

            Such empathy.

            “Appreciated as a biological phenomenon, doesn’t racist cognition — like many other forms of denialist cognition-”

            Racism is wearing the wrong hairstyle. Denialism is a memory longer than a decade. If you want a conversation, starting it with name-calling isn’t the best idea.

            ” — make so little rational sense, so little scientific sense, and so little moral sense, that its prevalence across cultures and centuries requires Dobzhansky-type evolutionary explanations?”

            Maybe. Maybe not. There’s been a large, interesting and highly productive thread addressing the first two points. You’ve added nothing of substance to it.

            “For example, how else can we understand the ongoing phenomenon of the Trumpocalypse? As a mode of political cognition, isn’t it true that “Trumpicination” makes zero rational sense, zero scientific sense, and zero moral sense?”

            Sadly, Trump supporters are too stupid and brain-sick to understand that your opinions are right and theirs are wrong. If only they had as much empathy as you do, they’d see how they should abandon their own thoughts and feelings and embrace yours, and grow to appreciate the specific type of diversity you find personally convinient while militantly suppressing their various and wrong ways of thinking, feeling and living.

            “A principle that Hillary Potter — “Let’s Make America Hufflepuff Again!” — seemingly appreciates full well!”

            In all honesty, good luck with that.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Anonanon says:

            John, you really need to change your style if you want to stop getting banned.

            I don’t mind the style, I just wish he had some substance to go with the word count.

          • Ilyushechka says:

            Ed Wilson remarks a phenomenon familiar to all:

            “Nowhere do people tolerate attacks on their person, their family, their country … or their creation myth. […] Our leaders, religious, political, and business, mostly accept supernatural explanations of human existence. […] Scientists who might contribute to a more realistic worldview are especially disappointing. Largely yeoman, they are intellectual dwarves content to stay within the narrow specialities for which they were trained and are paid.”

            Doesn’t every ‘ism’ has its own creation myths?

            For example, what are the creation myths of rationalism? One such myth is the myth that human cognition factually is, logically could be, or morally should be, primarily a process of ratiocination.

            Needless to say, no very strong foundations for rationalism’s “creation myth” of ratiocination-as-cognition are evident modern-day neuroanatomy, psychiatry, pharmacology, sociology, complexity theory, or evolutionary biology.

            To the contrary, isn’t it strikingly evident, that even the AI disciplines are trending sharply away from 20th century paradigms of ratiocination-as-cognition, on the pragmatic grounds that the transhumanly skilled game-play of algorithms like Google’s AlphaGo are achieved without any foundations in ratiocination whatsoever?

            The so-called “AI Winter” therefore can be retrospectively appreciated as an “Empathic Winter”, can’t it? Whereas modern-day algorithms like AlphaGo are succeeding by their in-depth emulation, not of human ratiocination, but rather of human empathic cognition?

            As for “Trumpicination”, with its strikingly non-empathic focus upon “negotiating great deals” — this being “the narrow speciality for which Trump has been trained and is paid” — why should we expect that Trumpism’s unempathic brand of deal-centric leadership will prove more effective than any other ‘ism’ of any other “intellectual dwarf” or any other “narrowly trained yoeman”?

            On these broad scientific grounds, aren’t the empathy-centric concerns of Trump’s critics well-grounded?

            In a nutshell, isn’t empathy nowadays increasingly surpassing ratiocination, across the entire domain and range of cognitive activities and capabilities &helliop; including even strongholds of ratiocination like machine intelligence?

            ———
            As for the founding myth of modern-day progressivism, that’s easy:  “We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all people are created equal” … an empathic principle that is foundational to modern-day progressive economics, politics, and moral philosophy 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            Didn’t Theodosius Dobzhansky say pretty much the same thing way back in 1973? Specifically in Dobzhansky’s much-cited and much-quoted essay of the same title?

            No, he did not.

          • Ilyushechka says:

            In a unifying vein, wasn’t it great this week to witness arch-conservative SF writer Jerry Pournelle raising (albeit belatedly) some common-sense empathy-centric anti-capitalist questions?

            “What was conserved by turning Detroit into a wasteland? How was that conservative?”

            Pournelle’s questions share common-sense ground with the empathy-centric economic perspectives of arch-progressive Wendell Berry’s 41st Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities “It All Turns on Affection” (2012).

            In his deeply personal yet humanely universal Jefferson Lecture, Berry sets forth an empathy-centric yet rationalism-friendly progressive worldview whose foundational tenets are explicitly Pournelle-compatible

            Obviously there is some risk in making affection the pivot of an argument about economy. The charge will be made that affection is an emotion, merely “subjective,” and therefore that all affections are more or less equal: people may have affection for their children and their automobiles, their neighbors and their weapons.

            But the risk, I think, is only that affection is personal. If it is not personal, it is nothing; we don’t, at least, have to worry about governmental or corporate affection. And one of the endeavors of human cultures, from the beginning, has been to qualify and direct the influence of emotion.

            The word “affection” and the terms of value that cluster around it — love, care, sympathy, mercy, forbearance, respect, reverence — have histories and meanings that raise the issue of worth. We should, as our culture has warned us over and over again, give our affection to things that are true, just, and beautiful.

            When we give affection to things that are destructive, we are wrong. A large machine in a large, toxic, eroded cornfield is not, properly speaking, an object or a sign of affection.

            Needless to say, Berry’s gently humorous empathy-centric rationalism-compatible Pournelle-friendly progressive worldview is playing mighty well with local voters! 🙂

            So are empathic grounds emerging, for common cause between Pournelle-style conservatism and Berry-style progressivism? Yah, sure, you betcha. And you read it first, here on SSC! 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            “What was conserved by turning Detroit into a wasteland? How was that conservative?”

            What was conserved by turning Appalachia into a wasteland?

            If we are to restrict, tax, or otherwise disincentivize making private trades with Japanese and Korean automakers, on account of finding a better way to deliver automobiles to Americans who want them cannot justify the destruction of an American auto-making community, should we not also restrict, tax, or otherwise disincentivize the development of solar power and other new energy technologies on the grounds that finding a better way to deliver electricity to Americans who want it cannot justify the destruction of an American coal-mining community?

            The conservation of specific corporations, towns, and the like, when there is no further economic need for them, is the lowest form of conservatism.

          • Ilyushechka says:

            John Schilling wonders  “What was conserved by turning Appalachia into a wasteland?”

            There’s no shortage of Appalachians who have awakened to a realization that the common-sense answer is “nothing at all“.

            John Schilling asserts [utterly wrongly as it seems to me and many]  “The conservation of specific corporations, towns, and the like, when there is no further economic need for them, is the lowest form of conservatism.”

            Doesn’t this assertion presuppose a total ordering of “economic need”? Aren’t today’s globalized market economies computer-imposing a total ordering upon human activities that intrinsically lack any such ordering?

            As Terry Tao’s much-cited/much-admired essay “What is good mathematics?” (2007) reminds us:

            “The concept of mathematical quality is a high-dimensional one, and lacks an obvious canonical total ordering.”

            If lack-of-ordering is characteristic of “mathematical quality”, how much more characteristic is it of “economic value”?

            In short, total ordering of economic value amounts to totalitarian ordering of economic value. Common sense and high-quality mathematics alike require that we just say “no” to it!

            ——
            Francis Spufford’s hilarious yet math-friendly and history-respecting novella Red Plenty (2010) is recommended remedial reading for those SSC readers who are seeking to escape the ideological grip of the fantasy of economic total ordering.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          “On these broad scientific grounds, aren’t the empathy-centric concerns of Trump’s critics well-grounded?”

          not really, no.

          “In a nutshell, isn’t empathy nowadays increasingly surpassing ratiocination, across the entire domain and range of cognitive activities and capabilities &helliop; including even strongholds of ratiocination like machine intelligence?”

          nope.

          “As for the founding myth of modern-day progressivism, that’s easy: “We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all people are created equal” … an empathic principle that is foundational to modern-day progressive economics, politics, and moral philosophy”

          The bright future is nigh, just over this next heap of skulls…

          • Ilyushechka says:

            Perhaps The Apotheosis of Seattle is 100+ years more topical?

            Gosh, the visual conjunction of front-and-center US flags, the Holy Bible, portraits of Lincoln and Washington, stirring patriotic music, and magnificent fireworks sure looks familiar!

            In a similar vein, wasn’t the Trumpistas’ hysterically chanted desire to imprison progressive female opponents grounded in mortal political/religious passions that North Americans last experienced circa 1660?

            Are these aspects of the Trumpocalypse acting to unravel three centuries of the Enlightenment? The world wonders!

          • FacelessCraven says:

            “Perhaps The Apotheosis of Seattle is 100+ years more topical?”

            Nope. What do Klansmen have to do with the Republican party or Trump? On the other hand, if you want to law claim to the mantle of the Enlightenment, you should answer for the Enlightenment’s considerable crimes.

            “Gosh, the visual conjunction of front-and-center US flags, the Holy Bible, portraits of Lincoln and Washington, stirring patriotic music, and magnificent fireworks sure looks familiar!”

            Nope.

            “In a similar vein, wasn’t the Trumpistas’ hysterically chanted desire to imprison progressive female opponents grounded in mortal political/religious passions that North Americans last experienced circa 1660?”

            Nope.

            “Hysterical”, “mortal political/religious passions”. Those are terms I would say better fit the side that has actually, repeatedly attacked its opponents in mass on the streets. The side that justified such attacks by pointing out that their opponents were evil and thus had it coming. The side that has actually spawned a legit assassination attempt on the opposing candidate. But hey, I’m just a brainsick, low-empathy trump supporter.

            “Are these aspects of the Trumpocalypse acting to unravel three centuries of the Enlightenment?”

            The Enlightenment defeats itself. It is founded on the pursuit of progress that is impossible to achieve via its methods. Then it kills whole heaps of people trying to make progress happen anyway. Then it dies and is replaced by dictatorship, which kills heaps more.

            “The world wonders!”

            How many people you got in there?

          • Ilyushechka says:

            FacelessCraven deposes:  “I am a brainsick, low-empathy Trump supporter.”

            Fortunately there is reasonably strong scientific evidence that low-empathy cognition is a remediable condition.

            Specifically in regard to clinical contexts — experienced either as practitioners or as patients — SSC readers may find the recent scientific literature on “Balint groups” to be of interest.

            See for example Airagnes et alAppropriate training based on Balint groups can improve the empathic abilities of medical students: A preliminary study” (2014), or Andrew Elder’s “The still point of the turning world? Building on Balint: a personal view” (2015), or Roy, Vanheule, and Inslegers’ “Research on Balint groups: a literature review” (2015); there is also an informative biographical sketch by Michelle Ricaud titled “Michael Balint: an introduction” (2002).

            All paywalled, alas. 🙁

  30. In the review of Albion’s Seed, you called Borderer place names “Orcish.” Is that in Blake’s sense or Tolkien’s?

  31. Bassist Pig says:

    To resolve a dispute with my wife, I need recommendations for each of the following for both Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel:

    – Best album
    – Most representative album

    PS. Where’s the “hide thread” button gone to?

      • Bassist Pig says:

        The hide button was gone when I first opened the page, I swear! The markup buttons weren’t there either.

        Now everything’s back where it was. Problem was probably on my end.

    • Redland Jack says:

      Best Album Peter Gabriel – “Melt”

      Most Representative Peter Gabriel – His style changed pretty significantly, so it’s hard to say, but maybe “So”?

      Best Album Peter Gabriel-era Genesis – “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”

      Most Representative Peter Gabriel-era Genesis – “Selling England by the Pound”

      Best Album Phil Collins – ??

      Best Album Phil Collins-era Genesis – “Duke” (though I’d probably consider that the Rutherford/Banks-era, Phil was starting to make his influence felt)

      Most Representative Phil Collins-era Genesis – “Duke” (bridges the early years of Phil Collins as singer, when it was more Rutherford/Banks with the later Genesis albums, where it was very much Phil Collins driven)

      • Agronomous says:

        Yeah, “Melting Faces” from 1980 is Gabriel’s best: Biko, Family Snapshot, Games without Frontiers.

        “Security” (1982) is a close runner-up: San Jacinto, Shock the Monkey.

        I think of “Plays Live” as representative, but I guess only of his early stuff.

        The best Phil Collins album is any one that doesn’t contain “Sussudio”. “Face Value” is my favorite.

        The most representative Phil Collins album is probably “No Jacket Required”—the one with (sigh) “Sussudio”.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Hide button necessarily requires javascript. It gratuitously requires cookies.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad you helped a single russian person to get out of here, but note that you really can’t do much about millions upon millions of people left here that hate their life due to various legit reasons.

    Also if you look at the situation objectively it turns our Russia is in the middle on human development spectrum. There are much, much worse places on this planet. India and Africa look like much closer approximation of hell than russia to me.

    Individual “feel good” solutions won’t work here. It looks like the most humane way to end this misery ASAP would be re-colonization of third world (including my country, Russia) by western powers, and forceful indoctrination of population with western values. Sadly, this solution requires way too much political will and funding, it is really a fantasy in our world where Realpolitik is the dominant attitude of western leaders. The probability of such scenario is similar to probability of solving humanity’s problems with AI, if not less.

    TL:DR: There is no fast way to make 6 billion of third-worlders live a decent life, unless you chose to throw away politically correct bullshit and recolonize these countries, purging all the tin-pot dictatorships. Many parts of the world are hundreds of years behind in development. You can’t solve it fast without using force.

    • Lumifer says:

      re-colonization of third world (including my country, Russia) by western powers, and forceful indoctrination of population with western values

      That was a popular idea about 25 years ago. No one stepped forward to be a test subject, so the US volunteered Iraq for that. I guess you know how it worked.

      The problem is that the West nowadays is less than competent. It’s certainly a better place to live than Russia/India/etc. but its capability to get shit done is not as good as you might think.

      • Anonymous says:

        Iraq wasn’t a strictly humanitarian project, it looked like a more convoluted affair that wasn’t really meant to make iraw a prosperous western country. Also note that true colonization forbids democracy run by native people, at least initially, to ensure that reforms won’t be undone.

        >The problem is that the West nowadays is less than competent.
        I agree. It’s a sad reality that west became weaker. Maybe end of cold war has something to do with it. Or maybe its a sign of stalling technological progress (see timeline http://idlewords.com/talks/web_design_first_100_years.htm )

        >It’s certainly a better place to live than Russia/India/etc.
        Life in russia is not that bad if you conform to prevalent ideology, it’s way better than India.
        It’s actually quite scary – the spectrum of human development is so enormously vast, and yet at each point of this spectrum there are people depressed about their life. Even in the richest country of the world – US.

      • ChetC3 says:

        The West was never that competent. The West of yesteryear had much lower standards, and their modern admirers are usually only familiar with a greatest hits version of their track record.

        • Lumifer says:

          The West was never that competent.

          The West was competent enough to get itself to a clearly better place than Russia, India, China, etc.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Which has no relevance to whether the West used to be better at nation building than it is today.

        • Sandy says:

          Yeah, the presumption of competence is required to explain how the tiny British Isles wound up ruling half the world.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            The Mongol Empire was the largest contiguous land empire in history (thanks Wikipedia!) and was presumably competent at invading places. But they weren’t very competent at e.g. inventing new technology, or producing great art etc. (as far as I know). Is it not possible that Britain could have been similar?

          • Sandy says:

            @sweenyrod: The Mongols were, however, competent for quite a while at maintaining and running the largest contiguous land empire in history. They improvised systems that suited their needs, like vast, rigorously charted trade routes and the yam system of communication. If they couldn’t come up with a new system or technology themselves, they borrowed it from their Turkic, Chinese or Russian subjects. Is art necessary to run an empire? Is technology, especially when you can just take it from your Chinese subjects?

            If the issue is basically “Was any Western power ever competent enough to colonize the third world and forcibly indoctrinate them with Western values?”, then the answer is clearly yes, because the Anglo-Saxon models of law, justice and parliamentary democracy are still used extensively in countries that have no Anglo-Saxon population to speak of.

            We know that the British were quite competent at technological innovation — see the Industrial Revolution and their famed navy. They were also quite competent at producing great art, because everyone in the world reads Shakespeare. And they were quite competent at crafting bureaucracies and models to run society, because, again, so many of their former colonies still follow models created and/or promoted by the British.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            My point is that unless you were a Mongol, it was better to live in the Abbasid Caliphate than the Khanate. So just because the Mongols were good at conquering (and possibly managing) their empire doesn’t mean we should try to replicate it.

            I think I bungled my analogy. Proper analogy: the same thing applies to the British Empire. I agree that the British Empire had many positive effects, and so did Dadabhai Naoroji, who accused the Empire of draining money from India, but also admitted that it had built valuable infrastructure. But it is still possible (and a widely held view) that overall imperialism had a negative effect.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ sweeneyrod

            unless you were a Mongol, it was better to live in the Abbasid Caliphate than the Khanate.

            Citation needed. I don’t know enough about the relevant history to have an opinion, but it doesn’t sound as obvious to me as it does to you. For one thing, the Mongols were known to be hands-off rulers and caliphs not so much.

          • “For one thing, the Mongols were known to be hands-off rulers and caliphs not so much.”

            By the time the Mongols took Baghdad, the Abbasid caliphs had been figureheads for a long time.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Competence at what? Omnicompetence is in fact not required to explain anything in the historical record. What I was disputing was the claim that the West was once much better at nation building of the sort the US attempted in Iraq.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @sweeneyrod – there’s a quote that gets posted around here occasionally that the best thing that can possibly happen to a country is to be colonized by the British. If their colonies on every continent are consistently the best place on that continent to be even post-independence, isn’t that a pretty strong argument for competence?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @FacelessCraven

            To an extent, yes, but success post-independence could be caused by having all the benefits of the infrastructure colonisers built without the costs of an interfering remote government that isn’t even pretending to act in your best interests.

      • “The problem is that the West nowadays is less than competent.”

        It’s possible that the West is less competent and/or less ruthless, but I believe that the difference between the West and the rest of the world is much smaller.

        It’s one thing to go around conquering when you’re the only one who has mass-produced guns and artillery, and quite another when the weapons are pretty generally available.

        • Sandy says:

          Iraq fell pretty swiftly when the US invaded.

        • John Schilling says:

          Drones, satellites, fifth-generation combat aircraft, and nuclear missiles are not widely available. If the west decides to take up conquest and colonialism in the 21st century, the results would likely be about the same as in the 19th, with AK-47s and RPGs and mortars substituting for swords and spears and trade muskets. Occasionally sufficient to break the British square, but little more than that.

          If the west decides that nation-building without conquest is the way to go, I’m not sure that’s really worked well in any century.

    • grendelkhan says:

      GDP seems to be sharply rising in nearly all poor places at this point, and that seems to handle most of the “I live in a terrible country” problems. Do you think an occupying power would help this rather than just extracting wealth from the occupied state, and if so, why?

      • Anonymous says:

        >GDP seems to be sharply rising in nearly all poor places at this point, and that seems to handle most of the “I live in a terrible country” problems.
        [citation needed] there is a hundred of non-OECD (read: 3rd world) countries, of them the rapid GDP growth is observed only in a handful of countries, including china. China is an outlier.

        >Do you think an occupying power would help this rather than just extracting wealth from the occupied state, and if so,
        I do think that western institutions are very beneficial, they are much harder to import than iphones because they took thousands of years to develop in their current form. Do you propose to wait while every one of these tin-pot dictatorships enlighten themselves and develop humane instatutions? This will take hundreds of years, supporting this scenario means sentencing several generations of people that didn’t chose to be born into these places to live their hellish lives while the system evolves in glacial pace.

        >why?
        There are examples of very successful post-occupation nations – Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong. Each one of them has imported the occupier’s institutions and these helped them to become prosperous. These are top economies of the world by various measures.

        • Nornagest says:

          How sharply are we talking? China’s grown much faster than most lower-income countries, but India’s GDP per capita, for example, has octupled since 1980. So has Indonesia’s. Nigeria’s has sextupled, Jamaica’s has tripled, the Philippines’ has quadrupled.

          It hasn’t happened in all countries — the DRC’s per-capita GDP graph is essentially flat, for example. But there’s a definite trend, and the exceptions can mostly be blamed on long-running wars or dictators.

          • svalbardcaretaker says:

            Also of note that “countries” is not a very meaningful metric since it throws dwarves like Kiribati into a pot with giants like India.

            China, India, Indonesia alone qualify for half the non-western population of the world. I’d say the world is on good track.

    • “There is no fast way to make 6 billion of third-worlders live a decent life”

      China has come a long way in that direction over a relatively short period of time, increasing per capita real income about twenty fold from Mao’s death to 2010 (figure from memory). I expect India could if the government continues to shift in a pro-market anti permit raj direction.

      That’s two and a half of your six billion. I don’t know what you count as fast, but I would think that fifty years to get from what India and China were to the lower edge of developed western European countries would be pretty impressive.

      • Anonymous says:

        China is a one big outlier, there is no guarantee that other dozens of poor countries will follow it (in fact they develop much slower, many of them don’t look like they are on western trajectory of development at all. And don’t say that that’s these people’s decision, these decisions are often made by the ruling clan). And even then places like china and russia still have a passive-aggressive attitude towards their citizens, institution- and human rights-wise they are 50-100 years behind developed world. Of course the easiest way is just sit and wait while it figures itself, but from utilitarian POV it would be much better just to occupy these places and up them to western levels by force.

        A somewhat similar opinion has been expressed recently by a well-known economist: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-politically-incorrect-guide-to-ending-poverty/308134/

        Again, laissez-faire approach is very cheap to developed countries and it may work on large timescale, but it sentences billions of people to live in shitholes (because these people will be already dead from natural causes by the time the market figures it out).

        Empirically there were pretty good examples of more developed country occupying less developed ones – japan, hong kong, south korea. By how many decades did this accelerate their progress?

        • You’ve provided three examples of countries which were very successful after being occupied by more-developed countries. For the sake of argument, let’s assume these countries wouldn’t have been equally successful had they not been occupied. There are still countless examples of occupations and colonizations that had drastic negative effects on the native population, often without any long-term economic benefit. Native Americans are still recovering from the effects of colonization despite living in countries which are otherwise very economically successful and have comparatively good human rights records.

          In other words, when you look at all the occupations that have taken place throughout history, I think it’s hard to concluded that the expect utility of a developed country occupying a less-developed country by force is net positive for the native population. Even if we trust the leaders of modern western countries to occupy other countries for purely benevolent reasons, unless then native population was 100% on board with the idea, I am very doubtful that it would be worth the bloodshed.

    • Vaniver says:

      You can’t solve it fast without using force.

      I feel like this impression is part of the problem, not the solution.

      • Anonymous says:

        Doing nothing is always cheaper and doesn’t make one fall from his high moral ground.
        Yes, this is a part of modern Realpolitik ideology.

        But still, can you propose fast ways of upping living conditions and human rights situation all over the world? By fast I mean on the timescale of a single adult human that is currently alive.

        • U.S. open borders (without welfare rights) looks like the best candidate. Lots of people would get better living conditions and rights by coming here. And there would be some pressure on the countries they came from to treat their citizens better in order to keep them from leaving.

          • Jiro says:

            U.S. open borders (without welfare rights) looks like the best candidate.

            If “best candidate” means “candidate that has no chance of ever being implemented”.

            If we have open borders, nobody will stand for them not getting welfare rights.

          • Anonymous says:

            If we are limiting ourselves to things that have a realistic chance of coming to pass, there’s no need to talk about open borders of any sort.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            And there would be some pressure on the countries they came from to treat their citizens better in order to keep them from leaving.

            It would be nice to think so, but they could just prevent the citizens from leaving by using armed guards and walls, like they do today.

        • Vaniver says:

          What I had in mind was this article by Bryan Caplan.

          There are two halves to the response: the first is what works about the West, and the second is what does not work about Russia.

          It seems to me that most of what works about the West is slow. England is a nation of shopkeepers, because shopkeepers slowly outbred everyone else. (This involved a lot of downward mobility.) Broad middle classes require lots of people who all have middle class values and virtues; it’s not enough to just distribute property such that the wealth distribution looks similar.

          It seems to me that many places have the problems of people who want to use force, and are looking for an excuse. (In the US, I think the obvious examples are antifascists, who look indistinguishable from fascists in terms of thuggery.) Whether those people are seen as destructive or constructive (how else are we going to get rapid growth besides destroying our enemies?) makes a big difference. Or perhaps people want to be rich, and so grasp for fast variable approaches instead of making the slow and steady progress that will set their children up to be rich.

          • Anonymous says:

            In the US, I think the obvious examples are antifascists, who look indistinguishable from fascists in terms of thuggery.

            You must live in some odd place if they are an obvious example of anything. I can’t say I’ve ever laid on an antifascist.

          • Nornagest says:

            @green anon: Antifa is mostly an urban phenomenon. There’s no real unifying ideology, which is probably why they’re not very visible to you, although they tend to be connected to the left activist scene. Fundamentally, though, they’re just a bunch of people (mainly punks, skins, and related species) who want to put on their Doc Martens, break new ground in coordinating black hoodies with other clothing items, and go out and stomp on some Nazis.

            I can see the appeal, in the abstract. There’s a reason video games tend to use Nazis as generic enemies: whatever you do to them, you don’t feel bad about it. Trouble is, here in the real world that leaves us with an incentive to define “Nazi” as broadly as possible, and anyway the mapping between professed ideology and pure evil isn’t quite so clean.

          • “I can’t say I’ve ever laid on an antifascist.”

            My impression is that violence associated with the current presidential campaign has mostly been by anti-Trump demonstrators at Trump events. Does that count?

          • anonymous says:

            “Antifa is mostly an urban phenomenon”.

            When was the last time you traveled in the United States?

          • Nornagest says:

            When was the last time you traveled in the United States?

            To a non-urbanized area? About two weeks ago.

    • Jiro says:

      Red anonymous: the answer to that is “people here know multiheaded more than they know a random person on Earth, so they want to do more to help multiheaded than to help a random person. However, on SSC, EA and related ideas are very popular. These ideas oppose giving preference to people whom you know. So you have a bunch of people who think multiheaded should be helped, but can’t explain why, because the explanation would contradict their own ideology.”

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, it’s kinda funny.

        (I wonder what the correlations are between “wants to help Multi” vs “doesn’t think Multi should be helped” and “is pro-EA (opposes preferring acquaintances for charity)” vs “is anti-EA (supports preferring acquaintances for charity)”.)

      • Tibor says:

        Well, I have no sympathies for multiheaded personally, even though I can only judge by the often aggressive and otherwise content free comments multiheaded posts here. But I don’t this donation is outright against the EA mindset – that is, provided that it is not seen as charity but as something closer to consumption.

        It is not against EA to buy a book for a friend, even though the same amount money would help someone in Uganda much more. But you are also not going to view that gift to your friend as charity and this should be viewed the same.

        Your objection is valid though is someone here wants to present this as an act of altruism while supporting the EA principles at the same time. Russia is not quite the nicest country to live in and especially not if you are a transsexual (being a communist might be worse in the US though 🙂 ), but helping someone like that is hardly getting the most utils for your buck. I have not seen anyone here advocating it as a EA-style charity though.

        • “But I don’t this donation is outright against the EA mindset – that is, provided that it is not seen as charity but as something closer to consumption.”

          The same point strikes me in a different context–Scott’s Patreon. I don’t regard giving money to Scott as a sensible form of charity. But he produces a very large benefit for me in the form of this blog, so I feel as though I ought to reciprocate in some way.

          “No man is so wealthy that he objects to receiving a gift in exchange for his gift.”
          (Havamal)

      • Sky says:

        Do most EA really think they can’t explain it?

        My opinion would have been something like “Giving to Multi is non optimal, but while I should strive to be optimal, it isn’t feasible for me to be so.”

        I’m honestly not entirely sure what would happen if I started donating all my non-essential expenses to E.A charities. If I just did what ever was the minimal necessary for me to hold down my job and continue working.

        I think I wouldn’t be good for my mental/physical health. More so I might even say that part of what “what ever is necessary for me to hold down my job” is spending the money I earn in selfish/non-optimal ways.

        I think this is something already known in E.A circles. I don’t see giving to multi as being “against” E.A, no more than failing to be perfectly Christ-like is “against” Christianity. I think in both cases there is an already an expectation that we are going to be perfect agents.

        • Tibor says:

          On a slight tangent – It is interesting that Christianity is one of the probably few religions which are fundamentally impossible in practice (and proper Christians would probably be denounced as sectarian extremists), not to mention that an actually Christian country would not last 5 minutes because it would be conquered by its neighbours without putting up a fight. And still it managed to become the world’s most popular religion. That suggests to me that people like abstract high moral principles but do not care so much about following them.

          Some branches of the EA are the same. As far as I understand it, a fraction of the EA people would see people only as utility machines while the recipient of that utility is fundamentally unimportant, because all utils are the same. It follows from that logic that you should sort of follow Jesus, albeit in a smarter way and instead of giving all your possessions to the poor, you ought to give up most of your consumption and work hard to create enough wealth which you then give to the poor.

          The problem is that nobody is really willing to live like this and you have to come up with workarounds. So they say things like it would make you inefficient so it is really not a good idea. The problem I have with that kind of thinking is that doing the right thing is fundamentally at odds with human nature. And any moral philosophy which is like that seems inherently wrong to me.

          Of course, saying something like give 10% of your income to the most efficient charities and then you’re fine and you don’t need any justification for using the 90% for whatever you want (which can include non-EA charity-like “consumption” like the donations to multiheaded) is also weird, mostly because the number could be 5% or 15%. But while it is wrong, it feels somehow closer to being right than the unattainable and unnatural moral principles of hardcore Christianity or EA, mostly because it is doable. While I don’t have a good argument for why it should be true, somehow I feel that the right thing should be doable, it should not be something you can merely approximate.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Tibor – “On a slight tangent – It is interesting that Christianity is one of the probably few religions which are fundamentally impossible in practice…”

            If the point of Christianity were to follow rules, you would be correct. That is not actually the point of Christianity, though.

            “not to mention that an actually Christian country would not last 5 minutes because it would be conquered by its neighbours without putting up a fight.”

            Probably true, but see above.

            I think the comparison to Christianity is probably a good one; ideals that are unreachable are only a problem if reaching them is the minimum standard. No one will never have a “perfect” relationship, or write the “perfect” song, or paint the “perfect” picture, but effort still matters and success still exists.

            “It follows from that logic that you should sort of follow Jesus, albeit in a smarter way and instead of giving all your possessions to the poor, you ought to give up most of your consumption and work hard to create enough wealth which you then give to the poor.”

            It’s interesting to note that “sell all your possessions and give to the poor” was the answer given to one rich man, while the next rich man encountered receives approval for giving away half of his wealth and committing to paying back fourfold anyone he cheated.

            “The problem I have with that kind of thinking is that doing the right thing is fundamentally at odds with human nature.”

            It is. The ideal helps us fight against human nature, which is a good and proper thing to do. The fact that we can’t win that fight decisively is irrelevant if the fight itself is a net benefit for ourselves and the world around us. Christianity is built around grace, which bridges the gap between our effort and the ideal; it seems to me that Scott’s writings on EA come to a similar place from a secular perspective. In my experience, it’s a good place to be.

            There’s a fundamental trap between selfishness and despair: “I’m not going to do the good thing because I want to do something else instead” and “I’m not going to do the good thing because there’s no point in trying” feed off each other,m and the result is that the good thing doesn’t get done. I see this in art all the time. “I’m not going to practice my sketching because I’d rather play video games”, followed by “these drawings look awful, I suck, there’s no point in even trying”, lather rinse and repeat. Accepting the failure and moving forward anyway is the only way anything gets done.

            “Of course, saying something like give 10% of your income to the most efficient charities and then you’re fine and you don’t need any justification for using the 90% for whatever you want (which can include non-EA charity-like “consumption” like the donations to multiheaded) is also weird, mostly because the number could be 5% or 15%.”

            5% is less than 10%; if you can do 10%, why do 5? 15% is more than 10%. Can you do 15%? If so, do it. If not, is there a way you can get to where you can? If there is, do that. If there isn’t, there isn’t, but maybe there will be later, so keep an eye out. If life-threatening extremism scares you away from doing anything at all, maybe it’s not such a good idea. Generally, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

          • Jiro says:

            The problem with saying “just give 10%” is that it leads to murder offsets: if giving 10% is acceptable (even though you could do more good by giving more), you could instead commit murder and then give enough more than 10% to make up for the disutility caused by your murder (even though you could do more good by leaving out the murder).

          • Anonymous says:

            The problem with saying “just give 10%” is that it leads to murder offsets

            I don’t see how that follows at all. But of course, I’m not a utilitarian, and I’m pretty sure the source of the problem comes from that part of your suppositions.

          • Jiro says:

            I’m not either. But EA as usually described seems to presuppose utilitarianism, so it can be criticized on that basis.

    • Anonymous says:

      It looks like the most humane way to end this misery ASAP would be re-colonization of third world (including my country, Russia) by western powers, and forceful indoctrination of population with western values. Sadly, this solution requires way too much political will and funding, it is really a fantasy in our world where Realpolitik is the dominant attitude of western leaders. The probability of such scenario is similar to probability of solving humanity’s problems with AI, if not less.

      That scenario is fairly horrifying, IMO. Russia may not be the best place in the world, but it’s not genocide-alley like Cambodia was – not even close – especially not currently.

      Also, you are suggesting that western values are superior to eastern (not oriental, mind) values – which I sincerely doubt.

      • skwlk says:

        The problem with Russia in particular is that they do not have values per se, it was quite European country before communism (although never a front runner), then they got distinct values but these values ultimately failed (and were not even truly supported by the populace at the time).

        So now they have scrambles of imperial nostalgia, memories about perceived communist equality and trivial nationalism. On top of that the ideologists try to sculpt the “values” from religion and intolerance, basically the more perceptively “anti-Western” the better.

        In this context Western values are clearly superior, on the fact alone that they are not “anti-” something.

        But in the end, Russian public is kept on the development levels lower than they could be if the elites wanted to integrate with the West, and the elites cultivate this “anti-Westerness” on purpose to empower and enrich themselves.

  33. JRM says:

    This week in random California case law that entertained me:

    Zeferino has a gun and maybe makes some threats, and he’s a felon. So, he gets arrested.

    He then spends the next couple of years working on delaying the trial (in technical legal parlance, “dicking around”) and trying to fire his appointed attorney. Firing your retained attorney is easy (“You’re fired,”) but getting a new appointed attorney usually requires a showing that your current attorney is not doing a good job.

    Comes the time for trial and Zeferino says he wants to fire his attorney, so they hold a closed hearing in which Zeferino discusses how terrible his attorney is. It’s established that the attorney went above and beyond reasonableness in doing work on the case. So, still there.

    Zeferino then says he wants to represent himself, but needs a two-month delay. Court says no. He then asks for a one-day delay because he doesn’t have some reports. Court disbelieves him (for good reasons) and says no. He then says he wants to represent himself anyway. Court vigorously warns him against this and goes through all the reasons this is a terrible idea. But he’s got a right to do that, so he does.

    We start the trial on day 1. First witness testifies. Zeferino does no cross-examination. We break for the next day.

    Next day comes, no Zeferino. Court issues an arrest warrant for him and excuses the jury.

    Day 3: Still no Zeferino. The court thinks he’s voluntarily absented himself. The general rule is if you start a trial then voluntarily absent yourself, they can do the rest of the trial without you; a guy named Andrew Luster (Max Factor heir, beach bum, and serial rapist… oh, should have led with that last) found that out when he ran off during his trial a decade or so ago. But in those cases, the defense attorneys continue with the case.

    Here, the court could have appointed the old attorney back on it, but didn’t want to because of the antipathy Zeferino had for him, and his express desire (and right) to represent himself. The court ruled that Zeferino absented himself, and finished it with no one on the defense side. Our hero got convicted of some charges (gun+felon) but not others (threats.)

    Eventually they find him. He says he didn’t show up because he thought that would create a mistrial.

    Issue for California Supreme Court: Can Zeferino’s conviction hold under these circumstances?

    Answer later!

    • Murphy says:

      Surprised he admitted to his reason for not attending. Probably could have made it slightly more messy by insisting that he was dazed and confused or some such. (not lawyer, just random musing)

      Surprised the issue’s not come up in the past.

      • JRM says:

        And here’s what the court… er, courts found:

        California appellate court: You can’t do that to him. You needed to do something else.

        California Supreme Court (which wins): You can do that to him. He FTA’d. He loses. To prison with Zeferino! Basic problem: If you represent yourself and think you can trigger a mistrial this way and you’re wrong, too bad for you.

        This is interesting to me, because I’ve never seen a case where there was no defense presence at all.

        • Anonanon says:

          >because I’ve never seen a case where there was no defense presence at all.

          The most famous one I’m aware of was US v. Miller, which was rigged by using a defendant who was in hiding from the mob (and who wound up murdered before the verdict).

          I think Buck v. Bell comes close, because IIRC the girl’s lawyers were actually working with the hospital that wanted to sterilize her (and use her as a legal test case)

          • JRM says:

            Not the same – here, we’ve got a trial going on with no defendant and no defense attorney. At appellate argument, there is seldom a defendant and sometimes not a defense attorney.

            Buck v. Bell (the “three generations of imbeciles are enough,” case) had to have someone fighting for her; I don’t know enough about the procedural posture of the case to comment smartly.

            But for clarity: I’m talking about trial court total absence on a criminal case.

  34. How worried (say out of 10?) are people here about technological unemployment over the next twenty years? What makes you worry or not worry about it? Is the worry personal or more regarding societal stability?

    I personally think it will be disruptive though not catastrophic on its own, but in combination with other pressures may result in much bigger problems, both economic and social. I’m not confident UBI will be implemented in this time period, because imo it has problems with economic and political viability.

    • Sandy says:

      I’m at a six. I work in the “knowledge economy”, so it’ll take a while before technological unemployment can pose a real threat to people like me, but from the standpoint of societal stability, I worry about it quite a bit.

    • John Schilling says:

      I think technological unemployment will increase over the next twenty years, but not to catastrophic levels. To put a majority of the present workforce on the dole, you’d need technologies that do not presently exist outside the laboratory (if that), and technophiles tend to vastly overestimate the rate at which old technologies are replaced by new ones.

      I would like to believe that this would drive the implementation of a sensible UBI-like scheme, because that’s the best idea I’ve seen for the longer term when mass technological unemployment may be an otherwise-catastrophic problem. I’d like to see us take the time to do it right. But I agree that it probably isn’t going to happen, because the slow growth in technological unemployment can probably be accommodated over the next ten to twenty years by expanding the current politically-entrenched welfare systems. When those ultimately are pushed to the breaking point, we may see catastrophe.

    • Murphy says:

      I don’t worry about my job. My background would place me as part of the group helping to automate away everyone elses jobs.

      But socially? I worry what could happen when the police and military start using robotics in a big way.

      it could work out well or it could work out really really badly.

      having lots of humans is an imperfect check against power but it is a check. Suddenly a small group could maintain power without even needing to keep the police and military on their side. I could imagine a lot of less savory reigeims being propped up much more securely when they don’t have to worry about the loyalty of their muscle.

      • Corey says:

        A popular view on ways this might go is Jacobin’s Four Futures (trigger warning: socialism). As a possible fifth alternative some of us in a past OT came up with an “Elysium” scenario, where the haves bugger off to form a separate economy and leave the rest of us on a reservation or something.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I’m not especially worried about it because the evidence doesn’t support it. If we were on the brink of an automation revolution then we would be seeing high unemployment and high economic growth. Instead we are seeing the exact opposite. But there is a possibility of a drop in labor force participation rate for supply reasons rather than demand. Basically, more and more people are choosing leisure over jobs, especially among the younger demographics. This would also reconcile the lfpr being so low with employer complaints of job shortages.

      https://bfi.uchicago.edu/news/scholar-profile/faculty-spotlight-erik-hurst

    • Lumifer says:

      How worried (say out of 10?) are people here about technological unemployment over the next twenty years?

      Not at all, given that worries about technological unemployment have been pretty popular for the last 200 years or so.

    • Maybe 2.

      I’m not at all worried personally, for multiple reasons. So far as the society is concerned, I think the problem is greatly exaggerated.

    • Anonymous says:

      No potential global disaster — thermonuclear war, pandemics, mass terrorism, unfriendly AI, demographic collapse, global warming, etc. — worries me in any visceral sense. I just can’t get worked up about this sort of thing.

    • In the next 20 years, maybe a 3 or at most 4. In the next hundred? Somewhat higher, but I suspect we’ll have bigger things to worry about as well.

    • Matt C says:

      3 or 4. People have been panicking about technological unemployment for a long time now. Other people have pointed out that the same arguments have been made before and somehow we’re still finding work for people to do. The panickers always say “but this time it’s different”.

      I don’t think this time is different. Maybe *some* time it will be different, but not in the next 20 years.

      That said, overall the USA economy is becoming more sclerotic, and I don’t think USA employment will adapt as well to technological (or other) shocks as well as it has done over most of its history. You could (and many people will) consider this a harm caused by technological advancement.

      • Artificirius says:

        I feel there is at least some difference. We went from horse drawn wagons/buggies/etc to trucks/cars/etc, which vastly increased the capability, productivity and efficiency of the freight industry in particular, with many benefits to other industries as well.

        But in twenty years, automated driving is almost certainly to be a thing. The trucking industry will be heavily effected, but it will have effects across the hospitality and airline industry as well.

        It’s all well and good to say new jobs will appear, but it does not seem as obvious how completely replacing human beings will create more human jobs in this instance. In our previous step up from horse drawn vehicles to internal combustion engines, we simply expanded the scale of the industry, making use of even more people, even if at far greater productivity levels.

        I don’t see how we will be able to scale up the automated trucking industry to absorb more people since you are now directly replacing human action with automated action. For instance, if we tried to move all truckers from being truckers to being diesel mechanics, and then grow the automated trucking industry to use that many more mechanics, then we’d need to grow the trucking industry by at least an order of magnitude.

        I doubt such a thing is possible.

        • Matt C says:

          I’m not saying there are no differences in specifics, of course there are.

          I am saying the general claim that technology destroys employability permanently and harmfully has been made over and over again, and has been proven wrong over and over again. But each time, the people who are making essentially the same argument over again say “this time it is different”.

          I’ve got to run, but it might be worth noting that I do think jobs where humans drive vehicles will become gradually less common over the next few decades, and the jobs that people end up doing instead mostly won’t be in the automated driving industry. They’ll be elsewhere. Some of them will be jobs that don’t even exist today, just like many jobs today didn’t exist thirty years ago.

    • Tek Tek says:

      It depends on what job.

      I think there is a very good chance that the talented CS undergrads are screwing their odds of a good job in a decade(or at least, screwing the chances of good but not great programmers in a few years)

      The Best example I can think of is the game No Mans Sky.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg1S6vd1pf8 No mans Sky. Large variety of interesting worlds and animals.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkI09S4o9WE AI generated music

      There are more gameplay videos.

      its a huge grand world, utterly amazing with tons to explore and look around. When I look at games like that, it made a part of me truly look for a different career. I look at a game like that, and hear music made by the company, and it more or less strikes me the thought “All jobs of interest or passion will be gone”

      • Procedurally generated content in video games has been around for decades. Yes, it’s improving, but I don’t think it will be replacing huge numbers of jobs any time soon. And it would more likely be artists and designers who would get replaced, not programmers. As to programming more generally, genetic algorithms are very useful in certain domains but they are not currently well-suited to typical software engineering problems.

      • Urstoff says:

        My expectations for NMS are really low; I imagine that, like most procedurally generated games, it will be a mile wide and an inch deep. Tons of stuff, but nothing there to make gameplay compelling. The only procedurally generated games that work are the ones where the gameplay is front and center and the content is basically an afterthought (ARPG dungeons, strategy game maps, etc.).

        • FacelessCraven says:

          This.

          When I first got minecraft, I played it obsesively for about three days, which is how long it took me to build up to obsidian and open a portal to the nether, then build a tower from the top of the nether to the bottom. I started a railroad out from the tower, realized that no matter how far I went, I’d never see anything new again, quit out and never played the game again.

          Any game can be made arbitrarily massive, but the question is how many unique experiences it contains.

          • Anonanon says:

            >the question is how many unique experiences it contains.

            As many as it has people on the server. All the kids who’ve shown me their maps had a big network of railway tunnels to each others’ bases on the server.
            Connecting with other people seems like the only reason to ever build anything in a video game, even if it’s just to grief Denmark.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonanon – “Connecting with other people seems like the only reason to ever build anything in a video game, even if it’s just to grief Denmark.”

            My consecutive 200-hour+ Factorio playthroughs and my half-year-long Jagged Alliance games beg to differ.

    • E. Harding says:

      1.5 out of 10.

      Slow productivity growth is a bigger problem than technological unemployment.

      The worry isn’t personal.

    • Loquat says:

      I’m not very worried, let’s say 2/10. It’s not just about the technology existing, it’s about whether companies actually use it; for example, the technology to update your contact info, billing, etc, online has existed for years and my company still doesn’t offer it on the health insurance policies I handle. You have to call or write in, thus requiring more employees. Now, presumably we’ll eventually get ourselves into the 21st century and set up a proper service website, but there are two major areas I handle that aren’t going to be automated anytime before the advent of serious AI – “explain what this policy does” and “what is going on with this medical claim I have” – and to a lesser extent, “my billing is messed up”. In general, anything in customer service that you can’t already automate is probably going to stick around for a while.

    • Zombielicious says:

      Everyone else is giving low numbers, but over 20 years I’d say at least 6/10.

      A lot of the biggest industries by employment seem like they’re the most ripe for automation. Trucking and transportation replaced by self-driving cars is my best example, followed by automation of retail and food service. Ten years may not be long enough but 20 almost certainly will, at least for long-haul trucking. Administrative services, agriculture, construction and manufacturing come after that, then eventually stuff like healthcare, education, law, etc. (Education itself actually seems one of the easiest to automate, but I’m expecting it to come last for cultural reasons, and because of the schools’ dual function as daycare centers.) You don’t have to replace the entire industry with AI and robots, just automate the rote tasks that serve as entry-level jobs for millions of people who lack specialized training to be competitive in other areas.

      Since a lot of people seem ideologically opposed to wealth redistribution and think others need to work in order to justify their right to exist, I’m expecting to see lots of conflict when it starts.

    • I think that technological unemployment will mostly be a good thing. The purpose of an economy is to produce stuff, and if we can do that without having too many humans work at things they don’t want to do then good.

    • skwlk says:

      In the process of immigrating into the US through employment and I’m a bit uncomfortable with an idea that American employers will stop employing foreigners in the next N years.
      Skill-based immigration is already an unnecessary complicated process here with pure luck (lottery/place of birth) involved.

      While Americans can say that “living in the US” is not a human right and whatevs but immigration through the family ties will not stop and it can be argued that the utility of it for the country is lower.

      On the other hand, contemporary sociopolitical tendencies in the states and the world might eliminate any attraction of living in the USA before technological unemployment explodes.
      And that would be a sad situation indeed cause I think humanity in general benefits from the existence of such an “emigration destination”.

  35. Wrong Species says:

    What are some good books on the pacification of Germanic tribes in the Middle Ages? And to what extent is Christianity the cause of that?

    • HircumSaecuolroum says:

      The Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People is fascinating if you’re looking for a semi-primary source and are willing to slog through a lot of partisan mud-slinging about the proper method of calculating the date of Easter.

      It is, as the title suggests, focused on the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, with a few digressions into Christian missionary work in Germany. Generally, it relates the relationship between secular power in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and the Roman church, providing numerous accounts of the conversions and reactions of kingdoms and important individuals as the Germanic peoples of Britain are brought under the sway of Catholicism. It also contains a vast number of accounts of individual holy men, and some anecdotes about sacred visions that provide an interesting window into how the people of the time and place actually thought about theology. It’s a good read.

  36. hash9843 says:

    What’s the story with Multiheaded?

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      A Russian commie is trying to escape the hell brought upon by commie ideas so that they can spread communism throughout other countries.

      Being transgendered in a country that is very unfriendly to LGBT people, both the government and society, also might have something to do with it, but it’s mostly the former.

      • hash9843 says:

        …why were we helping a commie?

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Hey, man, commies are people too.

        • Immortal Lurker says:

          To paraphrase Firefly, yeah, but she’s OUR commie.

          Less flippantly, some of the founding values of this blog are niceness, community and civilization, especially when it involves people who disagree with you. Even when they disagree with you on really important things.

          This comment section can give left of center people grief some times. But apparently when the chips are down, we can come together to protect one of our own. Even when we disagree with them pretty much all the time. Makes me feel hopeful about the whole project.

          As a disclaimer, none of the good feelings from helping Multi should be directed toward me. I gave nothing.

          • hash9843 says:

            I didn’t mean “they’re a commie so let’s not help them”. You just mentioned that they’re a commie a lot, so I assumed that being a commie is somehow a positive factor in whether-we-should-help-them. I was asking more like, why are we helping them rather than any other Russian SSC reader?

            Did they just write here in the comment section “help, I’m in Russia”, and we went all like “yeah, let’s get them out of there”?

          • multiheaded says:

            <3 thanks anyway, yo. Your kind words offset the haters above you.

            I was asking more like, why are we helping them rather than any other Russian SSC reader?

            Did they just write here in the comment section “help, I’m in Russia”, and we went all like “yeah, let’s get them out of there”?

            The relevant factor here is that I’m trans, have been transitioning for half a year, needed all kinds of acceptance and support that I couldn’t get in Russia, and was in serious danger from both a hostile state bureacracy and a reactionary society.

            I am not aware of any other trans folk here who are currently in Russia. If there are, we ought to get them out too. I certainly intend to do *something* to assist *someone* like me back in Russia… once my situation here is more established.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I didn’t mean “they’re a commie so let’s not help them”. You just mentioned that they’re a commie a lot, so I assumed that being a commie is somehow a positive factor in whether-we-should-help-them.

            Are you familiar with bait-and-switch?

            I was asking more like, why are we helping them rather than any other Russian SSC reader?

            Because she asked first.

            Did they just write here in the comment section “help, I’m in Russia”, and we went all like “yeah, let’s get them out of there”?

            Pretty much exactly how it went.

        • blacktrance says:

          Because no one should have to live in Russia.

          • Anonymous says:

            As a Russian I can sympathize with that, but looking objectively 140 millions of well fed russians living in commieblocks with PCs, electricity and internet, breathing relatively clean air are much better off than 1.2 billions of indians living in jungle villages or polluted cities, drinking dirty water and generally living a hellish life.

            If you look at people that are really in need, look lower.

          • hash9843 says:

            Ze’s not the only Russian here. I live in Russia. Let’s help me get out of Russia. then.

      • herbert herbertson says:

        Russia hasn’t been ruled by commie ideas for 25 years.

        It hasn’t exactly been the greatest 25 year period of Russian history, incidentally.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          I think “It hasn’t been a greatest X years” pretty much sums up Russian history.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            Well, there was the 25 year period where it first defeated Nazi Germany, then put the first object, animal, and human into orbit, all while continuing to provide dramatic increases in standard of living to its citizens.

          • Urstoff says:

            After being decimated by war, the standard of living had nowhere to go but up.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            @ Urstoff–I’ve seen WWII devastation used as an explanation for why Japan did well in the 80s, and the absence thereof used as an explanation for America’s material successes in the 50s and the 60s. Seems a little too just-so in this case.

            Me, I think there were genuine material benefits that accrued to the two superpowers who emerged from WWII as a direct result of their superpower status. I don’t think one could give the credit for that to communism without doing more work than I care to do today (with the easy-to-do comparison with the US during that time suggesting that it wouldn’t be possible no matter how much work I did), but I definitely think it’s fair to say that communism didn’t unduly get in the way of that for at least a couple generations, and certainly that it didn’t create “hell” for non-dissidents.

          • “all while continuing to provide dramatic increases in standard of living to its citizens.”

            What are the sources for the data on that? My impression is that the official Russian data turned out to be largely bogus.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ David Friedman

            A lot will depend on the picked baseline. I’m perfectly willing to believe that from 1945 to 1970 the Soviet living standards went up a lot. 1945 wasn’t a great year for living standards.

          • multiheaded says:

            @David Friedman

            …fuck, I don’t know what to say to you. If you really think that there was no increase in the Soviet standard of living from the 1930s to the 1960s…

            (again, you don’t need to concede your point about the superiority of free market capitalism!! just acknowledge that maybe the enemy system was not axiomatically an absolute miserable failure in every single absolute sense.)

          • herbert herbertson says:

            Everything I’ve seen suggests that while Soviet projections/boasts/etc were consistently exaggerated, the exaggerations were based on real-albeit-more-modest gains (this wikipedia graph is a good synecdoche). Also, I think it’s hard to make sense of the political ramifications of the Era of Stagnation without contrasting it to the post-war period.

            Unfortunately, its generally difficult to do anything but guess from our vantage point, too many agendas in play, too many duels between the Robert Conquests and the Grover Furrs of the world… but if guessing is what we have, then I’m going to guess the country that turned science fiction into earth-shaking reality wasn’t doing too terribly at the time they did so.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            “A lot will depend on the picked baseline. I’m perfectly willing to believe that from 1945 to 1970 the Soviet living standards went up a lot. 1945 wasn’t a great year for living standards.”

            Nor was 1917 or 1933.

          • Anonanon says:

            Man, the CIA had some amazingly competent analysts back then. And they’ve got a really interesting history of it on their website.

            After a mostly abortive attempt to measure real growth in Soviet GNP by estimating price indexes in order to deflate GNP by end use in current prices, CIA turned to estimates of the real growth of GNP as the sum of the estimates of the real growth of the various sectors of origin–industry, agriculture, transportation and communications, etc. Two of the papers in the collection for this conference–Trends in Industrial Production in the USSR, 1955-63 (December 1964) and Trends in Output, Inputs, and Factor Productivity in Soviet Agriculture (May 1966)–describe the estimating procedures and report some significant results. The report on industrial production found that the average annual growth in Soviet industrial output had decelerated from 8.6 percent in 1956-59 to 6.7 percent in 1960-63. Soviet official claims were about two percentage points higher. The paper on agricultural output, inputs, and productivity explained why independent estimates of farm output were necessary and, like the paper on industrial production, reported a substantial drop in the growth of agricultural production. The paper’s agricultural statistics showed that between 1950 and 1965 production had increased by 70 percent, but that two-thirds of the increase had occurred in 1954-1958, the five years following Stalin’s death. Per capita output in 1965 was less than in 1958.

          • “If you really think that there was no increase in the Soviet standard of living from the 1930s to the 1960s…”

            I didn’t say that, as you can easily see by reading what I posted. I asked what the data were on which the claim of “dramatic increases in standard of living” was based. That’s a much stronger claim than that there was any improvement.

            I agree that things would have improved from 1945 to 1960, but the claimed period appeared to go back farther than that.

            “but if guessing is what we have, then I’m going to guess the country that turned science fiction into earth-shaking reality wasn’t doing too terribly at the time they did so.”

            In a centrally planned economy, one way of doing well at one objective is to divert resources from other objectives. The Soviet successes in space and the size of their military might be reasons why standards of living were low.

            I don’t have data on how things changed over the period of Soviet rule. My impression from The Russians is that they were pretty bad even in the late period, but they might have been substantially worse earlier.

            My understanding of the controversy over Soviet economic growth is that Warren Nutter’s estimates, based on indirect measures rather than Soviet statistics, were considered too low by other economists studying the subject and turned out, when better data were available, to have been too high.

        • Anonymous says:

          This is very debatable. The last 25 years made it possible for russians to buy PCs, smartphones, good cars and have fast internet. This happened mostly because of oil profits trickling down and holding rub/usd high, not because of current regime’s policies (they are stupid and evil).

          That being said, culturally, russia is still way behind europe. The establishment’s (and masses’) ideology is quite anti-western, anti-individual, anti-human rights (i.e. if you don’t conform you will be fucked, so most people just conform) etc.

          Turns out humane institutions, laws attitudes are way harder to import than iphones (and even harder if your oil profits depend on holding your population inhibited).

          • Tibor says:

            I agree that individualism and personal freedom are foreign words in Russia. But I would not be too self-congratulatory about Europe. Scandinavian countries seem to be extremely conformist and against any individual deviation. This may not be demonstrated in laws, but it is in the mindset of the people. I am not claiming it is as bad as in Russia but that it is less great that it may seem at a first glance.

            I think one can see traces of this mindset in Germany as well, although it is not quite so profound. Compared to Czechs, I think Germans are more conformist and less tolerant of people who deviate from the “official line of thinking”. It might have something to do with the fact that Germans seem to take politics more seriously than Czechs in general, but I do think the German society is more inclined towards generally respecting authority (whatever it is) than the Czech one. Again, it is not a striking difference, but it is noticeable after some time spent in the country.

            But I don’t think any European country is quite as individualistic in the mindset of the population as for example the US or Australia or Anglo-Saxon countries in general. I should mention that I have only lived in the Czech republic and in Germany for a longer amount of time, so I cannot base that claim directly on personal experience.

            If we use the support of free market liberalism as a proxy for individualism, then Switzerland should do the best (meaning most individualism) in Europe. However, I have doubts about that proxy being so good. Culturally, it feels to me that England is more individualist than Switzerland even if in terms of policy it is the other way around (that sounds strange though, either I am making a mistake in seeing the English as more individualist than the Swiss or this discrepancy is the result of a different political system of Switzerland, which perhaps naturally leads to more free market policies).

          • Anonymous says:

            That being said, culturally, russia is still way behind europe. The establishment’s (and masses’) ideology is quite anti-western, anti-individual, anti-human rights (i.e. if you don’t conform you will be fucked, so most people just conform) etc.

            One way I heard it described was: independent. As in, ideologically independent of the West.

            (You know how it goes – there are three independent civilized countries in the world: Russia, China and the International Community.)

    • erenold says:

      I’m slightly dubious about this part, about Alison:

      for some reason being able to stay in the United Kingdom for a little while would help.

      Why, exactly, does this help with immigration into the United States?

      This sounds suspiciously like immigration fraud to me.

      • grendelkhan says:

        How seriously do you think a bunch of open-borders advocates take immigration laws? They’re already porously enforced at best (and for good reason!).

      • rttf says:

        I believe the preferred term in this community would be “immigration hacking”.

      • erenold says:

        I might be barking totally up the wrong tree here – but is this about evading the hard ceiling on per-country immigration from Alison’s home country? Or is this a ‘softer’, more subjective thing, whereby Alison hopes that as a Commonwealth citizen from Britain her application would be looked upon with a less jaundiced eye?

        The linked post does not give any information other than that she needs to touchback to her home country, thence to Britain, then only back to the US. I might be missing something very obvious, but that doesn’t make any sense to me.

        By the way – I’m sure Alison is a fine person, an excellent rationalist and all-round a net positive to whatever country she inhabits – I hope I do not come across as wishing mischance upon her and her plans. I’m merely curious about a fairly odd request.

        • I don’t know the specifics of this case, but large US corporations looking to hire highly-skilled foreign workers will sometimes post those workers at satellite offices outside the US for a year or so, after which they are eligible to be hired on an intracompany transfer visa, which can be easier to get than other types of visas.

          I doubt it has to do with evading per-country immigration caps. I don’t think most visas have per-country caps. Green card applications do, but those are based on country of citizenship, not country of origin.

          • Nonnamous says:

            large US corporations looking to hire highly-skilled foreign workers will sometimes post those workers at satellite offices outside the US for a year or so

            That sounds like an L1 visa process.

  37. Asvin says:

    Are there any benefits to taking an IQ test if you don’t think you have any learning disabilities etc?

    • Emma Casey says:

      You get to be really smug at people.

    • Chalid says:

      It might help you choose a career?

      • Jill says:

        Yes, and make you aware of your strengths and weaknesses, helping you choose what to focus on– usually developing your strengths and talents more, or maybe seeking a business or marital partner with complementary talents.

        An occupational interest test could also be of help in career.

      • Tek Tek says:

        On this, it can. For instance, the spatial/verbal weighting can determine if one best status-maxi-mazes according to talents to become engineer vs lawyer.

        But the career is always medicine if one wants financial stability and the capabilities.

    • Lumifer says:

      About as useful as measuring their dicks is for men.

    • Urstoff says:

      I think that kind of self-knowledge would probably be demotivating.

      • Creutzer says:

        I think it could give you comfort to know that you can definitely do what you are trying to because your IQ is comfortably above the average for your chosen profession. If you find that you’re trying to do something that’s actually likely to be beyond your capabilities, then being demotivated isn’t necessarily a bad outcome, either.

    • Error says:

      Joining high-IQ societies, e.g. Mensa.

      YMMV on whether that’s a useful benefit. From experience, having easy access to people of comparable intelligence is not as interesting as it sounds. It turns out common interests aren’t that common.

      • cafemachiavelli says:

        My experience with Mensa matches your description. Mensa seemed to brand itself as “High-IQ people can be normal too!” when I was kinda yearning for the opposite experience (as in, normalcy is a bad metric to orient your value function by) and was hoping to find people using their IQ in inspirational ways.

        The online forums were pretty deserted and live meetups were fun, but just standard nerd talk for the most part.

      • Tek Tek says:

        I think its a useful benefit. An interesting blogger, halfsigma showed that there were quite a few very interesting correlations between intelligence and certain types of belief, even stronger then education.

    • Zombielicious says:

      It can help give confidence, or at least a better sense of where you stand, maybe avoid massive overconfidence, if you really don’t have any clue whatsoever. The risk is in taking it too seriously and thinking that because you’re average or below average you can never learn certain things, or that having a good score means you’re smarter than everyone else, or that small differences in IQ score actually matter much.

      This seems pretty similar to verifying that you don’t have any obvious learning disabilities or savant talents, though. Otherwise, probably not.

  38. Leo says:

    Recently I have been thinking a lot about a blog post I read many years ago. (Sorry, no link) The point the author was making was that it is good to seek out people who disagree with you. These people will expose you to new ideas, he said. They will challenge you to defend the positions you hold. Even if you end up neither agreeing with them nor bringing them around to your point of view, hopefully you will at least understand where they are coming from. All of this constitutes intellectual growth and is a good and healthy thing.
    A lot of people ( I certainly include myself here) read this and think, yeah, this guy has the right idea. I want to be challenged. I want to be open to different perspectives. Perhaps you envision yourself having a lively yet gentlemanly debate about the relative merits of candidates X and Y in the upcoming by-election. Maybe, based on your logical assessment of the evidence available to you, you have become a staunch supporter of unfettered free trade. Now you’re imagining meeting an ideological adversary who will present a robust case for economic protectionism. Or perhaps you think you’ll go talk to that girl who says that Domenico Scarlatti is an unrecognised genius, deserving of a place in the pantheon of musical heroes alongside Bach and Beethoven.
    This may have been the first place my mind went after reading the aforementioned blog post, but it’s a huge underestimation of the diversity of human thought. When you don’t merely poke your head around the door of your intellectual ghetto, but instead step outside and have a good ramble through the hills and dales of the wider human world, you get a lot more than you bargained for. Instead of the ideological adversaries you’ve dreamed up for yourself, you meet the guy who doesn’t vote at all because democracy is a sham, who doesn’t see the need to back up opinions with evidence, who thinks all music is just a silly waste of time anyway.
    So I then turn back to Slate Star Codex and look at it in this light. In particular I look at the links to other blogs. The first entry under Those That Belong To The Emperor is The Future Primeval, the mouthpiece for a collective of neoreactionary thinkers. We see Scott’s rigorous deconstruction of neoreactionary arguments and we ooh and ah at how open minded he is not to dismiss these wingnuts out of hand. And fair play to Scott, he is engaging with people he disagrees with, in the hope of reaching some quantum of mutual enlightenment. This is more than most people do. Let me say it one more time, mad props to Scott for his openmindedness.
    But the neoreactionaries (auto-correct tries to change this to ‘bro reactionaries’) are a group of people convinced that sociology and political philosophy are subjects worth talking about. They share Scott’s conviction that research is worthwhile, and evidence has value. They are more than willing to engage in debate. The principal difference between Scott and the boys at The Future Primeval, or most of the other nrx sites, is the side of the issues they come down on. The variety of human though offers differences far more profound than this.
    From this perspective, when you strip away the politics, I put Barack Obama, Milo Yiannopoulos and Karl Marx in one camp, and put Trump, Rhonda Byrne (author of The Secret), and Bodhidharma (major fugure in the history of Zen Buddhism) in the other.
    If one truly accepts the notion that it’s worth understanding other people, then I see no reason to limit oneself to those who are writing blogs and participating in public debates. Should we not also strive to understand those who see debates, analysis, and so on, as pointless? It’s not as if these people are entirely silent. They may not be writing manifestoes, but their philosophy of life is surely manifest in how they choose to live their lives. They may even have something to teach us.

  39. Odoacer says:

    Human Interest Stories in Articles,

    I recently read this interesting article in National Geographic about food waste. It’s mindboggling to me how much food is produced in the US and the world and how much is discarded for somewhat silly reasons, e.g. food that isn’t aesthetically pleasing is tossed. However, I notice in a lot of these pop-science articles that there’s often a human interest story in them, this one focuses on a food-waste activist named Tristam Stuart. It sounds like he’s doing a good job, but honestly I’m indifferent to him. I’d rather read an article that just had the facts and little to none about specific humans involved.

    Why are these human-focused parts included? Do other people enjoy reading about them? Are they included to encourage people to do activism/whatever, so that they too might gain status by being featured in a major media source?

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:
    • herbert herbertson says:

      I think the biggest and less interesting reason is that most people like to read characters in stories. If the demo that thinks like SSC commenters were bigger, the trope you observe would be less common, but we’d also see, e.g., published fiction in the style of the SCP wiki, or Stephen Baxter outselling J.K. Rowling.

      I think a minor, but more interesting, contributing factor is a transactional relationship between the reporter and the human interest in question. What’s the easiest, quickest way to learn about a subject? Contact an expert. What’s the easiest, quickest way to gain that expert’s attention and help? Im/explicitly promise him positive press in return.

  40. Brad (the other one) says:

    Did anyone see the Street Fighter tournament on ESPN2 last night?

    • birdboy2000 says:

      I watched on Twitch but I did catch the last few matches. I don’t know competitive street fighter very well, but that final was domination – so many perfects.

    • Urstoff says:

      I saw a Dota game. It was confusing and pretty boring. I wonder what kind of ratings ESPN is pulling in on their esports shows.

      • Redland Jack says:

        It’s hard to imagine the ratings would be very strong. It seems like it would be the wrong medium for the activity. When I want to watch esports, I just go to Twitch. I’d wager that almost anyone interested in esports would be more inclined to watch them via computer than TV.

      • Brad (The Other One) says:

        I’ve been watching gaming tournaments for years and I think Dota and other MOBAs are probably the least casual-friendly tv-friendly genre possible. (Disclosure: I am not particularly familiar with mobas). I’ve tried to watch some moba games cold, and it seems to me that in a single game a casual viewer needs to understand the basic concept (kill enemy base and towers) AND understand the idea of lanes and exp, comprehend the power-set and abilities of 10 heroes in the given match, as well as (depending on the game) a variety of items with their own effects. Moreover, you have issues for tv consumption; namely that the game can go on for an unspecified amount of time, you have stuff happening all over the map which creates the issue of “where should the observer be giving attention?” This is before we even get to the question of “is it interesting to watch?”

        Street Fighter and most other fighting games, by contrast, have rounds that are set by timer (and thus matches can be predictably scheduled in a time slot), it’s relatively easy to understand who’s winning (just look at the life bar) and the game’s basic conceit – two guys beating each other up – is way less arcane than many other games and can probably be grasped by people who don’t play the game. The hardest things to explain is probably meter management, how spacing, mix-ups and crossups work, as well as the usual canards of “why are they using the same character?” or “why does guile just throw sonic booms all game?” (I’ve sat through some seriously lame street fighter sets: this comes to mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dtHde81j20 )

        That said, Dota and Counterstrike have way way larger player bases and thus they got all the dirty esports dollars and screentime first, but I honestly think any serious foray into gaming on television in the west – that can actually break into a non-gaming audience – will involve fighting games in a leading role.

        That being said, I kind of wonder how Starcraft, which has a lot of similar issues as mobas (unspecified game time, lots of units with different abilities), got so popular as to warrant their own channel in S. Korea – and I wonder if the audience there is mainly just people familiar with the game (ie. have, at minimum, actually played it) or if the audience includes casual viewers.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Do you think MOBAs are less casual-viewer-friendly than Starcraft? I would put them the other way round — even someone who doesn’t know anything about MOBAs can understand roughly what’s happening (that guy died, that thing got destroyed), whereas even after playing a bit of Starcraft, professional games just seem like a blur of units to me. I think the biggest problem of televised esports is shared by all games — it’s difficult to appreciate the skill involved if you haven’t played the game.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            It’s hard for me to gauge if MOBAs are less or more friendly for casuals than any edition of Starcraft, since I still play Starcraft and followed tournaments occasionally for years and I simply haven’t done that with MOBAs. I’m more wondering why Starcraft: Brood War succeeded when it has much of the same issues you see with contemporary MOBAs.

            That being said, I suspect it was (and is) probably less confusing to grasp Brood War relative to Starcraft 2 because engagements, as far as I can remember them, tended to be smaller, more discrete, the art was crispier and unit pathfinding didn’t yet have that “balling-up” effect Starcraft 2 has – not to mention that in Brood War, they didn’t give every single unit in the game some special snowflake ability to impress the playerbase. Sometimes the dragoon can just be a dragoon, guys.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think dota is fairly simple. Most of the game the commenters focus on team kill counts, which everyone can understand. There’s a lot of depth to builds and items and hero interactions, but to the casual viewer each hero has 1-2 really obvious spells and a normal attack. Most interactions during the game are following a hero as he duels other heros.

          That’s really what makes it more viewer friendly than starcraft. In classic RTS you do have to understand the bigger picture, in dota the experience farming and lane pushing are key concepts if you want to be a pro player but not if you want to be a casual viewer. The team with more kills tends to win.

          Dota still has some user-unfriendliness, for one the viewer perspective is just terrible, but I don’t think fighter games are superior. I’d bet on counterstrike first, moba second, fighter games last.

        • DrBeat says:

          The problem with fighting games as a spectator sport is the disconnect between how hard something looks and how hard something is, leading people to be unable to recognize when they are seeing something notable. You don’t need to know anything about football to see the Immaculate Reception and know how hard that was, because you know the rules of people holding objects. If you don’t know the rules of 3rd Strike, you can see the Daigo Parry from EVO 2004 and have no idea what you’re seeing is an insanely difficult defensive move that requires frame-perfect timing, it just looks like he’s blocking.

        • Aegeus says:

          Counterstrike might be another good one. It’s fairly comprehensible – shoot the dudes, plant the bomb, disarm the bomb. There’s not a lot of specific details required – there are many different guns in the game, but they’re broadly similar in function, and most of the time people only use the AK, M1, and the AWP anyway. And it has a fairly fixed timeframe – best out of 30, each round is on a timer. Kind of the same tempo as a football match.

          The main problem for a layman is knowing the map. Unless you’ve actually played the game and know the different locations, you can’t understand what’s going on from a first-person camera. You need to keep watching the minimap when you’re watching a match so that you can realize “This guy is holding down Long A” or “The CT’s have rotated to B, so T’s are pushing through Short A,” or all the other details that make the strategy. I don’t know how to make that clear to viewers. Maybe better camera angles or a better-looking overhead view?

          Then again, football fans can somehow follow everything that’s going on when there’s eleven dudes on a team running around with split-second timing, so I think they’d be able to follow a CSGO match.

          • LPSP says:

            Football fans have a high-up view of the game, whether from the stadium seats or from the tv screen. The solution is to provide viewers with aerial camera shots of the action just like any other sport, along with footage from the player’s perspective.

        • Lumifer says:

          Once Overwatch gets all the attributes of an e-sport (and Blizzard is heading in that direction), it might turn out to be very watchable.

        • Montfort says:

          The advantage of fighting games is their ease of understanding at a basic level, and the flashy visuals (2D fighters are way better on this score, as an aside). But to actually keep up with the strategic considerations of the players, you need to know a lot about the internal workings of the specific game – frame advantage, how meter and stun build, armor/invincibility frames, and the movelists of the characters. As a novice watching a Street Fighter match, it seems weird when announcers get extremely excited about a subtle block or a backdash, whereas a round-ending super is routine.

          In contrast, competitive FPSs are also easily understood at a basic level, and generally the higher-level mechanics are more analogous to the real world. Or so I would think, but, there’s probably a measure of bias here depending on what kind of game one’s most familiar with. They also offer the same kind of spectacle as certain kinds of action movies.

          In any case, I think the real advantage of the Counterstrikes and DOTAs is that team “sports” are a lot more interesting for people to follow over time – you can get more continuity than with individual competitors, you can follow personnel changes, speculate about super teams, etc.

          (As an aside, it’s very possible to get a decent view of the action in CS, but it’s apparently harder than it seems because they really did a terrible job at ESL Cologne this year. Other than that, though, the production values were surprisingly high; good commenters, replays, player reaction shots…)

      • Samedi says:

        Dota is not really a good eSport for the casual viewer. When my son started watching and playing I wanted to watch it with him (he could care less about baseball and football), I had to learn it. Wow is it complicated. But once you learn all the rules it’s fun to watch.

        eSports in general is an interesting topic. I wonder how it will develop and how the audience demographics will play out? There is a lot of money there and it is truly international in its appeal. In the last big Dota tournament I watched, “TI5”, the prize pool was about $18 million and the teams came from all of the world: US, South America, Europe, Russian, China, and Southeast Asia. I believe other big eSport tournaments are similarly international.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Dota is not really a good eSport for the casual viewer.

          Neither is baseball.

  41. MawBTS says:

    Any opinions on anabolic steroids?

    I was surprised by how cheap they are – I don’t use, but aren’t they like $750/year for average “gym rat” dosages? Safe to say that the average bodybuilder spends astronomically more on food than on AAS.

    Peptides are a different story, though. One of my friends was looking into pharm-grade HGH + insulin and it would have literally cost more than his mortgage.

    • Methylthrowawaybolone says:

      That sounds pretty reasonable, though it obviously depends on dose. A beginner might use an effective dose of 400mg testosterone per week, some use that much per day, plus orals.

      A gram of usable (esterized in vial/amp) testosterone will commonly sell for $20-40 if it’s pharm grade and $5-30 if it’s underground. A beginners cycle can consist of just 7g (say, 12 weeks of 600mg/week) and an intermediate cycle could be done for $400-600, which puts us roughly at your figure at two cycles per year – and that’s assuming people pay premium for quality substances.

      More money is burned on safety: Full blood tests can be $100 per test, then there’s estrogen control (~$70-150), drugs to get your natural hormone levels back up when you go off and maybe liver and cholesterol support. Aggressive users will need additional medications (prolactin control drugs cost ~$3-4 for each pill), but that’s another story.

      This is one reason to take AAS stories with a grain of salt, as user are essentially presented with:

      A) Wing it for $300
      B) Regularly check your health and reduce risks for $600
      C) On second thought, wing it at 2x dose for $600

      And there’s no shortage of people complaining about steroids being awful after picking option A or C.

      • Psmith says:

        A gram of usable (esterized in vial/amp) testosterone will commonly sell for $20-40 if it’s pharm grade and $5-30 if it’s underground.

        It’s been a couple years, but last I looked into it I was under the impression that if you’re not actually getting it from a pharmacy it’s pretty much guaranteed to be UGL regardless of what the label says.

  42. Methylthrowawaybolone says:

    Any opinions on anabolic steroids?

    I just went through my first cycle and they kinda seem like an easy mode switch for fitness and good looks to me (assuming one is interested in being slightly less fat and significantly more muscular). Even on moderate doses, people on AAS who sit on their ass all day outgain naturals in the gym, and enhanced lifters experience stacked benefits.

    I’ve received a surprising amount of compliments, am a bit happier about myself (particularly around mirrors) and somehow feel more focused at work now that at least the body composition side of fitness is approaching “solved” status for me.

    A key part of the decision for me was that the side effects, which are commonly lumped together, are to some extent avoidable and substance-dependent.

    For example, estrogen conversion (which triggers water retention and gynecomastia) can be reduced by taking anti-estrogens or SERMs (substances that block the estrogen receptor), and liver toxicity is for the most part associated with oral steroids, not injectable ones. Androgenic side-effects (acne, hair loss) are afaik unavoidable, since the relationship between anabolic (muscle growth) and androgenic side effects is for the most part linear.

    The strongest reasons why I wouldn’t recommend use currently is legality and the horrendous quality of black market products, which are very often (>50%) under/overdosed and often (>20%) contaminated with heavy metals and other industrial chemicals. (If interested, William Lewellyn gives an interesting talk on this, look for “Steroids evolving black market” on youtube)

    Of course, there’s a lot we don’t know. Prostate enlargement and left ventricular hypertrophy (the bad kind) are associated with AAS use and appear to reverse over time, but relationship with dose, time of use and just overall impact on mortality isn’t clear. Whether you can impair your testosterone production long-term by taking steroids is unclear, though I personally doubt it (it seems to be limited to long-term users and lots of people lie about dose and duration, or use wrong, no or bunk medicals to repair their endogenous testosterone production post-cycle)

    • LaochCailiuil says:

      Were you doing heavy resistance training at the same time as this? Like deadlifts, cleans, etc?

      • Methylthrowawaybolone says:

        Yes, a fairly standard upper/lower body split. I don’t go super heavy, as muscle strength will increase a lot faster than tendon strength will and I’m obviously not keen on injuring myself.

        • LaochCailiuil says:

          I like to lift and wouldn’t mind experiencing the gains of using steroids but given it’s illegality and side effects(I’m quite partial to my hair in a narcissistic way) I’m terrified of going near it. I don’t think I could deal with gynaecomastia if something went wrong with dosage. In other words I’d like guidance from an accredited professional. It’s annoying that medicine isn’t about being more than the normative by age definition of healthy.

          • Anonanon says:

            ^Same. It sounds intriguing, but not worth the risks and hassle.

          • Methylthrowawaybolone says:

            That’s reasonable. 23&me tells me I’m not at risk for male pattern hair loss, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t obsessively check my temples for the first weeks.

            Fully agree on guidance – blood values are hard enough to interpret as it is, and unsurprisingly, most doctors aren’t that experienced in treating and advising AAS users. Maybe in a brighter future.

    • Anonymous says:

      You mention a concentration improvement, any noticeable impact on cognitive performance otherwise?

    • LowTAnon says:

      How fortuitous that this should come up here. I was recently tested and found out that my testosterone levels are very low for my age. They’re technically within the reference range (360ng/dL, where as the lowest normal value from LabCorp is 348ng/dL), but I’m in my mid-20s, so from what I’ve read they really should be somewhere around double that.

      I’m now doing research to see if I want to go on TRT. I have a bunch of symptoms that are associated with low T (fatigue, anxiety, inability to gain muscle mass even when working out very regularly), so it’s certainly tempting to see if TRT would resolve those. However, I’m trying to be extremely cautious as I want to be sure I understand the health risks associated with long-term usage of TRT. From what I’ve read so far, it seems safe and possibly even beneficial as long as you stay within normal range and get regular blood tests to check things like hematocrit and estradiol. That said, I’m not yet convinced that TRT has been studied sufficiently to really establish long-term safety.

      If anyone has any good studies to recommend, please post them here.

    • Tek Tek says:

      Yes, never take them you f*ck*ng dolt.

      Taking roids only makes sense in a few situations. And even then, only if tested for safety carefully.

      1. You’re an olympic/professional athlete in a rich country with a team that will pay off the testers. That’s how most records are broken, I believe. The right guy got paid off.

      2. You’re a prison guard in a maximum security jail and *have* to be an intimidating mo-fo. And the roids should at best, be used as a short term boost that you don’t do yearly by any means.

      I mean, I guess when you are young it can kindof help get you laid, since its easier to look both huge and lean on them, which does help. But the drug of choice in that situation is alcohol, you know.

      You absolutely don’t want to go into the Roid cycle. Take it for three months in a year, get better gains then you have had in 4 years, and become addicted to the rush and end up dying of heart failure at 40 which happens to some bodybuilders.

    • Walter says:

      You can definitely get them easily (dunno if that’s good or not).

      I went with a buddy to his fitness diet store. He had been using a new supplement and bulking up more than he expected.

      Buddy: Hey man, I’ve been gaining a lot of muscle since I started using these… They aren’t steroids, are they?

      Cashier: Lemme see

      *looks*

      Cashier: *snort* Nah man, these ain’t steroids.

      *Long beat*

      Cashier: Do you want steroids?

      • dndnrsn says:

        I once overhead a super awkward conversation between a guy at the supplements store trying to get a steroid hookup, and the guy working behind the desk at this respectable chain store trying to shut him down indirectly.

        Almost as awkward as the time that a mid-to-late-teens kid, looked like he probably played some kind of sport and wanted to bulk up, was in the store with his probably-40s mother. She very much had the look about her of someone working quite hard – and succeeding – in staving off the effects of age: fit, tanned, dressed in Lululemon or whatever. She was eye-fucking the guy behind the counter, while asking tons of questions about supplements, in that way people do when they don’t particularly care about the answers because they’re flirting. I felt really sorry for that kid.

        Still not as awkward as the guy in the comics shop trying to ask where the hentai was without actually saying what he was looking for.

  43. God Damn John Jay says:

    Is anyone else made really nervous by the picture of the girl and the giant dog? Is that just my mild fear of giant dogs or is that actually dangerous?

    • Guy says:

      I was confused by the stethoscope for a bit, to the point that I thought the dog might be some sort of strange toy and/or the picture was photoshopped. I was on the point of asking about it before I figured out what I was looking at.

      But no, the picture did not trip my discomfort around dogs. (I think because it’s a still picture)

    • James Picone says:

      Whether it’s dangerous or not depends on the dog. Hopefully the kid’s parents know the dog and think it’s fine.

      In general you don’t want to leave a small kid alone with a big dog, but if you’re there it’s probably fine unless it’s a really aggressive dog.

    • Jaskologist says:

      It is adorable, and properly subtitled, “Sorry, Sir, it’s Barkinson’s.”

    • John Schilling says:

      Most large dog breeds are fairly child-friendly, if only for the obvious reason that a child-hostile Chihuahua might be allowed to breed but a child-hostile Mastiff is going to be removed from the canine gene pool with extreme prejudice. And from the other direction, small children are unlikely to accidentally hurt a big dog badly enough to trigger a defensive reaction. Small dogs are more likely to bite, and the more wolfish of the medium-sized dogs are more likely to kill or maim.

      There’s still enough room for individual variation that if it is your child you’ll want to know the breed, the dog, and the child before deciding it’s safe to leave them in the room together. Particularly the child – somewhere out there is the three-year-old who could provoke Marmaduke to a homicidal rage. If it’s someone else’s child, and they’re obviously in the room taking the picture, I’m not going to worry about it.

      • Mary says:

        Especially when the child is merely putting a stethoscope to the dog. All that requires is a little canine patience with some innocuous acts.

    • Tekhno says:

      You’re not alone. I think it’s not just a question of how calm the breed is, but how much damage it can do if it does go berserk.

      • onyomi says:

        By this logic, all pictures of adults with children and large adults with smaller adults should also unnerve.

        You might say a large dog is more apt to go berserk than a human, but I’d say it all depends on the dog, and on the human. There are certainly many large dogs around whom I’d feel safer than certain small humans.

        *I will admit to having a mild unease around horses for this reason, but horses are also a lot more skittish than dogs. Horses don’t scare me because I think they’d intentionally attack me, but because they can spook, toss you off, and accidentally step on your head. Some horse expert might say they can tell which horses are and aren’t a risk, but I’m not a horse expert, so I can’t tell. If a dog freaks out, by contrast, it can’t really accidentally trample you.

  44. TED talks pile up on my iPod faster than I can listen to them, but I fortuitously happened to listen to a recent one while walking the dog (usually I listen to sf) and it’s relevant.

    When your steadfast opinions are tested, Julia Galef asks: “What do you most yearn for? Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?”

    She does a good job of presenting a simple argument for wanting to know the truth about the world before you try to make changes.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/julia_galef_why_you_think_you_re_right_even_if_you_re_wrong

    • Stezinech says:

      Nice little talk. I agree with her that influencing emotional curiosity is probably more effective than trying to teach people logic, probability, etc. The problem is more to do with Type I (thinking fast) rather than Type 2 (thinking slow), so try to influence the first type.

      On the other hand though, Type 1 thinking seems closer to basic personality, and might be hard to modify.

  45. Dave says:

    In the midst of the Ghostbusters remake, and the controversy behind their IMDB score, I’m scanning IMDb for a list of movies, the histogram of how each gender voted on those movies, and the mean and variance of those votes.

    My primary motive is to see how the gender gap in IMDB movie ratings compares between the new Ghostbusters film and the rest of the top 6000 films on IMDB (i.e. movies that men love and women hate, and vice versa).

    Specifically, I’m using Python and MySQL to create data visualizations that will:

    1. Show which movies have the highest and lowest gender gaps in their ratings.

    2. See if there is a relationship between a movie’s rating-gender-gap and the year it came out.

    3. List which movies have the highest and lowest variances within a single gender’s score.

    —-

    So, on to the questions.

    1. Just for the public’s curiosity, what other data should I have included? I stopped my crawler about 15 minutes in to revise my code to add the year each movie came out. I also realized just recently that I should have captured info about the movie’s genre and run some analysis on that variable as well.

    2. Does anyone have a good introductory tutorial on how I can make some really nice data visualizations using either Python or data from MySQL?

    3. Just an FYI, I’m sending a request to IMDB only once every 4 seconds; each crawl should take about 10 hours.

    • Guy says:

      Do it again in a year, studying the same movies, and report on any interesting discrepancies in number of votes recieved (people keep talking about these movies) and overall popularity (opinions on these movies are changing). Also you should probably analyze at least some genre tags.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Eh. You’re going to run into a targeting problem; movies with female leads will tend to have lower overall ratings, because they’ll be tending to target a demographic of women.

      If you stick within genre lines for comparison purposes, I think you’ll reduce the damage a little bit.

    • Alliteration says:

      There exists the mathplotlib library which is for graphing in python. If I understand correctly, it is the standard graphing library for python.

  46. Tracy W says:

    I’m thinking of getting tested for adult ADHD, any advice?

    I’m a Kiwi and am willing to pay for private care for this.

    • nope says:

      Yes! Do your homework before you go in, a ton of it, on both ADHD and pharmacological treatment. I’ve generally found well-qualified GPs and psychiatrists alike to be poorly informed regarding ADHD. Consider going to a specialist in neurodevelopmental disorders, if you don’t have the time or desire to do your own digging. Anecdotally, there are quite important differences not only between the stimulant and non-stimulant medications for ADHD, and not only the substituted amphetamines and actual amphetamines, but also between different balances of left and right handed versions of many of these drugs. Also, certain doctors have a tendency to undermedicate, while others have a tendency to overmedicate, both of which are very bad and cause people to think that a medication didn’t work for them when really their doctor just prescribed them the wrong dosage. The rule of thumb is that a stimulant-naive person should never begin at a dosage of more than 5 mg methylphenidate (Ritalin) per 4 hours, or more than 2.5 mg amphetamine (Adderall) per 6 hours, and should be titrated slowly up in dose over the course of a couple weeks until optimal response is achieved. Don’t let a doctor talk you into XR anything to start out with, and take IR until you’ve figured out what sort of dose you can handle and what sort of timing works best for you. Non-stimulant medications exist, but seem generally less efficacious and take longer to work (if they work at all). Purely therapeutic approaches don’t have much long-term impact on their own, but there are many modifications you can make to your lifestyle that will make things easier for you (for instance, if you have strong sensory sensitivities, as many people with ADHD do, you can e.g. wear tag-free clothing or invest in noise-cancelling headphones [my personal favorite adaptation!]).

      • Tracy W says:

        Thanks, I don’t think I have any sensory issues.
        I found via google a clinical psychologist specialising in adult ADHD, do you think this would be a good first port of call?

        And what does XR and IR mean?

        • Ron says:

          Extended release and instant release

        • nope says:

          I would probably try to go to a psychiatrist first, as medication is really the mainstay of most ADHD treatment, because it’s what has the largest effects. But once you’ve got your medication, seeing the psychologist is probably a good idea, because they’ll be able to recommend lifestyle modifications suited to you, and perhaps also suggest strategies for medication management (ie, telling you *how to actually use* the medications you’ve been prescribed, which is a non-trivial and often overlooked issue).

      • Outis says:

        Um. How many mg of amphetamine do 20 mg of Vyvanse correspond to? Asking for a friend whose psychiatrist started him on 20 mg for adult ADHD.

        • Creutzer says:

          Should be somewhere on the order of 6mg D-amphetamine. Therapeutic in adults don’t really get much lower than that.

          • Outis says:

            Is it safe for my friend to take it only “as needed”, instead of with any regularity? Would that make habituation more, less or equally likely?

          • Creutzer says:

            More sporadic use always means less habituation. The idea with stimulants is generally not that you take them at a dose that you need to be habituated to in order to even be able to deal with. They are really a very on-and-off thing and their therapeutic value comes from their immediate effects, not from some kind of long-term consequences. So taking them as needed is fine. The right dosage needs to be found by experimentation, of course, but it’s unlikely to be much lower than 6mg of D-amphetamine. Of course, if side-effects like high blood pressure and heart rate and anxiety occur, then going lower is a thing to do. The other option being to switch to a different medication; stimulants all have vaguely the same side effect profile, but differ both between and within individuals.

    • Emily says:

      I did this and initially got a 5-minute chat with a psychiatrist and a prescription for amphetamines. Which I tried and then stopped because I didn’t think the productivity increase was worth being on a medication I found really scary. My sense from that is that diagnostic criteria are maybe kind of vague and you might not get a satisfactory answer to whether you have this. The question you may wind up having to answ