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. anonx says:

    Request for information: I՚m dealing with a close relative, a young man, who has Asperger՚s and some related problems, and has recently announced he՚s transgendered. I՚m slightly skeptical of the whole transgender thing in general and in his case in particular. I thought this community might have some pointers to research or references on the intersection of Asperger՚s and gender dysphoria or whatever. The obvious google searches didn՚t turn up much. Thanks in advance for any help.

    [repeated from earlier open thread where it wasn’t getting much useful attention]

    • Yakimi says:

      The case of Christian Weston Chandler provides an instructive example of how autism and gender dysphoria can intersect.

      • FishFinger says:

        Do you think Chris-chan really has dysphoria?

        • Jaskologist says:

          How many levels of recursion are allowed here? We can’t say, “Oh, he only thinks he’s a woman,” but we can say “Oh, he only thinks he thinks he’s a woman”?

          • Nornagest says:

            Worked for Silence of the Lambs.

          • Mary says:

            Well, I have myself talked to a guy online who thought he was transgender, and whose therapist instead diagnosed him as DID. (He’s definitely not transgender now.)

          • wintermute92 says:

            I mean, the difference between one remove and two seems pretty important. (I wouldn’t care to look past two.)

            At one remove, you’re saying that someone’s sincere, lucid self-image doesn’t determine their identity, which people object to. Or, you’re saying that their identity beliefs aren’t lucid exclusively because you disagree with them, which is unpleasantly circular.

            At two removes, you’re saying that someone isn’t forming beliefs correctly, and that their gender identity claims are one thing that was affected.

            If an untreated schizophrenic says that they’re actually a woman, but the CIA did a brain transplant that put them into a male body, I don’t see why we should endorse the gender part when we reject the larger claim. If they stabilize on antipsychotics and go “Oh, all of that CIA stuff was irrational, but it was me narrative-building around the transgender-ness I still feel” then things look very different.

          • Anonymous says:

            ROT13’d because I feel quite ashamed speculating about real, living people like this, especially given what CWC’s been though already. On the other hand, it’s all easily found on the Internet anyway, so this doesn’t accomplish much more than virtue signalling on my part; which is especially pointless given that I’m commenting anonymously.

            V thrff fbzr crbcyr (vapyhqvat zr) qbhog ur rira npghnyyl guvaxf gung, naq pbafvqre uvf “genaftraqre” furanavtnaf gb or n purnc nggragvba-tenoovat fpurzr. Guvf vf npghnyyl fbzrguvat bs n trarevp bowrpgvba gb genaftraqrevfz, juvpu va guvf pnfr frrzf cnegvphyneyl fgebat orpnhfr… jryy, ur vf Puevf-puna. Uvf anepvffvfz vf dhvgr jryy-qbphzragrq ba RQ naq fbavpuh.pbz, jurer nyfb lbh pna rnfvyl svaq fbzr cynhfvoyr rivqrapr gung vg jnf shryyrq ol uvf whfg nf anepvffvfgvp zbgure.

            Vg’f rvgure gung be n pbcvat fgengrtl bs fbegf. Puevf vf nyfb zl tb-gb rknzcyr bs n Avpr Thl va gur srzvavfg frafr: ertneqf ebznapr nf fbzr fbeg bs n tnzr, bowrpgvsvrf jbzra, yvggyr-gb-ab rzcngul. Cerqvpgnoyl, ur’f dhvgr hafhpprffshy ng svaqvat n fbhyzngr. Uvf “gbztvey” fntn znl or n jnl bs nonaqbavat uvf “Ybir Dhrfg” va n jnl juvpu qbrfa’g srry yvxr ybfvat (nf va “V qba’g arrq gb svaq n jbzna, V nz n jbzna abj”). Be n ovmneer ehfr gb nggenpg jbzra ol frrzvat… yrff guerngravat? Ur’f abg rknpgyl tbbq ng guvaxvat yhpvqyl.

            Rvgure jnl vg vf, ur’f cebonoyl abg n irel tbbq rknzcyr bs n genaftraqre ba gur fcrpgehz.

        • in all but good taste says:

          I don’t know but i think Chris-chan is an edge case of almost any spectrum.

      • Anonymous says:


        • Nornagest says:

          I’m tempted to say “you don’t want to know”.

          But the short answer is that the dude first achieved notoriety as the author of a famously bad Sonic the Hedgehog webcomic, and developed a broader set of Internet stalkers rubberneckers followers as details of his incredibly disastrous personal life emerged.

          In some circles he’s sort of the patron saint of the parents’ basement.

    • Rb says:

      At a glance, there’s not a ton of study on the subjet, but there does seem to be some consensus that dysphoria and autism are comorbid . Is there anything in particular you’re trying to find?



    • mori says:

      I saw this recently, which links to some studies suggesting autism & gender dysphoria are linked.

    • Fctho1e says:

      Steve Sailer has been on that too. That man is prolific.

      Anecdotally, all TF people I know in RL (1) and have met online (2) where nerds. Not to the point of autism, though the guy from my scout troop who went and did it (now he’s helping balance the lopsided gender ratio in engineering software development) was ..odd. A little. And the online ones (OKCupid, I was looking for matches worldwide*) self-described as on the spectrum.

      Extremely unlucky (almost died through no fault of his own, spent a year in coma). Bad genes, brittle bones (dozens of fractures in his childhood/teenage years). He had to re-learn fine motor skills after the coma, so he was extremely clumsy. Otherwise, dunno. Seemed like a typical teenage computer games/metal/fantasy books kid. He wasn’t cheerful though.

      *obviously if you’re extremely male in thinking and interests and you’ll try to match with women, you’ll get some of the trans girls.

      • If Sailer is going to mention Heinlein and transgederism as fan service, why “All You Zombies” and not I Will Fear No Evil?

        I don’t have studies, but if (as I believe) people on the spectrum as less susceptible to social pressure than neurotypical people, then shouldn’t it follow that if they say they want to change gender, it’s something they actually want?

        • Jiro says:

          I would guess they are also less able to understand normal gender distinctions as well, which would work in the opposite direction.

          • Rb says:

            I’d expect the opposite; if gender dysphoria is a result of feeling that one’s assigned gender is different from one’s actual gender, it seems necessary to have a fairly strong definition of gender for such a conflict to arise in the first place.

            Is there a large social pressure for people to be transgender?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If you end up in a weird part of the Internet and lack the social development that most people have to defend themselves, yeah.

          • Julie K says:

            it seems necessary to have a fairly strong definition of gender for such a conflict to arise in the first place.

            It’s kind of paradoxical. For the past 60 years feminists have been telling us that there isn’t any intrinsic connection between being female and having stereotypical feminine traits, it’s just that our society has taught women that they ought to have these traits. I’m a woman because I have ovaries, and if I like sports or whatever it doesn’t make me any less a woman.

            So where is this definition of gender coming from?

          • Nornagest says:

            There is a hell of a lot of tension between radical feminism and trans advocacy, a fact of which radical feminists are cognizant.

            But as pervasive as radical feminist rhetoric has grown in the last ten years, I still think only a minority of feminists accept its full implications — even if we’re talking activists, not random people in the Internet. And you can square feminism with trans issues in a variety of ways if you’re not insisting on full-bore patriarchy-all-the-way-down cultural determinism.

          • “Is there a large social pressure for people to be transgender?”

            I doubt it.

            But there are a lot of people who want to feel important, or different, or get attention, and deciding that you are transgender might seem like a way of accomplishing that. I wouldn’t be astonished if some fraction of people who consider themselves transgender fit that pattern, but I have no data.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          why “All You Zombies” and not I Will Fear No Evil?

          Probably because his point is to speculate how long ago all this occurred to Heinlein; “All You Zombies” was 1958, IWFNE was 1970.

          Only to someone as old as I am would the difference be important, I suppose. [smile]

    • Tsnom Eroc says:

      This is probably the biggest jack-ass statement in the world, but if a clearly masculine-male looking guy thinks his life will get *better* after going through hormone therapy and the rest, simply to turn up as an ugly woman, or if an average height woman (or even 90th percentile) thinks her life will be better after transitioning to be a guy, they probably have some social knowledge off.

      I mean hey, plenty of normal straight guys say causally half-joking “If I was a really hot chick and “gay” I would probably enjoy life more then now”. They don’t announce themselves as transgender.

      • I knew* a tall man who transitioned into being a rather plain woman. She was very consistent that she was suicidal when she was male and much happier female.

        *past tense because she died– and it was cancer, not something related to a psychological problem. The fact that she’s dead also means I don’t need to be tactful about her appearance, though I’ll also note that she developed a lady-like style which definitely looked female to me.

        • Zorgon says:

          Counter-anecdote – I have a MtF trans friend who was a stereotypical “big nerd” male before transition. Tall, broad-shouldered, overweight, scruffy beard, long hair. She definitely falls into the “ugly woman” bracket and is seriously unhappy about this fact.

          On the other hand, my FtM friend transitioned from a skinny, small-breasted, hairy, and very androgynous woman to a remarkably convincing young dude and seems quite satisfied with the results, even without bottom surgery. Testosterone is a hell of a drug.

          • Tsnom Eroc says:

            Yeah, this is what I mean.

            A girl who looks very andro who goes full M(or close enough) might actually have a better dating career with a gay guy, who appreciates the general male form more then the female form but loves the fact that there is an organ actually suited for sex.

          • Acedia says:

            a gay guy, who appreciates the general male form more then the female form but loves the fact that there is an organ actually suited for sex

            I’m sure the person you’re describing exists somewhere, since there’s an exception to every rule when it comes to humans, but most gay guys really love dicks.

          • Anonymous says:

            Tsnom Eroc –

            You live in what mpc calls clown world.

            A woman should take androgens so she can look less like a woman so she can date gay men who will then be happy to have a male looking partner with a vagina – which of course, doesn’t make this person a woman but a gay man with a vagina? This, of course, is a totally logical course of action to take.

            What’s actually going on is that MtF that aren’t extremely effeminate gay men repel and disgust all people when they attempt to look, sound and dress like the opposite sex (possibly because of the uncanny valley effect, possibly because of good sound evolutionary reasons for men to feel revulsion towards other men attempting to look like women (to ensure that they don’t unfruitfully mate with them)).

            A woman looking like a man is at worst slightly comic so of course FtMs will have it “easier”.

          • Tsnom Eroc says:


            This is Buck Angel

            And here are quite a few successful FtM. How many of them later were in errr…gay? relationships? The logic isn’t so strange.

            And here is a little post of a FtM dating men as a man.
            Plenty of gay men find him attractive.

            I don’t see what’s necessarily wrong with the logic, other then its simply unusual. And is it really stranger then alot of the MtF logic? “A male who wants to go through therapy to look/act/sound like a woman, usually to date a man, and probably restricting dating options more then simply trying to look their best as a man going after other men”]

            MtF still probably works out very well for a certain subset of people who do it though.

          • vV_Vv says:


            A woman should take androgens so she can look less like a woman so she can date gay men who will then be happy to have a male looking partner with a vagina – which of course, doesn’t make this person a woman but a gay man with a vagina? This, of course, is a totally logical course of action to take.

            You forgot the part about giving birth to kids and then breastfeeding them.

          • leoboiko says:

            @Tsnom Eroc: As a bisexual male, I’d like to state for the record that penises are, indeed, wonderful organs for men to have sex with, and every bit as enjoyable as vaginæ or anii. (Though the reasons for trans people to transition are entirely orthogonal to sexual enjoyment, but as long as you’re talking about sex.)

      • g says:

        @Tsnom Eroc, it seems like you’re assuming that the goal of transition is to get a better sex life. I do not think this is generally correct.

    • LPSP says:

      It’s probably just a phase. The Chris-Chan comparison is possibly unfair but still a decent case study in overreactions.

      Anybody have a link to that video with the guy saying “In all respects but bodily, I am a wolf”?

    • anonx says:

      Thanks to those who provided pointers to information. As for the uninformed speculation, well, I can do that myself but I guess it’s harmless.

    • eh says:

      Does having trouble with theory of mind in autism apply to one’s own mind at a later or earlier date? That seems relevant.

  2. Josh S says:

    Latent nominative determinism?


    Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay hosts a cook-out O.o

    • Randy M says:

      It’s only nominative determinism if Gordon Ramsey is literally synonymous with cooking.

      • It is a little more so every time you write them in one sentence or say them in one breath, regardless of intent — more subconscious association between them spread over more minds eventually changes the language. Kleenex means tissue, Bork was borked.

    • It would be if the police chief hurt his or someone else’s eye when forcing his way through a door to serve a warrant though. =P

    • Outis says:

      Do you think they advertised it as “a cook-out with Gordon Ramsey”? Because it would totally work.

  3. caryatis says:

    How can you vouch for someone not being an axe murderer? Isn’t that like someone’s male friend vouching for him not being a wife-beater? A smart serial killer would never kill someone they had a known connection to, like living together or being in the same social circle. Everyone knows a completely random crime is the hardest to solve. That’s why you kill prostitutes and drifters so that the cops can’t establish any relationship between you and them.

    …Nothing against Alison, I just couldn’t resist being pedantic.

    • DanielLC says:

      I can vouch for her. I’m an axe.

    • JBeshir says:

      Well, in either case they should be safe to host.

      (I’d offer to help but, single person apartment, I don’t own a car, and I live out in Dorset convenient for approximately nothing. Not great for hosting anyone.)

      • Pku says:

        Serial killers rarely kill where it can be traced back to them! It’s probably safe to be as close to them as possible.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          On the other hand, run-of-the-mill killers often kill people close to them, and they’re probably more common.

          • Decius says:

            Luckily, we have a network that can vouch for the fact that this particular person isn’t associated with mysterious deaths!

    • Lumifer says:

      Since we’re being pedantic…

      The axe murderers that come to mind are Raskolnikov (a fictional character, but well-known), Lizzy Borden (“Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one”), whoever assassinated Leon Trotsky… and none of them killed strangers. An axe doesn’t sound like a serial killer weapon.

        • John Schilling says:

          So it took the page a while to load, with only the title visible, and I was thinking “Servant Girl Annihilator” was going to be the lead character in a badly-translated anime.

      • Sandy says:

        Wikipedia has a page for axe killers.

      • Leit says:

        You missed out on Patrick Bateman.

      • Nonnamous says:

        I believe Trotsky was killed with a pickaxe, not an axe. Different tool with a similar name.

        • Friday says:

          An icepick.

        • Lumifer says:

          I think he was killed with a mountaineering ice axe? True, not the wood-chopping one, but that murder weapon in the museum is labeled as “axe”.

        • Agronomous says:

          He was killed with a mountaineer’s tool which goes by the name “icepick” in the UK and “ice axe” in the US. It’s shaped like a pickaxe, but is a bit smaller; it’s a heck of a lot larger than the awl-like tool we Americans call an “icepick”.

          This confusion leads most of us Americans to envision a stealthy assassin inserting a sharp object in exactly the right place (like the lobotomy guy, who I now realize must sound even more horrific to Brits). In reality, it was a hack job, with the blow to his head taking over a day to finally do Trotsky in.

          Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, of course.

          Wikipedia helpfully informs me:

          Trotsky’s great-granddaughter, Mexican-born Nora Volkow (Volkov’s daughter), is currently head of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

          • wintermute92 says:

            It took me an embarrassingly long time to reconcile “Trotsky was killed with an icepick” and “Trotsky’s assassination was messy and slow”. I thought for years it had been the drink-serving thing, not the mountain-climbing thing.

      • Protagoras says:

        If Lizzie did it. Since I live close to the famous incident, I know some people who have taken an interest in the story as part of local lore, and they seem to prefer other theories of the crime.

    • Outis says:

      You’re right to be careful. Kanzlerin Merkel vouched for this refugee, and look what he did.

  4. nope says:

    Is EA Global worth going to? I was originally planning to go, since I’m in the area anyway and would like my career to be EA-aligned (not earning to give), but it’s rather expensive and someone I respect a lot told me it’s mostly for signaling now and not really worth it. Anyone else going? And your reasons for it?

    • Splotch says:

      Some previous threads: here, here. EA Facebook group thread. Rational Conspiracy on the value of meeting people:

      Many video games have random treasures – there’s a chest on the ground, you pick it up, and it might contain a million gold coins. The real life equivalent of this is meeting new people or new groups. Take advantage of these opportunities whenever you can. Like treasure chests, the amount you can win is literally unlimited.

    • David Moss says:

      “Mostly about signaling” seems wrong- but certainly a large part of the good might come from networking. If connecting with EAs is important for your goals then EAG is probably important. Otherwise my impression is that you can get most of the other potential benefits i.e. some information about loosely EA related stuff, just from reading or watching online.

  5. Poxie says:

    I feel like this thread title should have been “I’m a Threadical Doctor. I Own a Mansion and a Yacht.”


  6. Sir Gawain says:

    In 1969, educational psychologist Arthur Jensen published the article “How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?” in the Harvard Educational Review. In it, he argued (among other things) that the black-white gap in educational achievement may have possible genetic roots.

    Now, if you were a goodthinking Great Society liberal, surely you would have turned your nose up at such nonsense. Looking forward, you expect that the black-white gap in standardized measures of intelligence/education will narrow as the effects of segregation fade. By 2016, presumably, the gap will have closed substantially, if not been eliminated entirely.

    And yet…here we are. It’s been over 50 years since the epochal reforms of the Johnson administration in the 1960s, and we still have a glaring gap in black-white scores on standardized tests such as the SAT. The only possible explanation you are allowed to advance for this in public, if you wish to be a part of polite society, is the hard line environmentalist position: it is 100% the result of differences in environment. At what point does this lose credibility as the only acceptable position on the question? If such gaps exist in 2026, 2056 or 2096, will it become permissible to suggest that they are less than 100% environmental in origin?

    The best argument against the existence of racial differences would be… the lack of racial differences. If such differences disappear, I’d be (obviously) happy to dismiss the idea that they were genetic in nature. But can those who maintain that no innate differences exist ever receive evidence that will falsify their current beliefs about the world?

    • E. Harding says:

      “will it become permissible to suggest that they are less than 100% environmental in origin”

      -Not in Vermont or Minnesota. Probably not in DC, either, but who knows?

    • BBA says:

      Decent right-thinking people would deny that the effects of segregation are fading, because segregation never really ended.

      • TPC says:

        As a black woman living in a former sundown part of the country, I would beg to differ on that one. It’s blatantly obvious that segregation has been forcibly eroded and what segregation remains is often self-segregation.

        • Walter says:

          Don’t tell us your lived experiences! BBA will tell you what they are. You don’t want to be not ‘decent and right-thinking’ do you?

      • Sir Gawain says:

        BBA says:
        July 18, 2016 at 12:16 am ~new~
        Decent right-thinking people would deny that the effects of segregation are fading, because segregation never really ended.

        By “segregation” I mean “institutionalized forms of anti-black de jure discrimination”, as opposed to literal physical separation. Many immigrant groups start out de facto “segregated” but manage to move up the social ladder.

        • TPC says:

          Actually, with American-born blacks, it is possible to move up the social ladder and that does happen, but it tends to come at the expense of childbearing within-race currently.

          • Sir Gawain says:

            TPC says:
            July 18, 2016 at 12:24 am
            Actually, with American-born blacks, it is possible to move up the social ladder and that does happen, but it tends to come at the expense of childbearing within-race currently.

            Of course, but the per capita rate of this mobility seems lower than for other groups (e.g. the Chinese.)

          • TPC says:

            Well, it comes at the expense of children for them, too. It’s just more extreme with black women, in that the ones most analogous to Amy Chua end up with 0 kids instead of 2 and often no marriage at all.

          • Anonymous says:

            Please tell us more about these trains. I’m sure there’s at least one lurker that hasn’t heard about them yet.

        • Anonymous says:

          stop putting °new° in quotes RRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEe

    • TPC says:

      Black demographics have diverged quite a bit from white demographics. If 70% of white kids were also born out of wedlock and the gap was still there, then you could start arguing some kind of really hard genetic-basis position a little more solidly. But even without that, “black” in America and white include many more ethnic groups and mixed-ethnicity kids than it did when Jensen published. So it’s not even the same genetic pool anyway and the gap has increased by some measures (which would fit in with that change in ethnic makeup).

      I think as long as people argue having kids out of wedlock has no impact on performance (it does) and that there is no ethnic variation and that if there is, it doesn’t matter, then you really make it hard for the environmental case.

      • Sir Gawain says:

        TPC says:
        July 18, 2016 at 12:16 am ~new~
        Black demographics have diverged quite a bit from white demographics. If 70% of white kids were also born out of wedlock and the gap was still there, then you could start arguing some kind of really hard genetic-basis position a little more solidly.

        Yeah, fair point. I’m not so much wedded to “genetic differences” specifically as “a much more convincing explanation for this phenomena than the ones you can read about in the papers of record.” The one thing I’d note is that the Hispanic out of wedlock birth rate is fairly lower (about 20 percentage points according to a quick Google search) than the black equivalent, but I believe the two groups score comparably on standardized tests.

        Oh, I guess I lied because a second thing: I think a “hard genetic” argument is also pretty unconvincing; it seems like a combination of institutions, culture and genetics account for differences across social groups to me. But talking about genetics and to a somewhat lesser degree culture is taboo.

        I think as long as people argue having kids out of wedlock has no impact on performance (it does) and that there is no ethnic variation and that if there is, it doesn’t matter, then you really make it hard for the environmental case.


        • TPC says:

          Hispanics have higher scores, but not as high as whites. Native Americans, interestingly, have higher scores, but very nearly the same OOW rates.

        • Anthony says:

          I feel it was dishonest for you to present the argument, originally, as being a choice between “100% environmental” and “genetic.” I understand that you do not write, literally, that you think the alternative to “100% environmental” is “100% genetic,” but genetic alternatives are the only suggestions you originally offered, or seem interested in investigating.

          In certain corners of liberal thought — certain culturally dominant corners, even — it’s considered racist to suggest anything other than external oppression as a cause of black poverty. But this is not one of those corners. Scott has openly written about the effect of culture, family, genetics, and so forth on achievement. We can have these conversations openly.

          If you have some compelling scientific or philosophical reason to think that black people are genetically predisposed to poverty, or stupidity, or crime, then you should share the evidence, and we’ll discuss it. If you don’t have interesting evidence, then the original post feels like you saying, “Just want to throw this out there, but what about racial inferiority?”

          For what it’s worth, I feel like the genetic diversity of Africa, and of African Americans, makes any genetic argument pretty implausible. As far as my bio-anthro friends tell me, African Americans have higher genetic diversity than most populations. There is no genetic “Black race.”

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “As far as my bio-anthro friends tell me, African Americans have higher genetic diversity than most populations.”

            From what I’ve read, most American blacks actually have on average 25% European genes (slavery for women usually involves sex slavery, so…). I don’t know much about genetics, but if that’s true my uneducated guess would be that if genetics was the determining factor then American blacks should perform somewhere between “pure” Africans and Europeans.

          • Lumifer says:

            As far as my bio-anthro friends tell me, African Americans have higher genetic diversity than most populations. There is no genetic “Black race.”

            So, is there evidence for this in the phenotype of American blacks? Do they have an unusually high IQ variation? As far as I know, the answer is “no”.

            And, of course, historically the ancestors of African Americans were not randomly sampled from all the people of Sub-Saharan Africa. Most slaves came from West Africa, so the genetic uniqueness of the Bushmen, or Pygmies, or Dinka, etc. etc. is irrelevant.

          • Anonymous says:

            The white genetic contribution for that 25% isn’t randomly selected. It’s going to be mostly “cavaliers” with some “cavalier retainers”.

          • Anon. says:

            >There is no genetic “Black race.”

            Look up “genetics PCA” on google images.

            The “genetic diversity” stuff is irrelevant.

          • “For what it’s worth, I feel like the genetic diversity of Africa, and of African Americans, makes any genetic argument pretty implausible.”

            1. As someone else pointed out, the genetic diversity of Africa isn’t the same as of African-Americans, since the latter mostly came from particular parts of Africa. What’s the evidence on their genetic diversity?

            2. Suppose, however, that African Americans are genetically diverse. They would still tend to have some characteristics in common, because those characteristics were the result of adaptation to environment. The African environment isn’t uniform, but there are some characteristics that much of it shares.

            The obvious example is dark skin. People from sub-Saharan Africa and people from southern India are genetically quite different, but both groups have dark skin because it’s an adaptation to environments with a lot of sunlight.

            It might turn out that there was a similar correlation across African groups that was relevant to Afro-American poverty, some adaptation to the African environment that was perverse for the modern American environment.

          • Anthony says:

            PCA is a clustering technique that researchers frequently use. Its existence does not mean that there is a “black race.” Even supposing you find that there are 15 principal components which explain 95% of the variation (there should actually be 1 which explains most of the variation, given that we all share so much of our genome), there is no reason, a priori, to assume that this clustering has much in common with the usual “black / white / asian / etc” racial classification.


            To all others:
            this article would seem to indicate that yes, African Americans also have incredibly high genetic diversity.

            Supervised STRUCTURE analysis (fig. S34) (4) was used to infer African American ancestry from global training populations, including both Bantu (Lemande) and non-Bantu (Mandinka) Niger-Kordofanian–speaking populations (fig. S34 and table S7). These results were generally consistent with the unsupervised STRUCTURE analysis (table S6) and demonstrate that most African Americans have high proportions of both Bantu (~0.45 mean) and non-Bantu (~0.22 mean) Niger-Kordofanian ancestry, concordant with diasporas originating as far west as Senegambia and as far south as Angola and South Africa (62). Thus, most African Americans are likely to have mixed ancestry from different regions of western Africa. This observation, together with the subtle substructure observed among Niger-Kordofanian speakers, will make it a challenge to trace the ancestry of African Americans to specific ethnic groups in Africa, unless considerably more markers are used.

            As far as asking whether African Americans have highly variable IQ,
            1) I have no clue. The answer seems totally non-obvious to me. Do you know any research on this question?
            2) The question is irrelevant. I’m arguing out that it doesn’t make sense to assume black people are “genetically” less intelligent than other people by pointing out that they have high genetic variability, and you’re responding by asking me to prove that they have high IQ variability. Presumably, you think that high IQ variability would imply high genetic variability, and so (NO high IQ variability) -> (NO high genetic variability), but this is not necessarily the case.

            For instance, imagine you had a population which was extremely genetically diverse, but which had one shared adaptation — say, skin color. Now imagine there were some external factor which suppressed the IQs of people of that skin color, regardless of their genetic makeup. Would you necessarily expect a high IQ variability in that population?

            As for whether there’s some other adaptation shared across all the groups that constitute the ancestors of African Americans — I don’t know. I can’t really deny it absolutely. All I can say is that I’ve seen 0 evidence for it, and I have no a priori reason to think it’s true. There’s a really obvious reason why black skin is a good adaptation for lots of sub-Saharan Africans. Arguing that whichever negative traits you want to ascribe to black people’s genetics — aggression, stupidity, maybe you could go real old school and say “susceptibility to witchcraft” or something — just happen to have been super-beneficial to people living in Africa in the 1500s, seems like a really big stretch.

            As I’ve indicated elsewhere, I’m intensely suspicious of the intellectual motivations of those who are so willing to make that stretch. I’m not saying that all the people I’m arguing against are racists — in fact, I don’t really find that likely. I do think it’s likely that a lot of the people I’m arguing with are enamored of these sorts of racial theories because they perceive them to be censored in polite conversation.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “The white genetic contribution for that 25% isn’t randomly selected. It’s going to be mostly “cavaliers” with some “cavalier retainers”.”

            So black IQ should be somewhere between pure Africans and Cavaliers?

          • Nornagest says:

            @Anthony: The linked article doesn’t say “incredibly high genetic diversity”, it says “ancestry from multiple West African ethnic groups, mainly those speaking the Niger-Congo family of languages”. You could say similar things about a lot of groups — like white American Midwesterners, for example, with Northern Europe in place of West Africa.

            It says straight up that genetic diversity decreases with distance from Africa, in fact.

          • jlow says:

            >there is no reason, a priori, to assume that this clustering has much in common with the usual “black / white / asian / etc” racial classification.

            There is an “African” cluster of genetic similarity, though, excluding northeast Africa.

            As mentioned elsewhere, this objection seems like saying “Africans are highly diverse, so how could they possibly share a trait like skin color?” Or “West Africans are highly diverse, so why would they largely share an adaptation like lots of fast-twitch muscle fiber?”

            Genetic diversity isn’t a good reason to be highly skeptical of possible shared adaptation. I see that you say “well yeah but I see no reason to believe IQ or whatever is such a trait”, but I think some evidence does suggest that. I’m sure you can come up with some examples — and equally sure you don’t find them convincing.

            I don’t want to debate the object-level facts here, partly because it’s a huge and contentious subject and partly because I don’t think the evidence is convincing either — I just want to point out that it’s not a ridiculous supposition with no evidence and a knockdown argument against it in the form of “genetic diversity!”, as I think you may believe.

            (As you have psychoanalyzed others a bit, I half-seriously serve the same back and submit that you are deeply uncomfortable with the mix of genetics and race, and are happy and eager to find reasons to dismiss the uncomfortable possibilities as sharply and completely as possible. Maybe not — just a very common motivation.)

          • Anon. says:

            there is no reason, a priori, to assume that this clustering has much in common with the usual “black / white / asian / etc” racial classification.

            We have data, baby!


            >Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity.

        • wintermute92 says:

          There’s a natural experiment complicating any pure genetic answer, also.

          Recently-from-Africa black people in America have very different outcomes than long-term-American black people in America. This tends to be true even after narrowing the from-Africa pool to refugees as a way to control for selection effects on who can afford to emigrate.

          Obviously there’s a huge rat’s nest of factors in that (aid to refugees, ethnic group, etc), but it does help divide “being black” from “family legacy of being black in America”, indicating that something in that factor list matters.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        having kids out of wedlock has no impact on performance (it does)

        How do you know? Why does having kids out of wedlock have so much bigger an effect than raising them as a widow?

        • TPC says:

          The usual sociological explanation is that widows were married, and the child knows that there was a father and his family and connections very concretely compared to a never-married mother, which is broadly speaking true. Outcomes are different, being married at all does make a difference in having better outcomes and if it didn’t affect exam performance that would be really weird.

          • TPC says:

            How is it genetic for exam performance to not be affected by marital status, but for other positive life outcomes to be affected by it? That’s a new argument to me.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Outcomes are different, being married at all does make a difference in having better outcomes and if it didn’t affect exam performance that would be really weird.

            I am not sure I understand this sentence. Are you saying that you are certain about some outcomes, just not about exam performance? Well, let’s move to those other outcomes. Do you have any evidence that never being married causes anything?

            (Sorry about the editing.)

          • TPC says:

            Being married is correlated in the research with better outcomes like not ending up in jail, lower drug use, less teenaged pregnancy, higher lifetime earnings, etc. Widows’ kids do worse than married women’s kids but better than divorced kids who do a little better than never-married women’s kids who do the worst of all.

            That it would then be unconnected at all to test scores would be weird. Especially since marriage is a big difference between, say, immigrants who perform better on tests and blacks who do not, as opposed to income.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            That answer looks about 100x times as long as it should be.

            Yes, I’m aware of the correlations. I’m sure that the correlations for out of wedlock children are what you expect. That was never the point of any of my questions. Correlation is not causation. It is possible to measure causality.

          • TPC says:

            Do you have any evidence that being unmarried is not even a biologically relevant factor? (Children of unmarried mothers hit puberty faster and have other biological impacts, incidentally).

            The correlations for children of unwed mothers are not what would be expected for environment-only people at all. The outcomes are worse, not a mix of good and bad, which is what would be expected there.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            There is a serious problem that people get away with making causal claims based on cheap correlational evidence, so there is no incentive to do better studies, so there is very little evidence, one way or the other. It would be easy to measure the rate of development in twin or adoption studies, but I doubt it has been done. (But neither is anyone going to prioritize that above other metrics in expensive studies unless they have already committed to it being an important metric, upstream of others.)

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          Because a widow(er) still has two sets of grandparents to enlist to help with childcare? Just looking at how my social circle functions, that’s quite important. I can’t imagine how important it is in a country which is less insanely committed to providing public child care facilities than Denmark is.

          • wintermute92 says:

            Somehow I had never noticed this. In all the talk about “widowed” versus “divorced” versus “unmarried”, I’ve literally never seen someone point out that those things produce very different extended-family outcomes.

            Do the studies on this investigate it and I’ve missed it, or are even researchers neglecting that one?

          • But if an unmarried mom knows who the dad is, she could easily contact the dad’s parents to ask for help.

        • Diadem says:

          Related, a question I have always wondered about, regarding studies about kids of married v. unmarried parents. How are kids of parents who live together without being married treated in such studies?

          Are they counted as married? Discarded? Counted as born out of wedlock?

          I can’t imagine the type of contract your parents signed when they moved in together has any influence on live outcomes.

          If anything these kids will probably do better, since it’s mostly highly educated people who opt out of marriage.

          • Emily says:

            I am having trouble imagining what cultural groups you are hanging out with such that raising kids outside of marriage instead of in it is correlated with being highly educated.

          • Murphy says:


            At least in my social circles late-marriage is turning out to be pretty common. Parents may have been in a committed relationship for many years and living effectively as married.

            I know a few such who have kids and a common theme is that they do intend to get formally married and are likely engaged for many years but the actual wedding just goes on the back burner vs other priorities.

            typical profile: young professionals, both working, multiple degrees.

            Hell, my fiancee and were discussing whether we wanted to put off the wedding another 4 months and spend money on fixing up our bathroom now because if we have the wedding when we sort of planned to then we’d need to save everything now and put off fixing out place up.

            1 day party vs nice warm showers every day.

            That being said we do indeed want a wedding, indeed we want a nice wedding that isn’t just a registry office with a couple of witnesses. But there’s no particular pressure to have that wedding before we sort out more urgent things in our lives.

            This screws up datasets which lump “unmarried mothers” who got pregnant with some guy who’s name they don’t know at a party with people who are effectively married in everything but name but don’t feel much social pressure to actually formally marry.

          • Diadem says:

            I’m not talking about “raising kids outside marriage”. I’m talking about a subset of that, “raising kids outside marriage while living together”. So including only people who opted out of marriage, instead of people who are divorced, are widowed, or simply never had a stable relationship.

            My entire point is that you pollute your data pool by throwing that subset in with the rest, since there’s clearly a big difference between these groups.

            And yeah, it seems fairly intuitive to me that this group is on average more highly educated. I’ve been looking for some good data on this, but it’s surprisingly hard to find. But intuitively it seems to me that marriage is pretty much the norm in lower educated families, while it seems almost an exception between highly educated people. Certainly it correlates very strongly with liberalism, which itself is correlated with education.

            I wondered briefly whether perhaps this is purely a European thing, which simply hardly ever happens in the US. But Wikipedia tells me there’s 16.2 million unmarried cohabiting people in the US. That’s a lower percentage of the population then over here, but still a significant group.

          • Emily says:

            Your typical profile for a woman in the U.S. having a child out of wedlock is in her 20s, not very educated (like, HS degree), and in a relationship with the father of her child. They are living together and continue living together until some point during the kids’ childhood, at which point they split up.

            Having a one-night stand is an atypical profile. Being a college-educated professional partnered-but-not-married to another college-educated professional is another atypical profile. Sure, if you are in either one of these groups, it is the case that even if you think the associations between marital status and outcome are causal, they don’t have much to say about you. I am not sure whether there is literature that distinguishes between parents who are living together at the time of conception and birth and those that aren’t, though: there may be.

            Late marriage among the college-educated is common in the U.S. What’s uncommon is having kids in those unmarried partnerships.

            Marriage (and staying married) is, in fact, very much more the norm the more educated you are in the U.S. when kids are involved. I will be shocked if you find anything that says otherwise. If you’re seeing the opposite, I wonder if your “less-educated” group is actually fairly educated and/or religious in ways that are atypical and your more-educated group is weird for being, IDK, poly and in San Francisco or something.

          • tmk says:

            I think this is very different in America and North-Western Europe. I have the impression that it is really frowned upon to have children without being married in the U.S., even by very liberal people. It’s seen as trashy. Meanwhile in Sweden at least it is very common to live together with children for many years without getting married. Sometime in the 70’s marriage became very uncool, a signal that you are old-fashioned and a bit conformist. Most people still get married first of course, but no-one bats an eye if parents are not married as long as they take care of the kids well. I remember being envious of some of my classmates who got to go to their parents weddings. I thought my parents were selfish to have had the wedding before I was born. Now too, I have a colleague in his 50’s with kids going of to college who has been living with their mother for 20 years, but never got married. He is really into rock music, but certainly no social outcast.

            The main reason must be how powerful religion is. An other I think is that most European countries have no underclass associated with having children out of wedlock. The main underclass is immigrants stuck in housing projects dotted around the big cities, and they are often more conservative and marry early.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Emily

            Your typical profile… atypical… another atypical

            Can I see some data? How do you know what’s typical and what’s atypical?

          • Anonymous says:

            Gut feeling. Is there another way to do armchair sociology?

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            Given that e.g. Icelanders aren’t particularly dysfunctional so far as I know I guess you’d get more useful results if you counted them as married, but the phrasing “out of wedlock” suggests that they are counted as unmarried.

          • Emily says:

            Brad Wilcox has written a bunch of stuff on this. His sites are blocked for me at work. This isn’t, and it confirms some of what I’ve said: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2011/8/10-strengthen-marriage-wilcox-cherlin/0810_strengthen_marriage_wilcox_cherlin.pdf

          • Emily says:

            @Anonymous: that’s the kind of unprovoked, hostile comment that makes me want to participate in this space less.

          • Vitor says:

            Emily, you made lots of very specific claims and didn’t back them up with any source, specifically in the first paragraph. You came across as trying to claim unwarranted authority on the subject, and it should be clear why people react negatively to that kind of thing.

            Anon should have been more civil, that’s for sure. More at 11.

          • @vitor:

            It comes across as a claim of unwarranted authority only after someone asks her for sources and she declines to give them, which didn’t happen. Up to that point it’s a collection of factual claims that might or might not turn out to be backed by data.

          • Diadem says:


            Again the same conflation of these groups!

            We’re talking about the difference between couples who are living together and have children together, while not being married, and couples who are living together and have children together, who are married. Pointing out that highly educated people are married more often is ENTIRELY useless here.

            If of lowly educated mothers 10% is married, 10% is cohabitating with the father and 80% is either alone or living with someone who is not the father, and those numbers are 20%, 30% and 50% for highly educated mothers, then marriage is positively correlated with being highly educated, while highly educated people are still more likely to choose cohabitation over marriage.

            Those numbers are made up. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find the actual numbers. No one else seems to have them either. Maybe no one ever investigated this.

          • Emily says:

            Figure 2 distinguishes between married parents, cohabitating parents, and one parent (either alone or with another non-parent; doesn’t break that down.) http://family-studies.org/more-than-60-of-u-s-kids-live-with-two-biological-parents/

            The overwhelming majority of children (86%) of at least one college-educated parent live with their two married parents.

            Every other category is more popular among each of the less-educated groups. Cohabitation is particularly uncommon among college-educated parents.

          • jlow says:

            I can’t believe that some are acting like the claim “unmarried-with-children is associated with less education” deserves aggressive skepticism and accusations of “armchair sociology”. This is like angrily requesting that a chemist source the claim that noble gases tend to be unreactive, or something. It’s extremely well-known. Fair enough to ask for confirmation, but someone mentioning it isn’t exactly claiming undue authority for wild supposition.

        • Hector_St_Clare says:

          I’m also quite dubious that out of wedlock childbearing has *that* much of a negative effect of children, for the reasons Razib Khan points out: these studies usually don’t correct for genetics. The kinds of (heritable) traits that make a person difficult to employ or difficult to get along with as a spouse are going to make it more likely that 1) their children also have similar behavioural problems, 2) their children are raised in a single parent household. That doesn’t imply that 1) and 2) are correlated though.

          In general, genetics is a much stronger predictor of adult life outcomes for children than shared environment ( = the family environment). There are some aspects of family environment that turn out to be important, but that’s mostly at the prenatal stage and very early childhood.

          • Maware says:

            Genetics hardly explain as much as you think they do, and it’s hard for genetics to trump the decline in living standards, parent attention, child safety, and various other factors that are brought on by single motherhood. Single motherhood is widespread enough across populations that any form of genetic explanation would be fallacious.

          • wintermute92 says:

            Even without going straight to genetics, I rarely see people look at common-cause factors that would both lead someone to be single and lead to worse childhood outcomes. It would hardly shock me if temperamental, dishonest, etc. parents were less likely to be married and also caused problems for their kids.

            Even if you accept that parental behaviors don’t produce many long-term effects directly, the sorts of things that discourage marriage also impede your chances of helping your kid learn good work habits, go to college, or otherwise pick up clearly-beneficial experiences.

            It hadn’t occurred to me, but this would produce a non-class, non-genetic justification for “widowhood has better outcomes than divorce/non-marriage” – it doesn’t correlate with marriage-denying traits.

          • If women make very different decisions when picking a husband compared to picking lovers they don’t expect marry, then you would expect genetics to be playing a huge role here.

        • Julie K says:

          I’ve read that while being born out of wedlock is correlated with all sorts of bad outcomes, kids born to a married couple but living in a neighborhood of single-parent families do worse than kids born to single parents but living in a neighborhood with married couples.

          My take on the question of how much difference parenting makes is that parents have a lot of influence on young children, but when the kids reach school age their peers have more influence. However, the peers were influence by their own parents, so basically the parenting that you give your kids is being diluted by the parenting that their peers’ parents did.

          Collectively, parents are still important.

      • “But even without that, “black” in America and white include many more ethnic groups and mixed-ethnicity kids than it did when Jensen published.”

        Interesting point, could you expand on it? Do the SAT “black” figures include ethnic groups other than African-Americans, ones who were not included thirty years ago? Alternatively, are you arguing that African-Americans today have considerably more non-African ancestry than they did thirty years ago? I would find that surprising, although not impossible–my impression is that most mating is still in-group rather than cross-group.

        I agree that if the genetics have changed a lot and the gap hasn’t, that would be evidence against a genetic explanation, but I’m not sure it’s true.

        • TPC says:

          They do include black ethnic groups with different admixture than 30 years ago. And while most mating is in-group, mating within marriage for blacks in America at least is getting more nonblack, enough to shift the numbers quite a lot.

          You have two groups of blacks getting admitted to selective schools (separate from the groups getting tested in high schools overall) and that is immigrants with low white admixture and mixed-race “blacks” with medium to high admixture (25%+, higher than the overall average for American-born blacks and much higher than for foreign-born blacks living in America).

      • vivafringe says:

        What evidence is there that causation flows from

        A. environmental -> OOW children -> poor childhood outcomes,
        as opposed to
        B. genetics -> OOW children -> poor childhood outcomes
        or even
        C. genetics -> poor childhood outcomes, and, unrelatedly, OOW children?

        As always with blobs of correlational data, it’s pretty rough to tease out causation. I’m interested in studies that try to answer that, though.

    • Bram Cohen says:

      There seems to be a nice natural experiment in having roughly the same genetic group not have the sorts of social strife we have in the US in our neighbors to the north. Does anybody know if the IQ/education/earnings/general achievement gap is the same among blacks in Canada?

      • TPC says:

        What are you talking about, can you link?

        • Bram Cohen says:

          According to Wikipedia there’s some racial identity politics in Canada with many black people there identifying as carribean instead of african. It’s only 30% though, and whether they’re actually all that different genetically is an interesting question. I suspect they’re genetically west african with varying amounts of european, just like american blacks.

          I ask because I’ve several times met black people who were strikingly free of the sorts of affectations which most black americans carry around with them, then later found out they were canadian.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Their where Alot of escaped slaves that made it to Canada via the underground railroad and wound Up Making Larger Fortunes in Upper Canada (Now ontario), Some Of them even returned south to fight in the civil war but mostly they returned north after the war was won.
            The thing is they were almost too successful in that we can’t really trace the demographics because almost all of their decendants ARE WHITE. They intermarried with their social class (middle to upperclass) and every so often we get a news story about some old white lady in Toronto finding a unionists sword in her attic and finding out her great grandfather was Abe Lincoln’s black doctor, and an officer in the civil war.

            This doesn’t quite disprove the genetic theory (any slave savy enough to escape was probably at the top of the bell curve) but it would be strong evidence that genetics cannot explain the current plight of black Americans.

            I’m inclined to believe the Centre-right interpretation: that slavery and Jim crow successfully kept the black community down while the unintended consequences of the great society and the war on drugs kept them down (as a demographic, there is a sizable community of wealthy African Americans).

            I always found Milton Friedman’s argument that social housing killed the black community (by concentrating the poor and vulnerable with the decayed and pathological) pretty compelling.

            Also the above seems to be strong evidence against the racism explanation (that racism and institutional bias explain the plight of African Americans since 1965) 19th and early 20th century Toronto was a crazy racist and corrupt place(in the 1800’s we had a street war between the protestants and catholics (with the cops taking the protestant side) and in the early thirties we had anti Jewish riots). But despite that we had no real policy barriers to black (or catholic or jewish) success, and now their all indestiguishably members of the white oppressors.

            As for Caribbean blacks they are certainly more present in crime statistics, however they are disproportionately new immigrants from crime ridden countries (and disproportionately live in social housing) i don’t know if it will continue into the next generations, but out former head of state was a Haitian woman

      • Sir Gawain says:

        I know that, despite being 3% of the population, Canada’s Afros make up 10% of the prison population, because I’ve been informed that this is proof positive of how racist Canadian society is.

        • TPC says:

          They also aren’t really of the same “genetics” either. That’s why I was confused by that statement.

    • Galle says:

      Well, for one thing, the effects of segregation clearly haven’t faded yet. Like, at all.

    • Fctho1e says:

      If such gaps exist in 2026, 2056 or 2096, will it become permissible to suggest that they are less than 100% environmental in origin?

      No. It’s a matter of faith. It won’t become permissible as long as the religion lives..

    • sweeneyrod says:

      “The best argument against the existence of racial differences would be… the lack of racial differences. If such differences disappear, I’d be (obviously) happy to dismiss the idea that they were genetic in nature.”

      But why? Isn’t it possible that even if black people were represented in jobs, prisons, income groups etc. proportionally, that that could be due to discrimination and genetic differences balancing out?

      • Anon says:

        But why? Isn’t it possible that even if black people were represented in jobs, prisons, income groups etc. proportionally, that that could be due to discrimination and genetic differences balancing out?

        That argument could have had some merit in the 70’s after the Civil Rights Act, but it is now $current_year and progress in those areas has been either stagnant or worse. Any efforts to “balance out” these factors has been so far unsuccessful despite many laws being written explicitly to remove them.

        One could argue that there are confounders in the sense that we are making “one-step-forward-two-steps-back” decisions in legislation. For example, two pieces of legislation that have been incredibly harmful to black families, and especially inner-city families, are extending welfare benefits to unwed mothers and legalizing no-fault divorce, as described here. These effects likely have ruined any positive effect gained from the Civil Rights Act. However, removing these laws will require a lot more effort than CRISPR gene therapy, especially since there is a larger contingent of people politically focused against repealing those laws compared to people against gene therapy.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      I’m told there are little racial differences among immigrants to the US. This is a strong argument both against the racial discrimination argument and the racial inferiority argument.

      • Emily says:

        I don’t think it’s a good argument against either.
        1. Immigrants aren’t randomly selected from their underlying populations. Immigrants from Africa (unlike, say, immigrants from Mexico) tend to be college-educated and relatively skilled. (Exception: Somali refugees.)
        2. There can be discrimination against non-immigrant black Americans that doesn’t affect immigrants. There are differences in residential patterns, culture, accent, names, all sorts of things that people use to identify group membership.

        • Civilis says:

          Regarding point two, though, wouldn’t it be the case then that we’re misdiagnosing the problem by calling it racial discrimination?

          True, there is a racial disparity in the effects, but trying to address it by tailoring the remedy on the assumption that all black Americans are equally affected risks having the treatment (for example, admissions preferences to universities) applied primarily to black Americans that are not affected by the problem.

          • Emily says:

            I think “racial discrimination” works as pretty good shorthand in most situations. If we only discriminate against the Catholics who go to mass on Sundays, I’d still call that “religious discrimination.” But, sure, depending on what you think the purpose of admissions preferences it, it may very well be the case that we’re doing them fundamentally wrong and that thinking of the issue we’re trying to solve as being racial and not something a bit different contributes to that.

          • Anthony says:

            The difficulty is that “race” itself is an unscientific term, which people used, historically, to codify their prejudices. When we say someone is “racist,” we usually mean they dislike (or regard as inferior) people of a certain heritage.

            And yes, I’d agree with you that racists’ ability to tolerate African immigrants without any problems is evidence that their animus does not have a genetic (or “racial”) justification. And I’d also agree that that presents a problem for racially-based anti-discrimination programs. The only thing I’d say is that it isn’t an obviously disqualifying problem, since there are such a greater number of African Americans in the US than there are African immigrants.

          • Civilis says:

            Has there been any studies looking at the hiring prospects of guys named “Bubba” or “Cleetus”? Of whether people in trailer parks have economic disparities when compared to those in conventional housing? Of whether people are more or less likely to hire people that use “all y’all”? (I am perhaps over-generalizing here, but having worked in even a border area of the rural south, not by as much as you’d think.)

            I think part of the problem is that we’re looking for racial discrimination, we find racial disparities, then we take those as de facto proof of racial discrimination and attempt the same ‘racial discrimination’ remedies we’ve already used. If we’re discriminating against people that don’t fit cultural norms (name, accent, lifestyle), the remedy might be entirely different, and we might be overlooking other people that are affected by that discrimination.

          • I believe that xenophobia is a basic human trait, but racism is a relatively modern invention. Racism is partly shorthand for prejudice about ethnicity– African Americans are a group of ethnicities and sometimes perceived as one ethnicity. Africans and black Carribeans aren’t the same ethnicity and sometimes aren’t up against the same prejudice.

          • Mary says:

            In Freaknomics, IIRC, there is a discussion of a sociologist who unpacked whether typically lower-class first names actually caused children to remain lower-class as opposed to those who received more typically middle-class ones.

            Conclusion was no effect.

          • Nornagest says:

            Building on what Nancy said, I think accent is underappreciated as a cue for prejudice. A black guy from Oakland and a Jamaican immigrant might look similar, but they sound nothing alike.

            Compare a white guy from Boston and a white guy from Perdition Creek in Lower Alabama.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Heck, compare a white guy from Boston (the city proper) to a white guy from Boston (the south bay), Lowell, or Worcester

          • Civilis says:

            The answers I’m seeing keep getting me more confused when I try to think about the problem.

            I think it’s been stated elsewhere in the thread that African immigrants do better in the US than do native born African-Americans, and if the explanation is that immigrants self-select that makes a degree of sense. But if the problem is rooted in natural human xenophobia, you’d expect the exact opposite. The same applies to discrimination rooted in cultural and linguistic differences (probably themselves a subset of xenophobia).

            Looking at it as discrimination against a subset of ethnicities that fall under the larger African umbrella is also problematic to me as it has been my experience that those most prejudiced are the least able to see the ethnic differences between subgroups and the most likely to just lump people together by skin color.

          • Samedi says:


            Has there been any studies looking at the hiring prospects of guys named “Bubba” or “Cleetus”?

            I think you are asking if there is a social class component to this as well. I think the answer is “yes”. Social class being ignored in studies on this topic has come up before in SSC. My gut feeling is that social class is one of the strongest contributors, perhaps even more significant than ethnicity. But the causation here is complex and there are obviously many relevant factors.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Could you source the claim that subsequent generations descended from Hispanic immigrants do progressively worse?

          • Anthony says:


            While arguing against weakman “progs”, you’ve provided no targets to hit yourself. You present a really grand theory of racial outcomes — one which is far more intricate and certain than one that I, (a progressive), would claim to describe — but you don’t provide any evidence that can be used to support or refute your claim.

        • NN says:

          Exception: Somali refugees.

          Somali refugees do better academically than native blacks, as do refugees from places like Ethiopia and Eritrea. So clearly there is something other than immigrant selection going on here.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I am not familiar with that data set, but I am extremely suspicious about the decision to exclude “English Language Learners.” This is a common trick just to exclude students who score badly. But it is true that the Ethiopian refugees do better on math tests without the exclusion (and almost as well on reading).

          • Emily says:

            That’s really interesting.

          • Outis says:

            East Africa is Best Africa.

        • Mary says:

          One notes that in the early twentieth century, blacks in New York and Pennsylvania regularly performed better academically than whites in southern schools. And it was bruited about that it was non-random nature of the migration that did it.

          so a sociologist compared the children’s academic performance while they were still in southern schools, and proved it was the schools. (All I remember of this was that I read it in Thomas Sowell’s work, who added a personal observation of the humiliation of moving from the top of the class to the bottom when the family moved north.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            I recall learning once about a WWI-era military test that was supposed to determine intelligence and aptitude – so I suppose a less sophisticated version of what they have now – where northern blacks outscored southern whites.

          • Mary says:

            Yup. Sowell recounts how the sergeant came outside, pleased, after the test results and asked how many of them came from New York or Pennsylvania.

          • Emma says:

            I recall learning once about a WWI-era military test that was supposed to determine intelligence and aptitude – so I suppose a less sophisticated version of what they have now – where northern blacks outscored southern whites.

            Yeah, that’s hookworm. At the time most people in the south were mildly anemic. Then they started to poop in outhouses instead of on the ground under a tree. Children born in the south after that are smarter and more diligent than anyone from before. Much like the ones in New York.

      • Hector_St_Clare says:

        Um, no. Immigrants to the US are a highly selected and nonrandom groups. US citizens of Indian origin, for example, have high IQ and test scores. People in India…..not so much, to put it mildly. (India stopped participiating in the PISA test because their scores were so embarrassingly low).

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Africa has the greatest genetic variability of any area of the world.

      We should expect to find the smartest populations in the world in Africa, if the basis of intelligence is genetic.

      The response I’ve gotten on this point – from normally intelligent, well-reasoned people – is that Africa has a high parasite load. Which is entirely true for some sections of Africa – except that Africa is a very big place (even excluding the region north of the Sahara) with climates ranging from low-parasite tundras and deserts and mountains to high-parasite jungle, with populations scattered across all of it. The parasite load explanation is a just-so story which uses as evidence the very thing it is seeking to explain.

      Intelligence is almost certainly genetic. But unless the same genes that encode skin tone also happen to encode the proteins that increase intelligence, there’s no reason for the genetics responsible for intelligence to align along the American conception of race, which is after all, almost all skin color. And as has been pointed out on these boards, it’s amazing that the same people who believe that the social sciences are universally terrible also carve out a special exception for the science of racial IQ.

      At this point I have to conclude that the whole thing is just an excuse for people to keep holding the racist views they already hold. Mind, I think racism is built into our brains, and expect Europe’s attempts to suppress it to end in a whole mess of dead people – which is to say, I don’t think racism is a strict moral failing, it’s just one more bias on top of a pile of biases. But trying to rationalize racism into more-than-a-bias, well, that is a bit of a moral failing.

      • Walter says:

        “Africa has the greatest genetic variability of any area of the world.

        We should expect to find the smartest populations in the world in Africa, if the basis of intelligence is genetic.”

        Wait, what? How does that work? What do you mean by ‘greatest genetic variability’, and how does it lead to the smartest populations in the world?

        • Anthony says:

          Every population group that exists outside of Africa has its origin inside of Africa. Suppose population A is super smart. Then you should be able to find whichever location in Africa their ancestors originated, and test the people living there today. They’ll have a very similar genetic profile to population A, which means they’re likely to have a lot of the same “smartness genes” as population A.

          • Wrong Species says:

            That doesn’t make any sense. Populations change. If a population is selected for intelligence, then they shouldn’t be of equal intelligence to a population that hasn’t. This is how natural selection works.

          • Lumifer says:

            They’ll have a very similar genetic profile to population A

            Nope, not at all. That’s a silly argument — you’re basically saying that if the Japanese have slanted eyes, we should be able to find their original tribe in Africa which also has slanted eyes.

          • Two McMillion says:

            Google informs me that you can, in fact, find native Africans with slanted eyes.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Two McMillion

            And would you be prepared to assert that the East Asian people (as opposed to, say, South Asian) trace their heritage specifically to those slant-eyed Africans?

          • Anthony says:

            The argument is not, “The smartest people in the world must all have equally smart relatives in Africa.” The argument is, “If there are smart alleles and dumb alleles, Africa’s genetic variability makes it likely it will have individuals with many of the combinations of those alleles seen elsewhere.”

            Africa’s genetic diversity makes a genetic characterization of the intelligence of everyone living on the continent a really big stretch. The burden of evidence is really high. And no one on this damned thread has any evidence!

            Imagine you were a PhD student, and you had hypothesis W, and you went to your graduate adviser saying you wanted to study it, and they told you, “I think your hunch is unlikely because of X, Y, and Z.” Here’s how I imagine the conversation going:
            “But perhaps there’s some unknown mechanism suppressing X, Y isn’t operating here by chance, and Z is something our field has just gotten wrong?”
            “Huh, those are a lot of bold claims. What’s your evidence?”
            “Y isn’t necessarily 100% true all the time!”
            “Yeah, but even if it weren’t true, X and Z are compelling reasons, and what’s your evidence?”
            “But X could possibly be absent here!”
            “Unlikely, but Z still exists, and what’s your evidence?”
            “But everyone’s wrong about Z?”
            “What is your evidence and why are you pushing this line of research so hard!?”

          • @Anthony, I find it difficult to imagine any mechanism for individual variation in intelligence (as in, “what made me significantly more intelligent than the average person?”) that doesn’t have at least some genetic component. Did you have anything in particular in mind? Any evidence against this assumption?

          • Anthony says:

            @Harry Johnston
            No, I assume that a lot of intelligence variation is genetic. I believe that there are groups that have developed higher or lower intelligence, on average, than other groups. I also think that those I see trumpeting this theory on this thread are vastly overstating the effect in an effort to explain social phenomena which have far more compelling alternate explanations.

            I’ve been doing a bunch of reading on this subject, and the scientific consensus seems pretty overwhelmingly to rest on the side of, “Yes, it is possible to group populations into ‘racial categories.’ In fact, dependent on your prior assumptions, it is possible to group populations into whatever categories you want. In every category thus far picked, you will find that the category explains very little of human genetic variation.”

            So how I feel is, there are some solid heuristics which make race-based explanations of intelligence unlikely. There are also very solid empirical results which do the same thing. It’s very frustrating to hear argument after argument for why the heuristics could be wrong, as if the empirical results didn’t exist. It makes me feel as though the arguers have made up their mind, and what’s the point of even having a discussion?

          • Creutzer says:

            @Anthony: The following is a genuine request for information. I’m not being sarcastic. I’ve been frustrated by the fact that I can’t really come to an opinion about HBD because while there are many expositions of the evidence in favour, I can’t find anywhere a good, pointed discussion of the evidence contra. It’s somehow not very visible, probably because HBD is not a hypothesis to be entertained in polite society and hence not even to be argued against. Maybe I’m just being incompetent and looking in the wrong places. Could you point me to the solid empirical results that make race-based explanations of intelligence differences unlikely?

          • Anthony says:


            The first thing you have to know is that this is an academic swamp. The science of race began in earnest when colonialism was in full swing, and a lot of its early researchers were about as far from scientifically objective as you can imagine. Both biological and cultural anthropologists tend to attach a lot of stigma to these early projects — not just because they’re lily-livered “progs” or “politically correct” or irrational idiots or whatever insult anyone feels like hurling at them. They attach stigma to these projects because 1) the projects were based on shoddy research methods designed to validate the researchers’ pre-existing prejudices, and 2) early anthropological research was used as a justification for all sorts of really, really horrific stuff. To pick one example, the large, public university I went to had sterilized thousands of women — mostly minorities and mentally ill — in the early 20th century. The president of the American Eugenics Society had buildings named after him all over the place.

            Anthropologists learned the hard way that there are consequences when you create dishonest research. As such, they don’t like to touch race-based stuff with a 10-foot pole. “Fool me twice… can’t get fooled again.”

            Now, of course, HBD people notice this, and it seems to me (I wouldn’t take my word on this, but it does seem this way) that they correctly assess it as a bias of its own.

            Any time you read stuff about this, you have to ask:
            1) Is the person I’m reading motivated by racism? Do I trust their study’s objectivity?
            2) Is the person I’m reading motivated by anti-racism? Do I trust their study’s objectivity?

            So, with the above caveats, my sourcing. My opinions were drawn, originally, from a bioanthro university class some years back. However, I can give you two things I’ve been reading since yesterday in an attempt to study up:

            Wiki page on Human Genetic Clustering (you should know a bunch about linear algebra to make sense of this — I don’t know how useful thinking about SVD clustering is without that background). The most fruitful exercise for me has been going through the linked sources here.
            The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans — interesting paper I’ve been reading.

          • Anonanon says:

            >the projects were based on shoddy research methods designed to validate the researchers’ pre-existing prejudices

            Insert Obligatory Snark About Anthropological Methods And Utopian Hunter-Gatherer Societies

            From those citations, it does seem like all the useful research is being done without much input from the traditional side of anthropology. A bit like

            Odd that they talk about not finding “neat boundaries between large geographical groups” , or “continental races”. That seems like a strawman along the lines of “dog breeds don’t exist because not all English dogs are the same”.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Roughly, it means there is more genetic difference between two randomly chosen populations of people in Africa than there is in two randomly chosen populations out of the rest of the world.

          In terms of D&D, this means Africa has more character rolls; if the rest of the world combined rolled up ten characters, Africa rolled up, say, sixteen. We should expect to find both the highest and lowest-Int characters in the African character set.

          The rest of the world has leveled up more – via the Flynn effect – but if/when Africa catches up, we should see higher Int there.

          • vivafringe says:

            The “more D&D rolls” claim seems to rely on assumptions for how we came to live in a world where Europe was genetically homogenous and Africa was genetically diverse.

            Europe could be more homogenous because competition among competing genomes was fiercer, weeding out the weaker ones. This would leave a single high “roll” left for the continent. In Africa, where travel was more difficult, it’s possible that comparatively less competition across the continent took place, which explains the diversity in genomes that you see today.

            tl;dr Africa could be a bunch of D&D int rolls, and Europe could be the same number of int rolls, with the lowest deleted.

            …or not! It’s hard to say without knowing why Africa is more diverse in the first place. But at any rate, “Africa has higher genetic diversity” does not seem sufficient to disprove racial IQ.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            vivafrenge –

            It assumes the evidence in evidence, and nothing else.

            We don’t need explanations on why there aren’t as many characters elsewhere, though. Africa is, as far as we can tell, where all humans originated. Africa having more diverse human populations doesn’t require any explanation – it’s expected.

            Our metaphor breaks down a little bit, but every character elsewhere had to pass through large amounts of “Africa” on their way to wherever they ended up, spawning other characters as they went. For every character found somewhere else, we can expect to find at least one in Africa. Plus more, because not all the characters would have headed north; there are other directions for them to go.

          • vivafringe says:

            Okay, but we see genetic differences outside of Africa because selection pressures changed once humans left the continent. There are no white skinned natives to Africa*, which alone seems to disprove your claim that “every character found somewhere else can be found in Africa”. If intelligence started to factor more into genetic fitness the same way white skin did (or competition among genomes increased), you would see racial differences in IQ despite Africa’s larger diversity.

            You could counterclaim that there’s no reason to believe that IQ-selection pressures varied by region, but my countercounterclaim would invoke the low-hanging fruit of Ashkenazi Jews, who underwent radically different selection pressures as a direct result of their race and seem to have substantially higher than average IQ – not just in the US, but everywhere.

            *After typing this up I realized I didn’t know if this was actually true.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Africa has albinos, but they don’t do too well. Even if they didn’t sometimes get hunted for their body parts, their lifespan is around 30 years.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            vivafringe –

            Your counterpoint is a religious culture-race with a ritualized mating process which existed among many other cultures and races which didn’t exhibit similar selective pressures over the same period of time in the same area.

            That is, other white people didn’t experience the same IQ pressures, and white people of the early 20th century had lower IQs than black people in some regions of Africa today of similar economy development to that era of Western history.

            For Jews, I’d look to their religion and their mating rituals for an explanation. For white people more broadly, it’s much more recent than evolutionary pressure can account for.

          • Psmith says:

            other white people didn’t experience the same IQ pressures,

            Not all white people, and not exactly the same pressures as the Jews. But I believe the smart money is on a combination of a short growing season and (eventually, within the Hajnal line) downward mobility caused by manorialism. (Other relevant pressures include selection against clannishness due to higher levels of outbreeding and selection against criminality by way of hanging petty criminals.).

            white people of the early 20th century had lower IQs than black people in some regions of Africa today of similar economy development to that era of Western history.

            I suspect that that might be too much aggregation, and that the relevant white populations had some combination of conspicuously bad environments (hookworm and iodine deficiency and so on) and less historical exposure to the selective pressures I mentioned. (By the same token, aggregating over “black people” ignores, for instance, the Igbo.).

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Psmith –

            So, what, parasites and iodine deficiency are solved problems in Africa?

            The problem I have, every time I have this conversation, is that I get the distinct impression everybody wants to label white IQ issues as environmental, and black IQ issues as genetic.

          • Psmith says:

            So, what, parasites and iodine deficiency are solved problems in Africa?

            No. But I’m pretty sure it’s gotten better since 1900.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Psmith –

            It’s only started getting significantly better in the past decade; the WHO started the iodization programs in 2003, for example, and reduced the number of significantly (from a health perspective) deficient people from ~50% to ~30%. (Europe and the US don’t look too much better than that, mind, but for different reasons; our rates of deficiency had been trending up.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I haven’t seen IQ figures (and frankly I wouldn’t trust them if I had), but GDP for a lot of sub-Saharan African countries started going up about ten years ago after several flat decades. Take this as you will.

        • Anthony says:

          Note that I have not said that anthropologists are not creating good / compelling work — only that one has to be wary of biases.

      • Anthony says:

        Thank you for this. I feel that this post purported to present a “difficult-to-air, uncomfortable scientific notion,” but, in fact, only presented the scientifically unsupported, half-baked prejudices of the author. I think that posts like this are just as destructive to intelligent conversation as the most shrill “Any explanation besides institutional oppression is just another form of institutional oppression!” that the OP is complaining about.

        One of the things I think sometimes gets lost in communication is the legitimate distrust biological anthropologists have for research purporting to find biological explanations for differential racial outcomes. They’re not just being politically correct: they know that Western science has a long history of pseudoscientific nonsensical racial theory, and that a lot of what looks like evidence is heavily tainted by the poor research standards and the biases of the researchers.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          The central failure mode of censorship is that it grants credence to ideas that have none on their own.

          • Anthony says:

            I agree. I don’t think the unifying thread in these arguments is racism: it’s contrarianism.

      • gwern says:

        The response I’ve gotten on this point – from normally intelligent, well-reasoned people – is that Africa has a high parasite load.

        You also left out all the other arguments people gave you in that LW thread, such as selection, in addition to your bizarre original argument that none of this matters anyway (for something that doesn’t matter, you sure spend a lot of time trying to strawman it). By the way, it’s also true that there’s far more ‘genetic diversity’ within dog breeds than between dog breeds. ‘Genetic diversity’ as a concept doesn’t get you very far because it refers mostly to rare mutations and crap that doesn’t matter, while more normal phenotypic difference is controlled by small differences in the frequencies of common globally/ancestrally-shared variants (every population has about the same schizophrenia or intelligence variants present to some degree); this is how, for example, domestication and breeding work, and how natural selection has been working in Europe. I think you already know what existing results say about frequencies of those variants.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Gwern, you’re THE person I’ve mentioned who normally gives extremely well-reasoned, well-cited, intelligent arguments, who gave instead the most facile sort of just-so-story responses. Usually, if you have a position, I’ll take it – just because you usually have really good reasons for having a position that you’re ready to unload in a massive dump of data.

          Your responses were incredibly out of character for you. The fact that you gave just-so-story responses, instead of your usual well-researched and well-cited response that obliterates any possibility of counterargument, is evidence against you having good evidence for belief.

          • Randy M says:

            Can you give more than an argument from incredulity? His point was that, in an another species, greater genetic diversity within breeds does not preclude meaningful, observable, between breed differences. This seems to fully rebut your purely logic based reasoning.

            If greater genetic diversity within one population means that intelligence should also peak within that population, it seems you are assuming EVERY trait must show greater diversity because the whole is more diverse. This is rebutted by finding any other phenotype that isn’t more diverse within group. Right?

            Also, by this same silly argument (of high inter-group variation disproving groups), you can disprove the existence of color as a meaningful category–since uv has more variation in wavelength than there is between it and red, those colors aren’t meaningfully different. Or lets disprove the genetic basis for height, if there is more variation among non-pygmies than between the groups.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Randy M –

            His point is rather misleading, as you’ve just demonstrated.

            His argument is that diversity doesn’t say that much, because it’s not the variability of the genetics, it’s what the genetics code for. Which is a valid point, sort of, except that we don’t -know- what the genetics are coding for – what we do know is that there is tremendous IQ variance across Africa. Which is to say, the data is saying that yes, there’s exactly what I’m saying is in Africa, in Africa.

            It’s not one population, and if the Flynn Effect holds as well in some of those countries as it did in Europe and the United States, the average IQ of some regions could reasonably be expected to exceed 105 – as they compare favorably to the 1930s United States.

            Which is more or less exactly what I said you’d find if you looked – but I cheated, because I already knew it would be there.

            Which is to say – I didn’t address Gwern on that point because Gwern is factually wrong on that point, and I’ve already had this argument with him.

            And I’m honestly convinced most of the HBD supporters are genuinely racist, because of one simple thing: They have a get-out-of-jail-free card. There ARE African countries which have very low IQs, and African regions which have (for barely-industrial societies) unusually high IQs. They can easily point to those countries as examples of black-people-of-higher-than-average-intelligence.

            But they’d rather treat Africa as a monolith in which every population is mostly identical, all genetic variance is low-value mutation, and IQ is all uniformly below-average. When it comes to black people, they deny biodiversity.

          • Wrong Species says:

            What exactly do you think a well reasoned case for racial differences being at least partially genetic looks like?

            Which subsaharan African countries have unusually high iqs?

            How many people are disputing the claim that Africans have the most genetic diversity?

            Why do you think the existence of high diversity means racial differences aren’t genetic?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Wrong Species –

            You may want to reread what I’ve written a little more carefully. You’re asking the wrong questions.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @orphan wild

            All I’m asking for is proof of your claims. If you’re unwilling to back up statements with evidence, why should I believe you?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Wrong Species –

            You suffer under two critical misapprehensions here. First, that I care what you believe. Second, that winning this argument is my primary objective.

            Again, you ask the wrong questions, so I’ll give you a hint: I have given slightly more information with each reply, rather than forestalling the arguments I knew would arise with my first statement. I have foreshadowed, instead of stated outright.

            So, what’s the first correct question?

          • Jiro says:

            You suffer under two critical misapprehensions here. First, that I care what you believe. Second, that winning this argument is my primary objective.

            If you don’t care about those things, what’s the point of being on a rationality-adjacent blog?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Jiro

            He likes to play.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m not going to play stupid mind games with you.

          • “Which subsaharan African countries have unusually high iqs?”

            He said regions. I’m guessing that he is referring to the Ibo (or Igbo, which I gather is the more recent transliteration). They would be a country if they had won the Nigerian Civil War, but they didn’t.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          (Incidentally, talking about HBD in an obnoxious fashion was my summoning ritual for Eugine Nier, so he could be banished a few more times. It worked.)

      • Anon. says:

        >Africa has the greatest genetic variability of any area of the world.

        >We should expect to find the smartest populations in the world in Africa, if the basis of intelligence is genetic.

        This is (super obviously) nonsense. Consider two populations X and Y. X has high genetic diversity: three alleles A, B, C with equal frequency. A causes -1 IQ, B does nothing, C causes +1 IQ.

        Y has low genetic diversity: everybody has the same allele, D, which causes +10 IQ.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          That’s not the way anything works.

          • RKR says:

            Oh god… Orphan, your arguments are completely facile and full of sophistry, and you know it.

            What about alleles for skin tone, for lactase persistence, or for thick straight hair, which are fixed at 100% in many populations but are all fixed at the ancestral allele in Africa? Selection throws a spanner into the works. Africans are diverse as measured in variance across the *entire* genome, including at non-coding loci, not across the suite of loci that are relevant to any particular trait, for example skin color, for which Africans are decidedly much more homogeneous than Eurasians taken as a whole.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            RKR –

            You realize, of course, that different groups of Africans have different colors of skin?

            No, apparently you don’t, you think they haven’t evolved at all and they’re all fixed at the “ancestral allele”.

          • RKR says:

            If you had any idea what you were talking about, you would know that Africans and Oceanians are fixed at the ancestral allele for all of the major loci implicated in skin color where Eurasians display variation, whether the loci are East-Asian specific or West Eurasian-specific. Interestingly, East Asians also display increased variation at loci for which West Eurasians have the skin-lightening or hair-lightening allele, and vice versa, despite these variants not lightening the skin, so this is a direct counterexample to your idea that Africans are more diverse at *all* loci, which is required for your idea to work, even if partially, and is also demonstrably false.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            RKR –

            No. That’s the way one thing works (sort of – that’s the High School Genetics version of skin color genes), but the rest of your arguments are just plain wrong, and not even in an interesting way.

          • Svejk says:

            @RKR, While the canonical lactase persistence mutation was discovered in Europeans, there are several other mutations in the LCT region conferring lactase persistence which arose independently in several places in Africa and the Middle East. So if you were to look across the loci contributing to a particular trait (lactase persistence), you might indeed discover an equal or greater amount of functional variation (converging on the same phenotype) within Africa, as there are at least two segregating lactase persistence mutations that arose in sub-Saharan Africa, at least one mutation which appears to have arisen in the Middle East and migrated to Africa thousands of years ago, the common EUR SNP through both ancient and recent admixture, plus additional unexplained phenotypic variance indicating that other functional alleles may be segregating in Africa.

            Also, while there is more variation in skin pigmentation (as measured by reflectance spectrophotometry) in Eurasia vs sub-Saharan Africa, Africans are more likely to be fixed ancestral in the sites associated with the greatest variation in skin depigmentation between AFR and EUR because those sites were initially ascertained in EUR populations. So at those particular sites, they are less variable, but this significantly understates African variation in the complex character of ‘skin pigmentation phenotype’. If you look at a global map of annual variation in UVA and UVB radiation, you can see why this might be the case. You can find relevant data in papers by Norton, Relethford, and Jablonski.

          • RKR says:

            @ Sveijk

            Sveijk, there is indeed variation in Africa, but the largest portion of the variance in skin color across all populations on the planet loads on only a few loci, and these loci are indeed more polymorphic in Eurasians than in Africans.

            @ Orphan,

            Why don’t you offer a coherent critique for once? Actually your points about diversity of phenotypes in Africans, as well as Sveijk’s points of variation discovery biased towards Eurasians, may actually stand, but you use different arguments at different moments, some of which are demonstrably false: ‘Thats not how anything works?’ Please. Just the example of Lactase or Skin Color alone is sufficient to show that, selection can be the main determinant of polygenic scores for a particular trait to such a degree that the role of diversity or drift is irrelevant. Since intelligence is to a first approximation as polygenic as height, are you going to go on denying the role of selection on height?

            As for Africans, of course they are not a homogeneous or substantially monophyletic population, as we know now from drift path measures, but this is irrelevant to the main theories of HBD, any more than the existence of very short European populations disproves HBD. It just means that the selection was more granular.

            Honestly, your switching of arguments makes me think you are arguing from bad faith.

          • Svejk says:

            @RKR, I want to return to the point about the pigmentation variance because while it worked out in this particular example, skin pigmentation may not be the best model for understanding variance affecting complex traits in the rest of the genome. Those sites were discovered precisely because they account for most of the EUR-AFR pigmentation difference; if you were to compare EUR-EAS pigmentation difference the variance would be apportioned differently. Skin pigmentation is sort of ‘low-hanging fruit’ as far as complex traits are concerned: the two highest-effect-size loci affecting EUR-AFR variation are among the most highly selected sites in the genome; Europeans are effectively fixed for one locus and almost fixed for the other. East Asians – who are also much more depigmented than Africans – actually show slightly less variability at the top EUR skin-depigmentation site than Africans, and equally low variability at the second.
            Ascertainment bias can be a much greater problem in other complex traits, where many more sites with much lower selection coefficients will contribute to the character.

            Even when selection affects a trait, there can still be a lot of undiscovered variance in a continental population. The EUR lactase persistence allele is the most strongly selected site identified in the genome (one mutation appears to explain essentially all lactase persistent Eurasians outside of the Middle East), and yet until recently we were not aware that sub-Saharan Africa had at least two native lactase persistence mutations at different sites within the same region.
            So even if you restrict the discussion to autochtonous variants affecting the two most strongly selected characters within Europe (skin depigmentation and lactase persistence), Africa still has a great deal of variation.

            It is also interesting to note that in both of these examples, a great deal of the variation attributed to ‘Eurasia’ occurs in the belt containing the Arabian peninsula and Middle East, which has contributed significant gene flow back into Africa (including sub-Saharan Africa) for tens of thousands of years. If you include variation introduced through admixture, or include Africa north of the Sahara, even these two ‘European-associated’ traits show comparable or greater (depending on the resolution of the undiscovered LP variants) variation in Africa.

            And finally, how a complex trait is defined affects how you measure variance – reflectance spectrophotometry very accurately measures depigmentation, which is the aspect of pigmentation under selection in Europeans, but is less sensitive to hue (It is still accurate to say that Europeans have more variation across hair, eye and skin color). Similarly, if you describe tooth morphology with respect to the features produced by the most common Asian mutation, you might miss other segregating variants affecting ‘shoveling’ or ‘incisor shape’.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            RKR –

            By analogy, your argument is equivalent to a situation wherein we had twelve sets containing numbers, one of which has 100 members and the second-largest of which has 13, and you’re arguing that the largest set can’t REALLY be the largest because it doesn’t contain numbers found in the third set.

            Your arguments about genetics are equally flawed, but I can’t come up with a suitable analogy to explain how, and every time I’ve started to try to explain I’ve begun with “Human DNA isn’t an instruction set for making humans, it’s more like an instruction set for making an instruction set for making humans”; you’ve come across true facts somewhere, but you lack the systemic knowledge to apply the facts into a meaningful argument (or, indeed, to understand that your facts can’t really be shoehorned into the argument you’re trying to make).

          • Anonanon says:

            Thank you Svejk, that was by far the most interesting (and useful) comment in the thread.

      • “But unless the same genes that encode skin tone also happen to encode the proteins that increase intelligence, there’s no reason for the genetics responsible for intelligence to align along the American conception of race, which is after all, almost all skin color.”

        Not quite no reason. As I pointed out in another comment, similar skin color is a result of adaptation to (in some ways) similar environments. There might be other adaptations to those environments that resulted in lower IQ.

      • Sir Gawain says:

        At this point I have to conclude that the whole thing is just an excuse for people to keep holding the racist views they already hold. Mind, I think racism is built into our brains, and expect Europe’s attempts to suppress it to end in a whole mess of dead people – which is to say, I don’t think racism is a strict moral failing, it’s just one more bias on top of a pile of biases. But trying to rationalize racism into more-than-a-bias, well, that is a bit of a moral failing.

        (Most of your points before this have already been addressed—and to my mind, quite possibly refuted—by other commentators, so I won’t bother to beat a dead horse.)

        1) As I’ve said previously, though I find genetic differences between populations an under discussed explanation for phenomena such as the U.S. black-white test score gap, my main interest is not proving that the cause of this gap is genetic; it’s in understanding what the cause of it is, so we can figure out how to fix it (or if fixing it is impossible.)

        2) Why is it that people who hold “racist” views (and I don’t necessarily number myself among them) are always—and I mean always— accused of acting in bad faith intellectually? Do people who hold “anti-racist” positions not also have a world view that they employ motivated reasoning to defend? Is arguing that the cause of the black-white educational achievement gap is discrimination not equally “just an excuse” for people to hold the views that they would like to hold otherwise? Should we be suspicious of the views of black intellectuals who comment on the existence, or lack thereof, of genetic racial differences, because tribalism might make them less likely to evaluate the evidence impartially?

        I honestly don’t think these questions are very important; I suspect many people who hold hard line environmentalist positions are in fact acting in bad faith, but I try my best to understand and impartially consider their arguments anyway. (To your credit, you made an argument on the merits before speculating about motivation.)

        3) The idea that “racism” specifically is some ineradicable quirk of the human mind, that is uniquely unable to be cleansed by facts, seems bizarre to me. Don’t you believe that Race Does Not Exist? If so, shouldn’t it be consequently fairly simple to socialize children (as we do today) to be anti-racist, because there are no differences between the arbitrarily constructed races for them to ever notice?

        4) Though, as I said previously, I don’t think these questions of motivation are really anywhere near as important as the substantive argument, for whatever it’s worth the statement “the whole thing [i.e. belief in any genetic racial differences] is just an excuse for people to keep holding the racist views they already hold.” is completely inapplicable to my own intellectual journey. I started out strongly disbelieving that such differences could exist, and the transition to accepting that they might exist was extremely intellectually painful. And, as I believe I’ve repeatedly stated, I’d be happy to completely jettison these beliefs if presented with strong contrary evidence.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Eh. You feel like my points have been defeated, I… feel somewhat differently.

          1.) Ok. Congratulations?

          2.) Because history happened?

          3.) Something -like- race exists, but what we call race is a shitty map of the territory. Racism, as a feature of the human mind, is just another implementation of the generalized feature set of “othering”.

          4.) Ok. There are African populations with, effectively, early industrial IQs in the high 80s. If their IQs shift in the same ways other industrial nations have, their IQs should be above the global average once they move into a post-industrial society.

          Other regions of Africa will languish, after all improvements, around 70. Unless, of course, there’s even more Flynn improvement possible there than other places, which is possible; they tend to be the worst environments in the world for people to live.

          That’s your get-out-of-racism-free card. Some black people are smarter than average; some black people are dumber than average. In other words, they’re just like everybody else.

          What about American black people?

          Well, how many of the people presenting evidence for HBD have bothered to point out that the Flynn Effect is STILL IN EFFECT for Western black people? That is, while white IQs have stopped improving, black IQs are continuing to improve?

          The reason I think HBD people are racists is because, when you get more of the data, it’s not even an interesting idea. It’s only controversial when you leave out data.

          (No, I won’t link you data, because I’m lazy. Go find it yourself. I promise you’ll find something.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not an HBDer, and I think you’re right in your observation that some people explain an increase in IQ in some groups as environmental, while insisting that a gap for other groups can only be genetic, so this isn’t a rebuttal, just a quibble:

            For 4, there are probably advantages over early industrial Europeans that the groups in question have, so it’s not directly analogous.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            dndnrsn –


            They’ve also had disadvantages the Western Nations didn’t have, as well.

            I think 90% of the problem is that industrialization is only 20% technology, and 80% culture; Western cultures existed in a boiling mess of constant cultural war for centuries to arrive at the point where their cultures could support it, and cultures exposed to the finished product tend to wither rather than adapt.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Are we talking about the nations/states, or the individuals?

            A Western nation/state/nation-state circa, say, 1850 had certain advantages, relative to its time, that an African equivalent today doesn’t have.

            I don’t know if the advantages carry over to the bulk of the population – eg, being a subsistence farmer is crappy no matter when or where.

        • Anonymous says:

          I started out strongly disbelieving that such differences could exist, and the transition to accepting that they might exist was extremely intellectually painful.

          Makes no sense to me. Is this part of your professional field? What motivated you to walk down this “painful” path?

          • PedroS says:

            Intelectual curiosity, probably. Just like many religious believers without any professional interest in theology/philosophy of religion nonetheless reflect on their beliefs and sometimes find themselves in a personally painful path which takes them to atheism (after which point they consider the painful path to have been a necessary portion of their journey towards a better understanding of reality), or when anybody converts from a deeply-held worldview to another.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe it’s the truth focused scrupulosity thing. Nothing in your response rings true to me. It’s hard to how reading about the genetics of race could possibly be painful, or if it was why you’d continue to do so.

        • g says:

          On your point 2, FWIW it seems to me that people who overtly state “non-racist” views on these matters are pretty much always accused of acting in bad faith intellectually, around these parts. (Of course in “normal society” it’s different — but there the question scarcely ever comes up.)

          It seems extremely likely to me that people on both sides are motivated both by wanting truth and by other less respectable motives; and yes, we should be suspicious about all of ’em.

      • As a general point rather than something about intelligence, Africa has the greatest amount of Homo Sapiens genetic variation, but people who aren’t sub-Saharan Africans tend to have some Neanderthal genes.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          People who are sub-Saharan Africans have some less-known-cousins-of-modern-mankind-than-Neanderthal genes. Actually, there’s a whole lot of that kind of thing going on all across the world.

      • Outis says:

        Orphan Wilde: the phenomenon you propose seems to hold for some traits, but not for others. For example, we do find the shortest and nearly-tallest people in Africa (Pygmies and Tutsi, I think, although the Dutch are taller), but we do not find the lightest and darkest-skinned people in it, or the widest range of eye colors, or of hair colors, or of hair type. Actually, there seem to be more examples where it doesn’t apply than ones where it does.

        Anyway, there are at least two reasons why it breaks down. One, there’s a bunch of genes that doesn’t originate from Africa (or, at least, not from the African Homo Sapiens Sapiens) – Neanderthals, Denisovans, etc.

        Two, different evolutionary pressures have applies inside Africa and outside. Sunlight for skin color is an obvious one, but it is well known that culture and technology also apply evolutionary pressures (e.g. the obvious cases of agriculture and dairy farming). It doesn’t seem unlikely that more complex and technologically advanced societies apply a pressure towards higher intelligence, possibly forming a sort of feedback loop.

        Three, there are also random events. I don’t think there is any specific evolutionary pressure for different hair colors, yet they did evolve differently in different populations. Founder effects, population bottlenecks, etc. This could well be what happened with the Ashkenazi Jews, too (note that Sephardi Jews, despite having a similar religion and culture, do not have the increased IQ).

        Finally, parasite load may be terrible in (parts of) Africa, but it is still the place where the human species originally appeared, and thus one it is well-adapted to by default. Moving to different climates imposes entirely new obstacles and challenges (e.g. freezing to death) that should be expected to greatly increase selection pressures. Yes, Africa is large and has many different biomes, but it’s not nearly as large and diverse as the rest of the world.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          You do know there’s more than one “African” hair type, right?

          There are three types of “black” hair you’ve probably seen. There are African peoples with straight hair and curly hair in addition to the three types of “black” hair. As far as hair colors go, Africa runs the range – black hair, blonde hair, brown hair. Even, yes, red.

          Likewise, you will find native Africans with blue eyes, gray eyes, brown eyes, black eyes, and other colors because I’m bored of listing colors and I find your argument from ignorance to be… well, boring.

          About the only thing you won’t find much of in native Africans is light-skinned people, although you’ll find much lighter-skinned people than you would expect; the original natives of South Africa were comparable to Asians in terms of darkness of skin. Which shouldn’t surprise us, given a quick glance at the latitude of the region. So, yes, you’re right – you won’t find the whitest-skinned people there. That’s mostly because us white-skinned folk have a tendency to go all cancerous if left in too much sun.

          • Outis says:

            I should have said that I am referring to sub-Saharan Africa. The geographical notion of Africa as a continent is not really useful in this discussion, either genetically or historically. The Sahara was much more of a barrier than the Mediterranean.

            Having said that, do you find all of the above variation in SSA? Blonde hair? Blue eyes?

            Anyway, you have ignored 90% of my post.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Outis –

            I didn’t need to respond to your full post.

      • Mercer says:

        Im not sure I follow the variability argument, even after reading a bunch of peoples responses to it. For context, I strongly dislike the racial IQ argument but have found it compelling in the past, so I’m very interested in any potential takedowns of it.

        Africa has the greatest genetic variability in the world. So we expect its population group to have a very big range in intelligence. If you average them out you get some value X.

        Now, a subgroup of people leaves Africa and settles elsewhere. This subgroup is less diverse than the population group they’re leaving. If this subgroup occupies the high end of the range in intelligence at the time they left, we should expect their descendants to have a higher average iq than X. If they occupied the low end, we’d expect their descendants to have a lower average iq than X. Assuming new selective pressures are a wash overall. It seems clear that while we expect high intelligence to be present somewhere in Africa (and it is), this doesn’t preclude the possibility of it being overall more frequent in other population groups.

        I think the skin tone/intelligence being coded by the same gene is a straw man. I have never seen anyone argue this, and I don’t see how its essential at all for the racial iq argument to work. Higher intelligence could be correlated with having east asian physical characteristics because of gene frequencies and clustering. You dont need intelligence to be coded by the same gene as skin tone.

        The parasite load thing is interesting to me as an explanation for why some African groups have low observed IQ. This seems like a point in favor of the environmental explanation and against the genetic. Perhaps an african group has an observed iq of 70, but if you account for parasite load they’d have observed iq of 85, and if you then gave them the possible Flynn effect bonus maybe they get to 100. But that feels very optimistic to me. The Flynn effect may not even be relevant, as we still aren’t sure if it acts on iq or g.

        On the question of “is the gap closing”, the data doesn’t seem to provide a uniform answer. Nisbett et Al 2012 argues a 0.33 SD increase in african-americans. On the other hand, SAT scores correlate with IQ at 0.86, and the 2015 results leave us with a 15 point iq gap when you norm whites at 100. I would love to see someone discuss Nisbett et al thoroughly because its difficult for me to parse it.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Various stuff first, before I get into the variance thing:

          The average IQ of subsaharan Africa is 82, not 70, according to more recent studies. Anybody giving you the 70 figure is giving you the lowest scientifically-supportable figure, and the 82 figure is slightly more supportable. But “parasite load” is used as an explanation of evolution, as well, so mind what somebody is telling you. (Parasites definitely lower current-generation IQ, by depriving the body of resources; there are also arguments that they redirect selection efforts away from intelligence and into parasite-fighting.)

          As far as parasite load as an explanation, though – Africa has about every biome on the planet. The parasite load varies wildly across the continent. It sounds like an appealing theory to someone who thinks of Africa as jungle, or as Tsetse flies, but there’s a LOT of Africa (even below the Sahara), and as an explanation for the whole, it stops working so well.

          The gap is closing, but slowly. SAT scores measure knowledge, as well as G-factor, and there are significant issues there.

          I don’t know about the rest of the country, but in the part of the South I grew up, black children basically didn’t get educated; teachers who failed black children got disciplined for racism, and the black children knew it, so they didn’t bother to study or work at all.

          Somebody here argued that skin color and IQ were selected for together through… some kind of argument. That’s not a strawman, somebody in this thread brought it up.

          So, with regard to IQs: Why should we expect IQs to be randomly distributed? First, if IQ could be increased without a penalty somewhere else or to overall survivability, it would be increased everywhere, so IQ must be making trade-offs with something. (Or IQ is itself maladaptive.)

          Now, it could be that the trade-offs vary slightly with climate or region. And there is a latitude correlation – except the correlation is with where economic development happened, not with the people who originally lived there. (Aboriginal IQs should be higher, if this were correct.) That is, IQ is correlated, not with climate, not with latitude, not with parasite load – but with economic development.

          The argument here goes that economic development is caused by high IQs, rather than causing high IQs. And it should be obvious high IQs help with economic development, so that theory might seem to win out – except that we have evidence that economic development causes higher IQs; it’s measurable. It’s the Flynn Effect. So it appears the issue is that higher IQs have a bootstrapping issue with better economic development.

          And, indeed, in support of that idea, historically we have seen some very complex civilizations in Africa without European intervention – the Mali Empire compared favorably to the Holy Roman Empire. What happened to African empire? Some people are tempted to blame colonialization, but the empires collapsed well before then. Indeed, African empire ended around the same time as Nordic empire, and I’d hazard a guess for the same reason: Changing climate. It’s possible the colonial period, combined with the slave trade, prevented empire from arising again, however.

          The short of it is – we don’t have any evidence that IQ potential is anything -but- randomly distributed, or that IQ development is anything but economically generated. Everything else proposed is a just-so theory.

          Given that it is probably essentially random, what are we left with?

          We’re left with the most varied genome, and the largest number of distinct populations, in the world. If each population in the world is given one randomly-assigned IQ score, we should expect to find the highest and lowest in Africa just because they have the most chances to get those scores. That’s not to say that we -will- find either there, it’s just more likely there than anywhere else.

          • “but there’s a LOT of Africa (even below the Sahara), and as an explanation for the whole, it stops working so well.”

            There seem to be four possible claims here, only two of which your argument is relevant to:

            1. All Africans have low IQ, where “low” might mean “never unusually high.”

            2. All African populations (tribes, say) have low average IQ.

            3. The average IQ of sub-saharan Africa is low.

            4. The average IQ of the African populations from which current African-Americans are descended, weighted by ancestry percentage, is low.

            I don’t think I have seen anyone make either of the first two claims, which are the ones to which both your quoted comment above and the argument about lots of genetic variation are relevant. It’s the third claim that is most relevant for genetic explanations of African poverty, the fourth for genetic explanations of African-American poverty, SAT scores, etc.

            Incidentally, you never answered the question about whether your claims about variations in eye color, hair, etc. were including populations north of the Sahara. If they were, they are irrelevant to the argument, and you should say so.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            David –

            If you’re claiming nobody makes claim #2, I’m going to say you’re not paying attention.

            And yes, all of those characteristics show up in Africa, although blonde hair and blue eyes are both particularly rare, being more likely to turn up by first-generation mutation than by inheritance. Red hair is also very rare, in large part because red-haired people tend to be killed, like albinos, for ritual religious purposes.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            First, if IQ could be increased without a penalty somewhere else or to overall survivability, it would be increased everywhere, so IQ must be making trade-offs with something.

            This is false. A trait could be stuck at a local maximum in one population, while another population gets a lucky series of mutations (or an infusion of genetic material from a third group– Neanderthals, say) which allows them to reach a higher fitness peak. We should expect the mutations to fixate eventually through gene flow, but eventually could be a long time.

          • “And yes, all of those characteristics show up in Africa”

            My question was about sub-Saharan Africa. Is your answer? You don’t say.

            So far as my version #2, who makes that claim? My casual impression is that the intelligence of the Ibo, aka “the Jews of Africa,” is pretty widely accepted. And Ethiopia is the one old sub-Saharan African civilization that we actually know quite a lot about.

            Have you read The Dogs of War? The author doesn’t identify with standard liberal views on the subject of Africa but is obviously an admirer of the Ibo. A thriller, but I thought a pretty good book.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Earthly –

            I’ll refer you back to the “Africa has more characters” thing.

            David –

            Yes. Blonde hair outside the Solomon Isles is quite rare, but does occur.

            And the Ibo, so far as I know, are in fact contested. I haven’t paid much attention to the data there, though.

            As far as who argues #2, Gwern did. To be fair, he might have just been disagreeing with me bloody-mindedly at the point, as I was being deliberately infuriating. But to be equally fair, the idea that we should expect some areas of Africa to have above-world-average IQs gets contested every time I suggest it on a wide variety of fronts; nobody outright says all African peoples are stupid, but they sure spend a lot of time arguing against the idea that any of them (peoples, not individuals) are smart.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’ll refer you back to the “Africa has more characters” thing.

            I don’t know why you think this matters. Surely it doesn’t have strictly more genetic diversity than the rest of the world, which is what it would take to ensure that every mutation which arose outside of Africa has some counterpart on the African continent.

          • Nornagest says:

            Strictly more in the sense of a strict superset? No, there are novel mutations that arose outside Africa. Strictly more in the sense of a greater number of variations inside than everywhere outside combined? I’m given to understand that’s actually true.

            I’m not sure why it matters, though. Even if you’re dealing with a fixed set of variations, enough selection pressure can see them expressed in a subpopulation in combinations you’ll never see outside of it. And that can hash out to a distinctly different phenotype — it’s basically how animal breeding works.

            (That being said, I would expect to see high-IQ African populations, though I have no idea what they are. [The Igbo are plausible but I don’t know a lot about them.] It’s a very environmentally diverse continent, and the people there have had a long time to adapt.)

          • Mercer says:

            My understanding is that it matters if you think genotypic intelligence is randomly distributed. If you could demonstrate that selective pressures outside of Africa have acted on intelligence, then you’d undermine confidence in intelligence being randomly distributed, at which point “having more characters” wouldn’t matter. But if you can’t, then youre left assuming a random distribution, at which point the place with the most diversity is where you’d bet on finding the highest or lowest intelligence.

            I use “intelligence” in place of “IQ”, which may be a mistake to do on my part. I also may just be straight up misrepresenting the argument.

          • “nobody outright says all African peoples are stupid, but they sure spend a lot of time arguing against the idea that any of them (peoples, not individuals) are smart.”

            Could be, but I’ve never seen it.

            “Yes. Blonde hair outside the Solomon Isles is quite rare, but does occur.”

            I don’t see the relevance. The Solomon Island aren’t in (or near) Africa.

            You still haven’t said whether your earlier claim about variation was about sub-Saharan Africa or the whole continent. The latter would be irrelevant to the thread.

            Googling for [Igbo IQ] I find various things saying they are smart, one saying the evidence they are especially smart is really due to something else, nobody saying they have low IQs

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            David –

            That’s why I said -outside- the Solomon Islands. That’s the “African” (technically not but most people lump them together) group best known for blonde hair.

            And I see the same things in Google. I also see criticisms suggesting it’s an erroneous result from a single study.

            Wouldn’t surprise me if they are exactly what I would expect to find in Africa. But I’m not going to glom on them as evidence of what I’ve been saying, either, because I can’t find the data and there are criticisms, and, having been burned before, I’m doubly critical when reports conform too closely to my expectations.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            And Mercer and Nornagest between them sum that up more or less exactly.

            My own suspicion is that IQ hit a hard complexity limit during whatever positive feedback loop originally cursed us with it, the positive feedback loop never ended, and the average intelligence level is average because it’s stable.

            Given the curious lack of fixation of a number of apparently “free” IQ improvements, I moreover suspect the average IQ is hovering around some sort of complexity limit imposed by genetic informational entropy – that is, there is no low-hanging IQ fruit, and the advantage conferred by the remaining genes is sufficiently small that the adaptive advantage is precisely matched by informational loss due to sexual genetic shuffling plus mutation. This suspicion is somewhat supported by the fact that those genes that have been identified as being associated with IQ have minuscule effect sizes.

            Which is to say – natural selection pressure alone might not be able to squeeze out any more IQ points, even though there is potentially a massive amount of gain to be made, because the reproductive fitness gain of any single genetic factor is too small.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’m not sure why it matters, though. Even if you’re dealing with a fixed set of variations, enough selection pressure can see them expressed in a subpopulation in combinations you’ll never see outside of it. And that can hash out to a distinctly different phenotype — it’s basically how animal breeding works.

            Selection is one way, but it’s not the only way. Let’s say that trait F, which is an unalloyed good, is the product of mutations X, Y, and Z jointly (individually each has no effect). A lack of diversity might then make F more likely to arise– if, because of founder effects, every member of deme B starts with mutation Z, F will be more likely to appear in B than in deme A where Z remains a rare aberration. Other things being equal, we should expect the more diverse population to give rise to the most new traits, sure. But there’s no reason to think that every trait exhibited by the less diverse population must be aped by the more diverse.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          There is nothing to discuss about Nisbett et al. They simply get their figure of 5.5 from Dickens and Flynn. Here is DF’s graph. A gap of 15 is not at all surprising.

          Where are you getting your SAT scores from?
          People who choose to take the SAT are not a representative sample, although that should drive down the gap.

      • Vaniver says:

        But unless the same genes that encode skin tone also happen to encode the proteins that increase intelligence, there’s no reason for the genetics responsible for intelligence to align along the American conception of race, which is after all, almost all skin color.

        You’re mistaking a direct correlation and an indirect correlation.

        That is, you posit that the specific genes that determine skin tone are related to intelligence. This is the most restrictive version of this theory, not the most broad!

        Suppose instead that I suspect that distance to the Equator and intelligence are correlated among ancient populations, because of the impacts of latitude on weather, which impacts temperature (and thus cooling effects) and variability of food availability (and thus the returns to foresight). And I also suspect that distance to the Equator determines average sunlight exposure, which impacts the best skin color.

        I now have reasons to suspect a link between skin color and intelligence, as both have a common cause. But this model doesn’t specify at all that the specific genes causing the impacts have to be the same!

        (In general, I think it’s very useful to separate out “I don’t see a reason for X” from “there’s no reason for X,” because the second is typically very difficult to prove.)

      • vV_Vv says:

        Africa has the greatest genetic variability of any area of the world.
        We should expect to find the smartest populations in the world in Africa, if the basis of intelligence is genetic.

        Non sequitur. Stray dogs have more genetic variability than any recognized breed of dogs, yet we don’t expect to find the sub-poulations of stray dogs which are the fastest, the strongest, the biggest, etc.

        Intelligence is almost certainly genetic. But unless the same genes that encode skin tone also happen to encode the proteins that increase intelligence, there’s no reason for the genetics responsible for intelligence to align along the American conception of race, which is after all, almost all skin color.

        Oh come on, do you want to claim that you can’t distinguish between sub-Saharan Africans and Indians at first sight? How comes it that genetic tests which look only a handful of markers, unrelated to the skin color, can predict self-reported race with >90% accuracy?

        Traditional races roughly correspond to clusters in the joint probability distribution of alleles. It is entirely possible for different races to have different frequencies of the alleles that influence intelligence, just like they can have different frequencies of the alleles that influence height, BMI, and so on.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      That would be the US gap. It doesn’t exist in other countries with mixed populations. Now, I know that HBDers are objective scientists who wouldn’t ignore that datum…so what do they make of it.

      • Outis says:

        I’m not an HBDer, but I would love to see that data. Bram was asking for data about Canada earlier, for instance. Do you have any good links?

          • Mercer says:

            African-Americans are a particular subset of Africans…if genotypic intelligence varies broadly across the African continent, the US IQ gap could be genotypic without necessarily implying anything about a “racial” IQ for Africans generally.

          • jlow says:

            You don’t even need to posit that, Mercer. As a commenter mentions on Steve’s blog, there is a strong selection effect for UK blacks, and even so they score more poorly than other ethnic groups. Indeed, it’s almost universal that blacks score more poorly than nearby groups — it’s just a larger gap in the US, Middle East, and Africa, and a smaller one in Europe and Asia where no representative samples were imported wholesale, so to speak.

            It should be noted that there’s more to the story, of course — subsets of the black population in the UK score better than some other immigrants and poor whites, for example. In particular, northeast African populations often display little achievement gap if given equal access to resources (e.g. refugees). (These were not often slaves, so it fits with your supposition , interestingly.)

            So I don’t want to seem like I’m pushing a genetic explanation; as someone else notes in the thread, it’s more contrarian than ideological for me. I just like things to be fair, and it seems that people (excepting most SSC commenters, to be sure) are ever ready to grasp any straws to make sure they don’t have to seriously consider uncomfortable possibilities.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The counterargument I have seen is that there are pockets of Europe that saw tested IQ go up dramatically quite quickly, on account of improved standard of living. Presumably, this is the “nurture” portion of the equation. I think Ireland is usually given as the example. It is entirely plausible that groups with similar genetic potential for intelligence have a gap due to a gap in standard of living or something related – one group is prevented from reaching its ceiling.

      Unfortunately, it is incredibly hard to find trustworthy stuff about genetics and intelligence, of whatever persuasion.

      • Lumifer says:

        There are certain environmental factors — deficiency of iodine is a well-known one — which will suppress IQ. Fix that and measured IQ will rapidly increase to the “natural” genetic level.

        In other words, genetics determine your max IQ but environmental factors can decrease the observed IQ.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Something related I’ve been pondering:

      Is there any research of the effects of constant stress, not just on immediate cognitive functioning like task solving, but on tested IQ?

      • Vaniver says:

        I’ve seen some. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but my vaguely recalled impression is that at most 20% of the relevant gaps could be explained by that sort of thing (and that, more importantly, it doesn’t reflect “test bias” because one would expect the penalty to also exist for actual cognitive work).

    • So, uh, is “no race or gender in the open thread” not a thing any more…?

      • Nornagest says:

        Scott stopped posting the no-race-or-gender notices several months back, and people started talking race and gender in the open threads almost immediately afterwards.

        So, no. It hasn’t been a thing for a while.

        • Jill says:

          Yeah, lots of people like to talk incessantly about differences in races and genders being supposedly genetically determined.

          Just one more way in which dealing with differences or disagreements among groups of people in our culture seems to be darn near impossible for people to do. But people do like to vent about it, and to find whatever research seems to support the beliefs they already have and do not intend to ever alter.

          Here’s one conversation that shows how difficult it is for people in the U.S. to communicate, when they identify with different groups.

          Note: I wish I had not started reading the You Tube comment section, and I quit quickly. Very insulting and uncivil.


          • sweeneyrod says:

            Never read the YouTube comments. At best, they are funny in how stupid they are.

          • Nornagest says:

            Comment sections almost everywhere suck, but YouTube’s is the lowest of the low.

            Major newspapers’ online presences give it some competition, but while those have about as much rage and hate per capita, YouTube wins on stupidity.

          • Anonanon says:

            >Very insulting and uncivil.

            As opposed to cutting to commercial when a smear interview isn’t going according to script?

          • Nornagest says:

            As opposed to cutting to commercial when a smear interview isn’t going according to script?

            There are places where you can argue that an allegedly rude or extreme or hateful position is actually bluntly honest, or presenting an alternative narrative, or speaking truth to power. The YouTube comments section isn’t one of them.

            Want proof? Find something you don’t care about — soccer teams, for example, if you’re the average American. Go to YouTube, type in your search terms, scroll down until you find a popular video where the comments aren’t turned off. See how long it takes to develop an opinion, which opinion is “I hate you all”.

          • I’ve found that the comments on videos about obscure or technical topics can be pretty good, but otherwise, youtube comments are very worth avoiding.

          • Anonanon says:

            That’s so typical arsenal’s football??this is why I love Arsenal so much, COYG?????????

            Stop feeding us this crap and sign some flipping players ffs

            Also apparently Arsene Wenger needs to be executed by ISIS or something, so… I guess comments can escalate a little quickly?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a lot of HBD arguments presented here, found them fairly troubling, and have very much appreciated the rebuttals in this thread.

          • Outis says:

            I stopped visiting the SSC comments for the same reason.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Also apparently Arsene Wenger needs to be executed by ISIS or something, so… I guess comments can escalate a little quickly?

            If you don’t believe this, you’re either American or an Arsenal fan with Stockholm Syndrome.

    • i need a nap says:

      I’m seeing a ton of arguments that focus on whites vs blacks and the differences in socioeconomics of both groups as explanations for IQ differences, but I see nothing comparing whites to asians, asians to latinos, latinos to whites, etc. This seems a lot like when the analysis of police shootings stops at “…but blacks are only 12% of the population, so they’re actually being shot by police *way* more than whites are!” Okay, well then compare whites to asians and whites are being shot by police disproportionately compared to asian Americans! Does that mean that there’s a racial bias in policing whites versus asians?

      More directly, don’t asian americans have significantly higher IQ scores than white americans? Don’t they have similar socioeconomic backgrounds? What’s the reason for the IQ difference?

      And as much as I want a response, can we go back to having race restricted from comments?

      • Sandy says:

        If I recall correctly, a lot of the HBD crowd does take it as fact that several of the major constituent groups of the Asian-American population (Han Chinese and Tamil Brahmins most prominently) have higher average IQs than non-Ashkenazi Europeans, and that this is the result of genetics to some not inconsiderable extent.

        Also, immigrant selection skews a large portion of the Asian American population towards higher socioeconomic backgrounds, and I suspect this portion and the corresponding portion of the white American population that shares such backgrounds are likely to share a similar level of low crime rates. Police shootings target men of poor backgrounds, and there’s probably a lot more poor white people than Asian people of any kind in America.

      • Vaniver says:

        Yeah, this shows up a ton in HBD blogs and literature. In particular, Steve Sailer likes to talk about how Asians serve as an excellent third group to help with these sorts of comparisons.

        Gregory Clark wrote a book called A Farewell to Alms which was about natural selection in England from about 1400 to 1850 (dates subject to fuzzy memory). A major claim was that, in England (where we have good records of wills), wealth correlated with fertility–people who were richer at their time of death had more children than people who were poorer. The poor didn’t replace themselves and the middle class more than replaced themselves (and there was downward mobility as a result, as people with middle class parents ended up poor).

        He suggests that there were the obvious evolutionary changes that you would expect; middle class personality traits became more common in the population, and this set the stage for the Industrial Revolution.

        He briefly touches on China and claims that the same sort of thing happened there, but was weaker. Sinologists claim he messed up his sources and the effect was actually stronger in China. (This seems reasonable to me–if you view this as basically the ‘domestication’ of humans by society, a claim that Chinese are more domesticated than the English looks fairly solid.)

        (Note that I’m using England and China as representatives of their regions where we think this effect was strongest, but mostly come up because of streetlight effects–similar things happened in northern Germany, but the records were better in England so Clark wrote about England.)

        I’ve seen some claims that superior Asian test performance is mostly due to test prep / cultural effects, but think they’re fairly weak claims. That looks like it has some effect but isn’t the whole gap.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are there any datasets with IQ versus percent African ancestry among African-Americans?

      • Interesting question. Presumably modern genetics would give you a reasonable measure of percent sub-Saharan ancestry.

        If no such datasets have been published, that too would be interesting.

        A negative correlation would be only weak evidence for the genetic explanation, since it could be due to lighter skinned blacks facing less discrimination. But zero correlation would be pretty good evidence against.

        • Nornagest says:

          23andMe tracks sub-Saharan ancestry, so more sophisticated analysis can definitely do it. It’ll even go down to specific ethnic groups.

  7. Dogue De Bordeaux!!!

    I was seriously thinking of getting one of those, but then we happened into this wonderful “little” (relatively, he’ll be between 80 and 100 pounds when he’d done growing) mutt.

    RE: Alison, Does the “UK” include Canadia and Australia etc. (Commonwealth Realm) because there’s lots of options there. Isles of Mann, Jersey and Gurnsey (Dependencies)? Would Gibraltar work? Or do you mean specifically the actual UK (England, Scottland, Wales, Northern Ireland etc).


    I know, it’s kinda being snarky, but if she could get a plane flight and visa to Australia or NZ (and she’s under 35) she could get a “working holiday” visa and be able to work sufficiently to get by living in a youth hostel or such.

    Also Gibraltar: http://www.reed.co.uk/jobs/gibraltar

  8. Yakimi says:

    It’s not like the Turkish military is new to the art of the coup d’état. So how did they bungle it so badly? Post your theories below.

    • E. Harding says:

      Obvious: the coup did not have control of or support of the whole military.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Short answer based on 2nd hand accounts is that the Coup organizers seriously underestimated Erdogan’s level of genre-savvy. Long answer is waiting for more info.

    • anon says:

      I’m more curious about whether it was NATO-backed or Erdogan-backed, those being the two most prominent theories I’ve seen online.

      • E. Harding says:

        I think it was neither. Just a small group of military officers who couldn’t get enough support from most of the army.

        • anon says:

          That is not a realistic theory, IMO.

          • anon says:

            Because the plotters themselves should have been well-placed to gauge their own political support. If they knew that they lacked the support to mount an attempt with a realistic chance of success, then why would they do it? Perhaps because either the whole thing was staged or they were promised external support.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Not necessarily, anon. I can imagine a group of military officers convinced that Erdogan was going to force them out sometime in the near future, deciding this might not be an ideal time to strike but it was the best chance they’d be getting.

          • E. Harding says:

            “then why would they do it?”

            -Takeovers by a small faction of officers have precedent outside of Turkey.

          • Tracy W says:

            Because the plotters themselves should have been well-placed to gauge their own political support.

            “Should” is a different word to “is” or “did”. Did these officers have a history of multiple coup attempts by themselves against which to calibrate their predictions of political support? If not, the simplest explanation is that they were wrong about their support.

          • Aapje says:


            People tend to live in bubbles with like-minded people. It’s perfectly possible that these officers were part of an anti-Erdogan bubble and mistakenly thought that the rest of the military has an equal amount of anti-Erdogan officers.

          • Anthony says:

            Early reports are that the plotters realized they were under surveillance and had to move before they were ready.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Evan P, I’ve encountered that theory in the news discussions; the coup plotters were not ready, but they thought they were close to getting caught, so they launched early and hoped for the best.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            @ Anthony, Evan P, Protagoras: I think that was exactly it. There was Turkish extradition request for Gulen just a couple days before the coup attempt.


        • Inspired by the example of the 2013 coup in Egypt, perhaps?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        It might have been Erdogen, but if it wasn’t, I trust him when he says that it wasn’t NATO, but the CIA.

        • Fctho1e says:

          Steve Sailer has argued that Fetullah Gulen cooperates with the CIA, who’s keeping him on ice in the Poconos as a possible ruler of Turkey.

          He’s also running a huge chain of test-prep schools in the US.

          Like something out of a Pynchon novel..

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Supposedly the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse, after he was overthrown and driven out, set up a school in Corinth so that he’d still have people to order around.

    • Jill says:

      Many people say that it was a fake coup orchestrated by Erdogan– an excuse to crack down on his enemies and expand his power.

      • anon says:

        Right. But the reason to be skeptical about this (in addition to general principles), is that Russo-Turkey relations have been in flux recently, which is a Really Big Deal for US influence in the region. If Turkey were suspected of realigning towards Putin more strongly (i.e. beyond the recent apology and attempt at detente, which is not implausible, because there’s no way their EU accession bid is going anywhere soon, and NATO signaled pretty strongly after they shot down the Russian jet that Turkey cannot rely upon NATO for defense against Russia), it wouldn’t be crazy for the coup-d’etat-heads in Langley to decide they were no longer fans of Erdogan.

        What doesn’t make sense about the NATO theory, though, is how poorly the coup was executed. One possible explanation for that is that Langley may have drunk too much kool-aid from (suspected CIA asset) Gulen, so they underestimated the extent to which Erdogan had already purged the military of potential coup supporters.

        • Galle says:

          Can’t a military coup just be a military coup? Does it really have to be orchestrated by some sinister third party?

          • anon says:

            Historically speaking, they’ve usually been orchestrated (or at least abetted by) a third party, which is usually the CIA and/or MI6. This suggests it’s not something people do lightly on their own.

            (Maybe “usually” is a bit strong… it would be interesting to look at the data, but the data analysis would be complicated by the fact that the US doesn’t admit its role in even the least controversial cases, like Iran 1953.)

          • Tracy W says:

            There were quite a few military coups in Ancient Rome, which I don’t think we can attribute to the CIA or MI6.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            As I understand it (from a skim of Wikipedia), the 1980 Turkish coup had large CIA involvement, but none of the others did. The 1960 one was pro-American, but the 1971 one was not.

          • Galle says:

            There were quite a few military coups in Ancient Rome, which I don’t think we can attribute to the CIA or MI6.

            Although that would make for an EXCELLENT novel.

          • bluto says:

            @Tracy W

            B-b-b-b-but the CIA’s time machines!

          • dndnrsn says:

            “Operation Et Tu is a go”

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Galle

            “Mihi nomen est Bond, James Bond”

          • Randy M says:

            Enough with your Gaelic curses, barbarian.

          • Lysenko says:

            Yes, rather often, and current indications is that this one was, albeit not in the traditional Turkish mode where the military leadership acted with widespread agreement and pre-planning. The factions involved and Erdogan’s gutting of the officer corps saw to that.

            The window of opportunity for a successful bloodless coup on the old model against Erdogan probably closed several years ago. It is certainly closed now.

          • Mary says:

            One notes that the coup tried the traditional “control all access to the media and push your story.”

            Impossible now. Too much social media.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Tracy W:

            There were quite a few military coups in Ancient Rome, which I don’t think we can attribute to the CIA or MI6.

            Well, duh: before the National Security Act of 1947, the CIA was called the “OSS”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “Mihi nomen est Bond, James Bond”

            “00VII. Ego te expectabam.”

          • vV_Vv says:

            Does it really have to be orchestrated by some sinister third party?

            Not necessarily orchestrated, but at least abetted by a not-so-sinister third party.

            Turkey is a NATO country. It is a massive recipients of foreign aid, mainly from the US and to a lesser extent from the EU.

            This means that a good fraction of the Turkish military is funded by the NATO.

            If the US isn’t happy about what the Turkish military is doing, they can stop paying their bills, and if Putin doesn’t pick it up, because for instance he doesn’t want to escalate his already tense relationship with the NATO, the Turkish military will be forced to downsize.

            Reasonable generals will not bite the hand that feeds them.

          • Nornagest says:

            Turkey is a NATO country. It is a massive recipients of foreign aid, mainly from the US and to a lesser extent from the EU. This means that a good fraction of the Turkish military is funded by the NATO.

            That’s not how NATO works: it’s a coordinating body between militaries, not a funding source for them, and the much-vaunted funding gap relates to countries’ expenditures on their own militaries. (The idea is that each country should pull its own weight if united against a common foe — a Cold War idea in origin but not a totally irrelevant one in the modern day.) Turkey actually comes closer to hitting the 2% GDP target than most of Europe, though it hasn’t actually hit it since 2009.

            Now, there are other ways for us to be paying for it. But foreign military aid to Turkey has been zero since 2009, and then it was only about a million dollars a year, which Turkey could easily absorb. (The only countries to break a billion a year in military aid are Israel and Egypt, though Iraq came close in the years after withdrawal.) So unless you’re telling me that the money for a regional power’s military — one of the bigger ones, in fact — is hidden in the DoD black budget…

            If you’re talking about the presence of American bases on Turkish soil or covering Turkish airspace, though, that’s a different story. It would be correct to say that American (and EU) forces assume a share of Turkey’s defense burden. But it’s not correct to say their military’s being funded by them.

          • vV_Vv says:

            That’s not how NATO works: it’s a coordinating body between militaries, not a funding source for them,

            In principle yes, in practice not so much.

            Now, there are other ways for us to be paying for it. But foreign military aid to Turkey has been zero since 2009, and then it was only about a million dollars a year, which Turkey could easily absorb.

            Money is fungible. Even if foreign aid is not earmarked as military aid and is earmarked as something else, it can be used to support the military by shifting money around in the government budget. Turkey has a pretty big military budget so loss of foreign aid would be a major problem for them.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            Turkey has a pretty big military budget so loss of foreign aid would be a major problem for them.

            In 2015, Turkey received ~$112 million in aid from the US. That’s a little over one half of one percent of their military budget (~$18 billion), or 0.007% of their GDP (~$1.6 trillion). They’d hardly even notice losing it.

          • vV_Vv says:


        • Gbdub says:

          Why couldn’t it have been Putin-backed? They could see turmoil in Turkey as a win, regardless of whether the coup succeeds.

          We seemed oddly surprised by it for it to be CIA backed.

          • anon says:

            Well, not everyone was surprised. For example, see https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-05-30/turkeys-next-military-coup.

            I see two basic reasons why it’s unlikely that Putin backed the coup. First, as I mentioned above, Erdogan was just starting to make nice with Russia. Second, the same reason why the U.S. has been happy to support coups throughout Latin America, but (to my knowledge) not in Mexico: instability is more unpleasant when it’s right in your backyard. (Mexico had coups in 1913 and 1935; I have no idea if the US was involved, but neither the CIA nor the OSS existed at the time, and in any case there were more pressing geopolitical matters to worry about.)

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Many declared themselves unsurprised after the fact. None predicted it

          • Anonanon says:

            > Published May 30, 2016
            >None predicted it

          • Nornagest says:

            The United States had a complicated relationship with the Mexican Revolution. It generally favored the status quo at any given time, but may have been involved in the coup that lead to Victoriano Huerta’s short-lived regime — the American ambassador definitely was, but he may have been acting without orders.

            (Woodrow Wilson intervened against Huerta months later, leading to the American occupation of Veracruz.)

          • anon says:

            @nornagest — thanks for the background on Mexico; that’s quite interesting

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, the problem with a fake coup is, you give all the guns to your right hand guy, pretend you don’t see him as he gathers an army, and then you hope that when he has the gun on your forehead he will give it all back. Loyalty is a very real thing but it’s a big risk unless you can read men like I read the newspaper. Not worth it just to make the rebel cleanup a bit neater than it would otherwise be.

        Oh, and you don’t actually get to give the gun to your right hand guy, you’ll have to use some mook from the intelligence bureau. Because everyone knows who your most loyal right hand guy is and they won’t fall for him organizing a coup against you.

        Seems like a massive amount of risk for Erdogan to take when he could just imprison anyone he has doubts about.

        • Anon says:

          One key thing to note about the coup was that Erdogan was not in the country at the time. This means that this strategy would be significantly less risky to him than it otherwise could be.

          I think the theory that the coup realized they had a mole and wanted to rush the schedule has a lot more plausibility, though. In addition, staging a coup with the president out of the country has a lot more chance of success if you don’t think you have enough support to capture or kill the President. In his Facetime speech, he made the remark that “this country can’t be managed from Pennsylvania”; the coup organizers probably realized this, and realized that it couldn’t be managed from Brussels or London either. By shutting down the airspace and preventing Erdogan from leading a countercoup, they have a much higher chance of taking down the government while they’re leaderless.

          Erdogan’s response here, though, was a master stroke; a military takeover of government is something people are generally against, and encouraging people to protest and rebel against it bought the government enough time to organize a chain of command and a countercoup.

          • Anonymous says:

            Erdogan was out of town, but still in Turkey. He was at the resort in Mamaris. I have seen reports that he was out of the country, but I don’t believe them because they don’t specify where.

          • John Schilling says:

            Los Angeles Times, FWIW, is reporting that the coup plotters tried to sieze Erdogan at his vacation spot, didn’t have detailed intel on his location, and missed him by an hour.

    • John Schilling says:

      Why do people with perfectly good jobs as senators, governors, etc, quit those jobs to run for President and then lose?

      Every coup is a gamble. Even if you could poll a representative sample of the people whose support you need, without tipping your hand and being arrested, you’d never get a straight answer to the question, “push comes to shove, are you willing to shoot loyalist soldiers, policemen, civilians, to make this happen?” And of course you can’t even conduct the poll. You can only sound out people in your particular bubble and extrapolate. If the odds seem favorable, or the alternative dire, you make your move. Then you find out.

      • Walter says:

        “You go to coup with the confederates you have”, or something similar.

        That makes sense to me. Keeping secrets is HARD. The more people you bring into the ‘no for real we are taking over and the date is thus-and-such’ part of the coup the better the odds one betrays you. Most of your supporters are probably ‘oh yeah wouldn’t it be nice if someone else was in charge’ folks. Then when you seize control you hope that they turn out to have really meant what they said.

        • Anonymous says:

          That seems to be what happened, too. They had an assassination plan in concert with the coup. If that worked, the story of the coup could have been extremely different. It seems that one senior military leader was tapped in to the coup effort enough that he protected Erdogan just in time to thwart the assassination attempt.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I’ve heard the theory that Gulen’s supporters were about to be purged from the military, so they decided to use it or lose it. I could buy that.

      On the other hand, Erdogan was awfully well-prepared to hit the ground running with a reign of counter-revolutionary terror, so the conspiracy theory that he was behind it in order to expose his enemies and have an excuse to clean house is tempting indeed.

      On the third hand, Erdogan strikes me as the sort of guy who’s had his plans for a reign of counter-revolutionary terror written up since junior high school anyway, so who knows.

      • Walter says:

        Has there ever been a confirmed case of “fake coup to justify my brutal crackdown” that was proven to be for reals? Like, one traced back to the dictator? Honest question, not trying to be sarcastic.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          Maybe the Reichstag fire? Many people believe it was a false-flag attack by the Nazis.

          • anon says:

            I thought current thinking on the Reichstag fire was that it was actually a lone-wolf that did it, but the fire was exploited well by the Nazis.

            Night of the Long Knives was the purge, which I think was played off at the time as a ‘prevented coup’ though no actual coup was attempted.

          • nm. k. m. says:

            Reichstag fire wasn’t really portrayed as a coup (one can discuss if it was a false flag operation), but the Night of Long Knives was officially a counter-action against an attempted coup by Röhm (“Röhm-Putsch”). However, Hitler didn’t orchestrate a ‘real’ fake putsch, just faked evidence.

            Actually, counter-revolutionary purges are almost always presented as a neutralization of an attempted coup in the propaganda. Usually the regime conducting the purge don’t actually lure conspirators into a real coup, but merely presents ‘evidence’ (that doesn’t hold up to real scrutiny). The coup attempt in Turkey looks far too genuine for that.

            Any reference to false flag operations that look credibly ‘false’ I could find in 10 minutes does not look like that elaborate, either. Claiming that such and such group was behind bomb attack or opened fire at someone or sunk a ship seems much easier than safely manipulating a sure-to-fail coup where actual people try to take government buildings.

            Maybe Erdogan’s intelligence had informants or loyalists so that the action wasn’t a complete surprise, so they could move Erdogan to a safe place on a quick notice.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Reichstag fire was not a coup, nor an attempted coup. Well, not a serious one – absent a time machine and a telepath we can’t be sure that van der Lubbe or whomever wasn’t thinking, “Step 1 – Burn the Reichstang. Step 2 – ??? Step 3 – I am ruler of Germany!”, but there was zero chance of that happening and zero chance of anyone sane imagining that was going to happen. The Reichstag fire was a crime, arguably a terrorist attack, and those can plausibly be false-flag operations.

            Coups are different. Coups are credible attempts to arrange for a state to have a new government. False-flag coups would AFIK be unprecedented, on account of A: nobody can actually keep secrets of that scale and B: coups are fundamentally unpredictable such that a credible fake one is about as likely to turn into a real one as a real one is to fizzle. At which point the government that arranged the stunt is out of business and its leaders’ heads are on pikes outside the palace.

            At most, you’d get a genuine coup attempt that leaks to a government which decides to let it go a bit longer in hopes of more thoroughly cleaning house when they do shut it down. That is perhaps a plausible scenario here, but a dangerous one for Erdogan if so.

        • Anonymous says:

          Two examples have been given in the comments: the Ottoman Auspicious Incident of 1826 and the Vietnamese coup of 1963, which was actually a fake fake coup, and so displaced the existing government. Both of these were intended to create an excuse to crush known military enemies, not to bring unknown ones to light, nor as an excuse to obtain extra power. (Contrast Erdogan firing 1/3 of the judges.)

        • Nicholas says:

          I believe that the Reichstag fire, set by the order of Hitler in the 30’s, was blamed on communists as a justification for shutting down the communist party of Germany.

          • Mary says:

            You couldn’t get away with it in fiction — but the evidence does indeed point to it having been set by a Communist.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And even if it wasn’t, arranging for somebody to set fire to a building seems much easier to get away with than arranging for an attempted military coup.

        • Probably the Jewish doctors’ plot under Stalin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctors%27_plot

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, seems more like a desperation move on part of a few officers about to get axed anyway, as opposed to a conspiracy hatched by the High Generals over months. Probably because Erdogan made sure there aren’t any High Generals?

    • Lysenko says:

      1) Because it was (based on current indicators) Gulenist, not Kemalist/Secularist-led. Gulen has never had widespread military support, and regardless of whether he is a “CIA pawn” he’s definitely in favor of islamism and thus outside the traditional military leadership’s overton window for acceptable replacements to Erdogan.

      2) The non-Gulenist portions of the military have, as has already been noted, hollowed out at the leadership level in recent years, with the many of the traditional anti-islamist officers replaced by Erdogan and/or AKP loyalists. This meant that even if there weren’t plenty of officers who would’ve been slow off the mark replacing one Islamist with another (even if it was a kinder, gentler flavor), there were also plenty who could be considered politically reliable by Erdogan and his party, further confusing the chain of command.

      3) Erdogan has an unprecedented degree of popular support for a political leader in Turkey, albeit not from traditional demographic sectors, and the Army faction that WAS willing to mobilize was not in a position to simply shoot its way through civilians and win. There are multiple reasons for that, the simplest and most game theoretical being that without sufficient backing force from the rest of the military, that would make the part of the military behind the coup indisputably the villains of the piece even if they succeeded and quite possibly motivate the rest of the military to oppose them more actively (there are multiple reasons for forces not to mobilize right away to fight a coup in progress, that again I won’t go into here. Short version, that’s a short-cut right to civil war).

    • Diadem says:

      It’s possible they underestimated the scope and depth of modern communication channels.

      During a coup most people will want to side with the winner. So most people will start on the sidelines, waiting to see which way the wind is going to blow.

      So the most important thing is to make it seem like you are winning straight from the very first minute. The coup completely failed to do this. During the entire attempt, both Erdogan and the Yildirim (the prime minster) were communicating with the people (and, presumably, their key supporters). So the military controled state television (or at least some of it), shut down facebook and whatsapp, but then Erdogan simply used Snapchat to talk to the nation.

      I don’t know if this was an oversight of the people attempting the coup, or if they simply lacked the strength, but they failed to secure and silence the key players.

      • Mary says:

        Was this perhaps the first coup that faced full social media networking as a foe?

        • birdboy2000 says:

          Certainly not the first of the social media era – Sisi’s coup was successful despite it existing and having been used only a couple years ago to mobilize mass protests against the military regime.

          Not sure if there’s any parallels so far to the particulars of someone escaping arrest and foiling a coup (or attempting to) through facetime; I’m certainly not aware of any.

        • Diadem says:

          Certainly not the first. But maybe the first that was heavily contested.

          it’s a platitude, but nobody is perfect. No coup attempt will be perfect either. But those imperfections won’t always matter. If you have overwhelming support then it probably doesn’t really matter what your social media strategy is.

    • Salem says:

      Some partial answers:

      1. The coup drew heavily from the Air Force, which is a bad idea for all the traditional reasons (see e.g. Luttwak). This meant they did not have a monopoly of effective force, either in the capital or Istanbul.
      2. In part due to (1), the coup was not able to disable the country’s key choke points sufficiently, and they never disabled the existing lines of command. Erdogan was able to broadcast to the nation, then fly into Istanbul. For the coup to be successful, both would have to be prevented.
      3. Successful coups rely on presenting what they’ve done as a fait accompli – we’re the government now, the old government and their die-hards are the rebels. If the coup takes too long and is seen as a matter of contestation, it will be defeated (or possibly taken over by a counter-coup). Modern communications make this a very brief window – Erdogan was able to use Facetime to respond extremely quickly.
      4. Successful coups rely on a lack of response. It’s not important that the whole military is on board with the coup, but it is important that the rest just shrug their shoulders or are paralysed. They are most successful when the bureaucracy, military and population are used to taking orders whoever is in charge. They are least successful where a concept of “legitimacy” is baked into the system. Here, non-aligned military officers went on TV to condemn the coup as it was happening, and fought against the coup, and the population rose up against the coup. This was possible because of (1), (2) and (3) above.
      5. Despite all of the above, the coup could have succeeded. It’s easy to be wise in hindsight. What makes you think they “bungled it so badly”? When I went to bed, the BBC was quoting experts that the coup would surely succeed. When I woke up, the BBC was quoting experts that the coup had been doomed from the start. Meh.

      • nm. k. m. says:

        >If the coup takes too long and is seen as a matter of contestation, it will be defeated (or possibly taken over by a counter-coup)

        Another possibility is that if neither side has a definite upper hand very soon, it will evolve into an outright civil war (which can be regarded as a failure, even if the coupist faction wins in the end).

    • Sandy says:

      Nassim Taleb has been putting forward a theory that this is a recreation of the 1826 Auspicious Incident when the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II orchestrated a revolt of the Janissaries just so he’d have an excuse to execute them all and create a new officer corps loyal to him.

    • Lumifer says:

      I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if a small group of military officers stared planning a coup, was infiltrated and discovered, and instead of being arrested was given encouragement and false information about widespread support.

      Erdogan really wanted a massive purge of people not loyal to him and that bungled attempt looks suspiciously like everything Erdogan desired. In fact, Erdogan openly called the coup “a gift from Allah”…

    • youzicha says:

      I have a similar question about the recent Labour leadership struggles.

      Like, as I understand it, most of the people in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resigned en masse under the theory that this would force him to resign. He did not resign. And then… we get the headline Defeated Labour rebels admit ‘it’s finished’ as Jeremy Corbyn refuses to resign as leader. “Labour rebels are in retreat after admitting that Jeremy Corbyn cannot be removed and would ‘win easily’ if a leadership election is triggered.”

      Like, should they not have been able to game this out in advance..?

      • Salem says:

        But they did have a follow-up.

        The Shadow Cabinet resigned en masse, to force Corbyn to resign. He refused – this was predictable. So they went nuclear, and held a vote of no confidence in him, which was successful.

        But Corbyn still refused to resign.

        Now, there is no written rule that a party leader has to resign if the MPs vote of confidence in him/her. But there is (was!?) an unwritten norm. Remember that our constitution and parliamentary procedure is full of unwritten norms – there’s no written rule that a Prime Minister has to resign after a vote of no confidence. This norm is extremely well entrenched – in fact, when they were writing the Labour Party rules, they didn’t include it because they thought it was too obvious.

        But Corbyn took the unprecedented step of breaking this norm. And, in doing so, he showed that institutional support for this norm in the Labour Party is weaker than previously thought. Corbyn’s remaining allies among the MPs have not deserted him, and nor have the union bosses. Could the MPs have anticipated this? Not really. It’s very hard to predict what will happen when people break a norm that’s never been tested.

        Incidentally, your article is almost 2 weeks out of date – they did not accept defeat, but have come up with a further follow-up. Corbyn is now being challenged by two rebellious MPs, and they had an extremely contentious vote on what rules to apply to that contest, that did not go entirely Corbyn’s way. We will see what happens.

        • youzicha says:

          I see! Thank you.

        • Yes, there is a strong norm that a Prime Minister resigns after receiving a vote of no confidence from the MPs in Parliament, and violating this norm would be a shocking violation of hundreds of years of unwritten constitutional precedent. But the vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn was a somewhat different matter, wasn’t it? It was a vote among Labour MPs only, taking place within a private organization, the Labour Party, whose constitution is probably seen as decidedly less sacred. (And is there precedent? Have there been votes of no confidence among Labour MPs, specifically, before? If so, did the leaders targeted by such votes resign? Cursory searches are not letting me find answers to these questions. But I suspect the weight of precedent is less.)

          Furthermore, there’s a good reason why Prime Ministers would want to resign after receiving votes of no confidence: in a parliamentary system of government, the definition of the head of government is the person who can command a majority in parliament; without that ability the head of government has no legislative power (regardless of whether they stick their fingers in their ears and go “nah, i’m still the leader”) and thus cannot govern effectively. (Theoretically he or she could still exert executive power through the royal prerogative, but that’s where constitutional norms come in; one of the fundamental norms is that executive power implies legislative power.) Now, for Jeremy Corbyn the situation is different, because he is not actually in the government yet. Yes, if he were to suddenly become Prime Minister now, with most of his MPs having voted no confidence in him, that would make his leading the government unfeasible (except in the unlikely event of him getting support from MPs of other parties and thus de facto leading a party other than Labour). But he’s not Prime Minister, and things can change before he does get that job—if he does get it.

          Personally I can’t imagine Jeremy Corbyn or the majority of his supporters thinking he actually has a realistic chance of becoming Prime Minister, anyway. I suspect the goal of these people is to move the Overton window within the Labour Party back towards the left and effectively undo Blairism. (Whether this will make the Labour Party more electable or not is highly debatable, but it’s not completely implausible that it will.) Sure, they sacrifice the benefits of having their party in government, but those benefits aren’t particularly high and they consider it a worthwhile tradeoff. (It’s not like a Donald Trump government is the alternative here, after all…) Jeremy Corbyn’s ignorance of the no-confidence vote is a pretty neat way of demonstrating his strength, and therefore is probably rational from that perspective.

          (NB I am not a constitutional scholar or even a guy who took a Politics A-level; I’m just a guy who can read Wikipedia. Though I do live in the UK and follow the political news here. I could well be completely wrong here, is my point.)

      • Diadem says:

        This is a different situation. Those labour MPs were probably operating under the assumption that their party leader would not be willing to destroy the party just to hold on to his position. A reasonable assumption most of the time, even if it was wrong in the case of Corbyn.

        • Anonanon says:

          A procedure used to get rid of someone you’re “not confident” in seems like it should have contingencies for that person being hostile or irrational. Otherwise it only works on people whose behaviour you are confident of.

  9. An interesting, or at least somewhat amusing, anecdote from my part of the world:

    New Zealand takeaway boss ignores armed robber

    … personally, I don’t think this is directly relevant to the gun control debate in the US. But I thought it might help some Americans understand why some non-Americans don’t really “get” why anyone would want guns for self-defense.
    : – )

    • Tracy W says:

      This reminds me of the story of a guy who used to buy liquor under age by going into a store, going up to the counter with his booze, handing over the money and saying, with a fake northern European accent, “I buy ja ja?” Eventually the staff would just sell him the booze to get him to go away.

    • Mary says:

      If you have nerves of steel and are bright, you can wrong-foot a criminal and often get him to run off.

      My sister had a friend who heard a mugger coming up behind him and when he got close, whirled about and asked if he had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. And didn’t get mugged because the mugger ran off.

      However, a lot of it turns on dumb luck.

  10. hlynkacg says:

    For the sci-fi geeks con-world/alt-history enthusiasts and anyone we have here who speaks (or otherwise familiar with) Chinese or Hindi.

    I’m mapping out a setting that includes an inhabited/terraformed Mars. I’ve got a solid idea of the general timeline and arc of development but could some assistance in fleshing out background details, place names, cultural quirks etc…

    General details…
    The major colonial powers are China India and the US. The first colonists land on the Tharsis Plateau and equatorial lowlands east of Valles Marineris. The initial terraforming effort is spearheaded by the Chinese and focuses on turning the Hellas Basin in Mars’ southern hemisphere into a sea.

    • onyomi says:

      What are you looking for, specifically? Just place names? Theories about far future Chinese culture? For the former it might help to know geographic features, since many Chinese place names literally mean things like “south of the lake,” “east of the mountains,” “x clan town,” etc.

      • hlynkacg says:

        What are you looking for, specifically?

        Whatever you can offer really. I’ve got a solid idea of where their bases are so I can provide descriptions of topography for naming purposes but I’m also interested in the social/cultural issues.

        The US encampment on Tharsis has a definite Mormon survivalist vibe to it. “Making the desert bloom” and all that. I’ve got it in my head that the Chinese would be the ones to take the lead in a major engineering project like the terraforming effort but how realistic is that really and how well would they likely get along with their neighbors?

        • Leo says:

          Is this like the proposed Mars One mission where none of the astronauts can ever go home? Or is there regular traffic between the Earth and Mars?

          火星 literally translates as Fire Planet, btw.

          • hlynkacg says:

            There is semi-regular service between Mars and Earth but most trips tend to be one-way. The situation is meant to be roughly analogous to the colonization of the East Indies and “New World” during the age of sail.

        • Sandy says:

          I speak Hindi and I grew up in India.

          Major engineering projects don’t seem unrealistic for China, not when they’re creating new islands and building things like the Three Gorges Dam.

          • hlynkacg says:

            not when they’re creating new islands and building things like the Three Gorges Dam.

            That’s basically what I was thinking.

            Since I’ve got you here, assuming that the colonization effort is being supported by the Indian space agency/government what sort of people sign up? What sort of names do they give their ships, settlements, major terrain features, etc…? Are they partnering with anyone?

          • Sandy says:

            I can only transplant current circumstances to the future, so I’d guess most of the colonists would be Northerners. There are 4 astronauts of Indian nationality or origin who have been to space, and 3 of them are from Punjab. The fourth is from Gujarat. Indian aviation schools are largely full of Northerners too. By contrast, many of the engineers, administrators and rocket scientists would be Dravidians from the South. Six of the nine ISRO Chairmen were Dravidians and one of our former Presidents was a Tamilian who designed much of our launch vehicle technology.

            There’s no hard and fast rule that says these groups have defined roles, so you could have spacefaring Dravidians and egghead Indo-Aryans, but from my experience as someone who grew up in a mixed city, all of my high school batch mates who went to aviation school had names like Chaudhury and Patel. None of the kids with southern names like Menon and Durai bothered with that. I actually have a cousin who joined the Air Force, but his mother is a Punjabi. Everyone else in my family are Dravidians who have lived in the South for ages and they know very few people who fly planes and lots of people who think about how to make planes fly better. I don’t know why it works out that way; I suspect it might be because all the major aviation schools are located in the North and the South has many quality engineering schools, but I don’t think it’s something that has been explored. Goes without saying that most of these people will be Hindus and upper castes. A few will be Sikhs, somewhat fewer will be Muslims. Jains, Buddhists and Christians will bring up the rear.

            They’d give their ships and settlements names to honor previous achievements in Indian space technology. So they’d have names like Sarabhai, Kalam, Chawla, Dhawan, Sharma and so on. Terrain features pretty much follow any other culture’s customs for naming terrain features. Mountains are called parvat in the North and giri in the South and typically named after random gods, famous people or descriptive features. There’s a range of blue mountains called the Nilgiris.

            India partnered with the Soviets for their first manned mission. They could partner with Russia again, or with the Americans. China is unlikely, they don’t trust each other.

            The Hindi word for Mars is Mangal.

          • How difficult is it to build islands like the Chinese have? How much is it a technological achievement, and how much is it a matter of just having enough gall to do it?

          • Nornagest says:

            Land reclamation is technologically pretty easy if you have a shallow ocean handy — the West, along with lot of non-Western countries, has been doing it at scale by the dump-a-lot-of-crap-into-the-ocean method since the 19th century. Much of the modern SF Bay Area is infill, for example, and there are artificial islands in Tokyo Bay dating back to the mid-1800s. The levee method is much older, but you’re not going to be building islands in the South China Sea with it.

            It’s a huge amount of work, though.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Thank you for the detailed reply. Could you elaborate a bit on the cultural differences between north and south (this is all new to me). In the meantime my provisional location for the Indian colony is at the eastern mouth of the Valles Marineris and I’ve been thinking about what they’d call it. My initial candidates are “mahaan ghaatee” or “jeevan ke ghaatee” but I’d love an actual speaker’s take. I’ve also been using online dictionaries and goggle to collect Hindi words to use in place names but could always use more. There are only so many variations I can do on “Ravi’s Crater” after all 😉

            Not easy, but not unprecedented either. It’s basically “having the gall” and committing a significant amount resources to do it.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            My understanding is that they are turning islets, which do not expand the exclusive economic zone under the law of the sea because they are too small to sustain human habitation, into island which do.

            It is mostly just a matter of bothering to haul enough junk long distances and dumping it into the shallows around the islet.

            But artificial islands also don’t expand the exclusive economic zone so the process involves a lot of “its not completely artificial!”

          • Sandy says:

            It is largely a linguistic distinction. The North speaks languages from the Indo-European/Indo-Aryan language tree — Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, all languages that follow the Devnagari script. The South speaks Dravidian languages from the Brahmi script, such as Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. The North was the part most heavily colonized by the Mughals and so over time they developed a “Hindustani” culture that merges Indian and Persian styles of clothing, cuisine, music and architecture. The South had several empires that fought off the Mughal sultanates, and so their original cultures stayed relatively unadulterated (of course, this was before the British, modernity and globalization). As an example, Southern Hinduism has gods, practices and festivals unique and exclusive to the area, because they are adapted from pre-Hindu Dravidian folk tales and customs.

            There is a common stereotype that Indo-Aryans are lighter-skinned and Dravidians are darker-skinned, but I don’t know how true this is. It’s not something I’ve investigated. From personal experience, the stereotype is not anything like a binding rule: I am about as dark as Jesse Williams and I know many Northerners who are darker than I am. I have a cousin who is pale as the driven snow and she probably has centuries of nothing but Dravidian ancestry, given that our entire family is from one caste in the south. But the South is closer to the equator, so perhaps adaptations over the ages have led to the average South Indian being darker. There is probably a lot more admixture with Turkic and Persian genes among North Indians.

            You don’t need to stretch mahan into mahaan. You can drop the “ke” and ghatee should just be “ghat”. Ghat means passage, entrance, landing etc. Ghatee is unnecessary and can sometimes mean “falling”, so “Jeevan Ghatee” winds up meaning “Life is Falling”.

    • erenold says:

      Chinese people in space – where in China are they from? Even within the majority Han Chinese, there’s huge linguistic and cultural across China. Ranging from Mandarin Chinese, the official language, which sounds terse, brusque and to the point; to Hokkien, which is a lot more melodic, and Cantonese, which is bombastic and flowery. That’s excluding the actual official minorities, like the Hui Muslims, or the Zhuang, who I believe have a completely different writing script (I think). There’s even clearly visible biological diversity – this northern gentleman is visibly different in appearance from this southerner, for instance.

      On the assumption that this is a Civ: Beyond Earth scenario where random folk get plucked up to serve as settlers, its quite possible that cultural factions begin forming within the Chinese settlers themselves when freed from central control under Beijing.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Those are all excellent questions. I was initially thinking south coast, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Hainan, etc… simply because that’s an area that I’m personally familiar with but I’d like an outside perspective and reality check from someone more immerse in the culture than I am.

        As I asked Sandy above in regards to the Indians. Assuming that the colonization effort is being supported by the Chinese space agency/government what sort of people end up going? Who are they get along with? Who are they at odds with? What sort of names do they give their ships, settlements, major terrain features, etc…?

        • RKR says:

          Hey, I live in a part of the world where I’ve contacted both N and S Indian culture very extensively, as well as N and S Chinese culture and Southeast Asian Islam, and can can offer you some insight. If you wanna reach out to me, just reply to my msg with a contact and we can discuss.

          Several points:
          Its far more likely that the Indians will name features on Mars using *Sanskrit* than Hindi, since its a much more prestigious, artistic, and abstract language, embodying a pan-Indian cultural tradition harking back to the philosophy, arts and science of a classic India, when the artistic and political conventions and ideological tools of Indian civilisation were first established; so Sanskrit is much more likely to be hitched onto a such a tremendously symbolic enterprise as space colonization. Hindi is really more of a ‘street language’, or even an ‘ethnic language’ with recent, regional literary traditions, and has much less cultural prestige. Sanskrit is also more universal than Hindi: Sanskrit loans can be found from Bali to Japan, rooting words to do with abstract cultural terms used in Acrolects in Science, philosophy or politics, e.g. ‘Putrajaya’, ‘Bumiputra’ in Malay; the last name of the Indonesian President ‘Widodo’, which is actually from Sanskrit ‘Vijaya’ for ‘Victory’; the name of ‘Cambodia’, from the ‘Kamboja’ tribe in the Vedas; ‘Ksana’–>’Sha Na’ meaning ‘flash’, ‘instant’, ‘moment’ in Chinese, ‘Kalpa’–>’Jie’, meaning ‘Aeon’ in Chinese, et cetera; all these testifying to the spread of Indian philosophies, religions, and a particular epistemological/intellectual style across a large swathe of Asia.

          The north of India has many more Caste groups living in extended, patrilineal family-based villages, and coalitions of local landlords from ‘martial castes’ dominated regional society in recent history; the south was more mercantile, with a less complex caste system, a a less militarized countryside, and families were matrilineal. Brahmin supremacy and older, more classic artistic and political forms, were retained better in the South than in the North, which was exposed to Islamic, Turko-Mongol and Persian cultural influxes. So their cultures are very different, South Indians retaining a more intellectual, civic, urban, and less casteist outlook than North Indians, who are more misogynist, clannish and irascible and pay more attention to hierarchy, in my experience. Civil society strongly decreases in power as one moves from South to North, even comparing rich states like Gujarat vs Tamil Nadu. The diversity of social organisation, and contradictions inherent in India, with the statist North vs the civic/mercantile South, the political North vs the scientific/intellectual South would probably manifest themselves in space as well.

          China is a whole different matter, the intellectual realm in the Sinosphere is so splintered today, so devoid of powerful and humanistic unifying ideas, so seized with disorientation, that that its anyone’s guess what a future China would look like. Signs of new movements, of cultural and ideological innovation, have not even begun to appear on the horizon. So your world-creation process for China would be very interesting indeed.

          • Sandy says:

            I was born in India and lived there for 22 years and I have no idea what you mean when you say “Hindi is a street language with much less cultural prestige”. Sanskrit is by and large a dead language. Nobody in India actually speaks Sanskrit apart from priests and esoteric scholars, the same way no one in Europe speaks Latin conversationally. One of our regional school associations actually scrapped Sanskrit from the syllabus when I was in high school because there was no practical use for it and gave us a choice of French or German instead (we had already been given the choice of Hindi or Tamil in middle school). We have literally thousands of terrain features with Hindi names and no one’s felt the need to change them into more Sanskritized forms. Hindi is largely a modernization of Sanskrit and it would be pointless to do so.

            I don’t disagree with any part of your North/South characterization.

          • RKR says:

            Of course no one speaks Sanskrit, the geographical features on Mars and the Moon are not named in a living language either. ‘Olympus Mons’ and ‘Oceanus Procellarum’–these are names most people speaking western languages won’t understand. The names were chosen by highly educated, and often ideologically mobilized people, unrepresentative of their society at large. The names for the Mars and Moon orbiters, Mangalyaan and Chandrayaan are also not Hindi but their Sanskrit origins are transparent. I would think symbology and prestige will play an important role in the terminology associated with space colonization.

            Al languages have layers of vocabulary at different registers. E.g. Pigs vs Pork, Cows vs Beef/Veal, Chicks vs Poultry. The words for the meat, as opposed to the animal, are borrowed from French and occupy a higher register. Many languages throughout Asia, including both the Dravidian and the Aryan languages of India, have a layer of Sanskrit terms preserved almost unchanged, at very high registers, and that symbolism alone makes it more likely for Sanskrit to be utilized. The literary and philosophical tradition that unites India also dates back to when sanskrit was widespread, prior to the development of local identities and lects. As opposed to Hindi, for which the literature is region-specific and in often in unintelligible local vernaculars, prior to standardization in the modern period.

  11. E. Harding says:

    Pence: great VP pick, OK VP pick, or terrible VP pick? Van Buren or Cheney? Post your thoughts below!

    • Yakimi says:

      As a Trump sympathizer, I think it’s terrible. Pence seems like your standard invade-the-world-invite-the-world neoconservative, which is precisely what Trump was trying to distance himself from. Was he trying to reassure the Republican establishment with this pick?

      • TPC says:

        It’s neutral to fine. It shores him up with the Cruz wing and, well, the kind of people who do think going to Chili’s is a fancy night out. Consolidating those people and getting them excited about voting is Trump’s version of what Hillary is doing re: BLM. It will probably be more successful since it doesn’t rely on polarizing larger voting groups to turn out his own voting groups.

      • E. Harding says:

        His touchback proposal was too lenient for my taste, but not all that different in mechanics from Trump’s (“door in the wall” and all that). His immigration record is clearly better than Paul Ryan’s. If anything, his weaknesses on immigration are Trump’s weaknesses, if a little magnified.


        His views on the TPP (pro), bailouts (anti), the Iraq War (pro), same-sex marriage (anti) and the Muslim ban (anti) are clearly different from Trump’s, though.

        In the interview, he said he wanted to “unify the party” and make connections with the establishment in Congress. He always said there was a 95% chance his pick would be an establishment one.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Yes. Like it or not, this is the new Trump. He’s using a different strategy now that he has the nomination. This is a good way to get the support he needs.

    • Jill says:

      Trump found someone who was willing to run as his VP, and boring enough not to ever upstage him. Quite an achievement, in my view.

      As for who would be Trump’s Cheney, it would probably be his kids, since they seem more heavily involved in his campaign than any presidential nominee’s kids ever have. Bill Maher calls it “very Third World” that he’s doing that– like Saddam did. Someone obviously would have to be Trump’s Cheney, since his statements show that he has no knowledge of or interest in government.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Frankly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d chosen one of his kids as VP nominee. I”m surprised by how ordinary a pick Pence is.

      • Guy says:

        Not that I like Trump, but … what a Bill Maher thing to say.

        • Anon says:

          But why can’t we compare presidential candidates to disposed dictators? It’s $current_year!

      • Splotch says:

        Trump is 70. Average president is in their mid-50s. Hence Trump’s kids are older than typical president kids. Still kinda odd though?

      • JayT says:

        George W. Bush had a fairly large roll in H.W.’s campaigns, so I don’t think this is unprecedented.

      • roystgnr says:

        Is Maher pro-Johnson, or just an idiot? If you’re pro-Clinton then the last thing you want to do is decry nepotistic connections in politics; you want to call as little attention as possible..

        • Jill says:

          Maher is pro Hillary mainnly because he is anti-Trump. He was for Bernie.

          I disagree about nepotistic connections. It doesn’t sound like Chelsea is going to be making major decisions for her mother, once elected. And if Clinton is elected, just as her husband was, it will be by the vote of the people– not a case of someone personally choosing to have their non-elected kids make major decisions in their campaign or their presidency.

          In the case of a couple, the spouse traditionally does have some influence on policy, so nothing new there.

          Neopotism has to do with giving unfair favoritism to family members– not to the people of a country choosing to democratically elect someone who has had a family member in politics before.

          Maher is politically incorrect anyways, and pretty much says exactly what he thinks, no matter what.

          • caethan says:


            And Christina Kirchner became President of Argentina wholly on her own merits.

    • Van Buren or Cheney?

      What are you saying about Van Buren as a vice-presidential choice?

      The specific question had not occurred to me before, but I think “The Little Magician” (as people called him at the time) was a pretty good pick. Not only could Jackson have done a lot worse, but he did do a lot worse, in his first term, with John C. Calhoun.

      • E. Harding says:

        “The specific question had not occurred to me before, but I think “The Little Magician” (as people called him at the time) was a pretty good pick.”

        -I agree; this was my point. I rate Van Buren as the best U.S. president in my list:


        Cheney was the pick that sounded good and quite conservative, but would turn to disaster in the end.

        • Interesting and unusual ranking. Obviously, mine would be arranged differently, but I do agree that Van Buren, Jackson, Harding, and Polk are generally underrated.

          Garfield was a brilliant man, and a favorite fantasy of mine is to discuss 21st century politics with him. But I don’t think his brief presidency was much of a success. One of his friends wrote that Garfield’s assassin saved his reputation.

          But Chester Arthur? Why does he rank so high on your list?

          • E. Harding says:

            End of the Spoils System (the best part, though begun under Garfield), immigration restrictions to increase immigrant quality, attempts to cut tariffs, strengthening the Navy, opposition to wasteful spending, reducing national debt, no major recessions, wars.

            Did he do anything really bad? I haven’t seen it.

            Coolidge was more of a fan of federally funded internal improvements than Arthur.

            An America with no Chinese exclusion act would have been very different, though I’m not sure if for better or worse.

          • Urstoff says:

            Polk always seems to be rated highly on various presidential rankings.

            In contrast, everyone hates Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_rankings_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States

            I wonder if that’s a reflection of how truly awful they were, or just because they happened to be president as the country was inevitably heading toward civil war.

          • Guy says:

            Pierce, if I recall correctly, is known for having failed to emulate Polk.

  12. caryatis says:

    In the United States, this is a matter of local law, so it matters where you are. In general, it’s easier to get a restraining order than to get someone committed. I’m not sure why you say a restraining order would “only help after the fact.” Not an expert, but I would think harassment, trespass and threats are enough to justify a restraining order even without actual violence.

  13. E. Harding says:

    Would modern progressives, if they had been transported back to 1896 but were left with all their present-day political beliefs, have voted for Bryan or McKinley? I can see this going both ways.

    • TPC says:

      Most of them would be unable to vote.

      • E. Harding says:

        Not so. Voter registration was not a requirement at the time, though being over 21 was.

        • TPC says:

          Women couldn’t vote until 1920 in most parts of the country.

          • E. Harding says:

            OK, though I think that’s a bit pedantic. You can argue all day about whether women constitute the majority of progressives. Most Bernie voters were men, certainly.

          • TPC says:

            Well, blacks couldn’t do much voting during that time either. And neither could all that many single people. Voting was more opened up, certainly, but it wasn’t as broad as it is now, and most progressives would have been excluded.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Well, blacks couldn’t do much voting during that time either.”

            -Let’s assume they were transported to a non-southern state. There genuinely are not that many progressives in the South, in any case. I have no clue by what most Blacks are driven, but it does not seem to be ideology.

            “And neither could all that many single people.”

            -What do you mean? Sure, they could.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Most Bernie voters were men, certainly.

            Be careful: the claim you know for certain isn’t this one. The claim you know for certain is that, of voters who cast ballots in the democratic primary, a higher proportion of men than women voted for Bernie. But the demographics in the democratic primaries already skew female, in New York, by a ratio of 3:2. As it turns out, almost exactly the same number of male and female New Yorkers supported Sanders. Similarly in Michigan.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Most Bernie voters were men, certainly.

            Depends on how you define progressive, Bernie voters aren’t particularly so within the Democratic Party.

        • Voter registration was not a requirement at the time

          That would vary wildly from one state to another. At least in Michigan, voter registration dates back to before the Civil War.

    • * A voter in 1896 who was primarily motivated by economic progressivism would have voted for Bryan, an advocate of working men and farmers, over McKinley, who was closely aligned with the business monopolies.

      As a matter of history, Bryan’s 1896 campaign marks the divergence of the parties on these issues: Bryan, as the working man’s Democrat, led to Woodrow Wilson, who led to Franklin Roosevelt.

      Also notable: millions of economically conservative Northern Democrats left the party in 1896, most of them permanently.

      My own county was down-the-line Democratic in the 1880s (carried by Hancock in 1880 and three times by Grover Cleveland), but rejected Bryan in favor of McKinley, opposed the New Deal, and didn’t give another majority vote to a Democratic presidential candidate until LBJ in 1964.

      * A voter who wanted above all to sustain the well-being of African-Americans would have voted for McKinley, as did about 100% of those few black voters who could participate, over Bryan, who represented the party of slavery (in the past) and segregation (mostly in the future at that point).

      * A less ideological voter might have been wary of Bryan, who was temperamentally unfit to be president, and advocated hare-brained monetary schemes.

      • E. Harding says:

        In real life, across key counties in California and other states, McKinley’s vote went basically the same as the White vote for Barack Obama, except in states like North Dakota and Washington, with McKinley’s strongest performance being in Vermont, Obama’s strongest state with Whites. Yet, it was Bryan that advocated increasing taxes on the rich, while Bush campaigned on cutting them. That’s why it would be so interesting to see if modern progressives would vote for Bryan (the anti-evolutionist anti-rich anti-trust anti-big-city-elitist pro-farmer candidate) or McKinley (the more economically conservative one). Progressive attitudes towards Brexit and their increasing openness toward free trade suggest McKinley (though McKinley was against free trade, but that was the more pro-big-business policy at the time, just as the pro-free trade position is the more pro-big-business policy today).

        Someone should poll well-informed progressives in Vermont.

      • Rob K says:

        It’s worth noting that Bryan’s economic populism was shakier policy than the platform the Populists had been pushing over the previous decade.

        In summary, the Populists had (accurately, it seems to me) diagnosed the post-Civil War monetary contraction as having harmed farmers (who tended to be net borrowers) and benefited bankers and the east coast economic elite. Their eventual proposal to deal with this, the sub-treasury plan, was a pretty good one – essentially a price-smoothing mechanism for agricultural commodities coupled with access to fairly cheap credit. It would have been monetarily expansionary and shifted the balance of economic power somewhat back towards agricultural interests.

        Free coinage of silver eventually became the mainstream alternative to this, but not because of greater economic coherence. It made less sense (the money supply would still be dependent on the ups and downs of the mining industry and metals discovery, and probably not sufficiently expanded), but brought the mountain state mining interests into the coalition.

        Meanwhile, the price for Bryan becoming the standard bearer for what was left of the Populist coalition was the destruction of the (tentative, never terribly effective) Populist-black alliances in southern states, and the end of the pattern where the populists made alliances of opportunity with the out party in both sections (populist-republican in the north, populist-democrat in the south). This basically ended the Populists’ presence as an effective political force after that election.

        I’m usually skeptical of claims that mainstream electoral success is harmful to a movement, but there actually does strike me to be a decent case that the Populists sort of got the worst of both worlds with Bryan – they lost the independence that made them powerful in return for unimpressive policy compromises.

    • neonwattagelimit says:

      Whether I would qualify as a “modern progressive” depends on who you ask, but I am probably to the left of the average for the SSC commentariat.

      I think I would have voted for McKinley in 1896, albeit with no particular enthusiasm. They were both poor choices, but Bryan’s demagogery would have really turned me off. I dislike demagogues, whether they are on the left or the right.

      I’ll hedge this by saying that my knowledge of the politics of the time is superficial, at best.

  14. hlynkacg says:

    SpaceX CRS-9 launch going down right now. T-16:00 watch the live webcast here…

    • Evan Þ says:

      Don’t say “going down”!

    • Jacobian says:

      Nailed the landing!

      Elon promised me it would take $500,000 to fly to Mars in 2050. Since SpaceX is a private company, what can I invest in today that would track SpaceX’s return most closely? Basically, I want higher than market returns if SpaceX works (and flights to Mars are actually a thing) and willing to lose the money if SpaceX fails.

      • anon says:

        Did he mean $500,000 in 2016 dollars?

      • gbdub says:

        Betting on that promise by Elon is a bad bet (I’d love to be wrong, but don’t count on it). If you really want to know what SpaceX is up to, pay more attention to Gwynne Shotwell and less to Musk (e.g. she says they’re expecting basically a 30% discount for a reusable 1st stage, as opposed to the “10x lower launch costs” Elon was touting previously)

        SpaceX (like Tesla, but much more so) is not being run in a profit-maximizing way, they’re doing a ton of expensive upgrades and experimenting at the cost of getting to a higher launch tempo / better schedule-keeping (which is really what they need, reusable or not – the customers are there, even at the current price). This is a lot of fun to watch, is probably good for the tech long term, and makes sense as a vanity project for Elon, but I doubt they’re going to make investors all that much money over the next 10 years or so. I’m not sure what their realistic business case for Mars is.

        Really the people best positioned to benefit from SpaceX are satellite operators and manufacturers, since hopefully the increased capacity and lower cost of Falcon will drive growth in that market. That’s where you’d want to put your money – maybe you’ll get lucky and make enough for one of those seats in 2050 😉

        • Anonanon says:

          Elon’s entire personal business plan is “whip up excited and over-optimistic investors”, so one should probably take that into account before getting excited and optimistic.

          • John Schilling says:

            That theory is hard to square with the fact that SpaceX is a privately-held corporation, restricted by law to a handful of large institutional and otherwise accredited investors.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ John Schilling

            There are a lot of accredited investors and the useful thing about them is that they have money (that’s how you become “accredited”). Plus “institutional investors” includes hedge funds which rarely suffer from the lack of capital to invest. So Musk ignoring retail (for the time being) is quite consistent with the business plan mentioned above.

          • John Schilling says:

            It is not their possession of money that is at issue, but the means by which they may be induced to part with it.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ John Schilling

            the means by which they may be induced to part with it

            The usual means? They are your normal standard-issue humans and as such tend to fall for all the standard things. Not to the same degree as Bubba from the trailer park, of course, but everyone wants to be associated with the rich, famous, and, most importantly, successful. And if you think that this association will also make you richer, well…

          • John Schilling says:

            So, Musk’s entire business plan is based on selling excitement and optimism, but he structures his company in such a way that he can only accept money from the sort of people least likely to invest on the basis of excitement and optimism, rather than the vastly larger pool of people who are highly susceptible to such?

            That’s a bit of a stretch, compared to the alternative where he just says what he means and means what he says. What evidence are you using to distinguish between the two?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ John Schilling

            Well, selling stock to the public, that is, an IPO, comes with a lot of strings attached. Besides, you basically do it once (per company), so figuring out the optimal time for an IPO is a big deal. I suspect SpaceX will go public at some point, but not yet. Musk is an optimist, so he is probably betting that after a few successes the value of the company will be much higher than it is today.

            (and I didn’t say anything about “Musk’s entire business plan is based on selling excitement and optimism”, by the way)

          • Anonanon says:

            >rather than the vastly larger pool of people who are highly susceptible
            and who have very little money.

            Look at what Theranos did. They built massive public hype, put a bunch of well-connected names on the board, and converted that into half a billion in private equity from Hall Financial Group, Larry Ellison, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, etc.

            No official valuation, nothing on the books that would let people realize it wasn’t a good investment, and definitely no small-time investors.

            You just have to convince a handful of people/institutions with deep pockets that they’re smarter and more visionary than everyone else.
            You need to make them think they’re ahead of the curve—that they’re being allowed an exclusive investment opportunity, and allowing bellboys to buy your stock in $2.50 increments ruins that.

            Selling that vision is Musk’s greatest talent.

          • John Schilling says:

            You just have to convince a handful of people/institutions with deep pockets that they’re smarter and more visionary than everyone else.

            But if that’s all you have to do, then why is Musk wasting so much time and money building spaceships that actually work? There’s clearly a difference between the SpaceX and Theranos business models.

          • Anonanon says:

            When you compare his promises of tickets to Mars and 10x lower launch costs (we already know the latter isn’t achievable with what Space X is offering), it starts looking similar.

            If he was saying “hey, come invest in us we could be a pretty profitable launch provider in a brutally competitive industry”, it’d be one thing. But “Join us so we can conquer space!!” is marketing hype.

          • John Schilling says:

            we already know the latter isn’t achievable with what Space X is offering

            I do this sort of thing professionally, and I don’t know that. I believe that Musk won’t be able to achieve his stated goals with his present means, but I don’t know it. And even my belief is informed by fairly esoteric technical details that haven’t figured into any of the general public discussion I have seen.

            So I’m pretty sure you don’t know this either, and don’t know how much you don’t know. It is not implausible that Musk believes what he says. People with far more experience in rocketry than he have held substantially similar beliefs, for longer than Musk has been in that line of business and without themselves selling anything.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:


            I find this uncompelling.

            There is a significant overlap between the “we’re on the cusp of slipping the surly bonds of earth and living forever amongst the stars” crowd and the “we’re on the cusp of discovering extraterrestrial life, like, totally any day now” crowd. The common theme tends to be spending a lifetime trying to prove everything Carl Sagan overimplied when they were kids. Sure, they all have tons of experience in the relevant fields, but all they have managed to do is pour dump truck loads of flaming grant money after their bias.

            I certainly don’t mind the research, but their starry eyed promises start grating after a while.

            Listening to Musk talk, it is obviously designed to quicken the pulse of Saganauts and totally fuck with their ability to think straight. What they then resell for mass consumption is “my life’s not a pathetic joke because my purpose is totally about to be proven right.”

          • John Schilling says:

            There is a significant overlap between the “we’re on the cusp of slipping the surly bonds of earth and living forever amongst the stars” crowd and the “we’re on the cusp of discovering extraterrestrial life, like, totally any day now”

            This is false, or at least grossly overstated for any common understanding of “significant overlap”, and suggests you are falling prey to outgroup-homogeneity bias. The outgroup in this case being space activists generally, and that community is in fact split into three distinct groups – the Saganites, Von Braunians, and O’Neillians, in one typology. There is some overlap between the two, but the majority are clearly in a single camp. Musk is an O’Neillian with a hint of Von Braun, the SETI fans are Saganites, and if you don’t understand the distinction you don’t really understand what is going on here.

            O’Neillians are for the most part sympathetic to Dr. Manhattan’s belief that intelligent life in distant galaxies would be a very interesting thing, and we will therefore have to create some. Many will allow for the possibility that ETI may exist, but they aren’t expecting to find it any time soon.

          • Ptoliporthos says:

            But if that’s all you have to do, then why is Musk wasting so much time and money building spaceships that actually work? There’s clearly a difference between the SpaceX and Theranos business models.

            Indeed. It’s quite easy to make a blood test fail more or less silently and invisibly. You give people a sheet of paper with some numbers on it, what patient can tell if the results come from an Edison machine or some Theranos subcontractor’s traditional lab?

            Compared with medical diagnostic equipment, it’s somewhat more difficult to conceal whether a rocket is functional. If SpaceX were just subcontracting to ULA to get working rockets, it would be kind of obvious to their customers.

          • Anonanon says:

            That’s amazing. I’d never heard of the three groups before, but the names alone gave a reasonably accurate impression of them before I’d looked it up.

  15. anon says:

    What do military-affiliated, and/or older, SSC readers think about Ron Unz’s latest attempt to resuscitate the POW/MIA scandal? See here, here, and for background here, here, and here.

    • John Schilling says:

      At this point, I think of it in roughly the same way I think of Nazi-hunters desperately trying to make the rest of us care whether the last ninety-year-old ex-Nazi dies in prison rather than in a nursing home.

      Also, he really wants me to care about his grudge with John McCain, and I don’t.

    • Lysenko says:

      I’m too young for the POW/MIA issue to really resonate with me, but I was military. That said, while I sympathize deeply with the people who were affected, and I think it’s profoundly screwed up that we left soldiers behind (which I believe we did)…

      …I doubt many, if any of them were alive even as far back as the early 80s when there were supposedly some military plans to search for them that were derailed by the self-promoting and opportunistic “rescue missions” organized by guys like Bo Gritz. I suspect that the reason cooperation has improved but is still lacking is that the Vietnamese Government is waiting for everyone who REALLY cares to die off before offering any conclusive closure.

    • Sfoil says:

      I’m a professional (American) soldier, and I don’t really care much about it. I’m kind of an asshole, though; conclusive publicized proof would definitely get a lot of people riled up enough and I’m sure it’d get e.g. McCain kicked out of office at least. If the story were really done right it would be great at stoking resentment in the Armed Forces against the civilian government.

      I do support Unz’s effort because hey, he’s got money to burn and it’s potentially interesting history. I don’t know what odds I’d put on it being another VENONA (hey, those right wing nutjobs were right all along…but who cares, that was like a billion years ago!) but it’s greater than zero. What I don’t get about the story though is why the Vietnamese wouldn’t just publicize the prisoners if they wanted their payoff. It’s also possible some of the smoke here is because the NVA falsely claimed it held prisoners it didn’t and USG didn’t take them up on their pig-in-the-poke offer.

    • Interesting, I never understood the motive before but the first linked article gives one: “Why would the Communists want to keep the American POWs? Out of pure evilness or something? But the reality was exactly the opposite. It was the American government that had been treacherous, by refusing to pay the Vietnamese the $3.25 billion in reparations that they had demanded at the Paris Peace Talks as a price for ending the war and returning the POWs. If you buy a car and you refuse to pay, is it “treacherous” if the car dealer never delivers your vehicle? The problem had been that for domestic political reasons the Nixon Administration chose to pretend that the promised payment of the money was unconnected with the prisoner return, instead labelling it “humanitarian assistance.” Unsurprisingly, Congress balked at providing billions in foreign aid to a hated Communist adversary, and Nixon, weakened by the growing Watergate Scandal, couldn’t admit that unless the money were delivered, Hanoi would refuse to return the remaining POWs.”

      • Jiro says:

        Why would the Communists want to keep the American POWs? Out of pure evilness or something?

        Because releasing them would mean admitting that the Americans are right. Admitting that the Americans are right is bad for propaganda. Besides, they probably just tossed the Americans into a labor camp. Why would they want to send back random slaves just because they’re Americans?

        It was the American government that had been treacherous, by refusing to pay the Vietnamese the $3.25 billion in reparations that they had demanded at the Paris Peace Talks as a price for ending the war and returning the POWs.

        In other words, Vietnam won the war. Now that they won the war, they wanted to loot their defeated enemy to the tune of $3.25 billion. Unfortunately for them, they found that looting America was harder than it sounded.

        If they were actually unhappy with the price they got for ending the war, they could start the war again. If they were unable to start the war again, well, then there’s no need to pay them to not do something they can’t do anyway.

  16. Bram Cohen says:

    A question about alcohol: Is it an antidepressant? People on it certainly seem to feel ‘good’, although I don’t know if I’d call it ‘high’. It’s certainly ‘numb’. GHB feels very similar and my back-when-it-was-legal memory is of it being a very enjoyable and, well, antidepressant experience. But it seems to be nothing like cocaine though, which is the prototypical antidepressant-for-the-next-5-minutes sort of drug.

    • TPC says:

      I’ve been told it’s an enhancer of mood. If you’re sad, it will amplify that, and so on if you’re happy or angry, etc.

    • caryatis says:

      Short-term, alcohol is happiness in a glass. (Well, for many of us–you also see people who become angry or sad when drunk). Long term, it aggravates (causes?) depression and anxiety.

    • Acedia says:

      All the descriptions I’ve read of the effects of cocaine make it sound like you’d have to be kind of an asshole to enjoy it. Aggressive narcissism and megalomania in drug form.

      • nope says:

        I can see some appeal to the underconfident person with a dearth of those qualities who welcomes the change.

      • Psycicle says:

        It’s rather closely linked to your dopamine system, it’s hard not to enjoy it.

        It isn’t the narcissism and megalomania that’s enjoyable, it’s the drug itself.

      • Jill says:

        Who doesn’t want to feel confident and feel good about themselves? Aggressiveness can also be helpful in sales and many other careers. Okay, maybe the drug goes overboard on making you feel good about yourself. But for many people, they’d rather have too much self love than very little.

        Still, to someone thinking rationally, it’s not worth the cost. And other ways of building confidence, self-esteem, assertiveness, sociability have far fewer bad effects to contend with.

        • hlynkacg says:

          ^ what Jill said.

        • Acedia says:

          Who doesn’t want to feel confident and feel good about themselves?

          If that’s truly all it does, I’m glad I was mistaken. The way people usually describe it it sounds less like healthy self-esteem and more like a feeling of rapacious power and domination.

          • Jill says:

            I did not say that was all it did. I was writing about what people desired out of the drug that caused them to take it. Of course the drug has numerous terrible effects. But people aren’t thinking of the problems when they decide to use such a drug.

          • in all but good taste says:

            well, there will always be differences between dosage levels, and even use cases. a small amount of cocain will not send someone into a rage frenzy but perhaps someone who wants to go into a rage frenzy will have a different experience.

    • Psycicle says:

      Not really….

      An instructive comparison is benzodiazepines. For most people, if they take them, they’ll report just being very calm and sleepy. For people with anxiety disorders, the total negation of anxiety is a much bigger deal, and they are often abused.

      As they both hit the GABA receptor, I’d naively suspect that this “antidepressant” effect is mainly just you not giving a shit about the things that used to bother you.

      There’s probably another component linked to socializing. Socializing feels good, alcohol lowers your inhibitions, boom. The “numb” feeling tends to arrive when you aren’t drinking with people.

      • Tek Tek says:

        Eh, if it makes you feel better and that boosts general life, its an “antidepressant”. If one talks in the words people use semi-freely in real life I don’t want to nail it down to a certain chemical effect like GABA vs dopamine and what-not.

    • Lumifer says:

      I think it’s mostly a relaxant — if you’re tense, uptight, high-strung, alcohol will help with that.

    • Corey says:

      Not in the same way as your Paxils and Effexors. Such antidepressants don’t get you “high” in any similar sense to recreational drugs (besides my personal experience, I note that they have no street value). Those are more about muting negative feelings than accentuating positive feelings.

    • Tek Tek says:

      Well, yes!

      Antidepressants (a la the SSRI variant) don’t work permanently in the first place. They have never really been shown or proven to not suffer from what most psychoactive drugs suffer, which is tolerance, and a good deal of evidence shows it does suffer from tolerance. So is paxil/prozac simply a crappy slow-release version of MDMA with all the long term tolerance? If it is somewhat aptly described as a slow release variant with tolerance, why not also describe MDMA/alcohol as an antidepressant with a different time function?

      “This suggests that over 6 weeks paroxetine treatment increases 5-HT agonism on 5-HT(2A) receptors in the cortex of young patients with depression”

      So you really have to define what makes an antidepressant an antidepressant. Certainly alcohol when used intelligently and in certain settings increases euphora and I suppose could be called an antidepressant, but when used everyday will build up tolerance and stop working. What you might find with the “official” antidepressants is that not only do you not feel obvious euphoria, but its supposed serotonin effects wear out anyways.

      Fun Stuff!

  17. Yakimi says:

    National Review: Japan Reverts to Fascism

    An American publication, ostensibly conservative in political orientation, informs me that my country has gone fascist. Fascist! Somehow, the blackshirt coup escaped my notice, but here I am, in 2016, living under the dark cloud of fascism. Liberate me, America!

    Five years ago, President Obama called for a foreign-policy “pivot to Asia.” With China seizing and militarizing the South China Sea, and North Korea testing delivery systems for its new nuclear weapons, it would probably be a good idea — “pivot to Asia”–wise — not to stand idly by while our most important Asian ally, and the second-richest democracy in the world, reverts to fascism.

    Clearly, Japan is an American colony still, and not an independent nation that can be allowed to pursue its own course. So against this fascist menace to world peace, what is to be done? Sanctions, Rhodesia-style? A Ukrainian-style sponsored revolution? Iraq-style nation-building? Preemptive nuking of Kyoto? Post your antifascist ideas below!

    • anon says:

      Fed policy that keeps the yen stronger than the BOJ would prefer?

    • Evan Þ says:

      I think you’re misinterpreting the article. It’s not saying Japan has already gone fascist; it’s saying that it may if the LDP succeeds in amending the Constitution to no longer respect civil rights and to restore State Shinto.

    • Yehoshua K says:

      National Review’s article may be wrong–I know little or less about Japanese politics. I certainly hope that it is wrong. But it is hardly unreasonable for a magazine of political commentary to spend some time commenting on the politics of important foreign countries, and it is certainly not the same thing as those countries being reduced to colonial status. In other words, calm down.

      • Evan Þ says:

        +1 to all points.

      • Yakimi says:

        Who said it was unreasonable to offer commentary on the affairs of foreign countries? I just thought their conclusion was crazy, particularly the author’s demand that Washington do something to thwart the fascist government of what is ostensibly its own ally.

        Japan is certainly an American colony, as evidenced by the author’s perspective. The slightest challenge to American-imposed liberalism strikes him as a fascist deviation that must be corrected by his own government, which is indeed how the State Department understands its role in relation to pretty much the entire world. It is not clear to me how this differs from, say, Khrushchev’s relationship to Hungary.

        • Lysenko says:

          The apparent absence of several divisions of American troops moving in to crush the counter-revolutionary elements would appear to be one minor element of divergence from the Russo-Hungarian pattern.

        • Civilis says:

          There was a longstanding joke that the purpose of NATO was to keep
          “the Americans in [Western Europe], the Russians out, and the Germans down.” It would not be a surprise to see a similar article were there to be resurgence of nationalism in the German government, or even the Italian government, especially if the Italians started speaking favorably of a leader that would make the trains run on time again. Germany today is most certainly not a US colony, and this despite that they seem to have largely taken over Europe, or believe they have given Merkel’s views on the EU.

          Likewise, the word ‘fascist’ gets thrown around a lot. It seems more appropriate than most to use the word to describe one showing nostalgia for the Axis cause. There are a lot of countries in the world that can reasonably described as fascist, and none of them qualify for even as much as sanctions on that basis alone. There is nothing in the article suggesting such a course, merely dissaproval.

        • Maware says:

          Um, do you really think a reversion to the kinds of ideas Nippon Kaigi holds is better? The article’s point is that there might be a governing coalition that believes/or is nostalgic for the kind of mindset that Japan had pre-WW2. State Shinto + historical revisionism is a sign of Fascism to me. You seem to be reacting to the title but ignoring the meat of the article.

    • Lysenko says:

      Evan’s reading of the piece matches my own. I think your response is a little over the top, but I take it to indicate that a LDP supermajority in the Diet is not a cause for concern. Is it your contention that they are not likely to actually amend the post-war constitution? That they are, but not in the ways the article’s author is concerned about? That they might in those ways but that the outcome is good?

    • Diadem says:

      and the second-richest democracy in the world

      The author clearly isn’t very informed, or has a strange definition of rich. Japan is the 24th richest country in the world, and only 3 of the countries above Japan are not democracies.

      • anon says:

        They were going by nominal GDP (i.e. not per capita, and not PPP adjusted). Dumb metric, but whatever. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Assuming we want to work with aggregate GDP, not per capita, for what purposes is GDP PPP more useful than GDP? I cannot think of a single one.

          • anon says:

            You raise a good point. Might a possible application be comparing two countries’ economic bases (as a proxy for industrial capacity) in the event of a large-scale conventional war? It’s not a great example…

          • Douglas Knight says:

            That’s exactly the kind of question for which I think that nominal GDP is a much better answer.

          • anon says:

            Well you buy hamburgers to feed your soldiers from MacDonalds in your own country, not from MacDonalds in your enemy’s lands.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Sure, there are some parts of the economy that you want to deflate with PPP and some that you do not. I don’t know how it all balances out, but I think it’s a lot more on the latter.

          • Offtopic:
            Two futuristic armies fighting through the streets, laying siege to the McDonald’s in the next town over to create a new foothold, while their resting soldiers in the previous town rotate through the check-out line, ordering to-go. As the last enemy falls and soldiers swarm in, the McDonald’s employees change over the happy meal toys to red plushie Oceania logos…

        • Total GDP is a more sensible metric than per capita GDP if the question is how important a country is as an ally. China is not a democracy, so that makes Japan the second richest democracy.

          Judging by a quick Google, switching to PPP leaves Japan still ahead of Germany, but behind India.

          • Diadem says:

            Sure, but the metric used was ‘richness’. Surely it is insane to look at total GDP when looking at how rich a country is.

            Would you argue that Bill Gates is not the richest man in the world, because there’s a billion Chinese farmers out there who together own more than him? That seems nonsensical.

          • Artificirius says:

            I would think that would be a little more like saying a guy with a value of 100 billion was as rich as a guy with 50 billion, simply because the first has the money tied up in 100 ccompanies, while the second has it tied up in 25, and therefore is in fact richer by a factor of two because his 2 billion per corporita to the other’s 1 billion per corporita.

          • “Surely it is insane to look at total GDP when looking at how rich a country is.”

            That depends on context. If you are thinking in terms of the country as a player in world politics, which is the context here, the total wealth of the country is more relevant than the average wealth of the citizens.

            Whether China is your ally is considerably more important than whether Luxembourg is.

    • suntzuanime says:

      With China seizing and militarizing the South China Sea, and North Korea testing delivery systems for its new nuclear weapons, who would actually make a better ally, “fascists” or pacifists?

      • Sfoil says:

        Well, it does mean that if the US decides to stop being Japan’s ally, Japan will start becoming a lot less pacifist, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons. I’d give it a week before they announce nuclear capability, less than six months before a test (seriously, it doesn’t take much digging to come up with a bunch of shady stuff about Japan’s not-really-even-trying-to-hide-it “civilian” nuclear energy program).

        • John Schilling says:

          Why would they announce nuclear capability before testing? That’s pretty much waving a giant “Shoot me now!” sign to everybody who doesn’t want to be dealing with an actually nuclear-armed Japan six months in the future.

          And no, Japan doesn’t have a secret stash of bombs or almost-bombs that can be assembled in days. They can build them in six months, yes, but there’s a whole lot of people in East Asia who really, really hate and fear the Japanese and wouldn’t need to wait six months to do something about it.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ John Schilling

            waving a giant “Shoot me now!” sign to everybody who doesn’t want to be dealing with an actually nuclear-armed Japan six months in the future.

            “Everybody” is pretty much China, right? Do you think China will invade Japan over the announcement of nuclear capability?

          • Sfoil says:

            If the publically available knowledge about the Japanese nuclear program is correct, they could probably put together a crude gun-type bomb pretty quickly, possibly in days. They probably wouldn’t want to test until they’ve assembled an implosion-type device, though, which is what they ultimately want (based both on comparative performance and their spent-fuel reprocessing activities). Also the tests are in fact tests, the guys setting the thing off really do need to collect a bunch of data about the explosion using a bunch of sensitive instruments. That requires preparation.

          • John Schilling says:

            China, North Korea, and South Korea are all solidly in the “We hate Japan” camp, along with various lesser powers. Seriously, have you seen Seoul’s new city hall? Hint: the building about to be demolished by the blatant architectural tsunami is Seoul’s old city hall, built by the Japanese colonial administration. And this bit of symbolism opened the year after the Sendai earthquake and tsunami.

            The North Koreans, by comparison, don’t do subtle symbolism but just openly threaten to nuke the crap out of Japan if the Japanese step out of line. And this is one of the few scenarios that might lead to a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula, on the grounds that Kim Jong-Un may be a tinpot dictator with a nuclear arsenal but at least he’s not a damn dirty Jap (coming soon, damn dirty Japs with a nuclear arsenal).

          • John Schilling says:

            @Sfoil: If what is presently known about Japan’s civilian nuclear program is correct, they have about enough highly-enriched uranium for maybe four gun-type bombs, and that in the form of reactor fuel elements, not usable metal. I suspect you are going on memories of reports a decade or so old, when the stockpiles were larger and more versatile.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ John Schilling

            Oh, I know Koreans hate Japanese with a burning passion. However they are too small to do anything about it. I mean, it’s theoretically possible the latest Kim will get lucky enough to get a nuke to lift off and even to hit Japanese soil, but then what? They still can’t mount a successful invasion.

            And all of that over an announcement?

          • Sfoil says:

            @John Schilling
            I’d consider Japan’s abandonment of highly enriched uranium programs to be evidence they think they can put together an implosion weapon quickly, not of a good-faith effort to disarm. Japan’s plutonium stockpile is currently sitting at 47 metric tons, and efforts to take this away tend to end up with the Japanese agreeing to turn over hundreds of pounds while keeping thousands of pounds for themselves. And making more. The “research” excuse is absurd; that’s Tony Montana saying he wants to study the effects of cocaine on lab mice.

            Extracting any plutonium from spent reactor fuel is basically prima facie evidence of a nuclear weapons program, by the way. The United States just doesn’t allow the South Koreans to do it, for instance.

  18. 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 answer for yourself is rather what to do about your symptoms- medication, CBT, lifestyle stuff, nothing, some combination. Different solutions will involve different mental health professionals.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        What do you find scary about amphetamine? Was this something you only learned by trying it?

        Have you considered modafinil? Finding amphetamine scary is a legitimate reason to ask your psychiatrist for modafinil.

        • Emily says:

          I had trouble sleeping and I felt like my personality was different. But the big issue was how great it was. It felt like I could get very addicted very quickly. I did only learn this by trying it. Haven’t considered modafinil, but I could. I don’t have a psychiatrist at the moment, though, and I can’t go the Canada/online route.

        • Corey says:

          To add my anecdote: I’m kinda anxious and so preferred the ADHD (I’m only midly afflicted) to stimulant-enhanced anxiety. I tried Strattera, a non-stimulant, it worked well for a while then eventually had little effect.

          • some guy says:

            The variation in responses people have to different drugs is quite amazing to me. Strattera caused me all sorts of anxiety, whereas my anxiety dropped off a cliff when I started taking ritalin.

            An increase in OCD-like anxiety is a fairly intuitive effect of the stimulants. However, if your OCD stems from your mind trying to impose order on your shitshow of an ADHD life, you may find that proper treatment of the ADHD leads to a dramatic drop in OCD and anxiety symptoms. Or it could all just be random, I guess that’s fairly plausible also…

      • Tracy W says:

        What’s it like getting medication without a firm diagnosis?

        • Emily says:

          Weird. It felt very sketchy to be getting amphetamines based on saying yeah, I lost stuff a lot and underperformed in school as a kid, and now I have trouble focusing.

    • Johnjohn says:

      It’s a very unsatisfying experience all around. The diagnosis criteria is vague enough, that the fact that you’re an adult and want to get tested, is probably enough for you to get treatment if you want.

      A couple of months ago I saw a post in an open thread on here (I wish I could find it again so I can thank whoever made it) talking about being diagnosed with ADHD late in life due to high IQ masking the symptoms. I’m the classical case of an underachiever, scraping by due to a mix of luck and innate ability. (Single, 30 year old software developer that is thankful for having found a job where no one notices if you don’t do anything for 3 days… Which pays more than any job of my peers.. Ridiculous).
      When I saw the post on high IQ and ADHD a lot of things seemed to fall into place, I’m an aggressive procrastinator, to the point where I get strong headaches from frantically opening new tabs and speed reading reddit posts for hours while knowing I should be working and hating myself for it.
      And with my new found self diagnosis, now I had an excuse! Cue me obsessively reading about ADHD for a couple of weeks while I wait for my appointment with my GP (always the first point of contact here when you want to get something diagnosed).

      The meeting with my GP basically went like this.
      “I think I have ADHD”
      “Did you have trouble in school?”
      “That was 20 years ago, maybe?
      Then we talk about my youth for 5 minutes while I sit and think about how me reading up on ADHD mixed with this discussion is heavily influencing the perception of my memories.
      “Classical case of ADHD”

      So I book a time with a psychiatrist who specializes in CBT whom I got recommended by a friend.
      I go there, we have the same talk, now with the added frustration of me knowing I’ve watched several hours of youtube videos on ADHD and its symptoms, knowing that it will affect my perception and answers even more.
      I get a long questionnaire with me home, that I’ll have to fill out with a parent, or someone who was close to me when I was a kid.
      That’s the important diagnosis criteria, it’s not ADHD if the symptoms were not present during the ages of 7-12 years old. (That’s two thirds of my life behind me!)
      So I sit down with my mother and we spent 3 hours filling out this questionnaire to an unsatisfying degree, both of us disagreeing on most everything, both agreeing that trying to answer vague questions about what happened 20 years ago is a futile endeavor.

      I end up scoring zero on the hyperactivity spectrum, and right below the cutoff for inattentiveness. So technically I don’t have ADHD

      So of course, I got a prescription for Ritalin.

      • Tracy W says:

        I bet the agressive procrastination issue at my latest job, but it’s still not enough. Damnit I should be achieving more with my life.

        And ages 7-12 were so crappy for me anyway, for reasons mostly unrelated to ADHD, if I answered questions based on that I’d probably wind up on NZ’s equivalent of a compulsory psych hold.

        How do you find the Ritalin?

        • Johnjohn says:

          Ritalin is helping me a lot. The length of my previous post is right around where I would have stopped being coherent when not medicated.

          I’m on week 3. The initial WOW effect is wearing off. The first week I was pretty much a model citizen. I did everything I knew I should do, but really didn’t want to. (Like, actually working 8 hours a day and cleaning up after myself when preparing dinner).
          Now I actually have to will myself to do those things, make active decisions. But unlike before the medication, me choosing to do something actually results in me doing it. Instead of me hating myself for not doing what I was telling myself to do.

          I’m on 20mg. I think it might be a little much for me, I do occasionally get windows the length of an hour or so, right where it peaks, and I feel like “OH JEEZ I’M ON DRUGS” but I’m honestly surprised by how normal I’m feeling 95% of the time.
          Most of the time I feel really really calm. I get a lot more done, yet I feel a lot less busy.

          The doctor warned me that the pills affect your appetite and they typically see patients losing weight once they start. Which seemed like a huge bonus to me as I’ve been struggling with eating sane amounts of food and occasionally get manic “suicide by pizza” episodes.
          Surprisingly, the pills make me violently hungry. But still(!) I’ve managed to drop 7 pounds, just from the fact that I have the willpower to not order junk food.
          I eat all the time, but I eat low calorie high fiber foods.

          Yet I’m still sitting here, not any closer to knowing whether I have ADHD or not.
          I feel like most people would have a positive experience taking Ritalin daily.
          In the end I decided that it doesn’t really matter, I seem to have some form of inattentive disorder, taking Ritalin gives me the resources to actually cope with it and hopefully my psychiatrist and CBT can provide tools for me to build up habits that will remain if I go off the meds.

          • Anon says:

            If it’s a lack of willpower, and Ritalin is helping, then maybe consider cleaning your environment more often. Law of opposite and equal advice, but a dirty floor takes up willpower just to process. Vacuum it for 2 minutes. So much cleaner. So much calmer.

        • Anon says:

          In my personal experience as ADHD person, Ritalin is shit because it works for about 4 hours. You take it in school. You gotta take your meds! Also, it’s time for the next class. Well, no time to sit around, gotta pack my books and go to the next class. Alright, we’re at the next class. Gotta grab my book for this class… lemme see, ah, this one. Pen, too… lemme check, where were we last time? Chapter… 4…, that’s 2, .. 5, … 4.

          Then the teacher starts talking ’bout the lesson for today. Meanwhile, I’ve forgotten my medicine. This used to happen about once a week. The end result is that learning becomes harder and I’m a dick in general.

          Later in life I moved over to Concerta, which is still the same thing (Methylfenidatehydrochloride), but has a slow-release mechanism. Result: Wake up. Take pill. Do the rest of your day. Works without flaw. If I do forget my medication, that sucks, but that usually doesn’t happen because I’ll even take my meds on auto-pilot.

          As for the side effects…

          I don’t know when I’m hungry, I don’t know when I’m full. Hunger presents itself as feeling oddly cold and being full presents itself as trouble swallowing. I’ll eat snacks if placed next to me, but if the container is sealed then its too much effort for me to open the container. I don’t have any sleeping issues, although I don’t take any other stay-awake “medication” such as coffee.

          When forgetting my medication, I’ll eat anything and everything. I feel like shit on those days, because all I want to do is eat stuff (what is this new sensation called hunger) and aside from that, I have really poor self-control, so I’ll probably spend the entire day surfing the internet and looking at total crap videos.

          I’d say that I forget my Concerta medication about once in every 3 months.

          That all said, this is after you’ve taken Ritalin for a while. I wouldn’t take Concerta if you experience bad effects from Ritalin or are new to all this, because Ritalin will wear off in about 6-8 hours total, and Concerta takes about 24 hours (papers and experience say 14 hours, but if you want there to be “no more remaining effect”, then it’s 24 hours for sure). So if you get a bad reaction, it stops in a day, rather than continuing into the period where you have to sleep.

          • some guy says:

            Pro tip: You can judge how much methylphenidate is still in your system by drinking alcohol. If you start having palpitations you still have too much in your blood and you shouldn’t be drinking.

            Seriously though, you’re not really supposed to drink on ritalin, which could be a bit of an issue for some people, I guess. I can take or leave alcohol, so it’s not such a big concern for me. Generally in situations where I might be expected to drink, I’m probably better off being on ritalin and socially functional anyway, so meh… But yeah, it can be a bit of an added complication (especially in alcohol-intensive cultures…)

          • Anon says:

            I don’t drink at all ever, mainly because I think alcohol stinks, and that too many people seem to have poor self-control with it, and that “a good drink” is expensive. I’d like to keep my money and mind. Might be an overreaction…

          • some guy says:

            @Anon, that wasn’t really directed at you or anything, I was just reminded of the alcohol thing by your mention of the timescale over which the drug stays in your system. It can be a bit of a logistical issue (e.g., ‘if I stop taking ritalin (IR) at about 2pm, then by 7:30pm I should be able to drink with dinner and be pretty much OK’, etc…)

          • Anon says:

            Oh yeah, that could totally be a thing; hadn’t thought of that.

      • Some years ago, I took an online test for ADHD, didn’t quite make it but close. I emailed my father and my older son, with the subject line “We all have ADHD.”

        Patri responded with a learned explanation of why we didn’t qualify. My father’s response was “Your mother has been saying that for years.”

      • Fahundo says:

        This post sounds exactly like me, except for the high IQ part. My procrastination is so bad I’ve given up doing anything important, and most of my plans and goals just involve playing video games, but then I procrastinate on playing video games and instead just end up not doing anything.

        I’m sure I’ll procrastinate on talking to a professional about it too, and just end up never doing that. Wish I was able to snag a job where I can just do nothing for 3 days though. I mean, currently I only do slightly more than nothing, but nothing would be ideal.

        • Johnjohn says:

          If you can. Find a doctor where you can book online.
          I almost chickened out when I saw my doctor was fully booked for 4 weeks, but it was worth the wait.

          “Wish I was able to snag a job where I can just do nothing for 3 days though.”

          Eh. You can’t even imagine how damaging it is to your self esteem in the long run…

    • some guy says:

      My experience with the whole process of seeking an assessment and undergoing treatment in Australia was great. You will find that some physicians of various stripes are sceptical of the diagnosis, especially if you are intelligent/articulate/highly educated…but many GPs and specialists are reasonably enlightened these days… I had a cardiologist in the loop from basically the start of my treatment. (If you have the kind of anxiety problems that are often comorbid with ADD, and you are trying out drugs that can potentially fuck with both (a) your heart and (b) your anxiety… well… it may be worth having a cardiologist in the loop…)

      My experience back in NZ has been less good so far unfortunately. (“I could give you an assessment if you really want, but it will cost you $500 and the assessment will be negative.”) Though there are other factors hindering me on this at present, and I certainly know of other adults diagnosed as adults and prescribed psychostimulants here, so maybe it is not so bad. From what I’ve seen though, it does seem that Aus is more enlightened on this than NZ, to a significant degree.

      When you go to a GP, you probably want to ask for a referral to a psychiatrist rather than a psychologist. You may find, as I did, that the GP recommends a psychiatrist as the way to go. The difference being that the psychiatrist can actually write scripts for medication. Unlike the US, GPs can’t prescribe stimulants in Aus or NZ (or at least, a psychiatrist has to sign off on it in the first instance, or something like that). I have no experience with psychologists, so I can’t really judge. But I think that for most people the medication is probably a pretty central part of treatment. If you’re going to do any kind of talk therapy and hope to absorb something from it and make actual progress, being medicated for the consult is probably a good idea.

      Strattera may cause all sorts of side effects that make you question your previous understanding of foundational human physiology and ultimately try to kill you, or it may work very well for you. Possibly both. It’ll probably be interesting, either way. You may have to find out the hard way what it does to you before your psychiatrist will consider prescribing you the standard stimulants. Which is fair enough, really.

      Ritalin is an absolute godsend. The experience of your internal monologue actually reliably translating into actions for a change is quite a profound one. The best thing that ever happened to me. Hopefully I’ll get back on it some day.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

    • 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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


      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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.


    • 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:


          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”.

  31. 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.

  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:


            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.

        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?