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Links 9/16: URL Of The Chaldees

500 BC: Buddha preaches a message of peace and compassion. 1411 AD: China and Sri Lanka go to war over the Buddha’s tooth.

More on confusing effects of school entry age: in Brazil, students who enter first grade later get higher test scores and are more likely to go to college

I recommend against naming ships Windoc until this phenomenon is investigated more thoroughly.

There’s been some recent buzz about Tom Wolfe’s book attacking Noam Chomsky. I can’t comment on the linguistic elements, but it has an unfortunate tendency to take its opposition to evolution’s role in human psychology/society so far that it seems to be denying evolution itself: “I think it’s misleading to say that human beings evolved from animals — actually, nobody knows whether they did or not. There are very few physical signs, aside from the general resemblance of apes and humans.” Jerry Coyne is suitably dismissive. And Nathan Robinson gets into a side debate on Chomsky’s opinion of intellectual elitists (against). On the other hand, here are some apparently sober people disagreeing with Chomsky.

Guests on the TV show Firing Line included Richard Nixon, Saul Alinsky, Noam Chomsky, B.F. Skinner, Allen Ginsberg, John Kenneth Galbraith, Jorge Luis Borges, the Dalai Lama, Jack Kerouac, and Mother Teresa. Though not all at once.

Birth certificate suggests man in Indonesia is 145 years old. Statistical common sense, not to mention the Gompertz-Makeham Law, suggest otherwise.

Professor Stuart Russell at UC Berkeley is opening the Center For Human-Compatible AI to study AI risk in a fully academic setting; they have already received a $5,555,550 grant from OpenPhil.

SETI has detected a suspicious signal from a sunlike star 95 light-years away. Signal strength is high enough that any civilization sending it would have to be well beyond humans. But how could a posthuman civilization exist 95 light-years away from us without us noticing until now? (EDIT: likely false alarm)

Hey, remember how well it worked last time the our society declared war on a commonly used recreational plant with many medical uses and few side effects? No? Well, the DEA certainly does, which is why they’ve decided to expand the drug war by making kratom a Schedule 1 substance. If you feel like doing something meaningless, there’s a petition you can sign.

In 1999 South Korea passed a law mandating that all online commerce be done on Internet Explorer, saying it was the only way to ensure consumer safety. Thank goodness for international differences in regulatory regimes; otherwise people might be tempted to take their own country’s rules seriously.

EpiPen prices have been rising gradually for years. Why did it only become a big news story recently? Quid.com investigates. Their answer: Bernie Sanders!

Activation of mu opioid receptors might trigger several different signaling cascades, raising the prospect of selective agonists that can trigger good effects (like pain relief) but not bad ones (like respiratory supression).

Dystopian ant society in nuclear bunker goes exactly as well as you would expect.

FDA orders antibacterials removed from consumer soap. I actually support this one: there’s no evidence antibacterials help with much, and there’s some concern that they can increase antibiotic resistance.

Contra a study from a couple of links posts ago, the latest replication attempt suggests democracy does not increase economic growth.

A boon doggle is a cutesy braid thing you can make with lace or rope. In 1935, the press excoriated FDR’s New Deal for spending $3 million giving unemployed people crafts lessons where they made boon doggles, and the word became a nickname for any overpriced useless government project.

There have been so many conflicting experiments and arguments about the supposedly physics-defying EMDrive that the debate will probably only get resolved once somebody launches one into space and tries it.

Why Don’t We Have Pay Toilets In America? Short answer: some college kids launched a wildly successful campaign to ban them. On the other hand, it looks like pay toilets only cost a dime, whereas it costs me $2 or $3 to buy a coffee in a cafe just so I can use the cafe’s Customer Only non-pay toilet, plus it’s a waste of coffee.

Some SSC readers ask me to inform you of e-quilibrium, an attempt to make e-cigarette fluid that mimics the chemical composition of tobacco as closely as possible (except for the part where tobacco kills you). I do not know anything about this field and can neither endorse nor specifically anti-endorse this.

You know that weird thing where no matter what happens in the real world, US economic growth keeps to a perfectly straight line on the decades-or-above timescale? There’s a field studying that, it’s called balanced growth economics, and it’s pretty much as confusing as you would expect.

GiveDirectly’s basic income experiment runs into unexpected trouble as some poor people refuse their cash grants, suspecting it might be a scam. I guess if somebody offered me a year’s salary for no reason I would probably suspect it was a scam too.

How Seattle Killed Microhousing. It’s not just San Francisco that wants to make affordable housing illegal.

I’m not really qualified to have an opinion on it, but MIRI is very excited about their most recent paper, Logical Induction, which is apparently a big step in relating inductive reasoning to mathematical proof.

Scott Aaronson suggests that people with computer skills can best fight Trump by creating vote-trading websites that allow people in safe states to vote third-party in exchange for third-party supports in swing states voting Hillary. Apparently this has been confirmed legal by the court system. See also existing vote-trading websites like makeminecount.

Explain this one: Haitian-Americans have one of the lowest crime rates in the country, well below other blacks, Latinos, and whites.

The Missing Slate: “Marginal Revolution may well be the finest blog ever; if we wanted to put a blog in the Smithsonian to show future generations what happened when smart people in our time spoke their minds, then Marginal Revolution would be my choice.”

“Most critics of neoliberalism on the left point to the dramatic reduction in the scale of government activities since the 80s – the privatisation of state-run enterprises, the increased dependence upon private contractors for delivering public services etc. Most right-wing critics lament the increasing regulatory burden faced by businesses and individuals and the preferential treatment and bailouts doled out to the politically well-connected. Neither the left nor the right is wrong. But both of them only see one side of what is the core strategy of neoliberal crony capitalism – increase the scope and reduce the scale of government intervention.”

A Genetically Informed Study Of The Association Between Harsh Punishment And Offspring Behavioral Problems: adjust for genetics, and “mild” physical punishment like spanking seems to affect children slightly at most; outright abuse seems to have very strong negative effects.

The most prestigious scientific journals may publish the worst research.

Maybe the most popular Major League Baseball promotion of all time was Disco Demolition Night, when the Chicago White Sox suggested that people who hated disco bring disco records to their game and they would destroy all of them in a big explosion. It ended in fires, rioting, accusations of racism, police intervention, a forfeited game, and possibly the decline of disco nationwide.

A two year old’s solution to the trolley problem

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854 Responses to Links 9/16: URL Of The Chaldees

  1. Aran says:

    It’s probably safe as long as you make sure to avoid the Welland Canal. Or maybe the entire Great Lakes region, just to be sure.

  2. Albatross says:

    I had a eight hour wait for a TGV train at Terminal 2 in Paris. Each restroom trip cost 0.70 euros. I ended up spending 2.40, unfortunately I can’t endorse pay toilets. My wife is from France and I’ve been a dozen times, living here now.

    Not only are fewer pay toilets available than American coffee shops, as most shops have no public toilet at all, most are horrifically dirty Turkish toilets. French men piss on EVERYTHING. The streets reek of urine in the morning. And while the French don’t pick up after their pets (no wonder other societies died from European germs!) Not all the poop is dog sized if you catch my drift.

    I used to run a suburban coffee shop and I’ve seen some amazing bathrooms at Chino Latino. Never in France have once seen those restrooms equal. If you don’t like paying $2 for great restrooms just crap in the street. Because that is exactly where pay toilets lead.

    And don’t even get me started on sanitation for the Roma here… I swear the Roman Empire was a better government.

    • keranih says:

      Context, for those who haven’t been tracking this demographic:

      A 538 article on 2016 here.

      2008 discussed here and here and here.

      2004 discussed here

      (note: accurate representative polling is hard to find.)

    • Tekhno says:

      >tied with Trump

      Why is Trump so inconsistent on this stuff though? It’s like he doesn’t actually understand the issues and is just trying to send out signals to two completely opposite camps.

      I was really pleased at first because Trump said he viewed the Iraq War as a mistake, saw Libya as a mistake (he didn’t link this to the migrant crisis, but Libya lost southern border control and exactly what Gadaffi said would happen did happen), and saw the action in Syria as being confused (what would become ISIS attached itself to Al Qaeda in Iraq and then moved into Syria, taking weapons from the “moderate” rebels that the Obama admin was funding), and focused on removing Assad rather than fighting ISIS who are taking advantage of the power vacuum just like in Iraq. We now know from the Clinton emails that Hillary wants to focus on removing Assad so that she can cool down Israel on reaching its redline with Iran, since the Syria regime is an Iranian proxy.

      Trump seems to or seemed to understand that removing horrible dictators just because they are horrible doesn’t have a fantastic track record and that sometimes we have to make allies with the bad against the worst. This defines his position of assisting Russia – who are allies of Assad – in destroying ISIS.

      However, then Trump randomly came out earlier this year as being for preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. So what does he really know? He also says that he’s going to do it for Israel, so if Israel suddenly tells him that he should focus on removing Assad and Iranian proxies will he do that too?

      Trump is better than Hillary on this stuff but he flip flops so randomly on Iran, it’s hard to believe he’s serious. He spends most of his time repudiating the Neocon agenda, but then suddenly signals hard to them when it’s Iran and not Syria, Libya, and Iraq, even though the push for intervention is part of the same cohesive agenda.

      Of course, troops voting for Johnson will do nothing.

      • Matt M says:

        Whether he really is this way or whether it’s just a clever act, Trump seems to be presenting himself as a “regular person” with this stuff.

        In the sense that the vast majority of Americans have picked a tribe and are generally familiar with the basic stereotypical positions of said tribe, but at the same time are willing to change positions (especially after the fact) if they feel it helps them politically.

        So, it’s not entirely unreasonable for a red-tribe person to say “we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq” now (because it’s now clear that having gone into Iraq was a massive waste and failure). But “Iran = bad dudes who can’t have nukes” is still a red tribe staple that nobody has really gotten around to challenging yet, and Trump feels no particular need to take on that one.

        He seems like he’s basically making it up as he goes along, which of course drives the “serious political people” (in both tribes) absolutely nuts, but is also what the typical American also does in their life. The vast majority of voters (especially the ones that you actually need to win) don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh OR watch Rachel Maddow on a daily basis. They have a hodgepodge of beliefs generally grounded on one side or the other, but often inconsistent and not entirely thought through. Trump is appealing to these people specifically by casting himself as someone who thinks about things in the same way that they do – reasoning it out as he goes along rather than entering the fray with a 200-point memo of exactly what the right decision is on everything (notice his pattern of asking the audience what he should do – “I dunno, what do you folks think, it’s hard to deport everyone isn’t it?”)

  3. James says:

    Regarding the article on impact factor: IF is a terrible way to evaluate journals to begin with. It reflects popularity, not quality, and it exacerbates the Publish-or-Perish problem.

    By “It reflects popularity, not quality” I mean that journals in fields with more practitioners (say, medicine) or which cover broad topics (say, Science or Nature) are necessarily going to have higher IFs than journals focused on field with fewer practitioners, even if quality is identical. This means that huge swaths of critically important and extremely high-quality research are relegated to the “Don’t even bother” pile of journals merely because they’re in fields with few researchers and published in specialized journals. My favorite example is Paleontologia Electronica, an open-access paleontology journal. I know the quality of this journal’s publications, as I’ve had the opportunity to verify several in substantial depth. I know several companies have made decisions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars based on those publications. Yet it has a fairly low IF, merely because it’s specialized, focusing on paleontology. In contrast, a lot of articles in Science/Nature are too general to provide much in the way of practical information for folks in the trenches, so to speak. (This may be different, but in paleontology you get into those publications either due to a VERY high-profile find, or via broad overview publications it seems.)

    It’s like the Top 40 radio stations: there’s all kinds of music out there, much of it far better in every imaginable way than what gets played on the radio. But each type of music focuses on its fans. When you try to appeal to ALL fans, you end up with low-quality stuff that no on really likes, but which is the average of what everyone likes.

    As for its contributions to Publish-or-Perish, I’ve seen more than one scientist advise young researchers to only attempt to publish in high-IF journals. The mentality was that publishing in “lesser” journals was irrelevant at best, and an admission of failure at worst. I get the logic: we produce too many scientists in our country when compared against the number of available jobs, and only the top tier can get jobs. IF is used as a proxy for “top tier”–more publications in such journals equals better qualified for jobs. But that emphasis is inappropriate, for numerous reasons. It ignores quality, for one thing–hopefully low-quality publications don’t slip through high-IF journals, but they do on occasion, and for the reasons I stated in the previous paragraph low-IF journals may have HIGHER standards than high-IF journals in an individual area of research. For another, it dramatically shifts the types of research people do, in ways unrelated to the data and field of study. A detailed description of 50 new species isn’t going to get you into most high-IF journals; a good species description takes more room than Nature gives for a whole publication. But such descriptions serve as the foundations for everything that comes later. Focus on publication in high-IF journals means abandoning this foundational research in paleontology. Similar affects can be found in other fields. And it’s not just page limits. I have heard some scientists argue that “If there’s no equations it shouldn’t be published”, or “If the statistical significance is less than p=0.05 it shouldn’t be published.” All well and good in, say, particle physics–but how do you get p=0.05 for a lithology? Or a relative age interpretation? Essentially, focus on high-IF journals allows people to substitute the protocols used in research that is often published in high-IF journals for a rational evaluation of the questions at hand!

    IF was, perhaps (and I am not convinced), a good starting point for addressing some serious questions in scientific publications. However, as it has been implemented it is, in my opinion, not just ineffective but counterproductive. It’s not just bad at its job–it actually damages science.

    • Creutzer says:

      I suspect that small fields with low IF specialised journals also pay less attention to IF, though. I know that’s the case for mine. Some journals are considered to be better than others, and people pay attention to it, but statistics like IF and even citation numbers don’t seem to play a huge role (simply because they’re minuscule). I’m not entirely sure what the relevant factors are – I suspect that simply the identity of the editors and the editorial board make a substantial contribution, because they’re assumed to have an impact on quality. Possibly correctly. With the field being so small, people can probably also to some extent keep track of what’s published where and whether it’s any good.

      • James says:

        For my field, the relevant factors are a bit complicated. Who the editors are, sure. Historic quality of the work is another one. What the journal focuses on is big, too. That said, individual papers are typically more the focus than journals. There are a lot of kinds of papers in paleontology that don’t fit the “monthly/quarterly issues” format.

        I would still argue that focus on IF is bad, though. It creates a sense of contempt for fields that typically have low IF ratings–I’ve seen physicists and chemists dismiss geology and paleontology, and this is one reason why. “Who would go into those fields? No one cares about them” comes up on a regular basis, and when you ask for proof, they bring up IF.

        Plus, the focus on IF decreases the odds of collaborative work, particularly if students start believing the tripe about only publishing in high-IF journals. If I’m a physicist, and I meet a geologist, and we have an idea for a study on, say, radiation damage in feldspars or something, it may be extremely important work (feldspars being nearly ubiquitous)–but if I’m focused on IF, I’m going to pass it by, because isotopic geochem isn’t a high-IF field.

        I hope it’s clear that I’m partially responding to your statements, and partially thinking out loud, based on the train of thought your statements stimulated. 🙂

  4. Glen Raphael says:

    Hey Uncle Ilya! If you want to snidely gloat about that cruise ship getting through the arctic, now would be the time. The trip wasn’t ice-free, but it went pretty well. Quote:

    Only one stop was rendered impossible by ice, and that was in Greenland. Captain Vorland said he stopped the ship at the edge of the ice floes and ran a few Zodiac scenic cruises instead, but when the wind picked up, he had to call those back and cancel the rest of the outings. “No matter how exciting it gets, we have to keep safety in mind,” he said.

  5. Noumenon72 says:

    Pay toilet discussion reminded me of Grace Helbig’s How to Poop in Public Places.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I searched the page but couldn’t find any discussion on e-quilibrium, the full-spectrum tobacco fluid for vaping. I’m interested because I have tried nicotine on its own and never liked it, but then tried cigarettes and found them much more enjoyable, and much better at doing what I wanted nicotine to do (focus, energy). I’m hopeful, but the web design doesn’t give me much confidence.

    • Neotenymous says:

      E-liquids containing more of the alkaloids present in tobacco already exist in many places, under the category of WTA (whole tobacco alkaloid) e-liquid. Aroma Ejuice stocks several kinds, and there are a few other places selling it whose names escape me at the moment. I successfully quit smoking with said liquid; the nicotine-only e-liquid attempt was less successful. Phenomenologically, WTA e-liquids seem far closer to tobacco.

      A lot of e-liquid sites have similarly terrible web design; while there are a bunch of scams around, they seem to center mostly on counterfeiting e-cigarette components, rather than liquids.

  7. AspiringRationalist says:

    I shudder to think what would happen if any of the trapped worker ants became reproductively viable.

  8. hyperboloid says:

    On the subject of Disco Demolition Night, I can see the homophobia angle, with people associating disco with the gay club scene , or just thinking it was some how “fruity” and effeminate; but are people really trying to claim that your average Led Zeppelin fan hated the Bee Gees because he was a racist? seriously?

    With deep roots in blues hard rock is far more obviously “black” music than disco is.

    Any way, for baseball fans looking for more national pastime related depravity I give you the bacchian spectacle of the Cleveland Indians 1974 ten cent beer night.

  9. CecilTheLion says:

    It seems to me that the Radical Centrist article wasn’t really arguing for Radical Centrism at all, though I find the idea noble; single-payer healthcare, anti-trust (“competitive capitalism”), nationalizing essential non-innovating services ect. is straight up centre-left. Liberals *are* capitalists — something Americans seem to forget. The only difference I see is being slightly more deregulatory when it comes to the private market.

    Dismantling barriers to entry to the market by implementing anti-trust (or by subsidizing small business with lower tax-brackets) is exactly what the left has been arguing for; the largest barrier to entry in modernity is the complete inability for small business to compete against large business, not business regulation. Though I can’t find the source, I read somewhere that the share of all firms that are new firms has decreased by 50% since sometime in the 70s, simply because of oligopoly. Market discipline for new firms, protectionism for old firms. The petite bourgeois boutique owners of Old are now just $7.50/hour Wal-Mart employees.

    • “Dismantling barriers to entry to the market by implementing anti-trust (or by subsidizing small business with lower tax-brackets) is exactly what the left has been arguing for; the largest barrier to entry in modernity is the complete inability for small business to compete against large business, not business regulation. ”

      Anti-trust can create barriers to entry, most obviously by treating tactics used to break into a market as unfair competition.

      You don’t think licensing regulations, requiring barbers and hair braiders and flower arrangers and such to have hundreds of hours of classroom instruction and/or be approved by a body controlled by those already in the field, represent a major barrier to entry? You should get on the Institute for Justice mailing list–a lot of their litigation consists of fighting such.

      Why do you think small business is unable to compete against large business? That’s a claim people have been making for a very long time, but outside of areas where there are very large economies of scale why would you expect it to be true? For one relevant factoid, compare the share of the market controlled by U.S. Steel when it was assembled by Morgan with the share controlled by the largest steel firm now.

  10. Michael Crone says:

    “[1979 Chicago White Sox Promotions Director] Mike Veeck has since become an owner of minor league baseball teams and in July 2014 the Charleston RiverDogs, of whom Veeck is president, held a promotion involving the destruction of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus merchandise.” (Wikipedia)

  11. tony says:

    Regarding US economic growth sticking to a straight line;
    I worked for some time in a national statistics agency (non-US) producing that type of economic data and the culture is very biased toward questioning data that produces results far above or below long-term averages, and would therefore be more likely to be investigated for errors and changed (should errors be found). Anything that accorded with expectations would not be critiqued nearly as closely. I’m sure it’s like this in many other fields, and I’m certainly not suggesting anything sinister, but it may be a partial explanation.

    • Murphy says:

      Since it’s likely to not be unique to the US: do other countries have the same weirdly flat growth since they would be expected to have similar national statistics agencies?

  12. Daffy says:

    I am seeing some very smart people (e.g. Yudkowsky, Scott Aaronson) who are strongly urging their readers to vote in a way that minimizes Trump’s chances of winning. This vote trading thing implies to me that they think Trump is significantly worse than a typical Republican like Romney. Scott Aaronson may have done the same against Romney, but I don’t think Yudkowsky was urging people to vote for Obama in swing states. I can see why your average left leaning voter sees a Trump presidency as mass genocide and nuclear war, but I’m not sure why smart people are also behaving this way.

    Perhaps someone can point out my blind spots. I have a few reasons for why I think Trump is not significantly worse than Clinton (and maybe better):

    1. Trump doesn’t have the kind of support among powerful people to be able to do whatever he wants. He doesn’t get much support from his own party so anything that’d require legislation seems difficult to pull off. The Supreme Court is a pretty elitist institution and it seems likely they will hold a higher bar for Trump endorsed legislation even if Trump is able to get his ideas through Congress. On top of this, the media is openly campaigning against Trump at the moment, and I’d expect them to continue their anti-Trump message during his presidency. This will probably keep public opinion enough against him that he can’t do much.

    2. Trump is not very hawkish or he is at least not more hawkish than Hillary. On the one hand, Trump keeps saying aggressive things like “we’re gonna bomb the shit out of ISIS”. But his most worrisome claims like “kill families of terrorists” don’t even have support in the military. It seems likely that the commanders will convince him that this is a bad idea. If he orders his commanders to go ahead with this idea, I admit it could be bad. But Hillary has been fairly hawkish regarding Libya, and she’s part of Washington’s hate-on-Putin club. For example, she endorsed implementing a no fly zone in Syria even after Russia started running air campaigns there. An NFZ will be essentially like a war since we’d have to destroy all of Syria’s anti-aircraft systems and shoot down their planes. And shooting down a Russian plane would probably have huge consequences. I’m sure Putin is a bad man and there are plenty of reasons to hate him. But any direct or proxy war with Russia would be at least as disastrous as the Iraq War. Trump being pro-Putin seems like a good check against media + R + D coalition that’s anti-Putin. It’s not at all clear to me which president will cause more misery. but I’m guessing Hillary given her interventionist record and not Trump given his record of saying things merely to get attention.

    3. The stock market’s fairly high valuation and relative calm seems to contradict the view that Trump would wreck the economy. Trump has threatened some crazy things like maybe imposing a 35% tariff on Chinese goods and deporting every illegal immigrant. If people believed he’d really do that or that these things are bad for the economy, I would expect the S&P500 to have decreased in value over the last 6 months as Trump’s chances of winning the presidency increased. Of course, I don’t know the counterfactual of what S&P would be at if Ted Cruz was the nominee. But there are no significant price changes when random events occur that move polls in Trump’s favor (e.g. Hillary’s 9/11 collapse). Contrast that with what happened when Hillary put out a tweet last year implying she’d regulate drug prices. Almost immediately the healthcare and biotech sectors started tanking and they closed down 2% and 6% respectively. When she put out another price regulation tweet last month, the sectors lost 1.5% and 4%. If a tweet by a candidate 1 year before the election can move prices so significantly, and the markets have not really moved as Trump’s odds increased, I expect that most people with a financial stake don’t expect Trump to be a disaster with the economy.

    Some people say that Trump is a high risk candidate, i.e. there is a wider range of possibilities with him. If this is true, I’d expect the implied volatility (the annualized standard deviation of the index as implied by the options market) for S&P500 2017 options to be fairly high. I couldn’t find free historical data on implied volatility to compare the current implied vol of 15% on September 2017 options. So it’s possible that the 15% is actually high, but that seems unlikely since the current 12% implied vol is at the 38th percentile for S&P500 volatilities. I’d be curious to know how many of the doom and gloom predictors are hedging the risk of a Trump presidency by shorting the market or betting on volatility. Probably not many.

    So what exactly is making people think a Trump presidency would be significantly worse than a Clinton presidency?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Well, both Eliezer and Scott have given their reasons. You can read Scott’s here, and Eliezer explained his position in the comments of this facebook post:

      [M]y reasons for recoiling from Trump (and *not* recoiling equally from e.g. John McCain or Mitt Romney) are not very different from the reasons why longtime Republicans who miss the slide-rule-Republican days are recoiling in public horror from Trump where they did not recoil in equal proportion from McCain or Romney. If I had to summarize it briefly, it would be something like this:

      My reading of history books is admittedly biased by having read about historically interesting cases. This does tend to be cases where things went very right, or more usually, very wrong. American revolution, French revolution, World War I, World War II.

      Perhaps there are dozens of other cases where a country elected an impulsive, chaotic, populist leader and nothing whatsoever went wrong.

      But when I think of Trump, I think of Hitler, and not in the generic sense of “Hitler” meaning “bad”. I think of the British diplomats who sent Hitler a sternly worded note on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, warning that Britain *would* defend Poland even though they hadn’t defended Czechoslovakia. According to “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, Hitler read the note himself instead of having his diplomatic corps explain it to him, and interpreted the standard diplomatic politesse as conciliatory and a go-ahead to invade Poland.

      I once played a four-hour live simulation/game called the National Security Decision-Making Game, which was run by various people who were ex-whatevers. There were around 80 of us simulating just 3 different countries, with myself trying to play the Secretary of Defense of the US. (Ironically, I ended up carrying the nuclear football, a bit of a step down from my day job.)

      Thinking myself probably above-average intelligence for the room, I’d originally asked for a position that involved intrigue; I was given the title for Director of National Intelligence. But somebody who’d played the game before said he really wanted to be DNI, so I traded it for his Secretary of Defense position. Which I’m glad happened, because my ambitions rapidly went from world optimization to “Understand what is happening immediately around the Department of Defense.”

      By the end of NSDM, I left with a suddenly increased respect for any administration that gets to the end of 4 years without nuclear weapons being used. We did not do that well in our NSDM session. I left with a greatly increased appreciation of the real skill and competence possessed by the high-level bureaucrats like the Secretary of Defense who keep everything from toppling over, and who understand what the sternly worded diplomatic notes mean.

      I think that a lot of the real function of government is to keep things from toppling over like they did in our NSDM session, and that this depends on the functionaries including the President staying inside certain bounds of behavior–people who understand how the game is supposed to be played. It’s not always a good game and you may be tempted to call for blowing it up rather than letting it continue as usual. Avoid this temptation. Randomly blowing it up will NOT end well. It CAN be so, so much worse than it already is.

      I cannot recall any case in history where people just blew stuff up and it ended well. A major reason the American revolution went better than the French revolution is that in America there were existing colonial governments and organizations that picked up a lot of the slack from the ‘revolution’ and avoided chaos. Japan did well out of the toppling of its government because the US came in and provided order during the reconstruction. If you know a relevant historical counterexample where WE ARE SICK OF THIS LET’S JUST BLOW EVERYTHING UP ended well in practice, you’re welcome to name it.

      Trump really, really strikes me as one of those characters from the history books that you read about from just before the end of country X as a world power. Including the part where his elite supporters think he’s just kidding, he’s not really that impulsive, he’s just faking it. Now again, I may be biased by selectively reading history books about the cases that actually went wrong, but my immediate impulse on seeing that suggestion being put forth about Trump was to jump up and yell “HE’S NOT FAKING IT”. This early impulse appears to be borne out by further events, suggesting that maybe my history reading didn’t give such a biased picture after all.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        Please forgive me for what may be a dumb question (or one uninformed by relevant media stories I might’ve missed), but… what, exactly, does Eliezer think that Trump is going to “blow up”?

        Are we literally talking about “President Donald Trump will order nuclear weapons to be used?” Or what?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Yes. Trump has given a very cavalier attitude about the use of nukes while not seeming to really understand how international relations work. He has said other countries like Japan and even Saudi Arabia should have nukes and wondered why we have them if we don’t even use them. Can you not see why that would be concerning to people? Combine that with his volatile temperament and yes, I’m worried about the consequences of his presidency.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Can you not see why that would be concerning to people?

            Please let’s avoid phrasing like that. It comes off as condescending, especially after I’ve alluded to not being fully on top of all relevant media coverage.

            Anyway, the attitude you describe does indeed sound concerning. Do you, by chance, have any links to Trump saying these things? It certainly seems like something I should be aware of.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Said

            See here. It is quite easy to find by googling “Trump why can’t we use nukes”.

          • Daffy says:

            @sweeneyrod

            The link you provided doesn’t say definitively that he made those statements about nuclear weapons. Some person alleges that he had a private conversation with Trump where he made those comments, but the Trump spokeswoman says Trump said no such thing.

            At the very least, we know that Trump denies it even if it did happen in the past. I think what is likely is that Trump does say things like this to people to provoke them or make them flustered. Either that or the accuser is just lying.

            Part of the reason why I’m skeptical that Trump would really be that bad is because of evidence like the link you provided. There have been quite a lot of intentional misrepresentation of what Donald Trump has actually said, and it’s difficult to go figure out which of the attacks made against him are true.

          • Fahundo says:

            What about evidence like the video I posted of Trump saying things he’s been accused of saying? Or a video like this?

          • @sweeneyrod:

            Your link goes to a story about a Republican talk show host saying that he was told that in a conversation at which he was not present some months earlier, Trump three times asked a foreign policy expert why the U.S. cannot use nuclear weapons. The Trump people deny that such a conversation took place.

            Did you read the story you linked to? Did you think it provided serious support for your argument?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @David Friedman
            Yes and yes. It fundamentally comes down to the word of a Republican talk show host, who has little incentive to lie and no history of being untrustworthy (as far as I know), versus that of Donald Trump, who does not have a reputation for honesty.

          • Garrett says:

            What I find more scary than Trump asking why we can’t use nuclear weapons is the idea that some high-level adviser can’t provide a decent answer.

          • E. Harding says:

            @Fahundo

            -So let’s assume Iranian boats continue making rude gestures at American destroyers in international waters and, following Trump’s policy, the destroyers shoot them out of the water. What happens next? Iran’s leaders are smart enough to know where their bread is buttered. They have leverage (the Straits of Hormuz), but, unlike Russia and China, no nuclear weapons. They know they can’t win any war if they blockade the straits of Hormuz, just cause a lot of temporary damage followed by a full-pronged US invasion of Iran. So they’re not going to go to war against the U.S. or the Gulf States if their boats are shot down -for them, it’d be all risk, no return. Instead, they’ll… order their boats to stop making rude gestures. Does that sound all that scary to you? Not to me.

            BTW, both Jeb Bush and Kasich suggested airstrikes against North Korea for North Korean missile testing. Trump suggested China deal with it. Who strikes you as more cautious?

            The more I look at the modal political perspectives of those with college degrees, the more nonsensical their political choices seem. Rubio was several orders of magnitude more likely to go to nuclear war (and lose) than Trump, by any measure. Romney had identical to or worse policies overall than Trump -the only difference was he was totally bought by the donors and the special interests, which Trump clearly isn’t.

            What’s with the college-educated preferring the most bought, least innovative, and most dangerous politicians?

          • Fahundo says:

            -So let’s assume Iranian boats continue making rude gestures at American destroyers in international waters and, following Trump’s policy, the destroyers shoot them out of the water. What happens next? Iran’s leaders are smart enough to know where their bread is buttered. They have leverage (the Straits of Hormuz), but, unlike Russia and China, no nuclear weapons. They know they can’t win any war if they blockade the straits of Hormuz, just cause a lot of temporary damage followed by a full-pronged US invasion of Iran. So they’re not going to go to war against the U.S. or the Gulf States if their boats are shot down -for them, it’d be all risk, no return. Instead, they’ll… order their boats to stop making rude gestures. Does that sound all that scary to you? Not to me.

            So, you wouldn’t object to killing someone over making a rude gesture at you on the basis that killing people over rude gestures is an unnecessary escalation of force and probably a bad thing to do. Your only concern is whether you should be afraid of them killing you back?

            BTW, both Jeb Bush and Kasich suggested airstrikes against North Korea for North Korean missile testing. Trump suggested China deal with it. Who strikes you as more cautious?

            Airstrikes against NK sound a bit ridiculous, but I’m more of a Johnson guy.

            The more I look at the modal political perspectives of those with college degrees

            I’m not college-educated, so adjust your data accordingly

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @sweeneyrod, @Fahundo:

            Neither of the links you guys provided are to Trump saying the things that Wrong Species claimed he said.

            This is Bayesian evidence that Trump has never said any such things.

            I have now updated away from Wrong Species’ claims being true.

          • Fahundo says:

            Wrong Species said:

            He has said other countries like Japan and even Saudi Arabia should have nukes

            This was in the first link I posted.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Said

            Wrong Species claimed he wonders why the US has nukes but doesn’t use them. My link claimed that he wonders why he couldn’t use nukes if he were elected. Those are essentially the same thing, in the sense that they both have the important implication that he is far too willing to use nuclear weapons. Are you being pedantic in distinguishing between them, or distrusting my source?

          • Fahundo says:

            The source of the claim that he asked why we can’t use nukes seems to have originated from a host on MSNBC sharing an anecdote of a conversation he allegedly had with some top national security expert. Now, I obviously don’t like Trump, but I’m not willing to take the word of some guy on MSNBC who can’t substantiate his claims.

          • E. Harding says:

            “So, you wouldn’t object to killing someone over making a rude gesture at you on the basis that killing people over rude gestures is an unnecessary escalation of force and probably a bad thing to do.”

            -I’d object. All I’m saying is it doesn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things in this case.

            “Your only concern is whether you should be afraid of them killing you back?”

            -The far larger concern is whether this is likely to lead to a war. It almost certainly won’t.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Fahundo:

            This was in the first link I posted.

            No, no it wasn’t.

            @sweeneyrod:

            What Fahundo said.

            What I asked for was a link to Trump saying such things. What you provided was a link to someone claiming that an unspecified (!!) someone else told him that Trump said such things.

            Yeah, you bet I’m distrusting your source.

          • @sweeneyrod:

            Trump does not have a reputation for honesty. The fact that he said it didn’t happen is only weak evidence that it didn’t, but his saying it did happen would be pretty strong evidence.

            The right wing host, currently a Trump opponent, isn’t reporting something he observed. He is reporting something someone else told him about a conversation several months earlier. That’s very weak evidence.

            Further, suppose it’s true. It is easy enough to imagine conversations in which someone asked the question three times not because he was in favor using nuclear weapons but because he wanted to explore the reasons not to or the views of the person he was questioning.

            You presented the link in response to:

            “Do you, by chance, have any links to Trump saying these things? ”

            The answer appears to be that you do not. You have a link to someone saying that someone else told him that Trump said something that could be interpreted as wondering about “why we have them if we don’t even use them.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Said

            I wasn’t trying to be condescending. The idea was simply to ask whether you understood my point of view. I meant no offense.

            I can understand the skepticism on whether Trump wondered why we have nukes but don’t use them but you can’t deny the other claim. He does back off of it but then discusses the possibility saying there is little we can do anyways in response to the question of Saudi Arabia having nukes. Here’s the transcript:

            TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have…

            COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

            TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

            COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

            TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

            Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.

            COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?

            TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen, anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Wrong Species:

            I wasn’t trying to be condescending. The idea was simply to ask whether you understood my point of view. I meant no offense.

            Understood; difficulty of conveying tone in text and all that.

            I can understand the skepticism on whether Trump wondered why we have nukes but don’t use them but you can’t deny the other claim.

            I absolutely can deny it. The claim was:

            He has said other countries like Japan and even Saudi Arabia should have nukes

            And nothing in the cited video (thank you for transcribing it, by the way!) constitutes such a statement.

            You can certainly interpret Trump’s comments as meaning that. That, however, would be (imo) quite a tendentious interpretation. He certainly doesn’t come out and say it. Nor does he even say anything that logically implies it.

            Now, we can discuss whether what Trump said in the video is true / correct / reasonable. I’d certainly be willing to have that discussion. We can even discuss whether the policy Trump describes would in fact lead to Saudi Arabia (or whoever) having nuclear weapons; and we can discuss whether this would, or would not, be a good thing.

            Those are discussions we could have. But the claim that Trump has in fact said that he thinks that Saudia Arabia should have nukes — that claim does not hold water (at least, without proof of a kind which certainly does not appear in the linked video).

            Now, you might say that I’m nitpicking, that I’m splitting hairs, that I’m being pedantic. I don’t think I am — but here’s the thing:

            Precision matters.

            The claim, upthread, was that deciding on “Trump” vs. “oh no, no Trump” is a decision of critical, world-altering importance. Some folks have suggested that this choice could, quite literally, mean the difference between an intact world and the end of civilization as we know it. Well, if that’s so, then this is true all the more: precision matters. Truth matters.

            There’s a heartbreakingly common tendency for these sorts of stories to turn into games of telephone. Our host has reported on such things many a time. One media outlet reports that Trump said that we can’t stop South Korea from having nukes, another outlet picks up the story and says “Trump would let Korea have nukes”, and pretty soon it’s “Trump calls for giving nukes to every country — and here are his supporters, cheering for the nuclear apocalypse!”

            Let’s be better than that. If our motivation for having this discussion is that we care about what happens to the world, and that we think this matter of Trump and nukes and so forth is consequential to the world’s fate, then let’s be precise. Don’t link to things that don’t support the point you’re making. Don’t claim that links contain things they don’t contain. Don’t twist words, don’t misquote, don’t pass off interpretations as quotations. Be precise.

            If, on the other hand, what we care about is scoring political points (and I don’t imply that this is your motivation, Wrong Species, but of some folks in the thread I suspect it) — then by all means, carry on as before.

          • Finger says:

            I’m disappointed by Politifact–here’s what happens when you try to fact check the fact checkers: https://twitter.com/PolitiFactBias/status/705119438366908416

            My overall take on Trump is that some of the accusations made against him are groundless or dishonest (example: if you watch the entire “mexican rapists” clip in context, it really does not seem that racist, he points to people I think are mexicans in the audience and says that they are great people just a few seconds before making the famous statement). But it would not take a lot of the accusations against him being true for him to be a really bad president. I support Johnson but I think Trump vs Hillary is much harder to figure out than people give it credit for.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s like everyone has forgotten already. I view most, “If we have them, why don’t we use them?” questions as rhetorical because of this lens.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Said

            I can’t reach into the depths of Trumps mind and learn whether he actually does support Saudi Arabia having nukes but I’m truly baffled at how you can see that statement as saying anything else. I’m not misquoting or twisting his words and I’m not taking anything out of context. I posted the transcript on that conversation until they changed the subject. Trump goes back and forth on this but he quite clearly answered in the affirmative on the question on Saudi Arabia obtaining nukes. How exactly do you think that should be interpreted? Regardless of Trumps actual beliefs, I think it’s very reasonable to say that Trump doesn’t seem concerned about nuclear proliferation. And that terrifies me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Finger

            Politifact is terrible on Trump. (and Snopes is terrible on anything political). Looking through the Pants On Fire entries, you see that Trump cited a legend about Pershing using pig’s blood to punish Muslims. Personally I’ve heard similar stories many times, so even if it was completely false it certainly doesn’t rise to the level of “Pants on Fire”; it’s not ridiculous. But I suppose that’s a judgement call.

            Except that if you look, they later were pointed to a letter to Pershing speaks of burying insurgents with pigs — and that it worked in “discourag[ing] crazy fanatics”. This ought to be enough to make Trump’s claim less than “Pants on Fire”… but no, Politifact maintains that rating.

            Then you’ve got the infamous Jersey City, NJ claim. “I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

            This is false, of course. There were indeed celebrations in Muslim areas of Jersey City and Paterson, NJ (though politifact says otherwise, several people on a NJ local forum claimed at the time to have seen them), but not “thousands of people”. Furthermore, Breitbart dug up a CBS News report talking about a celebration in Jersey City and people “swarming” on the roof of an apartment building. Politifact refused to change their rating, because one apartment building isn’t “thousands”. This should by their own system should have resulted in a drop to “mostly false” at worst, but no… Pants on Fire.

            (Personally I believe Trump heard both the reports of Jersey City celebrations and saw footage of Gaza celebrations and confused them)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @WrongSpecies

            It depends on whether you take “Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?” to be one question (“Should Saudia Arabia protect itself with nuclear weapons”) or two (“Should Saudi Arabia protect itself?” “Should countries protect themselves with nuclear weapons?”). Trump takes it as two and answers only the first. The host later asks the one question unambiguously, and Trump says “no”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            You are discounting the fact that Trump frequently takes positions which are contrary to themselves.

            Should they protect themselves with nuclear weapons: yes
            You are in favor of them having nuclear weapons: no
            Should we stop them getting nuclear weapons: I don’t see how we can

            What is his actual position on Saudia Arabia and nukes in that sequence?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC

            Yes, Trump often takes contradictory positions. But in that sequence , he is saying Saudi Arabia should protect itself but not with nukes. He also says they will eventually get nuclear weapons, as will Japan and South Korea; he doesn’t advocate for this, he just says it will happen.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            Do you agree that he indicates he thinks Japan and South Korea should have nukes?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC

            From that sequence, I can only see that he thinks Saudia Arabia should not have nukes, that all three countries should protect themselves, and that all three countries will eventually get nukes. I do not see any statement that any country _should_ have nukes in that sequence; he ducked that question.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Wrong Species

            The Nybbler has handled this one. I endorse his analysis.

            Regardless of Trumps actual beliefs, I think it’s very reasonable to say that Trump doesn’t seem concerned about nuclear proliferation.

            Come now. If we don’t care about the man’s actual beliefs, then what the heck are we talking about? He “doesn’t seem concerned”? Vagueness and generalities. Unworthy of this forum.

            Anyhow, I think we’ve exhausted the topic for now. The matter is settled quite to my satisfaction, at least.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “Do you agree that he indicates he thinks Japan and South Korea should have nukes?”

            I’d like to hear the earlier context of the clip; the reporter’s question implies that Trump stated that more countries should get nukes, but what he actually says in the clip is that they should defend themselves. Assuming that’s an accurate inference, though, I think I’d agree with your statement.

            Assuming that is Trump’s position, I also think it makes sense. I don’t think our global hegemony is sustainable, further nuclear proliferation is probably an inevitable consequence of its end. Even with hegemony, we still couldn’t stop North Korea from acquiring nukes, or India and Pakistan, so I don’t think there’s much of an argument that the status quo is working. I’m not sure why South Korea or Japan getting nukes is a serious problem, given the nations who already have them, and given the inevitability of further proliferation.

            Then again, I’m not that worried about a nuclear Iran either, so take that for what it’s worth.

          • Anonymous says:

            If we don’t care about the man’s actual beliefs, then what the heck are we talking about? He “doesn’t seem concerned”?

            I’m having flashbacks to Yes, Minister with the dual of this situation. “Things don’t happen just because Prime Ministers are very keen on them. Neville Chamberlain was very keen on peace!”

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Jaimeastorga2000 – “But when I think of Trump, I think of Hitler, and not in the generic sense of “Hitler” meaning “bad”. I think of the British diplomats who sent Hitler a sternly worded note on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, warning that Britain *would* defend Poland even though they hadn’t defended Czechoslovakia. According to “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, Hitler read the note himself instead of having his diplomatic corps explain it to him, and interpreted the standard diplomatic politesse as conciliatory and a go-ahead to invade Poland.

        …It occurs to me that this might be the fundamental difference between how I see things and how anti-Trump people see things. I see our current situation as much closer to the run-up to WWI than WWII. The global situation strikes me as one of deeply entrenched order that is slowly decaying into crisis, much in the way the stately affairs of the great empires slowly dragged them all into the meatgrinder of the first world war. Trump seems to me closer to the model of Debs than he is to Hitler. How many historical examples are there of stable, sclerotic systems failing to make small adjustments until complete collapse is inevitable?

        • Deiseach says:

          If we’re going to toss around comparisions to Second World War Fascist leaders, Trump is Mussolini, not Hitler. This is not to say he would do a splendid job as president should he win, it’s to say there are degrees of “bad, worse, worst”. Worse may not be as good as bad but it’s better than worst.

          A major reason the American revolution went better than the French revolution is that in America there were existing colonial governments and organizations that picked up a lot of the slack from the ‘revolution’ and avoided chaos.

          And because the territory of America was much less populated, structures were more spread out and isolated (an order by the Committee in Paris could and would be carried out in Nantes; an order from wherever the seat of the representatives was before the capital in Washington was established would not necessarily be carried out in Georgia), there were indigenous inhabitants that were presumably enough of a threat that they occupied the attention of the armed forces post-revolution instead of the army being used to purge political opponents, and crucially – there was an external (the British king and government and army) foe to fight rather than an internal one – the American Revolution was not simultaneously a Civil War.

          Plus, the fledging American government got support and money from France which was vital in helping it establish itself, get international recognition, and pay its way:

          The Confederation Congress finally set up a suitable administrative structure for the Federal government. It put into operation a departmental system, with ministers of finance, of war, and of foreign affairs. Robert Morris was selected as the new Superintendent of Finance, and then Morris used some ingenuity and initiative—along with a loan from the French Government—to deal with his empty treasury and also runaway inflation, for a number of years, in the supply of paper money.

          As the ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin not only secured the “bridge loan” for the national budget, but he also persuaded France to send an army of about 6,000 soldiers across the Atlantic Ocean to America—and also to dispatch a large squadron of French warships under Comte de Grasse to the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina. These French warships proved to be decisive at the Battle of Yorktown along the coast of Virginia by preventing Lord Cornwallis’s British troops from receiving supplies, reinforcements, or evacuation via the James River and Hampton Roads, Virginia.

          You were also very damn lucky in General Washington. Had he been younger and more ambitious, he could have turned out to be your Napoleon 🙂

          • The original Mr. X says:

            there was an external (the British king and government and army) foe to fight rather than an internal one – the American Revolution was not simultaneously a Civil War.

            I’m not sure that’s true — quite a large percentage of the Colonial population were loyal to the Crown, and not a few joined the royal army.

          • Deiseach says:

            quite a large percentage of the Colonial population were loyal to the Crown, and not a few joined the royal army

            Oh, indeed – the “Benedict Arnold – traitor” thing. But the enemy was perceived as an external one (we’re fighting King George who is not our king and only secondarily the loyalists who may not even be American-born), not internal (we are getting rid of our king and our nobles and anyone else of our nationals standing in the way of the glorious march of revolutionary progress to the bright sunshine days of reason and equality).

          • Matt M says:

            D,

            Are you certain of that. A lot of what I’ve read suggests that most of the colonials (even the non-loyalists) considered themselves loyal subjects of the British crown right up to the point where he became too abusive at which case it was their right/duty to rebel. That was part of their complaint – it was “hey we are loyal subjects and therefore we have rights that you aren’t respecting.”

            If the King was truly an outsider, making an appeal to his duty to respect their rights would be largely pointless – as he would owe them no such duty.

          • TheWorst says:

            I thought the point was that the king lived elsewhere, and therefore the people you’re organizing your tribe against aren’t your immediate neighbors.

          • MichaelM says:

            The American Revolution WAS simultaneously a civil war…rather, several civil wars. Several states had to have the disobedience regimes defeat and throw out the old colonial government before they could really take charge.

            And, to be honest, there’s no reason both your and Eliezar’s explanations cannot have contributed. Big, complex historical events have big, complex historical causes. A lot of things happened that show up in the history books as ‘the American Revolution having gone better than the French one’ and all those things happened because of a lot of other things, some of which would be the things highlighted by you and Eliezar.

        • PGD says:

          good post. The WWI analogy is massively underappreciated in general in discussions of foreign policy — probably because it demonstrates the massive dangers of pre-emptive war by foreign policy elites, rather than being a pro-war case like WWII.

      • Trump doesn’t remind me of Hitler. He reminds me of Burlusconi. I don’t know that he was a particularly good prime minister of Italy, but Italy’s still there.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        [M]y reasons for recoiling from Trump (and *not* recoiling equally from e.g. John McCain or Mitt Romney)

        I don’t entirely trust statements like this, given how common the “Republican N-1 was a great man, unlike Republican N who is Hitler” bit of propaganda gets used. How did Eliezer actually react to Romney or McCain? A brief Google search didn’t turn up anything dispositive.

        As for Aaronson, I respect the guy but if he was willing to vote-trade against Romney too I’m dubious about his sense of perspective here.

      • E. Harding says:

        I recoiled very hard from Romney. He seemed to me to be a bought robot- a false choice from Obama, with perhaps a more dangerous foreign policy (when Obama created ISIS, I regretted my support for him, and understood Glenn Beck was more correct than many of us, including I, thought). I’m not recoiling at all from Trump. I (still) simply cannot understand Hillary Clinton primary voters, and see every bit of evidence (and none against) that accusing Trump of being in any way more dangerous than Her is a product of completely baseless overactive imaginations, which never panic when things go according to plan, no matter how clearly awful the plan is, but always panic when things don’t go according to plan, no matter how good the deviations from the plan are. These people disgust me. And don’t even get me started on the minorities. Trump’s tax plan is better than Romney’s; his foreign policy is off-the-charts better than either Romney’s or McCain’s, and clearly better than Clinton’s. I just don’t get the refusal to look at specific policies, rather taking (as Scott Adams points out) the verbal style of a typical New Yorker as being especially prone to risk and danger, when all evidence is contrary to this. What is the second-largest nuclear power in the world? Russia. Which candidate has (completely baselessly) accused its leader of being everything from the “great-godfather” of nationalist movements around the world to deliberately timing the DNC leaks? Which candidate has advisors who seem to have the opposite of knowledge about the country? Clinton. Not Trump. From my perspective, Clinton is much more likely to get the U.S. into a nuclear war than Trump, taking positions which raise the risk of nuclear war in the cases of Ukraine and Syria. Trump seems to me to be more like Obama -more understanding of Great Power politics, but also prone to medium-level malignity about how he’d use his power (e.g., his “let ISIS fight Assad” statements a year ago, which is basically Obama’s policy).

      • PGD says:

        This monumentally arrogant and somewhat bizarre story affects my view of Eliezer Yudkowsky more than it does of Trump. (Not that I am a Trump supporter, I just don’t see him as more dangerous than e.g. McCain, a guy who sang happily about bombing Iran on the Senate floor — and I agree with E. Harding that it’s got to count in Trump’s favor that he is the only candidate who has actually spoken against the rush to demonize Russia, a nuclear power).

        • Matt M says:

          IMO, the demonization of Russia is occurring solely and exclusively as an effort to bash Trump (by association). If Hillary wins, I expect a swift and immediate change of tone and a promise to work with the eminently reasonable Putin as friends and allies.

          • PGD says:

            maybe so but it’s still irresponsible to whip up the public like this. And frankly, with the Marines doing military exercises in Ukraine and many in DC clamoring for more assistance to the Ukrainian military the whole situation is scary.

        • Tekhno says:

          The demonization of Russia is occurring because Russia is supporting Assad and Hillary wants Assad to go to destroy an Iran proxy, for Israel (no seriously, read the released emails).

          I don’t think there’ll be an about face. Hillary is a neo-con. Israel’s interests and Russia’s interests aren’t aligned, and Hillary will pick Israel every time.

          On the other hand, Trump who seems to recognize what’s going on with respect to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, suddenly and randomly turns into a neo-con himself on Iran, so he needs to choose who he wants to alienate at some point. That sort of flip flopping doesn’t bode well.

        • Anatoly says:

          To me, “thinks Trump is less dangerous than McCain” is considerable evidence that they’re a Trump supporter, evidence that probably trumps, in the case of someone I know nothing about, their own claim that they’re not a Trump supporter.

          • PGD says:

            There is no logical barrier to being at least indifferent to Trump vs McCain but still supporting Clinton over Trump, since Clinton and McCain are different people. But I guess your reasoning is that the case against Trump is being almost exclusively based on the idea that he is The Devil, Hitler reborn, an extraordinary and unprecedented eruption of evil, etc. so that if one rejects that case by comparing him to a more typical Republican politician one must therefore support him.

      • Gil says:

        I think he’s said he wants other nations to either pay for US defense or defend themselves. Foreign policy experts fear most countries would probably opt to defend themselves and tell the US to take a hike, which would reduce the US military’s power relative to the rest of the word. This might also, by similar logic, return the world to the pre-WWII status quo, which for obvious reasons is seen as unacceptable.

        Most average Americans probably think that other nations should pay for their own defense, but probably are at the same time uncomfortable with the idea of the US military having less relative power, and certainly not comfortable with international nuclear proliferation.

        As far as Nukes are concerned, I don’t think he actually wants nuclear proliferation. However it’s easy to see how you can go from ‘Countries should pay for their own defense’ to an interpretation of ‘countries should defend themselves’ to an interpretation ‘What’s wrong with countries having their own nukes’.

        That said I’m curious to know whether and to what extent a relatively small nuclear arsenal is cheaper then a standing army. In all honesty I would regard a country with a handful of nukes but no army as signaling less belligerence then a country with no nukes but a very large army.

  13. stati says:

    Ridiculous to suggest Bernie was what brought attention to high EpiPen prices, rather it is the new prevalence of high deductible health plans. They are an important part of applying normal market forces to pricing for drugs and non-emergency care.

    • Matt M says:

      Yep.

      In a bizarre twist, Obamacare is actually getting us closer to free market medicine than we’ve been since the 1940s. I still entertain the conspiracy theory that it isn’t designed to succeed and will soon collapse with the insistence of “see, this is why we need single payer” from all of the official opinion-molders, but if it doesn’t collapse, it will result in increasingly price-sensitive consumers, which will force producers to start competing on price, which will lead to a far more reasonable and rational system where the market functions just as efficiently as the market for mugs and chairs does.

      • jaed says:

        which will force producers to start competing on price

        They can’t*, in a situation where people have comprehensive first-dollar insurance that has high deductibles. In this situation, those people must go to a provider who is “in-network” for their insurer. That provider has a contracted rate that’s charged to everyone with that insurance policy, for any given procedure. There is no price difference possible at all, no matter who you go to, so there is zero price sensitivity and no way for market forces to operate to bring care prices down for anything that’s covered by insurance.


        *They can legally get medical care for cash from any provider outside their insurance policy, of course, but most people won’t, because a) the cost they pay for such care generally** doesn’t count toward their deductible and they don’t want to lose out, and b) there’s a powerful cultural assumption that all medical care must go through the insurance, a kind of learned helplessness. So even though it’s possible, it mostly doesn’t happen.

        **Few Obamacare policies have out-of-network coverage at all (and even fewer offer it on the exchanges), and for those who do, the standard deductible and out-of-pocket limit is twice the in-network limit, non-inclusive. So if you do go out of network, even if your policy allows it, you’re looking at paying potentially three times the marquee out of pocket limit per year.

        • Matt M says:

          In this situation, those people must go to a provider who is “in-network” for their insurer.

          There is no price difference possible at all, no matter who you go to

          I’m not following you here.

          I seem to recall every insurance plan I’ve ever had offering “networks” that were incredibly wide and included a huge variety and selection of different providers. I did price comparisons for prescription drugs and the results were very different. I don’t recall doing comparisons for providers themselves, but I was certainly under the impression that they were not compelled to all charge the exact same rate.

          Just because Doctor X has a contract with the insurance company stating that all vaccinations will cost $50 doesn’t mean that Doctor Y’s contract with the insurance company is also set at $50, does it?

  14. nexech says:

    I was confused by the Windoc story because i thought it referred to Urbit ships with a two-morpheme address ~windoc … i guess i’m in too deep.

  15. Fahundo says:

    GiveDirectly’s basic income experiment runs into unexpected trouble as some poor people refuse their cash grants, suspecting it might be a scam. I guess if somebody offered me a year’s salary for no reason I would probably suspect it was a scam too.

    Reminds me of that age-old scam where someone offers to pay you a dollar one day, then two dollars the next day, then 3 dollars, and 4 dollars, and so on, and few people realize he actually intends to steal 1/12 of a dollar from you.

  16. Orphan Wilde says:

    Unfounded theory of Identity:

    Identity is a backwards form of introspection performed by non-introspective people; namely, it is how non-introspects define themselves, as, absent the element of introspection to define themselves, they instead define themselves by the people around them. In order to determine specific aspects of themselves, they examine their peer groups, a task to which they are (I imagine) better suited. Because they do not have an inward-defined Identity, they have no internally consistent self; but because they have no internally consistent self, there’s no consistent referent point for them to realize this.

    They generally find introspection increasingly uncomfortable as time goes on, because they might discover they’re different from their peer group, which would be a traumatic identity crisis.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      What does identity mean for introspective people, then…?

      • nope says:

        It would mean that introspective people have less of a coherent sense of identity, if they have one at all.

        Anecdotally, this seems reasonable.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          It does??

          Non-introspective people must have one heck of a sense of identity, then…! I mean, how much more identity can you get?

          I guess what I’m saying is: this seems completely unfounded and made-up. Do you (or does anyone) have any kind of evidence or support or anything for it?

          Edit: Like, ok, Orphan Wilde did say it was unfounded. But what even prompted this theory? Any sort of observation? What?

          • nope says:

            Anecdotally this seems true in that most of the people I know who claim not to have coherent senses of identity are very strong introverts, and the converse is also true (that most very strong introverts I know report not having strong senses of self).

            If Orphan Wilde doesn’t chime in on the topic, I can offer my best guess as to where the theory came from: it’s widely agreed in modern psychology that the “self” is a construct and in some ways an illusion, that the popular notion of the “true self” is a myth, and that there is nothing very fundamental about people’s subjective senses of identity. If this is correct, it would suggest that people with more firsthand experience (via introspection) would have more accurate views on the topic.

            Edit: Orphan, this subject is adjacent to one of strong academic interest to me, and if you’d like to discuss it in more depth you can email me at throwaway82362@gmail.com

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think he means identity as in “identity politics”, which you two seem to have diverged from.

          • nope says:

            @HeelBearCub, those are not as distinct as they sound! 🙂 I read Orphan Wilde’s point as being “how a person views themselves [identity/selfhood] is a consequence of whether they are judging from externals or internals, with people judging from the former tending to create identities more strongly dependent on their reference class”. Judging from one’s reference class will entail tribalism and identity politics.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But sense of self and sense of identity are being used differently here. At least that is how I am interpreting Said Achmiz’s confusion. He seems to be interpreting Orphan as saying that people don’t have a sense of selfhood, don’t think of themselves as unique individuals.

            But I am interpreting Orphan as as saying that non-introspective people define their meaning in life only as arising from their in-group. This is different than having no sense that they are Alice, Bob or Carol.

            Conversely, the introspective person is more likely to have a sense of their value and values that arises from distinct internal motivations that aren’t based on their in-group.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            But I am interpreting Orphan as as saying that non-introspective people define their meaning in life only as arising from their in-group.

            Indeed, I certainly did not interpret Orphan Wilde that way! If HeelBearCub’s reading is correct, would Orphan Wilde please confirm that?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            What I intended should be less important than what interesting concepts you get out of it; if somebody says something interesting in its own right, by all means, discuss that, instead of arguing whether or not it’s what I meant.

            But yeah, my meaning veers closer to identity-politics style identity; identification with an external concept (affinity-identity), rather than identity in the sense of “true self”.

            For identity as “true self”, I haven’t thought about it. On the one hand, introverts would have thought about it more; on the other hand, they’d be more prone to noticing shifts in their own personalities. That could go either way.

        • Lumifer says:

          /me introspects

          /me finds a coherent sense of identity.

  17. MugaSofer says:

    “On the other hand, it looks like pay toilets only cost a dime, whereas it costs me $2 or $3 to buy a coffee in a cafe just so I can use the cafe’s Customer Only non-pay toilet, plus it’s a waste of coffee.”

    Maybe at the time they were banned. I’ve never seen a pay toilet that cost ten cents.

    • Matt M says:

      Yeah, I recently got back from a trip to Europe where pay toilets were common. Most of them cost between 75 cents and 1 euro (about a dollar).

      On the plus side, they were clean, and unlike the restrooms at say, an American McDonalds, were NOT the private bathrooms of like five homeless people.

      • Lumifer says:

        In my personal experience, bathrooms in US McDonalds are *considerably* cleaner than pay bathrooms in Europe, especially Southern Europe.

        • Matt M says:

          Well, I mostly traveled in northern Europe.

          And McDonalds can be *highly* variable. A nice suburban location is a very different situation from say, downtown in the middle of a large city.

  18. Titanium Dragon says:

    First off, vote trading is an absolutely awful idea. You have absolutely no way whatsoever to ensure that the other person is operating in good faith.

    In fact, the smart thing to do, if you’re a Hillary supporter, is to get on there, create as many fake accounts as possible, and offer to vote trade with tons of people, and then still vote for Hillary.

    I expect Johnson supporters will do the same thing. As will Stein supporters. People did this in 2000, and we all remember how that ended up. In fact, I know someone who did that with someone in Florida… as in, they got the guy in Florida to vote for Nader, while the Oregonian voted for Gore.

    This is why we can’t have nice things. Don’t participate. Or scam it, if you are cynical.

    —-

    That US growth chart is disturbingly regular.

    • Fahundo says:

      If you’re the guy who doesn’t live in a swing state, why lie? Your vote is worthless anyway. What I don’t understand is why the guy in a swing state would agree to trade his near-worthless vote for one that is completely worthless.

  19. DrBeat says:

    And wasn’t Buddha’s message less about “peace and compassion” and more about “the peace that comes from death because you have stopped being alive”?

    • person ignorant of buddhism says:

      In Buddhism, death is the transition from one life to the next. Nirvana is the end of the cycle of life and death. I don’t think it would be accurate to equate the two, but I’m no expert.

      • DrBeat says:

        That is why I said “stopped being alive” instead of “dying”, but the state of Vipassana you are supposed to be attaining is explicitly only different from being a corpse in that your heart is beating. You have no thoughts or actions, no internal state of being, no external effect on the world.

        Buddhism says that being alive is intolerable suffering and will never be anything but intolerable suffering, and you have to free yourself from the torture of being forced to exist. The only reason Buddhism doesn’t just say “commit suicide” is that it doesn’t think that will actually finish the job, and you will still be trapped in the cycle of samsara and thus forced to exist in a state of intolerable suffering.

        • Brad (The Other One) says:

          “Think of the hubris it must take to… yank a soul out of non-existence into this… meat. To force a life into this… thresher…”

          Question about Buddhism: does Buddhism assert the universe is eternal, having always existed? Yet some fraction of souls attain enlightenment. Doesn’t it follow that if both premises are true, there should be no unenlightened souls, since an eternally existing universe implies everyone should have attained enlightenment an infinitely long time ago?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            I have a couple potentially-contradictory understandings of Buddhism.

            One is that reincarnation is more metaphorical than literal; you, yourself, do not reincarnate. When you die, you die; enlightenment is achieved in this life, if at all, and reincarnation as it pertains to self is about your mind being reborn within this life into a higher (or lower) state of consciousness (sort of, approximately); however, people like yourself will be born in the future, and what you do in this life affects the lives they will live. Nirvana is, in part, acceptance of the impermanence of self; accepting that the you-that-is would not continue. As far as I can tell, this was probably the Buddha’s actual belief, but it was couched in careful metaphor to avoid selfishness and hedonism (which Buddha described as a central flaw in annihilationist belief systems)

            The more common interpretation, which appears to be heavily influenced by Hindu beliefs, is that there -is- a part of you that continues, through a certain number of cycles. Not all souls enter enlightenment, but end up in a heavenly realm if, after a certain number of rebirths, they have yet to achieve enlightenment. Those who have achieved enlightenment merely end, they do not ascend anywhere; it may be that those who have achieved enlightenment are, explicitly, those who have come to terms with the fact that they will merely end, and so no longer need a comforting belief in continuity. The part of you that continues is not your self; that ends regardless; rather, the part that continues is without thought. I suspect, insofar as rebirth is supposed to happen, that the thing which is supposed to be reborn is the spark of inner life; it is that which observes your thoughts, and is pure consciousness.

            I suspect that there is no actual rebirth in Buddhism, rather a pragmatic decision not to cause despair to people who can’t come to terms with their own finite existence. The religion is largely oriented around seeing the ending of existence as something which is not inherently either good or bad, and was formed in the midst of two competing schools of thought; continuity and annihilation. It may have been resolving a tension between the truth of annihilationism and the social benefits of continuity.

            But my readings are secondhand accounts of translations of metaphors written quite a long time ago, so my understanding of the beliefs is probably flawed in some important ways.

            To answer your question, although it was implicit in the second understanding: New consciousness (or whatever the thing that continues is) is, as I understand, being created constantly, since any given consciousness is only going to stick around on the planet for a few lives anyways.

          • Protagoras says:

            I share Orphan Wilde’s interpretation of reincarnation as metaphorical in at least some important strains of Buddhism. Also, the question of whether the universe is eternal is one of the questions that Buddha rejects as a waste of time in “The Questions Of Malunkyaputta.”

          • Blue Tribe Dissident says:

            Susan Hamilton, in her book Early Buddhism: A New Approach, argues that a literal belief in reincarnation was part of the Buddha’s original teaching, based on her reading of what are generally taken as the earlier stratum of scriptures.

            In the Kālāma Sutta, which is famous for other reasons, the Buddha argues in favour of a course of action which will lead to your wellbeing both in this life as well as in future lives in case there are any.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            The Dalai Lama was once approached by a mountain hermit. The Lama got the vibe that the hermit was more enlightened than even himself, and only approached him out of courtesy. The hermit asked whether he should perform (strenuous religious exercise). The Lama said no, because the hermit was too old and frail. The Lama learned later that the hermit had committed suicide, so that he could undertake the exercise in a younger body. The Lama felt terrible, and now answers others more carefully.

            I recall this story from a book, which I forget the title of. I’m any case, this suggests to me that a nontrivial subset of Buddhists believe in literal reincarnation. Also, Buddhism grew out of Hinduism. So it must have been literal at least initially.

        • Blue Tribe Dissident says:

          In Buddhist thought, nirvana is the only type of uncompounded (unconditioned, non-composite) phenomenon. All compounded phenomena are marked with suffering, but nirvana is not. You might get the impression that switching to uncompounded perception would mean experiencing only a blur of monism, with the result that you would be incapacitated and would either require permanent care like someone in a coma or else would die of thirst or exposure. That certainly doesn’t match anyone’s account of what enlightened people are like. You might suspect that this means these accounts are incoherent, and perhaps so, but, in any event, none of this sounds quite the same as being dead or insensate.

          According to Daniel Ingram, there is a meditative state mentioned in classical sources, which he says he has experienced himself, called nirodha (“cessation”), which is a temporary state of complete oblivion. This is apparently difficult to achieve but not particularly desireable or useful, which is why people don’t usually invest much energy into talking about it. Note that the term nirodha can also be used as a synonym for nirvana, but Ingram is clear that these are two different meanings of the same word: that is, nirvana is not a state of oblivion.

  20. Simon says:

    “Explain this one: Haitian-Americans have one of the lowest crime rates in the country, well below other blacks, Latinos, and whites.”

    I saw this article on Marginal Revolution and was immediately skeptical. The easiest and most likely explanation is that the figures or interpretation are wrong.

    Actually Tyler’s article didn’t even say “one of the lowest crime rates in the country”, just “rather low crime rates” seemingly because the murder victimization rate compared favorably to large racial groups in Miami. To make a claim of one of the lowest crime rates in the country I believe you should compare national crime rates between national origin groups.

    Martinez and Lee’s 1985-95 study reported a homicide victimization rate of 16.7 for Haitians, which was lower than those for non-Hispanic whites

    On a national level I’ve never seen a single year where the white homicide victimization rate was as high as 10 – even through the 80s.
    If these figures are correct for Haitians then their victimization rates are several times higher than whites. e.g. “In 2008, the homicide victimization rate for blacks (19.6 homicides per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for whites (3.3 homicides per 100,000).”

    But the figures on Marginal Revolution seem to pertain to Miami from 1985 – 1995, it’s easy to think of Scarface type reasons that these figures might not be nationally representative.

    Not a good basis for “Haitian-Americans have one of the lowest crime rates in the country”.

    • dndnrsn says:

      If this is the case, it would still raise the question of why Haitian-Americans didn’t fall prey to the same crime-causing factors that the other major demographic groups in Miami did.

      What I posted upthread in response to Jill’s post on this topic probably still stands: maybe Haitians in Miami are more middle class than the average due to migration patterns.

      • Simon says:

        dndnrsn your just so explaination does not stand if you aren’t ecoaling a real phenomenon.

        Tyler Cowan and Scott Alexander have described this study in a misleading, or incorrect, way as far as I can tell. Steve Sailer has also been in the comments with out pointing this out.

        I am surprised at my favourite bloggers, perhaps I’ve missed something. If this was a mistake in traditional media I would accept it far easier.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I said “if this is the case”. If it’s not the case, then no explanation is needed.

          Also, how is that a just-so explanation?

          EDIT: If the study shows Haitians as being less violent than the Miami average in a particular period of time, rather than the US average, there’s still the question “why are they less violent than the Miami average?”

          • Simon says:

            dndnrsn : fair enough, but my point is that I think these statistics have badly misinterpreted.

            I want replies about whether

            Haitian-Americans have one of the lowest crime rates in the country

            is supported by the data. From what I can see – these are old statistics, are not national and they do not support this statement.

            dndrsn’s hypothesis seems difficult to prove, but could still merit if Haitian Americans just have a lower than expected rate of crime, which may or may not be the case.

            However, the idea that they have “one of the lowest crime rates in the country” would make me look more than twice. In fact it was so interesting that Slatestarcodex decided to post it in his news feed. But I can’t see how people came to this conclusion based on the quoted murder victimization rates.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Misinterpreted, or misunderstood? It seems more like the latter to me.

  21. hlynkacg says:

    Carried on from Opepipen Thread:
    Conventional wisdom states that “there can be no stealth in space” for thermodynamic reasons. However as an avionics tech and general space geek I don’t think this axiom is nearly airtight as many people treat it.

    While I agree that true “all aspect” invisibility is impossible without magitech like Star Trek’s Romulan Cloaking devices, it seems to me that there plausible are ways in which a spacecraft might hide (at least temporarily), or otherwise pass unnoticed.

    That said, a massive fusion rocket burning hard for extrasolar space is not going to hide from anyone.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      It’s certainly the page on Atomic Rockets that makes me less certain about the rest of the site’s reliability.
      But yeah, what a fusion engine would look like from the ground is an underused concept in science fiction. It’d be a hell of a sight, even with the naked eye.

    • Lumifer says:

      In an SF universe I’ve seen a system whereby stealthed spaceships “eject” their heat in a narrow beam aft so it if hits you it’s really obvious, but otherwise stealth works. As has been pointed out many time, space is really REALLY huge.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Interesting, a scenario where “the hider” has a hot-side and a cold-side and takes care to only present it’s cold-side to “the seeker” is actually one of the ones I had in mind.

      • bean says:

        The problem is that to concentrate the heat into a 60-degree cone, you have to make your radiator about 10 times bigger, and going beyond that doesn’t really work. Eventually, you look like a cold asteroid with a tiny ship concealed inside. Now, how hard is it to place enough small probes in the outer system so there isn’t a safe patch of sky to radiate into? (Keeping in mind that these probes can be much closer to stealthy than anything big because they’re a long ways out and small.)
        Also, still doesn’t solve the problem that your engine will announce you to everyone.

        • hlynkacg says:

          How hard is it to place enough small probes in the outer system so there isn’t a safe patch of sky to radiate into?

          Depending on your setting/tech-base the answer to that question could be anything from “moderately easy” to “horrifically impractical”. Heck it could even vary wildly within the same setting.

          IE, we could take it at a given that any vessel entering cislunar space is sure to be spotted but for the pirates lying in wait for ice hauler among the outer planets, or for the frigate LDSS Righteous Sentence on a ballistic intercept course with said pirates, directional radiators remain a viable means of concealment.

          • bean says:

            IE, we could take it at a given that any vessel entering cislunar space is sure to be spotted

            By the time you’re that close, other systems start to become quite adequate.

            but for the pirates lying in wait for ice hauler among the outer planets,

            Yes and no. Yes, in that an ice hauler is unlikely to be linked directly into the systemwide sensor network. No, in that the government will have that network, and disappearing off of it will result in the Space Guard getting a call to go look for you. Doubly no, in that displaying signs of directional radiation will be very suspicious, and result in a rather different call to the Space Guard.

            or for the frigate LDSS Righteous Sentence on a ballistic intercept course with said pirates, directional radiators remain a viable means of concealment.

            This is somewhat more plausible. You’re still ignoring the problem of burns, but it is a good point that not everyone is going to have a massive sensor network with remote probes.
            At the same time, I think that’s too weak to call stealth. I’d define stealth as the ability to hide even when serious sensors are looking for you. A B-52 isn’t a stealth bomber just because it can go overhead unnoticed when it doesn’t leave a contrail.
            Edit:
            To make this point another way, launching a surprise coastal raid against a village where the warning system is ‘whoever happens to be looking at the sea’ doesn’t really require stealth in these terms. Achieving surprise against a village which has dedicated lookouts and a decent set of pickets does.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Space is big.

    • bean says:

      it seems to me that there plausible are ways in which a spacecraft might hide (at least temporarily), or otherwise pass unnoticed.

      Stealth is being able to hide from opposing sensors in a way that aids in the accomplishment of the mission. The act of being able to hide from some sensors at some arbitrary point is not enough in and of itself.

      In space, everyone knows where you are, and where you’ll be for the rest of time, unless you burn. That burn will either give you away (and update everyone’s baseline as to where you will be) or it will not be capable of changing your trajectory enough to allow your final destination to be meaningfully different from your initial one.
      Another important point is that stealth requires a ship to behave suspiciously, which can defeat the strategic purpose of stealth entirely. A submarine can go in any direction once it submerges, but a ship headed towards me that suddenly disappears is going to put me on guard.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      This is a perfect opportunity for me to complain about a certain thing I see people do in forum threads about speculative technologies and similar techno-futurism, which annoys me greatly. It goes like this:

      1. Pick your favorite predicted future state of technology (for best results, make it something that is basically an extrapolation of current technology, so that you can apply a maximum amount of real-world physics and engineering to it).
      2. Pretend this future state is actually already here and the predicted technology already exists. Speak about these things in the present tense / indicative mood exclusively.
      3. State your claims very authoritatively. Allude to science and engineering. (Don’t cite or even mention sources, though; you don’t want to take the risk of anyone easily checking up on your claims.) Generally sound as if you are a credentialed and seasoned expert in this (as yet nonexistent, possibly never existent!) field.
      4. Win argument? (Or at least bamboozle your interlocutor, and any onlookers, sufficiently to get them convinced that you’re talking the real talk, and not just pulling fantasy out of your behind.)

      Example:
      “No, you’re wrong as a matter of simple fact. What actually happens in 9 out of 10 space battles is [blah blah blah]. This is simple physics: [insert discussion of various space lasers and what have you]”

      Get the hell out of here! Nothing happens in 9 out of 10 space battles, because there are no space battles. You can speculate about what things might happen in hypothetical space battles, which is, shall we say… not quite exactly the same thing.

      By the time technology advances to where the thing you’re talking about is even possible (if it ever does!), who the heck knows what other technological or social or whatever changes happen? At the very least, admit that what you’re doing is sitting in your armchair, imagining what maybe might be. Don’t take that “no, what I am saying is definitely in actual fact true” tone. It’s ridiculous.

      Possible objections:

      “Well, if we’re talking about what’s basically an extrapolation of current tech, then we can talk about it sensibly!”

      Sure, you can talk about what you think will happen. And you might be wrong, because you’re still talking about something which has never in fact been real or taken place (yet??). All sorts of factors could crop up. But more importantly, various aspects of the tech or science involved may simply become irrelevant — because of other, unforeseen developments. (Hypothetical person in 1950: “The average person in the year 2000 flies coast-to-coast about 1.5 times a week, and it takes him about half an hour to do so. Look, this is just fact. Here’s a lecture about trends in airplane engineering to prove it.”)

      “We can predict/extrapolate trends in technology and socioeconomic patterns!”

      We can’t. (If you doubt this, count how many people in 1966 predicted ubiquitous Wikipedia-via-smartphones and gay marriage, or any number of other things we now have.)

      • Matt M says:

        “Get the hell out of here! Nothing happens in 9 out of 10 space battles, because there are no space battles.”

        Reminds me of a columnist I used to read who did a hilarious rant on scientists who describe them as “astro-biologists.” It went something like, “astro-biology is the study of life originating someplace other than Earth, something which has never ever been observed. What possible expertise could these people really have?”

    • John Schilling says:

      Redirect to the Open Thread.

  22. Iceman says:

    Simon Penner has an essay on Social Gentrification, comparing entryism in nerddom to gentrification IRL.

    • Anonymous says:

      There’s no fucking such thing as nerd culture anymore than there is such a thing as spic or cunt culture. It’s a slur, pure and simple. This reclaimer nonsense is probably all people that never had it used in anger against them in the first place. They have no right and ought to be ashamed of themselves.

    • Lumifer says:

      I’m not impressed. His basic argument is that change (any kind of) will hurt someone and it will hurt the most those who cannot adapt to change. Yeah, sure, and..? Adapt or die — that has been the operating principle for a VERY long time.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The analogy is weak on a number of points. Possibly the most important being that “nobody actually likes dealing with the the unpleasant and offensive elements of nerd culture”. This is mostly false. There are a lot of things nerds do which people in the mainstream find unpleasant and offensive… and nerds like.

      • Anonymous says:

        Is there really anyone that enjoys being told to “go fucking kill yourself faggot newbie” on voice chat?

        • Jiro says:

          Is there anyone who claims that that is nerd culture?

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Trash Talk is hardly a nerd thing, it’s just that videogames removed a lot of the elemnts of competitive games/sports that kept people who couldn’t deal with it outside, and that limited the amount of trash one person could talk.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I didn’t see “kill yourself faggot” when playing Doom 20 years ago.

          (Edit: even 25 years ago playing door games on BBSs I saw some assholes, but no death threats or rape threats)

          “Gamers” was a nerd culture that got invaded by jocks. (There’s an old Penny Arcade strip that laments this, that the people who beat us up in real life are now playing “our” games.) And the nerds do not trust the attempt by outsiders to purge the jocks will in any way leave the nerds alone. It’s a standard “I didn’t cause this but I’m going to get blamed for it anyway” expectation.

        • Brad (The Other One) says:

          I eat that shit up, thank you very much. It’s endearing, in it’s own way.

        • birdboy2000 says:

          Yes, because (at least in games I play) it means “I’m being blown out so badly all I can do is rage at my opponent”.

          You generally don’t get trash-talked when you’re actually losing. There’s a reason they’re not letting their skills do the talking.

        • Matt M says:

          Perhaps not, but there are a lot of people who like being able to say it to others (and are willing to take the trade-off that it might be said to them in exchange for the opportunity to do so)

    • Bugmaster says:

      I think the article is pretty spot-on, especially the part where he acknowledges that gentrification of subculture is, objectively, a good thing. Objectively speaking, you want a society that is full of nice, agreeable people, who can derive pleasure from interacting with each other while working toward their shared goals.

      There does exist a minority of nerds who value passion, bluntness, and precise analysis of why their interlocutor is completely wrong about everything; I should know, since I’m in that group. However, if you were designing an optimal society from scratch, you would most likely organize it to explicitly eliminate such people from the society (if not from existence).

      The world would be a better place if people like myself did not exist; and yet we do. The reason we are facing a culture war today is because nerds escaped their social isolation bubbles and spilled out into the greater world; now, we are dealing with the inevitable pushback, as the natural balance reasserts itself.

      • DrBeat says:

        I think it’s the opposite, because… that’s not what is happening.

        It is the goal of popular people — all of them everywhere one hundred percent of the time — to punish the unpopular for the crime of being perceptible. This “gentrification” of nerd culture is not actually making it better by any objective standard, because the things the gentrifiers appeal to as Bad, Wrong, Hurtful behaviors that Keep Women Out are not actually happening. Not in any greater number than they are happening everywhere else. But you see people telling boldfaced lies, lies that don’t even make any sense, about how nerds are Bad And Threatening To Women, and everyone eats that shit up, shouts it from the rooftops, demands that nerds be punished for the crimes of other nerds that did not actually happen.

        The one cause popular people have is to punish the unpopular. The one value popular people have is to punish the unpopular. And claiming someone is Bad And Threatening To Women is a fantastic way to punish someone for being unpopular.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Its a two-pronged attack, too. Prong one is accusing (male) nerds of being Bad and Threatening To Women in a manner stereotypical to “jocks” and “bros”; this everyone agrees is wrong (especially the nerds; the “bros” agree even as they commit the various offenses). Prong two is claiming things that actually are typical of nerds to be inherently Bad and Threatening to Women.

          And of course there’s some amount of baiting and switching between them.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I’ve heard SJWs being compared to cancer before, but I don’t think they’re cancer; instead, they’re lupus. Nerds escape their bubbles; the society’s immune response attempts to seal them back in; but a few overzealous antibodies go one step further and aim instead for burning anyone and anything that looks like a nerd to the ground.

        • Jiro says:

          Hurtful behaviors that Keep Women Out are not actually happening.

          I think that’s the key. The gentrification comparison is too negative to nerds; it implies that the area has the equivalent of a high crime rate and nerds are the the equivalent of people who have no other place to move to. What’s actually happening is that nerds are being made a target. Nobody likes to be made a target regardless of whether they have a high crime rate or other places to go to.

          Imagine that instead of gentrification, you have an area where Mafia dons start moving in. They’re wealthy, they have a low crime rate (because they’ve bought off the police so they never get arrested, and nobody dares try to rob them anyway), but they also got where they got by taking things from others. And they really like the area and people living on the prime pieces of real estate in the neighborhood start to find horse’s heads dumped in their beds. Occasionally some poor Italian guy living in the area finds himself particularly targeted since the Mafia dons think that other Italians are naturally part of their group and Italians who don’t work with the Mafia are traitors (comparison: genuine female nerd).

        • vV_Vv says:

          Nerds escape their bubbles; the society’s immune response attempts to seal them back in;

          This seems strange. We don’t observe hordes of nerds invading the fashion industry or football, we instead observe self-appointed moral guardians invading nerd spaces chastening them about the “master/slave” terminology in open source software being problematic or about female video game characters being portrayed in misogynistic ways, no matter how they are actually portrayed.

          This is no immune reaction, this is a pest infestation spreading to the plants that are easier to attack, until they found one inhabited by hardened worker ants that managed to put up a resistance.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t know anything about fashion, but you absolutely could make a claim that nerds are “invading” sports. Go to a blue collar bar and find someone yelling at a TV with a sporting event on and ask them what they think about analytics, and prepare to be lectured on how a bunch of geeks who aren’t even tough are ruining their sport of choice by obsessing over statistics.

            There are tons of sports blogs and podcasts that have a lot of “nerd” elements to them. Sports are a thing that can be obsessed over and analyzed to a great detail, so it’s appealing to the intellectual nerd types.

            It’s hipsters, not nerds, who hate sports and stay far away from it.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There does exist a minority of nerds who value passion, bluntness, and precise analysis of why their interlocutor is completely wrong about everything; I should know, since I’m in that group. However, if you were designing an optimal society from scratch, you would most likely organize it to explicitly eliminate such people from the society (if not from existence).

        And your society would stall somewhere in the Stone Age.

        • Bugmaster says:

          As I said above, a). I’m not convinced that rudeness == creative thought, and b). even if this is the case in humans, the solution is to segregate the rude but necessary people into social isolation bubbles, then siphon any of their useful output now and again.

          • Anonymous says:

            There is no such link. It’s an arbitrary path dependant cultural artifact like the gay lisp.

          • Lumifer says:

            the solution is to segregate the rude but necessary people into social isolation bubbles

            Nope. The rude people, by the virtue of being rude, will tell the nice people to go fuck themselves and the nice people, by the virtue of being nice, will go.

            You have a strange idea of a utopia which involves segregating non-conformists into ghettos. Well, fuck that.

          • DrBeat says:

            Rudeness == creative thought is a red herring. Nerds are not being punished for rudeness. They are being punished because they are unpopular. They are being punished because it is possible to punish them, and for no other reason.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Rudeness is, to use a much-overused term, a social construct. If you exile or kill those who value passion, bluntness, and precise analysis, you are going to lose scientific and technological process. Probably a good deal of creativity as well, on “passion”. You can possibly separate them into social isolation bubbles (since they don’t want to deal with imprecise and docile people who can’t get to the damned point either), but you’re going to have to provide some compensation.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Rudeness is, to use a much-overused term, a social construct. If you exile or kill those who value passion, bluntness, and precise analysis, you are going to lose scientific and technological process.

            Well, the Soviets sending all their biologists that disagreed with Lysenko to the gulags worked so well for Soviet science… /s

      • Tekhno says:

        @Bugmaster

        Objectively speaking, you want a society that is full of nice, agreeable people, who can derive pleasure from interacting with each other while working toward their shared goals.

        In what way is this even objective? Niceness is totally subjective, since these supposed socially awkward nerds manage to get on perfectly well with each other, and are capable of coordinating to achieve common goals.

        Most nerds don’t have severe developmentally disabling autism. Most social awkwardness is a mutual inability to interact, it just hurts nerds more because they are the minority party. Nerds don’t have social awkwardness with other nerds. You could equally well just flip the distribution of nerds and normals and turn normals into the ones who have the difficulty finding communities with social norms that fit their personalities.

        However, if you were designing an optimal society from scratch, you would most likely organize it to explicitly eliminate such people from the society (if not from existence).

        Optimal for who exactly? There’s no such thing as optimality in a vacuum. Things can only be optimal for a particular purpose. What is being optimized for?

        The world would be a better place if people like myself did not exist

        Quit your masochism. It would be better for normies sure.

        The reason we are facing a culture war today is because nerds escaped their social isolation bubbles and spilled out into the greater world

        The culture war writ large has very little to do with “nerds escaping their social isolation bubbles” and if you wanted them to not do so, “gentrifying” (this is a bad analogy) their isolation bubbles is a bad idea anyway.

    • Lumifer says:

      @ Bugmaster

      Objectively speaking, you want a society that is full of nice, agreeable people

      First of all, I don’t know what do you mean by “objectively”. Second, no, you don’t. You want a society full of diverse people because the “nice, agreeable” people once in a while will agree on a stupid thing and will all march lemming-like to their end. Robustness is a very valuable quality of a society and you don’t get it by having everyone be nice and agreeable. Third, once you get some power-hungry people into the mix (the “sociopaths”), you need someone to push them back and that someone isn’t going to be nice and agreeable. Again, if you lack such people, you will… suffer.

      I don’t think nerds are facing a culture war. I think there are normal skirmishes between various sub-cultures and the nerds are doing pretty great, especially compared to a few decades ago.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I didn’t say “stupid”, I said “agreeable”. I agree that robustness is a valuable quality of a society, as is diversity of thought. However, I am not convinced that there’s some natural law stating that, in principle, the only way to avoid echo chambers is to have 4chan-style trolls all over the place (to use a hyperbole). For example, the scientific community manages to get along reasonably well while remaining reasonably productive (the many failures of the softer sciences notwithstanding).

        When I said “objectively”, what I meant was, “societies who nurture and promote disagreeable people will be much more likely to fall apart than societies who do not”. You might argue that it is the case that, in humans, being a valuable contrarian necessarily entails being a nerd. However, the solution in this case is to segregate nerds into their own social ostracism bubbles, then siphon off their valuable output when you need it. This is basically the Omelas bargain: you make a small group of people intensely unhappy, for the benefit of everyone else. I’ve lived in the bubble for most of my life, and I hate it, but that doesn’t tell you anything about the worth of the bargain.

        • Lumifer says:

          I didn’t say “stupid”, I said “agreeable”.

          Everyone makes mistakes. Pervasive conformism means that occasionally (note: occasionally) a mistake will be made and there will be no one disagreeable enough to point out how the consensus is wrong.

          “societies who nurture and promote disagreeable people will be much more likely to fall apart than societies who do not”

          Citation needed. That does not look obvious to me, at all. Historically, “disagreeable” people were very valuable since you could point them at the neighbours and acquire those neighbours (or their land and women, anyway) soon thereafter.

          Folk wisdom, by the way, specifies in which place do nice guys finish :-/

    • Urstoff says:

      I’m of the general feeling that anything that manifests as a “culture” or “identity” is ultimately bad. It’s just feeding the tribalistic monster. I play games, but I would never identify as a gamer. I read some sci-fi, but I would never identify as a sci-fi “fan”. It seems the further you dive into any culture (and particularly and fandom), the worse everyone acts.

    • BBA says:

      This whole subthread feels like the blind men describing the elephant.

      I roughly agree with the gentrification narrative but since I have a vested interest in it being true I’m naturally skeptical of it. I feel like it understates just how nasty, misogynistic, etc. nerd culture was before it was cleaned up, and how disgusting the parts that weren’t cleaned up still are.

      I also think there’s something wrong with the real-world gentrification narrative. My grandparents left the Lower East Side for the suburbs, and that was bad, because it was white flight. Now I could move from the suburbs to the Lower East Side, but that would be bad, because it’s gentrification. But if I stay in the suburbs, it’s still white flight and still bad. It’s almost like I’m to blame for everything no matter what I do, just because I’m rich and white.

      How this applies to nerd culture is left as an exercise for the reader.

      • DrBeat says:

        I’m naturally skeptical of it. I feel like it understates just how nasty, misogynistic, etc. nerd culture was before it was cleaned up, and how disgusting the parts that weren’t cleaned up still are.

        It wasn’t and isn’t.

        “Unpopular people are Bad And Threatening To Women!” is and is only a means by which the popular punish the unpopular for being perceptible. Tales of how nerd culture is Bad And Threatening To Women, when they aren’t completely and maliciously fabricated — which is very often — all fall into the same category of “A woman is upset in this area, so we don’t have to look at any other area to conclude this area is more Bad And Threatening To Women than those other areas we never looked at and have zero bits of information about, and this is justification enough to punish the unpopular people we find there, for the crime of being perceptible to us.”

      • birdboy2000 says:

        I hang out in the places which “still aren’t cleaned up” and they don’t have a fraction of the nastiness of the places which are “cleaned up”.

        /a/ will call a fictional character a whore. /v/ may, at worst, make similar comments about a public figure, or incite anonymous insults or empty threats on the internet.

        The “cleaned up” parts of the web will, in addition to the above, dox you, attempt to get you fired from your job, cut you off from fan communities, and do everything in their power to exile you from everywhere they can until you drop dead. I’ve heard about people attempting suicide over it and I totally understand why.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          I was going to say, the Steven Universe fandom represents “the best” of progressive media…
          And they’re best known for telling the show’s staff to kill themselves, because the staff got upset about the fandom harassing artists to suicide.

          Whereas the boards have, what, sent people some unwanted pizza?

        • Anonymous says:

          There are about 850,000,000 English speaking regular internet users. How many of them in the last year would say have been subjected to the behavior you describe?

          • birdboy2000 says:

            Why on earth would you assume I was talking about the entirety of the English-speaking internet, and not a bunch of communities devoted to specific niche topics?

        • BBA says:

          You’re eliding a hell of a lot of casual racism, antisemitism, and so on. I know, I know, it’s “ironic”, but ironic shitposting is still shitposting. (Besides which, /pol/ stopped being funny a long time ago.) And who was it that invented the word “doxing”?

          Yes, Tumblr can be worse, but I would argue that those fandoms never got “cleaned up”, because they were never part of the “Nerd Culture” we’re discussing here to begin with. Tumblr fandom is the successor to slashfic zines, a mostly female sub-subculture of (originally) Star Trek fandom that apparently had a mutual loathing with the mostly male mainstream. Some SJ folks came out of there, and didn’t see any reason to clean up their home; others saw nothing to clean up in a woman-friendly pro-LGBT space, so they disregarded all the underlying nastiness.

          Sure other places are worse, but just because the other cars are driving 80 in a 60 zone it doesn’t mean the cops won’t ticket you for driving 70.

          • Jiro says:

            If most of the blacks who drove 70 were ticketed and most of the whites who drove 80 weren’t, I don’t think the excuse “they’re going 70, so they are actually violating the law for real and we can ticket them” would hold much water.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            You’re eliding a hell of a lot of casual racism, antisemitism, and so on.

            Who cares? Let them have their fun.

            Seriously! Is something genuinely absent from your life because you can’t hang out on 4chan’s /b board without seeing racist memes? Is that something you wanted to do anyway?

          • birdboy2000 says:

            The antisemitism and racism is obnoxious, and yet “cleaned-up” spaces are just as bad if not worse towards “cis white men”, who of course are the root of all evil, and they also decided to redefine “racism” so it can’t apply to them.

            No one has cleaned anything up, they’ve just (in a nominal way, because the same people – myself included – often get hit for different reasons) changed the targets.

            On the whole I’m watching in horror as people are resurrecting appearance-based divisions and treating them as a measure of a human being.

            But some places – the ones talking about the need to “clean up” nerd culture – add a culture of nonstop purges and witch-hunts to that horror, while others don’t.

            As an aside, I’m an active fanfic writer, I’ve read my share of yaoi and yuri, I’m a former livejournal user from the days when most livejournal users made *fun* of livejournal feminists. LJ/Tumblr culture has taken a definite turn for the nasty over the past 10 years, and I seriously wish it was a place where I still felt welcome. And forum culture has gone in the same direction – there are multiple nerdy sites I used to browse where the mod team drank the social justice kool-aid and progressively banned most of the old membership.

            Compared to that, being told from time to time to “gas myself” is fucking nothing.

      • Matt M says:

        “It’s almost like I’m to blame for everything no matter what I do, just because I’m rich and white.”

        Almost? It’s exactly like that.

      • sKelt0n says:

        This might be relevant.

  23. Gunnar Zarncke says:

    > is 145 years old. Statistical common sense,

    Many things in humans and nature in general doesn’t follow normal distributions but exhibits a long tail. I wouldn’t be too surprised if this were true.

    Wikipedia mentions this but sadly doesn’t offer examples.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_tail#Statistical_meaning

    Some things that are quick to google:
    Success in business
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2014/02/19/the-myth-of-the-bell-curve-look-for-the-hyper-performers/#5bae93ba13fc

    Number of children looks roughly normally distributed
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/08/what-is-the-distribution-of-offspring-per-individual/#.V9sYBJiLRhF

    But then you have individuals with >1000 (male)/ > 68 (female) confirmed children that are also well beyond normal (sic).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_the_most_children

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t think it’s a question of normal distribution but a question of how far of a single outlier you’re willing to accept. If someone said there was a 20 foot tall guy, I’d be skeptical, because I’d expect at least a few 19 foot people too. This is the same kind of issue.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        This seems more like a report of a 10 foot person, but if Wadlow had died as a child.

        I think the weight should be on the prior that he is actually 125, and we have a bookkeeping error recording a 9 as a 7. That’s much more likely than him being 145.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          The second tallest person was 98% Wadlow’s height. The second oldest would be 84% this guy’s age. So an appropriate height metaphor would be finding someone who was 10’8 or so.

          If you’re willing to admit bookkeeping errors, isn’t there a vastly higher prior that he’s 85 or something, and the bookkeeping error added 60 years? Why assume both a bookkeeping error and that he’s the oldest man to ever live by a decent margin?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Hmmm. Fair point. I think the place I was starting from is “his records likely bear some resemblance to his actual birth year”. 1891 to 1871 seems possible, so to 1911, but less so. 1931 to 1871 seems much less likely.

            Perhaps that should favor 105 and not 125, but I admit I would really like to know more about how those Indonesian records were assembled.

            I think I’m also putting some weight on “He’s old enough to seem amazingly old”. 85 seems like it should be distinguishable. That might be poor thinking on my part.

            I’m not sure what the story on his surviving family is, so I’m also putting some weight on the age of his family members not being somehow really implausible given his putative age.

  24. Brandon Berg says:

    Regarding Haitian-American crime rates, it seems like selection would play a role. We probably don’t admit people with criminal records, and illegal immigration from Haiti is a lot tougher than from Mexico.

  25. Jill says:

    I noticed that the comments at Marginal Revolution, on the bit about Haitian Americans having low crime rates, there were some interesting attempts at explanations for this. One person noted that Haitians overthrew their slave-owners almost two centuries ago without foreign help. So perhaps there is a higher level of confidence in their abilities to make their own fate in the world, to shape their own lives etc., than the average non-immigrant African American in the U.S.– although individuals may vary, of course. The weight of U.S. history– slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow laws etc., is a heavy burden on many people in black communities in the U.S. Some are able to get beyond that, of course, and some are not. But the history is a force to be reckoned with.

    Someone else noted that immigration does select for more independent and entrepreneurial people. Someone else noted that Haitian Americans have very high levels of social skills. And I definitely believe that, on average, people with better social skills are more able to make their social and economic lives work out better, without resorting to violence or crime as a means to solve problems.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The first question that pops into my head is “what have the general patterns of emigration from Haiti been?” Lacking anyone here knowing about Haiti (if you know about Haiti please tell us about this), Wikipedia tells me there’s under a million, mostly in Florida and some East Coast cities.

      It also has this to say:

      Between 1957 and 1986, when the Duvaliers ruled Haiti, their political persecution of the opposition and suspected activists resulted in many Haitian professionals, the middle class, and students to emigrate to others countries. Haitians sought political asylum or permanent resident status in many countries such as the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, France, Dominican Republic and Canada (primarily Montreal). Between 1977 and 1981, 60,000 Haitians landed in South Florida, many of them settling in the neighborhood of Little Haiti.

      In the late 20th century, there was a significant brain drain from Haiti as thousands of doctors, teachers, social workers and entrepreneurs moved to New York City and Miami. Other Haitians worked in restaurants and music stores. In 1986, 40,000 Haitians who came to the United States seeking political asylum achieved permanent resident status. In 1991, there was another wave of Haitian boat people. But the administration of President Bill Clinton tried to discourage Haitian immigration. People were either detained and/or sent back to Haiti. Still, between 1995 and 1998, 50,000 Haitians obtained temporary legal status.

      Emphasis mine (also I removed a reference number). If a disproportionate number of Haitians coming to the US were professionals of various sorts and students, well, there’s that right there. For the ones who were fleeing persecution, “be able to successfully flee persecution” probably raises the bar a little bit higher (or at least you get the lucky people, if you believe in luck).

      Quick Googling isn’t giving me anything on average Haitian-American income today, so I don’t know what their income is like – if it was the Haitian middle class coming to America, maybe Haitian Americans should be compared to the American middle class, or the Haitian middle class? Again, I have no economic data.

      Even if a disproportionate number of Haitians were not professionals in Haiti, that an early wave was might have meant a more stable established community for later waves.

      So, if Haitians commit crime at a lower rate than the US average, those could be possible reasons.

      • Sandy says:

        There’s some data on Haitians here. It’s puzzling because they’re younger than the population at large and generally of a lower income bracket, which would both increase the likelihood of criminal behavior, but if Cowen is right they defy those trends.

    • Lumifer says:

      One person noted that Haitians overthrew their slave-owners almost two centuries ago without foreign help. So perhaps there is a higher level of confidence in their abilities to make their own fate in the world, to shape their own lives etc.

      So, have you looked at how actual Haiti is doing?

    • Sandy says:

      Interesting question for analysis — was slavery/KKK/Jim Crow etc. qualitatively worse than slavery/Hispaniola civil war/Duvalier dictatorships?

      • Zakharov says:

        My understanding is that slavery in Haiti was considerably worse than in the US.

      • keranih says:

        One way to look at this was the reproductive success of various slave populations – ie, the number of deaths vs births each year. It’s possible to argue that the more “normal” and “non-abusive” a society was, the more children would be born, and not die.

        By those standards, the American South was a run-away success, unmatched in the Americas among slave-owning societies. The Bolivian silver mines, by contrast, were human-grinding mills of misery.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Slaves in Haiti were worked to death. You might say that’s worse. But that means that the descendants of Haitian slaves are the descendants of the last generation of newly imported slaves, people who did not experience much slavery, while the descendants of American slaves are the descendants of generations of slaves. If you think that generations of experience matter, which seems to be the premise of the question, Haiti comes out ahead.

  26. BBA says:

    Via Kevin Drum: incoming World Bank chief economist Paul Romer has published a paper arguing that all current macroeconomic thinking is garbage.

    • Jill says:

      For those interested in macroeconomics and whether it’s garbage or not, Paul Krugman has responded to some of Paul Romer’s statements and Romer to Krugman’s. Here are the Krugman columns I got when I searched for Krugman’s references, in his blog, to Romer. Krugman links, in the second post on this page below, to a response Romer made to Krugman previously. And in that second post also, there’s a great Monty Python video link on the subject of sarcasm.

      http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/?s=Paul+Romer

    • Jill says:

      Here are a couple of paragraphs from Krugman about how macroecnomics went wrong–basically because macroeconomics went in such a Right Wing directions, that macroeconomists felt compelled to assume, against the evidence, that Keynes was wrong.

      One of the many modern victories of political ideology over economic reality. Of course reality itself didn’t budge. But people’s beliefs in reality floundered.

      “First, there was a political component. Equilibrium business cycle theory denied that fiscal or monetary policy could play a useful role in managing the economy, and this was a very appealing conclusion on one side of the political spectrum. This surely was a big reason the freshwater school immediately declared total victory over Keynes well before its approach had been properly vetted, and why it could not back down when the vetting actually took place and the doctrine was found wanting.

      “Second — and this may be less apparent to non-economists — there was the toolkit factor. Lucas-type models introduced a new set of modeling and mathematical tools — tools that required a significant investment of time and effort to learn, but which, once learned, let you impress everyone with your technical proficiency. For those who had made that investment, there was a real incentive to insist that models using those tools, and only models using those tools, were the way to go in all future research.”

      • Trevor says:

        The only thing original in Keynes General Theory was the idea of the liquidity trap. This is according the John Hicks, who actually created what became known as Keynesian Economics. But, of course, the idea of the liquidity trap is obviously wrong and there are easy ways out of it such as setting a gold price peg or devaluing your currency in the forex markets.

    • Which I linked to in the previous open thread.

  27. Homo Iracundus says:

    Trump is down, but it would be foolish to assume he’s out

    Any time you see lines like “People from all over the country were galvanized into action”, you can pretty safely assume it’s bought and paid for.

    And astroturf election-buying like this is why he’s not down. It’s going to take decades to cleanse the country of this filth.

    • Current election betting odds show Trump’s chance of winning at 34%. So far from out.

      At the moment I’m hoping for a close election, with Clinton winning but the Republicans maintaining control of both houses. Not a great outcome, but the least bad that seems at all plausible.

      If I vote, of course, it will be for Gary Johnson.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I suspect election betting is far from rational and informed. Brexit prediction markets were pretty far wrong, weren’t they?

        I haven’t decided if I’ll stick to Good and vote Johnson, Chaos and vote Trump, or True Neutral and not bother. But I expect Trump to win.

  28. There’s actually a YCombinator funded startup in my coworking space working on an EMDrive. They haven’t actually moved in yet because I’m interested in talking to them.

  29. Josiah Henn says:

    Thanks for alerting me to the Kratom thing. I signed the petition and blogged my thoughts on the issue if you are interested. https://medium.com/@josiah.henn/kratom-really-c9911d1e205#.4lur7itp0

  30. Peter the Nelson says:

    The Koreans-required-to-use-IE article seems questionable. Looks like Chrome has edged out IE for top spot in South Korea, if you believe this site:
    http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser-KR-monthly-201508-201608

    Also, there *is* an interesting narrative to be spun about bad regulation, but it’s not the one given here. In the 90s, the US subjected asymmetric encryption to export controls (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export_of_cryptography_from_the_United_States), which meant that everyone outside the US was basically not able to use SSL/TLS (“https”) to secure commercial transactions online. A workaround was for non-US companies to implement the relevant encryption in browser add-ons (specifically activex controls, which limited the solution to IE). It looks like one such solution was (is? dunno?) required by law in Korea, which probably made sense at the time. When I lived in China (which lacks such a law) from 2010-2012, I still had to install some garbage IE-only activex plugin in order to do ebanking. Naturally I only used it in a virtual machine…

  31. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Everywhere you look, stories about non-reproductive female worker ants…

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      The Patriarchy is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.
      No wonder its effects are seen everywhere!

  32. fr00t says:

    On the other hand, it looks like pay toilets only cost a dime, whereas it costs me $2 or $3 to buy a coffee in a cafe just so I can use the cafe’s Customer Only non-pay toilet, plus it’s a waste of coffee.

    Or you know, just walk in and use it.

    • gbdub says:

      Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything more than a bit of side-eye from using the bathroom in a store or fast-food restaurant without buying anything. Most of the employees can’t be bothered to care either way. Worst case scenario, browse the shop for a couple minutes, or buy something if and only if they make you. This is probably my not-looking-like-a-homeless-junkie privilege though.

      As far as guilt, I figure if that dude thinking he’s the next great novelist can rent a table and wi-fi for 2 hours for a $3 latte, my comparative impact for a 30 second pit stop and gallon of toilet water is pretty minimal.

      • Cadie says:

        If I have to use a gas station bathroom I usually buy peanuts or a couple small pieces of candy. It counts as buying something, it’s cheap, and it’s something I want anyway, even if I’m really only stopping there because I have to pee.

        But there’s nothing wrong with just using the bathroom most of the time. People occasionally do that where I work (fast-casual restaurant, almost fast food but not quite) and nobody gives a damn. It would only be an issue if we had a lot of people using/trashing the toilets and making it hard to have clean and available toilets for paying customers; that hasn’t been the case so it’s fine.

      • BBA says:

        Hotel lobbies tend to have nice bathrooms and they don’t expect everyone passing through to be a paying customer.

        Here in New York many cafes and stores will put a combination lock on the door and give you the code on your receipt. I’ve only seen one hotel do that and I’m not sure how that works – do you have to get a room to use the lobby toilet? Or just ask at the desk and not look like a homeless junkie?

    • Devilbunny says:

      FYI: this strategy Does Not Work in New Orleans around Mardi Gras. Most other times as well, but particularly then.

    • Steve Reilly says:

      But some coffeeshop bathrooms are locked and require a code you get on your receipt. Similar thing with the men’s (but not the women’s) room in hotel down the street from me.

  33. Azure says:

    It is probably a good heuristic that, at least until we get a whole
    lot better at it, disagreements in cognitive science should not appear
    obvious and one-sided either.

    There’s been a divide between the Generative Syntacticians (aka
    Chomskyans) and Everyone else for a couple decades now. There’s a
    geographic component, Generative Syntax holds sway in universities
    east of the Mississippi and Everything Else (including George Lakoff’s
    Generative Semantics, Construction Grammar, Cognitive Grammar, and a
    bunch of other things) holds sway in universities West of the
    Mississippi.

    This is unfortunate. When I was in the Linguist Factory being
    transformed into a Linguist, I was taught Generative Syntax. I was
    skeptical of some parts, but they seemed to have quite good
    arguments for others. I assumed because it’s all I ever heard, that
    this was just the prevailing theory in all of linguistics and I didn’t
    find out for a couple years in that there was any debate on the
    matter. I was rather annoyed by first not even being told there was
    disagreement and then, when I complained, having it presented as
    completely one-sided with “Those people on the West Coast are obvious
    wrong, see?”

    Similarly, when I ran into linguists from the West Coast they insisted
    that Generative Syntax had no accounts for obvious and simple things
    (which I knew perfectly fine Generative Syntactic explanations for) or
    made No Falsifiable Predictions. The latter annoyed me since I’d spent
    quite a long time writing a paper on obscure matters of noun phrases
    which made predictions because it was hammered in to me exactly how
    important it was to do so and, promptly, falsified two months
    later. (My then-adviser gave me one of the great speeches of my life
    about Being a Scientist and how you should feel proud to have actually
    come up with a coherent theory that explained things which managed to
    be concrete enough to be shown completely and absolutely wrong by
    later data.)

    At its base, Generative Syntax is a meta-theory of language that
    includes the idea that there is some innate faculty of grammar that
    places some constraints on the possible languages humans can naturally
    develop and learn and a presumption that language is divided into more
    or less discrete components that operate more or less independently,
    but interact in more or less complex ways. Generally
    ‘more’.

    It has had three major incarnations: Universal Grammar (which did fail
    to handle many languages), Principles and Parameters (which had an
    unfortunate habit of accumulating epicycles and ad-hocity), and the
    Minimalist Program (say what you will about Chomsky, he’s good at
    naming things.) The latter is itself something of a meta-theory. It
    starts with looking at what language has to do and tries to see what
    kinds of things /would/ be true about language if it were constrained
    by having to use the most time and space efficient algorithms. It was
    an attempt to see if some of the same conclusions and predictions from
    Principals and Parameters could be derived in a less ad hoc way.

    As you can probably guess from the notion of time and space
    efficiency, Generative Syntacticians take a very abstract, analytical
    approach and tend to be affine with similar approaches in other
    subdisciplines. Eastern linguists tend to approach Semantics in terms
    of translating syntax trees into formal logic and get very involved in
    modal logic and quantifier scope. They approach phonology (the study
    of how sounds change when they are combined) with things like
    Optimality Theory (an approach that imagines all possible strings of
    sounds being evaluated against a ranked list of constraints and the
    original, un-modified string and the one that can go down the list
    furthest without violating a constraint Wins. It views the set of
    constraints as universal and innate and their orderings as learned and
    much work has been done on the computational complexity of learning
    the constraint ordering from the environment. One study, looking at
    children acquiring Dutch, actually matches this model of phonology
    which surprised even the people doing the study. Unfortunately it’s
    difficult to do studies of child language acquisition in places other
    than rich, Western areas which are mostly linguistically similar.)

    Generative Syntacticians also have some methodological
    differences. They tend to rely much more on grammaticality judgments
    (asking people how willing they are to accept or reject a sentence as
    Grammatical.) and much less on corpora. (The claim that they despise
    corpora completely is a bit overblown. Chomsky argued that the problem
    with a corpus is how to interpret absence, that you couldn’t know just
    from that whether a given construction was Ruled Out or whether it
    just happened to be the case that nobody talked about it. This already
    implicitly assumes that some things are ruled out, which is
    problematic.)

    The West Coast Linguists approach semantics much more in terms of
    culture and social function than formal logic. They look at how people
    acquire general categories from looking at specific prototypes that
    Definitely Fit and then retro-rationalize a bunch of categories that
    may or may not fit to get ideas of properties that would make
    something more or less likely to fit in the set. Where the East Coast
    people imagine a grand assembly line in which roots and affixes are
    plucked from the Internal Lexicon to be assembled in the Morphology
    Machine where they are passed on to the Syntactic Mechanism to be
    built into sentences that are then fed through the Tunnel of Phonology
    before being spoken, West Coast folk imagine a much more intertwingly
    idea of language where everything feeds into everything else sort of
    at once.

    They’re almost certainly right about that. The East Coast school, even
    in the minimalist program, has to do embarrassing things like
    imagining the Phonology Module just jumping in and grabbing the
    sentence in the middle of syntactic assembly to fiddle with it before
    handing it back for more assembly to explain some things. (See
    Chomsky’s account of Object Shift. It’s /awful/.) Even if I didn’t
    know anything about linguistics, I would be predisposed to think that
    any processing the brain does about language is messily integrated
    with a bunch of other things, repurposes other stuff, and doesn’t
    proceed in phases.

    The thing Universal Syntacticians might be right on is the idea of
    some inherent language faculty or, at least, that some other aspects
    of human cognition either limit the kinds of languages people develop,
    or make some sorts more likely than others. This, again, would not
    surprise me from a general perspective of evolution and how cognition
    works. There are whole piles of cognitive biases, pareidolia, optical
    illusions and the like that make it seem like to me that whatever
    apparatus we’re using, even if it’s not Specifically Devoted to
    Language, flexes more readily some ways than others.

    There is evidence the Generative Syntacticians often cite. Aphasia
    gives examples of lesions on specific parts of the brain selectively
    damaging not just language, but specific aspects. One can get all the
    words mostly right but be unable to arrange them in a reasonable
    syntax while having most of the rest of ones thought unimpaired, or
    one can have syntactically valid sentences with relative clauses and
    everything but all the wrong words. Plus a bunch of other
    stuff. Specific Language Impairment is said to be a genetic disorder
    impairment of language without any other cognitive deficit. (Take that
    with a grain of salt, though. A lot of cases of Specific Language
    Impairment are less without other cognitive impairment than
    advertised.)

    This is interesting, but the existence of Innate and Acquired Amusia
    put a limit on exactly how Special we should be prepared to think any
    innate language faculty is.

    The other classic arguments given for Generative Syntax are things
    like Poverty of the Stimulus and knowledge that you don’t know you
    have. Much of the argument for Poverty of the Stimulus is weakened by
    counter-proposals like those advocated in the linked article. One of
    the stronger remaining ones is the observation of how few things fail
    to affect overall process of language acquisition. One of the classics
    is the way in which prevalence of ‘Motherese’ (which can vary between
    cultures that speak the same language) seems to have no effect on the
    rate at which children acquire various features of language. This
    could also be because it’s mostly heard from ones mother, however.

    They also cite sentences you don’t say and that you don’t know you
    don’t say. Things like “This is what I was just about to ask you where
    to find.” When most people English speakers hear a sentence like that,
    it strikes them as wrong, rather than unusual. This ‘wrongness’
    combined with the fact that you can get a perfectly good meaning from
    the sentence and that it seems non-obvious how you learned it was a
    Bad Sentence when naively it seems like it should be a valid way of
    bolting clauses together seemed quite striking at the time.

    I don’t think it’s very good as evidence for Universal Grammar as an
    elaborated and uniform structure, but it would be somewhat
    unsurprising to me if there weren’t piles of disconnected biases and
    tendencies that helped contribute to things like that.

    There are also research programs, particularly using eye-tracking
    while describing scenes that look at what parts of scenes people
    glance at when answering questions about them. At least some research
    suggests that the order of eye-movements between parts of a scene
    match the order you would expect if speakers were arranging words in
    one order and then moving them the way Generative Syntactic notions of
    Transformational Grammar suggest. Honestly this is surprising to me
    and I’d like to see more research cross-linguistically. It is worth
    saying that phrase movement is, in itself, not a proof of universal
    grammar, though the way it’s done in every language I’m aware of does
    strongly suggest an internal recursive mental structure of some
    sort. Given how much other thought is recursive, that wouldn’t be
    surprising.

    Some of the evidence, particularly that involving the Piraha, is
    dubious. On the one hand, there are serious arguments about the claims
    made about their grammar. I would be surprised if it were completely
    non-recursive, but that’s not what I mean. If we believe everything
    the Piraha are claimed to lack, they have no recursion in their
    language, no art, no mathematics, no legends/history. It’s possible,
    but sounds enough like some strange 19th century novel about Professor
    Challenger discovering a lost world than I’m comfortable with without
    more independent observation and reporting. (There are also a few
    counterclaims.)

    • Mammon says:

      I would like to nominate this as Comment of the Week.

    • Jill says:

      Great post, in its description of the Never the Twain Shall Meet phenomenon in linguistics, where polarization keeps people from thinking through theories completely.

      When there is ideological polarization, whether in linguistics or politics or economics or any other field, the need to join an ideological tribe, and to take your side against the Out Group linguistic ideology, rules everything. And it keeps placing obstacles in the way of clear comprehensive in-depth thinking about the subject.

    • Titanium Dragon says:

      Reading about the Piraha is crazy. We’re going to contaminate the hell out of them, though, so I doubt we’re going to ever know the answer to whether or not they really lacked all of those things.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Some of the evidence, particularly that involving the Piraha, is
      dubious. On the one hand, there are serious arguments about the claims
      made about their grammar. I would be surprised if it were completely
      non-recursive, but that’s not what I mean.

      Could it be that the Piraha language lacks recursion at sentence level but can communicate arbitrary complex concepts (e.g. arbitrary algorithms) using parataxis?

      After all, even in “normal” languages such as English, while it is in principle possible to form sentences of arbitrary length by using coordination or subordination, people tend to limit sentence length to 25 – 30 words, and express complex concepts using multiple sentences (further grouped into paragraphs, chapters, articles, books, etc. in writing).

      How do you tell the boundary of sentences in languages that exist only in a spoken form, anyway?

      • Azure says:

        It’s certainly possible, and that’s what Everett claims for them. From what I know (I’m not a Piraha Scholar it was just a hot topic when I was at the Linguist Factory and Daniel Everett came and talked and there were Arguments Had.), part of the problem that makes it difficult is that the Piraha are claimed to be very immediacy oriented so really knock-down-drag-out definitely recursive examples like “John thinks that Bill enjoys the quiche that Bill hates.” are unlikely to crop up. For the simple cases that people have been able to get the Piraha to say, a non-recursive analysis works, but other linguists (and Everett, earlier) parsed them recursively.

        As to where sentences break, it’s difficult.

        “John said Bill walked in the door.” is obviously one sentence.
        “John spoke Bill walked in the door.” is obviously two sentences. (Well, maybe.)
        “John indicated Bill walked in the door.” (Is Bill walking in the door while John indicates to his friends that the coffee maker is empty? Did John indicate that Bill walked in the door? Everett’s analysis of the Piraha would make it two sentences where the grammar doesn’t subbordinate one to the other, but where the listeners are infer the semantic subordination that John walking in the door is the thing that John is indicating, perhaps marked out by an INTENSIFIER or OLD INFORMATION particle.)

        Supposedly some of the Piraha know a bit of Portugese, if I could have anything in the world (related to Piraha linguistics, I won’t prioritize this above world peace), I’d kind of like to see if they can be provoked into saying sentences with definite relative clauses in Portugese and try to see if they can describe differences in the structure as they see it. Or perhaps see if there are some noted differences in sentence structure between bilingual Piraha and monolingual Piraha.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      (My then-adviser gave me one of the great speeches of my life
      about Being a Scientist and how you should feel proud to have actually
      come up with a coherent theory that explained things which managed to
      be concrete enough to be shown completely and absolutely wrong by
      later data.)

      This is a beautiful story.

      I’d be fascinated to hear your falsifiable predictions, if they can be described for a dumb layman.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      This is a great comment.

      Nitpick (I think):
      “This is what I was just about to ask you where to find.”

      That sentence is odd, but intonated correctly would make perfect sense. Meg Ryan’s character could easily say that sentence in “When Harry Met Sally” (I’m sure that character isn’t unique, just that it gives a good reference point.)

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ HBC
        “This is what I was just about to ask you where to find.”

        That sentence is odd, but intonated correctly would make perfect sense.

        On first reading I thought there must be a word or two missing or extra or something. But by the end of the sentence I thought “Ah! Churchill.”

        On second reading I felt like I was looking for places to insert dividing lines, which now that you mention it would coincide with where you would change intonation, probably.

        On third reading my brain clicked over into ‘reading Latin’ mode in the first place.

    • Anonymous says:

      Even if I didn’t
      know anything about linguistics, I would be predisposed to think that
      any processing the brain does about language is messily integrated
      with a bunch of other things, repurposes other stuff, and doesn’t
      proceed in phases.

      Generative syntax cannot and must not be interpreted as a model of processing. The speech about processing, modules, outputs, etc. is purely metaphorical. Unfortunately, generative syntacticians, including Chomsky himself, are rarely clear about this in the way they speak, and I have a nagging suspicion that some (excluding Chomsky) are actually mistaken about the status of their own work. Hence why I think you’re right to be skeptical of, e.g., eye-tracking data pertaining to movement.

    • tcheasdfjkl says:

      I’m late to this comment but I just want to say I am sort of a former linguist and this is awesome and accurate (and far more complete and informative than what I could have written) except that I’m not sure of the claim that west of the Mississippi is non-generativist. My linguist friends who study or have studied at places like Santa Cruz and UCLA are very generativist indeed.

      Re: “This is what I was just about to ask you where to find.”: lol my grammaticality judgments are super easily corrupted, just taking a syntax class rendered things like this totally acceptable to me.

    • Peter says:

      I’m here via the Comment of the Week – I’ve worked with computational linguists, and that got me looking at what “real linguists” were up to, and the above seems a fair summary.

      A couple of minor points to add – some outsiders appear look at “Chomskyan Linguistics” and see formalisms and assume that if linguistics has formalisms it is Chomskyan. Nope – there are plenty of formalisms that make big complicated parse trees (or dependency graphs or whatever) with all sorts of decorations which are very much not Chomskyan.

      Reading the above post, you’d think that computational linguists would be all over the Chomskyan side of things – and think the Everyone Else approaches are too vague to be relevant. This seems not to be the case. HPSG, for example, a formalism that my collaborators worked on, has links to a lot of West Coast stuff like construction grammar. I haven’t really seen anything that links up with Chomskyan work.

      • Target says:

        I work on an NLP team at Google, and I have to say, Chomsky is not held in high regard over here. I’m not sure why you think that Chomsky approaches would be preferred, actually. Remember that he was pretty anti-empirical, not liking things like corpus linguistics, or saying “I don’t see how anyone could believe that psychological tests have any relation to psychological reality” about e.g. tasks that look at people’s processing speed for different kinds of linguistic constructions.

        But computation linguistics is basically just learning patterns from a large corpus of linguistically annotated data. It’s pretty much 100% empirical, and introspecting to decide if something is grammatical bears no role in the field.

        The East/West thing seems pretty right to me, though I came from Stanford so only was exposed to the West view, but for sure the computer science crowd is not in Chomsky’s camp.

        • Jonathan Gress-Wright says:

          I’m another ex-linguist (former linguist? are linguists like the Marines?). I’d just add that a Chomskyan might jump on your description of computational linguistics as “learning patterns from a large corpus of LINGUISTICALLY ANNOTATED data”. The machine doesn’t annotate the data, since the machine has no grammatical intuitions; you need humans for that, humans that have grammatical intuitions. So everything the machine is learning by a supposedly pure inductive process in reality is based in human intuition.

    • 27chaos says:

      Wow, that sentence is a fucking memetics hazard, so annoyingly but indescribably wrong it’s painful.

    • Adrian_E says:

      Since this comment has been made comment of the week, I would like to add a comment.

      The main problem with “Universal Grammar” is that it is hardly known what it should be. During the Principles and Parameters phase, Chomskyan linguists claimed that syntactic structures are not learnt from the input, but that the input is only used for setting some parameters. The main point was rejecting any kind of statistical learing and learning correlation of semantic relationships and sounds (e.g. word orders, inflectional forms).

      I think it is fair to say that the Principles and Parameters program has completely failed. It is not compatible with the vast diversity of human languages. Since there many difference between syntactical structures of languages, the number of parameters needed for capturing all syntactic rules would have to be huge. That such a large number of parameters for syntactic structures in different languages (many of which are only relevant with certain values of other parameters) are a part of our genetic endowment is hardly plausible – as far as I know, no one has even tried to prepare a plausible evolutionary account for this, the only suggestion that has been made was a large mutation of many genes at the same time.

      Furthermore, followers of the Principles and Parameters approach have hardly ever tried to model how language acquisition with parameters would work concretely. There is was idea that there are “triggers” in the input that have the effect that a parameter is set in a certain way. The problem is that these triggers are not simple inputs like sounds, but already sophisticated grammatical structures. Obviously, it would have to be assumed that these structures would have to be learnt from the input. How should this work if any kind of statistical learning and using contextual information is excluded? And if sophisticated learning is needed for being able to recognize the triggers in the input – can it be shown that this kind of sophisticated learning that is needed for recognizing the “triggers” for the postulated parameter system cannot be used for learning the rest of the grammar, so that the parameters are superfluous? As far as I know, Chomskyan linguists have hardly tried to answer that second question – it was just presupposed that principles and parameters are needed. Few tried to answer the first question, how people could learn the grammatical information in the input that are needed for recognizing triggers for setting parameters (without using “evil” – from a Chomskyan standpoint – methods like statistical learning and using contextual information for determining semantic relationships). Most thought that it is sufficient to call something a trigger without caring that recognizing such abstract triggers presupposes quite significant grammatical knowledge. One of the few who tried is Steven Pinker with his idea of semantic bootstrapping. His idea was that grammatical expressions that are often used for naming the actor are the subject (and then there would be further innate rules for subjects). The idea might be interesting, but it completely falls flat if the diversity of languages is taken into account. The concept of subjects and objects is not universal (e.g. in ergative languages, the same case is used for what in English is the object of a transitive verb and for what in English is the subject of an intransitive verb). As far as I know, it has not been tried further to develop a theory of bootstrapping that is compatible with the diversity of languages.

      I think it is hard to deny that the Principle and Parameter program has turned out to be a complete failure. Of course, anyone is free to formulate a new version of it and try to account for language acquisition. But with the time, it has become quite clear that the more languages are taken into account, the more parameters would be needed, and that setting the parameter still would presuppose learning grammatical structures from the input – and avoiding that was the very reason for postulating Universal Grammar with principles and parameters.

      After that failure of Principles and Parameters came minimalism (1995). The idea of Universal Grammar is kept, but now, it is allowed that the contents of that might be much smaller. The problem is that only vague ideas are presented and different people think very differently what Universal Grammar under minimalism should be.

      One possibility would be to understand it as a recantation of most of Chomsky’s earlier ideas. If “Universal Grammar” is just some fairly general biases and restrictions, this obviously means that syntax has to be learned from the input. So, the idea would be more or less what opponents of Universal Grammar assume – after all, hardly anyone believes in a blank slate and it is very plausible that the human mind has certain biases and tendencies for interpreting linguistic input. Some statements about minimalism-UG possibly being very small might support such an interpretation, but they are add odds with Chomsky’s continued hostility towards statistical learning and using contextual clues. If even a system with a very large number of parameters can hardly model language acquisition, a very small UG can do so even less, unless we allow ways of learning that are anathema to Chomskyans.

      I think there is a number of fundamental flaws in Chomskyan linguistics. One is that first, quite a sophisticated formalism for describing linguistic structures is developed (with large trees with empty elements and lots of moving operations from one position in the tree to another). Then, in a second step, this formalism is presupposed and it is asked how this structure could be acquired. Of course, acquisition difficulties could be due to the use of a formalism that makes acquisition particularly difficult. This would not be a big problem if the aim of Chomskyan linguistics was to formulate a theory of language acquisition from the input – then, it it would be in the interest of theorists to amend the formalism. But their aim is to claim that language cannot be learnt from the input (they then say, it is due to innate structures and parameters, but that is just a label they put on it for explaining it away, they don’t try to find a biological explanation for concrete elements of UG), so a particularly awkward formalism can be beneficial for them. One suggestion has been to do away with things like unobservable empty elements (Simpler Syntax, Culicover and Jackendoff 2005) that would make learning particularly difficult. But I would go further and reccommend not to get attached too much attached to particular notations and formalisms. If someone wants to model language acquisition, this should be tried without requiring particular structures, as long as what is learned can explain the linguistic competence (as Chomsky understood already in the 50es there is always an infinite number of possible grammars).

      It is also quite ironic that, while language acquisition has been used as the foundation of Chomskyan linguistics (because some kinds of learning are excluded a priori, it is claimed that learning from the input is impossible and there has to be an innate Universal Grammar), it is completely out of touch with actual language acquisition research. It has become clear that children’s grammatical knowledge at a certain stage strongly correlates with their learning of the vocabulary (some extreme versions of nativism claim that also the whole range of concepts are innate, but if we don’t want to claim that concepts for objects that only have come into being recently, it is hardly possible to avoid the conclusion that in the case of the vocabulary, there is learning from the input using extralinguistic contextual clues), see 2014. There is a lot of evidence that children first learn chunks/expressions and then gradually make more generalizations, but there is no evidence for anything that resembles a principles and parameters system.

      Of course, one can always think that a new version of Chomskyan linguistics will be prepared that will explain more and present more concrete proposals that are at least something that could be falsified and is not falsified already. People can continue trying, but I think it has become more and more clear that this is a dead end. In contrast, I think the approaches to linguistics presented in Christiansen and Chater (2016) – Creating Language: Integrating Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing) – are really interesting and promising.

  34. gbdub says:

    The craziest thing about the Windoc “phenomenon” is that not only did both ships with the same name run into lift bridges on the same canal half a century apart, but in both cases the crash was due to the bridge operator lowering the bridge onto the ship. So why do bridge operators hate ships named “Windoc” so much?

  35. C Murdock says:

    I am not entirely up-to-date on the state of the art re this, but I believe Jerry Coyne is overreaching when he dismisses Everett’s claim of non-recursion in Piraha as having been disproved. As far as I can tell (which to be fair isn’t very far), the jury is still “out”, so to speak, in the linguistic community about non-recursion as well as several other peculiarities of Piraha.

    The problem seems to be that Daniel Everett is one of the only outsiders who has learned the language (others include his missionary wife and children, and the missionary linguist who preceded him), so it is impossible to find another linguist qualified to judge his claims about the language– Everett says in his book “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes” that once in a while somebody shows up with the intention of learning the language, but that they never stick around long enough… it’s a tough language to learn, apparently (among its claimed peculiarities are that it has one of the smallest phonemic inventories, has such a low consonant-to-vowel-tone ratio of semantic load that it can allegedly be whistled and still be communicative, and is said to lack true numerals).

    Everett, to be fair, has also said that he doesn’t believe any of these features to be as unique as they appear, because he suspects that other languages exhibit them as well but have just gone unnoticed by linguists studying them, or have otherwise simply been underdocumented.

  36. Max says:

    The EMDrive doesn’t work, and launching one would be a huge waste of money. There are plenty of ways to get a micronewton thrust signal that don’t actually involve thrust. My prime suspect is thermal expansion and bad strain relief on the harness.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Well it might work, but the obvious next step from an engineering stand point would be to test it with different inputs. Plug it in to one of these babies and see if the thrust signal goes from micro-Newtons to Newtons. If it does the EM-Drive guys may very well be on to something, but honestly I kind of doubt it.

      • Max says:

        I’m not sure scaling up would unmuddle the situation, honestly. Like I said above, I strongly suspect thermal effects are the cause of the spurious thrust signals, and I think pumping several megawatts into a couple cubic meters of equipment would cause what one might call “thermal effects.”

        • hlynkacg says:

          Right but the “thermal effects” from bumping up the power will be a lot easier to distinguish from thrust. (assuming of course that the EM-Drive works as advertised)

    • TK-421 says:

      Even if it doesn’t work (which it almost certainly doesn’t) there’s still value in demonstrating that explicitly for future reference, and then finding out where the earlier experimenters went wrong.

      • Max says:

        For sure. That can be done on the ground.

        • John Schilling says:

          How, when every potential micronewton thrust stand has actual error bars substantially larger than the advertised error bars and/or requires rare and specialized expertise to achieve the advertised accuracy?

          If the EMdrive does not work, the expected result of “demonstrating” that on the ground is that some group of amateurs will put it on a thrust stand, see a noisy “signal” that is substantially larger than the advertised error limit of the thrust stand, and shout to high heavens that look, here is thrust, and we have proven it! Which, in fact, we have seen.

          Unfortunately, I expect the same thing will happen in low Earth orbit. The ways a spacecraft in a complex environment can experience small anomalous accelerations are numerous but obscure, and no matter how true it is that the EMdrive does not work, the cranks will go to their deathbeads pointing at minute changes in the orbital elements and saying, “Still, it moves!”

          • Max says:

            Great point about anomalous acceleration, and especially about the Pioneer anomaly. Thermal effects don’t go away in space, that’s for sure.

            What I was envisioning with “that can be done on the ground” was more along the lines of using ground testing to find the physical sources of error in previous emdrive tests.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Isn’t the point of orbit that there’s no friction, so if you produce a 0.0001 newton thrust for a year you end up going very fast? Can’t someone just measure whether the spacecraft is going very fast after a year?

          • bean says:

            Isn’t the point of orbit that there’s no friction, so if you produce a 0.0001 newton thrust for a year you end up going very fast? Can’t someone just measure whether the spacecraft is going very fast after a year?

            A couple of problems there. First, a 6U cubesat has a mass limit of 8 kg, which means the delta-V in free space with that thrust over a year is only 394.5 m/s. If it’s all in the same direction (relative to the orbit, not absolute) that will be detectable. (It’s possible that their satellite will be lighter than 8 kg, which means more delta-V, but that shouldn’t be necessary.)
            But then you run into other issues. Guidance can be an issue on these things, and you’d have to keep it pointed in the same direction relative to its orbit for it to show up clearly. That’s definitely not impossible, but it does take some thought. And in practical terms, that sort of thrust will slowly raise the orbit, not make the satellite go faster.
            As an aside, I expect that if it works, certain people will claim there was a concealed ion thruster. There are definitely systems which could do the performance you describe (actually significantly better). The people putting this together need to take steps to guard against this.
            Actually, looking up more details, it appears that they’re planning to deploy at about 150 km, and demonstrate efficacy by staying up longer than they should be able to at that altitude without the drive. I’m not sure that’s a good way to do it, but in the smallsat world, you take the ride you can get.
            And yes, there is some friction at that altitude, enough to limit satellite lifetime to weeks in most cases.

          • John Schilling says:

            Isn’t the point of orbit that there’s no friction, so if you produce a 0.0001 newton thrust for a year you end up going very fast?

            As bean points out, only moderately fast.

            Can’t someone just measure whether the spacecraft is going very fast after a year?

            The problem is that while space has no friction, it has several sorts of radiation pressure, and lumpy constantly-changing gravity fields, and oh yeah a little bit of friction. Also your satellite has electric conductors and currents that interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, and outgassing from the glue you used to put the PC boards together produces a faint internal pressure that escapes through that hole in the one side. Not all of which are entirely predictable.

            End result, if you park the satellite in orbit and produce zero (deliberate) thrust for a year, you still wind up going moderately fast. Usually in circles rather than a straight line, but that’s a common outcome from low constant thrust while in orbit as well. If a satellite’s job is to stay absolutely perfectly still, we need to put thrusters on it to make it stay still.

            Distinguishing between “it’s going exactly as fast as it would have if we’d left it alone” and “No, it’s going a little bit faster than that, the EMdrive works!”, and for that matter “…a little bit slower; the EMdrive works but you had the silly thing in reverse!”, is going to result in pretty much the same inconclusive arguments we get when we test an EMdrive on the ground. Now, if someone were to increase the thrust level by a factor of a hundred, there’d be no question – but at that point, just hang the thing from a pendulum and let us watch it deflect already. Can’t do that? Hmm.

          • bean says:

            Are you likely to get perturbations on the level of 300 m/s/year? I’d have to check the SMAD, but that seems like a lot, particularly as some of the perturbations are going to cancel out over a year or so.

          • bean says:

            I pulled out the SMAD, and started looking. In a 200 km circular orbit, assuming popular mechanics picture is accurate, the satellite should lose at most .05 m/s/day. This is assuming that the solar array is face-on to the orbit (maximum drag) and that atmospheric density is at the level of the solar maximum (again, maximum drag). The delta-V for Scott’s .0001 N thruster is about 1 m/s/day. Maximum solar radiation pressure under similar conditions is .006 m/s/day. Doing numbers for irregularities in the Earth’s gravity and other bodies is too involved for me to be willing to put in the work, but that can be tuned out using nearby objects. Also, it’s unlikely to be an order of magnitude larger than drag. So even at that low thrust, it should be very detectable.
            (This won’t stop true believers from claiming that it produced even less thrust, but the numbers they can come up with will allow us to mock them for trying to sell useless pieces of hardware.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Actually, the J2 perturbation in a 200 km, 45-degree orbit is about 600 m/s per day. And readily accounted for, but the J3 perturbation that pretty much everyone else ignores comes to 520 m/s per year. The sectoral and tesseral harmonics are trickier to calculate, but several of them are in the same order as J3.

            As you say, if there were a reference object in the same initial orbit, we could look at the difference. But the erratic nature of cubesat deployment (roughly, a spring pushes the thing out of a box) means that any two satellites are going to be in different orbits that will become widely separated over the course of a year. If you had an EMdrive cubesat and a cubesat with some other microthruster of known performance, you could have the second vehicle hold station with the first and see what sort of thrust was required to accomplish that goal, but that’s a rather more expensive experiment.

          • bean says:

            Actually, the J2 perturbation in a 200 km, 45-degree orbit is about 600 m/s per day. And readily accounted for, but the J3 perturbation that pretty much everyone else ignores comes to 520 m/s per year. The sectoral and tesseral harmonics are trickier to calculate, but several of them are in the same order as J3.

            Interesting. I didn’t do much with perturbations beyond the basics, and that was several years ago. I appear to have significantly underestimated the magnitudes involved, although I will stand by my statement that they can be tuned out if someone was willing and able to put in the work with the really good gravity models.

    • bean says:

      Do you know how much a 6U cubesat costs? It’s not that expensive (it’s a box that’s 10 cm x 20 cm x 30 cm), and most of the hardware is off-the-shelf, except the EMdrive itself. And putting the thing in space gets rid of all of the potential sources of error. I’m genuinely not sure that this is more expensive than doing tests on Earth to the level of rigor you’d need to make sure you were getting signal and not noise.
      Also, this is a good thing as it raises the profile of doing cubesat/smallsat based testing of equipment as an alternative to endless ground tests.
      Don’t get me wrong. I’m 99.9% certain it doesn’t work. But the cost of being wrong about that is so much higher than the cost of being right and doing the test anyway that I don’t see any reason to oppose the test.

      • Max says:

        See John Schilling’s response above for an answer to “gets rid of all of the potential sources of error.”

        Anyway, I don’t know much about cubesat power systems, but there might be some cost associated with developing one that can run an emdrive. I think off-the-shelf cubesat components might not cut it here.

        • bean says:

          I was a bit generous with ‘all potential sources of error. But it will take care of almost all, and while being in orbit is not an absolute guarantee of good results, it’s a massive improvement in terms of S/N over a ground test. The Pioneer anomaly is tiny, even in orbital mechanics terms, and would easily be lost in the noise you get in the sort of orbits cubesats end up in. I doubt it’s detectable by the tracking systems in question.
          That said, I don’t expect this to completely settle things. But the fanboys won’t be going after ‘still it moves’, they’ll be claiming that the system aboard was wrong somehow. The issue isn’t them, because there’s no way to shut them up. The value of this test is for the general public.
          As for cost, it’s still pretty minor. I don’t know the engineering details, but I suspect that it’s not going to run to serious money in aerospace terms.

    • Name says:

      Don’t you think stating that it doesn’t work as a fact is kind of excessive considering that fact that plenty of reputable groups are working and so far haven’t managed to show it doesn’t work?

      Or maybe you should give NASA a call so they can skip the testing? why waste all of that effort if you know for a fact it doesn’t work, eh?

      • Max says:

        I work for an organization that has tested an EMDrive and found no thrust. We will not be publishing our results.

        • anon says:

          Well that’s completely believable and understandable then. It’s not like someone would just go on the Internet and tell lies.

          • Max says:

            Hey, I started out with the standard 99%+ prior in favor of Conservation of Momentum and updated significantly based on the results of the experiment I saw, from a researcher I know professionally and trust.

            I’m just an internet rando to you, so I’m not asking you to update on anything I say. I’m just explaining why my credence is so high.

        • Finger says:

          Why not?

          • Max says:

            No real benefit to us for publishing, no matter how the test had gone. Burn those scientific commons to the ground.

          • VVV says:

            Let others waste their resources trying to ‘prove’ that conservation of momentum doesn’t hold.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It wouldn’t really prove anything if Max’s company published their findings. The people who want it to be true will say “they missed Something” without saying in a falsifiable way what the Something was. The people who think this is all bunk will tack it on as more proof that it’s bunk but it won’t change their priors.

      • VVV says:

        >plenty of reputable groups are working and so far haven’t managed to show it doesn’t work?

        None of them are reputable.

        No, not even ‘NASA’, cause it’s *NASA Eagleworks*.

        • bean says:

          Even granting that all of the groups which have produced nonzero results are not reputable (and yes, NASA is like any other large organizations, and parts are stupid/crazy/incompetent) there are no reputable, published groups involved at all. Unless the EMdrive people are running a con (I have no reason to believe this is the case, but feel I should cover my bases) they’ve probably tried and failed to get reputable labs to try it out. This is their best shot at getting people to take them seriously.

  37. maas says:

    I’ve read the Wolfe-Chomsky stuff in Harper’s (written by Wolfe) and New York Review of Books (a review of Wolfe’s book, in that NYRB sense of review). My understanding is Wolfe definitely struggled with some technical aspects of the story.

    But one aspect that made an impression on me is when Wolfe discussed the synergy of Chmosky’s academic and political lives. Chomsky’s ground breaking Linguistics work gave his political work far more clout. And now that he might be more famous for the political work, Wolfe suggested that it starts to flow back the other way, his importance in academia is enhanced by his political stances.

  38. terete says:

    (The sober) Peter Norvig skewered Chomsky’s derision of statistical linguistic modelling a few years back.

  39. I live in Seattle. The situation with microhousing isn’t as simple as it looks.

    Seattle has done an admirable job (compared to San Francisco, at least) in building new housing. We still need considerably more, sure, but we’ve had a tremendous growth in available apartments and will have more. We also don’t have rent control, which helps.

    What we don’t have is a functional public transit system. We have one train line that goes about 10% of the useful places in the city, and a bus system that was decent ten years ago and now goes half as many places and costs twice as much. (The city lies openly about why: the real answer is union capture.) For everything else, we have cars. This isn’t going to change any time soon; there’s a measure (“ST3”) on the local ballot that will build more trains. For $54 billion. That will open in about 25 years. And if we meet every projection, the train will capture…I think the latest figure was 2% of daily trips? Like it or not, America can not longer build infrastructure. And even if we could spend more money on buses without it just going directly to the union, buses are shut down by the same traffic jams that paralyze the city for 4 hours per day already.

    So, microhousing: the real issue is parking and cars. Microhousing proponents official position is that everyone who lives there would take buses and bikes, so they shouldn’t need to take parking. The facts on the ground around existing development, according to everyone I’ve talked to who lives near one, is that suddenly every surface parking spot disappears. Now, no one has a legal right to street parking, but you can see why building this stuff makes neighbors less happy.

    But let’s say they all came with underground garages. That wouldn’t be enough, because as I pointed out above, our infrastructure cannot transport more people. It can’t transport the number we have now. We’d just add 100 cars per building to the traffic jam.

    I am an opponent of NIMBYism, rent control, and insane limits on development. But I think Seattle is proving that if you just “build, baby, build” more apartments in a city that does not have the supporting infrastructure, you have traded a city no one can afford to live in for a city that no one can get around or live in. I am finding it harder and harder to blame opponents of density for wanting to preserve quality of life.

    Side note: I was reminded, by a trip this summer to my parents’ Cape Cod house, how lovely non-dense living is. Their sleepy cape town mandates huge lots (half an acre, I think?) with SFHs, not for any insane idea of “property values”, but because that means that it’s wonderfully quiet and dark at night (to lead with the stuff I care about) and generally lacking in hustle & bustle (what the median resident wants.)

    What’s more, while no one likes to talk about this, there is one reason that high housing costs qua high costs are beneficial that has nothing to do with investment value: like it or not, rich people make better neighbors. In my SFH neighborhood in Seattle, I am about as bad a neighbor as you will find: this means that my front yard looks (and is!) abandoned, and every nine months or so I have a moderately loud party (where “loud” here means 20-somethings laughing and talking loudly in my backyard, not amplified music.) No one who would bring the police regularly, or leave needles, or steal bikes, or any of the other lovely things you see in downtown SF, could afford to live in my neighborhood. In my parents’ Cape house? Forget about it. There they leave expensive kayaks sitting on the lawn (and rarely bother to lock their doors.)

    These may not be sufficient reasons to not provide housing for people who can’t afford it, but I am finding a lot more sympathy than I used to for opponents of growth. It is not, as many people in (say) r/seattle or other pro-development groups like to say, “MUH PROPERTY VALUES!” or “I HATE CHANGE!”. Mostly it’s a question of wanting reasonable quality of living.

    • drethelin says:

      Wouldn’t this be simpler if microhouses were also cars?

    • Andrew says:

      Doesn’t that simply mean that the solution transforms from “build more housing” into “build more housing, and also build more infrastructure and don’t increase travel times with shitty zoning?”

      It’s not like big cities don’t work. It simply sounds like SF is fucking up one way, and Seattle is fucking up in a different way.

      • Doesn’t that simply mean that the solution transforms from “build more housing” into “build more housing, and also build more infrastructure and don’t increase travel times with shitty zoning?”

        Yes. That’d be nice. It won’t happen in my lifetime. I repeat that the best case offered by transit advocates is that–if everything goes right–in 2040, I will be able to walk one mile to a train station that, given 45 minutes, can get me to one cool neighborhood, or, given 1.5 hours and a transfer, could get me to the airport, Redmond, or a few other nice neighborhoods. For $54 billion.

        If America was capable of building infrastructure, growing Seattle would be a great idea. We aren’t.

        • Andrew says:

          I have no problem believing that Seattle can’t build infrastructure, but I also rather suspect that that’s mostly a political problem, just like how most of SF’s problems are self-inflicted political problems.

          Wikipedia tells me that Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix are all both larger and growing faster on a percentage basis than Seattle. Washington DC, Miami, and Atlanta are all larger and very close to the same growth rate (8-8.2% vs 8.5%). There’s also a bunch of cities with huge growth rates that are around 2 million people, and I can’t imagine that their problems are very different. Are all of those cities gridlocked by a lack of infrastructure to the extent that Seattle is?

          • DC – yes. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/peter-thiel-trump-has-taught-us-this-years-most-important-political-lesson/2016/09/06/84df8182-738c-11e6-8149-b8d05321db62_story.html?utm_term=.d242ae90c528 or similar comments about the metro there, which has fallen off a cliff. 20 years ago, it was a wonderful system, and now it’s, well, burning down.

            Phoenix is, in fact, a sprawling mess where you drive hours to get anywhere. I hear similar things about Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston though I’ve never been. I know literally nothing about Miami.

            I do not think any of those cities, however, qualify as being able to build up substantial effective public transit infrastructure.

          • Psmith says:

            Most fast-growing US cities have more greenfields to grow into than Seattle does–they can build out, because they’re surrounded by buildable land, so it’s easier to find affordable housing. And most of them aren’t dense enough to support meaningful public transit, and so don’t.

            (Having said that, a lot of the big sun belt metro areas are not as bad as they look on a map–much commuting is to and from edge cities rather than the city center proper, so the congestion issues you see in more centralized urban areas are mitigated somewhat. Or so I’m told. But you do need a car.).

            And, of the ones you named, Washington is pretty well-known for having terrible, dysfunctional infrastructure.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Dallas:
            https://goo.gl/maps/XAT1gmcVoSn

            Houston:
            https://goo.gl/maps/rj8jLTgAQeq

            Phoenix
            https://goo.gl/maps/Nyr1SetVX1q

            Seattle:
            https://goo.gl/maps/A6Sm17mzXPK2

            Sure the others can grow; they’re less dense to begin with, and aside from Phoenix, can expand outwards.

            Washington, D.C. suffered a long period of negative growth; it’s been larger in the past. It also has the Metro, which isn’t the best but better than nothing. Atlanta, too, is below its peak population. Miami is horribly gridlocked.

            I believe it was Richard Nixon who killed large-scale infrastructure development in the US with the Environmental Impact Statement; we’ve only had more and more follow-on regulations (each with a cost and opportunity for lawsuits) since.

          • Psmith says:

            aside from Phoenix, can expand outwards.

            Wait, why can’t Phoenix expand outwards? I see some Indian reservations and such, but it looks like there’s plenty of room E.N.E. along S.R. 60, around Surprise and Wittman.

          • gbdub says:

            Phoenician here. Phoenix is sprawling certainly, but it doesn’t take “hours” to get around. You can get from Queen Creek, AZ, a bedroom suburb in the far southeast valley, to Sun City West, a retirement community in the far northwest, in about an hour and 15 minutes – and that’s as far as you would ever want to go, and rarely would. In typical rush hour, tack on maybe half an hour. Hell I’ve spent more time than that going 10 miles on the Beltway in DC. This is assuming you have a car though – like any sprawling city, public transportation isn’t great, though the recently added light rail is handy if limited.

            The highways are typically excellent and uncrowded. Meanwhile commute times in Tuscon, a much smaller city, are actually comparable to Phoenix because the freeway layout is much worse.

            Phoenix’s further growth is limited mostly by Indian reservations and federal land – there’s a lot of empty land out there though, and I suppose overcoming that political issue would be difficult but not intractable. For now there is still plenty of densification and building over of remaining farm plots in the existing cities that can happen before that becomes an issue.

          • Andrew says:

            I’m sure some of my comparison cities I threw out there are bad comparisons, and some actually do have serious problems, but my main thrust here is that I don’t believe that Seattle’s problems are unique and intractable such that the only option is to throw up our hands and say “I guess we just can’t let any more people live here”. I think Seattle’s problems are self-inflicted political problems, and Seattle trying to look more like SF would just be them self-inflicting different political problems.

          • BBA says:

            @Nybbler: not just environmental regulation, but all sorts of roadblocks went into the planning process in the ’70s in an effort to curb the excesses of the Robert Moses era. And there really were terrible excesses – whole neighborhoods bulldozed to build freeways to nowhere on one bureaucrat’s fiat – but now it’s swung too far the other way, with any random group of self-proclaimed community activists being able to veto construction.

          • orangecat says:

            Houston is a sprawling mess, but as a consequence of relatively lax zoning you actually don’t have to drive that far to get anywhere.

            Still I agree with your general point. The US does seem to be uniquely bad at infrastructure, and it’s not a lack of money.

          • moridinamael says:

            Houston did build a public train system relatively recently. It’s limited to the downtown area but it works really well.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            Replying to thread OP, not just the convo:

            All infrastructure is limited by speed, capacity, and headway (wait time).

            Roads have very high speed, low capacity (2K cars/lane/hour), and zero headway.
            Transit starts as moderate speed, low capacity, and high headway*, and eventually moves down-scale to low to moderate speed, super-high capacity, and near-zero headway**.

            Transit CANNOT do at ANY density what cars did at low density. CANNOT. They cannot provide the same trade-off set that cars did.

            Of course, high-density cars can’t do that either, but.

            So I think that a lot of the anti-transit sentiment is people who bought housing 20 minutes from work, and now, as mentioned, are getting told it will take an hour.

            * In the Bay Area: Caltrain. 650 people per train * 5 TPH = 3300 people per hour on a train that averages 50MPH.
            ** NYC Subway, which has a problem going door-to-door faster than 10 MPH, but might get a million riders a line.

        • One solution to the problem you describe is to build the housing close to where people work and shop. I don’t know about Seattle, but that is frequently prevented by zoning regulations.

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            Wasn’t there are thread a while ago that mentioned how mixed business/residential buildings have fallen out of favor due to zoning regulation incentives? (Or was that on tumblr?)

            Some of those struggling downtown mom-and-pop stores might have an easier time of it if they can also live upstairs.

          • I don’t know details of Seattle zoning, though I would love more mixed use stuff–my ideal would be something like my SFH neighborhood except with a small grocery store on the corner and a decent cocktail bar two blocks away. (I hear Portland is like this!)

            That said, that’s not what we have, and in particular, the large (and growing) employers seem to not want to be interspersed with housing. Instead, they like building into larger and larger spaces in places like South Lake Union (home of Amazon), downtown, and Bellevue. All of these are miles away from anywhere anyone wants to live. What’s worse–I’ve complained about this in other threads before–is that traffic from SLU, all of people trying to get on the highway and 30 miles out of the city, shuts down the entire city center for hours every day. So if _I_ want to go to a restaurant or musical rehearsal or friend’s house after work, even one only three miles away from my house…well, the path between us had better not go within five miles of Amazon, because the traffic’s backed up almost to my house.

            I quite seriously think a great regulation would be: you may not hire someone to work in your office who does not live in the same city. Commuting kills, and makes everyone else miserable too. Meanwhile, my employer has decided it prefers sufficient office space for three thousand drones to the rather nice small office I work in currently, and will be relocating to SLU in two years. I will be quitting (assuming I haven’t found a better city in the interim, but https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/08/14/spur-of-the-comment/#comment-397523 wasn’t as successful as I hoped.)

          • Kind of Anonymous says:

            That one’s partially zoning, but also finance incentives.
            The federal government will not insure a mortgage for a mixed residential-commercial development if the revenue from commercial leases exceeds 25% of the entire property.
            This excludes the typical small shop with a couple apartments over it, and as a result the market for these buildings is mostly limited to people who can pay cash up front and don’t ever plan to resell.

            Strong Towns
            ran a few articles about it a while ago.

    • Yossarian says:

      I don’t really see how the problems with microhousing can be related to parking. Say, me and two of my friends (each owning a car) live in a house partitioned into three microapartments. So, the government forbids the microapartments. It’s not like we’d have money to buy a house each – we would just have to rent a three-bedroom apartment together, unless we want to end up on the streets (and it would probably be smaller space than the three microapartments summed together), and we wouldn’t be able to give up our cars either. So, basically, the parking problem would be just shifted elsewhere at the cost of our inconvenience.

      • You can’t rent a 3-bedroom apartment, or at least, fewer people like you can. Read the link: in the same building, we go from a large number of bedrooms to a smaller number (because the apartments are bigger.) So fewer total people move in (and traffic is less awful, though still bad.)

    • ninjapandataco says:

      Not necessarily disagreeing with you here, but when you talk about disadvantages of living near cheap housing, it’s a little bit jarring that you use downtown San Francisco as your example. I sort of think of downtown SF as the archetype of super-expensive housing. Maybe there’s a rent-control thing going on, or something.

    • Finger says:

      Do you think self-driving cars will save Seattle?

      The point you make about neighbors is a good one. I wonder if there is a creative way to solve this problem without the deadweight loss of high rents or running afoul of anti-discrimination laws.

    • billv34 says:

      You’ve made some good points here, but in general the article was a fairy tale written by developer, starring the millennial princess who wants to live exactly where they want, in the exact rooming circumstances they want, at the price they want. And because sprawl is BAD, and Nimbys are BAD, the city should come in and guarantee that for her. BAD LINK SCOTT! 😉

      For starters: Although Capitol Hill was characterized as once being a “gay neighborhood,” it was once, how do they say it now, “diverse.” Sir Mix-a-Lot’s song from the ’80s, “My Posse’s on Broadway,” refers to the main drag in Capitol Hill. Needless to say, it is unrecognizable from those days. The gays moved in to the less desirable neighborhood, as they have done in many cities, and gentrified it enough to make it hip and desirable for “alternatives.” (A bit before the time I moved in, the late ’90s). At that point, it was being redeveloped — a movement which was only slowed by the dot-com bust. I was able to rent a large apartment on the edge of the C.H. area and so affordable — also, it was above a porn shop and S+M massage parlor (I was a customer of only one of those places). Incidentally, those shops have been replaced by high-end frozen yogurt and a real estate developer. And the rent went up, and I left. Many people I knew lived in group home type settings — not great for me (no porn shop) but it was what people could afford, and it was fine.

      Capitol Hill is unaffordable, because it has been taken over by higher end retail, condos and apartments, to meet the demand of amazoids et al. Do I think that is great? No! So I moved somewhere else! I lament the good old days, but I don’t think we should be morally scolded into policies that allow millennials (who in general love social justice) to pack into antiseptic neighborhoods because they like the amenities. When the gays moved into Capitol Hill, it was not desirable. There are plenty of places in Seattle that people could live more affordably, but they are, um, more diverse. And we can’t let our millennials risk that, can we? (Although they love diversity). And yes, those neighborhoods are becoming gentrified, which is another set of issues that I don’t think relate to this immediate article.

      Here’s what I did — when Capitol Hill got too expensive for what I wanted, I moved somewhere that I could afford. No, I am not within pissing distance of Urban Outfitters, but I will survive. I can still take the bus downtown. Now they want to “Capitol Hill” my neighborhood because, like Hitler, I like single family housing. The Seattle PI actually had an article titled “SFH has been an ecological disaster.” Well, so have newspapers, if you look at it a certain way.

      I don’t agree that zoning policy should be administered such that people get to live where they want, in the exact floorplan they want, for the least available cost. What lesson are we teaching our millennials about supply and demand? Maybe we should just create dorms and limit the amount of children people can have.

      • Kind of Anonymous says:

        What lesson are we teaching our millennials about supply and demand? Maybe we should just create dorms and limit the amount of children people can have.

        If you don’t think people should get to live where they want, in the exact floorplan they want, for the least available cost, then you don’t seem to care much for supply and demand, or at least, the ability of the market to supply anything you don’t personally demand. There is a demand for apartments in certain neighborhoods at certain prices, and the market is not being allowed to meet this demand due to regulations.

        • billv34 says:

          on second thought I just realized that you are right. I suppose I just don’t like the little bastards, but they are so popular that people are reserving them and them subletting them out without ever living in them. There are good rationales for some zoning regulations, and I happen to think this is one of them.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      What’s more, while no one likes to talk about this, there is one reason that high housing costs qua high costs are beneficial that has nothing to do with investment value: like it or not, rich people make better neighbors. In my SFH neighborhood in Seattle, I am about as bad a neighbor as you will find: this means that my front yard looks (and is!) abandoned, and every nine months or so I have a moderately loud party (where “loud” here means 20-somethings laughing and talking loudly in my backyard, not amplified music.) No one who would bring the police regularly, or leave needles, or steal bikes, or any of the other lovely things you see in downtown SF, could afford to live in my neighborhood. In my parents’ Cape house? Forget about it. There they leave expensive kayaks sitting on the lawn (and rarely bother to lock their doors.)

      This is the problem with making personal judgement illegal.

    • SCC Commenter says:

      Can I please have a source for the 2% figure? I’d really like something to quote about this, thanks.

  40. chaosmage says:

    I don’t get the Logical Induction result either, but the fragments of understanding I experience watching the video of the talk at least give me the impression that MIRI is not a scam.

  41. Kevin R says:

    While Disco Demolition Night was certainly “popular”, you have to consider Ten Cent Beer Night, which also went about as well as you might imagine.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      Oh man.

      When I was in college in 2005, a bar on Thursday had a “nickel night” where you could buy well drinks for a nickel.

      I think it only lasted a year before the bar was shut down.

  42. John Schilling says:

    Regarding CEPTIA (the anti-pay-toilet people): An organized political movement in the vague sphere of social justice, that was created with a specific purpose, campaigned effectively towards that end, and shut down when its objectives were accomplished. I had not thought such a thing was possible. I was wrong.

    • Jiro says:

      The gay marriage movement in the US has shut down.

      Of course, the larger scale social justice movement of which it is a part has not shut down. It depends on at what granularity you define a “movement”.

      • John Schilling says:

        So it’s now safe for a business to refuse to cater a gay wedding; nobody will try to organize a boycott or finance a lawsuit? I did not know that.

      • gbdub says:

        I thought the gay marriage movement moved on to punishing places that prohibit penis-possessing individuals from using restroom facilities designated “women’s”?

        (yes that’s a bit snarky – but seriously the pivot to transgender rights / awareness in the media seemed pretty seamless after gay marriage was a done deal. They probably did shed some people who only really cared about gay marriage itself as a terminal value, but that group appears to have been small)

        • brad says:

          They probably did shed some people who only really cared about gay marriage itself as a terminal value, but that group appears to have been small.

          On the contrary, the new group looks quite small in comparison to the old group. Look at either the budgets or the total number of individuals donating for the groups that were involved in the gay marriage push vs the current trans-rights groups.

          It’s only when you go by an amorphous and frankly not relevant “number of articles I’ve seen in a few selected locations I consider to represent progressive thought” metric that the trend looks otherwise.

          • gbdub says:

            It’s only when you go by an amorphous and frankly not relevant “number of articles I’ve seen in a few selected locations I consider to represent progressive thought” metric that the trend looks otherwise.

            I suspect that, for those not directly impacted, articles in a few selected locations are their primary interaction with the movement, so that’s a pretty relevant measure.

            I’m not sure the budgets are a great measure, because until trans-rights groups rally around a central issue that can actually be donated to, signaling tolerance on Facebook is going to be the main activity for the not-directly-impacted. (Even with the gay marriage push, the number of people Facebook signaling was a lot larger than those donating significant sums). You’re probably right that the “very involved” population has dropped significantly though.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Judge by results. It took decades for the gay rights movement to make it to the point where states that held out would suffer universal media condemnation and corporate boycotts; the (rebranded) transgender rights movement is at that point already.

          • Titanium Dragon says:

            The transgendered stuff is going to be a historical blip, frankly; the reality is that most people don’t actually care much about it one way or another. Most people didn’t even know they really existed until the last few years.

            Attacking transgendered people is obvious tilting at windmills and it is hard to really galvanize much support to opposing them – they’re simply not a very good “enemy”.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The transgendered stuff is going to be a historical blip, frankly; the reality is that most people don’t actually care much about it one way or another.

            Well, that’s no good; we need something toxoplasma-y in order to keep the proles so busy screaming at each other that they don’t notice power being consolidated.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Titanium Dragon

            Trans politics will mostly disappear with better medical technology, I’d imagine.

            Most of the weird tumblr third gender type stuff exists because of the many many trans people who can’t pass and therefore need to create a personalized gender for themselves in lieu of fitting into a pre-prescribed social role based gender. Most of the conservative opposition to transgenderism is also predicated on trans people being detectable as trans.

            If we can shape flesh with ease then all of the issues that trans people face in society would go away, since the concept of a trans identity ironically only exists because they can’t truly transition. We aren’t good enough at undoing the masculinization of testosterone yet, and fake vaginas are still wounds that need dilating. Much of it is expensive and dangerous, so a lot of trans people don’t have surgeries at all, and just take hormones, which produces the desired result in very few cases. Hence the depression and high suicide rates among trans people even post-“transition”.

            If medical technology advances so that we can grow flesh and organs easily and cheaply, then that changes. The average passability of trans people shoots way up making a “trans movement” harder to maintain.

            EDIT:
            (Radical traditionalists should be funding stem cell research)

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Tekhno:
            From what I’ve seen, at least a portion of trans people are actually not interested in being fully the opposite sex. See the Guardian article on breastfeeding as a trans dad. At this point I kind of view trans as being its own thing apart from being male or female – some want to be fully the opposite sex, some want to be either neither or a superposition of them. Hence the proliferation of terms like nonbinary, genderfluid, etc.

            Aside from that you also occasionally get people who identify as trans in a way that, to an outsider, seems really kind of questionable – like they identified as X their entire lives but now they’ve decided they’re Y despite not having really changed their behavior or appearance in any way.

            I’m not sure what percentage of people identifying as trans fall into either of those categories, but with people fighting for justice and equality there seems to be a heavy tendency to chase the diminishing returns, i.e. “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” so I wouldn’t really be surprised if this continued despite technologies allowing easy, indistinguishable, reversible transitions.

            There’s also not much evidence that prejudices are always determined by visual cues, as with gender or skin color. Otherwise people wouldn’t hate each other based on non-visual groupings like religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, nationality, etc. There’s a heavy “what you’re doing is sinful and disgusting and must be stopped to protect society, think of the children!” component, having had a particular type of surgery in the past probably isn’t any less an excuse to hate someone than what drugs they’ve tried or who they’ve banged. Really it’s hard to underestimate the arbitrary reasons people will develop to alienate a neargroup. Add to that the similar tendency to chase the diminishing returns in opposing things – small tiny groups of people exhibiting odd, bizarre, incomprehensible behaviors and characteristics while not really hurting anyone else hasn’t really stopped the social conservosphere from getting up in arms about it as an archetype of the Decay of American Values(TM) ever before.

            So yeah, you’d hope it’d all go away with better medical technologies, but good luck with that.

          • Tekhno says:

            From what I’ve seen, at least a portion of trans people are actually not interested in being fully the opposite sex.

            You see, I think that’s mostly because transitioning doesn’t work very well. If a mtf could click hisher fingers and wake up tomorrow as a beautiful women they’d probably do it, but transitioning isn’t that easy.

            Non-binary people face immense social censure, but they are going to face social censure no matter what they do, because so called transition can’t help them. People who look neither convincing as men or women adopt third gender identifications as a form of defiance to convention. Maintaining this is very difficult, and if there was an easy way out then I think a really large chunk of non-binary people would take it.

            If convincing transition mostly worked rather than mostly failed, then I’m convinced that most of those people would go for it. Whereas now it’s damned if you do damned if you don’t, they’d have much more confidence in the results. If transition worked reliably, my theory is that we’d see the non-binary movement dwindle to almost nothing. We’ll have to wait and see to test this theory, however.

            I’m not sure what percentage of people identifying as trans fall into either of those categories, but with people fighting for justice and equality there seems to be a heavy tendency to chase the diminishing returns, i.e. “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” so I wouldn’t really be surprised if this continued despite technologies allowing easy, indistinguishable, reversible transitions.

            I can only imagine people wanting to maintain extremely difficult identities because they don’t have much of a choice about it. The alternate theory is that people would willingly choose to face all that censure and hate just to say “fuck you dad”.

            There’s also not much evidence that prejudices are always determined by visual cues, as with gender or skin color. Otherwise people wouldn’t hate each other based on non-visual groupings like religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, nationality, etc. There’s a heavy “what you’re doing is sinful and disgusting and must be stopped to protect society, think of the children!”

            Yeah, but if people can’t tell someone is trans, then they can’t apply the idea that it’s sinful to that person. Passability is almost everything, and this is the elephant in the room when discussing the politics of the issue.

    • ulucs says:

      Farage stepped down when he accomplished his goal. Sure, it’s a single person but I like to think that he counts.

  43. Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

    Randall Munroe’s latest xkcd masterpiece is “A Timeline of Earth’s Temperature Since the Last Ice-Age Glaciation.” The Friends sure understand how to catalyze (slow) cognitive adaptation, don’t they? No snark; no personalization; no cherry-picking; just a body of verifiable facts soberly presented within a context that is universal and natural.

    Entirely unlike Tom Wolfe’s snarky critique of Noam Chomsky. The contrast between Munroe and Wolfe makes it natural to wonder, why does Wolfe resort to such ineffectual critical methods?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      > no cherry-picking

      Of course it’s cherry-picking. Take a look at this graph and decide exactly where you would start to make temperature change most extreme.

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/EPICA_temperature_plot.svg/1280px-EPICA_temperature_plot.svg.png

      • Zombielicious says:

        Ikr! Everyone I’ve met who lived through those fluctuations said it was really no big deal compared to how the libertards portray it.

        More seriously though, that scale covers 800,000 years. Where on it are the derivatives as high as the one at the end of Monroe’s?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Who knows? A 40-year change is less than tenth-a-pixel on that big graph.

          Your question is one I’ve been asking for 30 years and I’ve never gotten an answer to it.

          • The ice core data show rates of temperature change at a location (in Antarctica or Greenland) faster than current warming. So far as I know, there isn’t any source of data on global average temperature over the past million years with the sort of resolution one would need to see it.

        • K says:

          Pretty sure the derivative is much less accurate backwards in time. (Now we have accurate year-to-year data, working out the difference in temperature from 600000 years ago to 599999 years ago is probably trickier). I’m curious to know how certain we can be about the rate of change in earlier times – how long did it take for an ice age to set in, can we say for sure that it took some number of years for temperatures to drop?

          That said, there is a lot of other things that I haven’t found any good answers for, like why the frequency of ice ages change, why there were no such oscillations before (some time), and what the hell is up with the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record#/media/File:Five_Myr_Climate_Change.png

      • Anonymous says:

        But the point of the comic is that past temperature change is not very extreme in comparison to what we expect over the next 100 years?

        So isn’t that the opposite of cherry picking?

        • The point he was making is that the time period shown was selected to start after the most recent previous period of rapid warming. Go back a few hundred thousand years and the current pattern (so far) looks much less exceptional.

          • Anonymous says:

            The xkcd graph just shows the most recent 20k years. It starts right at the beginning of a period of “rapid” warming.

            The whole point of the xkcd graph is that 20k years of “rapid” warming looks very very slow when you compare it to current projections for the next century.

            Again, this doesn’t look like cherry-picking at all to me.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Slight nitpick: it actually seems to start slightly-before-halfway through the last period of most rapid warming, at -4C (assuming the graphs match up for that period). But that doesn’t really change Anonymous’ point above.

          • Subbak says:

            Even assuming that there was a warming with comparable speed about 20k years ago, what exactly does it prove?
            It doesn’t prove that the current global warming isn’t man-made: we know it is from how well it matches the predictions made from the greenhouse model with carbon dioxyde and methane emissions.
            It doesn’t prove that society can survive it because there was no human society back then, just bands of hunter-gatherers. It’s about as relevant to our current predicament as an inhabitant of Pompei pointing out that surely the Vesuvius must have erupted before Italy was settled by humans.

            If anything, having the graph start at 20,000 BC is too generous, given that anything resembling a civilization didn’t arise until 10,000 BC at the earliest.

          • “what exactly does it prove?”

            Good question.

            It’s evidence that neither the temperature we can expect over the next century or two nor the current rate of warming is a serious threat to life on earth or likely to put us over a tipping point where positive feedback produces much greater warming. Both claims that are made by some in the Catastrophic AGW camp.

            “If anything, having the graph start at 20,000 BC is too generous, given that anything resembling a civilization didn’t arise until 10,000 BC at the earliest.”

            Why is that relevant? Do you think that the circumstances under which the civilizations of five or ten thousand years ago arose tell us anything useful about the circumstances under which our current civilization can thrive? Explain–I’ve always found that point puzzling.

          • Subbak says:

            “[Global warming is not] a serious threat to life on earth or likely to put us over a tipping point where positive feedback produces much greater warming.”
            I don’t agree with that second thing, but since it was based on me hypothetically conceding your earlier “the temperature has changed before” point for the sake of the argument, fine.
            Even then, “not destroying all life on Earth” is a pretty low bar to clear. I like civilization, I would like for it to continue existing.

            “Do you think that the circumstances under which the civilizations of five or ten thousand years ago arose tell us anything useful about the circumstances under which our current civilization can thrive?”
            Of course they don’t tell us much, our civilization is in many ways much more fragile (there are many things to disrupt that didn’t exist thousands of years ago), and in some others more resistant (for example, to epidemics).
            But the conditions under which hunter-gatherer groups could thrive tell us even less. That’s my point. The only thing we know is that change on the scale of roughly +1°C every 1k years (which incidentally is at least 10 times slower than what we’re experiencing) would probably not wipe out humanity. We have literally zero experimental data on how well any civilization, be it primitive, would survive.

          • “We have literally zero experimental data on how well any civilization, be it primitive, would survive.”

            But we have massive evidence that modern civilization can thrive under a wide variety of different climates, because it does. And the predicted rate of change, even if rapid compared to past rates, is very slow compared to the rate at which other things relevant to human civilization change.

            What environment hunter gatherers can function under is not very interesting, although I would expect them to be more vulnerable to climate change than we are. But what environment and rate of change the rest of the biosphere can function under is relevant, since it’s still around and important to us.

            So if both the level of temperature and its rate of change have been larger in the past than they are likely to be in the near future without catastrophic effects on living things, that’s pretty good evidence that the expected level and rate of change won’t have catastrophic effects on living things.

        • vV_Vv says:

          The historical data, especially on the geological scale, is highly smoothed, something that he admits but downplays in one of the text blobs. If he applied the same smoothing to the recent data, then the large increase in the last decade or so would not even register.

          Essentially, he is mixing low-resolution data with high-resolution data without making any correction, which is a very intellectually dishonest way of making a point about the derivative of the data.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        That graph is very different to the xkcd one. So just presenting it isn’t counter-evidence, you need to explain why the xkcd one is wrong.

        • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

          Sweeneyrod’s observations are correct. Also, the site explain xkcd assists understanding. Every xkcd comic has an explanatory rollover text, which in this case reads:

          “[after setting your car on fire] Listen, your car’s temperature has changed before.”

          In light of recent SSC comments, Munroe’s rollover text is foresighted and funny, yet kindly too. Tom Wolfe, take note! 🙂

      • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

        Of all climate proxies, borehole temperatures are among the least subject to modeling and cherry-picking errors, and these robust data strikingly affirm the “hockey-stick blade” of recent temperature-rise that concludes Randall Munroe’s xkcd summary.

        These data should quietly increase every rationalist’s Bayesian confidence that “xkcd’s climate-change worldview is essentially correct“, isn’t that so?

        • And meanwhile these borehole data (Figure 3) show a similar pattern for the last several interglacials, with peak temperatures well above the current temperature.

          The problem with borehole data is that they only show temperature at one location, not an average over the globe. Subject to that, they refute both the claim that current temperatures are unusually high for the end of an interglacial and the claim that the current rate of warming is higher than at any time in the past. I quote from the same piece:

          “During the last glacial period, Greenland experienced a sequence of very fast warmings (see Fig. 5 overleaf). The temperature increased by more than 10°C within 40 years.”

        • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

          The above comment conflates (mistakenly) the isotopic anomalies seen in ice-boreholes with the temperature anomalies seen in rock bore-holes.

          In accord with the strong consilience of modern climate-science, these two wholly independent climate proxies both affirm the standard model of global warming.

          In these matters, it’s wise to dig deeper! 🙂

          • Your comment was about boreholes. The data in question is from boreholes.

            I said nothing about the standard model of global warming, merely about claims that the recent pattern of temperature is unlike anything in the past.

            The isotopic information is being used to deduce temperature information. Climate researchers haven’t gotten funding for a time machine yet, so deducing past temperatures from proxies is the best they can manage.

    • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

      Lol … yep, it’s evident that one panel of xkcd can convey more understanding than entire chapters of Tom Wolfe (and Noam Chomsky too, for that matter).

      Interesting questions are, how exactly does Munroe achieve his magical cognitive effects? Can Munroe’s no-snark cognitive transformation methods be taught and learned?

      And conversely, how do Noam Chomsky and Tom Wolfe both fail? When we elide the cherry-picking from Chomsky, and the snark from Wolfe, what’s left that’s natural and universal?

      • Jill says:

        No-snark cognitive transformation methods are not useful for every purpose. Success as a pundit, or as a politician, is often attained by intensive snark and bashing of the Out Group. People who are very tribal and who lean in the same direction you do, may desire to see the Out Group set on fire and may reward you greatly for doing the job.

        If one wants to have an actual discussion in order to share ideas and learn from one another, snark is not helpful. But not many people want to do that.

      • moridinamael says:

        Monroe is trying to be an entertainer, so central in his evaluation is the question “is this entertaining?” More generally, “how is the audience going to react to this?” Implicit in those questions is some assumptions about the nature of the audience. XKCD is a popular comic for a variety of reasons, and one of those is that Monroe doesn’t generally draw absolutist ideological lines and alienate people. And when he does, the lines are usually drawn in such a way that they include 99% of his audience anyway.

        Chomsky always seems to be writing for an audience of Chomskyan liberals. I think he actually succeeds in entertaining them fairly well, since he’s become a “public intellectual” by doing what he does. I don’t know enough about Wolfe to comment on his methods, but I would guess he also has a specific conception of his audience.

    • Tekhno says:

      What are the immediate massive actions?

      • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

        Pop the carbon asset bubble? Obviously, not everyone is on-board with that. Not to worry though, `cuz asset-holders stick together! 🙂

        • Titanium Dragon says:

          The carbon bubble is bullshit. Everyone who uses fossil fuels (which is to say, literally everyone on the planet who matters) benefits from the low prices.

          The reality is that, assuming we don’t end up with catastrophic runaway global warming like Venus, the costs of global warming are probably outweighed by the benefits of cheap energy as we bootstrap ourselves upwards.

          • ” catastrophic runaway global warming like Venus”

            The estimate for the effect of burning all of the Earth’s hydrocarbons is about a ten degree increase, spread out over a thousand years. That’s only a little warmer than the estimate for the PETM, which did not lead to runaway warming.

          • James Picone says:

            10 to 12c increase spread out over the next couple centuries in the paper you just linked.

            EDIT: Although yes, Venus isn’t possible here.

          • “10 to 12c increase spread out over the next couple centuries in the paper you just linked.”

            You are correct that it’s faster than I thought. I read Figure 1 c as showing the peak in about five hundred years. Is there something more precise in the text that I missed?

            The figure is showing temperature relative to pre-industrial, so you want to subtract about a degree for change relative to the present.

          • James Picone says:

            Can’t find more detailed figures in the paper. Downloading the image and looking at it in paint.net, the peak occurs ~40 pixels after the 2000 tick, 4000 tick is ~240 pixels away, ~=333 years.

            But the low scenario crosses the 10c mark ~20 pixels in, ~=166 years.

        • moridinamael says:

          High fossil fuel prices equals dead babies in the short term. It’s not a solution that can ever fly, politically.

      • Tekhno says:

        The only way of doing so in a non-devastating way is to have alternatives, and not just to power generation, but also to plastic. This is really why it’s a technology problem. The best thing for governments to do would be to keep subsidizing alternatives until they are ready, so we can make a nice clean transfer without disruption to modern life.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          What about plastic? Every barrel of oil that is turned into plastic is a barrel not burnt.

        • Tekhno says:

          Yes, but can we easily target the fuels part of the petro industry without hurting the products made from hydrocarbons side?

          We should certainly at least be still pulling oil out of the ground and building more pipelines. We just want to stop burning the stuff (in open air).

          • All of this assumes that warming is bad, which is the weakest part of the current orthodoxy.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            Warming is different. That’s bad enough for a lot of people who depend on the current climate/place arrangement.

          • Subbak says:

            The first obvious bad consequence of warming is that any settlements that are not high enough would have to be evacuated. Given that humans love making cities near water, that’s a lot of displaced population, enough to make Vietnam and Syria together look ridiculous.

            Then there’s the reintroduction of tropical disease in temperate zones: people there no longer have any sort of herd immunity to it, so the damages could be even higher than they are in tropical zones currently afflicted.

            Finally there’s the unpredictability. You know there’s going to be a massive change, but the models are not very specific and there are a lot of things we might have not anticipated. That’s never good.

          • “The first obvious bad consequence of warming is that any settlements that are not high enough would have to be evacuated.”

            What level of warming are you imagining?

            Most of the population of the Earth lives in places that are at least four degrees cooler in average temperature than other places where other people live. On the most pessimistic of the IPCC projections for 2100, we aren’t talking about turning the climate of Minnesota into that of Calcutta but into that of Iowa.

            Further, for well understood reasons, greenhouse gas warming tends to be greater in cold places and times than in hot. So if average global temperatures go up by four degrees, summer temperatures in hot areas, which are the potential problem, go up by less than that, how much less depending on the details.

            I did some very rough calculations on the effect of extreme global warming some time back. My estimate was that a five degree increase in maximum temperatures, which would require a larger increase than that in average temperatures, would make about seven million square km uninhabitable hot. That’s a lot of land, but only about five percent of the land area of the Earth. And the same change would make inhabitable large areas that are now uninhabitable due to cold.

          • Titanium Dragon says:

            It is mostly a question of cost-benefit analysis. The benefits of cheap energy are enormous – probably far greater than the costs of global warming, which, however large, probably aren’t nearly as large as the total global economy.

            In the end, barring runaway global warming, the biggest negatives are going to be flooded coastal areas and displacement of people from some regions. That’s costly, but not the end of the world, and would take place over a relatively long period of time, allowing us to defray the costs somewhat (and build a dome over Disney World, which will become Disney World Atlantis).

            The real danger of global warming, frankly, is political instability, not the actual direct environmental effects.

          • @Titanium Dragon:

            Unless you are imagining effects several centuries into the future, I believe you are seriously overestimating the scale of the negative effects of AGW. There is a nice web page, based on topographic maps, that lets you estimate the effect of different levels of sea level rise.

            The current IPCC estimate for 2100 has a high end of about one meter. Hansen thinks it might be several meters.

            At 20 meters of SLR, Orlando is still above water.

          • Subbak says:

            David Friedman: I’m talking about sea level rise when I’m saying settlements near the sea would have to be evacuated. Projected se level rise from the melting glaciers and ice sheets (as well as thermal expansion). All big coastal cities would be underwater.

            The IPCC figurs you cite are generally considered to be very conservative, as you say. Orlando itself might not be threatened, but I am assuming that was hyperbole. Displacing the whole population of the Netherlands for starters doesn’t sound like fun.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Subbak

            The first obvious bad consequence of warming is that any settlements that are not high enough would have to be evacuated. Given that humans love making cities near water, that’s a lot of displaced population, enough to make Vietnam and Syria together look ridiculous.

            Note that, barring black swan runaway warming scenarios, the sea level rise is projected to occur over centuries to millennia. So if you are thinking of masses of refugees fleeing flooded cities then think again.

            Most modern buildings will typically have a lifespan much lower than this time scale, so what will happen is that when waterfront buildings reach their typical end of life and are demolished, instead of making another building at the same spot, the area is turned to something like a road or a promenade, then to a beach or a seawall, and finally it is submerged by the sea, long after the previous inhabitant left.

            Specific sites of historical or commercial interest could be preserved by damming or other coastline engineering techniques. So no underwater Statue of Liberty like in the movies.

          • Anonymous says:

            EDIT: vV_Vv beat me to the punch…

            The current IPCC estimate for 2100 has a high end of about one meter.

            And the timescale is really important here. Most people ignore the timescale and kind of imagine that it happens instantaneously:

            Displacing the whole population of the Netherlands for starters doesn’t sound like fun.

            Sure, if that happened on a timescale of, say, a war… then yes. It would be a big problem. Consider the Syrian War. In less than five years, we had at least six million refugees. The population of the Netherlands is just under 17 million. If this happened in even ten years, it would be really hard.

            Over a hundred years? Come’on. Ten years from now, the popular real estate will be a little bit inland from where it is now. Ten years from then, the popular real estate will be a little bit inland from where it was then. Etc. Some people will gain from the change; some people will lose. We might choose to relocate some items of considerable cultural significance, which would be expensive… but we have no way of actually comparing this expense.

            The biggest problem is politics/borders. If an entire country actually became unlivable, we would have to see adjustments in polities. However, looking back through history, adjustments to polities run on extremely fast timescales (compared to climate timescales). Do we have any reason to believe that such changes to population location or political structures would be faster or more dangerous than the standard fast-scale dynamics these things exhibit due to run-of-the-mill factors like politics/war and economics?

          • “All big coastal cities would be underwater.”

            At what level of SLR? Most of New Orleans is already below sea level and has been for a long time. I don’t know of any other city that would be below sea level with one meter of SLR, which is the high end of the IPCC prediction for 2100, am not sure if there are any that would be with three meters.

            That’s not counting cities already below sea level in the Netherlands.

            “The IPCC figurs you cite are generally considered to be very conservative, as you say.”

            That’s not what I said. What I said was that one author, Hansen, had higher estimates than that.

            The IPCC, as is pretty obvious reading the reports, wants to persuade people there is a problem, so insofar as they have a bias it’s towards overestimating negative effects. I analyzed past IPCC temperature predictions on my blog sometime back, and the pattern is for actual warming to be at or below the low end of their predicted range.

            You didn’t answer my question. How much SLR are you assuming? My guess is that the answer has to be either much more than even Hansen expects or too low to put all big coastal cities underwater. If you disagree, there is a web page that lets you check.

            Going over the U.S. west coast map at twenty meters SLR, I find most of San Francisco and most of Los Angeles still above water.

            Suppose you check the map and find that your claim is wildly exaggerated, that at the level expected by Hansen for 2100, about three meters, most large coastal cities are still mostly above water. Will that change your views either of climate issues in particular of of how you form your beliefs more generally?

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            The biggest problem is politics/borders. If an entire country actually became unlivable, we would have to see adjustments in polities

            Looking back over history, “adjustments to politics can” very easily be a euphemism for “war”.
            War is very expensive, so that is indeed a big problem, and one that may well weigh on the side of doing something about GW.

          • “War is very expensive, so that is indeed a big problem, and one that may well weigh on the side of doing something about GW.”

            On the other hand, “doing something about GW” raises the problem of how to prevent nations from being free riders, which provides a new incentive for war. If one takes seriously the extreme versions of climate alarmism, they provide an adequate reason to make war against a country unwilling to keep down its CO2 emissions.

          • Anonymous says:

            Looking back over history, “adjustments to politics can” very easily be a euphemism for “war”.

            That’s a possibility. Of course, that’s always a possibility. Political/economic events drive war at least as often, and again.. these events happen on vastly faster timescales than climate change. Frankly, no one has any idea how to compute what effect a slow parameter change will have to the fast dynamics. None whatsoever.

            Basic dynamical systems theory requires that when we model timescale-separated systems, we hold the slow system constant, let the fast system converge, and then step forward the slow system. We literally can’t do this, and so everyone tries to do it the wrong way round. Frankly, you’re doing that, too, which is why you’re imagining war rather than gradual immigration and a national population simply dwindling into expiration.

          • James Picone says:

            @David
            This comment thread starts from a graph demonstrating that last time global temperature was 4 to 5c below where it is now most of northern America was covered in ice. This is not a good time to claim that a 4 to 5c temperature increase is nothing.

            And as I’ve pointed out several times before, your ‘analysis’ of the IPCC’s predictions is wildly, terribly wrong. Repeatedly linking to blog post that demonstrates that you can’t calculate a linear trend is not a good way to convince people you have any idea what you’re talking about. Hint: The trend since 1990 to 2013 is ~0.15 C/decade, 50% larger than the figure you quote. The GISTEMP figure is 0.166 C/decade.

            Not only that, but you quote a FAR figure for the /next century/ and assume the warming will be linear, a tactic usually deployed only by Christopher Monckton, try to infer something from trends in the period 2007 to 2013 (p.s. the linear trend 2007 to present is currently 0.3 C/decade in GISTEMP. Do you conclude that AR4 is too low? Or do you correctly conclude that it’s just noise?), and blithely ignore that the FAR was published shortly after the Montreal protocol, which had a very significant effect on concentrations of a powerful greenhouse gas.

            Incompetent or deceptive? I’ll let everyone else decide.

          • “10 to 12c increase spread out over the next couple centuries in the paper you just linked.”

            You are correct that it’s faster than I thought. I read Figure 1 c as showing the peak in about five hundred years. Is there something more precise in the text that I missed?

            The figure is showing temperature relative to pre-industrial, so you want to subtract about a degree for change relative to the present.

          • @Picone:

            “This is not a good time to claim that a 4 to 5c temperature increase is nothing.”

            Could you quote me claiming that? I thought I was disputing the claim that

            “All big coastal cities would be underwater.”

            Would you like to defend that claim? If you agree with me that it is nonsense, at least for the next century or so, why didn’t you say so instead of taking the opportunity to attack my old blog post on IPCC predictions?

            “Hint: The trend since 1990 to 2013 is ~0.15 C/decade, 50% larger than the figure you quote.”

            I took the simplest approach, which works pretty well for long periods—temperature at the end of the period minus temperature at the beginning divided by length of the period. And said that was what I was doing:

            “Checking a graph on a NASA page, the increase from 1990 to 2013 was about .22°C, for an average rate of increase of about .1°C/decade.”

            Checking the NASA page:

            1990: .44
            2013: .66
            [.66-.44]/23=.0096

            You don’t say how you calculated your figure. Or mention that it is still below the bottom of the range predicted in the first IPCC report.

            “try to infer something from trends in the period 2007 to 2013”

            I wrote:

            “The fourth report was written in 2007 and predicted temperature change thereafter. Looking at the graph from the NASA page, temperature from then to now has been essentially flat, with the slope positive or negative depending on your choice of end points. It’s too short a time period to evaluate the prediction with much confidence, but so far as one can judge it was high.”

            Checking the numbers on the NASA page:

            2007: .66
            2013: .66
            Rate of increase zero.

            When I wrote that blog post I seem to have been working off the NASA graph to which I linked–I’m not sure if I hadn’t yet come across the page with numerical data that I’ve just been citing. If you look at that graph, do you disagree with my statement about the pattern from 2003 to 2013?

            “Not only that, but you quote a FAR figure for the /next century/ and assume the warming will be linear, a tactic usually deployed only by Christopher Monckton”

            FAR could be First, Fourth, or even Fifth Assessment Report. What I wrote about the First Assessment Report was:

            “The graph shown for the increase is close to a straight line at least from 2000 on, so it seems reasonable to ask whether the average increase from 1990 to the present is within that range.”

            What the text I quoted said:

            “the average rate of increase of global mean temperature during the next century”

            I take “during the next century” as meaning “during the next hundred years” not “during the century that starts in 2001.” Do you have a reason for the alternative interpretation?

          • James Picone says:

            @David

            Could you quote me claiming [that 4-5c is nothing]?

            here:

            Most of the population of the Earth lives in places that are at least four degrees cooler in average temperature than other places where other people live.

            I thought I was disputing the claim that

            “All big coastal cities would be underwater.”

            Would you like to defend that claim? If you agree with me that it is nonsense, at least for the next century or so, why didn’t you say so instead of taking the opportunity to attack my old blog post on IPCC predictions?

            I don’t think it’s likely. I give Hansen’s very rapid ice sheet disintegration stuff and the clathrate gun stuff maybe 1% each. I believe either of them result in tens of metres of sea level rise over the next century, which I believe is sufficient to do awful stuff to the vast majority of coastal cities. But I wouldn’t expect them to be underwater in the general case. More exposed to storms, don’t know enough to know how big a deal that is. Ultimately I do think we’re looking at 120 metres; I don’t think the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets will survive what we’ve already put in the atmosphere, but that’s over the next several thousand years, and we’ll probably have all killed ourselves in a much more inventive way by then.

            Several people had already said it was wrong; and I think it’s more important to note that your IPCC projection comparison is very very wrong.

            I took the simplest approach, which works pretty well for long periods—temperature at the end of the period minus temperature at the beginning divided by length of the period. And said that was what I was doing:

            i.e. you didn’t calculate the trend. Given that you’re an economist I would hope you know how to do simple linear regression; I can see zero legitimate reasons to do what you did instead.

            “Checking a graph on a NASA page, the increase from 1990 to 2013 was about .22°C, for an average rate of increase of about .1°C/decade.”

            Checking the NASA page:

            1990: .44
            2013: .66
            [.66-.44]/23=.0096

            And if the FAR came out in 1989, yearly average anomaly .29c, or 1992, yearly average anomaly .23c? You get ~0.15 c/decade and ~0.2 c/decade, respectively. You don’t think that’s a suggestion that your method is wildly unsound?

            You don’t say how you calculated your figure. Or mention that it is still below the bottom of the range predicted in the first IPCC report.

            I calculated them using simple linear regression, the bog-standard tool for estimating linear trends in data, via SkS’ very useful trend calculator

            The range you quoted is for the next century. You cannot extend it linearly to the present day and assume it’ll be the same throughout; the scenario involves emissions growing superexponentially. I already noted that in the comment you’re replying to. This genuinely is a mistake made by Monckton, which is an excellent demonstration of the company you’re in.

            (plus the forcings are high because we actually did do something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the Montreal protocol. IIRC FAR’s projections didn’t take it into account because it was very, very new; it would have projected much higher CFC growth in the highest scenario you used than we actually got because of it.)

            I wrote:

            “The fourth report was written in 2007 and predicted temperature change thereafter. Looking at the graph from the NASA page, temperature from then to now has been essentially flat, with the slope positive or negative depending on your choice of end points. It’s too short a time period to evaluate the prediction with much confidence, but so far as one can judge it was high.”

            Checking the numbers on the NASA page:

            2007: .66
            2013: .66
            Rate of increase zero.

            When I wrote that blog post I seem to have been working off the NASA graph to which I linked–I’m not sure if I hadn’t yet come across the page with numerical data that I’ve just been citing. If you look at that graph, do you disagree with my statement about the pattern from 2003 to 2013?

            My point is that the period 2007 to 2013 is far, far too short to draw meaningful conclusions (absent excursions substantially larger than the ones we got). My point is that attempting to draw conclusions from that indicates that you’re either incompetent to analyse noisy time series data (which is something I assume you have education in, so it’s kind of a big deal) or you know it’s meaningless but you’re presenting it because it looks good to people who don’t know better. This is why I quoted the 2007 to present figure, which is very high. Because it’s just noise. If your estimate of trend over a period increases ~7 times with the addition of three years of data, that’s an indication you’re doing something wrong.

            I assume you mean 2007 to 2013 at the end there, because you don’t even mention 2003 in the original post. Yes, I think you’re wrong to characterise the trend as you did. A better characterisation is 0.051 +- 0.539 C/decade, which you’ll note includes the IPCC’s range. And approximately everything else. Because it’s a six-year trend and completely meaningless.

            FAR could be First, Fourth, or even Fifth Assessment Report. What I wrote about the First Assessment Report was:

            The usual acronyms are FAR, SAR, TAR, AR4 and AR5. I’m surprised you’re not familiar with them.

            “The graph shown for the increase is close to a straight line at least from 2000 on, so it seems reasonable to ask whether the average increase from 1990 to the present is within that range.”

            What the text I quoted said:

            “the average rate of increase of global mean temperature during the next century”

            I take “during the next century” as meaning “during the next hundred years” not “during the century that starts in 2001.” Do you have a reason for the alternative interpretation?

            I’m not complaining about that part (although I think they did actually mean 2100, but whatever). I’m complaining about you assuming it’s linear over that period. It’s not.

          • @ Picone:

            I wrote:

            “Could you quote me claiming [that 4-5c is nothing]?”

            You responded with a link to a comment where I responded to someone claiming that

            “The first obvious bad consequence of warming is that any settlements that are not high enough would have to be evacuated.”

            The obvious implication was that sea level settlements would be either flooded or too hot to be habitable. That’s a wild exaggeration, as I think I demonstrated in my reply. I did not say nor imply that there would be no bad (or good) consequences from warming of four to five degrees.

            “Ultimately I do think we’re looking at 120 metres; I don’t think the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets will survive what we’ve already put in the atmosphere, but that’s over the next several thousand years, and we’ll probably have all killed ourselves in a much more inventive way by then.”

            The final point was one I have made multiple times, although I wouldn’t say “probably.” But I do think it is probable that in that long things will have changed so much, due to technological change, to make any prediction now nearly worthless. That might mean we have wiped ourselves out, it might mean humans are mostly living in space, or uploaded, or rich enough to put the carbon back in the ground with the spare change from the then equivalent of Bill Gates.

            So you agree that the comment I criticized as nonsense was nonsense, but instead of saying so you took the opportunity to criticize my analysis of past IPCC predictions.

            “i.e. you didn’t calculate the trend. Given that you’re an economist I would hope you know how to do simple linear regression; I can see zero legitimate reasons to do what you did instead.”

            Surprising, given that by the end of your comment you had demonstrated the obvious reason.

            I am writing to persuade people of things they don’t want to believe. I expect a hostile and critical response. Measuring the slope of a line from one end point to another is simple enough so that even a moderately intelligent person with only a slight preference for believing what is true can check that I am doing it honestly. If I report the result of a more complicated calculation, such as a least squares fit, many readers won’t know what it is, most of the rest won’t bother to look up all the data, type it into Excel or a statistics program. They will simply dismiss it as propaganda by the bad guys.

            As you know, I have a blog post on another topic which demonstrates that one prominent figure in the climate debates lied in print about his own work and later lied online about my criticism. Most people on his side, I think including you although I may be misremembering, can read that and find some way of evading the implication, even though all the evidence is on the web provided by the person I’m criticizing. The more complicated my analysis, the easier it is to do that.

            “which is an excellent demonstration of the company you’re in.”

            And you are referencing sks.com, run by John Cook, the subject of my post mentioned above, which is an excellent demonstration of the company you are in. Guilt by association doesn’t answer arguments.

            “My point is that the period 2007 to 2013 is far, far too short to draw meaningful conclusions ”

            Which, minus the “far, too far,” is what I said in the post you are attacking. I wrote:

            “Looking at the graph from the NASA page, temperature from then to now has been essentially flat, with the slope positive or negative depending on your choice of end points. It’s too short a time period to evaluate the prediction with much confidence, but so far as one can judge it was high.”

            You wrote:

            “I’m complaining about you assuming it’s linear over that period. It’s not.”

            I think you are referring to the period for which I quoted the IPCC as saying:

            “For the next two decades a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emissions scenarios.”

            Perhaps you should complain to the authors of the report for describing the warming as linear.

            If you are referring to my analysis of the first report, I said it wasn’t linear and you just quoted me saying it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            Most of the population of the Earth lives in places that are at least four degrees cooler in average temperature than other places where other people live.

            You said this! The clear implication is that 4 or 5 degrees is essentially negligible. Then you asked where you said it, you are provided it, and don’t have the grace to acknowledge what you said.

            I thought I was disputing the claim that

            “All big coastal cities would be underwater.”

            That isn’t the claim you actually responded to when you made that statement. The statement was that populations affected by sea rise would need to be evacuated and that would be an issue given how much we like to build near water.

            You do not hold yourself to the same standards that you demand of others.

          • (quoting me)
            “Most of the population of the Earth lives in places that are at least four degrees cooler in average temperature than other places where other people live.”

            You said this! The clear implication is that 4 or 5 degrees is essentially negligible.

            Not essentially negligible. Not lethal. I believe that at some point in the thread I linked to an old blog post where I estimated how much land area would become uninhabitable as a result of a five degree increase in maximum temperature.

            You are correct that I was responding at that point on the assumption that it was temperature rather than sea level rise that the person I responded to was referring to. I’m not sure why, possibly because I had thought about that issue in the past.

            Both Subbak and someone else brought up sea level rise and I responded to that.

            So I don’t see what you are complaining about. What wicked thing was I doing in responding first to one argument, which it turned out was not the one Subbak intended, and then to the other that was?

          • James Picone says:

            @David:
            I don’t buy that explanation, when your ‘simple’ algorithm can be criticised on the basis that you’re not actually calculating a linear trend by anyone who’s done high-school mathematics, and when it also generates results that are substantially more convenient for the claims you’re making.

            With actual linear trends, suddenly the IPCC’s projections look really good. Surely that’s a point worth noting in a blog post comparing the IPCC’s projections to reality?

          • “With actual linear trends, suddenly the IPCC’s projections look really good. ”

            Really? You wrote:

            “The trend since 1990 to 2013 is ~0.15 C/decade, 50% larger than the figure you quote.”

            The IPCC projection was a range from .2 to .5.

            I explained why I used the simplest way of measuring the rate of warming over a period. You find that unconvincing.

            As I already explained, the fact that I am writing for readers who will find any possible excuse for not believing me is a reason to do the calculation in a way that any idiot could follow.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            by anyone who’s done high-school mathematics

            *Sigh*

            High school students are hard pressed to find the slope of a line using two points; I have not met anyone that did any high faluting trend analyse. It’s just not in the curriculum.

            But I think you know this.

          • James Picone says:

            EDIT:

            *Sigh*

            High school students are hard pressed to find the slope of a line using two points; I have not met anyone that did any high faluting trend analyse. It’s just not in the curriculum.

            But I think you know this.

            I did simple linear regression in high school. Something something difference between American and other countries’ curricula?

            AND THE ORIGINAL:

            Really? You wrote:

            “The trend since 1990 to 2013 is ~0.15 C/decade, 50% larger than the figure you quote.”

            The FARIPCC projection was a range from .2 to .5 averaged over the next century

            (my additions in bold/strikethrough).

            What about the SAR and TAR? Square in the middle of their projections. AR4 was barely 9 years ago, really not possible to judge. Linear trend over 2009 to present is 0.345 ±0.313 °C/decade. Note the huge uncertainty. Consistent with the AR4 range, but uninformatively so. AR5 would be ridiculous to quote near-term figures for.

            Broadly the IPCC comes out looking accurate. Funny that. It’s almost like the vast majority of climate scientists might actually know something.

            I explained why I used the simplest way of measuring the rate of warming over a period. You find that unconvincing.

            As I already explained, the fact that I am writing for readers who will find any possible excuse for not believing me is a reason to do the calculation in a way that any idiot could follow.

            If I’d done something similar and started projections in, say, 1985 (when Hansen started work on his well-known 1988 paper), 1992 (Supplement to the FAR), 1995 (SAR was mostly based on research published before it was published, it was published in 1996, assume 1995 cutoff date) and 2000 (similar reasoning as 1995, but for the TAR), would you buy a “yeah I was just trying to be simple” explanation? Or if John Cook had done it?

            The way you make your argument resistant to “yeah but you’re choosing methods to make your argument look better” is not to use something simple and wrong; it’s to use demonstrably-correct standard methods. Like simple linear regression. Which frankly isn’t that complicated.

            This is a running thing in various ‘skeptical’ groups – being simple, intuitive, and wrong. “Water vapour is a much stronger GHG!” yeah but it doesn’t have CO2 residence time so we can’t put excess into the atmosphere, also congratulations you’ve discovered feedbacks. “CO2 absorption is saturated!” one blanket saturates heat transfer; do you think a second blanket won’t do anything? “Climate’s changed in the past!” Yeah, and people have died of natural causes, does that mean people can’t die of other things? “I think there’s more variability in paleoclimate than the proxies capture!” Oh, so you think climate sensitivity is higher than the IPCC’s estimate, so we’re more screwed? (People complaining about peaks getting smoothed out in the IPCC graph take note – you are not arguing for what you think you’re arguing for).

            Is it too much to ask that you actually learn something about the field you’re smugly throwing standard bullshit at before making yourself look like an idiot? This is supposed to be a rationalist blog where rational people hang out rationally; have the fucking humility to realise that maybe the entire scientific enterprise doesn’t have climate science so wrong that a short comment on a blog post illustrates a fundamental problem. This isn’t just directed at you, David, it’s directed at everyone being ‘skeptical’ here. Like Hlynkacg, who seems to think the only reason climate scientists think the world gets warmer with more CO2 is extrapolation. Or the huge discussion about ‘cherry-picking’, which… I don’t even understand what point they think they’re making. I don’t think there’s anywhere Randall Munroe could have started the graph that would make paleoclimate increase anywhere near as fast as it’s increasing today. And then there’s all the hippie-punching and general paranoid conspiracising.

            Read The Discovery of Global Warming, maybe. Read some of the many technical blogs out there about climate science – Realclimate has some interesting stuff, Isaac Held blogs about modelling, Science of Doom has a bunch of posts about basically everything.

          • “Broadly the IPCC comes out looking accurate.”

            As I pointed out in the blog post we are discussing, it does less well than simply drawing a line from temperature when the present warming started to temperature the year of the first IPCC report and extrapolating. Worse than the simplest two parameter fit isn’t an impressive performance for an elaborate set of models.

            On your wildly optimistic view of what American high school students can be expected to know … . My wife, back when she was a geology graduate student at VPI, taught a basic geology course used by non-science students to meet their science requirement. VPI was the second best public university in the state (after UVa), only a minority of high school students go to university, so VPI students represented something like the top quartile of high school graduates.

            A sizable minority, given the height, width and depth of a rectangular body of ore, had no idea how to calculate the volume.

          • James Picone says:

            As I pointed out in the blog post we are discussing, it does less well than simply drawing a line from temperature when the present warming started to temperature the year of the first IPCC report and extrapolating. Worse than the simplest two parameter fit isn’t an impressive performance for an elaborate set of models.

            Trend from 1970s to 1990 is around 0.15c/decade, so the ‘just extrapolate recent warming’ projection is pretty much what the IPCC projected in SAR/TAR. You don’t have a leg to stand on here (and, again, the FAR projection is for /warming averaged over the next century/, which isn’t expected to be linear. And it predates CFC emissions dropping drastically).

            (also mere statistical extrapolation is much less impressive than matching the same results with theoretically-calculated results)

            Your comparison is wrong. It’s wrong because you’ve chosen a wildly inappropriate method of analysis. The end.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Problem is that nuclear power plants take years to build and get running. Even if this policy was adopted tomorrow, it’d be something like 7-10 years (iirc, don’t quote me) before they went online. The U.S. is already projected to be mostly reliant on solar somewhere in the mid-2030s, just due to the rate at which the cost/kW is dropping [edit: actually this appears to be completely incorrect – not sure where I heard it and will have to do further research, but it looks like the U.S. electricity production will still be 44% coal by 2035]. The time to have built a bunch of nuclear power plants was 20+ years ago (thanks anti-nuclear people!), in which case we might have avoided much of this problem (though given the history of not-giving-a-shit-about-safety, I’m not sure how much I’d have trusted the plants of 30 years ago, either – see Fukushima, though it was almost 50 years old at the time of the disaster). As it is we’re right on the verge of where there isn’t much point because solar will be here not long after new nuclear power would get going, so there’d be huge costs to then having all these new nuclear plants around right when solar was starting to outcompete them. It takes a while for those things to pay for themselves.

            My understanding, anyway.

          • The Nybbler says:

            No, we can’t, for the same reason we can’t build any other major infrastructure, PLUS all the anti-nuke stuff piled on top. The only way we’ll build nukes again is if there’s a purge of environmentalists after too many people freeze to death due to lack of power. And perhaps not even then; the “Falling Angels” scenario where energy use gets blame for that is possible.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            We could build some goddamn fucking nuke plants.

            Unlikely. Generation X is going to stay in power for another 10-20 years at least, and it fucking hates nuclear energy.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Nybbler:
            Perception of nuclear power is broadly negative and it isn’t limited to environmentalists, it suffers as much from animosity of competing industries (coal, natural gas, etc) as from the public, and there are environmentalists who support nuclear energy specifically as a means to limit carbon emissions (Stewart Brand, for instance).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Gen X isn’t in power and never will be in power; we’re too small. It’s mostly skipping directly from the Boomers to the Millennials with a few Xers mixed in.

            Yes, there are some enviromentalists who support nuclear energy now, when it’s not going to happen. If it looked like it would, they’d change their tune to find problems with it. Just like for solar thermal (ruins the desert environment! Reduces the albedo of the planet!), just like wind (Kills birds! Changes wind patterns in a bad way! Transmission lines are ugly).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m having a hard time buying that environmentalists, as a group, aren’t a major barrier to nuclear power.

            I know a bunch of individual environmentalists who are for it, but they don’t write op-eds or kick out members who are standing in the way (sometimes literally) of plant construction.

            Where’s the Matt Damon movie excoriating nuclear plant obstructionists?

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Nybbler:
            Your theory introduces unnecessary complexity. You’re positing guys like Brand are actually strongly against nuclear power, but promote it publicly anyway, for some unspecified motives, and would actually change their story, even at loss of their own credibility, if new nuclear plants seemed like an actual possibility. Rather than the simpler explanation that environmentalists aren’t a single homogeneous hivemind who agree on everything, and there’s internal disagreement about it (for instance), similar to other stuff like GMOs?

            Anti-nuclear and anti-GMO stuff is environmental populism. The better informed, non-populist ones generally aren’t opposed since most agree they’d be net positives for the environment (nuclear by reducing carbon emissions and GMOs by improving crop yields).

            @Edward Scizorhands:
            I’m guessing their contributions to preventing nuclear power at being about the same as their success rate in preventing fracking, offshore drilling, mountaintop removal, etc: marginal at best. Compared to groups like the coal, oil, and gas lobbies that also have incentives to stall competing energy sources. The fact they largely align on this issue just makes it worse, since it creates huge political disincentives when you have groups in both tribes (e.g. environmentalists and coal workers) AND big industry lobbies all opposed to nuclear power.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Gen X isn’t in power and never will be in power; we’re too small. It’s mostly skipping directly from the Boomers to the Millennials with a few Xers mixed in.

            You speak for yourself, America; where I live, it’s been in power for 6 years, which is just about the earliest it could be; people below the age of 45 generally don’t make it big in politics. I’m not even sure if I’ll accept that this is not so in the US, as your current president is born rather late to be called much of a boomer. Definetly an edge case there.

            The millennial thing raises my doubts, too. I predict the first millennial presidents/prime ministers in the west to start appearing after 2030 or so at the earliest, and even then it’ll take a while. Am I missing something here? Some great lineup of millennial political talents in many countries who appear slated to do so well generation X doesn’t have a chance? I’ve a feeling that if Cruz or Rubio would’ve won your Republican primaries, this argument would look much worse.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Obviously, higher taxes, extensive government control over the economy, subsidies for major corporations that are on board politically, and delegitimization and censorship of opposing views. Just like the proposed solutions for every other crisis.

        • Subbak says:

          And those are bad because ?

          • Jill says:

            For those of us really committed to using our brains here, we could likely look at a specific situation and see where higher taxes, or (not necessarily extensive) government control over the economy, or subsidies for corporations would be good for attaining certain goals in that situation. And where one or more of those would be counterproductive for attaining certain goals in that situation.

            But, most people, uninterested in using their minds, and interested in only using their ideologies, they are compelled to believe that higher taxes, government control over the economy, and subsidies for major corporations, are bad 100% of the time for all purposes. Or are good 100% of the time. And Never the Twain Shall Meet. And never shall the specific situation and alternate possible ways of accomplishing goals be looked at.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I merely find it suspicious that those are the proposed solutions for every single problem we encounter. It’s almost as if the point is to centralize power, not solve any problem in particular.

            Jill: can we at least agree that “delegitimization and censorship of opposing views” is probably not going to help the situation? That’s the only one in the pile I’m really married to, frankly.

          • Jiro says:

            For those of us really committed to using our brains here

            I’m sorry I’m not committed to using my brains here, Jill. Is that a requirement for posing to SSC?

          • Subbak says:

            THirteenthLetter: It depends what you mean by “deligitimization and censorship”. Deligitimzing things that are based on fantasies in direct opposition to scientific research by pointing out their ridiculousness seems a good thing.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Using our brains? Once again, xkcd saves the day.

            Namely, it’s all about the context!

            “Everything you wanted to say required a context. If you gave the full context, people thought you a rambling old fool. If you didn’t give the context, people thought you a laconic old fool.”
              — Julian Barnes
                  Staring at the Sun

            No matter what views you have on any subject, xkcd provides a broader context for those views. This strategy is foundational to Randall Munroe’s genius for non-abusively non-confrontationally inducing cognitive transformations.

            Including transformations in people’s opinions regarding anthropogenic climate change, isn’t that right?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            THirteenthLetter: It depends what you mean by “deligitimization and censorship”. Deligitimzing things that are based on fantasies in direct opposition to scientific research by pointing out their ridiculousness seems a good thing.

            Nah, point out the ridiculousness all you want. When I try to define “delegitimization” I’m thinking, not just contradicting a viewpoint or even ridiculing it, but affirmatively attempting to make it difficult for the holders of the viewpoint to get their view across at all.

            It’s a little tricky to draw a line, I’ll freely grant, but as a first attempt: if one’s motivation is not “We need to show everyone how wrong these guys are” but instead “We need to silence these guys because otherwise the rubes might believe their nonsense and vote the wrong way” then one is not on the side of the angels.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          Do you consider carbon markets to be a left wing solution?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I instinctively don’t trust artificial government-created “markets” as in practice they’re a way for the government to continue funneling money to connected people and pushing politically approved solutions while conning at least a fraction of libertarians into thinking that it’s legit. That said, if you’ve already drunk the Kool-Aid and believe we actually need to take dramatic action, they’re probably the least harmful approach.

          • Tekhno says:

            All modern large scale markets are government created. It is government which organizes the protection of property rights and the law that defines how property works. Even if it’s then a highly free market, at the ground level, no significant markets today are not government created going back way into history.

            Government – well technically an “independent” central bank – controls the money supply for the economy as much as it would control carbon credit supply. Perhaps carbon credit schemes need their version of the Fed to limit democratic manipulation.

          • ” no significant markets today are not government created going back way into history.”

            Going way back into history that’s clearly false. There has been international trade since long before there were any effective mechanisms to enforce contracts and property rights for international transactions.

            It isn’t true in any very useful sense even within nations. The original Amsterdam Stock Market functioned despite ordinances that made most of the transactions illegal and so unenforceable at law. Much the same was true of the early London stock market at, among other places, Jonathan’s Coffee House.

            For details see Private Governance by Edward Stringham.

            “Government – well technically an “independent” central bank – controls the money supply for the economy as much as it would control carbon credit supply. “”

            Government did not control the money supply in Scotland at the time Smith wrote–money was produced by private banks. It does not currently control the supply of bitcoins.

            There are lots of things governments do or have done. There are few if any things that have only been done by governments.

          • Tekhno says:

            @David Friedman

            Without effective ways to enforce contracts you get instability and a robber’s market. Of course, there has always been informal trade going on and property as mere possession has always existed, but the most productive markets have always needed secure property rights. Many empires spread precisely to protect trade routes and formalize them (the Silk Road makes for a good historical example), making them more secure and more productive (less loss from robbery/disputes over who owns what). Informal property exchange occurs all the time, but you can’t build an advanced economy off of it.

            Property is consistently defined otherwise it is not property, subject to rule of law, but mere possession subject to might makes right.

            It isn’t true in any very useful sense even within nations. The original Amsterdam Stock Market functioned despite ordinances that made most of the transactions illegal and so unenforceable at law. Much the same was true of the early London stock market at, among other places, Jonathan’s Coffee House.

            I’ll look into that. My prior expectation is that the authorities were turning a blind eye to the exact transactions while protecting the property itself, possibly because they were taking advantage of it. Jewish banking in late Medieval Europe is a similar story.

            If this is not true, I’d be interested to see what alternative methods of enforcement were being used.

            For details see Private Governance by Edward Stringham.

            I’ll give this a read. Thanks.

            Government did not control the money supply in Scotland at the time Smith wrote–money was produced by private banks.

            Prior to central banks, money was produced by private banks but those private banks had their property protected by state law, formalizing their mere possession into ownership, and the same for protection of the accounts at banks. Only a centralized state can bring the consistency needed to make lassez faire truly effective. Currency was certainly being minted under the direction of the state, even with private banks, otherwise all those historical currencies wouldn’t have been blazoned with the faces of Kings.

            As for bitcoin, last I checked it’s floundering as a currency and makes for a bad currency precisely because of its instability and insecurity. It’s a marginal thing.

            There are lots of things governments do or have done. There are few if any things that have only been done by governments.

            Sure, there have always been informal markets, but all the major centers of commerce have always been encompassed by states. Polycentric law leads to ceaseless disputes of law against law.
            Monocentric law says “No, this is how it is!” and then throughout that entire area you can be relatively assured that the law is consistent and nobody thinks they own your property according to some other law agencies word. Ultima Ratio Regum.

            The thing is, government – by proxy with “independent” central banks – controls the money supply now. If government making a new “currency” for carbon is “artificial”, then ThirteenthLetter is a little late, is all I’m saying. The “Kool-Aid” is just recognizing that 1: externalities exist, 2: global warming is a really bad one, and 3: there’s no way to individually sue polluters in this case because it is externalized to such a great degree (internalizing the problem would require the privatization of blocks of the sky which is a no go). The left has got this one right and I’ll gladly imbibe of the fruit flavored beverage they are providing.

          • You wrote:

            “no significant markets today are not government created going back way into history.”

            Are you now agreeing that that statement was false, that there have been significant markets, such as large parts of the early stock exchanges in both England and the Netherlands, that were not only not government created but not government enforced? Markets at the medieval trade fairs, with disputes settled under private law?

            “Without effective ways to enforce contracts you get instability and a robber’s market.”

            Governments are not the only way of enforcing contracts. Enforcing contracts against governments, or against those favored by governments, can be difficult.

            “but the most productive markets have always needed secure property rights.”

            Are you assuming that the only possible way of getting secure property rights is through government? Have you considered governments as a threat to the security of property rights? In the words of a 19th century judge,

            “No man is secure in his life, liberty or property while the legislature is in session.”

            “Currency was certainly being minted under the direction of the state, even with private banks, otherwise all those historical currencies wouldn’t have been blazoned with the faces of Kings.”

            There are lots of examples of currencies that circulated far beyond the reach of the governments that minted them, such as the Byzantine noumisma. Through the Middle Ages and Renaissance you had a competitive market for gold currency, with several different currencies competing for use in international trade. Carlo Cipolla, Money, Prices and Civilization in the Mediterranean World is a good source on this and an interesting book.

            From the standpoint of users elsewhere, the mints could as easily have been private. The Sassinid silver currency continued to circulate long after the destruction of the Sassanid empire.

            The dinar and the dirhem didn’t generally have anyone’s head on them, although I think most were minted by state mints.

            “but all the major centers of commerce have always been encompassed by states.”

            What does “encompassed by states” mean? International commerce, by definition, goes beyond the boundaries of a single state. When Venice or Florence was a major center of commerce, most of it was with people not under Venetian or Florentine rule.

            “If government making a new “currency” for carbon is “artificial”, then ThirteenthLetter is a little late, is all I’m saying.”

            The proposal people argue about isn’t the creation of a new currency. It’s making it illegal to produce carbon dioxide unless you have carbon credits.

            “recognizing that 1: externalities exist, 2: global warming is a really bad one …”

            “Recognizing” makes it sound as though you think the claim is an established fact. It isn’t. It might turn out to be true, but global warming produces both costs and benefits, they will be spread out over a long and uncertain future, and nobody today knows enough to confidently sign the sum, although many people think they do.

            “Polycentric law leads to ceaseless disputes of law against law.”

            Evidence or theory? Did that happen in the Islamic world, with four different schools of Sunni law? Does it happen in the U.S. today, where contracts can be specified to be under the law of a particular state? In the world today, where disputes over international transactions are largely settled by private arbitration?

        • James Picone says:

          …subsidies for major corporations that are on board politically, and delegitimization and censorship of opposing views

          The projection is real.

  44. TentativelyAssembled says:

    Depending on what the laws are in your area, having to buy a coffee to use the cafe’s Customer Only toilet might actually be illegal. From the article:

    Recently, in Chicago, Froiken’s son tried to use the bathroom at a Chipotle when the manager told him he had to buy something. Froiken’s son, well-versed on the city’s bathroom laws, correctly pointed out that this was in direct violation of city ordinance. The manager, somewhat reluctantly, allowed him to go for free.

  45. dvasya says:

    “Where quality can actually be quantified, such as in computer models of crystallography work, ‘top’ journals come out significantly worse than other journals:” – that seems very reasonable! The “worse” work is usually also the first to come out. Anything appearing in the literature after that can only get published if it passes the filter of improving upon that Cell/Nature/Science paper. The authors completely ignore that science is nonstationary and has a time axis.

    • gw says:

      More or less. The top journals are only interested in publishing the crystals that have important implications. What’s left in that category tend to be very difficult to crystallize, GPCRs with seven trans-membrane domains and the like. “Lesser” journals like Protein Engineering will publish your favorite protein, which has potentially interesting functional characteristics or therapeutic implications, but is fairly vanilla, structurally speaking.

  46. Deiseach says:

    I wonder if that 40% skepticism rate amongst the people in Homa Bay about “free money for nothing” could be fuelled by the fact that there are plenty of legitimate investment/charitable foundation endeavours?

    I imagine someone might think “If this was genuine, they’d be setting up employment opportunities with that kind of investment cash, not promising to give it to anyone who applies and doesn’t have to do anything in return. It must be some kind of money laundering racket!”

    • Cadie says:

      They could frame it as the money being in exchange for information – we want to learn more about how cash transfers improve outcomes in various situations, and giving them cash and then gathering aggregated information later about what measures improved and how much is part of how we’re studying it. So it’s not free money for nothing, exactly, even though there’s no specific tasks they have to do to get it – they’re “paying” with information, by letting us see how things turn out in comparison to similar populations that didn’t receive the funds.

      I’d be less skeptical of a deal like that than “here’s what you’d otherwise earn in a year, no strings attached.” That does seem fishy, whereas taking the money and letting them know ten years from now what I did with it and where I’m at in life is somewhat more plausible. A little suspect still, though much less. I think more people would take it seriously as a possibility, especially when the givers have much more money at their disposal than the target population has.

      • Tibor says:

        I am not sure whether people who often have no education would understand that explanation. It is also exactly true.

        I think it is easier to say something like:”You know these other charities here that march in here with a stupid idea that does not work and want to help the people? Well, we found out it makes more sense to simply give people money right away, picking the people who show most promise to put the money to a good use, which costs us the same but helps you more because you people know better than us what you need most”. That is something the villagers might relate to – and as an added bonus the other people in the village will be encouraged look like a “prospecting candidate” for this payment too, which might result in improvements in their lives even if they don’t get anything themselves or before they do.

        • Loquat says:

          Partial objection: they’re explicitly trying to give the money to everyone in the village, hard workers and layabouts alike. If they try saying it’s for the most promising candidates, that’ll just create more suspicion when people notice even the laziest underachiever in town can get the same money.

          • Deiseach says:

            Partial objection: they’re explicitly trying to give the money to everyone in the village, hard workers and layabouts alike.

            Yes, that’s the point: you don’t have to work for it or do anything. So if A wants to buy a flock of hens and start selling eggs with the money, and B wants to buy booze, they can do it with no difference to the people giving them the money.

            Can you really blame people for being suspicious about “too good to be true”? They’re going to give a working man’s wage equivalent to the lazy bum who sits around drunk all day? Why? There must be a catch!

            How many people here actually believe a corrupt Nigerian government official would cut them in for a share of the profits if they allow him to use their bank account to move his embezzled money? And we know there are plenty of corrupt officials creaming off aid money etc. and socking it away in Swiss accounts, so the scenario is at least plausible.

          • LPSP says:

            In other words, we NEED to be greedy hardasses that make unreasonable demands of people poorer than us, so that they trust us and see that we think like them.

          • Loquat says:

            @ LPSP

            Well, yes. One of the basic principles people all over the world tend to learn is that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to con you.

            And who says demands must be “unreasonable”, whatever that’s supposed to mean? To people that are accustomed to the idea that you have to work hard to get ahead, it seems more unreasonable to give away large amounts of money for nothing than it does to ask recipients to put in some effort in return.

          • LPSP says:

            I was exaggerating for humour, Loq.

          • Tibor says:

            As far as I understand it, GiveDirectly does select the people who get the money, they don’t just go around to villages and giving random people money. They have a profile of people whom the money seems to bring the most good (based on accumulated data from previous donations) and prioritize them. If they were convinced that you spend the money on booze or waste it without creating any longterm positive effects for yourself, they won’t give it to you.

            This is fundamentally different from the minimum basic income.

            As for the popularity of marxist (or also nationalist or sectarian) ideologies, they are very good memes because they offer you a world clearly divided between the good and the bad and a simple solution (usually kill/suppress the bad people) to all your problems. It gives its adherents both a sense of belonging and self-worth and at the same time shifts the blame for anything bad in their lives on others. It also offers immediate solutions, unlike “well, if you work hard and are a bit lucky on top of that then your grandchildren might live like the people in Europe. Also, this assumes that your country is not governed in a completely abysmal way and there is at least a semblance of the rule of law. Oh and by the way, you can do very little about those last factors yourself.”

        • Tekhno says:

          Maybe they could just tell them what it actually is? Explain economics and what the basic income concept is and why some people think it might be a good idea.

          • Lumifer says:

            So how much will be you able to explain to IQ 70-80 people who grew up in a low-trust environment?

          • Tekhno says:

            There were all sorts of Maoist and Soviet backed Marxist rebels running around Africa in the 70s, so it shouldn’t be that hard to explain economics and ideology to them.

            It’s hard to believe that the average IQ in some African countries really can be 70, because if I’m not mistaken that would be classified as functionally retarded appropriate word in the West. I don’t have much experience conversing with people who live in African countries, so I don’t have a good handle on what that’s like, but I’d assume the abysmal IQ stats primarily mean they suck at math and tests, because when you see them on TV they certainly don’t appear to be so dumb that they can barely function. Where is the day to day impairment you’d expect from an IQ of 70? Africans (Heh. The entire continent! Weee!) just seem like normal people who don’t know some stuff, and have their superstitions, not people who are so unintelligent as to be medically impaired.

            The low trust thing will be a problem, but just use the same tactics the Marxist guerillas used and it should be fine… unless you end up with Basic Income Death Squads.

          • LPSP says:

            People of African decent have high verbal skills relative to their overall IQs.*

            *citation needed

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Tekhno

            Not to be snarky, but do you actually base you opinion about the average IQ of an African country based on what you see on Western TV..?

            As to the Marxist guerillas, do you think they cared much about Marxism? or they cared about power which grows out of the barrel of an AK-47?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            LPSP: Heh. My IQ test showed a 30-point spread between verbal and spatial. If they’re weighed equally, and the average African-American IQ is 85, a spread like that would be about 70 spatial and 10 verbal.

            But if you go too much below 85, that would imply debilitating spatial IQs.

          • Tekhno says:

            @LPSP

            People of African decent have high verbal skills relative to their overall IQs.*

            *citation needed

            I’m not sure you even need high verbal skills to understand a simple concept like Basic Income. You only need to not be drooling on the floor.

            You just need to explain why you are giving out money in the first place, and what you are trying to test. Contextualizing it is important to help people understand.

            I’d try something like this:
            “Hey everyone, thank you for gathering here.

            Now, you all know how developed countries have welfare states to act as a safety net? Well, traditionally speaking, these welfare states have always involved means testing to try to tackle free riding, and are generally administered by large bureaucracies that have become increasingly expensive, and perhaps corrupt, which is a problem because as time goes by, more and more people in developed economies will require welfare in some form or another.

            Some people reckon that there is another way, that it might just be better to provide everyone in the country a minimum standard of living by just giving out a certain amount of money to each person no questions asked, so no means testing. These people believe that doing this will drastically reduce poverty without disincentivizing work, because people can work at the same time, and this may even allow the labor market to become more fluid, increasing productivity, as workers are no longer tied down in bad jobs. They call this idea Basic Income.

            Unfortunately, it’s a hard idea to test out, but we need to have some idea of what the effects might be before we can apply it on a large scale. That is why [my organization] has been set up to try out Basic Income, and see what the effects will be, here in Kenya, here in Homabay.

            Thanks to your co-operation, we will have been able to gather data that makes tackling poverty more effective, and as Africa develops, the same information will be useful here too. You will be helping your sons and daughters and their children.

            Thank you.

            I don’t see how you could not understand that. A 7 year old can get it. It’s not rocket science. Just get someone with better people skills, and cultural knowledge to write it and you’re good (hopefully).

            @Lumifer

            Not to be snarky, but do you actually base you opinion about the average IQ of an African country based on what you see on Western TV..?

            Well, unless there’s some kind of potemkin village like conspiracy going on, where drooling, crawling imbeciles are being hidden behind fake backdrops, I feel like I’ve seen enough footage to get some idea. Perhaps I’m being naive.

            As to the Marxist guerillas, do you think they cared much about Marxism? or they cared about power which grows out of the barrel of an AK-47?

            I’m going to guess they cared about Marxism, or at least the anti-colonialism part, and if you can understand ideology you can understand Basic Income. One of the reasons ZANU was so successful at whipping up trouble in Rhodesia was that their military wing heavily used propaganda and taught the rural people about their cause in the areas they would raid.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            I’m not sure you even need high verbal skills to understand a simple concept like Basic Income. You only need to not be drooling on the floor.

            But the interwebs are full of people who don’t understand it (or who think they understand it, but don’t).

          • LPSP says:

            I’m not sure you even need high verbal skills to understand a simple concept like Basic Income. You only need to not be drooling on the floor.

            I can’t tell if you’re being extremely kind, or very harsh, to the average layman here.

            Depending on your perspective, you’re either saying that they’re able to hack the socio-political reasoning needed to accept free handouts (highly flattering and not true), or you’re calling them knuckle-dragging animals for their inability to grasp abstractions (which is unfair, especially because said inability is the case).

  47. H. E. Pennypacker says:

    I’m interested in people’s opinions about the article on neoliberalism. The concept came up here a little while ago and many people seemed to think the term was meaningless or indistinguishable from libertarianism. I thought that article is a great example of how it differs from just faith in free markets. It also gave a coherent argument for why the left are convinced government is drifting further right, whilst those on the right think the exact opposite.

    • Tibor says:

      I am not quite sure how one decides what should be private and what should be public. I guess I prefer state-owned legal monopolies to private owned legal monopolies (private owned companies which are given the legal monopolistic position or a de facto monopolistic position by the state). The main reason is that if a private legal monopoly works badly, people will see it as a failure of the free market (few people bother checking whether the particular market is actually reasonably free or not). If a state-owned legal monopoly fails, people recognize it (rightly) as a failure of state interventions. Instead of demanding a state takeover (as in the first case) they will demand privatization. Of course, a skilled machiavellistic politician might simply cycle between private monopolistic regime and a state ownership regime avoiding the free market completely.

      But I am not sure why the answer for banks which are “too big to fail” is necessarily to nationalize them. Switzerland has a banking system with a relatively low rate of regulation, most importantly no Swiss banks are deemed to big to fail and no get government-guaranteed profits such as those that led to the housing bubble in the US. They seem to work pretty well and they have for decades had a reputation of a save haven.

      So I agree with the broad thesis that there should be a much clearer division between the state and the private sphere but I don’t see how that implies that you actually need the state to get involved in more areas while deregulating the few that remain. Why not reduce both the scope and the scale? After all, state owned legal monopolies don’t tend to work much better than the private-owned ones. The directly state-owned railroads (most railroads in most countries in Europe) or the post office usually work worse than the actual free market alternatives. And when they fail, it is again the “common man” who pays for their failures with his taxes. That is not fundamentally different from the bailouts of private “too big to fail” banks and companies. If the aim is to provide some kind of a standard of living to everyone no matter what, which seems to be the author’s reason for increasing the scale of the government, then a better alternative to a state run railroad with tax-subsidized fares is a negative income tax or a minimum basic income. Similarly with other services. Unless, of course, one believes that people are too stupid and irresponsible to spend their money well and the government should direct them in the choice instead.

      I also still don’t understand why one would want to call this “neoliberalism”. Why not cronyism? That seems to me like a lot less confusing and a lot more descriptive name.

      • I suppose one reason is: “neoliberalism” is less pejorative than “cronyism.” It sounds more contentful, less like a transparent attack. So reasonable people can potentially have nuanced discussions about the merits and dismerits of a thing called “neoliberalism,” whereas you won’t see nuanced discussions of a philosophy of governance called “cronyism.” Too many cached connotations there.

        This might be a good strategy even if your ultimate goal is to tar and delegitimize the thing you’re talking about: get intellectuals on board with your ideas by using terminology that makes them expect interesting nuanced balanced analyses, and then deliver a devastating take-down of the idea in question.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          That does not apply to an article with “crony capitalism” in the title.

          • I think it applies. The strategy is to use a term that people at least in principle could imagine adopting for themselves, even if relatively few people do so (‘neoliberalism’, ‘pragmatic centrism’), and then link it to a more objectionable term/concept (cronyism). Putting out bait and then hooking your prey is more effective than putting out a naked hook. My model of this is complicated, though, because the point of using relatively neutral terms isn’t to actually get people to self-describe as ‘neoliberal’. It’s to use the idea/possibility/fiction that people might self-describe that way to look more moderate/reasonable (and to avoid boring people with banal-looking truisms like ‘croneyism is bad’).

            Compare: ‘fooism is fascistic’ vs. ‘fascism is bad’.

            (Also, ‘Crony Capitalism’ is in the lede section title, rather than the title of the whole article.)

      • K says:

        Not sure about (American) political labels, but the division between state owned and private owned seems often to be unprincipled to me. At least when I ask left-leaning friends (who typically object strongly to private ownership and/or profits), they are unable to come up with any principled guideline.

        My view would be to have public ownership for natural monopolies, typically infrastructure and such, and leave free markets to private initiative. State/government also has a regulatory role, and things work much better when that is clearly separate from also being a participant. In addition, there is often a strong argument against private ownership when the consumer of a good is different from the one paying the bills – for instance for health services, where the bill is footed by insurance or state.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      It seems like a fairly textbook case of uncanny valleys to me. One earlier link post on this same blog once showed that the South Korean state monopolises internet provision, and does this at both a fraction of the cost and greater speed than happens in the US. In a world where real competition between ISP’s were to actually happen, this number might be matched.. But rather than either of those things happening, people are stuck in a situation where they can either shell out too much money for shitty internet or forego it altogether.

      Uncanny valleys like these extend to healthcare, finance, public transport.. The article describes it much more eloquently than I could, though.

      • Tekhno says:

        South Korea’s internet laws and censorship (SK banned pornography! Eeeeeeeeee!) sound pretty awful though, so sure you are getting provision at a low price and getting great speed, but at what cost?

      • Irishdude7 says:

        South Korea has more than 10 times the population density of the U.S. so it makes internet cost comparisons to the U.S. not apples-to-apples. Only needing to lay fiber to a few cities where most the population is is much less expensive than laying fiber out to suburban sprawl.

        • Anon. says:

          There are places in the US with similar (or higher!) density, how do they fare?

        • Kind of Anonymous says:

          Apples-to-apples(-ish): South Korea vs. New Jersey, most densely populated US state.

          28.8Mbps vs. 7.79Mbps.

          Clearly it’s not just about population density; additionally, most cities in the US already have fiber. It just terminates at the cable company/phone switchboard rather than the residence.

        • Cypren says:

          Don’t forget that urban residences in Korea are much newer and more modern than their counterparts in most of the US, as well; it’s a country that was a third-world agrarian society until the 1970s and then industrialized and modernized rapidly. This means that modern optical fiber had already been commercialized by the time that much of the current urban and suburban housing was built and it was practical to use it for residential infrastructure.

          In contrast, most places in the US are still using copper-wire networks laid down over the last century that predate modern fiber, and they work “well enough” that the enormous expense of tearing them up and replacing them with newer wiring isn’t compelling to most of the landowners and utility providers.

        • Irishdude7 says:

          @Kind of Anonymous

          My post referred to costs of providing internet, not speeds. It’s more costly to lay out fiber to spread out suburbs and rural areas than densely packed cities, so pointing to denser South Korea providing internet at a lower average cost than in the spread out U.S. is not too meaningful without accounting for that.

    • Tekhno says:

      I have a strong support for welfare states + free markets, but the “radical centrism” in the article goes quite a bit further in arguing that we should nationalize things that are already heavily regulated (?). I’ve always had a gut impulse against nationalization. If intervention has to be undertaken, we could always break up the big banks rather than nationalize them. They’ve already merged since the 2000s, so we know that more decentralization is possible there.

      Obviously something like rail is much more of a natural monopoly oligopoly, so a stronger case can be made for nationalization there, but it all depends on how badly you think railway privatization went in the UK. I’ve seen arguments go back on forth on that for so long I don’t know what to think. So the point is to do with “stable cores”, but aren’t we taking for granted that nationalized things are inherently more stable? Sure, they absorb failure rather than running out of money, but how long do you actually want to do that? These arguments led to the privatization of these things in the first place. Maybe they were wrong, but I’d want to see more comparisons of before and after first.

      With this scheme, the private sector can of course compete against the nationalized sector, but how is that going to work for things like rail?

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        It is a very persuasive piece of writing – it has a lens through which you can view the economy that suddenly clarifies one hell of a lot of the things the west is doing wrong as a society.
        It “clicks” mentally really hard, like a solid piece of math. I’m a bit suspicious of that, but… I see no way for the implied recommendations to go very wrong. EDF and the way the Japanese use the post office for banking and similar policies don’t lead to piles of skulls, and it has a very clear way to check regulations outside of core competency for necessity – anything that favors incumbent private actors should be viewed with great suspicion.

      • Cypren says:

        I think the point of the piece that was so compelling to me was the description of “halfway” state intervention — where heavy regulatory burdens are imposed but private actors are still allowed to profit from an oligopoly — as a kind of perfect equilibrium for cronyism and dysfunction. It provides a neat rule for indicating where government intervention is appropriate — markets which trend towards a concentrated oligopoly or natural monopoly — and where it is not (markets that can sustain healthy competition).

        The article neatly articulated the meta principles that have generally led me to be anti-government intervention in most areas while strongly favoring it in others (utilities, telecommunications, etc). I’d always had a general sense that government intervention was necessary in cases where markets would fail, I had never really considered carefully the principles behind making that intervention all-or-nothing to avoid the all-too-common cases of privatized gains and subsidized losses.

        Of course, the current situation works extremely well for the politicians and their funders, so I also see no reason that it’s likely to ever change short of a revolution. The current system is less a creation of Moloch than a very careful equilibrium of misdirection on the part of oligarchs who benefit from it.

    • cassander says:

      First, neo-liberalism is almost always used as a term of abuse. Like neo-conservative or fascist, it started as an actual, useful term defining a group of people, but has since become largely useless.

      That said, I see neo-liberalism as the combination of pro-market reforms (I’ll define these later) and the attempt to inject market forces into the regulatory and welfare state. There’s broad agreement with libertarianism on the first of these, but is distinguished by the fact that libertarianism is mostly against having such state at all.

      Pro-market reforms, in this case, refer to adopting schemes like cap and trade instead of command and control style regulation, breaking up and privatizing state owned companies, and contracting out of government services.

      Clearly, I strongly disagree with the article’s assertion that it’s mere crony capitalism. It can certainly enable crony capitalism, but no more than the old system enabled pure cronyism. Instead of putting your brother in charge of ministry of electricity where he takes bribes to connect people, you sell him the electricity monopoly where he charges people to connect them. Second, the idea that this decreases the scale of government is not really accurate. a government that contracts out work is not meaningfully smaller than one that does everything in house. it’s shaped differently, has fewer civil servants, and might have different incentives, but it’s still commanding the same share of resources as before. It’s just that the people doing the work dress differently.

    • herbert herbertson says:

      My definition of neoliberalism has it as more of a project or movement than an ideology. Neoliberalism isn’t just implementing laissez-faire systems, it’s replacing New Deal/Great Society programs (and their foreign equivalents) with laissez-faire systems. Talking about “neoliberalism” instead of classical liberal capitalism only makes sense for a certain time period and from a broad, historical perspective.

      • leoboiko says:

        I use the word more or less in this sense, except as a pejorative (specifically the corrupt selling-out of social support systems, often below market price, by politicians aiming to line their pockets). In other words, I use the word as basically “the rhetoric used for implementing crony capitalism”.

        If a true believer in free market tried to get public systems privatized, I’d call that a “libertarian” (in American English) or “liberal” (in my language) project.

    • Jill says:

      That article that mentioned neoliberalism, the article about increasing the scope and reducing the scale of government intervention, is the most brilliant article on economics I’ve read in a long time.

      The things I like most about it are these:

      — that it attempts to get beyond ideology. Ideologies are all at least partially false, because they are overgeneralizations. Ideologues close their eyes, ears and minds to the real world so that they don’t see the distress or hear the squeals of the people in the real world, as they try to shove them into their imaginary ideological framework.

      –that it discusses getting rid of or greatly reducing incentives to predatory rent seeking and government and private corruption. To me, that seems like it should be one of the big determining factors– perhaps in 2nd place after #1 what is most needed for long term public welfare. If you get rid of incentives which currently encourage predatory and corrupt behavior, and shift incentives to a better place, you have tamed Moloch, at least in part. And few things are more worth doing than taming Moloch. A world where individual are constantly incentivized to do things that destroy everything that is worthwhile for the communities that they live in, is a disaster.

      • Cypren says:

        I completely agree; the article put a finger on something that’s bothered me about my own ideological beliefs for a long time: that I’m generally anti-government and pro-free market, until I’m not. And when I’m not, I really don’t want the market anywhere near the system in question.

        It was difficult to describe the meta principle about it until reading that article and seeing in stark relief the difference between arguing about scope and scale, and how the crony capitalism I’ve always detested is about increasing the former and decreasing the latter in order to reap privatized benefits while leveraging maximal political influence.

        • Can you lay out the specific industries where you are not pro-free market, and your objections to market involvement?

          • Fahundo says:

            Don’t know what his answer is, but I think an obvious one would be utilities, or any industry with little to no competition.

          • “or any industry with little to no competition.”

            My father wrote somewhere that there are three alternatives for natural monopoly: Regulated monopoly, unregulated monopoly, government ownership. Anyone familiar with two of the three is in favor of the third.

            One disadvantage of both regulated monopoly and government ownership is that either can result in preserving the monopoly even when, in a changing world, it is no longer natural.

          • Cypren says:

            Generally, any industry which requires monopoly, oligopoly or eminent domain to work. Note that this is different from the suggestion that any industry in which a monopoly takes hold should be nationalized: many industries may have monopolies (Microsoft and Google come to mind) which are not, in fact, natural, and can be upset by markets without the need for government intervention (again, Microsoft is the perfect example).

            Examples of places where I see natural monopolies or oligopolies would be roads and rail, utilities and telecom. All four need eminent domain or easements in order to build networks in a cost-effective manner due to the holdout problem. However, once the networks are in place, further use of government power to build redundant networks is often highly disruptive to society (no one wants the streets torn up every three months for a new utility provider), and the entrenched players have every incentive to manipulate politics to prevent development of competition.

            Cable television and internet are a prime example of areas where easements are necessary to operate the business, and the result is a non-competitive market where only one cable provider serves any given area. While theoretically the providers are “in competition” with each other at a national level, the reality of the situation is that they only compete for easement rights to a housing development. This creates very perverse incentives where the cable companies are competing not for the benefit of their customers, but for the benefit of the politicians and land developers who can grant them the easement rights. After that, they have a captive customer base with no other alternatives.

            A much more beneficial arrangement would be for the infrastructure buildout and operations to be severed from the direct service provision. A nationalized telecommunications provider would lay the cable and fiber networks and operate the core nodes. Then service providers could lease bandwidth and endpoints to provide direct service to their customers: instead of Comcast owning the cable network, the government owns the cable network and Comcast leases bandwidth and space in the government-owned nodes to provide television service to their customers. Similar models are already used for a number of types of internet services; one reason that Netflix is so fast is that you’re almost never streaming Netflix content from servers located out in “the cloud” but from ones housed at your local ISP.

            This neatly severs the monopoly aspect of television and internet service (the physical wires) from the consumer-facing aspect (the quality and quantity of service provided for a fee). Meanwhile, the government’s customers (for quality of service of the physical network) are not individuals, but large corporations that can exert significant political and financial leverage to overcome the natural tendency of government monopolies to stagnate and deliver minimum service quality.

            I don’t know that even this one example is a perfect system, and I’m delighted to discuss cases where you see it breaking down. But this represents my current (somewhat rambling) thoughts on the matter.

          • Jiro says:

            Microsoft only has a monopoly because of intellectual property laws. Otherwise anyone could copy and sell Windows.

          • hyperboloid says:

            David Friedman:

            You mention, Regulated and unregulated private firms, and government ownership; all of which have obvious downsides. But there is a forth option for organizing natural monopolies, namely consumer cooperatives.

            The coop model similar in some respects to government ownership, but it has a lot of advantages from a public choice theory point of view.

    • I certainly buy certain aspects of the neo-liberal ideology, as opposed to libertarian ideology:
      1. Market forces are the most powerful incentives.
      2. The invisible hand works.
      3. Free markets have failures that necessitate government intervention.
      Leads to:
      1. Privatize old government-run firms
      2. Keep a close eye on the privatized monopolies/public utilities so they still do their jobs.

      My disagreement is:
      1. Voluminous regulation at at all levels starts before the neoliberal era and has never demanded nationalization: fire codes in buildings are a great example. Chicago never thought we had to nationalize all property, but we certainly took fire code very seriously after a third of the city burned down!
      2. This reeks of populist backlash against large firm bail-out in favor of a broad welfare state: that’s a great way to destroy institutional and organizational capital and spend even MORE money on the welfare state. It also creates disincentives through the welfare state, contra point 1 above.

      So I am not on board with this “radical centrism” and think our neoliberal era has fared rather well.

      Where neoliberalism really fails, IMO, is that is a universal acid that destroys civic community and a sense of civic responsibility. “In the 80s, Capitalism beat Communism, in the 90s, Capitalism beat Democracy.”
      The sense of meritocracy and opening up our middle and lower classes to widescale competition has done significant damage to these classes, IMO, with a pseudo-Calvinist/Darwinist ethic of “they just deserve it, and I am the master of the universe, because I deserve it.”

      To the extent we need a change, and a radical change, it’s to our sense of national unity, away from meritocracy, and away from increasing federalism, and more to increasing localism.

      The best solution is the pursuit of new national goals and defiance of new national enemies.

      One man’s opinion.

      The most interesting thought is that true innovation comes from the fear of catastrophic failure and not the promise of success.
      To some extent this seems true, but to some extent I think innovation is also bred by certain relentless personality types, which are not drawn to government service.
      Can you picture Steve Jobs as a General? I sure as hell can’t.

      • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

        “To the extent we need a change, and a radical change, it’s to our sense of national unity, away from meritocracy, and away from increasing federalism, and more to increasing localism.”

        How is national unity helped by increasing localism? Aren’t these pretty much opposing goals?

        And as for “moving away” from meritocracy, what’s the alternative?

  48. Zombielicious says:

    Just curious, is that post tongue-in-cheek or can someone explain what’s so great about Marginal Revolution? Not that I have anything against Cowen or Tabarrok, and I’m not really a reader, but it seemed kind of… marginal, at best, and the commentariat not much above the level of Breitbart or Alex Jones. Compare that to e.g. Caplan’s or Hanson’s blogs which seem consistently higher-quality by comparison. Not to knock Tyler Cowen either – certainly find myself agreeing with him more often than Caplan, and had chocked it up to Cowen spending more time working and less time managing his brand.

    Again though, not a regular reader – have I just been coincidentally missing the substantive posts all this time?

    If someone asked why I like SSC, I could link them to dozens of great posts that would (probably) change the way they think about things. You can see it in how SSC terminology ends up infiltrating people’s lives. What are the equivalently influential posts on MR?

    • Anonymous says:

      TC puts out more volume than any other blogger I know of. That allows themes to grow over time if you read him regularly. It’s a quite different kind of excellence than a blogger with a dozen fantastic posts over several years.

      I agree the comment section is to be avoided at all costs. It is sub-youtube in quality.

    • cassander says:

      Cowen’s food recommendations are consistently excellent.

    • Urstoff says:

      TC is an interesting guy and finds lots of interesting things to link to and talk about. The comments didn’t used to be that awful, but it’s definitely a case of the bad driving out the good there.

    • E. Harding says:

      I don’t think there’s anything great about Marginal Revolution, and I don’t think Cowen’s that smart or insightful. Caplan and Sumner (especially the former) are both far more visibly intelligent.

  49. Subbak says:

    Link found in the comments of the ants in the bunker thing: Someone pours molten aluminum down a fire ant colony to make a cast of it. It looks really impressive.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGJ2jMZ-gaI

    • anon says:

      It’s cool, but this is actually not unique or new. So if you like it there should be a lot more of it on YouTube.

      Now, what if we made a cast of this bunker colony?

  50. Subbak says:

    The Buddha story should not really come as surprising to anyone. Most people here are probably familiar whit some dude who supposedly preached peace and loving your neighbor and whatnot, only for this to result in crusades, inquisition, and wars of religion…

  51. What are mathematician’s take on the Logical Induction paper?

    • Oscar Cunningham says:

      I’m pretty excited about it! I think it solves (or at least cracks open) an important and interesting problem. Let me try write an introduction to and summary of the problem and what they’ve achieved:

      Suppose we’re designing an AI or robot that we want to go out into the world and achieve various objectives. Sometimes it will have to make decisions even though it is uncertain. For example it might have to decide whether to accept a bet in which it gains $3 if a coin comes up heads and and loses $2 if the coin comes up tails. To make its decisions it assigns probabilities to all possible outcomes, and then takes the action which maximizes the average value it expects to achieve. For example if it thinks the coin is fair then its expected value is 50% * $3 + 50% * (-$2) = $0.50, and since this is greater than zero it takes the bet.

      Of course we have to tell it how to assign its probabilities. We could do this in many different ways, but however we do it one property that we really want to ensure is that its probabilities are coherent. This is a technical term meaning that the probabilities it assigns to various events make sense with each other. For example we want P(A) + P(not-A) = 1.

      You can justify the need for coherent probabilities by making what’s called a Dutch Book argument. For example suppose we had probabilities that didn’t add to one: P(A) = 30% and P(not-A) = 30%. Then a cunning bookie could offer us a bet where they pay us $1 now and we pay them $3 if A occurs. We would accept that bet since its expected value is $1 + 30% * (-$3) = $0.10, which is more than zero. But we would also accept a bet where they pay us $1 now and we pay them $3 if not-A occurs. But if we’ve accepted both of these bets then we’re guaranteed to lose! This is because we’ll received $2, and then exactly one of A and not-A is going to happen, so we will always end up paying them back $3. The only way to keep yourself safe from Dutch books is to make sure your probabilities add up to 1 (and satisfy the other requirements that make up the definition of coherence). There’s a theorem which says that a robot following probabilities which aren’t coherent will accept a sure loss or refuse a sure win.

      Now the MIRI’s problem comes when you consider questions for which you do in principle have the information needed to solve the problem, but you don’t have enough time to do the actual calculations. For example suppose somebody offers our robot a bet on whether or not the trillionth digit of pi is a 7 or not. (A more important situation where a robot might face this kind of problem is when it is competing against a similar robot. Suppose that the two robots have computers running at the same speed as each other. Then even if they know how the other robot is coded, neither will quite have enough time to simulate perfectly what the other robot will do.) Let’s call this unknown digit x. At what price should it accept the bet that x=7? Lets assume that our robot knows the axioms of mathematics, and it assigns them all a probability of exactly 1. The value of the x is a logical consequence of these axioms, and our robot could in principle calculate it given enough time. In other words there is a proof which starts with the axioms and ends by concluding that the trillionth digit of pi is whatever it actually is (in fact a 2). This means that if our robot assigned a coherent probability distribution to all mathematical statements it would have to have P(x=2) = 1 and P(x=7) = 0 (so it would refuse the bet).

      But the robot just doesn’t have enough time to produce the whole proof. In the same situation a sensible human might assign a 10% probability to each of the ten digits. Can we program our robot to replicate this decision? If our robot does this then we know that it’s going to be incoherent on some statements, since out of all the statements in our long proof that x=2 the probability will at some point go from being exactly 1 to being less than 1.

      There are two problems here. The first is to understand exactly why it is that the human solution of assigning 10% to each possibility is better than other solutions (like assigning 91% probability to x=0 and 1% probability to the other nine digits). The second is to minimise the incoherence in our robot’s probability assignments. Even though it’s necessarily going to be incoherent we don’t want it to be hugely incoherent in any obvious way.

      The MIRI paper attacks both of these problems. The produce a Logical Induction Algorithm (LIA), which assigns probabilities to mathematical statements and then keeps working and updates those probabilities as time goes on. It’s vulnerable to Dutch books, but the vulnerability is limited in the following way: any bookie who only does polynomially much computation between each update to the probabilities will only be able to extract a finite amount of money from our robot (our robot does much more than polynomially much work between updates, so we have an advantage). In other words even though our probabilities are incoherent, there aren’t many incoherencies that can be spotted easily (in polynomial time) and those which can be spotted eventually get fixed so that each possible (computable) bookie only spots finitely many opportunities for profit (or perhaps an infinite sequence of diminishingly valuable opportunities, whose total value is finite).

      They then show that any algorithm satisfying this non-exploitability requirement automatically satisfies a bunch of other nice properties. For example it will indeed assign a 10% probability to each possible value of a digit of pi it hasn’t yet calculated (I am of course skipping over many important details and caveats). Another nice property is that the probabilities it assigns will converge in the limit to a coherent probability distribution on all mathematical statements, assigning probabilities of 1 and 0 to provable and disprovable statements, and probabilities strictly between these two values to undecidable statements. Also, note that the LIA algorithm is computable (unlike for example AIXI and Solomonoff induction).

      • Decius says:

        Is the distribution of digits in π actually equal, or is there some slight bias?

      • Yossarian says:

        Not really a serious comment, but I laughed at this part, so felt like replying:
        In the same situation a sensible human might assign a 10% probability to each of the ten digits.
        In the same situation I (well, thinking myself a somewhat sensible human) would assign about a 1% or less probability to x being 7, because the very fact that I am offered a bet says with a good probability that the entity offering it had already found the answer, and it’s not 7, so I would only accept the bet if it offers a vastly larger reward than 9:1 (in hopes that the offering entity had made a mistake in its calculations) or if the price I pay if I lose is worth the amusement I would get in participating in the bet (like, if it’s 7, I get $100, if it isn’t, I lose $1).

    • pku says:

      This isn’t really close to my field, so I don’t quite know how it fits in context – can someone who knows more about econ/game theory stuff elaborate on how much of this is new?

      That (and the fact that I haven’t finished reading it yet), disclaimed:

      the bad part: This raises a bunch of red flags: It introduces basic terms like Bayes’ law and the notation for the integers (which it spends three sentences on for some reason), it defines the topology on the rationals, most of its sources are either really old, not really relevant (bounded gaps), or by other MIRI people, and it has its own weird notations. These are all common to the sort of people who send us emails claiming to have computed the last digit of pi.

      The good part: It genuinely does seem to have interesting ideas, and they’re presented fairly coherently. In general, most math problems are either too easy to be interesting or too hard to solve. The claims here seem to be in the suitable middle ground, which makes it fairly believable that the paper does, in fact, prove what it claims to. I’m generally predisposed to put MIRI in the crank file, but this seems like some decent math.
      (Disclaimer: My field is pretty far from game theory and the like, so I don’t know how new this is or how it relates to things already known, and I haven’t checked to see if the proofs check out).

      The mediocre part: While this is interesting, it’s probably not revolutionary – it reminds me of Scott Aaronson’s coffee automaton paper about the complexity and interestingness of systems, which had some really interesting ideas but didn’t (I think) revolutionize CS.

      • Finger says:

        These are all common to the sort of people who send us emails claiming to have computed the last digit of pi.

        C’mon MIRI, get your shibboleths in order!

        • Jiro says:

          Not using standard terminology and standard sources is Bayseian evidence for being a crackpot, or at least making mistakes like those crackpots make.

          Sheesh, I mean, people at MIRI should understand how Bayseian evidence works.

      • tbt says:

        Hi!

        > basic terms like […] notation for the integers (which it spends three sentences on for some reason)

        The worry was that the paper is naturally classified as logic or TCS, both of which generally 0-index; but we had good reason to 1-index, and wanted to call out this slightly non-standard usage. (Though perhaps three sentences is excessive :P)

        > defines the topology on the rationals

        The construction relies crucially on a fixed-point argument and on the definition of “trader” as a (certain kind of) continuous function, so it seemed prudent to be very explicit about the topology involved, especially since traders are sometimes viewed as having type Q^n -> Q^m and sometimes R^n -> R^m.

        > most of its sources are either really old […]

        I think there just isn’t much directly relevant recent work on the problem that we’re aware of. If you know people who know the relevant literature I’d be interested to chat with them. The problem we address is relatively “foundational”, in the sense that it doesn’t have any really deep prerequisites, and there isn’t already a large body of work on it (that I know of).

        • pku says:

          Yeah, those seem like fair points. Sorry if I came off as overly critical about those – they’re often bayesian evidence for crackpotism, which is worth noting, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. (The main symptom of crackpotism is claiming results on the wrong scale – either claiming to prove P!=NP in twenty pages, or claiming to have invented a way of rewriting Maxwell’s equation that makes this one homework problem in the back of the book have a one-line proof. This avoids that.)

          Regarding relevant work: I’m curious how this relates to probabilistic complexity classes such as BPP/ZPP? The idea of considering an algorithm that approaches probability 1 of being correct over time has background in CS (though you seem to be adding additional requirements).

          • tbt says:

            No worries.

            Broadly speaking, complexity theory seems very related; indeed, the underlying problem seems to stem from computational complexity. This seems worth pursuing. As to BPP specifically, I don’t see an immediate analogy; a logical inductor is a deterministic algorithm for assigning probabilities, whereas (as far as my basic understanding goes) BPP concerns stochastic algorithms that are supposed to solve problems correctly with high probability or with polytime expected runtime.

    • Nisan says:

      I’m not a mathematician anymore, but I’ve talked to the authors about the paper and I think the main result is true and pretty interesting! Now that I know this concept, it’s nearly impossible for me to think about mathematical reasoning outside this paper’s paradigm.

  52. nth commenter says:

    – There’s no halftime in baseball. (The event took place between the two games of a doubleheader.)

    – Wait, the book attacking Chomsky has an “opposition to evolution’s role in human psychology/society”? Because Chomsky himself is notoriously unenthusiastic about Darwinism’s explanatory power when it comes to language — in sharp contrast to someone like Steven Pinker (who labels himself a “Darwinian Chomskian”, self-conscious that the expression will be understood as an oxymoron).

    • Harkonnendog says:

      As I understand it, (Wolfe argues that) Chomsky’s original theory assumes humans evolved a language organ. This is a superior explanation for how humans evolved into a species capable of language, while other species did not, to Darwin’s theory. Thus, Chomsky’s lack of enthusiasm for Darwin’s theory isn’t incongruent with Wolfe’s argument that language presents a problem for evolution
      Wolfe attacks them both for over reaching and, well, making stuff up. He compares Darwin’s theory about how language evolved to Kipling’s Just So Stories. He says science has basically shown Chomsky was wrong, but Chomsky kept modifying his theory to avoid being shown up.

      • nth commenter says:

        When I said “Darwinism” above, I meant evolution (by natural selection). Not anything more specific about theories Darwin might have had concerning the evolution of language.

        It’s natural selection itself that Chomsky is unenthusiastic about as an explanation for language. More carefully stated, he doesn’t like explaining features of language as evolutionary adaptations in the way Pinker does. In this, Chomsky follows a standard form of critique of evolutionary psychology generally (“spandrels, not adaptations”); for this reason, it strikes the wrong chord, or is at least a somewhat ironic stance, to be simultaneously critical of Chomsky and critical of “evolution’s role in human psychology/society” — criticism of the latter is after all one of the things Chomsky is known for.

        • Harkonnendog says:

          I misunderstood, thank you for explaining.

          I doubt Wolfe is unaware… maybe he feels Chomsky’s theory, or Pinkers, as an offshoot of it, is the best argument evolutionists have.

  53. Harkonnendog says:

    I think most readers of this blog would love Wolfe’s book.
    It is about people choosing to believe X primarily because they want to be part of a class of people, or in group.
    Or I think most will hate it, because of the group he uses as an example.
    Anyway it is thought provoking and original.

    • LPSP says:

      The topic itself isn’t supremely original; there have been talks on here and elsewhere about “belief in belief”, a prominent LessWrong topic, about individuals who effectively know what they espouse is wrong but do so anyway out of categorical fanaticism. But I trust Wolfe is a good writer on the topic.

      • Harkonnendog says:

        He seemed more focused on people choosing to believe without much information at all, just out of a desire to be identified with the”right” people.

        It seems to be a recurring theme here, the danger of giving up one’s individuality, or ability to reason might be a better way to express it, in order to be part of a class or group. That’s why I think many will like it.

        • LPSP says:

          That’s an even more elemental topic in rationality and psychology in general. What new ground is Wolfe covering?

          • Harkonnendog says:

            If there is new ground it would be his claims that the Big Bang theory, evolution, and Chomsky’s linguistics are examples.

            That’s why I think many readers of this blog would hate it.

          • LPSP says:

            Far from it, it sounds very interesting. How exactly does Wolfe evidence the claim that belief in evolution is just a fit-in phenomena? Obviously 90+% of the human population has no idea how anything works and simply parrots the most correct-sounding* answer authorities state, but that’s a basic given.

            *a redundant statement when you think about it.

          • “How exactly does Wolfe evidence the claim that belief in evolution is just a fit-in phenomena?”

            I haven’t read Wolfe on this, but if you remove the word “just” I think it’s a defensible claim.

            Of people who say they believe in evolution, how many do you think understand the idea and the evidence and could do a competent job of defending it? My guess is that most who believe in it do so for the same reason as most who reject it–because that’s the view held by people who they respect and want to be respected by, not because they have looked at the evidence and arguments for themselves. Consider how many people use the phrase “survival of the fittest” and don’t realize that it’s reproductive success, not survival, that is being selected for.

            Dan Kahan (Yale Law School) has been writing for some time about the pattern of belief in ideas that have become markers of group identity. He finds, loosely speaking, that the more intellectually able someone is, the more likely he is to agree with the position identified with his group, whether that’s believing in evolution or not believing in it.

            His explanation is that whether you believe in evolution (or global warming or …) has almost no effect on the world at large but a substantial effect on you, so it’s rational to pick your belief not on the basis of what’s true but of what it is in your private interest to believe.

            The smarter you are, the better you are at doing that.

          • LPSP says:

            That’s literally the point I made in me post, Dave.

          • Harkonnendog says:

            makes the claim in several entertaining ways: (I’m tempted to reply that you’ll have to read the book, only because my answer is a the flash of a firefly vs a lightning bolt, but here’s a weak answer)
            1. Shows Darwin was a hypocrite and a liar
            2. Shows the slithery ways his theory was was popularized
            3. Shows it was not science, but myth making
            4. Shows how it does not account for language
            5. Repeats for Chomsky’s theory on linguistics
            6. Much moreover

          • Harkonnendog says:

            Dave, I think Wolfe is less about the phenomenon than about the application. Or you might say he teaches by snarky, hilarious example.

    • brad says:

      Tom Wolfe writing another non-fiction book rather than another fiction book strikes me as similar to that time Neal Stephenson decided he’d go make a video game controller.

      • Harkonnendog says:

        It doesn’t seem like quite that much of a stretch to me. Unless Stephenson made fantastic video game controllers in the past and I never heard about them

  54. wanderer2323 says:

    Some thoughts on vote swapping:
    – was only “confirmed legal” by 9th circuit.
    – best strategy is of course to register as many ‘swaps’ as you can but vote for your candidate anyway
    – it’s probably a safe bet that there is an anonymous hacker working out how to abuse a voting swap website right now; I’ll go get some popcorn going.

    • Jake says:

      Another thing to consider is that all votes are not equal. Based on the Voter Power Index at fivethirtyeight, one of my votes in Iowa, should be worth more than 20 votes from someone in a state like Indiana. If I could get 20 votes for Johnson in Indiana in ecxhange for 1 vote for a Republican/Democrat candidate in Iowa, theoretically, it should be a good deal for everyone involved.

      • John Schilling says:

        Of what value are 20 Johnson votes in Indiana, when anyone paying attention will understand that those 20 votes will not go to the Libertarian candidate in any election where Indiana is seriously contested?

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          If the commitment is made in enough advance, and if polls are nationwide, inflating his total number of prospective voters could help get him into the debate.

          • John Schilling says:

            Good point, assuming the pollsters and debate organizers don’t change the rules in response. Which they probably wouldn’t; their incentives are aligned elsewhere.

        • orangecat says:

          My main hope for this election is that neither Clinton nor Trump receives 50% of the popular vote, to make it harder for either of them to credibly claim a mandate. So I would happily trade a vote for Clinton or Trump in a swing state for multiple votes for Johnson (or even Stein) elsewhere.

          • LHN says:

            Bill Clinton came in with 43% of the popular vote, after Perot did better than Johnson looks likely to at the moment. (Though hope springs eternal.) It didn’t really stop him from claiming a mandate, or slow him down much, though the Congressional elections of 1994 did.

          • If neither Clinton nor Trump gets a majority of the electoral votes Congress gets to choose among the three leading candidates, and it isn’t impossible for Gary Johnson to end up as the compromise candidate.

            But I don’t think it’s very likely.

          • CatCube says:

            @David Friedman

            But isn’t it among the top three electoral vote candidates? Is Johnson slated to pick up any states?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Isn’t anyone with 0 electoral votes in the top 3? Does that work?

          • LHN says:

            It’s the top electoral vote getters, “not exceeding three”. If no one else gets electoral votes, it’s just Trump and Clinton. But picking up a state, part of a state for someplace like Nebraska, or some number of faithless electors could put a third candidate into play.

            That could be Johnson, or it could be an alternative Republican who can convince one or more electors to back his last-ditch play against Trump.

            Less likely, it could be Stein, Sanders, or a Democrat to be named later, but One State, One Vote probably gives the Republicans a majority even if they lose it for normal House voting purposes. (And I’m guessing that the party would line up behind Clinton if push came to shove rather than add in a wild card).

          • @catcube:

            If no third party candidate gets electoral votes, then one of the other candidates wins, unless there is an exact tie–I don’t know if that is possible. I was assuming that Johnson carries at least one state.

            Utah, for example, is a very Republican and very anti-Trump state. New Mexico, where he was a popular two term governor, is another possiblity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There are 32 possible tie combinations.

        • Jake says:

          Johnson has an additional goal of getting 5% so the Libertarian party gets federal funding for the next election. 20 votes in Indiana are 20x better than 1 vote in Iowa for this purpose.

      • NOTA says:

        That’s only if you are trying to win the election for your candidate. Johnson has no realistic hope of winning this election, but hopes to get lots of votes to further the Libertarian party’s cause in future elections. For this, I think a vote in Iowa is as good as a vote in Indiana.

        • John Schilling says:

          Why do you think either vote is any good at all?

          There is a credible argument that the existence of a Libertarian voting block may cause the Republicans, the Democrats, or both, to shift their policies in a libertarian-ish direction to win the votes of this block. For that to work, the votes have to be useful to winning elections, and there can’t be any easier way to secure them.

          The votes of a block of people who transparently say, “I will vote Libertarian if and only if it cannot make a difference to the outcome of the election; if the polls say that I might be in a closely-fought swing state then of course I am going to vote for the tolerable Dempublicans against the evil Republocrats”, are not relevant. In any election where they might influence the outcome, the Dempublicans don’t have to lift a finger and there’s nothing the Republocrats can do at all to win those votes, so neither one will shift their policies – they’ll save that for actual swing voters.

          Unless you are willing to “throw away” a vote that might have swayed an election, it’s just cheap signaling – and the only signals that matter are the ones that cost something.

          Nor is it, at this point, necessary or even useful to signal to the major parties that you are dissatisfied with their questionable compromises and their even more questionable candidates. They already know how you feel about them. And they don’t care, because they are pretty sure that, when it matters, you’ll line up to vote for them anyhow.

          • pku says:

            As I understand it, the main achievable goals for the libertarian party are

            a) getting 5% of the vote, which gives them federal funding for the next election and

            b) getting over 15% in the polls, which lets them into the debate.

            While I don’t see them winning an election, getting into the debate might give them the ability to get their ideas into mainstream discourse in a way that would be difficult otherwise, and would probably have a larger effect on the big parties than trying to win over libertarian voters.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Nothing says “Libertarian victory” like federal funding!

          • Jiro says:

            Sometimes libertarian is better than not libertarian which is better than partially libertarian.

            Libertarians would prefer to not have any government funding for such things, but if there is no choice about funding, evenhanded funding is better than selective funding. Just because libertarians don’t like government funding doesn’t mean libertarians would have to reject this, since it is not possible for libertarians to reject the whole funding package including funding for other parties.

          • The votes of a block of people who transparently say, “I will vote Libertarian if and only if it cannot make a difference to the outcome of the election; if the polls say that I might be in a closely-fought swing state then of course I am going to vote for the tolerable Dempublicans against the evil Republocrats”, are not relevant.

            That is untrue.

            (1) Actual vote totals count in a way that mere expression of goals do not. Lots of people say “I’m voting for X, not because I support X, but because I strongly oppose Y.” But their votes for X meld into the grand total of votes for X, and whatever they might have said at the time makes no difference.

            (2) Very, very, very few actual voters think in terms of voting strategically. People who think that way are activists. The activists may be useful for campaigning, but their few votes are as a drop of blood in a hurricane.

            (3) I believe the two-party system is baked in to the Constitution by having a directly elected president. That being said, votes for third party or independent candidates, regardless of the exact circumstances, do unambiguously nurture the hopes of other third party or independent candidates, and widen the window of possibility for them.

            For example, in the state of Maine, it is well established that independent candidates can win statewide elections. Ross Perot even carried a county or two in Maine. By contrast, most states have no such precedent of success for candidates not running on major party tickets, so third party and independent candidates are never taken seriously.

          • John Schilling says:

            That is untrue.

            Unless I am missing something, your objections seem to be that this is rare, not that it is untrue.

            I agree that it is rare for people to vote in this fashion, and if they say they are going to do so one ought to be skeptical. But the proposal for an organized vote-swapping system, if effectively implemented, would reveal such voters where they exist.

            I think you and I both agree that they would be few in number, and I suspect such a scheme would founder for lack of demand. But do you disagree that, if a block of such voters were identified, it would be largely ignored by both major parties? If not, what do you see them doing and why?

          • Unless I am missing something, your objections seem to be that this is rare, not that it is untrue.

            No, I think you are mistaken that the influence of a third party would be precisely limited in the ways you describe.

            There is a credible argument that the existence of a Libertarian voting block may cause the Republicans, the Democrats, or both, to shift their policies in a libertarian-ish direction to win the votes of this block.

            I completely agree with that argument. See, for example, the influence of the Prohibition Party in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

            But I disagree with almost everything you wrote after that.

            Voter behavior just doesn’t turn on the kinds of dimes you are thinking of. Voters don’t all think the way you logically expect them to, and voters don’t all share the same perspective about which races are close or important.

            Voters also don’t care very much about being in a swing state or not. I don’t think there’s ever been a demonstrated effect of minor party presidential candidates doing worse in swing states and better in taken-for-granted states.

            if a Libertarian does well in a particular election, and gets attention as a result, that is a positive for all Libertarian candidates, because it makes voting Libertarian seem like a more plausible option.

            The notion that an organized vote-swapping system would involve a politically noticeable number of people is just absurd, especially given the practical and trust issues. Voting for someone you don’t support, as part of a deal with some stranger with different politics? Maybe dozens of people will be interested.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “Nothing says “Libertarian victory” like federal funding!”

            D…damn!

  55. Noah Motion says:

    Here is a three part response to/rebuttal of the Ibbotson & Tomasello piece on Chomsky, generative grammar, and language acquisition: one, two, three.

  56. Thecommexokid says:

    a grant of $5,555,550 over five years

    At that point, why not throw in 5 extra dollars?

  57. Douglas Knight says:

    I don’t think that the quote from Wolfe is useful. It doesn’t match what Coyne responds to from the book and it’s bookended by statements that do match. It’s from an interview, so he may have just misspoke.

  58. Dan says:

    More on confusing effects of school entry age: in Brazil, students who enter first grade later get higher test scores and are more likely to go to college

    This is consistent with previous work on the relative age effect. Previous studies have found that baseball players in the US and hockey players in Canada are more likely to make it to the professional league (MLB or NHL) if they were among the oldest in their cohort (based on the cutoff age for youth baseball or hockey and the person’s birthmonth).

    Being 11 months older than your peers is an advantage in size/strength/coordination/smarts among children, which leads to an accumulation of other advantages, some of which endure in adulthood after the age difference has become irrelevant.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Right, being old in your class makes you dumb in absolute terms, but smart in relative terms, which is all that matters for credentials. The two claims don’t contradict each other. (But some American studies find that the relative effect dwindles to zero.)

      • Murphy says:

        Also, it’s often easier mentally to maintain your position at the lead than to catch up from the back.

        So if there were 2 [age adjusted] equally bright kids in the class, one unusually old and one unusually young the older one is more likely to stand out enough to get put into a gifted program.

  59. dinofs says:

    Is it just me or does the Polish ant colony sound just a little bit like a post-human Age of Em (or the “ascended economy”)? Just endless directionless buildup…

  60. PartialAgonism says:

    Activation of mu opioid receptors might trigger several different signaling cascades, raising the prospect of selective agonists that can trigger good effects (like pain relief) but not bad ones (like respiratory supression).

    Weird timing to link this from a few years ago.
    An article in Nature from last month computationally screened 3 million molecules (!) and found a ‘biased’ signalling mu agonist that has analgesia with no addiction or respiratory depression in mouse models.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v537/n7619/full/nature19112.html

  61. Sniffnoy says:

    “MS Windoc”, huh?

    EDIT: As for the SETI signal, they’re now saying it most likely came from Earth.

  62. Alex Richard says:

    Would be useful to link to a vote trading website, e.g. https://www.makeminecount.org/

    • Alphaceph says:

      Why is Aaronson against Trump after the PC crowd personally went after Aaronson with a full on doxxing attack? Maybe Scott Aaronson hasn’t learned his lesson and still thinks feminism is “98% good”?

      • Izaak Weiss says:

        Maybe there’s more complexity to an election than what exact percentage of Feminism is good.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        As someone that is far less friendly to feminism in particular, and SJ in general, than Aaronson, I’d still vote for Clinton over Trump unless there was strong evidence for the “clever ruse” theory.

        • E. Harding says:

          In the time-honored words of the Joker “nobody panics when things go according to plan”. Here’s my suggestion: stop caring whether things are going to plan or not. Just care whether or not they’re going well, and can be improved by an alternative.

      • Kyle Strand says:

        You’re making one of my least favorite fallacies about modern public discourse: assuming absolute homogeneity among political opponents. There isn’t a “PC crowd” that is uniformly on-board with doxxing Scott Aaronson, and voting for Trump is not the only possible response to objectionable behavior by people who are against Trump.

        • Alphaceph says:

          But at the same time, the SJW people who doxxed Scott will see the defeat of Trump as a licence to do more SJW’ing.

          Trump getting into power is admittedly risky.

          • Ou Tis says:

            It’s frankly bizarre how many people on the internet seem to think that Trump vs. Clinton is some kind of proxy war with “the SJWs”. If Trump wins, social justice people will be upset, but they won’t go “OH NO AMERICA HAS REJECTED US” and recede from public space; if Clinton wins, they won’t go “yes, this ENHANCES MY POWER” and become emboldened.

          • Tekhno says:

            Sometimes it can even be the opposite, and people relax once they no longer feel threatened. On the other side of the spectrum right wing militias grew under Clinton, declined under Bush, and then grew under Obama again.

          • Finger says:

            Well, it does seem as though SJWs point to past victories as evidence that their tactics are justified.

          • Anonymous says:

            Ou Tis
            I don’t that it’s “people on the internet” in general. Just a relatively small group of people, mostly young men, that like to see themselves as superheroes locked in a battle with a powerful, pervasive, and dastardly enemy. Even if they have to make the enemy up.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            For reference, the SJWs in my country don’t like Clinton either, since she’s a perpetuation of the US’s Neoliberal Hegemonity or something like that.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Trump getting into power is admittedly risky.

            Why is it more risky than getting Clinton into power? Given her words and what happened during her tenure as Secretary of State, it seems that she poses a much greater risk of world-wide escalation of conflicts and possibly a full restart of the Cold War with Russia.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            vV_Vv
            > > Trump getting into power is admittedly risky.

            > Why is it more risky than getting Clinton into power?

            She seldom offends foreigners; and very seldom USians unintentionally.

          • caethan says:

            @vV_Vv

            Escalation of US-Russian relations is what I’m most worried about a Clinton presidency too. I get the impression that lots of people have forgotten that Russia still has thousands of nuclear weapons. I don’t think we need to be particularly solicitous of their feelings, but it’s probably also a good idea to avoid jamming thumbs in their eye on a regular basis. Stirring up anti-Russian sentiment as a means to improve her domestic position is… imprudent at best and potentially catastrophic at worst.

            Russia isn’t even particularly bad by international standards. They’re a moderately repressive authoritarian state with aims towards regional hegemony. We tolerate much worse behavior from, say, the Saudis.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            “Why is it more risky than getting Clinton into power?”

            Because when you boil it down, the only things truly restraining the power of the American president in the 21st Century is an assortment of gentile political norms and the disapproval of the president’s social peers. Trump is gleefully unbound by those restraints, while HRC is living proof of how they’re the only things that matter.

            Plus, even if you think the old Schoolhouse Rock version of American civics would hold true under a Trump administration, he would have a united government, while HRC is very unlikely to enjoy that.

          • Random Anon says:

            @Alphaceph If you’re talking about Twitter crowds taking their candidates’ victory as a mandate, Scott Aaronson may be a bit more worried about the newly emboldened anti-Semites than the SJWs. And he also may think neither of those crowds are relevant to the actual consequences of this election.

          • Anonymous says:

            But, but cultural war! Defining manichean struggle of our age!

          • Lumifer says:

            @ caethan

            They’re a moderately repressive authoritarian state with aims towards regional hegemony.

            Not quite. Russia openly annexed a large chunk of its neighbour’s territory and took away more chunks from more neighbours setting them up as nominally-independent regions, all that via military force. Remind me, who had such habits most recently?

          • vV_Vv says:

            @caethan

            Stirring up anti-Russian sentiment as a means to improve her domestic position is… imprudent at best and potentially catastrophic at worst.

            I think it’s worse than domestic propaganda. The Obama administration, starting from Clinton tenure as Secretary of State, has been instigating and funding the anti-Assad rebellion in Syria, where Assad is aligned to Russia (and this rebellion facilitated ISIS raise to power and created the current refugee crisis). Shortly after the end of Clinton’s tenure, the Obama administration has instigated the rebellion in Ukraine against the pro-Russian government, which resulted in the ongoing civil war.

            These are Cold war-era proxy wars against Russia.

            As a Western European living under the threat of Islamic terrorism, I have to say that Putin is starting to look like a better ally than the present and possibly the next occupant of the White House. Or at least, if not an ally, I’d prefer not having him as an enemy.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I trust Clinton very little, but I trust that she is selfish enough to not risk a war which could cause serious direct consequences for the US.

          • caethan says:

            @Lumifer

            With all due respect and no intended offense to the Ukrainians, I care a whole lot more about avoiding an intercontinental thermonuclear war than I do about their independence from Russia.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ caethan

            Of course. But I’m not sure that this attitude worked well historically…

          • “Trump getting into power is admittedly risky.”

            “Why is it more risky than getting Clinton into power?”

            I think there is a relevant distinction between expected outcome, in the probabilistic sense, and variance of outcome. Clinton is more or less a known quantity. We know about what she will do and, at least from my standpoint, most of it is bad.

            Trump is an unknown quantity. It’s not clear if even he knows what he will do–he at least gives the impression of being very impulsive, although that could be an act. And we don’t know what he will do because his past actions and statements leave it very unclear what his views really are.

            So even if your estimate of the expected result of Trump winning is better than of Clinton winning, the possible downside is worse. Hence more risky.

            A further relevant element, from my standpoint, is the relation between the President and Congress. Even if Clinton wins, the Republicans will probably control the House and may continue to control the Senate, which limits somewhat how much damage she can do.

            If Trump wins, his party will almost certainly control both houses and I do not trust the Republicans in congress to keep Trump from doing bad things if he wants to.

          • “the Obama administration has instigated the rebellion in Ukraine against the pro-Russian government”

            Is that clear? I didn’t follow the relevant events carefully enough to have an opinion on whether the Obama administration instigated it or only approved of it.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ vV_Vv

            the Obama administration has instigated the rebellion in Ukraine against the pro-Russian government, which resulted in the ongoing civil war.

            I don’t think this is an accurate summary of the events.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @David Friedman and @Lumifer

            Is that clear? I didn’t follow the relevant events carefully enough to have an opinion on whether the Obama administration instigated it or only approved of it.

            I don’t think this is an accurate summary of the events.

            Let’s put it this way. A rebellion in Ukraine overthrew the official government, which was pro-Russia.

            The US at very least gave political support to the rebels, I doubt that anybody would start an armed revolt that pisses off a superpower without having at least some promise of recognition and support from another superpower. Possibly the US also provided weapons, funds and intelligence, but it is impossible to tell with certainty.

            Russia responded by annexing or trying to annex the most pro-Russia regions of Ukraine (Crimea and Donetsk), which are mainly inhabited by ethnic Russians. The US condemned this and urged the EU and other countries into putting sanctions on Russia. The EU, whose economy is quite dependent on trade with Russia, tried to settle for some slap-on-the-wrist sanction, but in the end they more or less complied with the US requests.

            These events have worsened the relationship between the West and Russia, harmed the economies of both and caused a civil war that is still ongoing.

            And it is not an isolated case. The US also fosters the anti-government rebellion in Syria, overtly in this case, which resulted in the current civil war.

            It seems to me that the Obama administration pursued a deliberate strategy of fighting proxy wars to overthrow pro-Russia governments by pampering local rebels.

            Erdogan even accuses the US of having supported or at least allowed the Gulenist coup against him because he was becoming too close to Russia. I don’t know if this claim holds water or is a conspiracy theory, but I don’t find it completely implausible.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ vV_Vv

            anybody would start an armed revolt

            It wasn’t very armed. These guys won because they were stubborn and determined, not because they had more tanks or assault rifles.

            As to pissing off one superpower without bothering to get the support of another one, this is very common. An example: ISIS.

            Russia responded by annexing or trying to annex the most pro-Russia regions of Ukraine

            …and you don’t find that problematic?

            By the way, the US promised to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for Ukraine giving up nuclear weapons. It did not fulfill its obligations.

            And, also by the way, do you know that the most visible sanctions, the prohibition on importing food from the EU were imposed by Russia onto EU and not vice versa? Russia can lift them any time it wants to.

            and caused a civil war that is still ongoing.

            What caused the war was little green men, aka direct military invasion of Ukraine by Russia. If Russia pulls its troops (official and unofficial) back, the “civil war” would be over in a month or less.

          • “It seems to me that the Obama administration pursued a deliberate strategy of fighting proxy wars to overthrow pro-Russia governments by pampering local rebels.”

            It seems to me that the Obama administration supported what it saw as pro-democracy rebellions against autocrats whether or not they were pro-Russian. Egypt and Libya being the obvious examples. Syria fits that pattern.

          • Obama himself would not spearhead anti-Russian actions. He came into office promising a “reset” with Russia.
            However, the contest with Russia is already lost. The EU is a disaster and has no stomach to contest Russia, even when Russia is actively annexing its neighbor’s territory.
            Over the long-term, Russia has a more viable demographic trend than all its pertinent neighbors, and the US troops are going home (US heavy forces are already gone, despite pre-deploying SOME forces in Eastern Europe a la REFORGER).

            So just give up now, there’s little more that we can do.

            The proper course of action is to fund and arm the anti-Russian elements everywhere you can find them. If the Ukrainians want to kill Russians, by all means, let them. Putin is not dumb enough to stake a full-scale war over Ukraine, because he does not have the resources to lose. The same would apply to anywhere in Central Asia.

            The same would also apply to Syria.

            Putin does a great job of securing relatively large wins at almost no cost to himself. The way to stop this is by escalating, because Putin will back down, almost 100% guaranteed.

            This doesn’t require US to escalate directly: the Russians are much hated and plenty of people are willing to kill Russians for us.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            “It seems to me that the Obama administration supported what it saw as pro-democracy rebellions against autocrats whether or not they were pro-Russian. Egypt and Libya being the obvious examples. Syria fits that pattern.”

            Yanukovych wasn’t an autocrat except under the broadest and least useful of definitions. He was elected in a well-observed election, and there was no indication that he wouldn’t have been able to be removed through normal means.

          • Montfort says:

            there was no indication that he wouldn’t have been able to be removed through normal means

            I can’t imagine where the west got that idea.

            I’m not even saying all of those things are necessarily right, just that they’re credible enough for American politicians to perceive Yanukovych as a budding autocrat.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I agree there are much more important issues in this election than SJW vs. anti-SJW. But I also think that a Trump win would be long-term good for the SJ movement and bad for people who oppose it.

          Trump is sort of a social justice straw man come to life. His very existence makes him a natural symbol for the anti-SJ movement, which in turns destroys the movement’s credibility among people who realize Trump himself is not credible. If he wins, then he remains publicly prominent, everybody who doesn’t want to look complicit or similar to him has to signal opposition to Trump as strongly as possible, and they’re going to do it by going social justice even more heavily than they are already. It will absolutely cement the “stupid hateful white people versus beautiful colorful diverse coalition of the future” narrative in place, and every time Trump makes a misstep (which I expect to be constant), the social justice movement will pretty accurately be able to declare “WE TOLD YOU SO”. Also, the biggest hope for the anti-SJ movement, which is the gradual divergence of neoliberals and far-lefties, will reverse as they both unite in anti-Trump hatred.

          If Hillary is elected, then when she turns out to be a boring neoliberal, everyone will make fun of the Having A Woman President Changes Everything crowd, the far-left and the neoliberals will continue their gradual divergence in a way that might be exploitable, and we can keep working on the surprisingly hard problem of building a non-terrible anti-SJ movement.

          • DrBeat says:

            I don’t think either of them is bad for the SJ movement. Trump will galvanize them, and Hillary will also galvanize them.

            You say that if Hillary is a boring neoliberal that means we get to make fun of the Having A Woman President Changes Everything crowd — this only is true if we are able to or permitted to remember things the SJ crowd said (as a population, we are neither) and are permitted to hold said crowd responsible for things they say and do (we are not). Social Justice getting its demands met and having them not accomplish anything just makes Social Justice more powerful and gives them more ability to get their demands met, because the failure of the things they demanded is proof their demands should be met more.

            The Social Justice movement was not ascendant under a white Republican president, and was ascendant under a black Democratic president. They gain more power when the people in power are favorable to them, because it is proof that their demands must be met. They just also gain power when things that are upsetting to them happen, because the fact they are upset is ALSO proof their demands must be met.

            It is an entirely hopeless, no-win situation.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If your last paragraph were the case, why didn’t it happen to the Having A Black President Changes Everything crowd? I would argue that the lack of the promised change is one of the major motivators behind SJ.

          • Zombielicious says:

            You guys realize that not everything that happens in the world is determined by the U.S. President, right? Correlation, causation, etc.

          • Alphaceph says:

            @Scott: It might be hard to challenge the SJW movement without rousing the working class 40-year old white male truck driver type.

            But I take the following point as extremely valid:

            > Trump is sort of a social justice straw man come to life.
            > every time Trump makes a misstep (which I expect to be constant), the social justice movement will pretty accurately be able to declare “WE TOLD YOU SO”.

            So, to defeat SJWs, we need to bury Donald Trump as quickly as possible and hope that the next round of right-wing politicians include someone who supports genuine fairness over SJWíng, without being a bit of a lunatic.

            > hope for the anti-SJW movement, which is the gradual divergence of neoliberals and far-lefties,

            The problem is that social justice has a lockdown on the debate with their radioactive shaming language. No-one respectable can challenge them because no-one respectable can survive the reputational damage of being “called out” as a racist and a sexist and a transphobe or whatever. In the UK at least, we have seen political correctness increasing in power and having an ever tighter stranglehold over respectable people and institutions.

            Memetically, there needs to be a way to fight back against this. Donald Trump’s fightback is to just double down and say “f$%k you!”, and it works. It has the downside of attracting the wrong kind of people though – the kind of people who, rather than wanting a fair, meritocratic society that acknowledges human biodiversity and works around it rather than against it, instead want to beat their wives and lynch people of color.

            Just doing what people already do doesn’t work – people get shamed into silence and SJWs gradually take over all of the organs of society. That the current situation is so broken may go a long way to explaining why Donald Trump and 4chan memes are popular in the political mainstream.

          • vV_Vv says:

            If Hillary is elected, then when she turns out to be a boring neoliberal, everyone will make fun of the Having A Woman President Changes Everything crowd

            Just like everyone is making fun of Having A Black President Changes Everything crowd?

            Hillary is basically Obama 2.0, with more ovaries an less melanin (and more cronyism).

            Given than SJWs/BLMs/etc. proliferated under Obama, what makes you think that they would not proliferate even more under Clinton?

            If anything, they will feel much stronger, since they will believe that it is impossible to elect a politician outside their bubble.

            You don’t defeat the SJWs by making concessions to them, you defeat them by telling them to fuck themselves. Electing Trump is a way of doing it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Hillary winning would be a big win for the SJ crowd, at least up until the point she inevitably betrays them. She’d use them as her enforcers, the way she did against the “Berniebros”. Anyone who opposed her would find themselves the target of an SJW attack.

            Trump winning would mean Trump IS credible. Elections have consequences. It probably will cement, in their mind, the “stupid hateful white people versus beautiful colorful diverse coalition of the future”, but that’s going to happen anyway. And their historical determinism loses a LOT of its shine with a Trump win (and gains a lot with a Hillary win) Being as I’m stuck on the “hateful white people” side, I’d rather that side be ascendant.

          • TheWorst says:

            …and we can keep working on the surprisingly hard problem of building a non-terrible anti-SJ movement.

            Is there an option to build a non-terrible pro-SJ movement? I’m not sure if it’s any easier, sadly. Or, to be honest, if there’s really a difference.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @TheWorst

            I don’t think it’s possible to build a non-terrible pro-SJ movement. But building a non-terrible movement of any sort requires first of all the defeat of the terrible SJ movement.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Or you could take the cue that all these “movements” are terrible and finding yourself a part of one is a sign you seriously need to reflect on your life and the choices you’ve made.

            It’s hilarious that the media keeps talking about this election as a “referendum on the policies of the Obama administration,” while the populist internet treats it as a referendum on various bloggers and twitter users and how mean they’ve all been to each other.

          • TheWorst says:

            @TheNybbler:

            I disagree. Creating a non-terrible pro-SJ movement has been done before; it was called liberalism, or the Enlightenment. It’s largely died out, but we know it can exist; I live in a country in large part created by that movement.

            But whether the conditions exist to create it again here, and now, I don’t know.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The conditions under which classical liberalism arose were created by rival ideologies beating on each other constantly with neither gaining much ground. If you want classical liberalism back, it may be necessary to go through another 30-years war first, which would indeed involve anti-SJ being as bad to SJ as vice versa, to show that defecting carries a price that is too high to risk.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @TheWorst:

            The Enlightenment was not Social Justice. There was an earlier movement which called itself Social Justice (and even had Warriors), but the current Social Justice movement isn’t very similar to it. Current Social Justice is often explicitly anti-Enlightenment.

            You could certainly have a non-terrible movement which called itself Social Justice, but it would share almost nothing with the current movement.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Scott –

            I don’t think it matters, vis a vis the cracking of the political parties, who wins. I think both parties have fundamental fractures, and they’re both going to reorganize in a serious way.

            If Trump wins, the Sanders supporters will see this as a vindication of their issues with the Democratic elite. If Hillary wins, the Sanders supporters will see the resulting policies as vindication of their issues with the Democratic elite. In either case the far left is disenchanted with the Democratic party as a vehicle for change.

            On the Republican side, if Hillary wins, the anti-Trump crowd will see this as a vindication of their issues with the Republican base. If Trump wins, they will see the resulting policies as vindication of their issues with the Republican base. In either case the moderate right is disenchanted. Meanwhile, the pro-Trump side will be further energized if Hillary wins, whereas the wind will be taken out of their sails if he wins. (Bonus, the Right and Left will be briefly united in their interest in limiting the power of the executive branch if he wins.)

            Either way, I vaguely expect a third party candidate to win in 2024, with a mild but not strong expectation that control of the presidency will flip in 2020. (That will depend on how well the economy is doing. My expectation there is “Not well.”)

          • TheWorst says:

            @TheNybbler:

            The Enlightenment was not Social Justice.

            I’ll accept the Enlightenment as an example of a non-terrible pro-SJ movement. If “non-terrible” and “pro-SJ” seem diametrically opposed for you, I suspect you aren’t looking closely enough–specifically, that your definition of “SJ” is too narrow, and is instead based solely on the terrible kind.

            @Jaskologist: So you see the problem…

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            The conditions under which classical liberalism arose were created by rival ideologies beating on each other constantly with neither gaining much ground. If you want classical liberalism back, it may be necessary to go through another 30-years war first, which would indeed involve anti-SJ being as bad to SJ as vice versa, to show that defecting carries a price that is too high to risk.

            I mean, isn’t that what we have going on now? Only it’s a “culture war” or whatever. The occasional casualty nonwithstanding, never have we been as free from both conservatives and progressives.

          • How are you using “neoliberal”? I’ve mostly seen it used as a negative label with not very clear meaning. It’s not clear to me if the “liberal” part refers to modern American liberalism or to classical liberalism.

          • pku says:

            @Scott
            Dammit, you’re doing that “saying what I was thinking, but more eloquently” thing again.

          • dsotm says:

            ‘A non-terrible anti-SJ movement’ ? – come on, you’re better than that

            Not only does that definition implicitly concedes that the batshit mob-entitlement and fractal identity politics somehow represent social justice but your movement is now defined in opposition to it, that is the very thing that makes the natural supporters of such a movement terrible – it reads as reactionarism (not a good thing, neo or otherwise) much more than it does as classical liberalism or the enlightment.

      • Sly says:

        Your inability to think of reasons why someone would be against Trump says more about your failing of the ideological Turing test than anything else.

        • Alphaceph says:

          If I had to pass an ideological Turing test as Scott Aaronson, I’d have two arguments:

          1. Third wave feminism, BLM, social justice, support for open borders immigration etc are fundamentally the right ideology, the whole doxxing thing was just an unfortunate misunderstanding.

          2. Modern social justice maybe has gone a bit far, but only a bit. Hillary will pay lip service to third wave feminism, maybe lynch a few innocent male students with bogus ‘campus rape’ laws, but overall she’s in what we should regard as the centre on these issues. Trump is wrong by being too extreme even on this issue, as well as being wrong on everything else (in a dangerous way too).

          • What Scott A actually wrote about SJW’s was a good deal stronger than that. And he saw how the reaction against SJW’s helped explain some people’s support for Trump.

            But he offered a long list of reasons why Trump shouldn’t be president. None of which was “because he’s a racist.”

          • Alphaceph says:

            @David:

            From Scott Aaronson’s blog:
            http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2777

            “if even a nerdy academic in Cambridge, MA, who’s supported gay rights and environmentalism and Democrats his whole life, is capable of feeling a twinge of vicarious satisfaction when Trump thumbs his nose at the social-justice bullies”

            “the bullying wing of the social-justice left bears at least some minor, indirect responsibility for the rise of Trump. If you demonstrate enough times that even people who are trying to be decent will still get fired, jeered at, and publicly shamed over the tiniest ideological misstep, then eventually some of those who you’ve frightened might turn toward a demagogue who’s incapable of shame.”

            So he believes that Trump is right to challenge SJWs, but he thinks the risks of a Trump presidency are too high.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            This is how batshit insane university SJWs go over someone wearing a hat. Encouraging and publicizing this kind of madness is how we’ve come so far in turning public opinion against them.
            Every time someone stands up to them, they make themselves look worse and become more marginalized.

            Letting them quietly run/ruin the universities without a fight is why they got so powerful in the first place. Giving them another 8 years of that under Hillary would cement their stranglehold over public debate to the point that nobody would ever be able to challenge them.

            And you don’t even get to say “at least nobody will call us racist and try to get us fired!”, because they’ll do that anyway, just because of what you are.

            not only Stein but also Johnson are helping Trump, by splitting up that part of the American vote that’s not driven by racial resentment.

            So OtherScott went full screeching-at-racist-frogs. The left will give him what he deserves if he helps them win. Sad.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t know The Other Scott so I have no axe to grind against him, but goodness gracious me, that vote-swapping post had me sighing and shaking my head.

            Okay, he was 19 when Bush got elected, it’s to be expected he had the usual earnest involved 19 year old’s view of things. But if you have spent all your ammunition on “This guy is a malignant doofus who would be a disaster for the USA and the world”, then what are you going to say about Trump? “He’s an even more malignant doofus who would be an even bigger disaster”? This is the whole point about ratcheting up the condemnation of Other Side’s Guy – it gets to the point where you’ve cried “wolf” so often, even if a real wolf does come down from the hills, no-one is going to worry too much about it.

            (2) Does anyone think President Gore would have presided over a happy land of “no war in Iraq, no financial meltdown in 2008”? Whatever about the financial crisis – and I think some kind of bubble would have formed and burst, because the good times cannot keep rolling forever, a lesson my own country ignored to its cost – given 9/11 and the shock to the system of America it caused, and given that President Obama was quite happy to have himself and his national security team photographed in the Situation Room while the operation to kill bin Laden was going on, I don’t think a Democrat president would necessarily have been a cooing dove of peace – some kind of reaction would have been called for, and even if the US stayed out of Iraq, they would (I think) still have been involved in a chase to locate bin Laden.

            As for the vote swapping? Sounds like a brilliant way of getting a crowd of dupes to vote for your candidate while breaking any promise to vote for theirs. Since it’s all done on a trust basis, and since we can’t check to see that Joe in Florida voted for Tom in Oregon’s candidate as he promised to do (and vice versa) and since vote-rigging and other meddling with elections is a thing and since that all the candidates’ campaigns would be very interested in mobilising voters to take advantage of “get someone in another state to vote for Our Guy by promising to vote for Their Guy (but hey, your vote is a private affair and we certainly can’t monitor to see that everyone is going to vote as they said they would, that would be snooping and unwarranted interference with the private ballot)” – I admire the faith in the basic goodness of human nature it demonstrates but I wouldn’t back a horse on those kinds of odds.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Deiseach
            (2) Does anyone think President Gore would have presided over a happy land of “no war in Iraq, no financial meltdown in 2008”?

            Naw, not the whole 90s thing, just the peace and prosperity.

          • LHN says:

            Since it’s all done on a trust basis, and since we can’t check to see that Joe in Florida voted for Tom in Oregon’s candidate as he promised to do (and vice versa)

            Joe and Tom can send each other selfies showing them casting their votes. It’s possible to fake that, and of course someone has to go first. But if it’s a crowd rather than just two people, you report the defection or radio silence to the next swapper down the line and minimize the damage.

            (Ballot selfies are illegal in some states, though at least one court has ruled such a law unconstitutional. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/is-a-ballot-booth-selfie-free-speech-or-a-threat-to-the-sanctity-of-the-secret-vote/2015/08/23/89623272-4809-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html )

            Granted, it’s a lot of work and coordination for a gesture that (as others have noted) drains voting for a third party of what little political influence it offers.

          • Careless says:

            if you have spent all your ammunition on “This guy is a malignant doofus who would be a disaster for the USA and the world”, then what are you going to say about Trump?

            He said that Trump would be “an order of magnitude worse”

      • anon says:

        I’d like to say that there aren’t just two monolithic groups in play here, and Aaronson has considered this and weighed the two appropriately. But it does say something negative about him that he reduces Trump support to be purely about racism, as if he cannot think of a single other reason.

          • anon says:

            Well, that’s interesting. And I suppose it’s nice that he’s acknowledged it somewhere. In the article linked, though, he still characterizes it thus, and only thus:

            But it now looks clear that, on balance, not only Stein but also Johnson are helping Trump, by splitting up that part of the American vote that’s not driven by racial resentment.

          • Matt M says:

            It seems so bizarre to characterize all (or even most) of Trump’s support coming from “racial resentment.” It just doesn’t stand up to any serious scrutiny.

            Did something happen in the last four years to suddenly increase the factor of unrepentant racists in America by a factor of 10?

            Where was this huge block of racist voters in 2012? Surely none of them would have voted for Obama. So why didn’t Romney win going away if he presumably could have attracted all the racists who are now supporting Trump, PLUS a bunch of non-racist people who simply prefer GOP policies?

            Like, it seems almost certain that Trump is going to get, at an absolute minimum, 35-40% of the popular vote. Do we really think 35% of society consists of white nationalist neo-nazis?

          • BBA says:

            There’s a school of thought that racial resentment is the driving force in American politics and has been since around 1607. Trump is just slightly more overt about it than his predecessors. Willie Horton, anyone?

          • Matt M says:

            But if racial resentment is ALWAYS the answer, then why give Trump such a hard time about it?

            Like, does anyone seriously think the KKK might have considered voting for Hillary if Ted Cruz won the GOP nomination instead of Trump?

            Trump is being singled out as uniquely racist, but at the same time, his success is pointed to as evidence that tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans are hardcore racists. How can all of this stuff all be true at the same time?

          • Zombielicious says:

            Because of the primary, not the general election. What is Trump conspicuously known for that other potential Republican nominees were not? His detailed and specific policy positions? His experience in government? His wealth? His previous business experience? Or the fact that he was by far the most outspoken and “controversial” figure in the primary?

            That’s the perceived connection – Trump was who the plurality chose to elect, not one of the other guys.

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