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Open Thread 60.25

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

1. MIRI is having a fundraiser which you can read about here. As part of their pitch, they’re having an AMA on effective-altruism.com all today (Wednesday) which you can participate in here.

2. Report function is broken, sorry. Our technical support team (ie Bakkot) is aware.

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855 Responses to Open Thread 60.25

  1. a non mouse says:

    So apparently the Hillary campaign team believes that Obama engaged in election fraud in the Colorado primary in 2008.

    https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/10290

    They are reliving the 08 caucuses where they > believe the Obama forces flooded the caucuses with ineligible voters. They > want to organize lawyers for caucus protection, election protection and to > raise hard $.

    But I’ve been assured in the past there’s never been any election fraud and that any such allegations are merely partisan Republican complaining. Why would the Hillary team believe that flooding a caucus with ineligible voters is even possible?

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ a non mouse
      But I’ve been assured in the past there’s never been any election fraud and that any such allegations are merely partisan Republican complaining. Why would the Hillary team believe that flooding a caucus with ineligible voters is even possible?

      It’s very possible, depending* on the rules for that particular caucus, how many volunteers show up to keep things organized (honestly or not) and on and on. But caucuses (caucusi?) only happen in primaries, and it’s the General Election in November that Republicans are talking about.

      * And depending on how one defines ‘flood’, Obama ‘forces’, etc. Also some caucuses have such low turnout that a half dozen people can turn the balance. And Murphy always attends.

    • Montfort says:

      If you read the e-mail carefully, you’ll note these are two volunteers from Colorado, not the entire campaign team. Presumably Podesta says “they believe the Obama forces flooded the caucuses” because neither he nor Marshal believe it.

      • a non mouse says:

        Right, they’re high level state political operatives:

        High importance. I met with Jim and Mike in Denver. They are both old friends of the Clintons and have lots of experience.

        Which makes it even more baffling to me. Those guys should know that election fraud is impossible. Barring that Podesta should just be dismissive of their claims, right?

        • Montfort says:

          Podesta might be dismissing their claims (it reads that way to me, but I lack context outside that link), but he probably wouldn’t want to do it to their face if they’re “high importance.”

          Anyway, I’m not sure I’m following your argument. Some (many?) people have told you that flooding caucuses with illegal voters isn’t a thing in America, and now two other people think it is? What is the big deal? Were Jim and Mike among the many who previously claimed it didn’t happen?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Caucuses aren’t elections.

          Typically no secret ballot, multiple rounds of voting and then persuasive argument in favor of your candidate.

          Frequently they aren’t run by the state process and I think it is possible they may not even use the state voter registration roles.

          Caucuses are their own animals, a holdover from a less populous time where party organizations were very much deciding in their preferred candidates in smoke filled rooms.

          There isn’t a comparison to be made between primary caucuses and the general election, especially as regards the possibility of voter fraud which is relevant to an election.

    • Deiseach says:

      Barring that Podesta should just be dismissive of their claims, right?

      My impression of that is Podesta is saying “We have some high-level people that we can’t tell go jump in a lake, so let’s schmooze them and make like we’re taking their concerns seriously, so long as we know what they plan to do so they don’t screw the campaign up for us”. He makes a point about them being old friends of the Clintons, so they can’t just be brushed off because that would insult them (and maybe generate a backlash, or at the least grudges, within their state machine against members of the Clinton campaign. Going into a major campaign like the presidential one, you don’t want an attitude within a particular state party organisation on your side of “It’ll be a cold day in Hell before I work with that bastard”).

      It’s more revealing of the insider attitudes within the party, where there’s a definite split between Hillary’s true-believers and those who supported Obama, either out of conviction about him or dislike for Hillary. Whether or not there was actual voting fraud, what matters is the perception by one camp that the successful guy screwed over our guy by cheating 🙂

      • a non mouse says:

        But that doesn’t make any sense. They’re insiders so they should know that election fraud is absolutely impossible and that any claims to the contrary are just Republican propaganda intended to justify voter suppression.

        Why would high ranking political insiders think that it’s possible, even likely, that election fraud occurred? After all, these are high ranking state party officials – if anyone is positioned to know that election fraud is possible, it’s them and they seem to think it not just possible but likely. Not only that but they think that measures such as poll observers and legal supervision will help – they should know that these measures are just excuses for voter suppression. I just can’t wrap my head around this.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          Since these writers are talking about Obama vs Hillary, they are referring to primaries — which often have caucuses and caucuses are subject to cheating (or innocent sloppiness).

          Current talk about ‘election fraud’ is about real elections, where, as HBC says, there are ballots and lists of registered voters and everything is very officially recorded. The current Republicans vs Democrats dispute is (mostly) about requiring photo i.d. to vote in a real election (They fear people walking into a polling place with false i.d., false registration cards, etc). Us Democrats say there is no significant ‘election fraud’ of that kind going on; Republicans say there is.

        • CatCube says:

          This is simply standard (unreflective) hypocrisy. If my side demands election observers and tight controls, it’s because my opponents are vile bastards seeking to subvert elections. If my opponents demand tight controls, well, I know that I’m honest, so it must be because my opponents are vile bastards trying to suppress voter turnout.

          As discussed earlier upthread, many of the same people making excuses for Trump’s Access Hollywood statements were quite against Bill Clinton playing grab-ass with the help, and many of the people that got in front of a TV camera and destroyed Bill Clinton’s accusers (“bimbo eruptions”) are now aghast at what Trump was saying.

  2. nimim. k.m. says:

    Meanwhile in Europe:

    EU parliament workshop considers Asimov’s three laws for robotics.

    General principles
    L.
    whereas, until such time, if ever, that robots become or are made self-aware, Asimov’s Laws [1] must be regarded as being directed at the designers, producers and operators of robots, since those laws cannot be converted into machine code;

    M.
    whereas, nevertheless, a series of rules, governing in particular liability and ethics and reflecting the intrinsically European and humanistic values that characterise Europe’s contribution to society, are necessary;

    […]

    [1] (1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. (2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. (3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws (See Runabout, I. Asimov, 1943) and (0) A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm

    Source: https://polcms.secure.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/upload/df73fa80-06f3-416f-80ae-56c59be5473f/DRAFT%20REPORT%20ALL.pdf

    • Jiro says:

      Apparently they don’t realize that most of Asimove’s robot stories were about the holes in the Three Laws of Robotics.

      • pku says:

        But the overall theme was that they were still a good thing. And even when they failed it was usually either human error (a human telling a robot to poison a cup it didn’t know would be drunk, for instance) or beneficial (machines preventing humans from interfering when they knew humans wouldn’t do as good a job). Asimov’s general position was that the solution to bugs was to try to understand them rather than throw the system out.

  3. Deiseach says:

    Election results just in!

    Well, election results for the Jesuits 🙂

    First time in five hundred years, the Superior General of the Jesuits comes from outside Europe – he’s Venezuelan. Given that the pope is also a South American Jesuit, this makes things interesting. Most fascinating to me was this: the majority of Jesuits are from Asia. Once again, the balance of Western Christianity (of all denominations) is tilted towards the Global South. This may strike you as a good thing (the West is finally getting cleared of all that superstition and it’s only holding out in the backwards regions of the world, where it will also wither once poverty has been alleviated and progress and education take hold) or a good thing (no reason for Christianity to be Euro-centric; this is now a really global religion).

    Already a key thread at its predecessor, the current Congregation even more powerfully reflects an altered reality – the dominance of Jesuits from the global south, above all in Asia, whose delegation this time is more than double that of the historically formidable Latin American branch; and, in a major first, larger than this G[eneral] C[uria]’s European contingent. (What’s more, of the 5,600 Asian Jesuits, no less than 4,000 are from India.)

    That’s 5,600 out of 17,000 world-wide, which is a considerable block. This has been your religion news segment for Sunday 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s interesting. Most of the prominent Christian institutions in India (schools, colleges, hospitals) are affiliated to Protestant organizations; with that plus the history of the British Empire, I figured most Indian Christians were Protestants. Turns out there are nearly twice as many Catholics as Protestants in India, and I had no idea there were five million Eastern Orthodox Christians in the country.

      • Anonymous says:

        Are you sure that most prominent Christian institutions in India are Protestant? Maybe you executed circular reasoning, using the Protestant population to conclude that the institutions are Protestant and vice versa? Pretty much every Christian institution I’ve heard of in India is Catholic, but my sample is heavily biased towards Goa, for no apparent reason.

        • Sandy says:

          (I was the first Anonymous above, accidentally posted that without filling out the blanks)

          Goa was a Portuguese colony up until 1961, so it would likely have a stronger Catholic presence than most other places. But on second thought, I should amend that previous statement. I grew up in the South, and lots of fashionable schools and colleges there are affiliated with the Church of South India, which is an Anglican institution. The same is true up north; St. Stephen’s in Delhi for example is one of the most sought-after colleges in the country and it is also an Anglican institution. But there are lots of Catholic institutions as well, I don’t know how I forgot about them considering my mother’s alma mater is a Franciscan convent school.

  4. Sandy says:

    I abhor PETA, but I can appreciate this sort of topical marketing.

  5. Gazeboist says:

    (crossposted to the subreddit)

    So. On Thursday (about when I created an SSC account, linking it to my preexisting WP account), wordpress started blocking my posts here and at every other wordpress blog, so far as I have tested. Admittedly, that’s not hugely far (n=3), but still. I can post if I don’t provide the url of my blog in the website field, but that hasn’t been a problem before. My wordpress account *does* link my blog, so it is blocked from posting. Based on what happened when I was able to contact the mods of one blog, it looks like I’m getting caught in the spam filter. This *seems* to be correlated with my creating an SSC account, but I don’t see why that would cause problems on other blogs. It happens regardless of what email or nick I use, but when I stop providing my blog in the “website” field, the problem goes away.

    I’m posting from chromium on an arch box with testing and multiarch repos enabled; my wifi is handled by dhcpcd and wpa_supplicant. I don’t use proxies, and nothing seemed off in a traceroute. I’ve temporarily frozen my system at last Thursday (Oct 13) due to what I believe to be a(n unrelated) bug in chromium, but I usually update daily. Anyone have any idea what might be going on, or where I could check for issues? (Also Scott/Bakkot if you see this can you please let me out of the spam filter?)

  6. IrishDude says:

    Property Rights and the Poor

    On OT 60 the Ancient Geek remarked: “People think libertarians are right wing because making property rights paramount favours the wealthy and employers over the poor and employees.”

    I responded by noting: “Hernando De Soto is an economist who believes one of the primary causes of 3rd world poverty is the lack of property rights, which contrasts with your statement. Here’s a nice summary write-up on his ideas:

    “Informality is a central concept in de Soto’s work on poverty. It describes the realm to which the Third World’s poorest are relegated — banished from their nations’ official economies to what he has called “the grubby basement of the precapitalist world.”

    He argues that their exclusion — the product of a lack of enforceable property rights — holds back them and the entire world economy. It’s why capitalism, despite its triumph over communism and its wealth generation in America and Western Europe, has failed elsewhere.

    Nicholas Eberstadt, an American Enterprise Institute expert on economic development, lauds de Soto for demonstrating how property rights — often disparaged by left-leaning intellectuals as an instrument of the privileged — help the poor: “He has helped explain to convincible readers how radically egalitarian the rule of law and property rights are. Plutocrats, strongmen — they have their muscle. They can take what they choose in lawless situations. But the poor and weak are protected by the rule of law and property rights.”

    Americans struggle to understand the plight of the Third World’s poor, de Soto says, because they take for granted the robust U.S. legal system that makes their prosperity possible.

    The anarchic Wild West America of squatters and gold rushers gave way long ago to a nation where:

    • Ownership is uniformly documented and insured.
    • Trustworthy records of transactions are easily accessible.
    • People have fixed addresses and recorded credit histories.
    • Property titles are sacrosanct.
    • Convenient legal instruments exist to limit business liability.”

    It seems obvious to me that secure property rights makes it easier for the poor to build wealth. If you’re a poor farmer, do you want to invest in equipment that will make your farm more productive if it would just be confiscated by your corrupt local official? Protecting investments with secure rights to land and the fruits of ones labor are essential to improving the human condition. Thoughts?

    • Here’s a follow-up. Short version: Sometimes the banks won’t lend on low-quality property. That’s the good outcome. In the worse case, increased legibility makes vulnerable people more vulnerable.

      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/hey_wait_a_minute/2005/01/the_de_soto_delusion.html

      Study suggesting that formalization has little effect.

      • IrishDude says:

        Key quote from Slate that indicates how valuable titled land is: “In Phnom Penh, the capital, untitled land near the city center has been selling for about $20 to $30 per square meter over the past few years. Titled properties nearby have been selling for around 10 times that much.”

        The complaint is that the land is so valuable that corrupt local officials appropriate it to sell off, which reinforces that insecure property rights harm the poor.

        Getting secure property rights isn’t as simple as just giving a title to land, but involves rooting out local government corruption as well. Securing property rights is hard.

        The second link shows that formalization did have an affect on profits, just that it was only a few companies affected. However, for those few companies, there were enormous gains in profits by being able to tap into the nation-wide economic system, by for example getting a stamp to make it easier to transport the product around the nation or giving legitimacy that made it easier to contract with larger companies. A few companies getting massive gains seems like support for formalization.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      The operative word was *paramount*. Having zero property rights might not be good either, but those are two extremes.

      • IrishDude7 says:

        Can you describe more what it means to make property rights paramount? As a libertarian, I believe strongly in self ownership and ownership of the fruits of one’s labor. I can be persuaded in extreme situations that taking of a persons property is justified, but think a strong presumption in favor of property rights is both moral and leads to good economic consequences.

  7. IrishDude says:

    The Price of Safety

    Continuing part of a discussion I had on OT 60:
    =============
    Me: Having your airplanes fall out of the sky does not save an airline money, for all sorts of reasons I’m sure you can list.

    bean: But things which slightly increase the chances of the airplane falling out of the sky do. Yes, airlines do actually try to get around these kind of regs.
    =============

    Safety has a cost, either monetarily or in opportunity cost. Safer cars or planes cost more money to develop better systems and parts. Cars and planes could be made even safer than they are now if people were willing to give up comfort and convenience. If government mandated that everyone buys volvos or made race car seatbelts mandatory in cars or planes, safety would go up but the monetary price would increase and comfort and convenience would go down. Safety involves trade-offs.

    So, my answer to bean is that yes, airplanes do things which increase or fail to decrease the chance of a plan falling out of the sky, but the FAA also implements policies with the same effect when they don’t mandate more stringent standards than they do for safety, as even they know there are trade-offs. Are bureaucrats who get lobbied from big businesses and have political authority better at determining the optimal safety/price/comfort/convenience trade-off point than private actors acting in their self-interest and accountable to customers and torts? I’m doubtful.

    • pku says:

      But customers are bad at making reasonable decisions based on safety records, and torts run by judges who know nothing about airplanes are terrible at telling the difference between negligence and actual misfortune – and airplanes crash rarely enough that it’s not reliable to go by them. Airline safety experts hired by the government would probably do a pretty good job – their judgement might get distorted by lobbying, but it’d still be a lot more accurate than the other options. (outright bribery would probably be possible but rare – I don’t know how many agency employees would be willing to take money when they know it would kill hundreds of people, but probably few enough that it’s not a major issue).

      • Montfort says:

        I mostly agree, but note it’s possible someone might also bribe them to make safety requirements more onerous – e.g. part replacements more frequently than necessary.

      • IrishDude says:

        Consumer Reports or an equivalent is great for making it easy for consumers to understand safety records. Plane crashes making the news, and noting the airline or airplane, is another effective way to hold manufacturers accountable. Consumers don’t need to be expert engineers to have short-hand ways to know which airlines to avoid.

        But really, airlines and airplane manufacturers have extraordinarily large incentives in the marketplace to make a safe plane, and I find it strange that this isn’t obvious to others.

        • bean says:

          But really, airlines and airplane manufacturers have extraordinarily large incentives in the marketplace to make a safe plane, and I find it strange that this isn’t obvious to others.

          I work for one of those airplane manufacturers, and we do our best to make a safe plane. There are times I have to remind people that if we really only cared about safety, we’d ground our planes and not let anyone fly. (I’m still waiting for someone to point out that this would result in more people driving and less overall safety.)
          But not all airlines share this attitude. I can speak from direct experience on this, although I can’t share specifics for obvious reasons. Yes, it’s obvious to you that airlines have an incentive to keep their planes safe. It’s not obvious to them.

    • bean says:

      So, my answer to bean is that yes, airplanes do things which increase or fail to decrease the chance of a plan falling out of the sky, but the FAA also implements policies with the same effect when they don’t mandate more stringent standards than they do for safety, as even they know there are trade-offs.

      The FAA has an explicit mandate to look at those tradeoffs when they make their decisions. That’s why there aren’t airbags in your airline seat. They wouldn’t save nearly enough lives to be worth it.

      Are bureaucrats who get lobbied from big businesses and have political authority better at determining the optimal safety/price/comfort/convenience trade-off point than private actors acting in their self-interest and accountable to customers and torts? I’m doubtful.

      I’ll be sure to let the FAA know that they should be lax the next time I deal with them because we’re a big business and they’re the government.
      If the world was made of ideal rational actors, then I might agree with you. It’s not. When the lottery goes away due to lack of demand, we can trust ordinary consumers to be capable of making these kind of decisions for themselves. A businessman who is flying his employees around on his own planes would have his incentives more or less properly aligned. A businessman who is fighting for the travel dollars of the general public won’t. The public is absolutely terrible at judging risks, which in practice will mean that they’ll either demand far more safety than is economically justifiable, or far less, and my money is on the later. The current system may not be perfect, but it’s better than we can do elsewhere.
      And I’m not in love with the FAA. Far from it. Dealing with them takes lots of time and effort, occasionally to the detriment of actual safety.

      • “That’s why there aren’t airbags in your airline seat. They wouldn’t save nearly enough lives to be worth it.”

        Do you think the rule requiring computers and the like to be shut down for takeoff and landing saved enough lives to be worth it? The instructions on what to do if the plane went down in water, given for flights that do not go over any large bodies of water? Instructions on how to use seat belts?

        Your basic argument is that humans are imperfectly rational, which is true. But the same is true for the humans whose actions produce FAA recommendations–not just the FAA officials but the voters who elect the politicians who appoint them.

        • bean says:

          Do you think the rule requiring computers and the like to be shut down for takeoff and landing saved enough lives to be worth it?

          Hmm. Good question. The cost in that case is not born by those with lobby groups, which does reduce feedback. On the other hand, it’s part of clear for evacuation, which is a good rule to have.

          The instructions on what to do if the plane went down in water, given for flights that do not go over any large bodies of water? Instructions on how to use seat belts?

          The first is a case of standardizing the checklist to avoid confusion, along with the fact that it might land in a small body of water (US Airways 1549 springs to mind here). The later is a bit annoying, I admit, and I can’t say for sure where it falls.

          Your basic argument is that humans are imperfectly rational, which is true. But the same is true for the humans whose actions produce FAA recommendations–not just the FAA officials but the voters who elect the politicians who appoint them.

          Yes, but the question is if rationality is concentrated or diluted in the process. I’d say that there’s an excellent argument for concentration, given that the average person just does not get cost-benefit analysis. Look at the Ford Pinto case. Ford is often pilloried for using cost-benefit, even though not using it is easily demonstrated to be stupid in the extreme. (So we should spend any amount of money to save lives? OK, but we only have a finite amount of money. Where do we decide to put it?)
          A libertarian state populated entirely by people who are now libertarians would probably work pretty well. But most of the population is just not like that, and will break the libertarian system quickly.

        • dragnubbit says:

          It is not even worth it to mandate seat belts in school buses.

          And when it comes to safety features, most consumers will even reject them so without regulatory bodies our private and public transportation systems would be very deadly. When seat belts were first being introduced they were resisted by automobile manufacturers because they implied that cars were unsafe, and people generally refused to wear them to avoid offending the driver or just in denial of the risks.

          Even libertarians file injury lawsuits. They may even be more aware than average people about the financial benefits from doing so. You do not need a libertarian population, you need a legal philosophy that does not include gross negligence or duties to protect.

      • Lumifer says:

        That’s why there aren’t airbags in your airline seat.

        Is it the same reason there are inflatable safety vests under my seat? Barring that miracle on the Hudson, did any commercial airliner ever crash-err-land on water with any survivors?

        • bean says:

          Is it the same reason there are inflatable safety vests under my seat? Barring that miracle on the Hudson, did any commercial airliner ever crash-err-land on water with any survivors?

          Quite a few.
          If you want to question cost-benefit, talk about the oxygen generators. Those have never, IIRC, saved any lives, and they have killed people. In fairness to the generators, I’m pretty sure that ValuJet would have had a fatal crash sooner or later anyway. No, the system isn’t perfect. But I strongly suspect it’s less imperfect than it would be in a libertarian system.

          • Lumifer says:

            Hm, interesting, I didn’t expect that many, though most of them are decades ago…

          • bean says:

            It’s possible that math would say to take them off at this point, given how reliable modern airliners are. That said, regulators are not immune to public pressure, and life jackets are the kind of thing the public would demand even if it wasn’t justified. (This is not an advantage to libertarianism. They’d have the exact same problem, but worse.)

  8. gta says:

    I think that everything published made a great deal of sense.

    However, consider this, what if you wrote a catchier title?
    I ain’t saying your information is not good, but suppose you added something
    that grabbed people’s attention? I mean Open Thread 60.25 | Slate Star Codex is a little plain.
    You might glance at Yahoo’s home page and see how they create article titles to grab people to open the links.
    You might add a video or a picture or two to grab people interested
    about what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it might bring your blog a little bit
    more interesting.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      Spambot has a point.

      • LPSP says:

        …is it a spambot? I honestly can’t tell what spam-oriented goal that post would accomplish. Then again, I don’t see what discussion-oriented goal it would accomplish either.

        “gta’s just a weirdo” seems to be the Occam-friendly solution.

        • Montfort says:

          If it were a spambot, the point, presumably, would be to get gta’s link on this page, with possible implications for SEO? Or just hoping for clickthrough.

        • Montfort says:

          alright, I’m pretty sure it’s spam – a search for “I ain’t saying your information is not good” (with quotes) returns a lot of comments following the pattern on unrelated sites.

          • LPSP says:

            Sounds likely, good work. What a strange spamming strat.

          • Deiseach says:

            Crikey, spambots are improving by leaps and bounds. I thought that was a real, if odd, person. I’m too old for the bright new future of our AI overlords – imagine if the AI arises out of a spambot 🙂

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Deiseach

            Funny you should mention it, that’s how the AIs in my sci-fi setting came to be.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Does this mean that the AI that destroys everything will be maximizing for penis enlargement?

  9. LPSP says:

    I couldn’t figure out how to comment there, so I thought I’d bring up Robin Hanson’s most recent post at OB here:

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2016/10/smart-sincere-contrarian-trap.html#comments

    This is exactly the reason why we should bring back wizards. They serve a social purpose as being respected, acknowledged contrarians, whose job was to be a step ahead of everyone else, weird and difficult to people of power and prestige, and able to see through bullshit a mile away.

    The most successful smart+sincere people in history have arguably made wizards of themelves in any case. Just look at Eliyud. The way he cloaks his Lesswrong posts in terminology pretty much amounts to hypertext robes and pointy hats, plus he wrote an HP fanfic.

    • Jiro says:

      Magic is not real. So bringing back wizards inherently creates a class of people whose beliefs are disconnected from reality.

      Giving power to people whose beliefs are disconnected from reality is a bad thing and will likely lead to more mob rule; whenever the mob wants to attack someone, the wizard validates it by pointing out that yes, the guy really is possessed by demons.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Let’s just make computer science people the new wizards. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, after all.

    • Gazeboist says:

      Such people do not relish this prospect, as it would have them send bad group affiliation signals.

      What people? I assume he means people reluctant to endorse prediction markets, since that’s the topic of the paragraph I pulled the quote from, or maybe “people who have wrong beliefs” (but know about it somehow?). But if that’s the case then Hanson seems to be just firing off a broadside at all such people as inadequately smart and/or sincere.

      Also what Gwern said about not having any examples.

      • Deiseach says:

        Okay, can someone take this idiot by the hand and walk her gently through the magic of prediction markets? Why should we take them as the ne plus ultra of decision making? If money can be made, someone is going to find a way to game the system – that’s the one basic element of human nature you can rely on.

        If the idea is “fifty million monkeys can’t be wrong” and the majority opinion will shake out to be right in the long run, people believe damn strange things. I imagine the theory is that rational decision-making will be engaged in by sensible people who thoughtfully consider the question and bring expert knowledge to bear, then use a mathematically-derived process to weigh odds and make their bets on the market.

        Can anyone show me an example of this in the real world? I think it’ll turn out more like a small professional sub-set will know what they are doing, a larger group will follow their lead, and the majority will be ordinary punters having a flutter. I fear that basing policy decision on prediction market trends will leave us open to a lot of Peruvian gold mine swindles.

        But as I said, I’m an ignorant idiot. Maybe prediction markets don’t operate like the bookies giving you odds on repealing the 19th Amendment (5,000 to 1, you can make a killing if you get in early!) and it’s a completely different process from stock markets and the like.

  10. CatCube says:

    Picked up my DD214 today. I’m a veteran now!

    • Incurian says:

      Congrats!! I picked up my draft DD214 last week, almost every field had errors in it. Five months to go.

      • CatCube says:

        Wow. I did my worksheet two weeks ago, and the only update was to add my ETS award, which was new since my last ORB update.

        Congrats on the short-time, though. I’m lucky enough to be moving to a civilian position at the same desk doing the same job, so the biggest difference is I now need to pick out my clothes every day.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Congrats

  11. chaosbunt says:

    Democracy, opposed to an authoritarian polity, strengthens feelings of groupness, because every political act includes dealing with what i want (and people like me) vs what others want. In an authoritarian polity these would not be very salient categories, because it does not matter to me wether the blue eyed ones want the same thing as I do, political decisions do not include any of us.

    looking for arguments & literature on the hypothesis. It is not my idea, so i guess there should be literature somewhere.

    • blacktrance says:

      I don’t know about the social science aspect, but philosopher Jason Brennan suggests something like this in the last chapter of Against Democracy. See here for an excerpt.

      As we pick up our cudgels, we become enemies. Here, I have nothing inherently against you. Outside of the arena, I might even like you, or be your friend or partner. But inside the arena, we’re forced into conflict. It’s you or me. We want each other dead. You become (what we might call) my situational enemy: someone I have reason to oppose and attack, not because of who you are or what you’ve done, but simply because our situation pits us against each other.

    • LPSP says:

      Looked at from this light, Democracy is one huge externality trap/Moloch. Then again, so is many warring kingdoms. You fight with a man from the neighbouring realm to the death not because he is despicable, but because your mutual incentive curves are forced into it from the outside. Democracy essentially just replaced each king with a voting block.

      Evading this system seems to involving placing one super power in charge of many people, acting as a regulator to force many into overral cooperation. No squabbling over votes, no problems. There’s a monarchy-resembling way – Emperor – and a democracy-resembling way – Patrician Class. Creating a good selection process seems to be the main challenge in both cases. With many small kingdoms and democracy alike, there’s a lot of fluidity and dynamicity in the market so new and competetive ideas form easilier, even if the best stuff ends up absorbed into the popular tyrants anyway. Inbred Imperial dynasties and increasingly-distant snobby Patricians are a pertinent issue to nations looking to avoid demographic warfare. But then again, distant snobby Patricians seem to represent one side of our current political quagmire in any case.

      • Sandy says:

        Inbred Imperial dynasties and increasingly-distant snobby Patricians are a pertinent issue to nations looking to avoid demographic warfare.

        The ethnic makeup of imperial dynasties and patrician classes leads to demographic warfare anyway. Commonly this plays out by noting how few socio-politico-economic elites are black and Hispanic with regard to Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Congress etc. Uncommonly this plays out by God telling Hong Xiuquan that the Manchu emperors of the Qing dynasty are demons oppressing the Han and therefore he must start the Taiping Rebellion.

    • Alliteration says:

      I have not read Locke, but I think Locke argued something like this in Leviathan.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bueno de Mesquita claims to observe that democracies are slow to war, but once committed to war escalate highly. You ask for psychological explanations and Bueno de Mesquita will not give you any. But it is good to ask what to people who disagree with you about why. (His explanations are always game theory.)

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Bueno de Mesquita claims to observe that democracies are slow to war, but once committed to war escalate highly.

        Is that last bit true, though? America seems very wary of escalating in Syria at the moment, for example.

        • Anonymous says:

          I haven’t read him, so I don’t know how he operationalizes “war,” but don’t you think it would be easy to get a definition that says that the US is not at war in Syria? What do you think a poll of Americans would say?

          Inasmuch as this is about public perception, there are two issues: publicity and casualties. The CIA does not wage wars. Air strikes occupy a weird intermediate space where the military publicly acts, but does not expend lives. Probably more CIA operatives have died in Syria than in Libya, but they’ve kept it under wraps, so it is less costly.

          • Deiseach says:

            Syria (and situations like it) are messy because no, despite all the barrel bombs, the USA and Russia are not engaging in a war. First, there isn’t a declaration of hostilities. Second, they’re not fighting against a particular enemy, they’re giving support to a government against rebels (the ostensible reason). Third, if Syria is a war, it’s a civil war, and even that hasn’t been quite declared yet – the situation (as I understand it) is that this is an uprising against legitimate authority, not a civil war as yet. I hear references to “the conflict in Syria” more so than “the civil war in Syria” (despite what Wikipedia describes it as), mainly I imagine because calling it a civil war would confer some measure of legitimacy on the various rebel groups, which is something I think Assad is opposing – they’re not an opposition as such, they’re a bunch of fanatic extremists is the line? Fourth, I think that a poll of Americans probably would say the US is not at war in Syria, mainly because there haven’t been solemn announcements in front of a podium with the Presidential Seal on it about commencing Operation Johnson’s Folly and the armed forces being officially sent in as ‘boots on the ground’ in order to support freedom, democracy and the peace-loving regime of President Assad.

          • Incurian says:

            I don’t think it would be too far off the mark to describe it as a civil war.

  12. S_J says:

    Random general question:

    do you ever see something in a movie/TV-show that breaks the appearance of reality that the show attempts to maintain?

    In one case I can think of, a show about Robin Hood had a character predict a solar eclipse, and Robin was able to use the eclipse to his advantage.

    Except I had a jarring realization: the character who looks up at the moon the night before is seeing a full moon. Then he looks down at his almanac, and tries to figure out when the next local solar eclipse is going to happen.

    The next day (apparently), the eclipse happens.

    Which would be impossible, if there had been a full moon the night before.

    Any other examples of this effect in the entertainment world?

    • Alex says:

      do you ever see something in a movie/TV-show that breaks the appearance of reality that the show attempts to maintain?

      Can you explain, why you think that the answer to this is anything other than “yes, every single one of them”? I mean how is what you describe different from e. g. IMDB’s “goofs” section?

      • S_J says:

        I’m thinking of the more outrageous stuff. Details that are added because most movies have that kind of detail. Even when that detail doesn’t make sense in this particular story.

        Like an early James Bond film, in which I can hear the car tires squeal…as the vehicle is turning a sharp corner on a dirt road.

        The solar-eclipse example is probably a combination of most moonlit scenes are depicted as full-moon, added to we need to have the character look at the moon and then his almanac.

        But it breaks the flow of the story: a solar eclipse can only happen the day before a new moon. If a solar eclipse is known to be coming, the night of the full moon is a something like 13 days away from the next solar eclipse.

        • Alex says:

          Like the thing they do in crime shows where 2*2 pixel images are “improved” to show faces or numberplates in full resolution on a regular basis? Or how “face recognition” software always works by showing every picture on screen at slideshow speed for no reason. Or how the McGuffin de jour increasingly often is described by “scientific” terms that do exist in real world but make no sense in that context.

          All of these are cases were a factual error is a plot device rather than just an error and all of these are outrageous if you know how things acrtually work. I presume that to people who know how guns work every depiction of gunplay ever induces the same cringe. Or watching “House M. D.” with a background in medicine. [Or “The Sopranos” with a background in organized crime?]

          So still I think it would be easier to enumerate shows that actually got it right.

          • hyperboloid says:

            presume that to people who know how guns work every depiction of gunplay ever induces the same cringe

            This.

            Dear hollywood,

            Guns do not make random clicking sounds when ever it sounds dramatic.

          • LPSP says:

            Gun-clicks are the equivalent of audible shininess on swords in anime.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Points gun at bad/good guy”

            “Then chambers round”

          • hlynkacg says:

            “Points gun at bad/good guy”

            “Then chambers round”

            *Eye twitch*

            The other thing that really get’s me are the “everything sensors” you see in sci-fi movies and the magic “enhance buttons” Alex mentioned. As someone who does a lot of signal/noise analysis IRL that stuff feels more like magitech than FTL does.

          • bluto says:

            Single action army revolvers did, I’m sure that’s where it originated (the original model didn’t have a hammer block, so if the hammer were hit hard enough the gun could fire on a loaded chamber). So people carried them with 5 rounds and the hammer down on an empty chamber.

            Since the click worked as an outstanding indication of increasing importance, it’s remained a useful story element even though technology passed the story long, long ago.

          • This is a short story, not a movie, but the way my suspension of disbelief breaks suggests I have no idea what my premises are.

            The Skeleton.

            N zna orpbzrf bofrffrq ol uvf fxryrgba. Ur pna’g fgnaq univat n fxryrgba. N qbpgbe urycf uvz ol penjyvat qbja uvf zbhgu naq erzbivat uvf fxryrgba.

            V’z ernqvat nybat naq univat ab ceboyrzf.

            Ohg gur raq bs gur fgbel vf gur zna va pbyyncfrq zbqr pnyyvat bhg gb uvf jvsr (whfg fnlvat uryyb, *ur’f* abg jbeevrq) naq zl zvaq tbrf “Ur unf ab fgehpgher gb nyybj sbe nve fcnpr! Ur pna’g gnyx! Guvf znxrf ab frafr!”.

            I have no idea why my limit is at that point.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Like the thing they do in crime shows where 2*2 pixel images are “improved” to show faces or numberplates in full resolution on a regular basis?

            I remember an episode of (I think) CSI where they managed to look at something behind the camera by zooming into a drop of water and looking at the reflection on it.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Yep. And a gun with a silencer does not make a tiny little “ppffft” noise – it still sounds like a gunshot and it’s still LOUD. Like, over 100 decibels loud. Loud enough that the guards in the next room aren’t going to overlook it.

            Another one that bugs me is the convention that anybody can be harmlessly hit on the head – using anything handy, even a big metal wrench – and thereby knocked unconscious for a perfectly plot-convenient period of time. An attempt at such a knockout blow is either completely harmless or completely effective. It never causes blood loss or threatens brain damage. Is there a name for this?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Incurian

            Ah, I should have checked TVTropes. Thanks!

            My friends and family include first aid instructors and ski patrollers so it’s hard to let that sort of thing go.

            Person Of Interest was a strange variant – in the continuity of that show either shooting somebody in the leg or causing a rollover car accident serve the same plot purpose as Tap On The Head would in most other shows.

          • rsaarelm says:

            @Nancy I had the exact same reaction to The Skeleton. I think it’s because it’s violating the pulp story rule of thumb where you have exactly one completely implausible element and the rest of the story needs to be reasonably naturalistic so that the implications can be worked out.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @bluto

            Another fun gun related pop culture fact; the phrase “Bust a cap” originated in the mid nineteenth century with cap and ball firearms.

            *picks up pen and ink*

            My dearest Delilah,

            How I long for your loving embrace, and the warm hospitality of Charleston.

            Truly this war amongst the sates has pitted brother against brother; but the good lord in his wisdom has seen fit to visit this great calamity upon us, and we must see it through to the bitter end.

            It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that we encountered a party of Yankee scouts a fortnight ago, and duty enjoined us to bust some caps….

            It just doesn’t sound right, does It?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hyperboloid

            Huh, I had thought it was a Vietnam-era reference to those toy cap guns kids had – I’d seen descriptions like “we ducked down in the ditch, and Charlie was busting caps at us” but I hadn’t realized it went back further than that.

            Now I’m imagining guys with fanciful moustaches waving six-shooters at each other and declaring that, forsooth, if the other fellow does not withdraw what he said at once, why, a cap would be busted in his posterior, why, sure as God made little green apples.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @dndnrsn

            The Vietnam era currency of the phrase almost certainly derives from the film True Grit (1969) where Robert Duvall tells Kim Darby: “I never busted a cap on a woman or anybody much under sixteen”, a line that is apparently in the book.

            But if anybody doubts a nineteenth century origin, I have a few sources.

          • CatCube says:

            IIRC, the 2010 remake of True Grit didn’t have that line. Now I wonder if they cut it because it would have sounded anachronistic to modern audiences, despite being period-correct.

        • Noth'el says:

          Like the thing they do in crime shows where 2*2 pixel images are “improved” to show faces or numberplates in full resolution on a regular basis?

          Like this?

          But here’s the thing: you actually can… if you have multiple (sub pixel offset) frames. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but basically every time I have seen an enhancement they happen to be looking at the single best frame from video. Which is like a perfectly reasonable time to do it. With nothing more interesting than Photoshop even! Though I am certain that security types have specialized software.

          Iirc it is limited to doubling the resolution, so it is undoubtedly exaggerated (in both time and effectiveness) on screen, but it is totally a thing you can do.

          (Also if you have absurd amounts of money you can get a camera to do the work for you.)

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I think the continuity error that bugs me the most is the recent trend towards teleportation in Game of Thrones.

      Va gur svefg frnfba vg gnxrf n srj rcvfbqrf bs fubj-gvzr naq zbaguf bs va-havirefr gvzr gb geniry orgjrra Jvagresryy naq Xvat’f Ynaqvat, juvpu znxrf frafr vs lbh ybbx ng n znc bs Jrfgrebf. Naq rira sbe qvfgnaprf gung jrer yrff vzcbegnag gb gur cybg, vg hfhnyyl frrzrq yvxr crbcyr jrer npghnyyl zbivat guebhtu n infg jbeyq.

      Yvggyrsvatre jnf gur svefg bar gb fgneg gryrcbegvat bss-fperra. Whfg fubjvat hc ng n ybpngvba jvgubhg frrzvat gb unir pebffrq gur vagreiravat qvfgnapr be fcrag nal gvzr trggvat gurer. Vg tbg zber naq zber oyngnag naq evqvphybhf gb gur cbvag gung zr naq zl sevraqf jrer qrongvat jurgure be abg gurer jrer zhygvcyr Yvggyrsvatref ehaavat nebhaq.

      Ohg fbba rabhtu bgure punenpgref fgnegrq yrneavat uvf frperg. Ol frnfba 6 Fnz naq Tvyyl jrer gur bayl punenpgref jub jrer zbivat ng n abezny engr. Vg jnf vaperqvoyl qvfnccbvagvat naq sehfgengvat.

      • dndnrsn says:

        V guvax gung gur fubjehaaref unir cnvagrq gurzfryirf vagb pbearef ercrngrqyl naq xrrc univat gb oraq/oernx gur aneengvir ehyrf gb svk gung. Sbe vafgnapr, gurl znqr Enzfnl “oynaqyl vaivapvoyr” nf V oryvrir na Ngynagvp negvpyr ersreerq gb uvz nf – whfg trggvat njnl jvgu qbvat fghss gung jbhyq znxr uvf fhobeqvangrf naq nyyvrf nonaqba uvz, haqrsrngnoyr va pbzong, naq va trareny univat cybg nezbhe. Gur fbyhgvba? Ervasbeprzragf fubjvat hc bhg bs abjurer gung ernyvfgvpnyyl Fnafn jbhyq unir gbyq Wba nobhg (fur guebjf n gnagehz orpnhfr ur vfa’g yvfgravat gb ure, gura qbrfa’g gryy uvz gnpgvpnyyl pehpvny vasbezngvba?).

        • JayT says:

          Qvq Fnafn ernyyl xabj gung gur ervasbeprzragf jrer pbzvat? Fur jnf ubcvat gur jbhyq, ohg V tbg gur vzcerffvba gung fur jnfa’g ernyyl pbhagvat ba gurz.

          Nf sbe gur gryrcbegvat, V guvax vg’f rnfl rabhtu gb nffhzr gung gur fgbel vfa’g pbzcyrgryl yvarne, naq gung gurer vf n ybg bs bss-fperra qbjagvzr naq geniry. Lbh pbhyq unir gjb rcvfbqrf jurer bar bs gur cybg yvarf gnxrf n srj qnlf naq gur bgure n srj zbaguf. V’z fher vg qbrfa’g pbzcyrgryl jbex bhg, ohg vg’f pybfr rabhtu gung vg qbrfa’g obgure zr.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Eh, even just “oh by the way there might be some reinforcements coming, so don’t throw it all away” would have been fine. It’s not as though “will the reinforcements come? Will they get there in time?” isn’t tense. And Ramsay suddenly forgetting about things like posting scouts and so on was convenient.

            The inconsistent travel times is also in the books, now that I think of it. They’re always pretty vague about distances, etc.

      • bluto says:

        I’ve always taken the teleportation to be indicative that the story is told thematically rather than chronologically (ie an episode generally hits each story for a relevant update rather than all the events of each episode happen within a few days of each other. If the season covers several months of several stories, a trip to kings landing is only getting a mention if plot relevant events occur along the way, otherwise it’s just worth a summary that the trip occurred.

        • gbdub says:

          Same here. Showing the full journey from Winterfell to King’s Landing in season 1 is important because that caravan contains most of the main characters, and interesting things happen. Showing individual characters crossing the Narrow Sea isn’t necessary unless

          So I only get weirded out by “teleporting” if it obviously screws up the timeline. Since the events of the series take place over several years, this isn’t much of a problem unless the intersections between storylines are done poorly, and so far they’ve been okay for the most part.

          The only one that’s really bugged me is the last couple episodes – nccneragyl nsgre gnxvat bire Qbear, gur Fnaq Fanxrf jrer pbagrag gb qrynl gurve eriratr sbe ybat rabhtu gb yrg tenaal Gleryy naq Inelf zbir nyy bire gur qnza jbeyq?

          • LHN says:

            Though this is complicated somewhat by, e.g., Gilly’s baby, whose age puts something of a limit on how much time has passed since his introduction without invoking the MST3K rule. (The Stark kids likewise, to some extent, but viewers are used to teen characters’ ages being a bit out of sync with their actors.)

          • JayT says:

            I agree with the baby, I feel like he should have aged faster, but as for the Stark kids, I think they have aged fairly appropriately. Somewhere around six years from the start of the show to now seems within the realm of possibilities.

          • bluto says:

            Lrnu, gur pbzvat gbtrgure bs Qbear/Qnal fgbelyvarf jnfa’g irel ryrtnag. V fhfcrpg gung’f jul gur obbxf unir tbggra fybj gb jevgr, naq jul zl bja thrff vf gung jr jba’g frr Jvaqf bs Jvagre nalgvzr fbba, vs ng nyy.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Cneg bs vg vf rkcynvarq ol gur geniry gb naq sebz Jvagresryy orvat n tvnag eblny cebqhpgvba. Va gur obbxf fbzrbar, V guvax Eboreg, npghnyyl pbzcynvaf nobhg ubj ybat gur gevc vf gnxvat naq vg’q or fb zhpu rnfvre gb qb vg jvgubhg nyy gur ubbcynu.

      • cassander says:

        how do we un-spoilerfy comments here?

        • JayT says:

          Copy and paste it here:
          http://www.rot13.com/

          • LHN says:

            Or there are extensions for Firefox (LeetKey) and Chrome (d3coder) that will let you highlight the section and right click for a decoding option.

            (Desktop only, AFAIK– I haven’t seen anything convenient for mobile, though if anyone else has I’d be happy to know about it.)

        • Montfort says:

          The courteous commenters above are manually applying rot13, a google search will find many sites where you can convert to plaintext. A search for “rot13 plugin” also returns results for both chrome and firefox, but I can’t vouch for them.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          I’m using a chrome extension, “rot13 decoder,” which lets me highlight and right click text to change it from normal to rot13. It’s a lot less of a hassle than copy-pasting it every time.

    • BBA says:

      The 1969 volcano epic Krakatoa, East of Java was widely mocked in the press for getting a crucial detail wrong: Krakatoa is west of Java.

  13. Is there any way to get blockquote to indent without italics?

    • Anonymous says:

      <blockquote><em>text</em></blockquote>

      text

      It is impossible to get rid of italics, but it is possible to get rid of emphasis by doing more emphasis.

  14. Paul Brinkley says:

    Is there any interest in a glossary of SSC jargon? I imagine it as a supplement to LW’s, including more specific tropes like Toxoplasma of Rage, Death Eater, Reign of Terror, Moloch, pattern match, and some from outside that enjoy frequent use, such as motte and bailey, em, isolated demand for rigor, and utility function.

    • Chunderer says:

      +1. Interested.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      That would be a lot of extra work for Scott, even if others wrote it and he just edited it. Imo better for each entry to be a link to the article where Scott introduced the term.

      • I don’t think Scott needs to be involved at all. I’m imagining it as a wiki that says “not by Scott Alexander” on every page.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          This was roughly my thinking. The obvious location for this would be the LW wiki, after all, assuming it’s permitted. If not, then some other wiki host.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          There is already disagreement on the meaning of these terms. If not Scott, who is to define them?

          Supplying links to the original articles is something anyone can do, without room for disagreement. The original articles will be the most accurate, with the most detail and examples, and rich in discussion.

          • Alliteration says:

            It could be a long list of accounts by different people of what the terms mean. Then the user could see what the user’s reader might think if they use the term.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I tend to like wikis for this very reason.

            I firmly believe all of the stable shared definitions are worth recording – as Alliteration says: “this is what other people will think if you write this”. This is also why it might be a value-add over just looking the term up on non-SSC sources.

            Links to first mentions or important mentions will be useful as well, with the entry itself being a good faith attempt to summarize.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Wait, why not just link to the term’s (rough) origin in SSC discourse, or the coining of the term-as-used-here? I think this might fail for Death Eater and Reign of Terror (maybe; I actually seem to remember Scott calling the policy change a “Reign of Terror” when the shift occurred), but for the rest it should be quite easy; most of them are terms deliberately introduced by Scott and the rest were coined and/or introduced by clear antecedents of Scott and/or SSC.

            I’m not seeing a need to provide a definition directly. As I recall, everyone interpreted Moloch a whole lot more generally than Scott meant it anyway.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Reinterpretations of things like Moloch is one reason why I think a glossary would be useful. It’s not just how it was originally coined; these things occasionally morph.

            Another reason it would be useful would be to save the reader some time spent searching the site or web for citations.

            Done well, it could even be interesting reading in its own right.

    • TMB says:

      I notice that “meta-level” and “object-level” have gone out of fashion recently.

    • LPSP says:

      Death Eater/Voldemort, Isolated Demand for Rigor and Moloch seem to be the only ones with any frequent use. Other terms are just broader post-tumblr rationalist/grey tribe terms. EM is Robin Hanson’s baby.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        My rationale for including terms used elsewhere is that the referent here might be arbitrary (you won’t know to go to Robin Hanson for the meaning of “em”), and also that there may be some SSC-specific connotation added to the term.

        Plus, it may help to co-locate terms even if they’re available elsewhere. It alerts users that these are relatively common terms in the readership.

  15. Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

    Anyone aware of the comic strip Jesus and Mo?

    Sort of satire against modern extreme leftist politics (but still leftist) and religion.

    It’s also a shame that the artist chooses to be anonymous because drawing Mo’ is punishable by death… even though he’s not a Muslim.

    • Randy M says:

      Um, why are they in bed together?

    • DrBeat says:

      Not impressed. Lazy art, lazy punchlines. Someone trying to coast on controversy instead of making an actually insightful comic.

    • Autolykos says:

      Yes, humor needs to be transgressive. But it also needs to be funny.
      I clicked through a few of them, and most are just old hats. Might have liked them 10-20 years ago, though…

    • LPSP says:

      First I’ve ever heard of it, it’s clearly a long-runner with reknowned amongst circles. I’d have impressed no doubt as a 14 year old in 2005, but while the comic is still pretty correct it’s not saying anything information-increasing or pertinent now.

  16. IrishDude says:

    I was listening to an episode of Tom Wood’s podcast here and he covered Scott’s post on epipens. What I thought was interesting is right at the beginning of the podcast, he said he tried to reach out to Scott but was told that he doesn’t do interviews. I think Scott’s still on his one week comment ban, but does anyone know why he has a no-interview policy? I think it would be good to have his well-thought arguments enter the public consciousness and doing interviews would be a good way to get his ideas and arguments out to a wider audience.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I’d assume it’s because he wants to maintain some level of anonymity. I’m also not quite certain Scott really wants a wide audience.

      • As a general thing, I’m amazed that people who want anonymity will permit their voices to be used in interviews. I listen to NPR and the BBC, and it seems as though there are people at serious risk will permit their voices (but not their names) to be used. There are also people who don’t permit either.

        I used to be a fairly frequent caller at NPR, and people would tell me they recognized my voice.

      • IrishDude says:

        That would make sense.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The more famous you are, the less you’re able to get away with saying unorthodox things, the less selective you’re able to be about your audience, and the more incentive there is for hacks to poison the well against you and get some quick clicks by writing an article about how you’re Satan.

      I think a lot of SSC is pitched at a certain type of person, who my narcissistic side would call “intelligent and rational enough to take ideas seriously” and my pessimistic side would call “sufficiently similar to me that they basically agree with me already”.

      This incident was weirdly influential on me – basically, I wrote a piece about psychopharmacology using a metaphor about what if the Russians had a different periodic table than we did. It got linked on (IIRC) Hacker News, someone from there came over to comment, and decided that the whole point of my post was to claim the Russians actually had a different periodic table and so I was an idiot. Also, when I and many other people argued that wasn’t the point at all, we were just lying. This is an example of a broader class of problems where outside a certain group of people whom I trust, it’s dangerous to use metaphors at all because people will think you’re saying two things are similar in every single way. And that itself an example of a broader class of problems where outside a certain group of people whom I trust, all my attempts to communicate complicated ideas fail in ways I wouldn’t have even thought were possible. When I assume this generalizes, I start to understand why eg the Presidential debates sound the way they do, and I become a lot less interested in trying to “break out” into mass media.

      • Jiro says:

        There are cases where people actually try to claim X in a way that maintains plausible deniability, and therefore use a hypothetical or a metaphor that is not literally a claim of X at all. (Often the metaphor or hypothetical is not exactly X either, but is an exaggeration of X.)

        This is something to ignore at your peril even if you don’t do it yourself, because you need to make sure that you don’t accidentally sound like one of those.

        (I am not claiming the Russian periodic table is one of those. It doesn’t sound like the sort of thing people would have much reason to hide as a metaphor.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I think a lot of SSC is pitched at a certain type of person, who my narcissistic side would call “intelligent and rational enough to take ideas seriously” and my pessimistic side would call “sufficiently similar to me that they basically agree with me already”.

        I massively, fervertly disagree with you on a large number of object-level issues (religion, AI, polyamory…), so that’s worth updating a little toward optimism, right?

      • TheWorst says:

        …my pessimistic side would call “sufficiently similar to me that they basically agree with me already”.

        For whatever it’s worth, a pretty significant-seeming number of us apparently disagree with you on object-level issues both heavily and regularly. That seems like evidence in favor of the pessimistic version being unlikely, I think?

        • Deiseach says:

          A lot of us disagree sufficiently to make the comment threads lengthy, interesting, varied, and occasionally in need of the ban-hammer.

          It’s certainly not an echo-chamber of “Yes, Scott”, “So right, Scott”, “Sure thing, Scott”, “Took the words right out of my mouth, Scott” by any means.

      • Jordan D. says:

        For whatever it’s worth, that remains one of my favorite comment chains on SSC specifically because, prior to that, I could never have imagined a metaphor being so badly misinterpreted. Reading that opened me up to a new understanding of how deep misunderstanding can go.

        • LPSP says:

          I think it’s a disservice to the term misunderstanding to call Chark Moi’s reaction that. He just plain missed it, and for whatever reason entrenched himself into a “It’s obviously spurious to set up language like that, the implication is obvious to me and you are all missing it and nyah”. Sounds like he just wanted a reason to dislike Scott, honestly. He thought he saw easy bait, jumped without checking, and then refused to back off once he got found out.

      • gbdub says:

        I don’t think everyone here agrees with all or even most of Scott’s positions. But I’d say all or most of the frequent readers/commenters share a way of thinking with Scott. In other words, Scott might present and argument, and, even if I disagree with the conclusion, I “get” his logic and his thought process. Even if his argument doesn’t convince me, it has the form of an argument that would.

        However, I don’t think this way of thinking is universal, and that’s even leaving out the quirks, jargon, and inside jokes. I can sympathize with Scott not wanting to change to a more universal format, because his current idiom is uniquely well suited to himself and his audience.

        • LPSP says:

          Rational and Sincere. That’s what I’d call the core of SSC, Lesswrong, and other rationalist/grey-tribe circles.

          What distuingishes SSC from its peers in this subset? Essay/conversation style with spiritual metaphors is the first guess out of my thinkpan.

        • Yes I think the way of thinking is true. In the past I have had discussions with people on the Internet, and on zines before that, where their arguments simply don’t make sense to me. And it is generally clear in their comments to me, that the reaction is mutual. Many of these folks seem intelligent enough, based on coherent sentences, if not arguments, and also based on others’ reactions.

          I can’t remember coming across anyone on SSC with whom I’ve had this reaction. So I think there is some sort of argumentation style that can be compatible, without anyone necessarily coming to the same conclusions on the content. In my more self confident times I think this is simply being able to argue rationally and coherently vs. not, but I’m not sure if that is it.

        • IrishDude says:

          I have never found a more pleasant place to discuss and debate than SSC. I used to debate extensively on the politics board at IMDB, and the level of trollishness and hostility as through the roof. The proportion of kind, thought provoking ideas to insults and bumper sticker arguments was the inverse of SSC.

          The ability to have a host who leads by example and is willing to cut loose the bad actors makes for a really nice place to hang out.

          • cassander says:

            > I used to debate extensively on the politics board at IMDB,

            This strikes me as a very strange choice…

          • IrishDude says:

            I wasn’t aware of another place to get into political discussions that had a wide variety of views. Originally, I came across the movie discussion board for Fahrenheit 911 where there was intense political discussion I found interesting, and later on IMDB created a specific politics board to contain off-topic discussions from the movie boards.

          • LPSP says:

            I’d say SSC is the best discussion place on the internet, even beating 4chan. The small price in being polite and putting an email down is made up by the sincere and smart attitude at all levels of the site.

  17. Eltargrim says:

    For your consideration: A Longitudinal Measurement Study of 4chan’s Politically Incorrect Forum and its Effect on the Web. Highlights include footnote 2, and Figure 12: Perhaps the least rare Pepe.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Meme magic is real.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I was very disappointed, given how much the authors liked to use the word “hate,” that they never referred to 4chan as an internet hate machine. I was waiting for it the whole article and it never happened.

      On that note, is this just me or is the language around hate speech sound ridiculously Orwellian?

      Among the most worrying threats, harassment and hate speech
      have become increasingly prevalent [7, 14]. The web’s global communication
      capabilities, as well as a number of platforms built on
      top of them, often enable previously isolated, and possibly ostracized,
      members of fringe political groups and ideologies to gather,
      converse, organize, execute, and spread their culture of hate [23].

      It just sounds so damn sinister.

      • Eltargrim says:

        I’m personally disappointed that they didn’t do a more thorough textual analysis. Given the proclivity of 4chan to use “fag” to describe anything and everything (to the point where a gay person is a “fagfag”) I think there’s some minor potential for confounds. IMO a good attempt overall though.

        • Machine Elf says:

          “Gayfag” would be more typical for that purpose. “Fagfag” is highly unusual and IMO parses as something like “person who makes excessive use of ‘Xfag’ constructions even in cases where it’s not necessary or appropriate.” (Alternatively, “person who calls everyone a fag and expects to have this taken seriously as an insult.”) But then, the language may have evolved out from under me in the past couple of years.

          • LPSP says:

            Where I come from (mah neck of th’innernet woods!) Fagfag would indicate just a straightforward fag, someone pretentious and out of their depth.

        • Anonymous says:

          cf “coke coke”

  18. Incurian says:

    I named my new CZ Scorpion pistol “Klobberella.”

    • bluto says:

      Nice, how do you like it? I’ve been drooling over the carbine since it was announced (the question of 922(r) compliant parts had me concerned about SBRing the pistol.

    • Incurian says:

      Unfortunately, I haven’t shot it yet. AFAICT there are no good public ranges in El Paso, so I ordered some target stands for desert shooting. Will report back after I get a chance to put some rounds downrange.

      Impressions from handling it: It’s bigger than I thought. It’s better balanced than I thought it would be – holding it one-handed is doable for short periods of time, but would probably be extremely difficult to control. It feels very well balanced with an AFG-2. The mag well, magazines, and magazine release are the best I’ve ever used. The safety is annoying as hell and I’m replacing it with a smaller one that won’t dig into my hand. The trigger isn’t as bad as everyone says it is. The rails have a slit down the middle, but I’m using a LaRue QD mount anyway, I’ll let you know if the mighty 9mm ends up damaging it (I predict it will be fine).

  19. The Nybbler says:

    On the subject of birthright citizenship, an idea I’ve been kicking around. The biggest problem with not having it, IMO, is the creation of a permanent non-citizen class (perhaps even including effectively stateless individuals). What I hear about the problem with having it mostly revolves around aliens doing anything they can to bear their child in the US. If they stay in the country as a result, this is a backdoor path to immigration for the mother. If they’re kicked out anyway, this is IMO the worst of both worlds — a child culturally not of the US with the full privileges and immunities of a US citizen.

    So how about an amendment like the following
    —–
    1) The Fourteenth Amendment notwithstanding, Congress may through appropriate legislation exclude from US citizenship persons who
    a) Are born in the United States of a mother who is a non-US citizen and
    b) Leave or are removed from the United States before their fifth birthday, provided such removal is either voluntary on the part of the person’s custodial parent or done according to the operation of law.

    2) A person is “eligible for exclusion from United States citizenship” if by law passed in accordance to 1) they may be excluded from United States citizenship if they leave or are removed from the United States before their fifth birthday. No person who is not eligible for exclusion from United States citizenship at the time of their birth may be made eligible by subsequent legislation, and no person born in the US who is eligible for exclusion but has not been excluded by operation of law may be excluded on or after their fifth birthday.

    ——

    The basic idea is give the government 5 years to remove such children (if desired; I’d expect the legislation to not include children of permanent residents, for example, but since that concept isn’t in the Constitution I wouldn’t add it). The other stuff is to prevent shenanigans like a certain Arizona sheriff kidnapping 4.9 year olds over the border because he thinks deportation is taking too long, or various ex post facto situations.

    • dragnubbit says:

      I would not accept as proven that anchor babies are a problem worth amending the Constitution over, or even a problem at all. Debating the exact wording of the amendment is begging the question to me.

      There is much lower hanging fruit if we want to limit unskilled immigration than birth tourism. Heck if they return to their home country we still get to tax their income unless they pay us $2350 to renounce. And if they stay we get a young person to fix our demographic pyramid who generally comes from parents of above average means and moxie. Rich Asians having American children is not worth losing sleep over.

  20. DavidS says:

    A question about negotiation, executives and legislatures.

    In the UK at the moment there’s an argument going on about whether the negotiation about exiting the EU should be run pretty centrally by Govt or if Parliament should have a stronger role. The Parliament argument is obviously mainly about democracy. The main ‘govt should do it without Parliament’ is based on the point that it’s poor practice to make it public what all your priorities and red lines are before you enter negotiation as this puts you in a much weaker position.

    I’m quite sympathetic with that argument, especially with the caveat that you can at choice make public commitments to pre-commit in game theory terms (e.g. if Govt says very publicly it won’t accept any deal that requires free entry of EU migrants, it MIGHT be able to move the debate amongst EU leaders onto whether they can make a deal or not given that. But I’m interested in what people think would work best and what the actual system is elsewhere (e.g. does Senate or President make treaties)

    I’m mostly interested here in the negotiation stage, either setting red lines or committees of the legislature being directly involved in back-and-forth negotiation. Once the treaty terms are finalised, a yes-or-no vote on the final product by the legislature is less of a big deal – unamendable yes-no legislation often means that people basically have to agree in practice.

    • brad says:

      I don’t totally understand your system, but leaving aside fictions about the Queen, isn’t the “Govt” elected by and removable by Parliament — or more usually the majority party in Parliament?

      The whole thing with Corbyn confuses me somewhat, but I assume the same thing couldn’t happen with an actual PM vs a shadow PM.

      • DavidS says:

        Not explicitly, but more or less yes. The Governmnet needs to command the confidence of most MPs.

        But that’s a very blunt ‘we will kick you out’ tool, a bit like the ‘we will vote down the final deal, leaving no deal’. The ability to actually be involved in the detail matters more most of the time: even the Govt MPs who are annoyed about this aren’t going to bring down the Govt over it.

        We’re confused about Corbyn too! The idea of staying as leader of the party without support of MPs is new. In principle, if he’d been PM, then the vote of no confidence would have lost him PM status assuming the opposition also voted no confidence. If a leader lost the support of most of his MPs but because of opposition support still had a majority of the House as a whole… not sure what would happen.

      • DavidS says:

        PS the ‘legal fictions about the Queen’ are quite important because our PM has lots of power under the royal prerogative: in many ways more than the President does in the US. Even though the PM is not directly elected.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The upside is that there’s no American-style “well the President wants something, and everyone got to vote for them, but they can’t get what they want because congress blah blah” sort of thing (be it real, or an excuse for why the President doing xyz).

          Downside (I guess not a downside to some people) is that a PM with a majority has a lot of power.

          • DavidS says:

            Yeah, inasmuch as people here think about our system explicitly and agree with it, we tend to be quite explicitly not looking for American-style checks and balances. If someone is ‘in power’ they have the executive and the legislature, and the courts are just much less powerful and non-political.

            This works very well for one of the key bits of democracy – the ability to hold people accountable and kick them out. In the US you have the whole ‘you didn’t deliver’, ‘well I would have if you’d not amended my Bill so much’ etc. And then in lots of countries you have PR systems so all govts are coalitions which presumably leads to people blaming coalition partners (lots of that here for our one recent coalition!)

    • cassander says:

      The best use for democracy is as a check against the excesses of government, not as a driving force. When governments need democratic approval for every little thing, you end up mired in demosclerosis. A partial (and I mean very partial) solution to this problem is to give democratic checks the ability to say no to things, but not require them to say yes.

      the UK parliament functions largely in this manner. Legislation is usually written by the government, not parliamentary committees, and parliament gets at best an up or down vote on the proposal in a body where the leadership has greater power than the US house, to say nothing of the senate. The function of parliament is largely to decide who the leadership is and to hold them accountable to constituents, not as a partner in government. This is a good thing. People should for damned sure be able to say “no, stop!” to governments, but forcing the system to get 51% national approval for closing bus stops is a recipe for logrolling and corruption.

      • DavidS says:

        I sort of agree with this. But on a factual note, you’re not quite right on
        “Legislation is usually written by the government, not parliamentary committees, and parliament gets at best an up or down vote on the proposal”

        The Government writes legislation but for substantial new laws (Acts of Parliament), amendments can be laid and voted on by members of parliament, and they can defeat the government. The break is a practical one, rooted in the fact that the government has a built-in majority (if it didn’t it wouldn’t be the government), so any amendment to government’s drafting relies on rebellion from government’s own members of Parliament. This is rare, but can happen: and the threat presumably causes government to approach things differently.

        For smaller bits of lawmaking (‘secondary legislation’) it is often just a yes/no vote, and often even only if someone actively asks for one and there’s time.

        I quite like this because it’s a sort of elective dictatorship which can get things done and be held to account for them. But with the caveat that you can be stopped but in practice only by your own side, which gives protection to someone going a bit nuts once in office – they might face rebellions either because their own MPs are genuinely opposed or because they fear it will destroy the party’s electability.

        All of this ignores the House of Lords, which isn’t remotely democratic and often amends legislation quite a lot, but has conventions that mean it usually doesn’t directly oppose the government’s overall basic mandate (in particular, it has a convention not to oppose manifesto commitments and it doesn’t vote on ‘money bills’ so it can’t stop Government running its budgets)

    • Salem says:

      The Parliament argument isn’t about democracy per se. Few people have voted for their individual MPs, most have voted for the party or party leader (although all major parties have changed leaders since the last election…). Rather, it’s about scrutiny of the executive.

      Why do we have Parliament in the first place? Why can’t the Cabinet just rule by decree? Because democracy is a crude tool, we need greater levels of executive accountability than that. Why do we have a Cabinet in the first place? Why not just have all matters decided in Parliament? Because Parliament is too large, too public and too dysfunctional. As government has expanded over the past century, and as communication has become more (inter)national, the balance has therefore shifted massively towards Cabinet and the Civil Service. Gladstone and Disraeli would be astonished by the current position of the Commons. However, it seems to be shifting back a little since 2010.

      Clearly, the legislature can’t be directly involved in diplomacy (except in the sense that ministers are drawn from the legislature). That has never happened, and never will happen, it’s a prime preserve of the executive. But I would be surprised if there were no Parliamentary votes between now and the exit – for example, approving the government’s conduct of negotiations, or similar.

  21. Anatoly says:

    The Nobel Prize in literature is weird. It has prestige, but where’s the prestige coming from, given that its past history has been so checkered (misses include Tolstoy, Kafka, Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Nabokov… hits include many writers no one remembers or reads any longer…)? Perhaps it borrows prestige from the other Nobels?

    I think it likely that the Nobels in the sciences and medicine are more grounded in the reality of their fields. There is no history (?) of lots of truly outrageous omissions, nor an (admittedly subjective but widespread) reaction of “meh” every other year.

    Maybe in the dark ages of 1930s or 1950s there used to be many rich literature prizes, all fighting for respect and prestige, all of them lost now to history except the boldest one, the most cunning one, the one who bribed, slandered, or outright slaughtered all the others. But more likely, it seems to me, that it borrows prestige from the overall Nobel umbrella.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I think the root of the problem is the same root that results in artists becoming popular after they die: the really good art is almost always that art which is one generation ahead of its first readers.

    • dragnubbit says:

      Aren’t all prizes forms of signalling? To assume they are awarded on merit requires an antecedent that the people awarding the prize can both recognize merit and expect to be rewarded by their target audience for doing so.

      That likely applies still for most science-based Nobels (their biggest omissions are generally due to the unfortunate rule that your breakthrough must be obvious while you are still breathing).

    • Sandy says:

      The Literature and Peace prizes involve naturally more subjective achievements that have to be recognized and deemed fashionable by European high society. Hence why bizarre random choices like Eyvind Johnson take home the prize while Cormac McCarthy is looked over. Or why the Dalai Lama took home the Peace Prize for…..whatever it is the Dalai Lama does, while that African surgeon who saves rape victims toils away.

      There’s a few choices in the scientific Nobels that don’t hold up over time; an example would be the Nobel Prize for Medicine going to that guy who invented lobotomies. But the scientific prizes are generally less subjective because an invention or discovery either moves the field forward or it doesn’t.

      • DavidS says:

        Is it clear how much Nobels are meant to be for influence vs. for excellence?

        Part of the issue is that in science people broadly tend to agree (not always but generally) that very influential things are influential in a good direction – they represent new discoveries or interpretations that allow for discoveries etc. Partially because science is basically recognised as elite: it matters what scientists think. We don’t give Nobel prizes because someone has a massive popular influence in the field (e.g. convinces millions not to get a certain vaccine)

        For books (and art in general) what counts as ‘good’ or ‘influencing in the right direction’ is much more open to dispute.

    • Manya says:

      The cynical answer is that the prestige comes from the amount of money it represents. About $900,000, isn’t it?

  22. I got swamped by the previous open thread, so here are some comments….

    Am I the only person who noticed it was really hard for Eliezer to find out that politics was (a) for real stakes and (b) very difficult to do well? I give him credit for noticing and being public about how he found out.

    I’m generally in favor of open borders. I think the extent to which borders are closing down is a scary feature of the modern world. Also, does permitting immigration count as effective altruism?

    Someone in the previous thread said that anti-Semitism was a result of Jews not being permitted most ways of making a living and therefore ending up in banking. This has to be wrong because it would take anti-Semitism for Jews to not be allowed most ways of making a living.

    I’ve only read part of Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition suggests another mechanism. Jews were a distinct group, and looked to the central government for protection. When it wasn’t safe to attack the government directly, it was convenient to go after Jews.

    • Alex says:

      Am I the only person who noticed it was really hard for Eliezer to find out that politics was (a) for real stakes and (b) very difficult to do well? I give him credit for noticing and being public about how he found out.

      This sounds exactly like my mental model of him, but since I do not actually follow his publications, is there a link, so that I may indulge in confirmation bias?

        • Alex says:

          Thank you.

          To Yudkowskys credit his point seems to be that politics is (a) for real stakes and (b) very difficult to do well and (c) played by generally competent people as opposed to popular opinion, that politics is (a) for real stakes and (b) very difficult to do well and (c) played by generally incompetent people.

          Whether this is true or not, I do not think that it is trivial. Acknowledging other peoples’ competence is hard and I imagine that it is especially hard if you are Yudkowsky.

          So give the man more credit, I guess.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            A lot of people don’t get (b) either. They think there are , easy answers such as Eat the Rich, Blame Ethnicity X, Build a Wall, Moveable Houses, etc. Which feeds through into the idea that politicians are stupid or evil, because if they weren’t they would be implementing the easy solution.

        • Anonymous says:

          EY’s casual arrogance is astounding. From his post:

          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.
          […]
          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.

          Governing a large country actually requires competence and cannot be done by just any enlightened self-declared Rationalist? No shit, Sherlock.

          I appreciate his change of mind, and that he publicly admits that he was wrong. But even that is worded in a condescending, presumptuous way, assuming that since he didn’t know, most people probably didn’t.

          • Adrian says:

            Addendum: Oops, I didn’t mean to post this as Anonymous, I just forgot to fill in the fields below.

          • Autolykos says:

            It’s the typical level of arrogance one ends up with if one was among the smartest in their school and never encountered any actual experts. The lesson you get from school in that case is that expertise can be almost completely substituted by raw intelligence (that was my main takeaway, and I’d guess EY is at the very least one sigma smarter than me).
            You’ll only get cured from that belief once you get a chance to talk to someone who actually knows what they’re doing in a complicated field, and who takes you seriously enough to explain their reasoning (university does that, if you’re lucky). But even if you’re actively looking for it, you can go a very long way without ever meeting one of them. Many, many people are just faking it, and seniority and expertise are two very different things.

          • a non mouse says:

            It’s the typical level of arrogance one ends up with if one was among the smartest in their school and never encountered any actual experts.

            You’ll only get cured from that belief once you get a chance to talk to someone who actually knows what they’re doing in a complicated field, and who takes you seriously enough to explain their reasoning (university does that, if you’re lucky).

            EY dropped out of high school (likely for approximately that reason).

            There’s no real evidence that he’s that bright.

          • pku says:

            There is some pretty convincing evidence that he’s a good writer (e.g. the number of fans of his writing), but yeah, not much evidence that he’s brilliant in other fields.

            Also, the part of that post I found most irritating was the line about carrying the nuclear football being a step down from his day job.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      I’m generally in favor of open borders. I think the extent to which borders are closing down is a scary feature of the modern world. Also, does permitting immigration count as effective altruism?

      I don’t think you can call immigration altruism. Unless something changed since you wrote it you work for Google? That would make you firmly middle class. However immigration benefits the middle classes and the costs are paid by the working classes. Unless you’re paying the cost it isn’t altruism.

      Now if there was some sort of system where you could swap your citizenship with someone from a developing country so you go to live there and bring your skills while a young person came in your place and benefited from the opportunities available in the first world – that would probably be very effective altruism.

      This has to be wrong because it would take anti-Semitism for Jews to not be allowed most ways of making a living.

      Not really. There are other reasons other than anti-Semitism why this might happen.

      I believe that what happened was that in ye-olde-days Jews had faced significantly less prejudice than other religions. Jewish communities, though they faced prejudice, were actually aloud to live in some Christian and Muslim nations while Christians and Muslims were outright barred from entering each others lands. And most other religions (Norse Paganism, kemetism, etc) had been outright exterminated.

      So you had the Jews with special privileges that aloud them to live and practice in foreign lands. Then you had deuteronomy 23:20-23:21 (and whatever it’s Muslim equivalent is). The logic is clear:

      1) Banking is awesome for the economy.
      2) Bankers need interest to justify the risks.
      3) The bible says you can only charge interests to foreigners.
      4) Hey! We’ve got this special class of foreigners living in the next village.

      Obviously you can’t condense the entirety of medieval economics into 4 bullet points and a bible passage but the point is that medieval Jewish-goyim relationships were a complex subject.

      Jews were a distinct group, and looked to the central government for protection. When it wasn’t safe to attack the government directly, it was convenient to go after Jews.

      That’s what happens in The Rabbi’s Cat – which is an amazing book and you should read it.

      I would avoid any theory that puts down one singular cause for anti-Semitim though. It’s a complex subject an the above certainly doesn’t apply to the anti-Semitism coming from the SJW left (who tend to be stateist if not fond of the people actually in charge). SJW anti-Semitism is probably at heart the result of the dissonance between a worldview that divides everything into oppressed and oppressor and the Jewish community defying that categorization by being very successful despite facing all sorts of prejudice.

      (I think it’s our literally religious devotion to education. I always wonder why other marginalized groups don’t try and copy us).

      This dissonance resolved itself with them concluding Jews are not oppressed, therefore they must be an oppressor, and unfortunately for them applying that stupid logic to Jews is not socially acceptable in the way it is when applied to white men.

      • Sandy says:

        SJW anti-Semitism is probably at heart the result of the dissonance between a worldview that divides everything into oppressed and oppressor and the Jewish community defying that categorization by being very successful despite facing all sorts of prejudice.

        I would have thought it was mostly about Israel being, as someone else on this blog once said, a vaguely European population living in a vaguely colonial context.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          I actually think that’s getting cause and effect backwards. The need to resolve a contradiction came first, Israel was a justification.

          One thing SJWs are very good at is enforcing language and propagating the latest correct terminology. I think the SJW memeplex had the competencies it needed to create a language that criticizes Israel while avoiding anything that sounds like anti-Semitism you have to ask why it didn’t?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            One thing SJWs are very good at is enforcing language and propagating the latest correct terminology. I think the SJW memeplex had the competencies it needed to create a language that criticizes Israel while avoiding anything that sounds like anti-Semitism you have to ask why it didn’t?

            I’m not sure that’s true.

            PC language, since back when most of today’s SJWs were twinkles in their male-bodied parents’ eye, has always been focused on highlighting people. One of their biggest bugbears has always been saying ‘Xs’ instead of ‘X people’ or ‘people of/with X’. It’s a core part of how they do things.

            A criticism of Israel, using any remotely-PC terminology, will be a criticism of Israeli Jews. And it’s not really possible to criticize Jews without being seen as antisemitic by the media.

          • Sandy says:

            That depends on whether they had this ideological framework of privilege before Israel came into being. Peggy McIntosh wrote Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack in 1988. Kimberley Williams Crenshaw introduced intersectionality theory to the world a year later. Those two principles, the dichotomy of the privileged/oppressed and the interlinking of all struggles between the privileged and oppressed worldwide, form the core of most of the modern anti-Semitism on the left that you describe.

            But the New Left of the 60’s were the precursors of the modern culture warriors in many ways, and those guys were influenced by people like Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse, all Jews who supported Israel. Anti-Semitism didn’t begin to take root among the left until after Martin Luther King was assassinated and the Black Power movement took off; King defended Israel as “one of the great outposts of democracy”, but the black leaders who followed him were decidedly less sympathetic, especially after the Six Day War. Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers identified Zionism with imperialism; Carmichael even praised Hitler as the only white man he ever respected.

            (Side note: Stokely Carmichael remains the most stereotypically WASPy name I have ever heard)

            Several days before his death, King said of the more militant black activist crowd that they were “color-consumed and they see a kind of mystique in blackness or in being colored, and anything non-colored is condemned”. This was in an address to a rabbinical gathering. There’s a good deal of Jewish activism for social justice causes that is based on drawing a distinction between Jews and gentile whites as distinct populations with unaligned social interests. The problem with that conceit is that the vast majority of American Jews are Ashkenazim who are the most part physically indistinguishable from gentile whites; the fact that they are also a successful and powerful community in America does not help. Imagine a white-skinned, blue-eyed man trying to explain to a Black Panther that he is not the hated oppressor because he is Jewish. Worse, imagine expecting the Panther to care about these differences.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Avoiding anything that sounds like anti-Semitism? It’s not super rare to come across anti-Israel people repeating stuff that sounds like all the old conspiracy theories.

          • Deiseach says:

            Imagine a white-skinned, blue-eyed man trying to explain to a Black Panther that he is not the hated oppressor because he is Jewish.

            Oh, I’ve had a white-skinned, blue-eyed person of Jewish ancestry explaining on Tumblr that they weren’t white because they were Jewish (and so they didn’t have all those white person privileges and they were oppressed). I can see that being the descendant of immigrants who came to America because they were driven out by Cossacks and pogroms does count as oppression (for the grandparents and great-grandparents), but on the other hand, there aren’t that many Cossacks in America today.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            That depends on whether they had this ideological framework of privilege before Israel came into being.

            They could have easily changed their views on Israel once a new framework became popular.

            Oh, I’ve had a white-skinned, blue-eyed person of Jewish ancestry explaining on Tumblr that they weren’t white because they were Jewish (and so they didn’t have all those white person privileges and they were oppressed).

            It makes as much sense to me as anything else about the framework of intersectional privilege.

            Cossack pogroms and Nazi’s aren’t past the cutoff date (they’re more recent than the trans-Atlantic slave trade).

            Therefore Jews are an oppressed minority group.

            You cannot be oppressed and white.

            Therefore Jews are not white.

            Besides white has never been about skin colour; it’s only fairly recently that the Irish were considered white.

            Though personally I prefer to resolve the above contradiction by dropping the whole privilege framework. Assigning entire populations into oppressed and oppressor is just silly.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There aren’t that many slavers in America today, and as far as hate crimes go, there’s still more religiously motivated hate crime against Jews than members of any other religion… including Islam, which does get to play the oppression card.

          • Artificirius says:

            This works much better when you model privilege and intersection as a post hoc justification, not a heuristic.

          • LPSP says:

            I dunno, it seems to fit pretty firmly in my model of “ostentatious black guy making an effort to seem reputable” name-schema. It’s where the waters of names like Laquondarius Fletcher and Biscuits Giddyup meet.

        • BBA says:

          That may have been me who brought up the colonial context. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

          Yes, the left was more Zionist in the ’60s, and there were a few factors that made that change. An increased focus of the left on anti-colonialism and the fact that conditions significantly worsened for the Palestinians under Israeli rule were part of it. More cynically, a key tenet of the hard left is that the US Government is a force for evil, therefore anything the government supports is evil and anyone opposing them must be good, and US policy became much more pro-Israel after ’67. And at the same time the left became anti-Zionist, the Zionists became anti-left, with the term “neoconservative” being coined for the formerly left-wing Jews who suddenly started writing pro-Nixon screeds in Commentary magazine.

          That all happened well before the rise of “social justice” paradigms. By then structural antisemitism in America was a fading memory, American Jews were universally considered “white”, and Israel was obviously a central example of white colonialism.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            An increased focus of the left on anti-colonialism

            It’s weird how they didn’t care so much about anti-colonialism in the area when it was Jordan and Egypt doing the colonizing.

            Yeah… weird.

          • BBA says:

            You can’t be colonized by people of the same race, silly.

            More charitably, there were still lots of actual colonies to be against at the time.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The left has earned no charity whatsoever on this topic.

      • Sandy:

        Open borders might count as effective altruism because it makes immigrants better off (sometimes much better off) at low cost. Possibly even a financial gain with the only cost being emotional.

        Anti-Judaism came out in 2010 and doesn’t mention SJW or anti-racism. Anti-Semitism goes back to ancient Egypt– 410 BCE, well before both Christianity and Islam.

        Also, both Jews and Christians were permitted to live in Muslim countries. So far as I know, driving out Jews and Christians is a very recent development.

        • brad says:

          Just to be clear, by “open borders” do you mean anyone that wants to can immigrate, no questions asked?

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Anti-Judaism came out in 2010 and doesn’t mention SJW or anti-racism. ANti-Semitism goes back to ancient Egypt– 410 BCE, well before both Christianity and Islam.

          This is a UK centric perspective but SJW flavoured anti-Semitism only became noticed by the mainstream last year.

        • Sandy says:

          @Nancy:

          My point was that if Nirenberg points to a relationship between Jews and central governments as a root of anti-Semitism, that seems flawed because it was not always true, and in fact was commonly false in Europe. Often the best Jews could manage was to persuade the European monarchs to let them survive; forced displacement and punitive taxation were common.

          Also, both Jews and Christians were permitted to live in Muslim countries. So far as I know, driving out Jews and Christians is a very recent development.

          This isn’t true; Muhammad expelled Jewish tribes who violated his Medina constitution from what is now Saudi Arabia. The Qasimid kings of Yemen banished thousands of Jews to die in the Mawza desert because their council of Islamic scholars pointed out that Muhammad said there should not be two religions in the land of the Arabs. Likewise when Askia became king of the Songhai, he ordered the Jews in his domain to convert to Islam or get out.

          Details on Jews in Muslim countries throughout history are relatively rarer because there were not that many Jews still living in Muslim countries by the turn of the 20th century. Before the Holocaust, over 90% of the world’s Jews were Ashkenazim and the vast majority of them lived in Europe. There have been Muslim rulers who allowed Jews to live in their lands — as I said elsewhere on this thread, Sultan Bayezid II sent boats to rescue Jews expelled by the Catholic rulers of Spain — but virtually all Muslim kingdoms and empires have eventually ordered Jews to convert, leave or die.

          • David Friedman says:

            “but virtually all Muslim kingdoms and empires have eventually ordered Jews to convert, leave or die.”

            I do not believe that is even close to true.

            Consider the Ottomans, the last great Islamic empire. Or the Umayyad Caliphate, the first. Neither made any attempt to expel the Jews.

            There have been occasional cases of Islamic intolerance of Jews but they are the exception, not the rule. Muslim law is quite explicit about the legal status of the tolerated religions. Their members owe a special tax but do not owe the tax paid by Muslims, there are various restrictions on them, details varying from time to time and place to place.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            There have been occasional cases of Islamic intolerance of Jews but they are the exception, not the rule.

            It’s a pity how we’ve been living in one of those exceptions for several decades now.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Yes? The history of Islam is on the scale of centuries (at 14, it’s approaching millennia), not decades. Much of this century has been bad for various reasons and in various ways. Others were better.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The history of Islam is on the scale of centuries (at 14, it’s approaching millennia), not decades. Much of this century has been bad for various reasons and in various ways. Others were better.

            Unless you’ve got a time machine on you, that’s not tremendously useful to the present situation of Jews and other minorities in these regions.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Well, yeah, but Sandy (and David Friedman) was talking about the history of Jewish/Muslim relations, not the present day state of affairs.

            What point are you trying to make?

          • Part of what’s being argued about is whether the current bad state of affairs is a result of the intrinsic nature of Islam, so history is relevant.

            I’ve heard the argument that Islam has repeated fits of expansionism and authoritarianism because there’s always a temptation to get back to the (worst of?) the Koran, and that’s harder to either prove or refute.

      • David Friedman says:

        “while Christians and Muslims were outright barred from entering each others lands.”

        Not even close to true on the Muslim side. Muslim states often had large Christian populations–almost certainly larger than their Jewish populations. Both Christians and Jews counted as People of the Book, members of tolerated religions.

        In the other direction it varied. Southern Italy under Norman rule had substantial numbers of Muslims. So did Christian Spain prior to the expulsion at the end of the 15th century.

        • bluto says:

          Weren’t most of the Christians in Muslim lands there before the Arabian Empire took over? They were certainly tolerated, but I’m not sure they count as entering/immigrating into Muslim owned lands (I’d actually be curious to know if there are many hard numbers about migration during that era).

          • John Schilling says:

            A significant number of them were “Frankish” or “Roman” merchants, based out of defined Christian enclaves but with some freedom to travel in their business. Also significant were Christian pilgrims to various holy sites, though after 1098 one might argue there was an element of coercion or intimidation to that particular tolerance.

            Presumably some members of both groups didn’t bother to go home and so contributed to the permanent population.

          • S_J says:

            A significant number of them were “Frankish” or “Roman” merchants, based out of defined Christian enclaves but with some freedom to travel in their business.

            Wasn’t there a Greek-speaking, Eastern Orthodox religious structure in the Eastern Roman Empire…before the Caliphate came through, and established a new government?

            I don’t think those Orthodox believers count as “Frankish” or “Roman” mechants.

            What about the Coptic believers in North Africa, who were apparently the majority in that region before the conquests by the followers of Mohammed?

            The Coptic church still exists, but is is no longer the majority in those areas.

            The Caliphate conquered and subjugated a weakened empire that was religiously-Christian.

            The Caliphs (and their successor states) varied from tolerate-and-tax to persecute-and-drive out, in their attitudes towards Jews and Christians.

          • “I don’t think those Orthodox believers count as “Frankish” or “Roman” mechants.”

            From the Islamic point of view, the Byzantines were Romans and routinely referred to as such. The Roman Empire didn’t fall, it just lost its western provinces to the Franks.

    • Sandy says:

      Bernard Lazare makes for a rather curious case – as a Jewish intellectual, fervent Zionist and prominent defender of Alfred Dreyfus, he attempted a comprehensive historical examination of the root causes of anti-Semitism that is now fondly quoted by anti-Semites.

      Which virtues or which vices have earned for the Jew this universal enmity? Why was he ill-treated and hated alike and in turn by the Alexandrians and the Romans, by the Persians and the Arabs, by the Turks and the Christian nations ? Because, everywhere up to our own days the Jew was an unsociable being.

      Why was he unsociable ? Because he was exclusive, and his exclusiveness was both political and religious, or rather he held fast to his political and religious cult, to his law.

      Why were the Jews hated in all those countries, in all those cities? Because they never entered any city as citizens, but always as a privileged class. Though having left Palestine, they wanted above all to remain Jews, and their native country was still Jerusalem, i.e., the only city where God might be worshiped and sacrifices offered in His Temple. They formed everywhere republics, as it were, united with Judea and Jerusalem, and from every place they remitted monies to the high priest in payment of a special tax for the maintenance of the Temple.

      Moreover, they separated themselves from other inhabitants by their rites and their customs; they considered the soil of foreign nations impure and sought to constitute themselves in every city into a sort of a sacred territory. They lived apart, in special quarters, secluded among themselves, isolated, governing themselves by virtue of privileges which were jealously guarded by them, and excited the envy of their neighbours. They intermarried amongst themselves and entertained no strangers, for fear of pollution. The mystery with which they surrounded themselves excited curiosity as well as aversion. Their rites appeared strange and gave occasion for ridicule; being unknown, they were misrepresented and slandered.

      Nirenberg’s mechanism might explain societal anti-Semitism, but central governments attacked Jews too, whether by expulsion, punitive taxation or forbidding them to reproduce. I think piecing together one overarching explanation for anti-Semitism would be a fruitless endeavor. Places that were philosemitic once turned antisemitic eventually; the Ottoman Empire went from rescuing Jews after the Alhambra Decree to massacring them centuries later. Places that were antisemitic once turned philosemitic eventually; Jews now have the highest approval rating of any religious group in the United States.

      • caethan says:

        Speaking as a player of Crusader Kings 2, the major reason for expulsion as a ruler is that then you don’t have to pay back those big loans you took out.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Speaking as someone who once took a relevant university course or two, this is as I remember it correct. Jewish communities, and the moneylenders therein, would have the protection of local elites as long as the elites valued being able to borrow money more than they valued not having to pay that money back.

    • ReluctantEngineer says:

      Someone in the previous thread said that anti-Semitism was a result of Jews not being permitted most ways of making a living and therefore ending up in banking.

      I had always thought it was a different mechanism: Christians couldn’t go into banking (because usury was prohibited throughout most of the middle ages), so all the bankers ended up being Jews. I have no idea where I heard this though, so it is entirely possible that I invented it.

      • dragnubbit says:

        Sowell also asserts that outsiders are generally better at making credit decisions and saying no to uncredit-worthy individuals than insiders, which gives a natural advantage to minorities in retail. Sharing social circles and familial ties with your customer base can be a competitive disadvantage at least in some business types.

        • It’s been a while since I’ve read Sowell on the subject, but I think it’s not just a matter of being outsiders, other traits are needed as wel.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes he also ascribes cultural factors to explain why certain minorities succeed in filling those retail niches. But the niches exist because insiders are not dispassionate lenders and so can get sucked dry by freeloading relatives and friends.

      • Gazeboist says:

        I’ve definitely heard that before, so I doubt you invented it. Can’t speak to its veracity, though.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      I’m generally in favor of open borders. I think the extent to which borders are closing down is a scary feature of the modern world. Also, does permitting immigration count as effective altruism?

      Who cares about labels?

      Someone in the previous thread said that anti-Semitism was a result of Jews not being permitted most ways of making a living and therefore ending up in banking. This has to be wrong because it would take anti-Semitism for Jews to not be allowed most ways of making a living.

      X centuries ago, Christian/Islamic anti-semitism had the effect X. Later on, when Christianity wasn’t as important to the identity of as many as it once was, it turned out effect X might stir up a lot of discontent anyway.

      You know, maybe.

    • Deiseach says:

      I give him credit for noticing and being public about how he found out.

      I don’t. He’s doing what he occasionally seems to do: finally pays attention to what the yokels outside his window are yammering on about, realises holy crap, this is actually a serious bit of business, and decides that now he’s an instant expert on the topic who must bring it to the attention of the rest of us, because if a Smart Guy like him only realised what was going on so recently, then the rest of us lamebrains plainly don’t have a clue.

      Sorry, but some of us lamebrains knew quite well (a) there is such a thing as political theatre, posturing, and party propaganda disguised as concern for the state of the nation and (b) under that, there is the deadly serious business of governing a country, which includes international relationships and foreign policy, and which is subtle, tricky, and often in the hands of very much not disinterested parties who pull the strings and that we, the people casting our votes, have very little influence over the process.

      Nice that he finally woke up and realised the world is going on under his nose, but I don’t appreciate the “let me explain how to suck eggs, grandmother” tone of his post.

      • DavidS says:

        Also even though he does say things about how he’s not really that informed etc. he still manages to write in terms of the key divide being betwee ‘people who understand national security like me’ and everyone else. I mean, I probably agree with his take. But I’m sure there are intelligent people who have read six or seven history books who disagree that Trump’s move was awful and think the objections are in fact pearl-clutching.

        I mean, as a fellow complete non-expert I could argue that WWI was actually caused by the build up of big alliance chains that drew more people in, and if you hadn’t had all those pledges of protection it wouldn’t happen, and so US should leave NATO.

        Also he treats corruption and abuse of office as not-serious and bad national security judgement as serious, and then focuses his arguments on why the latter really is serious rather than why the former isn’t. His example of the convicted child abuser is obviously ridiculous but we should definitely be incredibly wary of electing an unelected one: aside from the underlying questions of whether their activity suggests a more widely relevant mental illness or immense moral failing (I’d guess at least one!) they’re also hugely blackmailable which is fairly terrible in a world leader.

    • Tekhno says:

      I’m generally in favor of open borders. I think the extent to which borders are closing down is a scary feature of the modern world.

      I refer to this comment I made two threads back, but I’ll say here that when I hear things like “I support open borders”, I translate it to “I want the far-right to take over”, just as when I hear things like “I want no welfare state” or “no financial regulation”, I hear “I want the far-left to take over”.

      What’s happening now is only scary because it was done too late, but it would be even scarier if liberal nationalist and civic nationalist politicians weren’t making the necessary correction that the public demanded, because then when the dams finally did burst, it would be the bloodthirsty ethno-nationalists in power instead, and they wouldn’t merely be defining that their nation-states exist.

      Also, does permitting immigration count as effective altruism?

      Why this weird dichotomy? I don’t think completely stopping all immigration is the other side here.

    • LPSP says:

      That Yudkowsky post is an amusing low from the guy. We all knew he was sheltered (shteltered?), but sheesh.

      Anti-semetism seems to fall into three categories:

      1) Orthodoxy of Christian and Muslim denominations looking to scour (and later squeeze) vulnerable minority religions

      2) General xenophobia, especially from Germans who still possessed hard tribal barbarian instincts beyond that of the other founding Holy Roman Empire territories

      3) The most important reason – after generations of the first two, Ashkenazi Jews had been shaped into an extremely careful and increasingly intelligent survivalist demographic – very sensitive, socially capable yet conservative in general dealings, highly resourceful and efficient, and seeks to evade conflict wherever possible. This, along with the partial, eventually increasing prominence of wealth in Jewish communities, created a feedback loop with the first two reasons, as gentile groups willing to engage in bigotry could use brute force to squeeze Jewish enclaves for wealth, knowing the Jews would at most avoid. The times changed and Jews are now highly secure from anti-Semetic attack, but certain instincts live on among non-Jews for targetting them.

  23. Anon. says:

    Bob Dylan wins the Nobel prize in literature.

  24. Deiseach says:

    Having seen this in the news, I have no idea what to think. What with Elon Musk wanting to set up a Martian colony to ensure the survival of humanity, and now this, are we really expecting the apocalypse?

    • Tekhno says:

      All I can say is that this is awesome and I hope it goes through. I suspect it will be resisted and won’t be able to get its status, however.

      Not that there won’t be nation-states in space (the idea of socializing the entirety of space is ridiculous), but it probably won’t be this project, simply because it’s too early to accomplish. States independent from existing ones are probably going to have to fight for it.

    • dragnubbit says:

      If by apocalypse, you mean wealthy people using attractive fantasies and false solutions to bamboozle the general public and investors into funding their research and development of technologies that they plan to sell back to the public at a profit afterwards in real-world mundane applications and to boost their stock price and public image, then yes, the apocalypse is here.

    • John Schilling says:

      If you’ve got a plan for the Glorious Future of Mankind in Space!, but you don’t have the budget for a spaceship, your plan is irrelevant. Whoever does have the budget for a spaceship will have their own plan, and it won’t be yours. That goes for Mars One, and it goes for these guys.

    • bean says:

      No, that’s a bunch of university professors who decided that this would be a cool project. Budgetary issues aside, their legal arrangements are dubious at best, with clear problems getting out from under the Outer Space Treaty. That says they’re under the jurisdiction of the launching state, and it’s really hard to get away from. Their technical details are nonexistent. And I’m not sure what they actually plan to do, either.

      • anon says:

        Why should anyone give a crap about the Outer Space Treaty, at least with regard to its provisions that are unlikely to ever be enforced? You might care if you want to bring people or resources from an extra-terrestrial jurisdiction to Earth, because of interdiction. But I don’t think Elon, for example, needs to worry about the U.N. sending blue helmets to enforce the OST against colonists who claim land on Mars.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          And if they do, he wins anyway, because the UN would have to colonize space itself in order to enforce the treaty.

        • John Schilling says:

          But I don’t think Elon, for example, needs to worry about the U.N. sending blue helmets to enforce the OST against colonists who claim land on Mars.

          For quite some time to come, human life on Mars will depend on sophisticated bits of hardware that are only made in large industrial complexes on Earth, and can be delivered to Mars only by large and expensive rockets built on Earth, by people who won’t bother to do these things if they aren’t getting paid in Earth dollars.

          If the governments of Earth decide that you are annoying enough, they can with a few strokes of the bureaucratic pen guarantee that you’ll never again get a new reverse-osmosis membrane for your water recycling system. Blue helmets not required. And really, it probably only takes one government to make that happen, unless some other government is willing to pick a fight with them over, what, a bunch of space cadets who have absented themselves from Earth’s political affairs?

          The Prime Directive of any space settlement or colonization effort of this century is going to have to be, “Don’t annoy the Earthicans, period”. Unfortunately, some would-be space colonists seem to have this as their goal.

          • anon says:

            I do not agree with your premise. I suspect that a Mars colony would be roughly self-sustaining after being seeded with ~1000 people and ~1k tons of supplies and equipment. Stuff like launching their own comsats to get the internet (with 20 minute latency) would be beyond them for a long time, which would be a powerful motivation to cooperate with Earth. But the stronger assertion that the colonists would literally die without resupply form Earth seems to me unfounded. It may be true that *right now* we believe the colonists would be dependent upon nonrenewable goods (CO2 scrubbers? PV cells? etc) that seem difficult to produce using plausible in situ resources and infrastructure. But this assessment is based on technological assumptions that could become quickly obsolete.

            Plus of which, I’m not even sure I believe the politics of denying resources to OST-skeptical colonists are at all plausible. If space access is commoditized to the point where large-scale colonization is feasible, colonial missions (including resupply) could be Kickstartable affairs. I doubt the signatories actually enough about the principles behind the OST to pull the trigger on actions that would harm their (ex-)citizens, even passively.

          • bean says:

            Will they literally die immediately without supplies from Earth? No. But I doubt they’d be able to keep running at anything other than a sustenance level over more than a year or two. You run out of reverse-osmosis filters, and have to improvise a distillation rig. Which takes a bunch of energy, and is maintenance-intensive. The extra energy has to come from somewhere, and that means slower growing cycles for the crops. Which means you have to switch to crops that grow more efficiently to get enough calories. Oh, and your pumps are starting to wear out, and you have no replacements. You can build new ones, but your stock of metals is running out. Now you need to build the infrastructure to recycle the old parts. Out of whatever random junk isn’t already being used to hold your colony together.
            It’s just not going to be worth it for most people. There might be a few die-hards who would set themselves up for that kind of thing, but in practice, I expect them to be pretty quiet, and suffer benign neglect. The loud ones won’t get launch permits in the first place.

            I suspect that a Mars colony would be roughly self-sustaining after being seeded with ~1000 people and ~1k tons of supplies and equipment.

            One ton per person? That’s a ludicrous underestimate. Try tens of tons per person at minimum. I’d also put the number of people required much higher.

            But this assessment is based on technological assumptions that could become quickly obsolete.

            How? Mechanical things wear out. Nothing is going to change that. You’d have to ship the infrastructure to repair everything, which is a lot more expensive than sending replacement parts occasionally unless your volume is truly huge. And that takes it out of this century.

            If space access is commoditized to the point where large-scale colonization is feasible, colonial missions (including resupply) could be Kickstartable affairs.

            And when the FAA refuses the permit because you’re trying to ship supplies to criminals? Remember that ships in space go fast enough regulation is inevitable, and everyone sees everything.

          • John Schilling says:

            I suspect that a Mars colony would be roughly self-sustaining after being seeded with ~1000 people and ~1k tons of supplies and equipment.

            And you’re basing that on, what exactly?

            I build space hardware for a living, and I’m not the only one here. Well, technically, at this stage in my career I look over other people’s shoulders as they build space hardware and say “here’s what you’re doing wrong…”

            I look at systems vastly simpler than a Mars colony, and go out and do site visits to the people who are building the parts and components, and I see a dedicated supply chain that extends to far more than 1,000 people, production infrastructure that goes well beyond 1,000 tons of hardware. I have put a fair bit of thought into how that can be simplified, and I’ve talked to and read the technical publications of others who have done far more, and I’m not seeing self-sufficiency at that level.

            So, of your 1,000 self-sufficient Martians, how many are involved in making reverse-osmosis membranes, and do you understand that this is one of more than a thousand things the Martians will need? Or do you imagine that manufacturing a reverse-osmosis membrane is something that can be done by a dilettante their spare time? Or were you planning to drink unrecycled piss for the rest of your life?

            Really, if you’ve got anything more than handwaving, you should write this up for publication.

          • Iain says:

            I like Charles Stross’s take on this, about the minimum number of people necessary to maintain our current level of technical sophistication. (He guesses a hundred million.)

          • bean says:

            This thread does bring something to mind. What if the people in question aren’t trying to maintain today’s technological standards?
            Let’s call our group the Space Amish. They’re a religious movement who wants far, far away from bad influences, and considers much of modern technology to be bad. They somehow have lots of money (let’s assume Elon Musk converts to them in a few years or something of that nature) and so getting to space isn’t the problem. Their goal is self-sufficiency, regardless of tech level. How far back do they/can they go, and how many people do they need?
            My guess is that we’re looking at a late 50s-early 60s tech in most cases, with about 10,000 people needed. I don’t have strong backing for those numbers, but any attempt at living in space (or on the Moon/Mars) is going to need stuff that just wasn’t available before then. Thoughts?

          • Would anyone care to speculate on how good nanotech and 3D printing would need to become to significantly simplify the life support problem? And how long it would take for them to get that good?

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            Would anyone care to speculate on how good nanotech and 3D printing would need to become to significantly simplify the life support problem? And how long it would take for them to get that good?

            I can’t speak to 3D printing, but for nanotech:

            If you’re referring to something like self-replicating nanobots, that sort of thing is very much the stuff of science fiction, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Current nanoscience research is mostly about materials: trying to make things lighter, stronger, purer, more/less conductive, have very high surface areas (useful for chemical catalysts), etc.

            It’s possible that this kind of research could lead to e.g. more effective carbon dioxide scrubbers or better water filtration systems or something, but it won’t really simplify the life support problem — nanotech-powered water filters will almost certainly be harder to manufacture than non-nanotech filters.

          • Iain says:

            I find it unlikely that you can have any sort of self-sustaining space colony without a significant industrial base. Consider, for example, the task of lighting up Space Amish Village. The Space Amish need: glass, and a method for turning it into vacuum tubes; a source of tungsten (or Space Bamboo; Edison’s first light bulbs used bamboo because the technology for making tungsten filaments wasn’t good enough yet); a source of metal for the other parts of the light bulb, and the equipment needed to refine and shape that metal; a source of electricity; and, most importantly: the tools and resources required to recreate all of the previous items from scratch when they wear out. Now repeat that for every single other necessity of life, bearing in mind that you are in space, don’t have easy access to a plentiful biosphere, and have to do all your own mining.

            There’s a similar issue with 3D printers: you don’t just need really good printers, you need a) really good printers that don’t require anything that they can’t themselves print, and b) a supply of feed stock that those printers can use as input. That strikes me as a problem whose solution is pretty far in the future. Self-replicating nanobots are just 3D printers that meet all the previous requirements, while also jumping through the hoop of being microscopic. I can’t see any way that nanotechnology makes anything easier.

            I would want at least one order of magnitude more people than Bean’s 10,000. Maybe two.

          • @John Schilling:

            Does your conclusion change if there is a major technological breakthrough on the production end? Molecular nanotechnology is the obvious candidate. Your inputs are atoms, readily available on Mars. The tools are general purpose assemblers. Those plus information build everything.

            3D printers are a less extreme version, and would have to be a lot better than they now are to do the job.

          • John Schilling says:

            Would anyone care to speculate on how good nanotech and 3D printing would need to become to significantly simplify the life support problem?

            3D printing would do more for making a minimalist extraterrestrial civilization richer than it would for making it smaller.

            A 3D printer can’t do much that a CNC mill cannot, and the CNC system can’t do much my grandfather couldn’t do with a basement full of hundred-year-old machine tools. What it can do, is much more of the same stuff with less of one specific sort of human input.

            Now, on Earth today and probably on Mars in 2050, skilled machinists are always in short supply. But if it takes 10,000 people to make for a self-sufficient extraterrestrial civilization, which I think is a plausible low end, maybe only 500 of those are machinists. Five thousand are mothers and children, five hundred are farmers, five hundred are miners, five hundred are leaders, and the rest are five each of six hundred different specialties you can’t live without and none of which involve assembling homogenous matter into arbitrary shapes.

            So, if 3D printing increases the productivity of your machinists by a factor of a hundred, you can reduce that minimal population from 10,000 to 9,505.

            Or, you can go from being able to keep the five Mars rovers spare parts for their semi-annual runs to the outlying mining camps that simply have to be maintained, to keeping fifty rovers in good repair for less critical duties including the Martian Iditarod, the occasional research expedition, and turning a blind eye to your teenage son driving over to the next chasm for a bit of privacy with his girl.

            Nanotech, depends on how magical you want to make it. SFnal general-purpose robots are another approach, if you see an advantage to having a hundred people and ten thousand robots instead of just ten thousand people. But what we’re looking for, if the goal is to reduce the minimal size of a civilization, is maximum versatility. And “can form metal and plastic into any shape”, is too small a portion of the relevant landscape to make much difference.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think that people are seriously over estimating the difficulty of some of these problems.

            Just because NASA insists on making everything out of crazy titanium alloys and working tolerances out to the 9th decimal point doesn’t mean that a hypothetical colony needs to do so.

            There isn’t anything on Iain’s list that can’t be accomplished with simple hand tools and a couple of houseplants.

          • gbdub says:

            Does your conclusion change if there is a major technological breakthrough on the production end? Molecular nanotechnology is the obvious candidate. Your inputs are atoms, readily available on Mars. The tools are general purpose assemblers. Those plus information build everything.

            “Universal Assemblers” are really what you need though – nothing less will really do. A universal assembler could be a nanotech machine (really it would need to be subatomic, unless you luck out and land on top of sufficient reserves of every element you might need), or it could be a fully-developed traditional manufacturing base. The latter takes a lot more than 10,000 people, and the former seems very far off, if it is even possible.

            For a small colony, it’s unlikely that true self-sufficiency would make economic sense, even if possible. Consider that to be self-sufficient, you need the ability to replace anything you might use up or break. To do so, you’ve got 3 options:

            1) Make everything you might need out of locally obtained resources. This is the holy grail, and the only truly “self-sufficient” method. But it requires not only manufacturing capability, but also all of the infrastructure for resource extraction. For a small colony, the extra people, supplies, etc. needed to get all the raw materials you need could quickly surpass the cost of shipping in what you need to keep your small crew alive indefinitely.

            2) Make everything locally, with some input from Earth raw materials. Could work, especially if you design for interchageability (limiting unique spares) and for use of some in-situ bulky materials (e.g. rocket fuel from the atmosphere and homes made of Martian bricks). But you still need a supply line of some kind, and shipping raw materials from Earth is just as expensive as shipping in equivalent mass of manufactured stuff (the cost of manufacturing is negligible compared to the cost of moving it from Earth to Mars).

            3) Ship in almost everything you need. This seems wildly expensive, but consider that, until you get advanced manufacturing capability on Mars, everything from Earth will be better. More efficient, more reliable, etc. Yeah, maybe you can get a “Made on Mars!” air scrubber, but if the Earth version is a tenth the size, lasts 10 times as long, and doesn’t require supporting a hundred Martians on the air scrubber assembly line, you still might be better off shipping it in.

          • Iain says:

            There isn’t anything on Iain’s list that can’t be accomplished with simple hand tools and a couple of houseplants.

            Here’s the deal. I will give you as many hand tools and house plants as your heart desires. You go to Antarctica and come back with a working light bulb. Then we can start talking about Mars.

          • John Schilling says:

            There isn’t anything on Iain’s list that can’t be accomplished with simple hand tools and a couple of houseplants.

            You forgot the stone knives, bearskins, and some sort of rudimentary lathe.

          • bean says:

            Just because NASA insists on making everything out of crazy titanium alloys and working tolerances out to the 9th decimal point doesn’t mean that a hypothetical colony needs to do so.

            There isn’t anything on Iain’s list that can’t be accomplished with simple hand tools and a couple of houseplants.

            That’s taking things a bit far, but it’s not entirely wrong, either. You don’t need a continuous glass industry to make light bulbs, for instance. Most of the time, you just pull and replace the filament. If the bulb breaks, you recycle the fragments. As the colony grows, you will need more, but the obvious thing to do is make a big batch occasionally. It’s been long time since I did serious work on ISRU, but I believe glass can be made from most lunar regolith. Metal is a bit harder without the processes that concentrate it on Earth, but I think there are supposed to be intact nickle-iron asteroid fragments on the lunar surface. I can’t speak for Mars.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Here’s the deal. I will give you as many hand tools and house plants as your heart desires. You go to Antarctica and come back with a working light bulb. Then we can start talking about Mars.

            I’ve made replacement tubes for old radios out of raw glass and wire stock while sitting on my patio and I can carry the complete set of tools I need to do so in a 5 gallon bucket. Lets talk.

          • Tekhno says:

            True autarky would require that you were able to make everything you need out of a very small number of elements that are local (will graphene fulfill its magical promises?), which is a long long way away, but possible within the laws of physics.

            Combine that with automation, and independent colonies may not need to be large, but that’s a far flung thing.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve made replacement tubes for old radios out of raw glass and wire stock

            Sorry, the correct answer was “sand and ore”. Do you have any idea how large an industrial base is required to provide you with raw glass and wire (and to replace the tools you use as they wear out)?

            The Toaster Project seems relevant here. Now consider the Spacesuit Project, with the death penalty, no appeal, if you don’t finish before your initial spacesuit wears out.

          • hlynkacg says:

            you have any idea how large an industrial base is required to provide you with raw glass and wire

            Yes and the number is much smaller than 10,000 closer to 5 actually…

            Someone to collect the sand and ore
            Someone with a furnace to melt it down
            A glass blower to make glass
            A metal worker/machinist to make wire, screws, and screwdrivers.
            My goofy ass to make the vacuum tubes.

            …and that’s assuming that no one does more than one job.

            The toaster guy was an art student with 0 technical know-how who was doing it primarily “for the art” rather than to make a working toaster. He still managed to make a toaster and I think our hypothetical colonists will be able to do better.

          • CatCube says:

            @hlynkacg

            You’re positing a space society where small, artisanal shops make raw materials? OK, I mean we’ve had glass and metal longer than we’ve had massive industrial concerns, but raw materials were very expensive there. I can’t remember which of the Little House on the Prairie books it was, but Laura Ignalls Wilder talked of getting a tin cup for Christmas; she was overjoyed because it meant she had a cup of her very own, and no longer had to share with her sister during mealtimes. It wasn’t making the cup that would have prevented her having her very own until her parents wanted to splurge. Making a cup isn’t that hard. It’s the cost of the tin that was the showstopper.

            I don’t think you realize the extent to which you have to trade off labor and materials. I don’t blame you; I didn’t really realize it until it was shoved in my face at work. Another junior structural engineer and myself were looking over the as-builts for one of our dams a year or so ago. This was designed in the late ’40s and built in the ’50s, right at the end of the “You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor” era. Both of us were marveling at the use of cover plates on steel I-sections in the lock gates, which require extensive welding, until an engineer who started in the ’70s pointed out that it saved a lot of material. It required a great deal of labor to construct, however. We live in an area where it makes more sense to use more (cheap) material to save on (expensive) labor, and neither of us realized that it wasn’t long ago that the opposite was true.

            You’re positing a space society in which both labor and materials will be very precious; it’s going to run into a wall sooner or later, very probably sooner. You can come up with a solution to any individual problem–like your talking about having some dude smelt glass–but you’re going to run out of resources to solve all your problems before they kill you.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That’s just the thing though.

            I fix old tech for fun, and often end up having to make my own replacement parts. Trading labor for materials is something I totally get.

            The thing that I think that John has fundamentally failed to realize is that living in space means living there 24 / 7 / 365 / 60+. These aren’t NASA astronauts operating on a strict time-table. The “Little House on the Prairie” scenario you describe where labor is cheap but materials aren’t is pretty much the exact situation that our first generation of colonists will find themselves in.

          • CatCube says:

            I can’t speak for John, of course, but it sounds like you and I are in agreement on the availability of labor and materiel.

            I disagree with you that our notional colonists trying to make a go of it without any inputs from the homeworld will be in a situation like in “Little House on the Prairie.” Pa still ran to town to purchase an awful lot of stuff–he didn’t make the cup I referenced, he purchased it from a shopkeeper who imported it from outside Kansas. Frontier living was liable to kill you on Earth, much less where a leak in the roof will cause you to suffocate in minutes.

          • John Schilling says:

            The thing that I think that John has fundamentally failed to realize is that living in space means living there 24 / 7 / 365 / 60+. These aren’t NASA astronauts operating on a strict time-table.

            You are incorrect. My understanding of this matter is in no way informed by “NASA astronauts” or really much of anything involving NASA. Those are straw men of your own creation, and I’m done with you.

          • hlynkacg says:

            To be clear, I don’t think that our notional colonists will be able to make a go of it without input from earth. At the very least they’ll need a bunch of seed gear and a vessel to get them there. That said I think that John Schilling, et all, are seriously overestimating the amount of input required…

            From NASA’s perspective sending Col. Hadfield to the ISS only for him to spend 6 hours a day fabricating parts that can be purchased on earth for $20 dollars a pop is a massive waste of a trained specialist’s time and labor. However, as far as a colonist is concerned, old man Hadfield sitting in his shop building radios, is being eminently productive.

            Like I said before, just because NASA insists on making everything out of crazy titanium alloys and working tolerances out to the 9th decimal point doesn’t mean that a hypothetical colony needs to do so.

            Edit after being ninja’d…

            @ John Schilling.
            You’re still making the mistake of assuming that all production must be mass production. As Catcube says above, we’ve had glass and metal longer than we’ve had massive industrial concerns.

            Who cares if the first space suits manufactured entirely on Mars look more like something out of Bioshock than The Martian? I don’t.

        • bean says:

          I can only endorse John’s reply to this. If you can afford to totally cut yourself off from Earth, then it might be possible to declare practical independence. That’s unlikely in any of our lifetimes. The only realistic alternative is for you to find someone to sponsor your independence. The US and China are in a diplomatic row, so the US agrees to take over as the supplier of reverse osmosis filters and the like for the Chinese lunar colonies. Or, more likely, agrees to not interfere with said lunar colonies buying supplies in the US and paying for transport to them. As well as guaranteeing that the Chinese will not interfere with the transit of said supplies. And this is obvious geopolitical maneuvering, no different from what happens on Earth.

        • Randy M says:

          It would be a different story on a hypothetical earth-like planet in a different system, or after some kind of terraforming, but a colony on a hostile planet I expect would be incredibly vulnerable even to delays.

        • dragnubbit says:

          All this discussion about colonizing Mars (or even a convenient asteroid) is just sci-fi fantasizing.

          If I was given a large budget to protect a sizeable population from a world apocalypse in a sustainable fashion that could minimize risk and dependence on technological miracles, or even just to isolate them from Earth politics, etc. and was actually being judged on my success by the only critic that matters (reality), I and every other person who studied the problem seriously would be heading in the opposite direction of up.

          Dreaming about Mars is fun. That is all.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I and every other person who studied the problem seriously would be heading in the opposite direction of up.

            Err no, the whole point of getting off planet is to be isolated from Earth based catastrophes and the tech required to build and properly isolate an underground colony just as if not more complex than the tech required to do so in space. In many ways doing it in space is easier. The biggest obstacle is getting to space in the first place.

          • John Schilling says:

            I and every other person who studied the problem seriously

            This would be the part where you offer citations. Because the people who have studied this problem seriously might be worth paying attention to, but I have my doubts that you are among them.

          • Randy M says:

            I thought he was going for the moon. What is the trade-off in terms of ease of transport vs calamities not avoided? Obviously some things that destroy the earth will also destroy the moon, but not all, and it is much cheaper to get to than Mars [citation needed].

          • bean says:

            I thought he was going for the moon.

            I’m pretty sure he was talking underground/underwater. The basic difference is that they’re much closer, which is good and bad. Good in that shipping is a lot easier. Bad in that it makes it a lot more likely that the plague gets in or the barbarians manage to break the gates. Or that a random nuke lands on your head.

            What is the trade-off in terms of ease of transport vs calamities not avoided? Obviously some things that destroy the earth will also destroy the moon, but not all, and it is much cheaper to get to than Mars [citation needed].

            I’m definitely in the lunar colonization camp. The only real downside to the proximity to Earth is that it means the colonies are more likely to have close political links to Earth, and thus get drawn into wars. That, and a shorter natural period for quarantine, I guess. The chances of a non-man-made cataclysm being a problem are basically zero, because that’s straight-up geocide territory.

          • dragnubbit says:

            radiation
            thermal control
            atmosphere
            pressure
            gravity
            access to water
            access to all other minerals
            access to nutrients
            transport costs
            scalability (do all this for millions, not hundreds)
            sustainability (do all this after your 1st generation of equipment needs to be replaced)

            These are all solved problems underground (ventilation would be an engineering challenge, but nowhere near any of the other challenges posed extra-terrestrially).

            But my first choice is to do the earth science necessary to save the near-perfect habitat we already have, and in the event of global thermonuclear war we would not even have to go underground. Unless we managed to literally destroy our own atmosphere, this rock is always going to be better than any other rock.

            And if you want some meta arguments:
            1) Investing in space colonies may cause people to discount the real dangers of screwing up this planet
            2) Investing in space colonies diverts resources that would be better used to reinforce and protect the 99.9% effective habitat we have. One of those resources being really smart scientists.
            3) After 30 years of investing in space colonies with billions and billions of dollars, and producing a one-way trip to mars for 50 people who most likely will either die within 10 years or have to be bailed out with 10’s of billions of dollars annually, scientists might lose some credibility with the general public for overpromising and underdelivering on the ability for Junior to move to Mars.

            And now the second-level meta argument:
            1) We may have to waste those 100’s of billions of dollars precisely so the types of scientists who advise such boondoggles do lose their credibility and the general public is finally convinced this Earth is it and we really can’t fuck with it.

          • bean says:

            radiation
            thermal control
            atmosphere
            pressure
            gravity
            access to water
            access to all other minerals
            access to nutrients
            transport costs
            scalability (do all this for millions, not hundreds)
            sustainability (do all this after your 1st generation of equipment needs to be replaced)

            Yes, it will be hard to build a large hab in deep space if I insist on getting all of my materials from Earth. Guess what nobody serious is planning to do? Look up ISRU and O’Neil Habitats and get back to us.

          • gbdub says:

            The moon is a poor choice for colonization. It doesn’t really have anything useful there (compared to any other random space rock), and, despite being much closer than, say, Mars, actually isn’t that much easier to get to.

            The main challenge of getting something somewhere else in space is delta-velocity, and landing on the moon is tough because it’s fairly massive (lots of delta-V required to enter/leave orbit) and doesn’t have an atmosphere (you can’t use any aerobraking – every ounce you want to land on Luna needs to be decelerated from orbit with a rocket of some kind).

            If you’re a person, the short duration trip to the moon is a plus, but that doesn’t matter much at all for inert cargo.

          • bean says:

            The moon is a poor choice for colonization. It doesn’t really have anything useful there (compared to any other random space rock), and, despite being much closer than, say, Mars, actually isn’t that much easier to get to.

            Let’s see. He3 (although at annoyingly low concentrations). Possible platinum-group metals. Various components of the regolith, which have been extensively studied for ISRU uses. Oh, and quite a bit of water.

            The main challenge of getting something somewhere else in space is delta-velocity, and landing on the moon is tough because it’s fairly massive (lots of delta-V required to enter/leave orbit) and doesn’t have an atmosphere (you can’t use any aerobraking – every ounce you want to land on Luna needs to be decelerated from orbit with a rocket of some kind).

            But I can bootstrap the rocket out of lunar materials. If I’m feeling wasteful, I’ll use water to make an LOX/LH2 rocket. If I’m sensible, it’ll be Al-LOX. Also, the atmosphere of Mars only helps going out. If I want to come back, I have to get through it and off of Mars, then come back to Earth separately. The two challenges are not symmetrical.
            Also, I’ve seen plans (which may or may not have been written by crazy people, I admit) for non-rocket landings on the moon. And non-rocket launch is pretty easy.

            If you’re a person, the short duration trip to the moon is a plus, but that doesn’t matter much at all for inert cargo.

            The point of colonization is to put people there, not just inert cargo.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not saying there’s nothing you can use on the moon, just that it’s not uniquely resourceful, with the downside of a relatively deep gravity well.

            If we’re talking about a long term colony, we’re going to be sending a lot more stuff to the colony then we are getting back. Same with people. The extra challenge of getting something out of the Martian atmosphere wouldn’t matter as much, because you’d be doing it less often.

            Anyway you’ve apparently been thinking about a lunar colony on a sophisticated level. Mostly I get annoyed by the sort that see the Moon and think it’s an obvious “stepping stone” to Mars – they are unique challenges, not really sequential ones.

          • bean says:

            I’m not saying there’s nothing you can use on the moon, just that it’s not uniquely resourceful, with the downside of a relatively deep gravity well.

            What do they say about real estate? Location, location, location. I’ll agree that it’s not the best location for getting resources, but it’s so much closer than anything else that it balances out.

            If we’re talking about a long term colony, we’re going to be sending a lot more stuff to the colony then we are getting back. Same with people. The extra challenge of getting something out of the Martian atmosphere wouldn’t matter as much, because you’d be doing it less often.

            Ideally, you’d want some trade long-term, and that means getting stuff back. Plus, the moon has a lot of advantages in terms of providing resources for work in near-Earth space.

            Anyway you’ve apparently been thinking about a lunar colony on a sophisticated level. Mostly I get annoyed by the sort that see the Moon and think it’s an obvious “stepping stone” to Mars – they are unique challenges, not really sequential ones.

            I would say that a Lunar colony would give us valuable knowledge that could be applied on Mars. And I think that Luna is probably at least as important as Mars to our future in space. Mars isn’t even a good place to get resources from. Luna is. If your only goal is to get to Mars, then a Lunar colony may or may not be a waste of money. On the other hand, if Mars is your only goal, you need your head examined. That sort of thinking will get the planetary geologists a nice set of red rocks to go with the grey ones they got 45 years ago, and our grandchildren will be in the same place we’re in.

          • gbdub says:

            What do they say about real estate? Location, location, location. I’ll agree that it’s not the best location for getting resources, but it’s so much closer than anything else that it balances out.

            No no no! This is the fallacy that laymen are committing and I don’t want it perpetuated. In space travel, “closer” is not merely a function of distance. The data point most relevant is “how much of my limited resources must I spend to get from A to B?” and the biggest expendable resource is usually reaction mass / rocket fuel. So how much delta-V you need to propulsively supply is very important, perhaps the most important thing, depending on the application. And that application and velocity dependence is why “location, location, location” is a very poor model for assessing extraterrestrial destinations.

          • LHN says:

            Though while delta-v is important, I wouldn’t think time and the availability of launch windows would be irrelevant, and the Moon AFAIK has some serious advantages there. (Whether enough to overcome Mars’ own advantages, I can’t say.)

          • bean says:

            @gbdub
            Distance may not be the only thing, but it’s also not totally irrelevant. I’m aware of the importance of delta-V, but we can’t discount time preference. And when the time involved for minimum delta-V is something like two orders of magnitude less, then it’s hard to see a case for going to the asteroid belt.
            (I’m not going to run numbers on this, but if you want to, you might be able to convince me.)
            Actually, scratch that. Mass drivers.
            Also, the fact that you’re always 3 days away, instead of having launch windows, makes a difference.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @bean

            ISRU is not a magic wand and only even attempts to solve two or three items on my list (raw materials if you have an industrial base to develop and maintain deep space mining equipment and/or are willing to bombard your alternative gravity well with redirected asteroids) – nothing ISRU provides could not be better provided on Terra, even a post-thermonuclear-war one.

            I purposely did not mention energy because ISRU is practical for *modest* levels of that, so figured why bother fighting over it. I was not trying to Gish Gallop with my list but instead to show that Earth would still hold basically all the cards even after we do our best to screw it up. If Earth2 was in our solar system and its inhabitants had completely destroyed its civilization, poisoned its atmosphere with 10,000 nuclear warheads, triggered a 30-year nuclear winter or raised the average surface temperature 15 degrees C, and made extinct every above-ground species larger than bacteria, as long as it had a semblance of a breathable atmosphere (even with filtering or other catalyzing) it would be still be our first destination and instead of arguing about Moon vs. Mars vs. deep-space you would all be arguing instead about how best to get to Earth2, because now in addition to being the patently-obvious-best-habitat-for-people, this Earth2 would also check the one box the colonizers must have checked to preserve their reality-distortion-field (it is not Earth).

          • hlynkacg says:

            Granted, being isolated means you have less access to some goods than if you weren’t, but we already took isolating oneself (be it in space or underground) as a premise, so it doesn’t matter.

            I think that you are seriously underestimating the tractability of a lot of these problems.

          • bean says:

            ISRU is not a magic wand and only even attempts to solve two or three items on my list (raw materials if you have an industrial base to develop and maintain deep space mining equipment and/or are willing to bombard your alternative gravity well with redirected asteroids) – nothing ISRU provides could not be better provided on Terra, even a post-thermonuclear-war one.

            Well, besides the fact that you seem to be grossly overestimating the effects of thermonuclear war, I’m not sure that the situation would be better on Terra. We’ve mined most of the easy ore. And I’ve seen suggestions that there should be accessible nickle-iron ore fragments on Luna.

            I purposely did not mention energy because ISRU is practical for *modest* levels of that, so figured why bother fighting over it. I was not trying to Gish Gallop with my list but instead to show that Earth would still hold basically all the cards even after we do our best to screw it up. If Earth2 was in our solar system and its inhabitants had completely destroyed its civilization, poisoned its atmosphere with 10,000 nuclear warheads, triggered a 30-year nuclear winter or raised the average surface temperature 15 degrees C, and made extinct every above-ground species larger than bacteria, as long as it had a semblance of a breathable atmosphere (even with filtering or other catalyzing) it would be still be our first destination and instead of arguing about Moon vs. Mars vs. deep-space you would all be arguing instead about how best to get to Earth2, because now in addition to being the patently-obvious-best-habitat-for-people, this Earth2 would also check the one box the colonizers must have checked to preserve their reality-distortion-field (it is not Earth).

            Uh, if there was nothing left but bacteria, you wouldn’t have breathable atmosphere for very long. (Also, you’d want a really good filter system to avoid dying in a biowar. Easier to just seal the whole thing.) The other problem with Earth2 is that it has a deep gravity well. Good luck getting out.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @ bean

            You seem to be generally ignoring my main points and nitpicking various minor areas I did not bother fleshing out:
            a. raw materials -> space mining magic! without addressing radiation, thermal, gravity, atmosphere, pressure, e.g. all the really hard things that are the cost and energy drivers in human space exploration. If technology is getting better, it will make living on post-apocalypse earth even easier too, you have to show some marginal advantage to living in a place with no atmosphere or even biosphere and that we did not evolve in.
            b. I deliberately am exaggerating thermo war because that is about the only plausible apoc scenario in an attempt to be charitable and grant you MAD, or even MAD squared. I will try to avoid exaggeration to your benefit in the future as you seem to agree Earth will still be quite hospitable compared to Mars or the Moon afterwards, so you must be thinking of some even more implausible scenario for the necessity of space colonization whose parameters are not up for discussion.
            c. You seem to flit between gravity well and non-gravity well to suit your desired rebuttal. The truth is you must solve both those problems and how to transport easily between them to access your resources.
            d. Your given premise is ‘Earth must be abandoned. What next.’ As long as that premise is invulnerable to question, you are not engaging in debate with me, just retreating to your prior.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ dragnubbit

            I don’t speak for bean but I feel the need to point out that radiation, thermal control, gravity, atmosphere, etc… are cost drivers in modern spaceflight specifically because NASA has to optimize for mass/delta V. Our hypothetical colony is under no such limitation. They can afford to grab a few tons of rock or ice and use them as a radiation shield/heat-sink.

            Things like energy, farming, collection/processing of raw materials, are actually significantly easier in a space colony than a terrestrial underground colony due to increased mobility and readier access to energy. After all, green houses and solar collectors don’t work under ground, and are much easier to build in reduced gravity. Likewise, on earth you need to dig for iron ore on Mars, it is quite literally “common as dirt” (ditto aluminum oxide on the moon).

            Like I said, the difficulty with space is getting there. Once you get there most of the issues you mention are actually easier to manage than they would be underground.

          • bean says:

            a. raw materials -> space mining magic! without addressing radiation, thermal, gravity, atmosphere, pressure, e.g. all the really hard things that are the cost and energy drivers in human space exploration. If technology is getting better, it will make living on post-apocalypse earth even easier too, you have to show some marginal advantage to living in a place with no atmosphere or even biosphere and that we did not evolve in.

            You want details? Fine. I’ll give you details.
            Radiation? Lots of mass. 10 meters of lunar regolith is about as thick to radiation as Earth’s atmosphere. Design with that in mind, and dump it on with a bulldozer. This also solves your thermal problem quite nicely. Gravity? Well, if I’m on a body, I have gravity. If I’m not, I spin the thing, which also takes care of most of my thermal, assuming I point sensibly. Pressure? Trivial. I mean that. We do pressure vessels literally all the time on Earth. Putting them in space makes it no harder. As hlynkacg points out, if we’re doing ISRU and can cut the quest for minimum mass, all of these are matters that are readily susceptible to competent engineering.

            I deliberately am exaggerating thermo war because that is about the only plausible apoc scenario in an attempt to be charitable and grant you MAD, or even MAD squared. I will try to avoid exaggeration to your benefit in the future as you seem to agree Earth will still be quite hospitable compared to Mars or the Moon afterwards, so you must be thinking of some even more implausible scenario for the necessity of space colonization whose parameters are not up for discussion.

            Uhh…
            I think you’re slightly confused. I’m not in favor of space colonization just because of X-risk. I’m in favor because I believe we need to exploit the resources of the solar system, and we need to go out there to get it.
            Also, one of my other hobbies is nuclear weapons, so I actually know how this sort of thing works.

            c. You seem to flit between gravity well and non-gravity well to suit your desired rebuttal. The truth is you must solve both those problems and how to transport easily between them to access your resources.

            Mass drivers. I lean in favor of surface colonization over orbital, but medical may not allow that. We just don’t know yet.

            d. Your given premise is ‘Earth must be abandoned. What next.’ As long as that premise is invulnerable to question, you are not engaging in debate with me, just retreating to your prior.

            You fundamentally misunderstand why I think we need to colonize. I covered this above.

          • Anonymous says:

            @bean

            You seem to be under the impression I oppose space mining. I don’t. I oppose space colonization (or more specifically, human colonization). If there are great resources in asteroids (which is plausible) or on other planets (which I seriously doubt are worth descending and then re-ascending their gravity wells for in the next 100 years) then that does not make habitation on Earth any less advantageous, or large-scale habitation on non-Earth any less a massive waste of those hard-won resources.

            The vast majority of good science and knowledge that has come out of NASA (aside from the infrastructure parts like rocketry which are basically agnostic to the mission) came from non-human spaceflight. Human spaceflight is a HUGE sink on the science potential of NASA, and is only justified because, like College Football, it is required to garner public support for actual science that will be far more useful to humanity and human survival (like earth and solar science missions, and future unmanned asteroid diversion/extraction missions).

            The argument that there are BETTER resources in space does nothing to say why your preferred gravity well is better than my preferred gravity well as my Earthlings can gather them far more efficiently than your Lunarians (since I am not wasting 90% of my GDP on life-support). We should both have drone miners, not humans. And returning my mined resources back down to my gravity well is not a huge issue, nor is the modest lift resources required to get my drone miners up into space a real cost if the resources are as great as you think they are. And if you posit some great replicating technology even better for my drone miners.

            BTW – as I noted earlier, you solved gravity and radiation (inadequately) on the Moon but not in space, and resources (inadequately) in space but not on the Moon. In neither case have you shown any comparative advantage to Earth, if you allow my Earthlings to act in their own best interests and mine asteroids of any value they might possess (and we would be using drones, not fragile water bags who need not just decades of training but artificial atmosphere, tight thermal control, food, radiation shielding, etc. all without blowing up your mass budget).

            It all just sounds like high-tech millenarianism to me. Heavy-lift and asteroid science is great. Planning to drop 100 people on Mars in the next 30 years is hucksterism.

          • dragnubbit says:

            The above comment was me obviously. Forgot to log in.

          • dragnubbit says:

            One other point on the risk of existential catastrophe on Earth.

            Am I allowed to argue for the 10000x higher annual likelihood of existential catastrophe on a space colony or even a typical human-spaceflight mission (I may be conservative here)?

            Humanity will go into space, but if it is going to be at any scale it will be drones.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think that you are giving the “comparative advantage” argument entirely too much weight. The comparative advantages of colonizing California over South Dakota are obvious. California has more resources, a more hospitable climate, and it is much easier to get to, and yet last I checked there were people in South Dakota.

            You’re also seriously overestimating the difficulty of the life support problem if you think that it will occupy 90% of the GDP (that is unless you’re including construction, energy, and food in that total in which case most of the Earthicans’ GDP is being spent of “life support” as well)

          • Iain says:

            There is lots of oil to be extracted from the North Atlantic. It is easier to reach than anywhere in space, and far more hospitable by any metric you care to name. Despite those facts, we have not colonized the North Atlantic.

            Why not?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Last I checked we had colonized the North Atlantic.

          • Iain says:

            Not the wet part.

            We have oil rigs, and we send workers out to them in shifts. Sometimes we send a ship sailing through. Nobody lives there on a permanent basis. Why should space be any different?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes we send workers out to them in shifts. We do this because transporting the crews to the rig is moderately cheaper than simply leaving them in place.

            So here’s the deal either we make spaceflight cheap enough and routine enough that catching the weekly rocket to Ceres is no big deal. Or we make our peace with the fact that any appreciable space-based industry will require a functionally permeant human presence.

          • bean says:

            @dragnubbit

            The vast majority of good science and knowledge that has come out of NASA (aside from the infrastructure parts like rocketry which are basically agnostic to the mission) came from non-human spaceflight. Human spaceflight is a HUGE sink on the science potential of NASA, and is only justified because, like College Football, it is required to garner public support for actual science that will be far more useful to humanity and human survival (like earth and solar science missions, and future unmanned asteroid diversion/extraction missions).

            Several problems here.
            1. Find a book on Lunar geology. Look at how much we learned from the Soviet samples vs the Apollo samples. I’d suggest normalizing for cost, but the Soviets didn’t really produce cost numbers.
            2. We’re not discussing exploration, we’re discussing industry. I will happily agree that it will be more automated than industry on Earth. But take a look at the number of space missions seriously hampered by problems that would have taken a human with a wrench a few minutes to sort out. Now consider that we’re adding lots of moving parts in a poorly-controlled environment. There’s an optimum number of people to send, but I doubt it’s going to be 0.

            BTW – as I noted earlier, you solved gravity and radiation (inadequately) on the Moon but not in space, and resources (inadequately) in space but not on the Moon.

            What do you mean inadequately? My solution to radiation was totally adequate. If it’s inadequate, have you built a radiation shelter in your house yet? And you can use mass drivers from the lunar surface, too.

            In neither case have you shown any comparative advantage to Earth, if you allow my Earthlings to act in their own best interests and mine asteroids of any value they might possess (and we would be using drones, not fragile water bags who need not just decades of training but artificial atmosphere, tight thermal control, food, radiation shielding, etc. all without blowing up your mass budget).

            I’m probably better aware than you are of how annoying it is to have humans along on space missions. But there are some things we haven’t invented machines to do yet. These things are important in surface exploration, and critical in doing industry.

            It all just sounds like high-tech millenarianism to me. Heavy-lift and asteroid science is great. Planning to drop 100 people on Mars in the next 30 years is hucksterism.

            I do not understand the current fascination with Mars. Under my paradigm, it’s a uniquely bad place to go. Well, not uniquely, because Venus is even worse, but still bad.

            Am I allowed to argue for the 10000x higher annual likelihood of existential catastrophe on a space colony or even a typical human-spaceflight mission (I may be conservative here)?

            That number seems really high, but the answer to your philosophical point is redundancy.

            And 90% on life support? Care to provide more details on where that came from? Because that’s not a plausible number, unless, as hlynkacg points out, we define it in such a way that Earth would have a similar number.

            Iain, we have not colonized the North Atlantic. You’re thinking of the North Sea, and have lost the geography bee.
            Although it is a good question if drilling moves further out (probably out of helicopter range from shore) what we’ll do about the current rotation system.

          • Lumifer says:

            problems that would have taken a human with a wrench a few minutes to sort out

            We’ve moved on from the technology of the 60s. A teleoperated robot can wield a wrench and still doesn’t need everything that a fragile chunk of wetware requires.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @hlynkacg

            Using the argument that people live in South Dakota despite its comparative disadvantage to California as a reason some people will find it advantageous to reside in space is quite a stretch. It is akin (literally) to comparing that because some people prefer avocados to strawberries that there are people that will find comparative advantage in eating poisonous radioactive sludge. You are proposing habitation in an environment that will literally kill you a dozen different ways if your tech fails, to do things that a drone could do at far less expense.

            No one lives in mid-air (say on giant dirigibles), despite the great views, clear air and ease of transportation.

          • bean says:

            @Lumifer

            We’ve moved on from the technology of the 60s. A teleoperated robot can wield a wrench and still doesn’t need everything that a fragile chunk of wetware requires.

            The wrench was an example tool. Now, build a robot which can use every tool in a typical toolbox, and improvise new tools when the existing ones aren’t enough. Teleoperate it over distances of light-minutes. And somehow keep it going when it gets rocks jammed in it. Look over how many times Apollo missions ran into problems that would have been mission failures for robotic missions, and which the astronauts and mission control worked around. There was the broken switch on Apollo 11, the lightning strike on 12, the entire 13 mission (I will grant that a problem of that magnitude would have been more than sufficient reason to write an unmanned mission off), the docking problems and abort switch glitch on 14, and the gimbal and radar problems on 16. I’m not recalling anything for 15 and 17, but we’re up to 4 out of 7 missions even excluding them and 13. And then there’s Skylab.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ll also throw in the Intelsat VI repair mission. Two years of planning, custom augmentations developed for the space shuttle’s robotic arm to enable it to capture a satellite drifting in low Earth orbit. Software written specifically to conduct that operation.

            Two rendezvous attempts with EVA support, failed to capture. Third try, Commander Daniel Brandestine manually piloted the Endeavour to within non-robotic arm’s reach of the satellite, whereupon astronaut Pierre Thuot simply grabbed the thing. Mission accomplished.

            Robots are fine when you want to do something you’ve done a thousand times before, another ten thousand times. Until then, not so much.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @schilling

            You are practically proving my point about the insanity of human spaceflight investments. This was a case where the sunk costs of the shuttle program made it possible for a private company to profit off of a major public boondoggle.

            First you are referencing a mission in 1992 (24 years ago). So we will put aside the fact that tele-operated systems have progressed since then and will continue to do so steadily.

            The enabler of that mission, the Space Shuttle, had a total cost of ~$200B inflation adjusted, with recurring costs of around $450M per flight and an average cost factoring in NRE of around $1.5B PER FLIGHT.

            A single Intelsat IV had a replacement value of maybe $150M (call it $200M after launch costs), and its loss may even have had some insurance. Yes it was great that $1.5B Space Shuttle flight could actually do something marginally useful. So it was not some validation of how great humans are to have in space. It was the equivalent of putting in a few hours of work on an expensive business trip to justify the first class flight.

            If Intelsat had had to front even the entire recurring cost of that mission (maybe even using the creative NASA accounting designed to make the shuttle look feasible) they would have just launched a replacement.

            But I will grant you that it showed humans can do some things in space that non-humans cannot. At hideous cost and risk, and up until now almost entirely make-work.

            If spaceflight were fully privatized, I would have zero concerns as I know companies would make good cost-benefit choices. If ACME Space Mining decides to station some waterbags on the Moon at their own expense, more power to them. But that is not what is discussed these days – there is always a huge government investment needed to make the economics work.

            Human spaceflight is one of those areas where libertarians have a blind spot IMO.

          • bean says:

            @John
            Why didn’t I think of that one? That’s even better than my examples.

            @dragnubbit

            First you are referencing a mission in 1992 (24 years ago). So we will put aside the fact that tele-operated systems have progressed since then and will continue to do so steadily.

            Your basis for believing this is? Because I don’t see it, and nothing in this thread convinces me you’re at all familiar with the state of the art in space exploration.

            The enabler of that mission, the Space Shuttle, had a total cost of ~$200B inflation adjusted, with recurring costs of around $450M per flight and an average cost factoring in NRE of around $1.5B PER FLIGHT.

            A single Intelsat IV had a value of maybe $150M (call it $200M after launch costs). Yes it was great that $1.5B Space Shuttle flight could actually do something marginally useful.

            Basically, INTELSAT got it added as a bonus for the checkout flight of Endeavour. Nobody was going to entrust a serious payload to that flight. I suspect that it was also done for experience in doing that sort of thing, which is at least potentially valuable.

            But it was not some great validation of how great humans are to have in space. It was the equivalent of putting in a few hours of work on an expensive business trip to justify the first class flight.

            You missed his bigger point. They put in 2 years of planning for this specific task, and still would have failed if not for the astronauts literally grabbing the thing. Should we have used more shuttle missions to fix satellites? No. But it’s good evidence that teleoperation is not the answer to everything.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ bean

            teleoperation is not the answer to everything

            It’s not the answer to everything just like using a live human is not an answer to everything. However compared to dragging along these humans together with their life-support and safety systems it sure looks much more cost-efficient.

            If you want space travel to be anything more than superpower dick-waving, it has to make economic sense. At the moment (and in the near future, as far as I can see) no manned mission makes economic sense.

            (Elon Musk, clearly, wants to wave his dick along with the superpowers)

          • bean says:

            @Lumifer:

            It’s not the answer to everything just like using a live human is not an answer to everything. However compared to dragging along these humans along with their life-support and safety systems it sure looks much more cost-efficient.

            I’m an aerospace engineer, and there have been times I’ve said that if I wasn’t a big squishy bag of water I wouldn’t be in favor of dragging them along on space missions because they are ridiculously annoying to take care of. But that’s mostly in jest, because humans are really versatile. I’ve never said that humans are the answer to everything, and I freely acknowledge that any space industry will be more automated than its Earth-based equivalent. But there are also times when it might well be necessary to go in with hammer, wrench, screwdriver, duct tape, and whatever else is to hand and deal with a problem. John and I provided a list of things which could or would have flummoxed unmanned missions, and which the crew dealt with successfully and kept going. 4 out of the 6 lunar landing missions had them, and that’s just off the top of my head.

            If you want space travel to be anything more than superpower dick-waving, it has to make economic sense. At the moment (and in the near future, as far as I can see) no manned mission makes economic sense.

            I found a fascinating report a couple of years ago which discussed the case for manned servicing missions. It pointed out that if the manned mission was approximately the same cost as the satellite (this was the 60s or 70s, before the shuttle became the mess it was), manned servicing is more efficient than Earth-based backups launched when the original satellite fails. Those have to be bought ahead of time, and might well not get used if the first satellite exceeds its lifetime. A manned mission can be canceled at any time. If the cost of a special deployment of people gets too high, or utilization gets high enough, then having humans on-site makes sense.
            I agree on economics being vital, but I disagree that economics obviously excludes humans.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @bean

            Your basis for believing this is? Because I don’t see it, and nothing in this thread convinces me you’re at all familiar with the state of the art in space exploration.

            So now you are arguing that the Mars rovers did not show a steady progression in automation, machine vision, decisioning and tele-operation capabilities throughout the last several decades?

            Every time I think I am just saying something that can just be agreed on, you seem determined to take a ridiculous stance in opposition to it. Pretty obvious I am attacking a sacred cow by implying humans in space are, and likely will continue to be in my lifetime, a waste of public money except for propaganda purposes (e.g. if I could have just the earth and space science, I would prefer that, but if I have to accept some astronauts so politicians will fund earth and space science, it is hostage-taking that I have to accept, but not embrace).

          • bean says:

            So now you are arguing that the Mars rovers did not show a steady progression in automation, machine vision, decisioning and tele-operation capabilities throughout the last several decades?

            I’m arguing that Mars rover operation is of only marginal relevance to industrial work. Driving slowly across Mars and scooping up the occasional rock is a far cry from what we’ll need to do serious resource exploitation. How would any of these things have helped the Intelsat rescue?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ bean

            But there are also times when it might well be necessary to go in with hammer, wrench, screwdriver, duct tape, and whatever else is to hand and deal with a problem.

            Know what? Thirty years ago it made sense to have a set of tools and some spares in your car on long road trips. This was because cars were simple and could actually be fixed on the spot by a shade-tree mechanic for a large class of breakdowns. But that time has passed. Nowadays it’s much less useful to have a set of tools in your trunk since a modern car is mostly a collection of computers which control and manage some mechanical machinery and they are just not fixable on the spot.

            Your examples all go back to that 60s technology which in a large number of cases could be repaired with a crowbar, some wrenches, and duct tape. But its time is also passing. The number of mechanical moving parts goes down, the number of solid-state components goes up. And if you don’t have to do life-support and such, you need even less of the moving parts. And it’s still cheaper to be quadruple-redundant than put a human inside.

            I do expects humans to go to space and set up manned bases on planets and moons. But that’s because we can, and not because it makes economic sense. We are a curious and exploratory species.

          • bean says:

            Know what? Thirty years ago it made sense to have a set of tools and some spares in your car on long road trips. This was because cars were simple and could actually be fixed on the spot by a shade-tree mechanic for a large class of breakdowns. But that time has passed. Nowadays it’s much less useful to have a set of tools in your trunk since a modern car is mostly a collection of computers which control and manage some mechanical machinery and they are just not fixable on the spot.

            All of this is true. But we’re talking about doing industry here, which inherently involves doing things with physical objects that aren’t standardized. Your average person can’t fix a printer if it really breaks, but he can clear a paper jam just fine. Now, think about building a printer which doesn’t jam, or which can clear its own jams.

            Your examples all go back to that 60s technology which in a large number of cases could be repaired with a crowbar, some wrenches, and duct tape. But its time is also passing. The number of mechanical moving parts goes down, the number of solid-state components goes up.

            For mining and factories? Hardly. Again, industry, not just exploration. And half of the time, the ‘fix’ in question is something that doesn’t even rise to the level of being considered a fix, because of how simple it is. The lawnmower’s outlet got clogged with grass. The toilet is running because the chain got tangled and isn’t letting the valve close. The door is sticky and needs to be slammed to latch. Designing systems for absolutely no maintenance is a lot harder than designing systems which are very minimally maintained.

          • Lumifer says:

            If we’re doing mining and industry that implies economic sense and we’re back to square one. Exactly what would you mine on planets, moons, and asteroids that would pay its way? What needs manufacturing off-Earth (and all microgravity stuff can be done in orbit)?

            And we’re not designing systems for no maintenance, we’re designing them for maintenance by maintenance robots.

          • bean says:

            If we’re doing mining and industry that implies economic sense and we’re back to square one. Exactly what would you mine on planets, moons, and asteroids that would pay its way? What needs manufacturing off-Earth (and all microgravity stuff can be done in orbit)?

            Solar power satellites. Resources for building more space habs. Platinum. He3.

            And we’re not designing systems for no maintenance, we’re designing them for maintenance by maintenance robots.

            And who fixes the maintenance robots?

          • Anonymous says:

            And we’re not designing systems for no maintenance, we’re designing them for maintenance by maintenance robots.

            Maintenance robots have the conspicuous disadvantage of not existing. If they did exist, there would be extremely lucrative applications for them here on Earth, e.g. in the deepwater oil industry, but not only do they not exist, there isn’t much in the way of efforts to develop them. Instead, we get great enthusiasm about the prospects for teleoperated systems capable of performing only the simplest maintenance tasks.

            For the rest, there’s humans or there’s abandoning everything as soon as it breaks in a not-simple way. Or there’s waiting for the true -general-purpose AI, because that’s what a general-purpose maintenance robot will require.

            Granted it may be a minority view here in the LW diaspora, but some of us aren’t planning to wait for AI to make all our dreams and/or nightmares come true.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ bean

            And who fixes the maintenance robots?

            That which fixes broken meatbags : -P

          • Lumifer says:

            Maintenance robots have the conspicuous disadvantage of not existing.

            Oh, that’s just to match the space mining industry.

          • bean says:

            @Lumifer:

            Oh, that’s just to match the space mining industry.

            The example of saturation divers is relevant here. These people have to spend their off-hours in pressurized habitats so they don’t get the bends. Replacing them with robots would be a major benefit, and wouldn’t even have the recursion problem I brought up, because we could just haul them up and fix them on the surface. For that matter, replacing EVAs with robots would be tremendously helpful, simply because EVAs are a major pain. Again, no recursion problem because you haul the robot into the airlock and fix it there. And yet they don’t exist, and I’m not aware of any serious research on them.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ bean

            Here is a real-life deepwater maintenance robot. It fixes undersea cables.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @bean

            So now you are arguing that the Mars rovers did not show a steady progression in automation, machine vision, decisioning and tele-operation capabilities throughout the last several decades?

            Bean:I’m arguing that Mars rover operation is of only marginal relevance to industrial work. Driving slowly across Mars and scooping up the occasional rock is a far cry from what we’ll need to do serious resource exploitation. How would any of these things have helped the Intelsat rescue?

            Now you are moving the goalposts around a lot. The original point you/h were making was how awesome it was that humans could catch a satellite that a special robot arm in 1992 couldn’t. I said tele-operation, remotes, etc. have progressed a lot since 1992 (implying that the future is not limited to 1992 technology). You said no progress was made at all in tele-operation, and I brought up the Mars rovers as a space-relevant example. The specific tasks of the those rovers may not be the exact same as large scale space mining, but their rapid evolution in capabilities shows that our computers and our software are getting much better and machine vision is actually a real thing now (and will be getting better). All of that is very relevant to a wide variety of tasks beyond specimen collection.

            I think today having a robot do the Intelsat repair would still be more expensive than a free space shuttle ride (if you are going to discount all the actual costs of transporting and safely returning waterbags). But junking it would be the cheapest solution, and satellites and industrial processes (six sigma, etc.) are much better now than they were in 1992 so blunders like Hubble and Intelsat IV which are amenable to manual repair will be even more rare in the future. Designing complex systems for easier LRU replacement can also be done if you do anticipate that need (certainly for all routine maintenance like battery swap outs, etc. that should be expected in long-term designs). Obviously satellites are not currently designed that way. If there were any routinely necessary maintenance functions they would be designed for automated drone services. And if they were rare types of failures, then the mass of the replacement will almost always be a better expense than the mass of a waterbag Maytag repairman and maintaining the infrastructure around him.

    • Incurian says:

      “The team behind the idea also wants to ensure that humanity has an independent “country” which prioritises scientific advancement over political or commercial ambitions”

      I think their plan could benefit from a healthy dose of cynicism.

      In related news, I’ve finally begun reading Seveneves and it’s really good so far!

  25. Tekhno says:

    @The Guardian

    Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That’s what’s wrenching society apart.

    What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis.

    There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart.

    No, no, no, no, no. Humans are not being peeled apart. They’re being freed from dependency relationships that forced them to be glued to their families and birthplaces for their entire lives.

    You can make all sort of “psychic unity of mankind” like statements when you paint with a broad brush, but while it’s true that humans like interacting with each other, what you are missing is that they also hate interacting with each other. Atomization allows me the delicious freedom to choose my levels of interaction with others.

    Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology.

    Overwhelmingly the first two. Marx could tell you that (God, Marxists are so much better than tepid progressive liberals).

    Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.

    Uh, what? Some places we are told that and other places we aren’t. The Guardian isn’t a minor publication.

    The problem with this is that you are acting as if all you need to do is elect Labour instead of the Conservatives and then technological atomization will grind to a halt. This is wrong, and it really is mostly due to technological change and not capitalism (which just produces the capacity for it). If you achieved some sort of magical post-scarcity socialism, people would still be hyper-atomized. It’s not individualist ideology that creates atomization, but an increasing supply of easily accessible resources. If I receive according to “my needs”, then I am freed even further from the relationships which are merely dependency relationships, and then we find out who my true friends really were, all along.

    Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.

    Complaining about consumerism has always struck me as a profoundly conservative argument. When I hear people complain about it, it brings to mind pictures of people living in thatched huts, all 19 in the family huddled around a fire, only able to consume each others stories and gritty bread farmed by hand.

    When socialists complain about consumerism, I just don’t get it. Surely, the bad part of capitalism is the part where people are being exploited and deprived of the resources their labor produces. It’s contradictory to then complain about the resources they can access, unless your claim is that the masses will magically like totally different products that conform to my personal aesthetic tastes because socialism? Your complaint basically boils down to all the things people like being distractions from our real human spirit. This is some heady reactionary stuff.

    Now, I insist on not using social media and just email people and text them instead. I think Facebook is a disgusting monstrosity, but I at least admit that this is just my personal taste, and not some objective fact that is being hidden from people by the distortions of neoliberal ideology. There’s certainly an in-authenticity to having thousands upon thousands of “friends”, but really the fact that people are gaming this stuff has nothing to do with ideology, or capitalism, and everything to do with that nasty spooky thing called human nature.

    Again, why would getting rid of neoliberal capitalism get rid of social media? If it’s just arbitrarily more regulated capitalism then it’s still going to exist. If it’s actual outright socialism, then all that will happen is that Facebook gets nationalized. Imagine trying to take social media away from people!

    There is no alternative!

    As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their “beauty” settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves.

    That’s human biology + technological capacity. Neoliberal capitalism as a system let alone as an ideology isn’t the defining factor here.

    Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress? A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like.

    Have mental illnesses actually increased? It could totally be true that social media has increased the intensity of sexual competition between women, but the base of that competition is still biological, and it has existed forever. Some level of intensification of competition could have occurred, but this would be due to social media allowing women to display themselves to wider audiences who are able to view the pictures at all times, leading to higher levels of stress and the additional worries about anonymous harassers and doxers and so on. Again, there is little here driven by ideology or by the capitalist system (except in the sense that capitalism generates enough wealth to drive technology forwards).

    Actual solutions (if mental illness and suicide have increased), would involve increasing funding to mental health treatment. Social media end solutions have already been implemented in the form of block bots and so on. The problem will always remain so long as social media exists, however, and I don’t even think the stressed out women want to ban it, and even if they do, they are outnumbered anyway.

    If social rupture is not treated as seriously as broken limbs, it is because we cannot see it.

    It’s far too variant to treat as seriously. Not easy to enforce by law. The push to do so is a big part of the cultural battleground right now. Let’s stop and just increase mental health funding or something please.

    It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly enhanced when they are strongly bonded with the rest of the pack. It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators, or to starve. Just as physical pain protects us from physical injury, emotional pain protects us from social injury. It drives us to reconnect. But many people find this almost impossible.

    The reason many people find it difficult to connect is that other people don’t want to connect with them. It’s a “tragedy of the commons” in that technology and abundance have freed people from having to interact with people they would have previously had mutual dependency relationships with. Even with people we have valuable interactions, there may be other traits about them that we hate that in a totally free environment would drive us apart from them.

    The social pain comes from the cognitive dissonance caused by missing the positive aspects of interaction once you have long since been free to escape the negative aspects. However, if you then tried to force yourself back together with these people, you’d remember the negative aspects all over again, and with the modern capacity to do so, drift apart once more. We’d experience even more pain trying to go back to how things were.

    What is new is that the things we dislike about each other are finally winning over the things we like about each other. This does not mean that we don’t form friendships and relationships, but that they are now much more fluid than they once were. Instead of living with your family for your whole life in the same village, even poor schmucks like me can escape and go live elsewhere. We still love our mothers, but we now dip in and out of interaction to sample the positive parts and then quickly flee from the negative parts once more.

    We have less friends, because only through stable long term interaction through thick and thin can loyalty and camaraderie emerge. People lament the decline of friendship while being unable to maintain any more than shallow relationships with those around them.

    But it’s not yet done. People still have childhood friends from being forced into the school system together, and they still have adult friends and relationships from work and friends of friends and family, but even those institutions will pass. Come the automation of labor, there will no longer be any jobs and therefore no longer any school. All these institutions and the bonds they have created will disappear, and what remains is a pleasure seeking, pain avoiding animal.

    Society will be abolished.

    Anyone can see that something far more important than most of the issues we fret about has gone wrong. So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain? Should this question not burn the lips of everyone in public life?

    You have no choice. Every complaint about alienation occurs in a divided “individual” who assists the process themselves by fleeing from pain, only to lament what is lost, to return, only to flee again. Humans will never be happy (but still increase NHS funding or whatever please).

    This does not require a policy response. It requires something much bigger: the reappraisal of an entire worldview. Of all the fantasies human beings entertain, the idea that we can go it alone is the most absurd and perhaps the most dangerous. We stand together or we fall apart.

    Well, a policy response that actually wanted to end alienation would be disastrous and kill millions of people. Reappraising our worldview how you want will likely lead to bad policy responses.

    Humans don’t “do it alone”, but there is not a unified force holding them together either. Humans work together under some level of duress versus some level of comfort, with the level of cooperation determined by the benefit against the cost. The benefits will never become zero, but they are lowering steadily all the time as technology marches forwards, while the costs remain relatively fixed. When the benefits drop below the costs, people’s relationships become highly impermanent.

    The result is an “unsociety” in which people sample each other like commodities. Social media is just optimized human interaction for the masses.

    People will still date! Well, sure, but that’s more fluid now too. What do you think all that weird sex politics stuff is about? Do you think that’s just ideology?

    Neoliberalism is simply aligned with free market capitalism which underpins wealth generation which supports technological growth which accelerates desocietalization, from which flowers forth a whole host of bizarre modes of thought in response. Technology is a force running against Conservative ideology (but not against right wing ideology per se; there are deeply unconservative forms of right wing thought), and against the small c conservative ideology that remains deeply closeted behind the radical facade of left wing thought.

    Go ahead, put on the brakes. I dare you, but you aren’t going to like it.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Quick rhetorical question: if you were raising an animal in captivity, and you knew that in the wild it lives in groups of 150, how many would you put per cage minimum? How many maximum?

      Human nature is real, we’re not blank slates. If you atomize people then their instincts will scream at them that they’ve been thrown out of the tribe. And that was a profoundly dangerous position to be in for nearly all of human history.

      Human beings do best in small kinship groups or in military-esque clans a la Männerbünde. The wealth of research on the outcome of even relatively amicable divorce on children, Putnam’s research into the decay of social trust in diverse atomized societies, plummeting birthrates in the first world and just using your own eyes should reveal that the breakup of society is a catastrophe.

      It sounds great to say “see, now that you’re free from society you can associate with whomever you want!” But in practice it means putting humans one-to-a-cage. Not exactly a recipe for health.

      • The Nybbler says:

        In any group of humans, there is a hierarchy. The group tends to be good for those on the top and often for those in the middle, but those on the bottom would be better off alone (though this would not be good for society). The nature of hierarchy means the plurality are on the bottom.

        This is why adult children prefer not to visit their parents and why the parents wish they would.

        • onyomi says:

          I was going to say: though I don’t disagree with the basic contention that humans are social animals, it seems like they break apart and atomize as soon as they get enough money to do so–and not just to be free of the authority of e. g. parents, but just to be free to do what one wants in general. I am frequently surprised, for example, at how not-close my father’s extended family is, given that I am quite close to my parents and siblings.

          “So… Dad, haven’t seen your sister in what? 20 years? What happened? Big fight? She hates your guts? Just never get around to it? But you had a chat a few years ago?” (answer is they like each other fine but just never get around to it: some bond this family, these genes!)

          People in the past basically lived on top of each other because they had to. Once people had the chance to have their own bedroom, their own kitchen, their own sphere not to be bossed around by their parents, they mostly jumped at it. Not saying this is optimal, but seems to be a kind of “race-to-the-bottom” of social activity.

          Yes you need other people for mental health, but other people are also annoying. Maybe it’s like being fat: it wasn’t a problem to be fat in the evolutionary past, so your genes err on the side of letting you get crazy fat sooner than you undereat. It probably wasn’t a problem to be able to live a comfortable life independently with internet porn in the evolutionary past, so evolution hasn’t worried about you claiming too much independence with the result of you secretly getting depressed sooner than deal with your mother-in-law.

          • LPSP says:

            My maternal grandfather is just like your dad – doesn’t have any bone against his many siblings, but he just sees little reason to visit them. He turned 80 this year, and it was the first time he saw pretty much any family since grandma died.

        • DavidS says:

          I don’t understand this. You think parents want children to visit because the parents are higher status???

          Saying the group is good for the top and bad for the bottom presumably relies on a zero-sum reading: the strong can exploit the weak. But it’s very possible a more communal existence is just better (or just worse) overall. Doesn’t have to be zero sum.

          As someone who’s recently had a kid and who has friends with slightly older kids, it is obvious to me that a more communal lifestyle would be better for families with young kids (or indeed who MIGHT have young kids) for instance: much easier for a commune/village/tribe of a few dozen all play part in raising all of their children than have lots of individuals or couples doing it solo. But this communal approach is less easy/natural now and in the West than in other places/times.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yes, the parents are higher status. They never quite let go of the idea that their children are children. If the adult children try too hard to disabuse them of this notion (that is, to challenge their lower-status position), strife results.

            It doesn’t have to be zero sum; in fact, it is almost certainly positive sum. That doesn’t mean there aren’t many people worse off than they would be alone.

      • Alex says:

        It sounds great to say “see, now that you’re free from society you can associate with whomever you want!” But in practice it means putting humans one-to-a-cage. Not exactly a recipe for health.

        I think the internet fixed this by making it possible to be a member of your tribe of 150 by choice rather than having to stick to the, let’s admit it, often suboptimal tribe you were born into.

        The unsolved problem is (and maybe has been throughout all history?) of course sex, the one form of interaction the internet cannot provide – even though HD-porn is a major improvement and I assume that porn will be the market that makes or breaks VR.

        • TMB says:

          Maybe I’m peculiar, but I’ve never found any friends online, and the only times I’ve met people from online it has been an absolute disaster.

          I guess I’m not so into any one topic that someone being into the same thing is going to be more important to me than how they smile, or whether they laugh at my jokes, or are pleasant to be around.

          Also – a problem. If you have some local institution that exists so that lonely people can come and meet friends, it tends to be a bit depressing and not much fun. It’s better to have an institution that *everyone* has to attend (work/church/school) and then it works a lot better.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          There’s a phrase I remember hearing a lot when I was younger. I’m almost certain that it’s made up but it has nonetheless been useful to me.

          It was something like “when you’re talking to someone the words you say only carry about 10% of the meaning.” The implication being that 90% is intonation, gesticulation, posture and a thousand other subtle signals which you can’t easily transcribe.

          An online friend is the modern equivalent of a pen pal, with the bonus of maybe seeing them over Skype on occasion. You’re rarely going to be in the same room, much less go out and do anything together. It’s better than nothing but it’s not a substitute for real human contact.

          Anyway sex is not much of an issue in an atomized world. I’ve had sex with more women in the last year than most of my ancestors probably did during their entire lives due to loose modern courtship norms. The issue is with long-term relationships: even if you want to marry and stay married it’s very challenging to do now.

          • Alex says:

            Let my try again.

            I hope I do your original statement justice, when I say that you seem to think that society in pronciple could improve by reasearching ideal yet specific human living conditions (“the human nature”) and then striving to implement these conditions. If e. g. research showed that social groups of 150 are ideal, it should be our societal goal to provide social groups of 150.

            The obvious alternative theory – inspired by David Friedman’s book and postings, but mistakes of course are mine – is that individuals know best what is best for themselves, no further research needed, and cannot help but striving to implement whats best for them, also nothing else needed. If e. g. we observe that most individuals do not belong to groups of 150 this is not evidence that something is fundamentally wrong but that 150 not really is the ideal group size. However, if 150 actually were the ideal group size, there should be no arbitrary rules against forming groups of 150.

            Me, personally, I believe that I want to have the choice. In your original analogy, I most certainly do not want to be encaged with 149 others, bring all the research you want. If that means that I miss out 90% of human interaction so be it. My argument for the internet as a solution is that it makes individual choice essentially free.

            You seem to prefer or advocate preference of something else, but I am not sure that I understand what.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Alex,

            My position is kind of a mix of what you predicted my position to be and David’s.

            If you want a sexy pseudo-scientific name for it you could say I’m arguing from memetic evolution. A slightly less sexy Kipling reference would be ‘The Gods of the Copybook Headings.’ Personally, I prefer to call it Tradition with an upper-case T but that’s because I like to pretend I’m a wizard online.

            Societies which follow certain rules consonant with human nature prosper and those which don’t die out. Some of these rules are more amendable to rational analysis than others: the purpose may not become clear until after they are removed. But in general when you find a “highly conserved” social arrangement across time and space you should assume that it’s important even if it’s not clear why.

            Individuals do generally know what’s best for them, and top-down control is usually going to backfire. But Traditional society is less like a Procrustean bed people are forced into and more like the tertiary structure of humanity: if conditions are right, people will self-organize into well ordered societies. But if conditions are wrong then you get chaos and a bunch of useless social amyloids building up everywhere.

          • Alex says:

            Fair points.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Societies need to adapt to circumstances as well as human nature, and societies have died from over adherence to tradition.

      • dragnubbit says:

        Evolution was not designed to make us happy. Nor is their proof 150 is the evolutionary optimum for such (I thought the evidence actually pointed to it being the point where social cohesion begins breaking down so it is more of where the resource limit of personal relationship maintenance in pre-historic societies exist).

        I imagine if pre-historic societies had had today’s communication technologies and available free time that the ‘tribal limit’ would have been much higher.

      • Tekhno says:

        @Dr Dealgood

        My argument is specifically based on human nature being real and humans needing social interaction. What I’m saying is that the preference isn’t completely flat and instead is defined by the struggle between the desire to interact and the annoyance of interacting.

        I cannot into math but…

        Level of societal cohesion = (Base psychological need for interaction + Dependency induced need for interaction) – Base psychological costs of interaction

        Therefore, the cohesion formula is: S = (B + D) – C

        Since B and C are relatively (but not completely*) fixed by biology/average levels of pleasantness and annoyance of people, whereas D is rapidly trending downwards due to technological acceleration, S falls downwards until D = 0 (fully automated post-labor world) and S = B – C, which either means that S finalizes at a very small number (since empirically B isn’t gigantic otherwise we wouldn’t be complaining about atomization in the first place) indicating a weak pull together (that we would today still be called hyperatomized), or C is bigger than B, and in which case S is negative and we completely desocietalize.

        *B and C will vary within that human range based on temperament (introverts, extroverts), and it’s possible we can mod B and C drastically by transcending human biology. “Be less annoying” for C, or “Be more fun to be around” for B aren’t going to be up to much when considering the macro scale.

        Human beings do best in small kinship groups

        The thing is, you can have the group without the kinship or community or society or whatever you want to call it, if the group is merely this fluid transient thing. On the internet there are various communities, but I can dip in and out of them rapidly and choose my level of interaction. Instead of social bonds we have social commodities.

        Imagine that in the real world and society as this “thing” is abolished.

    • JBeshir says:

      No, no, no, no, no. Humans are not being peeled apart. They’re being freed from dependency relationships that forced them to be glued to their families and birthplaces for their entire lives.

      You can make all sort of “psychic unity of mankind” like statements when you paint with a broad brush, but while it’s true that humans like interacting with each other, what you are missing is that they also hate interacting with each other. Atomization allows me the delicious freedom to choose my levels of interaction with others.

      I agree with this, but I think there’s a missed problem. For people to get to do what they want, it isn’t sufficient for there to be a lack of coercion. Rather, they need to have low-cost opportunity to do what they want, and if that opportunity is lacking it doesn’t actually matter very much whether it’s lacking because of coercion or because of coordination issues or because of any other reason.

      The reason many people find it difficult to connect is that other people don’t want to connect with them. It’s a “tragedy of the commons” in that technology and abundance have freed people from having to interact with people they would have previously had mutual dependency relationships with. Even with people we have valuable interactions, there may be other traits about them that we hate that in a totally free environment would drive us apart from them.

      I don’t think this is true. I don’t think most people have no one who would want to connect with them, or want to be alone. I think they’d just rather be with people they prefer to be with, and who prefer to be with them, and I think those people exist; they’re just having trouble finding them.

      I see a lot of lonely people who seem perfectly nice, and would be glad to be with each other, but can’t find each other, or no one is breaking the ice, which is not helped by the emphasis on keeping geographical location secret online. Forming groups involves a deliberate effort and generally induces a great deal of anxiety, and is very slow to happen. I don’t think people aren’t forming social groups because the other people they’d want to be grouped with would rather not be; I think they aren’t forming social groups because we haven’t actually worked out an efficient process for consensually doing so except online, where people are geographically scattered.

      Forming close-knit committed groups is even harder; it’s difficult to come up with non-religious examples that aren’t small, private circles of friends.

      Neoliberalism is simply aligned with free market capitalism which underpins wealth generation which supports technological growth which accelerates desocietalization, from which flowers forth a whole host of bizarre modes of thought in response.

      Agree that this is the mechanism which is causing this process, and that by on large it’s a good thing. But I think it’s a valid problem that while it has disrupted the processes that force people into groups, it hasn’t replaced them with low-cost ways of finding and joining groups consensually, it’s just left groups without any means of recruiting or forming, and people without any means of being in a group, and this leaves a lot of people unhappy and would be worth trying to develop some new social technology to solve.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Surely, the bad part of capitalism is the part where people are being exploited and deprived of the resources their labor produces.

      That’s not really what socialists complain about most of the time, though. I concede it’s what they say. But most socialists are just frustrated at what’s wrong with the world. They want to get rod of capitalism because they think that will fix it. That’s wrong, of course. But it’s not capitalism they’re really fighting against; they’re fighting against all the pain and purposelessness they see and feel around them.

    • Psmith says:

      I sympathize with the historical materialism and find the positive account convincing, but disagree with some implied normative claims.

      I’ve posted this before, but it bears repeating:

      3. Most fundamentally, my critique is the one that I advanced in my review of Soumission, that niceness and conflict-avoidance are not the terminal goals of a good life. Family conflict is definitely a thing – I am certainly not without experience in this area – but part of the telos of a full life is to negotiate those conflicts, grow in empathy and patience, and grow as a person into the fullness of the roles of son, father, husband, and so on.

      There seems to be a sort of framework people carry around, myself often included, whereby the baseline of social groups like families is perfect harmony, and conflict is a sort of failure, a deviation from the true path. Meanwhile, bureaucracies like schools and nursing homes are presumed functional unless there are spectacular failures, and their predictable limitations are not considered failures, but are all part of the plan. This view is strangely compelling, not least because bureaucracies are very good at projecting an image of stability and authoritativeness. But it’s a double standard. Oddly enough, we don’t apply this double standard to friendships or dating – fights are considered part of the process. And only some people – childfree advocates – routinely apply this standard to childrearing. But elder care seems to be an area where “the beauty of the telos” is less culturally appreciated – maybe because it’s less sexy? I don’t know.

      I fully admit, though, that negotiating these conflicts is hard, especially in the context of a culture where both parties have a strong temptation to default to individualist assumptions, and don’t have a lot of friends and relatives’ examples to draw upon. But it has been done before, including in America, and I’m confident it can be done again.

      (source)

    • I haven’t read the article– this is just a general point.

      While it’s good that people can get away from people they don’t like, there’s another piece.

      People get scattered away from each other in order to find work. This has good points, but there’s a substantial downside. Social networks, including families, get separated, and this makes life harder, especially when the cost of helping parents (by people who want to help their parents) is driven up by not living near them.

      I suspect that a lack of long association makes neighbors less likely to help each other.

      I expected that telecommuting would be more useful and common than it’s turned out to be.

    • Edward Morgan Blake says:

      You seem to think that being free do to whatever you want will be good for you, (for a wide and diverse range of “you”). It was a nice theory, but, to more and more people’s dawning horror, it turns out to not actually be the case. Turns out all those dead old men who wrote those dead old books were on to something.

      It’s far too late to turn back, of course.

      Think of it as the pan-society equivalent of the final words recorded by flight recorders recovered from fatal crashes: “oh, SHIT!”

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      Here’s an article that may be relevant:
      https://www.wired.com/2013/12/ap_thompson-2/

      Apparently humans have the same level of desire for social connections, but because they’ve been denied full meatspace social interaction, the youth are getting it where they can get it: on social media.

      Romance/sex is apparently still primarily meatspace-oriented, though:
      https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/10/01/445118529/we-need-2-talk-most-teens-still-start-end-their-relationships-offline

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness?

      That was a pretty impressive post, so of course I’m going to ignore almost all of it and latch on to one minor point: is there, in fact, an epidemic of mental illness, in the traditional sense of the word “epidemic”? I could see any or all of the following:

      1. Things aren’t actually worse, but “mental illness” has been redefined downwards. So minor problems or personality quirks are now considered major issues.
      2. People have always had this level of mental illness but modern culture encourages them to be more open about it.
      3. People have always had this level of mental illness but modern culture puts such people into public life instead of hidden away in homes or institutions (not quite the same as #2.)
      4. Mental illness, or at least the claim thereof, is rewarded with social status/power in certain subcultures. Therefore we get more of it, especially from young and impressionable people who spend most of their time in those subcultures.
      5. …?

      • Deiseach says:

        It occurred to me to wonder today* if a plethora of new definitions of illness, especially mental illness, get made simply because of the American health care system? Your medical costs are paid by your private insurance plan, but your insurers will only pay for what are defined conditions. So your doctor or psychiatrist can’t write you a prescription for something as a once-off, but if you have a diagnosis of Pain In Toe Syndrome with an official definition and entry in a handbook like the DSM, then they’ll pay up.

        So what before would have been the ordinary ups and downs of life now have to be Officially Recognised Disorders simply for book-keeping purposes.

        *This was in the context of something I read about in a post berating how the pain of bereavement lasting longer than two weeks was medicalised as an illness by the American Psychological Association (or it might have been the American Psychiatric Association, I can’t remember which APA it was), because a particular drug was good for treating it.

        • LPSP says:

          I can’t help but feel a lot of borderline cases of ADHD and Autism fit this mold.

        • Alliteration says:

          “*This was in the context of something I read about in a post berating how the pain of bereavement lasting longer than two weeks was medicalised as an illness by the American Psychological Association (or it might have been the American Psychiatric Association, I can’t remember which APA it was), because a particular drug was good for treating it.”

          That would be the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM V

      • Cadie says:

        I think it’s something else, related to 1: mental illness will be diagnosed today at a milder level than it would have been in the past, but at the same time, mental illness is more disabling than it used to be. Severe MI was always disabling, but now many relatively mild disorders can ruin or at least seriously harm your ability to earn a decent living, and because old structured social networks are broken down and people have to form their own, it’s much more difficult for people with mild to moderate MI to form a robust social network that would take some of the edge off.

        When many jobs demand constant cheerfulness, mild depression makes it very difficult to succeed, whereas a similar job a few generations ago would have demanded basic competency and decent manners, not a convincingly bubbly, always-happy demeanor. One full-time job in the 1950s would usually pay enough to live on; today many people require two jobs just to qualify for an apartment lease, and working two full-time jobs with MI is much harder than working one, even if the jobs themselves are physically somewhat easier.

        So yes, it takes fewer symptoms and less severity to qualify for a diagnosis, but it also takes fewer symptoms and less severity for it to cause you major problems in life today, and therefore I think making the dx’s with a bit less makes sense. It’s not an epidemic in the strict sense of more people having mental illness. It’s that more people are suffering serious secondary consequences – complications, perhaps – of mental illness.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think the future is customized relationships. You get your AI and you program it to like certain things that you like, have certain quirks that you find endearing and fulfill all of your fantasies. It starts off with the lonely nerds and then quickly moves up until preferring human romance is considered completely backwards. And this will apply to friends too. To me, this sounds like a horrifying future but on the other hand, future values are usually dystopian.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Perhaps it wouldn’t be considered completely backwards, but instead kind of kooky, like insisting on making all your food from scratch, or only wearing clothes you’ve made yourself.

        • Wrong Species says:

          That’s a good analogy. I can see the setting right now…

          “So if he’s so lonely, why doesn’t he just get his own AI girlfriend.”
          “He has this weird hang up about it. Says that it isn’t “real”. I don’t really get it but if he wants to be bitter and alone, that’s his prerogative.”
          “But why would anyone even want a relationship with another person. What if they have some annoying habit that drives them crazy?
          “Well, he would have to deal with it”
          “And what if they didn’t want to be with you”
          “Well then you didn’t get to be with them
          “And what if you were with them but then they stopped wanting to be with you”
          “Then they would leave you”
          “That sounds terrible”
          “It was”
          “And he actually wants that?”
          “Like I said, it doesn’t make any sense to me. He’s always been like that though”
          “This is bringing me down. More soma?”

  26. Chunderer says:

    I’ve got a half-sentence review of “Black Mirror” up at my blog:

    Here’s how future technology might contribute to relationship problems…

    SSC is blocked on my computer most of the time (too addictive), but I’ll do my best to keep up if we can talk about what’s wrong with this series and how it has the potential to be great but fails. Have I put my finger on it? Opinions, go!

    • anon says:

      Your link is broken, because it points at a nonexistent SSC page.

      Your review is stupid, because it makes us click through for 2.5 more sentences.

      • Chunderer says:

        It is broken! Weird. Here’s the link:

        https://welldotdotdot.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/black-mirror-in-half-a-sentence/

        My review is awesome, c’mon.

        Seriously, the click-through is part of the format of the blog: I try to keep each entry to about 11 words, and if it gets longer I usually provide a click-through link even if it’s just to a few more sentences. (In most cases it’s to a few more paragraphs. In this case I thought I’d write more but found I didn’t need to.)

        My question to you, thoughtful SSC commenter, is about whether you think I hit the nail on the head. Have I correctly summarized the core problem with “Black Mirror”?

        • Wrong Species says:

          I don’t think a one sentence quip is enough to establish your chain of thought. I would go in to much more detail on why you think you’re right. Otherwise you might as well be posting to twitter.

          To your point, I think seeing Black Mirror and dismissing it as focusing on relationships is like reading Hamlet and dismissing it as mere family problems. Superficially, that’s what it’s about but it’s really about human nature. The Entire History of You isn’t about petty jealousy. It’s about how technology can be used in dark ways to strain our relationships. How there needs to be a certain level of trust so that someone doesn’t feel the need to go back and obsess over tiny details to keep himself paranoid. It’s how technology can do useful things but can also dehumanize us as well. Yes, technology might kill us all or ensure utopia but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with examining the subtle ways it affects us. If you don’t like Black Mirror that’s fine, but shallow is not the word I would use to describe it.

          • Chunderer says:

            It’s about how technology can be used in dark ways to strain our relationships

            But see, that’s my point. In that episode, it isn’t about “our relationships,” it’s about this one paranoid, jealous guy’s relationship with his hot wife. It’s obvious to me that even without the mind chips, those characters would end up the same way.

            A show about the same old human problems wrapped in a sci-fi shell isn’t interesting when the pitch is that it’s an examination of the dark side of technology—and such an examination is sorely needed.

            What about technology’s impact on our relationships? What about the millions of people who are addicted to the devices in their pockets, or who are useless without them, or whose thought patterns and biases and preferences are engineered according to the UX decisions of a small team of designers and cognitive scientists in Palo Alto? What about our complacency with lack of privacy, and our willingness to broadcast to the whole world (and in so doing, to hand over to a giant corporation) intimate artifacts from the most personal moments in our lives? What about the impact of technology on our dignity, our way of living, our way of working, our traditions and the world our grandkids will inherit?

            A show like “Black Mirror” has the potential to tackle these issues, but instead it is fixated on high-school-level romantic relationships being spoiled by Cellphones Behaving Badly.

            That’s why I say it jumps off a high-dive and lands in a puddle.

          • There was a science fiction story (sorry, author and title forgotten, probably some decades old) about a future where living alone is so convenient that people have forgotten how to be even a little polite and accomodating with each other.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            That goes back to what I said about social hierarchy being crappy for those on the bottom. I can see that happening thus: When those who have to defer to everyone bail out, there’s a new bottom. They get sick of having to defer to everyone, and they bail out, until everyone’s alone.

          • Wrong Species says:

            It would have been a lot harder for him to figure out his girlfriend was cheating on him if he didn’t literally watch it. If he didn’t replay that those videos over and over in his head, would he still have been paranoid? Maybe, but I don’t think to that extent. He probably would have just dropped it after getting drunk that one night. This isn’t to say that the technology was the sole reason that the events played out the way they did but it did change his relationship with his wife, just in a different way than some other sci-fis might have implied. And it’s also about the Lack of privacy, they even mention that when the one women mentions her grain being stolen for implied illicit purposes.

            And even beyond that episode, do you think Be Right Back is an episode that is basically the same without the tech aspects? What about the Christmas special? Even the episodes with no new technology usually show how our current tech is changing how we live. In the National Anthem, everyone is glued to the screen so much no one notices that the princess is safe. So maybe they aren’t raising these issues in the way you expect but they are talking about them.

  27. I am curious what others know about the Columbia referendum against making a deal with FARC. Before the referendum it sounded like a good idea to me, if it helped to end the violence in Columbia. On the other hand, I have heard that FARC has been mostly defeated anyway, so maybe dealing with them politically is a bad solution, if they can just destroy them militarily.

    I have seen no one in these comments self identify themselves as a Columbian, or even from South America, but I’d love to hear somewhat local comments about why the vote went against the referendum. Was it because people thought it was a bad idea to keep FARC in the politics of Columbia when it isn’t necessary, or is it mostly revenge thinking that FARC has to be punished and not rewarded?

    • pku says:

      There’s a huge difference between “mostly defeated” and actually gone (compare Hamas). I grew up in Israel, and it’s incredibly sad when people reject peace because it doesn’t satisfy their need for revenge.

    • Sandy says:

      I am not Colombian, but a large chunk of my native country is plagued by Communist terrorism and has been for quite some time. Thousands of people have died. India’s communists share a philosophical outlook with Peru’s Shining Path, which is to say they are happy with limitless violence aimed at innocent people they deem to be “traitors”, “reactionaries” and “enemies of the revolution” so long as it moves the country further toward their Maoist utopia.

      So I understand the feelings of any Colombian who voted “no” because they want retribution rather than reconciliation. I don’t want a detente with domestic terrorists; I want them exterminated en masse. Do you consider this a good message to send a domestic terrorist organization — that if you kill enough people over a sustained period of time, you can frighten the state into forgiving you?

      Across the sea from where I grew up, there was a civil war raging in Sri Lanka for 25 years. There were numerous opportunities for a final settlement with the LTTE over the years but they all failed because the two sides had irreconcilable differences. Eventually all the leaders of the LTTE were killed, their organization was shattered, and as a result nothing like the LTTE will ever come again. When there is no common ground, the only way to settle things is to destroy one side.

      • hyperboloid says:

        The problem with any analogy to the naxalites is that India is a functioning democracy that has several perfectly legal Marxist parties that hold seats in the Lok Sabha.

        In fact an entire spectrum of left wing and socialist ideas have been represented in mainstream Indian politics for decades, and the parties that championed them have won tangible victories in areas like land reform, public health care, and labor rights . Indian leftists have no grounds to claim they have been unfairly shut out of the political process. Even the Indian right has, at least sometimes, shown an admirable commitment to providing public goods to the poor.

        According to world bank statistics India has a lower poverty rate then Colombia despite having less then half the GDP per capita.
        the social circumstances are just not the same.

        During the peace negotiations with the Belisario Betancur’s government in the mid 1980s the FARC tried to form a political party called the Unión Patriótica, some enterprising gentlemen form Medellín basically exterminated every one of their candidates, and a quite a few of their voters. Colombia remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist and activists on the left have targeted for execution by paramilitaries every bit as violent as groups like the FARC and ELN.

        The FARC are gangsters, what ever political aims they once had have been cast aside long ago in favor of banditry, but the same thing can be said of the AUC or any of it’s myriad descendants.

        Most of the perpetrators of right wing violence in Colombia have been allowed to demobilize while receiving no meaningful punishment for their crimes, it is strange to demand a different standard for the left.

        • Vijay says:

          The only issue I have about the post is the poverty level comparison between Colombia and India. More than 20% of Indian population earn less than $1.90 a day whereas that number is less than 5.3% in Colombia.

          There is a subtle difference in comparison between Farc and Maoist Naxalites. India cannot easily be thought of as a single country, but more like a agglomeration. The states where Naxalites spread through are Sub-Saharan in their indicators. The point of comparison between the FARC and Naxalites is the tribal subaltern class (even below the farmer level) that support both groups.

          • hyperboloid says:

            The only issue I have about the post is the poverty level comparison between Colombia and India. More than 20% of Indian population earn less than $1.90 a day whereas that number is less than 5.3% in Colombia.

            That seems to be a point where I was just plain wrong, I assumed that the world bank statistics I was using reflected a purchasing power parity estimate of poverty, in fact they just listed the percentage below the national poverty line.
            I thought it was surprising at the time, and should have double checked it.

            But to try and salvage some of the point I was making; as you say, there is huge regional variation India. If I had limited my claim to Kerala, Punjab, Himachal, or even Tamil Nadu (places, where the are of course no Naxalites) I would have probably have been right. Those places are not wealthy, even by developing world standards, but they have taken action to alleviate the worst kinds of deprivation.

            There are clearly mechanisms in at least some parts of India that allow the political demands of the poor to be addressed through democratic means. How is it that the Indian political system has been so much more responsive to needs of it’s citizens in Kerala then in Andhra Pradesh?

  28. Can someone explain to me how they deal with links in these comments? There are lots of links here, often integral to the discussion, but I ma hesitant to use them because I often lose my place in the comments when I come back. In particular, I often use cntr F to find responses to my comments or to find all the comments placed in the past day. It seems when I come back from links the cursor goes back to the last ctrl F item I had, which could be 100’s of comments away.

    Is there a way to ensure I can come back to the same place after using a link?

  29. hyperboloid says:

    Since we had a discussion about classic movies we hadn’t seen, I’m going to ask the opposite question, what movies have you seen that you think are overlooked classics?

    I’ll start off with a special selection for latetotheparty,

    Straight outta locash!

    It’s the 1993 Chris Rock gangsta Rap satire CB4. Not a perfect movie, but a definite example of a film that came too early. Hip hop had just recently made the crossover into mainstream popularity, and the Jokes went over the heads of mostly white audiences.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      The 1963 film The Servant is I think a massively underappreciated classic. It’s written by Harold Pinter, and is about a man who becomes a servant to a british aristocrat and gradually turns the tables on their relationship of dominance. The acting, writing, and cinematography are all excellent.

      Also, Three Women, by Robert Altman, which is like a better version of Bergman’s Persona.

      Also, I don’t know if it counts as overlooked, since there’s a subset of critics that do rank it highly enough to put it on the BBC’s top 100 of the new century, but I think Under the Skin is by some margin the best film of the past ten years.

      • Johnjohn says:

        Under The Skin is definitely underrated and overlooked.
        Might be the best movie this side of y2k

        Loved it the first time I saw it. Cried the second

    • Sandy says:

      Dead Ringers is a fairly well regarded film, but it is often overlooked in favor of other Cronenberg works like The Fly and A Dangerous Method. I highly recommend it; I think it can stand alongside anything David Lynch has done in the psychological thriller genre.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        I agree. I think it’s Cronenberg’s best film.

        • Deiseach says:

          Thirding here. Vintage weirdness, Jeremy Irons gives a magnificently repulsive yet pitiable performance as the twins, and Genevieve Bujold is excellent as her character.

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        I enjoyed Dead Ringers, but it’s a strange one because it seems halfway between Cronenberg’s David Lynch-esque films and his mainstream films.

        Dead Ringers has the bizarre joined-by-flesh dream, the mutant tools, and the blood-red surgical robes, but the viewer never loses track of what level of reality they’re on.

        Unlike, say, Existenz and Videodrome.

        • hyperboloid says:

          One of the distinctions that I see between Cronenberg and someone like David lynch is that, while Cronenberg’s films may be surreal, they always follow an internal logic of their own.

          To me the aesthetic appeal of surrealism rests on exploring a world that is internally consistent but operates on rules very different form our own.

          When I watch Lost Highway, or Mulholland Drive, I often have no idea why anything on screen is happening. Can anybody explain to me what Inland Empire was about?

          For the same kind of contrast compare Terry Gilliam to Alejandro Jodorowsky. Brazil and Twelve Monkeys have unconventional plots, are full of elaborate and strange scenery, and depend on narrative devices that twist the audience’s sense of reality, but everything is there for a reason. On the other hand The Holy Mountain is just weird for the sake of being weird.

          • BeefSnakStikR says:

            I prefer it to be precariously balanced between the two. Basically, it’s best when a movie provokes viewers to be confident in their own interpretation of it, even when the text of the movie doesn’t lend itself to interpretation.

            I think most viewers have some basic idea of what’s going on in Lynch’s movies: the main character is in some sort of distress. If what you’re shown provokes distress in you, then you sympathize with the character.

            Why does the man in Eraserhead kill the child? It’s not just because of it looks like a cow fetus. Is it because of his guilt over having an affair? Is it because he’s an insomniac and has terrible dreams of decapitation? Is it because when he eats meat it’s a horrifying, blood-spattering ordeal? You can attribute any of those things to him, but prioritizing one as his concern also prioritizes it as your own concern.

            I think surrealism is the easiest way of inducing this, but realism sometimes has this effect too. I remember that the director of Doubt said that, based on the conversations he overheard in the theater lobby, that everyone had seen an different entirely play.

            In other words, the characters attributed a moral stance to each character because those characters emoted their moral stances without verbalizing them.

            In the group I saw it with, one of us believed that it was primarily about a priest who molested children, one of us believed it was primarily about a boy who was confiding his homosexuality in a priest, and one of us believed it was primarily about a nun who lost her faith in religion.

    • Aegeus says:

      I just saw The Raid: Redemption, and I’m not sure how overlooked it is, but I really liked it and want to rave about it. It’s a master-class on how to do good martial arts action. It’s clear and comprehensible, showing off all the stylish techniques, but at the same time it’s got a visceral, brutal feel where each strike has impact. Like, the main character will do a complicated parry with his police baton, then follow up by stabbing the guy in the knee and slamming him into a wall. A good mix of elegance and brutality.

      It doesn’t have much in the way of plot or characters, but holy shit does it have good action.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Jose Ferrer’s Cyrano de Bergerac.

    • nelshoy says:

      To Be or Not to Be (1941)

      I still haven’t seen the Mel Brooks remake, but the original holds up great. It’s about a Polish acting troupe trying to save lives during the Nazi invasion of Poland, and it’s a comedy from 1941! It’s kind of amazing how irreverent it is, I can only imagine because they didn’t know the scope of Nazi atrocities at the time.

      • cassander says:

        In 1941 the Nazis had just started committing serious atrocities. assuming writing started in late 40 or early 41, there basically weren’t many to know about. A nasty anti semitism, sure, and the ugliness of the night of the long knives, but nothing to indicate the scale of what was coming.

    • pku says:

      Kiki’s delivery service – I only recently heard of it (way after I’d watched most of Myazaki’s other movies), but it’s one of his best.
      Mr. Nobody also hit me pretty hard (though it might just have been my mood when I watched it).

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I have some odd tastes in movies, but overall I tend to lean toward comedies. Ruthless People and Soapdish often come up. Trading Places is terrific, but I wouldn’t call it overlooked. Children of the Revolution is, however – an Australian movie about a woman’s affair with Joseph Stalin. Yes, it’s a comedy. So is Thank You For Smoking.

      Meanwhile, a friend alerted us to Rare Exports a few years ago, and now we watch it every Christmas season.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Agreed on Thank You For Smoking and I continue to insist to anyone that will listen that most of Paul Verhoeven’s movies are comedies as well.

      • CatCube says:

        Ruthless People is great. “This might very well be the stupidest person on the face of the Earth. Maybe we should kill him.”

    • Zombielicious says:

      I’ll go out on a limb and mention The Divide (2011) as an overlooked, underappreciated one. Fair warning that it has ratings of 25% and 37% (critic and audience) on Rotten Tomatoes, so I’m clearly in the minority here in having not hated it. It’s a deeply disturbing film, at least an order of magnitude more messed up than what I’d consider similar ones (stuff like Snowpiercer or Vinyan), which is probably the main reason it got such a negative response. There is truly not a happy moment in that film, and definitely a case of “trigger warnings for absolutely everything.”

      Picking this because it’s hard to think of a movie that’s genuinely overlooked, as opposed to something like Primer that is already known to be great and just suffers from having been an indie film that only got a limited release, or movies that are kind of underrated but not much more than that.

  30. BBA says:

    Spinning off a topic mentioned in the comments on Scott’s domestication post (but having nothing to do with the content of that post):

    In recent years some Catholic dioceses have been selling off their excess property with restrictions in the deeds binding future owners to abide by Catholic doctrine. For example, about 10 years ago restrictions regarding a New York University dormitory built on the former site of St. Ann’s Church on 12th Street came to light. Now I’m an atheist and as anti-clerical as anyone, but I don’t see anything wrong with a Catholic church requesting that the new owners of the land don’t build an abortionplex or a porno theater or anything else equally offensive to their religion.

    The issue I have is that the restrictions in the deed don’t just bind NYU, but all future owners of the land as well, apparently forever. Under New York law deed restrictions expire after 30 years but can be renewed indefinitely, and I don’t see why the archdiocese wouldn’t. The law also allows for restrictions to be removed if they no longer benefit the party with the right to enforce them, but of course it benefits the Church to see its doctrine followed. So in 100 years Walgreens may decide to open a pharmacy there (they’ve already got one on every other block in the city), but they won’t be able to sell condoms or the pill like at their other locations because it used to be owned by the Catholic Church many years ago.

    So now I’m wondering why every church doesn’t put open-ended restrictions on their property, and for that matter why every religious person doesn’t do the same and sell the enforcement rights to their church. Fast forward a few cycles of turnover in the property market and everyone will have to follow the religious doctrines of every past owner of their property combined. Totally nuts but apparently allowed under current law.

    (No, the Church can’t just put “every future owner must be Catholic” in the deed. Those kinds of deed restrictions were made unenforceable in Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948. To be honest, I’m sure the courts would find some way to limit these religious doctrine restrictions before they got too out of hand too, but it’s fun to speculate about how far it could go.)

    (As another side note, the front wall of St. Ann’s was left standing in front of the dorm building. This is probably a metaphor for something.)

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Presumably the reason more organizations don’t do that is that nobody is required to buy your property: if the restrictions are too onerous, they’ll either ask for a huge discount or walk.

      Most people selling buildings need the money for something else, so unless they’ve got particularly deep pockets and/or are in a place like New York with insanely high land prices there’s a strong incentive not to try it.

      Anyway, there’s a strong value in having these sorts of deed restrictions. People with strong sentimental attachments would be much less willing to part with property if they knew that the new owner could, say, chop down their prize 300 year oak tree on a whim or build a “massage parlor” in the basement of their childhood home. As long as buyers are made aware of the restrictions and choose to go forward with it anyway I don’t see the problem.

      • dragnubbit says:

        Thomas Jefferson said it quite nicely for me, and leads me to believe perpetual deed covenants need some reasonable limitations to avoid generational over-reach (not saying this particular case is over-reach but that there are limits):

        I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, “that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;” that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by an individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of its lands in severalty, it will be taken by the first occupants. These will generally be the wife and children of the decedent. If they have formed rules of appropriation, those rules may give it to the wife and children, or to some one of them, or to the legatee of the deceased. So they may give it to his creditor. But the child, the legatee or creditor takes it, not by any natural right, but by a law of the society of which they are members, and to which they are subject. Then no man can by natural right oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeed him in that occupation, to the paiment of debts contracted by him. For if he could, he might during his own life, eat up the usufruct of the lands for several generations to come, and then the lands would belong to the dead, and not to the living, which would be reverse of our principle. What is true of every member of the society individually, is true of them all collectively, since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of individuals.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m presuming the particular restrictions were made because the building had been a church, and also that the diocese weren’t expecting the developer to pull down the entire building and just keep the facade, so that they didn’t want these specific usages. I think, given that the church building itself no longer exists, if a future purchaser wanted to challenge the restrictions, they might be able to. It’s one thing to say “We don’t want our former church turned into an abortion clinic”, it’s another to say “We don’t want the huge ugly dorm buildings on the site of the church which was torn down to be knocked down in turn and an abortion clinic built on the land”.

      • BBA says:

        I’m pretty sure the plans were always to build a tower on the site, though possibly with a greater degree of adaptive reuse of the church structure than the architectural folly they ended up with. As a side note, the facade wasn’t original to the Catholic church – it had been the facade of a Protestant church building on the same site, later briefly used as a Jewish synagogue, before being almost totally rebuilt as St. Ann’s.

        Policies appear to vary by diocese. In Massachusetts the Boston and Springfield dioceses are a lot more aggressive (warning: contains potentially lethal doses of left-wing anti-Catholicism). In particular, requiring that former Catholic school buildings not be reused as schools just seems wasteful, and banning non-Catholic churches from the sites is hypocritical – it’s fairly common for church buildings to pass between denominations, and in fact a future cathedral in California was bought from a Protestant megachurch.

        • Deiseach says:

          former Catholic school buildings not be reused as schools

          I wonder about that. Part of the reason might be that if the parish can’t support a school of its own, if another body comes in and builds a school then the parents will probably send the kids there instead of sending them to the Catholic school(s) left open, which undermines the entire purpose of amalgamating and re-ordering schools and parishes: not enough kids going to the designated Catholic school so that gets shut down as well, while the kids go to public or non-denominational schools and don’t get a Catholic education.

          About the use of churches, the Boston Archdiocese does seem to have a policy in place:

          Canon 1222, paragraph 2 provides that when a church building is no longer used for divine Catholic worship, in addition to assuring that it never be used for “sordid” purposes, the Ordinary is obligated to assure that “the good of souls suffers no detriment thereby”. The denunciation of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith, the desecration of Catholic objects of devotion and worship or even any disrespectful or casual treatment of such objects, and/or the proselytizing of Catholics are all detrimental to the good of souls and such activities thereby constitute “sordid” purposes. As such the Ordinary, in accordance with Canon Law, shall assure that such activities not occur in connection with the relegation of a church building used for divine Catholic worship to some other use.
          In exercising his obligation to prevent future “sordid” purposes and detrimental consequences to souls of the faithful, the Ordinary has the right to determine that the building should be destroyed rather than alienated. The Ordinary, however, is not required in each instance to take such an extraordinary measure when less extreme measures are available, such as alienating the property with sufficient precautions taken to guard against the property being used for “sordid” purposes or for a use detrimental to the souls of the faithful. Thus, the Ordinary may, in his discretion, alienate a former church building utilizing civil law protections, to the extent available, if he determines such protections will provide reasonable assurance that the building will not be used for inappropriate or “sordid” purposes.
          Furthermore, the Ordinary shall promote harmony and unity among all Christian churches without detriment to the Catholic faithful. See generally Canon 383.

          4. Worship sites sold for business/housing purposes: All Churches/Chapels sold (except to “denominations deemed acceptable in the sole discretion of the Archbishop) will contain a use restriction precluding the property from being used as a house of worship. The Archbishop of Boston shall approve any exceptions.

          I don’t know what the internal politics of Boston or the relationship between various denominations are like, to have such a clause. But for the Episcopalians, there was a rather bitter case in 2008 when a conservative parish in a liberal diocese (Central New York) were forced (let’s say) out of their church building; the diocese went to court to have them turfed out, the judge awarded ownership to the diocese (the Episcopalians did things differently from the Catholics so there was some argy-bargy over who owned the title to the church, the parish or the diocese?) and then put the property up for sale. The old parish offered to buy it, but they were turned down, and in 2010 it was eventually sold on to become an Islamic Awareness Centre. The diocese would rather sell it to non-Christians than let the troublemakers who weren’t with the programme on gay bishops buy it.

  31. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Catholic trivia: the papal name Pius was popularized as a pun. When Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini was elected pope in 1458, it had long been customary to take a regnal name rather than use one’s baptismal name. He chose to become Pius II, because “pious” was the hero Aeneas’s epic epithet.

  32. latetotheparty says:

    After the last open thread, I’m feeling like I’m living in some bizarro world. Maybe I really am a racist, despite my self-image as a charitable, rational, equality-minded communist….

    So, to calibrate things, I showed my wife that Dead Prez video entitled, “Hell Yeah (Pimp the System).” My wife is about as social justice as they come, although I wouldn’t call her a social justice warrior. But she reguarly gets into facebook fights with extended family on abortion, discrimination, gun control, etc., taking the feminist/social justice viewpoint. She hates Trump and is pretty strongly pro-Clinton (although I am working on convincing her of the merits of voting for Jill Stein instead).

    So, what was my wife’s reaction to the video? Well, she’s not the type to comment on internet blogs, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: That is was basically ugly and heinous, with the intro part of the white family getting lost somewhere and getting their car stolen being especially unsettling. Yes, that’s an anecdote, but at least that’s one other person out there who had the same reaction that I now have (like I said, as a teenager I thought the video was funny instead).

    That makes sense. Those white people at the beginning of the video are us. White, well-meaning, dorky, and probably utterly defenseless should we ever find ourselves in that sort of situation.

    Unless you live in some social justice warrior bubble, you’d probably understand that a majority of white Americans would also identify with that family at the beginning of the video. The number of whites that would sympathize more with the gang in that video and find it humorous or even maybe say, “Yeah, take it, you spoiled, privileged, racist white bourgies!” would be few in number. (My teenage self would have taken that latter viewpoint, believe it or not).

    Now, is one hip-hop video the end of the world? No, of course not. I’m not going to be like that Christian mom that recently went on youtube and demonstrated her naivate that, oh my gosh, there is CURSING and LEWD LANGUAGE in today’s rap music. I wasn’t born yesterday. The “Hell yeah” video was just the most salient representation that I could think of to explain something that makes me deeply uncomfortable.

    People wonder where the alt-right comes from. Well, I think I can understand one angle from which people might approach it.

    Imagine there are two groups in society: the green-grassers and the orange-grassers. Green-grassers believe that grass is green. You’ve always prided yourself on being one of the rational green-grassers. You’ve always felt like politics was a pretty straightforward thing: the green-grassers were the “reality-based community,” and the orange-grassers were either ignorantly mistaken or purposefully deceiving themselves and others with their lies that grass was orange.

    You often enjoy deriding the silly ideas of those orange-grassers with your green-grasser friends.

    Then, one day you also notice that the sky happens to be a particularly beautiful shade of blue with nary a cloud in the sky. You happen to innocently comment to your green-grasser comrades that, “Wow, what fine weather! This sure is a nice blue sky out today, eh?” not thinking much of it. But suddenly they all turn around and look at you like they are the borg and like you have just committed thoughtcrime, and they are coming to assimilate you. “What—the hell—do you mean, ‘nice’ ‘blue’ sky?” They say. “First of all, the sky isn’t blue, you dirty blue-ist, and second of all, it wouldn’t be a ‘nice’ thing if it were. So, I guess it would be okay with you if the ocean were ‘blue,’ or maybe you’d even like to get your hands on a ‘blue’ pair of jeans, you dirty blue-ist! Yes, please, go ahead and ‘blue-splain’ to us all the merits of a ‘nice’ ‘blue’ sky!”

    You are left feeling baffled, like you’ve gone over-the-top of the trenches in WW1 and discovered, mid-way through no-man’s land, that everyone else on your side has disappeared.

    Except, there’s this one guy in a foxhole a few meters over who is waving you over. He yells out that he’ll give you covering fire as you make your way to the next objective. You don’t notice that he seems to be pointing 90-degrees away from your original objective, and you barely catch the glimpse of the swastika tattoos underneath his shirt cuffs, but all you know is that your reality has just been rocked, and you’re not really sure which way you need to be running anymore, but you know that you can’t stay in no man’s land, so you set off with this seemingly-sensible stranger.

    • onyomi says:

      I had never heard of Dead Prez until today, so my opinion on them and their intentions is very superficial, but I actually found the video to be quite interesting and provocative. It is clearly not just an attempt to glorify “thug” life, nor just to make fun of the dorky white family at the beginning of the video, who are clearly depicted as innocent victims. Rather, it feels like a very strong and intentional juxtaposition of two very different worlds.

      The “black people world” which begins once they steal the car is clearly an over-the-top, almost comedic depiction of white peoples’ worst fears about black people. One could almost see it as a kind of propaganda video for Stormfront or something the black people are so comically bad. Parts of it almost reminded of the Chappelle Show, actually (not in being like something Stormfront would put out, but in black people making fun of stereotypes about black people without 100% rejecting them either).

      At the same time, since the duo is themselves black, I’m assuming they aren’t trying to create an anti-black music video. It feels a bit more to me like “this is what you think we are, isn’t it? Fine, then we’ll live down to your expectations.” It feels defiant and in-your-face, but not in an uncomplicated “white middle class people are lame and black gangsters are awesome” sort of way. I think it’s better than that. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think it calls on us to identify 100% with either group, but rather to contemplate the stark juxtaposition.

      • latetotheparty says:

        Yes, it could be that the video is a subtle form of satire, but unfortunately I feel like we run into Poe’s Law here: because I am aware of other rap videos glorifying this stuff in an entirely unironic way, I can’t quite be sure whether the ironic or unironic interpretation is warranted here.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you misinterpreted the responses you got in that thread. No one was disagreeing with your interpretation of the video, and trying to cast you into the outer darkness for reading it wrong. Probably no one else has seen the video.

      Rather the big problem with your comment was that you put seemingly enormous weight on a rather insignificant piece of evidence and allowed it to massively shit what you claim was a strong prior.

      At best that makes little sense.

      • latetotheparty says:

        Perhaps I should make it clear: it was not just this one video that radically changed my views. In fact, like I said, I was already familiar with this video back when I had what I consider now to have been hardline black liberation views.

        Rather, it is that a bunch of other little things in the intervening time have changed my views more than I realized, to the point where I am now startled when I go back and look at that video and realize that I used to root for the opposite side when watching it. I am using this video as a personal barometer to demonstrate my changing views…

        …which, to get back to the original point in the last thread, was: “It all seems like fun and games when you are a teenager and it is all in the realm of fantasy, but when you have a wife and kids suddenly a video like this doesn’t seem so funny.” Just like how, studying Genghis Khan seems like fun and games until he is banging on your door.

        Hence, why I was explaining, contra “The Most Conservative” why I hold Western countries and whites to an even higher standard than others. They are in a powerful and advantaged position to act out their bloodthirsty fantasies. It is bad enough when blacks do it. Whites, being the ones with privilege and advantage in our society, have the power to be even worse. If I saw a rap video (or a Swedish black metal video, as one commenter in the last thread suggested) showing white punks preying upon a black family, it would probably be even more concerning.

        So, actually, there was an anti-racist point in there that I was trying to make, but I guess I didn’t do a very good job of explaining it.

        • Aapje says:

          Hence, why I was explaining, contra “The Most Conservative” why I hold Western countries and whites to an even higher standard than others. They are in a powerful and advantaged position to act out their bloodthirsty fantasies.

          My objection with the Social Justice dogma is that they overstate both the hyperagency of the ‘oppressors’ and the hypoagency of the ‘oppressed.’ By doing so, they (ironically) create a white man’s burden, which by itself is discriminatory and reinforces bad interactions between the groups.

          Fact is that people can be extremely bloodthirsty with means far less than those of the West (Rwanda, Boko Haram, ISIS, etc).

          It’s fine to argue that Westerners have bigger armies, more money, etc and thus have greater ability to do good/bad. It’s not right to argue that this means that everything bad that happens is the fault of Westerners and/or that non-Westerners are powerless to improve their lives.

          A very similar thing is true for white vs non-white.

    • Zombielicious says:

      I’d like to try and refute what you were saying in the previous OT, but I’m honestly not even sure where to start. From the way you made it sound I was expecting a serial killing or something – but it’s all this over a car jacking? I don’t even understand what you’re trying to condemn black people for here – the crime or the behavior represented in the video? How is that even a racial thing more than a “poor criminals in the ghetto” thing? You’re aware that “being a violent thug” is a thing that crosses racial boundaries, right? Why is this a “black people are dangerous” thing rather than a “poor ghetto thugs are dangerous” thing? And more importantly, why is it that you consider this video particularly representative of a danger posed by black people, particularly a random hiphop video?

      Again, I’m not sure if you’re worked up about the crime shown itself, or the culture represented, but compare this to the parallel where someone watches a bunch of movies like Wolf of Wall Street, Deliverance, Schindler’s List, Last House on the Left, The Girl Next Door, etc (I could keep going) and then draws conclusions about how obviously screwed up and dangerous white people and white culture are.

      (ETA: Ah, your reply to Anonymous above answered a lot of this already, but I’d already posted it before you replied. Still, it gets interpreted pretty badly when you’re associating it with a specific race, especially when adding stuff about bad genetics on top of it.)

      • latetotheparty says:

        One of the things that I am precisely paranoid about right now is that, if the U.S. gets into a war with Russia, then a bunch of fascistic white people in America are going to go all Hitler on my “unpatriotic” ass and throw me in a concentration camp for having the gall to criticize the U.S.’s hand in this escalation.

        And I would never in a million years want to spend one moment with Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

        I guess one difference, though, is that I don’t feel like I run much risk of running into those unsavory whites on a daily basis (at least, like I said, until the U.S. goes to war against Russia and patriotism blots the 1st Amendment out of everyone’s minds as it always does in wartime).

        • Randy M says:

          I thought all the fascists this election were controlled by Putin’s propaganda?

        • Zombielicious says:

          Oh, I think (hope) this is more about the dangers of mob mentality then. It was kind of unfortunate to sidetrack it by using a random hiphop video as being representative of “black culture” then. Just to finish that off though, it’s an example of why broad negative stereotypes about groups of people are bad. You don’t have much to worry about from “unsavory whites” (and probably not blacks either unless you live in a racially homogeneous ghetto), but there’s probably someone sitting around having the exact same reaction about white people to a police shooting video right now.

          You need some kind of norms or defense mechanism against that kind of herd mentality taking hold, otherwise you end up with random groups getting scapegoated and attacked. Unfortunately that’s an unsolved problem afaik – some group or another always seems to be bearing a disproportionate amount of the blame for society’s problems. Which I think is why you got such a negative response – people get defensive about it in the same way that (some) people do when being anti-war is considered treasonously unpatriotic.

        • Anonymous says:

          I guess one difference, though, is that I don’t feel like I run much risk of running into those unsavory whites on a daily basis

          I guess this is the crux — why would rap music change what you fear on a day to day basis? I assume you’re at least twenty or so, you should have enough experience to have an idea of how much danger you are actually in.

          I don’t care for or listen to rap or hip hop, I don’t have the proverbial black friends, I never read Malcolm X, but I lived in two different predominantly black neighborhoods for a total of three years. While I wouldn’t say that they felt as safe as the tree lined suburb I grew up in, nothing ever happened crime-wise and I never felt singled out for hostility as a white guy.

        • Urstoff says:

          Feeling at risk and being at risk are two different things. How much regular contact do you have with lower-class blacks? If you don’t have much contact, I think it’s fairly normal for an ingroup-outgroup brain to feel at risk around them even if you aren’t really at risk (which you probably aren’t).

          I had that initial disalignment of feelings and fact when I moved to a majority black city for grad school, but that feeling of being at risk eventually dissipated after realizing I wasn’t at risk (and I was even mugged at gunpoint once).

          • Randy M says:

            Then in what sense were you “not at risk”?

          • Urstoff says:

            I wasn’t at significant risk, I was unlucky. The probability of anything happening to me then (and now) was (is) very low.

          • Lumifer says:

            realizing I wasn’t at risk

            I was even mugged at gunpoint

            There seems to be some… conflict between these two parts of a single sentence.

          • JayT says:

            What are you comparing the risk to? Obviously you were at much higher risk in that neighborhood than you would have been in some white bread gated community.

            The risk of getting mugged in the black neighborhood might be low, but it is relatively very high when compared to alternative neighborhoods.

          • Latetotheparty says:

            I come into contact with lower-class blacks on a regular basis when I substitute teach in certain schools in my city. I would come into more contact with them if my wife and I hadn’t specifically bought a house in a section of town where we knew that we wouldn’t have to encounter these lower-class blacks (or whites, for that matter); as a consequence, we had to pay about 50% more for the same sort of house.

            My encounters with lower-class blacks in the schools were not themselves threatening to me, considering there were other teachers and administrators and security guards around (although, actually, sometimes I have still felt a bit threatened when I had to sub for ISS, which, of course, tends to concentrate a particularly bad crowd into a small room, and they would become hostile and defiant over absurdly reasonable requests).

            I know enough from these subbing assignments to tell me that I would NOT want to meet these lower-class hoodlums outside of school on the street. I even subbed in a juvenile correctional facility, and the administrators were very clear that I was required to NOT tell the students my real name or any identifying information, lest they try to track me down afterwards. I can only imagine why they felt it necessary to take that precaution. Usually those rules don’t exist unless some precedent has happened in the past to require it).

            So…yeah…substitute teaching has really soured my idealism in some respects…..

          • Urstoff says:

            @JayT

            I would think that absolute risk, not relative risk, should be the criterion by which feelings of risk are judged to be accurate.

          • JayT says:

            OK, but at what point would you consider the absolute risk to be high? In Oakland California (I live one town over) the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime is 1 in 59. To me, that’s a pretty high absolute risk. Especially since Oakland has several wealthy, fairly crime-free neighborhoods, I would guess that the chances of becoming a victim in the majority black neighborhoods is significantly higher than that 1 in 59. I avoid those areas, and I don’t think it is at all irrational.

          • Randy M says:

            I think the phrase “at risk” is a bit of a red herring. If you described your neighborhood to anyone looking to move in as “a safe place to live, I was only mugged once, so far” very very few would continue to pursue looking there. Perhaps that is irrationality on their part. But don’t go into reality.

          • Urstoff says:

            @JayT

            That’s a good question, but it’s no doubt heavily dependent on individual risk aversion. I moved from that city, where there’s an (unconditional) chance of about 1 in 150 of being the victim of a violent crime (as I was) to an ultra-white suburb where that chance is 1 in 1000. Despite the huge difference in crime rates, I would move back to that city in a heartbeat if I could (initially moved because of family) because it was about a billion times more interesting and, yes, diverse than the suburban expanse I now live in.

            And, of course, depending on who you are, those probabilities may actually be much lower. Over half of violent crimes are assaults, and a very large proportion of those are non-random (you’re not just walking along the street and someone jumps out of the shadows and kicks the shit out of you). Most of the rest are robberies which, while not fun, aren’t deeply traumatizing (generally). So, if we make up some hypothetical conditional probabilities (counting only rape, murder, random assault, and some arbitrary proportion of robberies), we might say it’s 1 to 600 for one city versus 1 to 4000 for another. Again, a huge difference in relative risk, but neither really seems that bad.

            Ultimately, I think it’s easy to overstate risk and not be critical enough of one’s feelings of risk.

      • Psmith says:

        From the way you made it sound I was expecting a serial killing or something

        Speaking of. A little-known piece of San Francisco history.

    • hyperboloid says:

      First of all I also want to second Anonymous Bosch’s comment about immortal technique. I get that you think you’re pretty fly for a white guy but, Señor Felipe Andres Coronel was born in my mothers home town in Peru, his ethnic background is more George Zimmerman then Malcolm X.

      Second I think this conversation would go best if we avoided using the word racist. The concept of racism includes basically any kind of unjustified prejudice towards any ethnic group, so it can cover a lot of ground between average slightly clueless white guy who makes generalizations about people they don’t really understand, and David Duke style bigots.

      I’m certainly not accusing you of having an actively malevolent attitude toward African Americans.

      Dead Prez is a hip hop group famous mostly for being confused with The coup . If I asked them why they made that video I imagine they’d give an answer similar to onyomi’s.

      Now, do I believe that explanation? eh…

      On the one hand if you watch the video all the way through, it ends with them getting busted by the police, then waking up on a beach surrounded by women speaking some Bantu language (I think Yoruba, but I could be mistaken), with the debased condition of the black man in America having been a bad dream. On the other hand, the cynic in me assumes that that the real reason they made the video was less any making political statement, and more trolling the gullible to generate controversy and sell records.

      You’ve basically stumbled across the black equivalent of the Pepe the frog crowd.

      Most black people have never heard of Dead Prez. I’ve bought music form Ted Nugent, should I be judged by the nonsense that comes out of his mouth?

      We can have an intelligent conversation about why so many young black men make destructive, and self destructive, decisions. And that is an important discussion to have, but as far as I can tell you don’t live in an area with many black folks, and your understanding of them and their culture is based entirely on Hip Hop videos and media reports about violent crime.

      If you wade into the debate about African American society and politics starting form the point of view that gangsta rap videos are some kind of documentary, then you are going to sound like a damn fool; and people are going to call you on it.

      • onyomi says:

        It’s interesting you compare them to the Pepe the Frog crowd, because it reminds me of something I was thinking lately: /pol/ is horrifying with how genuinely, not-subtly racist, xenophobic, antisemitic, etc. they are. But while I think some of the posters genuinely hold racist views, I think they are, to a large extent, a kind of contrarian performance/joke: a way of saying “well, everyone thinks white men are racist anyway, might as well be guilty of the crime.” It’s not good because the line between ironic rebellion and actually just being a hateful bigot is not that clear, but one can sort of see how it happens.

        Arguably, artistic glorification of thug lifestyle may sometimes be a black version of that: you think we’re all thugs anyway, so let’s be thugs. Yet like the Pepe the Frog crowd they also express nostalgia for an idealized, non-debased version of their group: for /pol/ white people it’s going on about Western civilization and Nordic gods and Greek statues. They actually have almost as much vitriol for “degenerate” white men (yes, they really use such terms) as for their hated outgroups. I saw a thread on there seriously asking whether premarital sex made you degenerate. So, in a sense, this is the opposite of glorifying the thug life: it’s parodying it and then fantasizing about something better.

        But re. the Pepe the Frog group, while I don’t think we have much to fear from ironic internet nazis, nor, indeed, from ironic gangsters, it does seem like the overly promiscuous accusations of racism run the risk of creating actual racists who are just being contrarian/in for a penny in for a pound.

        • Aapje says:

          a kind of contrarian performance/joke

          aka trolling.

          Fun fact: on a once popular tech site (Slashdot), there used to be a gang of trolls who had an entrance exam: watching the movie Gayn*ggers from Outer Space. These people clearly rallied around offensive content by virtue of people getting offended, rather than actually believing it.

        • Fahundo says:

          So we’ve just accepted, uncritically the assertion that Pepe is only posted by white nationalist groups?

          • onyomi says:

            That’s not what I said, certainly. Firstly, I realize he was a comic character and that the creator himself is not happy about this new association.

            Also, when I mentioned the “Pepe the Frog crowd,” I was referring to /pol/ trolls, and for all its ickiness, I wouldn’t call /pol/ a “white nationalist group,” though they certainly don’t discourage participation by people who might be members of such. But my point was that, while I’m not excusing it, and worry it blurs the line into real racism, I think a lot of it is a kind of contrarian rebellious performance/joke–aka, as Aapje, noted, trolling.

            Though not his original intent or only use, Pepe has definitely become an icon of this particular flavor of trolling.

          • a non mouse says:

            OMG, that makes it even funnier.

            Most media reports now routinely default to a narrow description of Pepe as a representation of white supremacy, ignoring the mellow, positive-vibed frog that he is in the hands of his creator, Matt Furie,

            Fantagraphics Books wants to state for the record that the one, true Pepe the frog, as created by the human being and artist Matt Furie, is a peaceful cartoon amphibian who represents love, acceptance, and fun. (And getting stoned.)

            Thanks for the link onyomi.

      • Salem says:

        Dead Prez are mostly famous for Hip Hop, which is one of the most iconic rap tracks of all time. Apart from that, their career has been lame, yes.

    • Callum G says:

      Dead prez are definitely conscious rappers. Did you listen to the lyrics of that song? They very obviously suggest that black crime is a result of poor-socioeconomic issues. I’m not sure how familiar you are with hip-hop but this is entirely a case of social commentary rather than racial-violence glorification. The rappers aren’t saying that violence was good, just that they found it necessary to survive. The race differential is a juxtaposition, highlighting that middle-class white Americans don’t have to deal with. I could quote almost any part of the song to support this, but the most succinct explanation is probably the bridge:

      Got to get this paper
      I’m down for the caper, we steady on the grind
      It’s a daily struggle, we all gotta hustle
      This is the way we survive

      The intro is an ugly and heinous event, the rest of the song provides a commentary on why these artists think it happens. Whether you agree or not with their analysis, this isn’t meant to encourage the act. The video epilogue even shows it being part of a bad dream and that black people would prefer not to be in situations where they have to do this. There are so many more obvious cases of violence/drug glorification by black artists in hip-hop (although perhaps less so along racial lines). It boggles my mind that you settled on this one to make your point.

      • Latetotheparty says:

        Yeah, I’m probably pretty out of touch with the African-American community, I agree. And I suppose I need to be wary of over-generalizing from stuff like this.

        Then again, I object to the idea, if it is what the artists were implying, that this thuggish behavior is what they needed to do to survive.

        People have lived through far worse things while exhibiting far more solidarity and far less anti-social behavior than this.

        As far as why I settled on this video to pick my fight, it is precisely because it sits on that fine line between what my earlier self would have excused and what my current self finds objectionable. I was never a fan of Ludacris or the other more obvious cases of drug/violence glorification. I feel like Dead Prez ought to know better.

        I am more and more starting to come around to the opinion that being a leftist doesn’t mean you give disadvantaged groups a free pass on every imaginable thing, no matter how awful it seems to you. When people are afraid to call the sky blue, when it is politically incorrect to call a thug rap song a thug rap song, then that just gives ammunition to the alt-right.

        It’s like, if I were a witness to the Russian Revolution and I saw it going off the rails, but if I apologize for every thing it does no matter how heinous, rather than speak out about the secret police and the disbanding of trade unions and all of the other betrayals of the revolution like Emma Goldman did, then you reinforce the perception that, “Yep, the Russian Revolution really is about the Cheka and dictatorship and whatnot. See? All of their supporters agree.”

        • Callum G says:

          I don’t think allowing genuine social commentary is seen as giving the artists a free pass. Dead Prez are on the same side as you, they see the violence as a bad thing. They are just giving their view on why they think this is happening, which, whether you agree with it or not, is valuable. Do you also have similar sentiments towards the movie crash?

          You do have a point that politics is the mind killer; choosing ‘sides’ encourages censorship of rational thoughts at risk of upsetting whatever side you’re a fan boy of.

          But really, Dead Prez giving honest social critique is where you draw the line? I don’t think that fits the pattern of ‘group censorship of rational thought’. Do you feel the same about movies that depict the struggle of the Irish? Such as “in the name of the father” or “The wind that shakes the barely”?

          Your point is very much true for things like.. vandalism by SA student protestors or the BLM movement. Dead Prez though? Naaah.

          • Sandy says:

            What was Crash’s view on racism, anyway? From what I remember it was just “You know, everybody’s a little bit racist in their own way!”.

      • James says:

        And there are lot of examples of non-glorification rappers like Q-Tip, Maxi Jazz, and Mattafix.

        I think the crime is whom the media and record labels choose to promote.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The thing about videos like this is even if they aren’t explicitly endorsing violence it still normalizes it to an extent that is deeply disturbing. You can blame him for missing all the nuances but how many of the kids who watch this get the same message he does?

        • Urstoff says:

          Someone should look into this kind of stuff. Maybe like a music video resource center for parents.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If you’re being sarcastic I can’t tell.

          • rmtodd says:

            Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s being sarcastic, referring to the Parents Music Resource center https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PMRC, aka “the bunch of Senators’ wives who were outraged about obscene music lyrics and had their husbands hold Senate committee hearings on the subject”. Memorable for, among other things, having both Frank Zappa and John Denver appear before the committee speaking in favour of freedom of speech.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Also Dee Snider.

          • anon says:

            He’s trying to “cleverly” imply that because you dislike something, you want it subject to official censorship.

            This is considered a dick move in Grey Tribal culture.

        • Callum G says:

          Couldn’t you say the same for world war II films? Video Games? Fighting as sport? Generic Hollywood action films? Most of those don’t even try to explain the violence with a valuable social message.

          I think the trade-off here is worth it. Saying that you can’t have any sort of violence in media because of normalization would greatly restrict storytelling abilities. Even world news would be seen as troublesome under that model.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The difference is that when it comes to video games and action movies I know it’s all fantasy and I think everyone else does too. And even then it’s usually good guys versus bad guys. But this is straight up glorifying threatening an innocent family and using violence to your own convenience. And I’m not saying we need to take legal action. It’s just that it shouldn’t be so out there to ask if music videos like this might possibly have something to do with the problems in the black community. If you are raised on a culture that is constantly telling you it’s ok to be violent because you’re oppressed, you might just internalize that. If it was just this one music video it would be one thing but it’s not. And I think we all know that.

          • Zombielicious says:

            If you’re going to go down that road, at least have the courtesy to consider the parallel argument that continual artistic and media portrayals of black people as dangerous crack smoking gangsta hoodlums have grossly distorted people’s perception as well.

          • a non mouse says:

            Zombielicious –

            That’s in Bizzaro-world. Here on Earth it’s policy that news reports never include the race of criminals if the criminal is black leading to such hilarious descriptions of fugitives like “the suspect was described as being approximately six feet tall, of medium build and wearing a white tee shirt”.

            In entertainment black people are uniformly portrayed as surgeons and computer hackers except if there’s a black woman – then she’s a judge. This, of course, doesn’t cause people to have grossly distorted perceptions.

            I bet that if you asked people what percentage of the population black people are you get numbers that are way too high. If you ask them what percentage of murders are committed by black people the number you get back is way too low. Searching for information on these questions the only surveys that I can turn up avoid asking actual factual questions to get an idea of how properly calibrated the public is on the facts.

          • hyperboloid says:

            .

            In entertainment black people are uniformly portrayed as surgeons and computer hackers except if there’s a black woman – then she’s a judge

            ……I don’t think we’re consuming the same entertainment.

            Part of this discussion is about a genre of music heavily marketed to suburban white teenagers based on it’s supposedly authentic portrayal of the lives of black drug dealers.

            if If you ask them what percentage of murders are committed by black people the number you get back is way too low.

            probably, but you have to factor in social desirability bias.

            A more important test would be ask people to estimate the odds of a given white person being a victim of black on white violent crime, I suspect here you are likely to hear a vast over estimate.

          • Callum G says:

            I’m worried at how people are still seeing this as ‘straight up glorifying violence’. There absolutely are rap artists that do: shock rappers like DMX or gangster rappers like Mobb Deep. Hip-hop does have some terribly violent, homophobic and misogynist lyrics at times. Those probably are bad and more relevant to your arguments.

            This particular video right here? To me it is very obvious that the artists are trying to portray a message above violence glorification. They’re trying to diagnose causes of black violence just like you are. Saying they shouldn’t discuss this because of internalization is like saying a Doctor shouldn’t diagnose mental illness for the patient may internalize the symptoms. A discussion of a negative issue necessarily involves depictions of that issue.

            The glorification that you’re talking about exists, but it’s worrying that community dialogues are casually lumped into that stereotype.

          • a non mouse,

            I think The Wire doesn’t have all its black characters as respectable professionals. (Haven’t watched the show, did a little googling.)

            https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=the%20wire%20cast

          • Urstoff says:

            Media influence on The Children is a topic that gets brought up every decade or so. Remember the D&D/Heavy Metal hysteria in the 80’s when everyone thought kids were being seduced to worship satan? In the mid-90’s, gangster rap was the concern (e.g., the uproar over Ice-T’s “Cop Killer”). In the late 90’s and early 00’s, it was violent video games (did Doom cause Columbine?). We should probably look to those past instances to see whether in fact any of those were justified (I’m guessing not).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Wrong Species: a rap video is glorifying violence against innocents and using violence when it’s convenient, but, say, Grand Theft Auto isn’t? Plus, you don’t have to look to pop culture to see people benefit themselves – you just have to look to history and current events. “It’s OK to use violence against others because [dubious reason why they’re the ones attacking us]” is as or more potent than “we’re oppressed so violence is cool”.

            @hyperboloid:

            You’re probably right. People in general probably overrate the chances of any given person of whatever sort being victimized by any other sort of person, but they probably would have a larger gap for black-on-white crime.

            @a non mouse/hyperboloid:

            I think there’s probably a polarization effect going on. Some fiction makers disproportionately portray black people as lower-class hoodlums. Others respond to this by portraying them as saintly and usually professional class. The net result of both (I would argue that the second group has better intentions) that you see relatively few black people falling between “poor” and “affluent” or between “scum” and “angels” outside of media specifically by and for black people. I live in a neighbourhood that’s mostly lower-middle-class, and the black people (mostly Caribbean, as far as I can tell, with some Ethiopians and maybe Somalis) seem to be the same “sort of people” as the white people in the neighbourhood (Portuguese and Italian mostly). The real noticeable differences are between the Middle Eastern Muslim immigrants (who seem fairly conservative – I see black women wearing hijabs, but it’s only Middle Eastern women wearing niqabs as far as I can tell) and everyone else. (I figure, though, give it a generation or two and they’ll be decrying the laziness and low morals of their grandchildren, just like every other immigrant group ever). I think that this is some highly compelling anecdata.

            With regard to nonfiction reporting, it is dumb to leave out the ethnicity of the suspect if it’s known. Especially since it’s often counterproductive – a lot of people will just assume “oh well if they didn’t list the ethnicity let’s just assume…”

          • Jiro says:

            Combining pop culture and descriptions of perpetrators, I’ve been watching back episode of The Originals, a vampire show. At the start of season 3, a new, dangerous, group of vampires appears when a black woman in the group attacks other vampires. At one point a character asks for a description of the attacker and the response completely fails to mention her skin color. This description was still enough to identify her.

          • Iain says:

            The actual policy in most places is to not report the race of criminals when there aren’t sufficient details to narrow things down. Telling people to watch out for “a black male, age 18-30” only puts people on edge, without conveying any useful information.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            Wouldn’t reporting “an 18-30 male” put people on edge too? Or are there just so many of those that people would ignore the report?

          • Iain says:

            My understanding is that empirically speaking, you get significantly fewer people calling in to the police saying “oh my god, I just saw the suspect!”, and subsequent gun-drawn police take-downs of completely innocent bystanders, when race is left out of vague descriptions.

            Even for more detailed descriptions, it can be an issue. I remember reading an article about the number of (for example) 5’8″ black men in t-shirts who are reported as sightings of 6’1″ black suspects in hoodies, although my cursory Googling didn’t manage to turn it up.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain: OK, that makes sense. And really, being more careful around 18-30 year old males is … kind of smart regardless of most other factors.

            Side note: How do people estimate heights consistently? I’m awful with things like estimating heights and distances. I’m amazed that people can look at someone and do that.

          • Psmith says:

            How do people estimate heights consistently?

            Know your own height, add or subtract a bit as appropriate.

            Also, lots of customer-facing businesses will have a rule with tick marks on it on or right next to the door frame, so anybody who walks in or out has to stand next to it.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Also the height of people you know well. I know my height and my gf’s height, and where the top of her head comes up to on me. It’s easy to guesstimate people in between.

            For distance, think of how many times you’d have to lie down touching feet to head to reach a certain spot. The room I’m in right now is probably about 3.5-4 of my body lengths. For longer distances, you’d need to compare to a distance you already know well, like how far it is to the end of your street, or the distance to some landmark you know.

            There may be better methods; I’m not sure how e.g. cops, snipers, professional archers or shooters do it.

          • Artificirius says:

            …This seems a little nonsensical. If your goal with giving a description is to alert people to a possible threat, with an eye to having the public serve as eyes on the ground, as it were, specifically leaving out information would seem to run counter to that goal.

            Or if the goal is to not alarm anyone, then what is the point of alerting anyone to anything?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Artificirius:

            I’m guessing the reasoning is “this will cause people to be shitty to black guys 18-30, but saying that it’s a guy 18-30 won’t cause people to be shitty to guys 18-30, because numbers”.

            Alternatively, people do seem to care a lot less about disparate impact hitting men than disparate impact hitting black people. This is at least partially rational – isn’t the male-female gap in violent crime significantly bigger than the black-white gap in the US? I know that if I’m picking the side of the street to walk down at night, I’m going to take the side with the black women over the one with the white men 100% of the time.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Is there actually evidence that this (not reporting the race of a suspect) is actually a widespread policy? A duckduckgo search didn’t turn up much beyond a lone Breitbart article about a single incident. I almost never watch/listen to local news or radio, so I don’t have handy examples, but I could have sworn it was pretty standard to report “the suspect is a white/black/hispanic male/female between the ages of blah blah blah.”

            Considering the original assertion was also followed by the rather dubious statement that “In entertainment black people are uniformly portrayed as surgeons and computer hackers except if there’s a black woman – then she’s a judge,” I’m kind of guessing it has a similar truth value (i.e. none whatsoever).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Zombielicious:

            Canadian newspaper explaining its policy (it appears that they didn’t report the race of a white suspect when they had a good picture, and reported the race of a black suspect when they didn’t).

            Article about AP stylebook but I have no idea if it’s legit. I believe access to the AP stylebook involves paying money.

            Something about U of Minn’s policy.

            So, on the one hand, there are papers and universities with policies on this that seem a bit weird and overly flexible. On the other hand, three is a garbage sample size, and there is clearly no vast left-wing conspiracy to disguise who is committing crimes. Having read the articles, it seems like reporting race/ethnicity is only worth it when there’s enough detail for it to actually help identification. The whole darkly hinting thing as to why papers do or don’t report race/ethnicity is lame – as a left-winger, when I’m feeling down, it helps to know that in fact I am part of a vast and omnicompetent conspiracy to destroy all that is right and good.

            Anecdata: sometimes it is relevant and they don’t report it. A few years ago, there was a group described as teens or youths or whatever robbing people at subway stops near campus. There were several high schools in the area, so kids being around wasn’t exactly unusual. It would have helped to know what to look out for in groups of kids. White? Black? Asian? A delightful mix of ethnicities, proving that criminality unites where racism divides?

            As always, the best policy is probably to keep in mind that maleness followed by intoxication and youth are better predictors of violent criminality than race/ethnicity.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think there’s probably a polarization effect going on…. The net result [is] that you see relatively few black people falling between “poor” and “affluent” … outside of media specifically by and for black people.

            I think the single most common form of racial bias I’ve seen among whites is just this kind of polarized perception.The average white person seems to think that there are two sorts of black folks, upper middle class professionals, and welfare dependent drug dealers.

            It’s bizarre, they just don’t believe that the black working class even exists.

            As if there were no black orderlies, nurses, truck drivers, maintenance men, super market cashiers or bank tellers.
            People who, like eighty percent of the black people I’ve ever known, may not be wealthy, or highly educated but have reliable employment and are basically law abiding.

          • Artificirius says:

            @dndnrsn

            I would agree with a reasoning of ‘We don’t want people to think we’re shitty racists, and mentioning that it is a black person committing the crime screams racism, so we don’t report on race’ as a possible explanation.

            A far more likely one is that such a thing does not occur for actual reportage of warnings, or in the warnings themselves. From up here in Canada, I seem to recall that race is often mentioned, at least.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Artificirius:

            The Star’s explanation seems to have come off of someone noting their not reporting a white subject’s race, and reporting a black subject’s race, and possibly accusing the paper of racism against black people, on that basis. When in fact their policy seems to be a fairly reasonable “if there’s a picture we’ll show that”.

            I think their official statement of values or whatever it is was recently edited to mention “social justice”, though, wasn’t it? The context up here is of course different than in the US (Eagleland Osmosis aside).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hyperboloid:

            I find myself wondering if that’s an especially American thing that has been taken abroad due to the influence of US media. In the UK and Canada, I am pretty sure that “Caribbean lady working as nurse/medical orderly” is a fairly common stereotype – the polarization there is that they either get portrayed as hyper-caring and hyper-competent (“aren’t you glad you have this motherly woman with a musical accent to look after you/your parents whom you should really visit more”) or the opposite (which is a variant on the “incompetent DMV worker” American stereotype, more or less). But that’s the only working/lower middle class image I find myself readily associating with black people.

        • lvlln says:

          The thing about videos like this is even if they aren’t explicitly endorsing violence it still normalizes it to an extent that is deeply disturbing.

          What does this mean, exactly? My basic interpretation is that this is claiming that this type of media influences the consumers of that media in such a way that, on average, there’s an increase in the amount of violence they perceive as “normal” in real life.

          Assuming that interpretation is correct, that to me raises 2 important questions.

          1. Is this true? This is a claim about reality, and we shouldn’t accept it as true unless and until we’ve collected evidence that indicate that it’s true. Given the replication crisis that’s been more clearly shown in psych recently, do we have enough strong and conclusive studies to let us be confident that this is true? Intuitively, I would guess that it’s true, but human intuition and reality have a very very loose relationship.

          2. Even if it’s true, why is it disturbing? Does influencing a population so that they accept more violence as “normal” in real life cause any “disturbing” effects in their behavior? Again, this seems intuitively true to me – someone who believes a higher amount of violence in real life is “normal” seems likely to escalate to violence and escalate the type of violence more quickly – but do we have enough research to actually conclude that this intuition matches reality?

          This doesn’t just apply to violent media, of course. There’s always talk about certain media “normalizing” certain patterns. Unfortunately, this kind of stuff isn’t like evolution or relativity where multiple lines of independent research have verified it to such an extent that we can just take it as being obviously true. These are strong claims about reality, and we should demand a high level of evidence if we are to believe that those claims are true.

        • Lumifer says:

          even if they aren’t explicitly endorsing violence it still normalizes it to an extent that is deeply disturbing

          You probably want to stay totally ignorant of computer games, especially first-person shooters. It’s really for the best : -/

  33. CatCube says:

    On a lighter side of things, what “classic” movies that you’d normally be expected to know about haven’t you seen? I’m not referring to refusing to watch because it’s not your cup of tea, but those you just somehow never got around to.

    The two that I’ve been reminded of recently (one during comments here): Blade Runner and Robocop. It just seems that whenever those movies were playing on TV, I either found them halfway through or just didn’t feel like watching TV at the time.

    • Anon. says:

      There’s tons of great Asian cinema sitting in my “to watch” list. Edward Yang, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Kobayashi, Sono. The subtitles are a bit of a psychological barrier, I think. I’ll get to them some day.

      You should really watch Blade Runner sooner rather than later, it’s incredible. Go for the final cut.

      • CatCube says:

        I forgot about Rashomon (and some other Kurosawa). The plot sounds like something I’d love, but it’s not on Netflix, and I never remember to look for it when I fire up my cable box.

      • pku says:

        Yeah, my “need to watch someday”s are Seven Samurai and Grave of the fireflies.

        • wintercaerig says:

          Don’t put off Seven Samurai. The beauty is incredible. It won’t feel like eating something wretched which you know is good for you.

        • Autolykos says:

          I second Seven Samurai (Ran is also pretty good). Never got around to watching Yojimbo, though (and stopped watching Rashomon halfway through). Kurosawa is especially worth watching if you’re familiar with the Spaghetti Westerns that copied were inspired by him.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t believe I’ve ever watched the original and the third Star Wars straight through, though it was often on in the background of friend’s house so I probably picked it all up at one time or another.

      Actually, I don’t really watch enough movies to really be a useful data point. I’ll watch with someone, but don’t choose to do so on my own.

      Not really a principled stance, since I’ll spend all day with Civ or Final Fantasy Tactics, etc.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Once or twice I caught bits of The Matrix on TV, but I didn’t watch it all the way through for a while. Then when I did see the whole thing, I discovered I had already watched all the good parts.

    • gbdub says:

      In the “reminded of recently” and “would be expected to know about” category, I’ve never seen Fight Club. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Wrath of Khan all the way through. Or any of the Alien movies (though I did see the meh Prometheus).

      And then the real “classics” – I’ve seen Casablanca and Citizen Kane but never Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, or Psycho

      • Glen Raphael says:

        I’ve seen precisely half of Gone With The Wind. I watched it in a near-empty movie theater; when intermission came I thought the movie was over and left.

        • gbdub says:

          Gone With the Wind is not particularly appealing to me, but it frequently appears high on lists of “greatest X movies” and recently there have been rumblings of it becoming “problematic” so I should probably get around to seeing it.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I just happened to watch Fight Club for the first time last weekend (along with Brazil and Being John Malkovich – both also good). Definitely worthwhile, and even worth seeing at least twice, I think. It has one of the longer trivia sections on IMDB, if that tells you anything.

        Other classics I’ve not yet seen include Godfather (1 and 2), Scarface, 12 Angry Men, Animal House, Idiocracy, Clue, Memento, Primer, Vertigo, and Psycho.

        • LPSP says:

          I watched Clue two, maybe three years ago. A lot of fun, although for some reason my brother despises it. Unless a comedy has a straightman he can’t laugh at it, and there are no straightmen in Clue. Everyone is bonkers, and everyone is a suspect.

        • Gazeboist says:

          12 Angry Men is an excellent movie. Clue somewhat less so. Primer is only really good if you have … special tastes, but if you have them it’s an absolutely astounding film. Watching with a plot chart is highly recommended, as an important part of the story takes place mostly off-screen. As to the rest, I am at least as ignorant as you.

        • a non mouse says:

          Oddly enough both Clue and Clueless are pretty good movies.

    • dndnrsn says:

      “Citizen Kane”. I’ve had it recommended to me by at least one person with tastes very similar to mine. I’ve just never got around to it.

      Seconding Randy M: I almost never watch something on my own. Whether it’s sports, a TV show, or a movie, I only really watch stuff with other people.

      • brad says:

        I watched that movie and was extremely disappointed. The story is not very engaging at all.

        Maybe it was an amazing leap forward in camera angles or lighting or something, but unless you are a cinematographer I’m not sure why you’d care.

        • pku says:

          Contrary opinion – I watched it expecting it to be lousy, but I wound up genuinely really liking it.

        • lvlln says:

          I had pretty much the same reaction. Found the whole story to be banal and lacking anything that could drive me to care one bit about any of the characters.

          After the fact, thinking back, I was able to see that it really was a revolutionary film for its time in terms of cinematography, and I sorta did start appreciating it more after thinking that, especially since I love good cinematography in films. But good-for-its-time cinematography really wasn’t enough to salvage the bore that was the rest of the film.

        • Aapje says:

          I was disappointed too. I assume that a major reason is that the revolutionary advances have mostly been adopted, so they are no longer special.

          High expectations may also have played a role.

        • hlynkacg says:

          It is beautifully shot, but I don’t think it has aged nearly as well as say Casablanca, The Third Man, or any of Kurosawa’s work.

      • hyperboloid says:

        Citizen Kane is thought to be the greatest film ever made TM because of how innovative it was at the time. It comes form a time when people were still figuring out how to make movies, so many of it’s innovations, the relatively naturalistic acting, the low angle shots, and the deep focus cinematography for instance, don’t seem very impressive today.

        It is a fine film that just has not been well served by the hype that surrounds it.

        • CatCube says:

          I’m reminded of a similar kind of thing that I experienced in video games. When I got a Nintendo 64 and played Mario 64, the controls and graphics were amazing–the game was legitimately revolutionary and probably defined 3D platformers. When I went back to play it (emulated) a few years ago, the controls seemed really clunky and difficult to use. Trying to position the camera in some places was frustrating, even though I had fond memories of that particular level. It’s just that while the game was groundbreaking, there was still a lot of stuff they hadn’t figured out, which obviously wouldn’t have counted against it at the time.

          • Fahundo says:

            This isn’t fair. Mario 64 is still unmatched in many ways today. In an open thread a while back, someone posted videos of a guy who figured out parallel universe travel within the game. The physics of Mario 64 are simply unlike anything released before or since.

          • pku says:

            This is partly because emulators really do have lousy controls compared to originals – but yeah, I remember playing Mario 64 when I was ten and finding the camera angles annoying. Still a great game, though.

          • Aapje says:

            @CatCube

            Dune II is also a good example. At the time, it defined a new genre. When you replay it, the missing features compared to newer games in the genre are just so frustrating.

          • Leit says:

            System. Shock. 2.

            Amazing game from an atmosphere and narrative point of view, but… sweet Freya, the interface and controls.

          • dndnrsn says:

            GTA: Vice City is in my opinion the best of the series in every way (haven’t played 5 though) except for the aiming, which is terrible. Lock-on aiming? Whose idea was that? GTA IV improved the aiming so much.

          • LPSP says:

            Fahundo’ sort-of got a point. Mario 64 actually and legitimately remains unsurpassed in certain gameplay and feat terms. However, he’s being a typical hype swallower about the works of Pannenkoek. Take it from someone who admires the work of the guy:

            a) Pannenkoek is an extremely dedicated speedrunner who has worked with others to unravel the complicated mechanics that govern Mario 64‘s world, learning how to break its boundaries to perform improbable feats in the process, like completing difficult vertical challenges without ever jumping. This is not a credit to Mario 64‘s design. It’s a credit to Pannenkoek and co’s ingenuinity and dedication. The fact that there are these loop-holes big enough to plow trucks through is a sign of Mario 64‘s datedness.

            b) One of the more famous of Pannen’s glitch exploits involves the small, looping nature of Mario 64‘s world, combined with a speed-building gimmick that lets him bypass walls to launch out of one side of a world and re-enter from the other. Because any interactive object other than walls, ceilings and floors get left behind, Pannen decided to call the process “travelling to parrallel universes”, or PUs for short. This is just a naming convention. There are no actual parrelel universes in a video game from the 90’s. Pannen has not furthered real-life physics. It is misleading to boast about “parralel universe travel” without context.

          • Fahundo says:

            However, he’s being a typical hype swallower

            Huh? No, I already knew everything you explained there. If you REALLY want to destroy the impressive-soundingness of the QPU travel, mention the fact that it’s tool-assisted, and would probably be impossible to pull off on an actual Nintendo 64.

            This is not a credit to Mario 64‘s design

            I disagree, but it really doesn’t change the fact that, even in normal play, later games such as Mario Galaxy have simpler movement options and less player control over momentum.

          • LPSP says:

            Huh? No, I already knew everything you explained there.

            Then why would you list “parallel universes” as an example of Mario 64’s advancement as a game? It’s literally an example of its era-specific limits. The stuff about momentum is great, but not what you stated.

            If you REALLY want to destroy the impressive-soundingness of the QPU travel

            First, it’s not QPU travel. You have align yourself along quarter PUs to make use of it in level completion, but that’s calling a car journey with a lot of left turns “left-turning car travel”. It’s just car travel. Spamming the word QPU is memery.
            Second:

            destroy the impressive-soundingness

            Why the hell would you want to do that? It’s probably the single most incredible feat in game mechanic exploitation, well, ever.

            mention the fact that it’s tool-assisted

            Because you have to spend 12 HOURS building up speed by clip-grinding on a misaligned set of slope tiles. It’s perfectly doable without tools, just mind-numbingly boring to both do and watch. Similarly, you can crash Paper Mario by striking one block in Dry Dry Desert for 416 straight years. Having a tool to rout-around the problem of maintaining the integrity of an N64 console, supply electricy, and train up a rota of people spanning several generations and lifespans to maintain the hammering of that one button, is pretty reasonable. Doesn’t mean you have to cheat to do it.

            in normal play, later games such as Mario Galaxy have simpler movement options and less player control over momentum.

            Given that this is what I stated and you didn’t, the point you were making doesn’t make sense. You’re agreeing with my point, but trying to make it sound like I’m agreeing with your point.

        • Randy M says:

          This is called “Seinfeld isn’t funny” on TVTropes.

        • Anonymous says:

          deep focus cinematography

          I loved the Roger Ebert commentary track about all the special effects. But I’ve forgotten how deep focus was achieved. mirrors? multiple exposures? Paris, Texas has a couple of scenes shot through…bifocals.

    • Rowan says:

      I’ve never watched Princess Bride, that one seems almost obligatory in nerd culture with how often it’s quoted.

      • gbdub says:

        To me it’s one of those movies that’s better as quotes and memes. Overall I like it, it definitely has its moments, and you should watch it, but overall the cheeseball factor makes it hard for me to really enjoy. (Then again I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but in that the camp is more obviously intentional)

        • Randy M says:

          Given the tone of the book, I’m pretty sure the camp in Princess Bride is as intentional as Monty Python.

          • gbdub says:

            I’ve not read the book, and am only commenting on the film (and the film is clearly intended as comedic). Personal taste and all that – basically my issue is that there are enough scenes that seem to be intended to be taken seriously (which is not necessarily a problem), and those hold up badly compared to the rest of it. Given the time frame of the movie’s release I’m a bit jarred as to whether they are intentionally cheesy or are supposed to look good.

            Anyway really what I’m struggling to get at is that there are scenes and quotes in The Princess Bride that I find legitimately hilarious, but if I sit down and watch the whole thing I’m always a little disappointed.

          • Randy M says:

            Possibly, but even The Holy Grail just sort of falls apart at the end. Or rather, instead of ending.

          • gbdub says:

            I agree. But a lame ending is easier to swallow than repeated groaners throughout.

            I dunno. Back to personal taste I suppose. I thought the “twu wuv” angle was played a bit too straight, and I found Buttercup to be a bore (Humperdinck as well).

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, Buttercup has all the personality of Bella Swan, and about the same appeal.
            (I mean, from what I hear.)

            The fighting and the repartee is good; almost like you are watching the imagination of the young Fred Savage, glossing over the details of the kissy stuff.

          • John Schilling says:

            almost like you are watching the imagination of the young Fred Savage, glossing over the details of the kissy stuff.

            “Almost”?

            There’s a reason the book calls itself the “good parts version” of a (nonexistent) larger story, and in editing down to movie length Goldman et al took that principle and ran with it, and wrapped it in a framing story to make that clear. No, you don’t have to read the kissing parts, but maybe by the end you won’t mind so much.

          • Randy M says:

            “Almost”?

            Tongue, I had thought obviously, in cheek.

      • Jon says:

        Having read the book years before the movie existed, I have to agree the movie is lacking. A large part of the charm of the book is in the narrative — Buttercup’s world rank in beauty and the like. That doesn’t really come through in the movie.

        • Also, in the book Buttercup can be unimaginably beautiful. In the movie, we’re limited to real world possibilities, so she’s about as good-looking as many actresses tend to be.

        • Evan Þ says:

          For me it was the opposite – the book kept lampooning itself, which annoyed me and ruined my immersion; even though the movie was just as over-the-top and comical when viewed from outside, it took itself seriously.

        • CatCube says:

          I actually didn’t care for the ending of the book, but that’s personal taste. I hate open-ended stories, because it feels like a cop-out to me. I actually preferred the ending to the movie of “The Mist” to the book for that reason.

          • John Schilling says:

            I believe even Stephen King preferred the movie’s ending to his own, though more because it was a really good concrete ending than because he generally preferred concrete endings.

          • hlynkacg says:

            FWIW Stephen King has said the same thing. 😉

    • onyomi says:

      I’ve never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street.” I always just watched those stop-motion claymation things around Christmas.

    • Zombielicious says:

      Still haven’t seen Titanic. Or The Poseidon Adventure for that matter (did see the Kurt Russell remake though…).

    • Deiseach says:

      Don’t know if these qualify as classics, but the kind of “everyone has seen these movies!” that I’ve never seen:

      ET (seen bits and pieces of it on the telly, usually during Christmas, but never the whole thing). Jurassic Park. Finding Nemo. Schindler’s List. Saving Private Ryan. Any of the Godfather movies. A lot of the new Marvel Universe movies (saw the three Iron Man movies, none of the others). Any of the Spiderman reboots and re-reboots. Ditto the Superman reboots, and gave up on the Batman reboot with the Clooney version (the infamous “nipples on the Batsuit” one). The new Star Wars (saw the first trilogy, saw the one with Jar-Jar Binks, said ‘no thanks’ to any more). Titanic. Avatar (both the James Cameron and the Last Airbender ones). Brokeback Mountain (because I didn’t read the novel, either; simply wasn’t interested).

      Probably a lot more – if it’s one “everyone has seen”, I probably haven’t 🙂

      • CatCube says:

        Some of those don’t seem like things you’d enjoy, though–if you’ll permit me to guess based on previous posts–specifically the Marvel movies. And you state you actually started watching “Batman and Robin” but gave it up because you didn’t like it.

        I’m referring to movies you’d like to see but just haven’t. It’s not on TV, or on only when you don’t have time to watch, etc. It was actually a post by you that prompted my OP, when you were talking about Robocop some number of open threads ago. I realized that I was interested in seeing that movie, but just never had for some reason.

        • Deiseach says:

          I suppose the ones I really wanted to see, I did (whether in the cinema, on TV or via iTunes, Netflix, etc.) The ones I couldn’t be bothered about, even if they were “Everyone has seen this!”, I didn’t.

          If I can throw in something a bit different – years and years ago, I went to the cinema with my sister to see “Re-Animator” and enjoyed it immensely (we both did), much more than I expected to, probably I was going in with the attitude “Okay, it’s based on Lovecraft stories, it’s going to be cheap B-movie horror, don’t expect a lot from it”. It was (is) cheap pulp horror, but somehow serves the Lovecraft source material better than movies which have tried (and failed) to be ‘artier’ or higher-brow, and if you don’t expect depth or subtlety and don’t mind fake blood and flying entrails, it’s ghoulishly good fun.

          There’s a Hallowe’en movie recommendation for you all, now! 🙂

    • Fahundo says:

      The Godfather
      Top Gun
      Citizen Kane
      Blade Runner
      Airplane!
      Seven Samurai
      Citizen Kane
      Lawrence of Arabia
      The Room
      Problem Child 2
      Schindler’s List
      Saving Private Ryan

      I started watching The Bridge on the River Kwai once, but underestimated how long it was.

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      It took me years to get around to watching 2001: A Space Oddysey, and I bought it on VHS of all things from a thrift store.

      Even though the scene where the bone is thrown into the air and becomes a spaceship is iconic, nobody mentions that the first twenty minutes leading up to that feature apes. They just say “it’s a long movie”.

      • Montfort says:

        I had a similar experience. The people I was watching with spent the whole time voicing their increasing incredulity, which I found more entertaining than the scene itself.

      • CatCube says:

        I saw it for the first time about 5 years ago. The part with the apes didn’t get to me, but the psychedelic light show towards the end was aggravating.

        I remember thinking, “did Kubrick intend for you to be high while watching this, or was this effect considered so impressive when it was new that people would basically enjoy spending 10 minutes watching an electronic lava lamp?”

        • hyperboloid says:

          I have always been of the opinion that ninety percent of the “Jupiter and beyond the infinite” section should have been cut form the film. Just have the it end with Dave Bowman approaching the monolith, have the soundtrack build to a big dramatic moment. We see the shuttle pod disappear into the “star gate”, and roll credits over the slit scan photography sequence.

          We don’t need to know exactly where Dave is going, other than that he’s being transported by an alien force to a realm beyond human comprehension. Trying that show it on screen was always going to look silly.

          • BBA says:

            Oddly, the line “My God, it’s full of stars!” has become strongly associated with that sequence in pop culture, even though it isn’t spoken in the film. It’s from the book version (written simultaneously with the screenplay – neither was based on the other) and I think it’d be a fine place to end on.

          • BeefSnakStikR says:

            The white room was underwhelming, but I thought the aging effect made the impression it was supposed to. Strange things happening in a normal-looking place worked for me.

          • anon says:

            I think the movie would have been better as a musical, with Dave Bowman replaced by David Bowie.

        • BeefSnakStikR says:

          Well, the light show probably would be pretty impressive in a theater in 1968. I’d love to see it in an IMAX theatre even today.

          On a TV set…not so much.

    • Izaak Weiss says:

      Maltese Falcon is next on my list of things I need to watch, probably.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Unlike Citizen Kane (IMO) the Maltese Falcon holds up really well. The characters are engaging and it’s got a lot of top-notch talent in front of and behind the camera. A lot of the big names from the “golden-age of Hollywood” are big names because of this movie.

    • BBA says:

      I quote Godfather and Apocalypse Now often enough that I figure I should probably watch them sometime.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      I’m a bit of a film musicals buff, but I’m missing some Fred-and-Ginger outings. Skipped all of the Judy-and-Mickey musicals, and while I know I watched one of them, I have no memories of the “Gold Diggers of 19__” films.

      And I haven’t managed a whole viewing of Philadelphia Story yet, or most of the Hepburn/Tracy outings.

      Back to musicals, I haven’t seen a few of the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptations. (State Fair, The King and I, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song)

    • anon says:

      Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (although I have listened to the soundtrack which is great), The Magnificent Seven (although I have seen Seven Samurai, which I thought was just OK), all of Ingmar Bergman’s famous movies, Terminator, Rocky, Alien(s).

    • LPSP says:

      It was only a few years ago that I watched The Godfather for the first time. I’ve always waited for the hype to die down on things before I stumble across them and say “what the heck, let’s watch”. I watched The Warriors only earlier this year, Breaking Bad only last year, and I marathoned Arrested Development for the first time, like, last week. And I’ve never watched 24. Or The Wire for that matter. I’m a moderate fan of heavy metal, but I only listened to any band besides Rammstein when I went to Uni and joined a society. Not much of any music to be honest, besides some of my father’s classic rock and video game soundtracks, which I’ve always loved. I watched little Tarantino before that point. I only watched Alien and Predator a few years ago, and I’ve watched none of the sequels. (I taped Predator 2 recently)

      I guess what I’m saying is, 6 years ago, I had watched nothing besides The Lord of Rings, Pixar, Star Wars and Bond films. I’ve randomly built up my repertoire of watches since, but I never go out of my way to watch famous things.

      • LPSP says:

        Just cooked up the greatest musical example I can – Eric Clapton. Never gone out of my way to listen to him until literally just now, when at the moment I typed “literally” one of his songs came on to youtube. I didn’t know what Layla was called or who wrote it until now.

  34. Gobbobobble says:

    One of the things I love about this site is when in one thread a commenter will be arguing what I consider a total nutter position, and then in another be the only person (again, from my perspective) talking any sense. I’ve seen this happen somewhat frequently (like every post/OT or two, on average) and with at least half a dozen different commenters.

    I like to think this is evidence of a good mix of ideas being thrown about. Does this sound accurate? Also, does this perception say anything epistemologically about me? Has anyone else noticed a similar pattern? Maybe it’s nothing special, but not something I can remember seeing much of in other communities.

  35. onyomi says:

    The last comment of the week was about a debate within linguistics between those who believe in some innate language faculty (generative grammar, Chomskyites) and those who view language as more emergent (cognitive grammar, Langacker, etc.). I’m not a linguist, though I’m very interested in linguistics and enjoyed Azure’s nuanced summary.

    But what I’m interested in talking about here is not linguistics in particular, but rather what I see as a more general phenomenon of progress in many diverse fields, namely what I guess could best be described as wide-ranging application of Occam’s Razor. That is, don’t posit an extra thing when you can explain everything with what you know you already have. More importantly, think about how the things you already assume exist may be wholly reducible to simpler elements. In the linguistics case, it seems probable or at least conceivable that we didn’t evolve a discreet “language faculty” (though we are clearly evolved to use language), but that language emerged by bootstrapping itself onto existing functions. On a gross physical level, the lips, palate, and tongue, for example, are crucially necessary to being able to talk as we do, yet all greatly predate language in the animal kingdom.

    Though I’m no physicist, my understanding is that major discoveries by Einstein, about quantum mechanics, etc. basically showed that time and space are one thing, and that it wasn’t necessary to posit different rules for e. g. subatomic particles.

    I recall when I first became an anarcho-capitalist after years of being a small-government constitutionalist libertarian that it was a similar experience of essentially just de-reifying something in my mind which had been “a thing,” which had occupied a special place, but which I realized wasn’t necessary to exhaustively understand the world. Whether or not you agree it’s advisable, the first step to being an anarchist is just comprehending the “not-specialness” of government.

    I guess what I’m saying is that discovery and deeper understanding, especially in recent decades, seems as often about saying “no, special rules do not apply here,” as it is of finding special cases. Is this just Occam’s Razor? If so, I feel like, popular as it is to quote, its full significance maybe isn’t generally well understood, if not necessarily among SSC readers, then certainly the general public? Even evolution, which I’ve long thought to be one of the most powerful interpretive frameworks ever, is arguably an outgrowth of it.

    Maybe this is all just obvious to readers here, but thinking about developments in linguistics got me thinking about it and wondering where else it might be interestingly applied already, or could possibly be in the future.

    • Randy M says:

      Can you think of counter-examples, where such an attitude would lead one astray or has been overturned?
      Perhaps sub-atomic particles, at least until all particles are explained by fields. The existence of each of the fundamental physical forces is an area that rankles physicists due to being seemingly in violation of Occam’s Razor in not being able to be described in one equation. Dark matter, too, perhaps.
      I can think of a few more areas of Chemistry, say. Why is it that each position an electron can be in holds two electrons? Seems needlessly complicated but accurate.

      • onyomi says:

        It is certainly an eminently possible sort of error: any time something gets lost or predictive power weakens in the process of trying to simplify, arguably.

        One thing that might fit, though I think is slightly different, is the systematizing impulse which sometimes results in seeing patterns where none really exist. This is very common in traditional Chinese and, I think, Indian thought: one wants to be able to say that everything in the universe arises from the principle of yin and yang, but yin-yang as a concept is arguably too powerful as an interpretive framework–that is it easily obscures real differences in the effort to collapse things onto a single spectrum–arguably the whole “schizophrenia is the ‘opposite’ of autism” thing is such a case.

        If we think of yin-yang as an interpretive net with very small holes such that it “catches” almost everything, however, there is a sense in which it might arguably be an instance of the kind of mistake I’m talking about: we need to widen our holes so we stop seeing things that aren’t there like, e.g. a special, discrete language faculty.

        Though if you go too far in the opposite direction (widening the holes in your “net,”) you seem to fall into another sort of mysticism: either you develop a unified theory of everything or just accept the universe as an undifferentiated mass of swirling, infinitely interconnected unfathomable stuff (which, in a sense, is the truth, so maybe that’s why it feels like making things “un-special” brings us closer to it).

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Chemistry reduces to physics. At least, we think so, but we can’t calculate the specific numbers predicted. But the point about two electrons, that really is explained by QFT, not a free parameter.

        • Randy M says:

          Correction accepted.

        • Eltargrim says:

          At least, we think so, but we can’t calculate the specific numbers predicted.

          As someone who dabbles in DFT, the problem isn’t that we can’t calculate the specific numbers predicted, it’s that we can calculate any specific prediction, and no small part of that is the precise exchange problem Randy M brought up.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Huh?

          • Eltargrim says:

            Chemistry does reduce to physics: we can calculate a great many things based on the total electronic wavefunction of a system, including (but not limited to) vibrational frequencies, phonon modes, binding energies, reaction mechanisms, and many other properties.

            The problem is, solving that wavefunction is hard. Extremely computationally expensive. There are a number of ways to speed things up, and density functional theory (DFT) is one of the most widely used.

            One of the major free variables in the method is the choice of the exchange-correlation functional. Part of what the XC functional models is the Pauli repulsion. There are dozens of XC functionals, and they can give wildly different results for different properties.

            For example, the B3LYP functional just works for a lot of small molecules, but can get binding energies wrong. LDA systematically contracts unit cells, while GGA systematically enlarges them. BJ06 is great at getting the band gap, but completely screws with your forces.

            So we can get very different numbers depending on what XC you use, and it takes some serious validation to get physically useful results. There’s lots of examples in the literature of researchers using computational chemistry as a black box and getting erroneous results. If you’re not careful, you can tweak your system to get whatever numbers you want.

            For example, see the CO adsorption puzzle (apologies for the paywall).

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      This phenomenon might be better termed, “abstraction.” You extract the similar characteristics of each of several structures, and then talk about the general structure, and if you want to talk about more specific examples you consider them a special case of the original. For example, the real numbers and the complex numbers both form fields, so we talk about fields in general, including finite fields or whatever, and only restrict ourselves to the reals if we really need to. (This description is of course an oversimplification, but I think there’s a grain of truth). Similarly, we abstract key characteristics about time/space or subatomic/superatomic objects.

      On second thought, though, maybe it really is the case that we should in general not expect hard distinctions in nature to match what our intuitions or words would indicate, since those words and intuitions are often developed with a lack of any actual evidence.

  36. Jordan D. says:

    It’s the law thread!

    (In a way, of course, all threads are law threads)

    First, a few cases courtesy of the Institute For Justice’s Short Circuit newsletter, available here.

    From the Eleventh Circuit – A financial advisor cons an elderly couple out of $142K. The trial court holds that it would sentence her to time served if she could repay the money; since she can’t, she goes back to jail. Is it legal to condition her freedom on ability to pay? Maybe not under the Constitution, but definitely not under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

    From the Tenth Circuit – a county discovers that they’ve lost their zoning map and associated regulations. They decide to have a contractor quietly try to re-make them from scratch instead of going through the hassle of re-enacting the zoning. Property owners are a bit annoyed when they discover they’ve been spending money to comply with regulations nobody actually promulgated. Due process violation? No.

    On to other business.

    The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case of the Mexican youth who was shot across the border fence. The question at hand: can the boy’s family sue the border guard under Bivens when they aren’t American citizens, or is the guard entitled to absolute immunity even though he didn’t know that at the time? I expect this oral argument to be really good.

    A collaborative project between Volokh and Paul Levy
    discovers a fascinating trend in which sites are getting deindexed from Google pursuant to court order after the respondent in each case admits to libel and agrees that the court should issue an injunction. One problem: the respondents in these cases don’t appear to have been the actual owners of these sites. Also the respondents may not exist. Also the actions are all probably filed by the same person. My guess? Coincidence.

    Finally and arbitrarily, in honor of Judge Merrick Garland’s 210th hearing-less day, some of the late Justice Scalia’s best quotes! (Stolen from his Wikiquote page, selected for striking style rather than substance.)

    ‘This case, involving legal requirements for the content and labeling of meat products such as frankfurters, affords a rare opportunity to explore simultaneously both parts of Bismarck’s aphorism that ‘No man should see how laws or sausages are made.’
    – Community Nutrition Institute v. Block, 749 F.2d 50, 51 (D.C. Cir. 1984)

    ‘Frequently an issue of this sort will come before the Court clad, so to speak, in sheep’s clothing: the potential of the asserted principle to effect important change in the equilibrium of power is not immediately evident, and must be discerned by a careful and perceptive analysis. But this wolf comes as a wolf.’
    – Morrison v. Olsen, 487 U.S. 654, 699 (1988)

    ‘I am persuaded, therefore, that the Maryland procedure is virtually constitutional. Since it is not, however, actually constitutional, I would affirm the judgment of the Maryland Court of Appeals reversing the judgment of conviction.’
    – Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990)

    ‘Life is too short to pursue every human act to its most remote consequences; “for want of a nail, a kingdom was lost” is a commentary on fate, not the statement of a major cause of action against a blacksmith.’
    – Holmes v.SIPC, 503 U.S. 258 (1991)

    ‘Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes; then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane (surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the “identity” of the flying public), applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school. Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.’
    – Dissenting, Maryland v. King, 133 S. Ct. 1958, 1989, 186 L.Ed.2d 1 (2013).

    • The Nybbler says:

      I was under the impression it was rather common to sentence people who committed certain crimes (both blue and white collar, e.g. vandalism and fraud) to probation or small sentences on the condition that restitution is made. Does this Eleventh Circuit precedent wipe out all of those, at least in Federal courts?

    • brad says:

      Scalia on Bivens

      Bivens is a relic of the heady days in which this Court assumed common-law powers to create causes of action-decreeing them to be “implied” by the mere existence of a statutory or constitutional prohibition. As the Court points out we have abandoned that power to invent “implications” in the statutory field, see Alexander v. Sandoval. There is even greater reason to abandon it in the constitutional field, since an “implication” imagined in the Constitution can presumably not even be repudiated by Congress. I would limit Bivens and its two follow-on cases (Davis v. Passman and Carlson v. Green) to the precise circumstances that they involved.

      It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Bivens if the liberal wing of the court picks up a fifth vote. Breyer is fairly skeptical of Bivens, and there is some indication that Kagen and Sotomayor are as well (see Minneci v. Pollard), so it may just be a dead letter regardless of who is appointed.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Seems like a total crapshoot to me, honestly. Clinton’s rhetoric on the Supreme Court has mostly focused on Citizens United, and I don’t know that there’s a lot of correlation between wanting to roll that back and Bivens one way or the other. After CU, I assume her biggest qualifications would be accepting Roe and Obergefell, which you’d think would be related to the stance on judicial powers a pro-Bivens judge would have… but like you noted, the liberal wing which supports those is skeptical of Bivens anyway.

        If we assume that Judge Garland still has a shot, either under a President Clinton or in a lame-duck confirmation, the ACLU seems to think that he’s open on Bivens claims, although that could obviously just be respect for stare decisis. Others are more skeptical.

    • Deiseach says:

      Is it legal to condition her freedom on ability to pay?

      Ooh. No legal expertise here, but I think debtors’ prison has been done away with, so you can’t be jailed simply for owing money you can’t pay. On the other hand, given the nature of the crime, the accused could be faking poverty to avoid giving back the money she stole. If she blew it all on a fancy lifestyle, then whatever can be recovered (jewellry, property, etc.) should be sold and the proceeds returned to the people she swindled. If she won’t or can’t do that, jail time seems fair enough.

      a county discovers that they’ve lost their zoning map and associated regulations.

      This kind of thing happens. You’d be surprised how easy it is to mislay Very Important Documents that were drawn up fifty years or more ago, put away in a dusty filing cabinet somewhere, never looked at again, and in the various changes of offices, amalgamations, retirement of the one person who knew where everything was kept, etc., stuff gets lost. Ahem. Not that I’m speaking from anything I’ve witnessed in my experience at work, of course 🙂

      • gbdub says:

        On the first point, yeah you don’t want debtors’ prisons, but at the same time, if I were a victim of a similar crime (notably, something with a pretty clear cash value), the cash restitution would mean a lot more to me than jail time for the criminal. It would also be nice not to have to pursue a separate civil action to get that restitution – a legal way to encourage getting paid back would seem to be a plus from the victim’s point of view.

        • David Friedman says:

          At a considerable tangent …

          I’ve just read a book chapter on an 18th century London debtor’s prison (a few non-debtors as well). A sizable minority of the prisoners were free to live outside the prison in the neighborhood, the prison was pretty openly run by the prisoners and there was a lively economic and social structure inside the prison, most of it (unlike the equivalent in modern U.S. prisons) open and legal. Prisoners were free to have wives and children in the prison with them. For a while there was a rule against having them there through the night, but it wasn’t enforced.

          Presumably part of what was going on was that debtors, unlike serious criminals, were not likely to run away. Even the ones living inside the prison seem to have been able to go in and out to a considerable degree.

          On the other hand, the prisoners paid rent for their rooms, although at far below market rates, and were responsible for feeding themselves.

      • dragnubbit says:

        Speaking of locking people up for not being able to pay….

        At some point a liberal court could rule bail unconstitutional for large classes of offenses under the 8th amendment. The experience of jurisdictions that have largely abandoned bail (DC for example) are showing few problems getting defendants to appear, and the disparate impacts of assessing bail for minor offenses are obvious.

      • Jordan D. says:

        It wouldn’t surprise me at all, honestly- I worked in government records-keeping and for a historical agency for a while, and the incredible disparity between how different kinds of records were kept and maintained boggled my mind. On the one hand, there were sleek metadata-indexed searchable-by-text .pdfa compliant databases for certain regularly-accessed information. On the other hand, charters and binders of potentially pretty important public data which nobody used regularly were stuffed out of order in cardboard boxes, un-indexed, with faded yellow labels falling off the boxes and mice nesting among the returns.

        …and these records were only five years old.

    • James says:

      Ross Ulbricht of The Silk Road had an appeal hearing this past Thursday.

    • BBA says:

      The 2nd Circuit ruled yesterday in a lawsuit by the Abbott and Costello families against the producers of a play in which a character performs part of the “Who’s on First” routine. The lower court had ruled that the quotation of the routine in the play was fair use; the circuit court disagreed, but still found for the producers because the heirs couldn’t prove they had a valid copyright in the routine.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Hmm. On the one hand, there probably shouldn’t be a “genericized mark”-type exception to copyright law. On the other hand, modern copyright law is heinously overprotective. Not sure how I feel about this one.

        • BBA says:

          It wasn’t ruled “generic.” Rather, the ruling was that A&C filed a copyright for the routine in the ’40s and then didn’t renew it after 28 years, causing their rights to expire in the wacky world of pre-1978 US copyright law. (It’s very odd to realize that the US, now a force for IP maximalism in all things, used to have very permissive laws by world standards. We didn’t even adopt the Berne Convention for a century after it was passed.)

          The heirs have also bought the movie rights to the routine back from Universal, but those rights do not cover performance in a play.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Yeah, I’m speaking more to the lower court ruling. It feels intuitively correct, but runs directly counter to the purpose of copyright, at least before renewal.

    • Archon says:

      ‘Life is too short to pursue every human act to its most remote consequences; “for want of a nail, a kingdom was lost” is a commentary on fate, not the statement of a major cause of action against a blacksmith.’
      – Holmes v.SIPC, 503 U.S. 258 (1991)

      This is the best thing I have seen today. Thank you for finding this.

  37. herbert herbertson says:

    Question: Does this qualify as lamentable ideological policing via public shaming and the destruction of a livelihood in the Brenden Eich mold, or does the fact that it was less-than-direct political expression occurring during work hours make it qualitatively different?

    http://www.nbcnews.com/video/employees-fired-for-playing-f-tha-police-in-vicinity-of-cops-783425603603

    edit to be upfront about my agenda: I roll my eyes at 90% of complaints about “SJWs” but I think the threat of losing your job for hetrodox political opinions is a very legitimate thing to be concerned about. Since I think it’s also not uncommon on the opposite side of the spectrum (just more low-key, since most of the victims on that side will naturally live in areas of Red Tribe hegemony and therefore be less socially and geographically accessible to media), I’m curious to see if its feasible to reach a little common ground.

    • The Nybbler says:

      According to this, the dishwasher was doing it on purpose to annoy the cops, who were customers:

      http://allblackmedia.com/2016/10/houston-restaurant-employee-fired-blasting-n-w-s-f-police-cops-ate-bbq/

      So not at all the same thing as Eich.

      • herbert herbertson says:

        Is the intent the important distinction for you? Because while no one can say that the intent of Eich was to piss off the customers, Mozilla could more-or-less credibly claim it had the same effect (as long as you translate “customer” to “important donors/stakeholders” since of course Mozilla had no customers per se)

        • caethan says:

          Overtly and deliberately antagonistic towards these customers right here in front of you versus privately and abstractly antagonistic towards a class of “customers” seems like a useful distinction, yes.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The intent makes it a slam dunk. That it was done during work hours and on work premises, that it did annoy the customers and did so while they were there in their role as customers, all that factors into it.

          If Brandon Eich had muttered “goddamned fags” while in the Mozilla offices when a homosexual donor was there, very few would be screaming about his ejection.

          On the other hand, if these employees had played “Fuck tha Police” while at home when the same cops were patrolling nearby, and then they got fired for it, I’d be on their side.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      I’ll just leave my boilerplate response:

      I think it’s good that they can do this (fire the employees), and also think it’s regrettable that they chose to do so.

    • caethan says:

      Seems like being fired for being deliberately rude to customers who are currently eating at your restaurant is fairly reasonable.

    • Eltargrim says:

      less-than-direct political expression occurring during work hours make it qualitatively different

      This would be my stance.

      It’s one thing to be fired for your behaviour outside of your place of employment; it’s another thing entirely to be fired for your behaviour while you’re actively working.

    • BLA says:

      I’m sure any day now the long awaited unicorn will show up and all these freedom of expression loving diehards will get outraged over something that happened to someone other than a right winger.

      Any day now …

      • The Nybbler says:

        Shouldn’t you be posting as Anonymous?

      • roystgnr says:

        We were outraged over something that happened to left-wingers *first*: the Hollywood Blacklist. We were literally taught to be outraged at blacklists in grade school. Many of us took it seriously. Then we found out that for others, the stated principles were just a cover: they were actually pro-blacklist, as long as the victims definitely weren’t communists. Since you’re denouncing hypocrisy as well as freedom of expression, can I presume you’ve been openly pro-blacklist all your life? People should risk professional and social blackballing for their beliefs, right, person behind an unidentifiable three-letter pseudonym?

        • LHN says:

          That much-praised and shared xkcd cartoon, in particular, is entirely supportive of the principle underlying the blacklist.

        • birdboy2000 says:

          On one level I’m in complete agreement with you, on another level I’m also an unrepentant communist and obliged to point out that you’re talking about events over 50 years apart.

          Most of the blacklisting advocates today – self-identified communist or otherwise – weren’t even alive during the McCarthy era. And more than a few people on the hard left, young and old (myself included) are as strongly opposed to blacklists as you are and very much involved in the fight against them.

          • Jiro says:

            Most of the blacklisting advocates today – self-identified communist or otherwise – weren’t even alive during the McCarthy era.

            But that era is still talked about in this era. It’s not as if it’s an obscure bit of history that only matters to historians; McCarthy is constantly brought up by the left today in a political context in order to attack the right.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Anecdata: of people I actually know, the ones who are actually on the hard left tend to be bigger on freedom of speech than liberals, or liberals who think they’re radicals.

            The people I know who post that xkcd comic tend to fall into the former category – the guy I know who best fits the latter tends to post a Wondermark cartoon making the rather weak claim that free speech is only a tool to protect the evils done by the privileged.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s a pretty common pattern, death-eaters aside. For example, look at the “Party of Lincoln” shit, by people that are the ideological, and in many cases actual, heirs to the confederacy.

            Or how so many right wingers are all of a sudden all for strict equality of opportunity when it serves as a convenient foil against affirmative action.

            If they actual held the meta-level position they claim to they’d be able to find *one* living, contemporary person to champion that they disagree with on the object level. But they can’t. There are no Skokies, because this isn’t a sincere movement. It’s just grabbing at whatever they hope might stick to attack the hated enemy.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Anecdata: of people I actually know, the ones who are actually on the hard left tend to be bigger on freedom of speech than liberals, or liberals who think they’re radicals.

            I’ve noticed that as well. The Freddie De Boer types, under whose administration there’s maybe a fifty-fifty chance I’d end up in a camp*, are still far more supportive of freedom of speech and association than your average generic social-justicey Democrat. Perhaps it’s out of principle, or perhaps it’s the pragmatic attitude that allowing people to express their fringe ideologies freely benefits you if you have a fringe ideology yourself.

            * Not that he’d put me there! But right after the revolution, he’d be overthrown by Lenin 2.0 in turn and that would be that. Maybe we’d get to work the fields together, that would be fun.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s interesting that Anonymous has nothing to offer but ad hominem.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Are you surprised? That’s pretty much his entire shtick.

          • Gazeboist says:

            @Thirteenth

            Don’t you mean Stalin 2.0?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @ThirteenthLetter:

            I’m imagining him getting into a million-message-long Twitter argument with his betrayers, while in exile, even during his struggle with the assassins sent to get him. Then, everyone who disappeared into the secret prisons would sign detailed confessions as to their involvement in the vast and insidious DeBoerite conspiracy. Then, the people in charge of the prison camps would be themselves purged for their miserable failure to contain the conspiracy. Fifty years later, annoying university students in other countries would call themselves his followers.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @BLA:

        I’m sure any day now the long awaited unicorn will show up and all these freedom of expression loving diehards will get outraged over something that happened to someone other than a right winger.

        Is there some reason Aaron Swartz doesn’t count? Here’s a snippet from his wiki page:

        In 2009, wanting to learn about effective activism, Swartz helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He wrote on his blog, “I spend my days experimenting with new ways to get progressive policies enacted and progressive politicians elected.”

        • BLA says:

          Eh. I don’t think “information wants to be free” is really the same thing as freedom of expression, but if Eichians want to pick him up, sure that would count. I’ve seen no evidence of it here at SSC.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Aaron Swartz died in 2013, which is ancient history now – Scott was in the process of shutting down his LiveJournal.

            The trouble with Aaron Swartz is that it’s just too obviously upsetting to pretty much everybody here that there’s no other side. So it can’t generate enough toxoplasma to remain a current topic of interest. There was sadness and outrage but it burned out really fast for lack of any real resistance to push against.

          • brad says:

            If what you are saying is true about the consensus here then maybe I shouldn’t put myself in the firing line, but I don’t agree with the standard narrative around Aaron Swartz.

            Was he overcharged? Yes. Did that overcharging play a role in his suicide? Yes. Was his suicide tragic? Yes. Was what he did okay, or even heroic, and regardless of legality ought to be celebrated? No, I don’t think so.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad:
            From the little I know about the case, that is my (epistemically uncertain) take on the case as well.

          • Anonymous says:

            Brad, there once was discussion of Swartz and yours was a common position. But I don’t think that’s relevant to the comparison with Eich. No one thinks Eich was heroic, either, particularly since he took his actions as the majority.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Brad et al

            It seems like we all agree that Swartz was overcharged while engaged in a speech act, leading to unfortunate consequences.

            Some of us on the more libertarian end of the scale might indeed be inclined to think the act should actually be celebrated, but the difference between “shouldn’t have been punished as much as it was” and “should actually have been celebrated” isn’t worth getting upset about.

            We can all be outraged together at the overcharged part of the assessment. And we were, if I recall correctly. So it seems to fit the remit.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Brad – “Was he overcharged? Yes. Did that overcharging play a role in his suicide? Yes. Was his suicide tragic? Yes. Was what he did okay, or even heroic, and regardless of legality ought to be celebrated? No, I don’t think so.”

            What do you find objectionable about what he did? And generally speaking, it wouldn’t matter to me whether what he did was “heroic” or not; his life was intentionally destroyed by a monstrously uncaring government.

          • brad says:

            I don’t know if I should reopen this, but I wouldn’t call what he did a speech act. What he did was at least very close to trespassing vis-a-vis MIT and theft of services vis-a-vis JSTOR. Neither of those things are particularly admirable. The JSTOR articles may have been out of copyright, but JSTOR scanned them. If he wanted to “free” them, he could have bought a scanner and started scanning.

            That he thought had some clever technicality that meant he wasn’t doing either of those things pretty much concedes the point. Swartz had his technicalities and the AUSA had his.

            My perspective on this is influenced by the fact that I represented clients for a brief period in criminal cases. Overcharging is absolutely endemic to our system. I had clients who had their lives ruined by overcharging. Yet the outrage over Swartz never seemed to gel into a larger critique of the criminal justice system, just how swell a guy he was.

            Well maybe he was a swell guy, but he a committed a crime — not the crime of the century but a legitimate crime nonetheless — and got caught up in our terrible justice system. That’s the kind of thing that happens tens of thousands of times a year. If he had been the charismatic face of a movement to condemn and reform the system as a whole that would have been one thing, but I can’t get on board with a narrative that seemed to have more than a tinge of “this kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen to people like him.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Attorney General overcharged in order to force him to plea to a felony. He correctly realized his life would suck ever after once he did so, and killed himself. The sickest part is that to the Attorney General, this was a win. Deterrence against anyone who decides to do this sort of thing, and an understanding by future defendants that the AG does not care if you live or die.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            It is kind of depressing. You’ve got all these different people of completely different political persuasions pointing to specific cases of overcharging and police/prosecutorial cruelty, but unwilling or unable to work together. Black Lives Matter says that Eric Garner shouldn’t have been killed for selling loose cigarettes (they say a lot of other things, but I can at least agree with them on this one.) Libertarian conservatives object to local governments that collect excessive fines from the poor and trap them in justice system hell, like in Ferguson. Techno-utopians point to Aaron Schwarz’s life getting annihilated over copyrights, or random Internet users paying huge fines for piracy. The Reason Magazine types object to civil forfeiture. And so on, and so on.

            I’m reminded of the blind men and the elephant: they can’t seem to get it together and realize they’re all holding on to the same animal.

            (NB: I agree that some people who hold these objections are pointing to the whole problem, of course. Just not quite enough of them to really make the political moment gel together.)

          • Lumifer says:

            You’ve got all these different people of completely different political persuasions pointing to specific cases of overcharging and police/prosecutorial cruelty, but unwilling or unable to work together

            I don’t see how working together would make a difference. There are a whole bunch of powerful groups who like the way the system is working, thankyouverymuch, from law-and-order Republicans to police and prison-guards unions. Techno-utopians or Reason are not a political force.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Techno-utopians or Reason are not a political force.

            But techno-utopians, plus Reason, plus libertarian conservatives, plus Black Lives Matter? That ain’t nothing. It’s more than enough to decide just about any competitive election in the United States, if they all pushed in the same direction.

            The problem is that we’ve seemingly lost the ability to work, and vote, across party lines for a specific political goal. Any general objective that a variety of people agree on (reduce police and prosecutorial misconduct and the government systems that encourage it) gets atomized into individually polarizing issues (halt regulations, end copyright, call all police racists, et cetera) and distributed across the major political tribes who already spend all their time screaming at each other. And thus never the twain may meet.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @brad:

            Aaron Swartz was one of a great many interesting noncentral examples of the problem of overcharging.

            What he did was at least very close to trespassing vis-a-vis MIT and theft of services vis-a-vis JSTOR. Neither of those things are particularly admirable.

            Sure, but behaving in a way that seems very close to a crime is not the same as actually committing that crime. So long as he didn’t actually commit a crime, he makes an unusually sympathetic test case for this pervasive problem…if you’re a nerdy anti-authoritarian type.

            (I would write more, but ThirteenthLetter already said the rest.)

          • John Schilling says:

            his [Aaron Schwarz] life was intentionally destroyed by a monstrously uncaring government.

            You have evidence of intent to cause death? Because what I see is intent-to-discredit, coupled with negligence and indifference. Those are all bad things, but I have very little tolerance for people who exaggerate the badness of things they want me to be outraged about, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

            Also, I tend to be somewhat less outraged about bad things happening to people engaged in deliberate civil disobedience than about bad things happening to people minding their own business, and I don’t think I’m alone in that either.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They intended to destroy his life by means of a felony conviction, either pour encourager les autres or just because _that’s what they do_. That he killed himself instead was merely an acceptable substitute.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ John Schilling

            Are you suggesting that the charges were filed accidentally?

          • brad says:

            @Glen Raphael

            Sure, but behaving in a way that seems very close to a crime is not the same as actually committing that crime.

            It’s far from clear to me that he didn’t actually commit any federal crimes.

            So long as he didn’t actually commit a crime, he makes an unusually sympathetic test case for this pervasive problem…if you’re a nerdy anti-authoritarian type.

            So many rich people outraged, how many donated to organizations trying to reform the criminal justice system? As opposed to the EFF or the FSF or something like that? (Though to be fair, at least the EFF does some criminal work.)

            It sucks that I have to keep on saying that I do have some sympathy for what happened to him, and no one has to ever say the same about all the people that were overcharged yesterday. Kind of reminds me of the seemingly universally required “of course no should kill police officers either”.

          • Lumifer says:

            more than enough to decide just about any competitive election in the United States, if they all pushed in the same direction.

            I see zero evidence for this proposition. A collection of different fringes is still fringe.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            A collection of different fringes is still fringe.

            But a big enough collection of different fringes is a voting bloc. As I said, if you could put together even five percent of the vote — well below the Lizardman Constant — you could flip a lot of elections. Do you think there are five percent of voters in this country who are interested in ending police and prosecutorial abuse?

          • John Schilling says:

            @hlynkacg: Are you saying that “his life was destroyed” was the best way you could come up with to describe a felony indictment?

            How much clearer do I have to make this? You can have my agreement that the Federal government did a bad thing to Aaron Schwartz. You can have my support for any reasonable campaign to stop them from doing that in the future.

            OR

            You can make silly hyperbolic statements that make you feel all righteously outraged and convince me that you will not stay within the bounds of reason as you pursue this matter and I need to stand back and watch from an amusingly safe distance.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @ThirteenthLetter:
            You’re assuming the rest of the electorate just sits there statically while this coalition affects policy. If it was that easy to force policy changes, every group around the size of the margin would already be doing it. But if a politician takes up the platform of a fringe group, they move further from the median voter, so that part of another coalition moves away from them even as yours moves closer. I’d guess this is 99% of Trump’s problem – you can do well in primaries by appealing to fringe coalitions within your party, but doing so alienates the broader electorate when the general comes around. Hence the usual GOP strategy of “nominating the most conservative candidate who can still win.”

            Not that it can’t happen, but the votes they stand to gain have to outweigh the ones they stand to lose. An alliance of techno-utopian libertarian conservatives would certainly alienate a lot of votes (and probably more than BLM would, at least among Democrats, which is why they at least pay lip service to their goals – there are more people in the Dem coalition who are at least kinda sympathetic to them than ones who are outright hostile to them). You kind of have to assume that all the campaign strategists getting paid to calculate out exactly how much you have to compromise to get 51% of the electoral college somewhere failed to close an arbitrage opportunity of potential votes.

            That’s assuming you could even get those groups to work together for five minutes, rather than just calling each other terrorists and neo-Nazis…

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            But if a politician takes up the platform of a fringe group, they move further from the median voter, so that part of another coalition moves away from them even as yours moves closer.

            Ah, but here we run up against that paradox whose name temporarily escapes me, where the small group of with a weird idiosyncratic demand usually get it because the vast majority of people don’t know or care and would buy the product/vote for the politician/watch the show whether or not it met said demand. Assuming you’re a Hillary voter: would you bail on her if her campaign released a position paper promising to re-evaluate federal law enforcement’s use of civil asset forfeiture? I kind of doubt it. Assuming you’re a Trump voter (and pretending for the moment that he was a normal GOP candidate instead of, well, Trump): would you bail on him if same thing, except promising to create a commission to examine racial disparities in law enforcement? Again, I doubt it.

            (These promises would be small beer, of course, and even if they were kept that doesn’t necessarily mean anything will happen. But it’s a seat at the table, it’s a start. Slow and tedious is how things are supposed to work in this system.)

            That’s assuming you could even get those groups to work together for five minutes, rather than just calling each other terrorists and neo-Nazis…

            Yeah, I kinda think this is the harder part of making such a coalition happen.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @brad:

            So many rich people outraged, how many donated to organizations trying to reform the criminal justice system? As opposed to the EFF or the FSF or something like that?

            Do you have any particular such organizations suggest?

            (A few I like include the Cato Institute, Institute for Justice, ACLU, Amnesty, Drug Policy Foundation, but I suspect none of those would work for you. Part of the problem is that the word “reform” is an applause light.)

          • brad says:

            I respect much of the work that each of those organizations does (well I never heard of the Drug Policy Foundation, but based on the website they look good.) Some of them seem more directly on point than others — i.e. Amnesty’s primary focus is abroad and IfJ focuses more on civil litigation than criminal, but all do some good work.

            I’d add: The Sentencing Project, The Innocence Project / Network. Various public defense organizations also frequently engage in high impact litigation, though not much lobbying. Perhaps more controversially, the NAACP does some very good work in this area (along with other things). I believe they will take targeted donations, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Brad – “Well maybe he was a swell guy, but he a committed a crime — not the crime of the century but a legitimate crime nonetheless — and got caught up in our terrible justice system.”

          We appear to be in vehement agreement. I am not remotely under the impression that Schwartz was an isolated case. I am at least tangentially familiar with the fucked-up nature of the public defender system, overcharging generally, the moral hazard implicit in departments making budget via civil forfeiture, and quite a few other things besides. I am heavily on board with any “movement to condemn and reform the system as a whole”, and the fact that no such movement exists, and particularly that BLM decided to focus its narrative on racism rather than the entirely fucked nature of the system is especially infuriating.

          @John Schilling – “You have evidence of intent to cause death? Because what I see is intent-to-discredit, coupled with negligence and indifference.”

          If I might appeal to fictional evidence, consider the Count of Monte Cristo.

          I am entirely comfortable calling a trumped-up felony indictment “ruining someone’s life.” If it happened to me, I do not think I would survive it. Dropping someone into the criminal justice system because you find them inconvenient is a monstrous thing to do. Destroying someone’s business over bullshit regulatory technicalities, likewise. If that nomenclature is unacceptable to you, I’m open to suggestions that capture a similar torches-and-pitchforks feel. The point is that this, like so many other things, absolutely should not be stood for, and the fact that we stand for it says bad things about us.

          This is one of those things that would have me voting for Hillary in a heartbeat if I thought she’d try to address it.

    • Randy M says:

      Whether or not they were right to be fired, it does seem like a sort of self-refuting political position. “I’m a black* man who believes cops are looking for excuses to kill black men so I will go out of my way to insult them” is not terribly coherent except as posturing.
      That said, if cops are as corrupt as they are accused, they the firing is fair, since they are endangering the owners of the establishment just as if they wore T-shirts that said “F-the [well known mafia family]!”

      *This is an assumption, of course.

    • dndnrsn says:

      If they were good employees otherwise, I would hope that they would be given a talking-to and a second chance – turfing someone out of a job for what amounts to a dumb prank seems a bit disproportionate, especially with the jobs market as it is. If they had, say, spat in cops’ food, that’s instant firing, plus maybe charges (tampering with someone’s food is generally against the law, right?)

      As I see it: off-work behaviour should be more protected than behaviour at work not directly related to the work should be more protected than behaviour at work directly related to the work.

      • caryatis says:

        He was a dishwasher. Not someone with lots of skills and twenty years of tenure.

        • dndnrsn says:

          A dumb 17-year old kid lost his job for being a dumb kid. I still think that the harm suffered by a 17-year old losing a menial job (and, after all, we can’t assume that money isn’t needed for something) is more than the harm suffered by a cop hearing a song that is rude towards them.

          If I’d have been the cop, I would have said “hey, don’t fire the kid”. Get some goodwill, maybe.

          • Randy M says:

            I would probably fire the kid, but I disagree he suffered less harm. It’s easier for the cop to find a new place to eat than for the kid to find a new job. But it’s hardest for the manager to find new clientele.

          • dndnrsn says:

            True. The manager might suffer harm. It is, after all, a private business. He can fire the kid if he wants.

            Still, can we focus on the cop for a second? His response to a 17-year old’s dumb prank is speak to a manager, say he’ll never eat there again, post on Facebook about it.

            We make fun of college students for wanting safe spaces, but this cop seems to have gotten pretty upset about his identity as a Person of Law Enforcement being invalidated.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Since we’re going there, you shouldn’t presuppose that they even identify as a person of law enforcement in the first place. Better to just say ‘Assigned Cop At Birth’
            😛

          • The Nybbler says:

            Lots of people become cops because they like to throw their weight around. I can’t really fault him for talking to the manager, but making a public stink over it seems excessive.

          • Randy M says:

            @ dndnrsn
            Then was your parent comment phrased wrong? You said the cop suffered more harm, and I disagree, but that seems to be the opposite of what you are saying now?
            Frankly, I think the cop suffered zero harm, but still wouldn’t blame him for going elsewhere and telling the manager why.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Wow, you’re right, I phrased that the exact opposite of what I meant. Not sure how I thought “less” was a synonym for “more”. The cop suffered less harm than the kid.

            EDIT: Can Scott or somebody edit my post? It’s confusing and I look dumb.

          • Fahundo says:

            We make fun of college students for wanting safe spaces, but this cop seems to have gotten pretty upset about his identity as a Person of Law Enforcement being invalidated.

            Yeah, I had a similar experience at a restaurant once with cops at the next table over getting all uppity that not everyone was paying them the “proper” respect.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Yeah, I had a similar experience at a restaurant once with cops at the next table over getting all uppity that not everyone was paying them the “proper” respect.

            Seeing a cop come into your business and then deliberately playing anti-cop music does indeed strike me as not paying them the “proper” respect, in the sense that if a garbageman came into your business and you played some anti-garbageman music you wouldn’t be paying them the proper respect either. It’s the respect due to a human being, not to a cop or a garbageman specifically. No matter what you think of cops or garbagemen, you should politely carry out your business with them and see them on their way.

            Is that an offense worth firing for? That depends on the circumstances. I can imagine situations where it obviously is, and situations where it obviously isn’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            ^^
            Pretends not to know that contempt of cop is an arrestable offense.

          • hlynkacg says:

            ^^
            Citation needed.

          • Does my experience being arrested as an accessory to someone else asking a police officer for his badge number count?

            That wasn’t, of course, the charge.

          • DrBeat says:

            I think the question of “Are cops really Bad And The Worst?” is immaterial to the question of “If an employee in a restaurant plays music to deliberately piss off some of the restaurant’s customers, should that employee be fired?”

            The answer to the latter question is “yes”, making the answer to the former question irrelevant. Brandon Synecdoche was fired for things outside of work that did not impact his job, these guys were fired for things they did at work that directly negatively impacted their employer.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:
            What if these guys lived near (one of) the cops and were in the habit of playing “F the Police”, etc. from their home stereo out of the windows when the cop got home?

            That would seem to make the situation more analogous.

            Would the cops be out of bounds for mentioning it to the owner of the restaurant? Would they be out of bounds for telling him/her that’s why they don’t come to their restaurant anymore? What if the restaurant was near the police station and the lunch and dinner rush were made up of 50% cops?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            What if these guys lived near (one of) the cops and were in the habit of playing “F the Police”, etc. from their home stereo out of the windows when the cop got home?

            That is still not a matter for the guy’s employer, since he didn’t do it at work.

            That would seem to make the situation more analogous.

            Indeed, in that in neither his case nor Eich’s should their employment be at risk. At least, not in a sane society.

            Would the cops be out of bounds for mentioning it to the owner of the restaurant? Would they be out of bounds for telling him/her that’s why they don’t come to their restaurant anymore? What if the restaurant was near the police station and the lunch and dinner rush were made up of 50% cops?

            They might have an emotional desire to do so, but the correct thing to do is man up and not drag some unrelated dispute into the guy’s employment. If he’s committing a crime, arrest him. Other than that, well, with great power comes the great responsibility not to abuse it.

          • “That is still not a matter for the guy’s employer, since he didn’t do it at work.”

            Would you have the same attitude if the targets were black or hispanic?

            Suppose he works in a place most of whose customers are black. Further suppose that, when not at work, he make a point of antagonizing blacks, says insulting things to them. He does enough of it so that blacks avoid the place where he works.

            Is that a legitimate reason to fire him?

            For a slightly more likely version, make it women. He is always hitting on women and doing it in a clumsy and offensive way–but not at work. Women therefor avoid the place he works.

            I should add that this might be relevant to the Mozilla case–depending on the actual facts there.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Would you have the same attitude if the targets were black or hispanic?

            Yes. I’d have the same attitude no matter who the targets are.

            Now, I realize that — thanks to media hysteria and some adroit propaganda — there are a lot of people who are irrational on this topic, can’t separate out people’s work and private lives, and so would hunt down the person’s employer and give them crap about it instead of taking their objections directly to the person in question. So maybe holding on to this principle isn’t the best for one’s immediate business.

            But that’s just the tragedy of the commons in action. It’s easy to give in to any specific demand and fire Villain N to make the problem go away for now. But that just encourages people to seek out Villain N + 1. Yesterday you’re giving in to pressure and firing someone who posted a racist message on Facebook, and maybe even feeling good about it. But today you’re giving in to pressure and firing someone for objecting to gay marriage ten years ago. And tomorrow you’re giving in to pressure and firing someone who was caught in public disliking the new Ghostbusters movie. And the day after, somebody who stopped applauding too early at the announcement of the grain quotas for the next Five-Year Plan. It’s not going to end.

          • Lumifer says:

            It’s not going to end.

            More like, we know how it ends.

          • Loyle says:

            Question: So it would be better if they silently collectively decided not to patronize the business, and the employee loses his job anyway because the job disappears?

          • Jiro says:

            If they independently decided not to patronize the business because they guy made them uncomfortable, fine. If they joined together as a mob specifically to get this guy, where the outrage of every person in the mob builds on the outrage of every other person, not fine.

            (Note that this is the opposite of Scott’s essay about making sure your meanness is coordinated.)

    • Deiseach says:

      Okay, I don’t watch videos and there wasn’t a transcript or an at