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(Continuing this discussion about Trump from Open Thread 65.25)
I agree that Trump often uses self-contradiction to maintain strategic ambiguity. Trump is a bullshitter in the technical sense: he says things to manipulate people, without regard for the truth value of his claims. (This is not mutually exclusive with being haphazard and impulsive.)
This is a problem for your argument. You claim to have pierced the veil of Trump’s bullshit and seen the true Trump inside. But that’s exactly the purpose of all this bullshit: Trump says a bunch of self-contradictory stuff, delivered with a wink and a nudge, to give as many people as possible the opportunity to interpret him as saying what they want to hear. Why should I believe that your interpretation in particular is correct? How can you be so confident that it is correct?
Given that you can’t trust Trump’s words, the obvious solution is to wait and see what he does. But this entire discussion started when you asserted that his cabinet picks are also just a smoke screen. You have constructed an impenetrable fortress of unfalsifiable claims: if Trump may not act like a moderate, and may appoint cabinet members who do not act like moderates, but maybe he is just throwing people off his trail!
This is an extraordinary claim, and requires extraordinary proof. So far, you haven’t provided anything other than half-remembered snippets of talk radio and a few rounds of golf. You are way, way more confident about this than your evidence justifies. I strongly suggest that you reconsider the possibility that you’ve fallen for Trump’s spin.
This is my current stance.
Paragraph 1: I agree with everything you wrote.
I am not claiming the same things about Trump as most people—i.e. that he’s a far right populist and therefore either Hitler or Jesus. His smokescreen seems to be designed to create either of those two impressions, but not to create the impression I’ve gotten: that he’s a moderate whose presidential strategy will be to play it very safe, i.e. to the center.
Also it’s worth mentioning that while Trump does throw up a smokescreen, he is not entirely inscrutable. He has a history of pre-2015 statements and opinions, not to mention presidential bids, that can be taken into consideration.
I argued that his cabinet picks are a form of anchoring, and that his picks will be replaced by people who are much more politically moderate as time goes on, some within his first year. This is not unfalsifiable, though you’re correct that we have to “wait and see” whether he does this. I’ve told you that I would accept his not doing this (in other words, his keeping very conservative cabinet picks) as evidence against my prediction.
Okay. I think I have identified where we disagree.
We agree that Trump probably doesn’t believe most of the far right populist things that come out of his mouth. You claim that this means that his actual stances are more moderate. I claim that on many issues, Trump doesn’t have actual stances. Trump doesn’t care about Roe v. Wade. Trump doesn’t care about Medicare. Trump doesn’t care about deficits. (Trump appears to be selecting his cabinet based on attractiveness and facial hair.) A president with strong policy stances does not simultaneously consider Romney, Giuliani, Huntsman, and Bolton for Secretary of State.
This gives a lot of power to the people around Trump who do have ideological convictions. I expect him to replace his people on a fairly regular basis, but I do not expect his replacements to be systematically more moderate, except perhaps as a result of regression to the mean. While his conservative cabinet picks are in power, I expect them to have quite a bit of leeway. I expect that Trump will intervene erratically into various portfolios, but mostly leave his underlings to their own devices unless and until they start to make him look bad. Giving Tom Price a year or two in charge of HHS is not a moderate act, even if he subsequently gets yanked.
One of the distinctions people don’t seem to be making in this discussion is between conservative/pro-market policies and crazy policies. It looks, at the moment, as though the Trump administration will be pro-school vouchers–in what ways beyond D.C. isn’t clear–and against costly measures to hold down global warming.
There are various parts of the Democratic coalition that regard one or the other of those policies as crazy, but they are both well within the range of respectable conservative views, positions that might well have been taken by a more conventional Republican candidate.
It is unclear whether Trump will make it clear that he is unwilling to defend the Baltics against Russian aggression, whether he will raise large trade barriers, whether he will sharply reduce legal immigration, all policies at or beyond the boundary of respectable conservative views, policies unlikely to have been taken by a more conventional candidate.
The fact that it’s hard to tell, based purely on Democrats’ reactions to them, which of Trump’s proposals are truly weird/beyond the pale/crazy, and which are just the usual GOP policies speaks to how badly they’ve cried wolf about every prior GOP politician/policy proposal.
Republicans, of course, would never engage in overheated rhetoric about the usual Democratic policies. If, for example, the Democrats implemented a bunch of Heritage-Foundation-endorsed ideas, along the same lines as a policy passed by a Republican governor, I’m sure everybody would remain very calm about it.
It’s too bad the Democrats are so uniquely divisive.
The “both parties do bad things” post in reaction to any criticism of one party or the other is one of the least interesting and most common strawmen on here. The fact that both parties do bad things doesn’t mean they do the same bad things with the same frequency.
Do you really want to defend the proposition that Republicans, writ large, engage in heated hyperbolic statements less often than Democrats, so much less often that such rhetoric can be dismissed as representative of Democrats but not Republicans?
That is the argument you seem to be making.
I think calling their opponents and their policies “crazy” or “radical” is a more common feature of Dem rhetoric than GOP rhetoric, yes.
By the same logic, Republicans will be in trouble if someone calling for state ownership of the means of production in accordance with Sharia Law ever becomes a viable candidate, because they have already cried wolf about that.
Really, I am trying to make two points: Trump’s actual policy proposals are not really that right wing or crazy by the standards of other GOP politicians (you can take this to mean either that Trump’s not so crazy, or that the whole GOP is not so sane), and second, to the extent any of Trump’s proposals are really very divergent from the GOP mainstream, Dems don’t have a lot of rhetorical room left to call them “crazy” or “radical.”
If, for example, you call any proposal to reduce taxes by 1% “totally crazy and irresponsible,” at some point low tax advocates may decide they might as well call to reduce them 30% because of “what’s the punishment for lateness? what’s the punishment for rebellion?” reasons.
Not relevant to your argument, but I presume you are referring to the traditional story on the downfall of the Qin, the first Chinese empire.
As you may know, when actual Qin documents were discovered they were not consistent with the traditional account of Legalist practice, which suggests that the story is probably Confucianist/Han propaganda against their predecessors.
“If, for example, you call any proposal to reduce taxes by 1% “totally crazy and irresponsible,” at some point low tax advocates may decide they might as well call to reduce them 30% because of “what’s the punishment for lateness? what’s the punishment for rebellion?” reasons.”
When it comes to tax policy, it has always seemed to me completely absurd (regardless of what your politics are) that we basically have some politicians who think taxes should be 35% and some who think they should be 39% and we frame one of those groups as people trying to dismantle and destroy the government and the other as people trying to confiscate all private property and institute communism.
Yes, that was the reference. Do you know which Qin documents show this picture of the Qin to be inaccurate? The recorder of the anecdote (which, like most good stories, is probably not literally true), Sima Qian, is not known for being a pro-Han propagandist, given that he gives a pretty fair treatment to the early Han’s enemies, and was also castrated by Emperor Wu. I’m sure he wouldn’t be above repeating received wisdom about the awfulness of the Qin, either, though. That is, it has always been more my understanding that the propaganda lay not in depicting the Qin as too Legalist (though the idea that you’d be beheaded for lateness might be an exaggeration), but in depicting the Han as more Confucian and less Legalist than it really was (though these are not mutually exclusive).
The party that says Democrats are baby murderers? The party that said Obama was a Nazi for wanting people to have guaranteed access to subsidized health insurance? The party that says gay marriage is a threat to western civilization?
That’s the party who is calm and reasoned?
I didn’t say anything about calm and reasoned, though I have to admit I didn’t know anyone had likened ACA to Nazi Germany until Googling it just now.
I do hope that the left keeps believing their biggest mistake in 2016 was being too nice. Will help keep up the evaporative cooling.
Oddly, someone else publishing on the same web page totally gets it.
Did you just shift the goal posts so far that we aren’t even playing football anymore?
You said both sides don’t do it.
I asked do you really mean that?
You doubled down that it was only Democrats.
Now you just want to make the argument that Democrats being mean has consequences (but you aren’t saying anything at all about Republicans?)
There are a few different questions here:
1. Is Republican rhetoric more based in truth and rationality and less prone to exaggeration, lies, and deception than Democratic rhetoric? This seems to be the proposition against which you are arguing, but which I never suggested, and to which I think the answer is “no.”
2. Are Dems more prone to use a certain type of rhetoric which paints the opponent as stupid, crazy, or radical than Republicans (irrespective of how crazy or weird members of either group actually act)? This was my original proposition, and I still think the answer is yes. This in no way denies that there are certain lines of attack which Republicans are more likely to use against Democrats, such as “anti-American.”
3. Are Dems, in general, meaner and more hysterical acting in their campaign tactics than the GOP (note this is not the same as question 1)? I didn’t bring this up to begin with, but as suggested by the new links, I think they have been in ’12 and ’16, though I wouldn’t posit this as a general rule, and obviously Trump wasn’t kind to Hillary either. LBJ’s campaign against Goldwater, for example, was despicable, but I think Kerry ’04 ran a more honorable campaign than Bush ’04.
Moreover, I want to continue to assert that it isn’t stupid or pointless to criticize specific campaigns, or even whole parties, within specific time frames and as relates to particular issues, this way. Some campaigns really are more awful than others, and shrugging this off by just saying “well everybody’s awful” obscures the fact that there is such a thing as an honorable way to run a campaign.
You said Democrats cry wolf about every Republican proposal, and then, when called on it, you said that “The fact that both parties do bad things doesn’t mean they do the same bad things with the same frequency.”
Now you seem to not be supporting either of those two statements, but don’t seem to want to acknowledge it.
The evidence I was thinking of was produced by the excavation in 1975 of the tomb of a minor Qin official in Shuihudi. It apparently showed Qin legal rules to be much less extreme than Legalist rules were represented to be.
Thanks for the reference.
Yeah, and I’m sure no Legalists have ever engaged in heavy-handed propaganda against the Han. Your subtle put-downs of Confucianists seem to have a consistent bias. I don’t know why you keep claiming to be a Libertarian when all your writings here clearly expose you as a far-right-wing Legalist running-dog.
Picking it up on the newest OT, again! I’ll @ you there.
I’m interested in discussing alternatives to cars/how to make US cities and infrastructure more pedestrian-friendly, but what struck me in particular about this article was the sentences
I’ve noticed this sort of problem before, of course, both in this and other contexts–the tendency of democracy, for example, to create giant diffuse costs in exchange for relatively small but concentrated benefits, but I feel like, as I think about it, this verges more toward the realm of “cognitive bias” rather than just “thing people are typically bad at comprehending.”
Is there a good term for this? Is this related to near/far?
Making cities bicycle friendly seems like a much smarter move, as bicycles can cover far greater distances, faster and easier, while still giving people the freedom they tend to desire.
As for you other point, this seems to similar to the tragedy of the commons, but where there is no one who cares about an issue enough to fight for it hard. That said, I think that this is actually less of a problem in a democracy than in pretty much any other system (especially libertarianism), so I disagree with your claim that it specifically is a problem for democracy.
How is it similar to “tragedy of the commons” or other collective action problems? Any effective response to the 3,000 deaths that happened on 9/11 or to the 30,000 traffic deaths that happen in the US each year would both require collective action, but while the response to the traffic deaths is arguably too muted, the response to 9/11 was arguably, if anything, too strong.
“Create giant diffuse costs in exchange for relatively small but concentrated benefits” is a good description of ‘tragedy of the commons.’
But I’m getting rather confused at what your actual argument is right now. Are you arguing that the ‘tragedy of the commons’ cannot happen when people don’t make a rational choice, but rather act in a short-sighted manner? Because I disagree that this makes it any different. And IMO, the hysteria after 9/11 happened because many people stopped regarding the risk of terrorism as
‘diffuse costs,’ but became personally fearful. As such, it just shows how people tend to act selfishly/shortsightedly (near/far).
Aapje’s argument for tragedy of the commons makes sense. Each individual car trip is quite beneficial to the person making the trip, and only contributes to the problem of car accident deaths a tiny amount. The cost for eliminating those car deaths is all of my car trips.
Whereas to eliminate a large single incident, like a plane safety failure, the cost is marginal and not born directly by me. I get to fly, but at a slight inconvenience of time or money, which I don’t even really notice (unless it’s my plane waiting for a part to be fixed or replaced). It’s roughly the same problem in reverse.
9/11 is different and not comparable simply because it involves intentional killing.
I’m saying that, to the extent a problem exists with respect to traffic fatalities, but which doesn’t exist with respect to terrorist attacks, I don’t see why the traffic fatality problem is any more “tragedy of the commons”-y than terrorist attacks.
True there are more individual car trips than plane flights, but there are still a lot of plane flights, and the sorts of inconveniences which individuals would have to bear to improve car safety seem roughly analogous to the sorts of inconveniences individuals would have to bear to to improve aviation safety. If anything, aviation feels more “tragedy of the commons”-y than cars, because I bear the benefit or cost of my own safe or dangerous driving more directly than if I vote, say, for more or less funding to the TSA.
I’m not denying some degree of collective action problem may apply to both, just that, to the extent there is a difference in public desire to “do something” about terrorism v. traffic fatality, I don’t think the difference is due to collective action problems.
I think the difference is due, yes, in part to the intentional nature of 9/11, but also due to having it happen all at once. If one could concentrate all the US auto fatalities of an entire month into one crazy, giant conflagration, I think it would cause a big public outcry to “do something” about auto safety in a way roughly similar to 9/11.
Though I think this maybe is part of the answer: if 3,000 auto fatalities could happen in one day, in one place, then that would, by extension, imply that, in a really bad month, 90,000 people could die in auto accidents, or over 1 million a year.
But I think that is precisely the problem: we react to 9/11 as if it could happen every day, when the reality is, if we count Pearl Harbor as the last comparable event, maybe once or twice a century would be closer to “average” insofar as one can calculate an average for such things. Put another way, I think humans have a relatively appropriate-ish conception of problem severity, but a relatively poor conception of frequency.
It makes perfect sense for humans to think that normally, it’s easier to fix 1 big thing than many small things. It’s a rule with exceptions, but I think that it is true more often than not.
For instance, if 3,000 auto fatalities could happen in one day, one would assume a common cause that can be addressed (either by preventing it or being able to predict which days have very high risk and keeping everyone off the road). A common cause is way easier to address than the various causes that result in car accidents.
That seems like a weird way to look at it, since these events are more reasonably related to their cause, rather than to time. Pearl Harbor was not a random event, but directly caused by a certain threat, that would keep attacking if not addressed.
Similarly, Bin Laden didn’t try to strike at the US since 1941, but way more recently. It is very unlikely that Al Qaeda would have waited 60 years to try again, if the US had just ignored it.
I think that it is illogical to treat intentional acts as if they were random or vice versa.
I am really wondering whether you understand what “tragedy of the commons” is, at this point.
If no one drove, their would be no traffic fatalities. If I am the only one to drive, my risk of traffic fatality is much smaller than in the reality where everyone drives. It’s always beneficial to me to drive the next mile, even if it might be better overall if everyone limited the amount of driving they did, given the capacity of the roadways. (I’m not saying this is true, btw, just making the argument).
But if no one flew, the terrorists would find something else to target. Terrorism isn’t a risk that is endemic to flying.
Just make the argument about air crashes and ferry crashes and large fires and the like. I don’t know why you feel the need to bring terrorism into it. They are different kinds of problems.
Yes, I understand what the tragedy of the commons is, no I still don’t understand why you think it applies more to driving than flying. If anything, what you are saying seems to imply the opposite: each additional mile I drive is a benefit to me and a risk I largely assume by myself. If you’re saying that driving is different from flying because flying can be made safer by inconveniencing everyone a little, while driving is all or nothing, I don’t see why that should be the case. Driving could be made a little safer and more inconvenient for everyone by lowering and strictly enforcing the speed limit, for example.
If we were talking about overuse of roads because I pay the taxes for the roads whether I use them a lot or not at all, then I could see where tragedy of the commons comes in, because it’s in everyone’s interest to overuse the roads, but we’re talking about road safety, and the same exact issue applies to flying: I don’t pay any more or less in taxes to fund the TSA depending on whether I fly a lot, a little, or not at all. And in this respect, ancap would almost always be better than government precisely because in ancapistan, there is no “commons.” Everyone mostly pays for what they use and to the degree that they use it.
As for the fact that terrorist attacks are intentional and traffic accidents generally aren’t, I see how that changes how you go about trying to prevent them, but not the calculation as to how much attention we should pay to each problem*:
For example, if I live in a town where death by falling rock is common and death by intentional violent murder is rare, then it makes sense for me to focus more on avoiding getting caught in an avalanche than to avoid getting murdered. My priorities should be reversed, of course, if I live in a violent area with no mountains. The fact that one type of danger is intentional and the other not is neither here nor there.
*Though if that aspect still bothers you, then just change the example to air safety exclusive of intentional attacks: if air travel were as dangerous, per mile (to say nothing of total body count), as driving, simply as a result of weather, pilot error, etc. we’d never hear the end of it. Because each incident would come with images of firey doom of hundreds of people at a time, rather than a broken neck here, a shattered pelvis there.
But thinking of 9/11 as “one big problem” and 30,000 annual traffic fatalities as “a lot of little problems” is an inaccurate way to think about it, though I might agree people will tend to do so.
Making air travel safer, whether from intentional attacks or just natural causes (weather, pilot error, etc.) is really a bunch of little problems too: every individual traveler must be screened. Every individual pilot has to show up for work sober. Every individual air traffic controller has to pay attention, etc. etc. Improving all that is just as much “a bunch of little things” as improving the highway system would be.
Driving actually has different downsides:
1. The chance that the passengers die
2. The chance that others die
4-7. more stuff that I won’t go into
Only issue 1 is a cost to the driver, 2 and 3 are “tragedy of the commons.”
As for people judging the costs of preventing flying incidents inaccurately, I noted that people use a heuristic that is not entirely accurate. You are basically arguing that people don’t think very rationally about risk, which has been extensively researched and found to be true in several ways.
That doesn’t mean that people are completely irrational or that there is no logic, but rather, that they don’t do an extensive analysis, but use simplistic rules of thumb.
“while still giving people the freedom they tend to desire.”
Maybe in Europe this would fly, but not in America. Maybe it’s an artifact of the size of the nation and the less dense population on average and how it’s easier to travel between states than between countries (or at least it used to be, Europe is pretty easy now as far as I can tell) or just a general cultural obsession with freedom in general and automobiles in specific.
But I will *always* have a car because I like the idea that, at a moments notice, I can get up and travel hundreds of miles in a matter of hours and not have to rely on any sort of centrally planned system. A bicycle gives me the freedom to travel around my city – a car gives me the freedom to travel around my entire nation (and it’s a big one!)
Also worth noting that so many places in America aren’t bike-friendly such that, even if distance isn’t the issue, most people won’t feel comfortable biking on roads or in cities that they aren’t familiar with. So my city becoming bike-friendly doesn’t really help me travel to the neighboring city if they aren’t bike-friendly.
I agree that I like the idea of being able to go anywhere, any time, and, what’s more, hauling a good amount of stuff.
But my upper-middle class US family of 5, living in a mid-size city, collectively owns 3 cars. This is not because we crave the freedom of the open road, but because we need cars to go to work, to go to the grocery, to go to Bestbuy, or pretty much any time we go anywhere which doesn’t happen to be within walking distance or on a few, very specific public trasportation lines (which are, in any case, too slow and unreliable for anything important)–and our city is better than most US cities in this respect.
If there were more pedestrian-friendly areas and more reliable ways to get to them we could probably do with just one car for the whole family.
I think that you suffer from a lack of imagination. If you take the status quo as the norm, then of course you cannot do better. But this is self-fulfilling.
With self-driving cars, you no longer need a car parked close by. This means that you can create very dense cities, which has huge advantages. With a mobile app, you also no longer need car ownership as you can just rent a car at a moments notice. Car ownership has many downsides and is costly (although more so where I live than in the US).
So if you eliminate most in-city parking, create pleasant bicycle paths in their place for short trips (and the average trip of city dwellers is not that far), then you actually have a lot of freedom and a more pleasant living/working environment.
I think that this is the future.
Don’t most people who live in city A, work in city A? You seem to be ignoring the advantages to come up with edge cases that are merely (& probably temporarily) less optimal. You can shoot down any idea like that.
When planes were introduced: but I what if I want to go to a place where there is not yet an airfield?
Bicycles are relatively short distance, which means that you get 80% of the benefits by making a city bike-friendly.
Mind you, I’m not saying: abandon all cars, etc and only have bicycles. It’s about getting a smarter mix of transport options.
PS. I would also argue that people’s concept of ‘freedom’ can change. Just because you equate freedom with owning a car, doesn’t mean that this have to be the case in the future.
“With self-driving cars, you no longer need a car parked close by. This means that you can create very dense cities, which has huge advantages. With a mobile app, you also no longer need car ownership as you can just rent a car at a moments notice. Car ownership has many downsides and is costly (although more so where I live than in the US).”
I live in a large city where parking is expensive and uber is cheap. I already don’t “need” a car – but I want one. If there’s a natural disaster and I have to flee town, I want to be able to do so at a moment’s notice – not at the mercy of uber or whatever self-driving car app replaces it.
This is the type of “freedom” I think most Americans are talking about when they talk about private vehicle ownership. Yes, it won’t make a difference in the overwhelming majority of normal cases. But it might make a difference in a “worst case scenario.” It’s almost like a form of insurance. If the buses quit running and the taxis go on strike and the uber drivers all flee – I can still hop in my own car and go in whatever direction I like for as long as I like (provided I can find gasoline).
You mean you want the freedom to sit in a traffic jam? Roadways aren’t designed to let everyone in an area flee the location all at once.
I agree that some sort of evacuation plan is necessary, but I’m not sure this is the slam-dunk you feel that it is.
No, it’s not a “slam dunk” at all.
But in a “flee town quickly” scenario I’d sure as hell rather try my luck with my own car in traffic than waiting for an Uber driver to pick me up or relying on the government run bus system.
They kind of are, in American cities at least. It’s called “evening rush hour”.
There already are apps that allow you to rent a car at a moment’s notice and have it delivered to you. As far as I know, they have yet to make a significant dent in car ownership rates.
I think the reason is obvious: rush hour. A large portion of the population starts work sometime around 9:00 AM and ends work sometime around 5:00 PM. If a city doesn’t have good enough public transportation to handle the bulk of the commuters (as in NYC, San Francisco, and a number of European and Asian cities), then all of those people will need a car at pretty much the same time. If you have enough taxis or rental cars, whether they can drive themselves or not, to handle the morning and evening demand spikes, then a vast majority of the fleet is going to be idle for 90% of the day. Which defeats the whole purpose of taxis and rental cars.
So maybe your scenario will come to pass in the aforementioned cities with good public transportation, but car ownership rates are likely to remain high in Los Angeles and other cities like it for the foreseeable future.
Which is why cities that semi-regularly need to evacuate for hurricanes have contraflow protocols, IE turning all of the major highways into one-way roads temporarily.
I am pretty sure that I can flee from a city during most emergencies far quicker on a bicycle, rather than a car, as the roads are completely unsuitable for mass evacuations (although admittedly, my training regimen make me more capable than most). The bicycle can handle road damage much better as well (as it can be carried over obstacles far better).
I you do want motorized transport, a motorcycle ought to work way better than a car.
The difference is that during an emergency, all cars tend to go the same way and in a far greater quantity (as quite a few cars actually don’t participate in the rush hour). There have been experiments with changing the direction of the incoming carriageway, to double the capacity, but this is very hard to manage (not in the least because people really don’t like wrong-way driving and all the ramps & signs are wrong).
Speaking as someone who has actually fled a major city during an emergency (New Orleans in August 2005, though my parents were driving), I very much disagree.
First, bikes may well be faster during a situation like this (though riding a bike through a traffic jam isn’t all that easy either), but driving a car requires far less energy, which means that you can keep moving for longer, and for the average person that would likely mean that they could still go further with a car.
Second, what do you do for young children, old people, disabled people, and people who just aren’t very physically fit? If they have a family member or friend who owns a car, they can just ride with them, but it’s a lot harder to do that with a bike. IIRC studies found that people who died in Katrina were disproportionately old, poor, and either without families or estranged from their families. I don’t think bikes would have helped them much.
Granted, New Orleans has had to deal with hurricanes since its establishment, and nowadays people are warned about hurricanes days ahead of time. Things might be different in, say, Denver in the event of a Yellowstone eruption, or a town on the Pacific Northwest coast in the event of a Cascadia fault line tsunami.
In a Cascadia-event scenario on the Oregon or Washington coasts, the car isn’t a good choice; the expected time from the start of shaking to when the tsunami hits is 15 minutes. A traffic jam will very likely form and prevent evacuation by car within that time frame, so evacuation on foot will be your only real chance. Evacuations that don’t have such a short timeframe are much easier by car, though.
I don’t know if a bicycle will be viable, as it depends if a crowd forms that will prevent using a bike at anything faster than a walk.
Public service announcement: If you’re on the northern Pacific coast, and an earthquake hits, run. Do not wait for somebody to tell you to run, as the warnings probably won’t start until 7 or 8 minutes after the shaking, which is at least half of your evacuation time.
Look, I was just using natural disasters as one possible example. Others might include everything from “family emergency and they live in a small town not serviced by major transportation lines and I need to get there quickly” to “hot girl on the internet messages me and says ‘my parents aren’t home wanna come over?'” at 3 AM.
There are plenty of somewhat plausible scenarios in which you will want the ability to travel distances of 20+ miles in a short amount of time.
In my youth a car-less friend of mine was lucky enough to be hanging out with me when he got the ‘my parents aren’t home’ text, without me and my trusty automobile he would have had no chance of getting to her apartment across town.
‘I want to get somewhere fast’ scenario’s are fundamentally different from mass evacuation scenario’s. You shouldn’t treat them as interchangeable.
Maybe I’m just too American, but I’ll never understand bike fetishism.
It’s winter here now. I do not want to spend all of my time in transit enduring that cold, and with my car I don’t have to. Sometimes, it will also be icy or slushy, or raining, which is even worse from a bike-riding perspective.
And then there are the three kids with their three bulky car seats that they need to be strapped into. Is it even possible for a single person to bike three children around? I’m betting 1 is the reasonable max.
How many groceries can I carry back on my bike along with the kids, who both take up space and require me to buy a lot more groceries? A single diaper box alone is pretty bulky.
A transportation solution which only works on nice/the minority of days and is incompatible with having a family is a bad solution. There’s a reason people tend to move to the suburbs and buys minivans once they have kids.
This is also somewhat chicken/egg, and I blame zoning laws, among other things.
To take the example of food: most Americans don’t live within walking distance of a grocery/market and/or significant variety of restaurants. This means to get food requires driving. Which means the grocery store needs a massive parking lot, which exacerbates the previous problem and also means you don’t want to go there as often. Which means you buy more on each trip to the grocery. Which means you need a car to lug it all. Which means you need a bigger refrigerator and pantry, as well as a parking space/garage. Which means you need a bigger house. Which means the neighborhoods are more spread out. Which means you need a car. Which means the roads have to be wider…
In Asian cities I have lived in most people live closer together and within walking distance of groceries, restaurants, and markets. Which means you can buy food more easily. Which means you can shop or eat out every day. Which means you can carry fewer groceries each time. Which means you eat fresher food and need less refrigerator and pantry space. Which means you don’t need a car (or maybe only one per family instead of three), which means you don’t need the garage, which means the houses can be closer together…
Admittedly, most of the Asian cities I’ve lived in (Taipei, Hong Kong…) don’t get very cold (though they sure do rain), but I’ve also spent time in some very, very cold Asian cities (Harbin) and found it still works so long as things stay close together. The solution there is that a lot of things–walkways, even shopping malls, are underground, connected, and/or enclosed, so that you never have to spend very long outside at a go.
Easy. Get the electric one if you are not so well trained/have hills/etc.
And what onyomi said, you can choose sprawl or compactness. The latter has many advantages.
And I thought we were talking about the cities. You can have suburbs and rural areas for people who like that and have Dutch-style cities for people who want that. Or you can have cities like LA.
But keep in mind that the trend is towards urbanization, in the US and worldwide. The advantages are big. Compactness results in lots of things becoming viable that are much harder to do when everything is spread out.
Ice is also fairly bad from a car-driving perspective. But it’s possible to clear/salt the roads, including the bicycle paths.
Only heavy rain is actually bad, in my experience. I don’t know how common that is for US cities, but it is fairly rare in my country, despite having a maritime climate.
Cities are actually several degrees warmer than the countryside.
“Cities are actually several degrees warmer than the countryside.”
Oh please, I know this is technically true but a couple degrees of heat being trapped within the city does not make your commute in freezing temperatures measurably less miserable.
I don’t own a car and I agree entirely. When I need to go somewhere I walk; take a subway, bus, or commuter train; or on rare occasions hail a taxi. I see no place for a bicycle. Its enthusiasts various scenarios seem rather forced.
>Is it even possible for a single person to bike three children around?
Your three kids will ride a bike themselves. Or if they are too young for that, they stay home. Or you stay at home and send your eldest to buy the groceries with their bike (that’s what my parents started to do in the summers when I was 13 or so…)
Bikes are great for kids when they get older, because kids can ride a bike (but not a car) and bikes are much cheaper than cars. At least, in a small European town where you can bike around.
Your life seems definitively limited, except on rare occasions, to those places which are within easy walking distance of where the local government has decided you ought to go (and is willing to pay for you to go). I have to wonder how much you are missing, and how well you understand how much you are missing.
One might say the same thing about living in or around a third tier city (or worse). All life is trade-offs.
>Your life seems definitively limited, except on rare occasions, to those places which are within easy walking distance of where the local government has decided you ought to go (and is willing to pay for you to go)
And if one gets a car, you are still mostly restricted to go only where the roads lead to. Usually that’s also decided by the local government (inside cities) or the national government (decisions where the cities, at least to some extent, and the highways between them are) , too. Does not seem qualitatively different.
There is a chicken and egg problem here.
My current employer, who I have been at for 10 years, changed locations about 7 years ago. Neither location is atypical for the tech employers in the area. The first was a doable 60 minute bike ride where I stayed mostly on a converted rail line bike path.
The second is basically not feasible to bike. It would be 2 hours, with no safe route. But my car commute increased by about 10 minutes (all on the Interstate highway) My employer didn’t think twice about making the switch.
Until you have density of living and working, bike commutes are fairly infeasible for most people. In order to get density of living, you have to (roughly) make car commuting infeasible
You can get 2 small children attached to a bike in various ways, but I agree that cycling in bad weather or when carrying children/groceries is not very pleasant. In my experience of living in a city with a lot of cyclists, most people use cars in those situations.
I’ve noticed that smallish transportation disasters (a ferry sinks, two trains collide) make the news much more than the much larger numbers of people who die in car accidents.
Smallish mass-transportation accidents don’t happen every day, indeed are rare enough to be individually newsworthy. Individual car accidents, except in very small communities, are literally daily events and so cannot be newsworthy. And statistics that don’t change much from year to year aren’t really newsworthy either, unless it’s a very slow day or some reporter has an axe that really needs grinding.
So long as journalism, and indeed human perception of reality, is governed by narrative, things like car accidents are almost necessarily going to be socially invisible.
Here in Western Australia, every single fatal car accident will make the news. It may be in the form of a sentence or two mention in the 5 minute “road news” segment, but it happens. They’ll also mention how our road fatality statistics are each year compared to the last if there is a bit of time left over.
I suspect part of the reason for doing so is a concerted effort to reduce road fatalities by keeping them visible and emotional, so that people are calling for efforts to improve things. (Part of THAT may be that WA has a disproportionately high number of accidents per capita due to everything being so spread out and thus people travelling far and fast; our fatalities per km are a bit below Australian average.)
“Highway Patrol” type TV programs are also popular ‘light filler’ TV, again presumably because people are emotionally invested in ‘safe roads’.
I think that making cities pedestrian-friendly basically boils down to having good public transport, because the distance most people are willing to walk is quite small in comparison to the size of a city. The biggest things you can do to make it bike-friendly are build it on flat land, create cycle lanes, and already have lots of cyclists.
I think the first step is actually to create more pedestrian-friendly/automobile-hostile urban spaces people want to get to. Simply offering more public transportation won’t necessarily help if there’s nowhere to walk once you get where you’re going and plentiful parking right next to all destinations.
Sure, one option is to make using a car painful enough that public transport is preferable (this seems to be the approach taken by several UK cities).
Cars have been a tremendous boon to the US over the last 100 years. I assume this is also true for other countries, though perhaps to a lesser extent to more densely populated countries. This is part of an essay I wrote several years ago. I apologize that it is kind of long; but it needs to be pretty long to cover all the benefits of cars.
1) Cars add greatly to each person’s quality of life. In my own personal life, I drive to various jobs around the city, drove my kids to day care and to various recreational activities (when they were small), go shopping at various stores, and see friends outside the neighborhood. I can go out to the country if I want to escape the urban life for awhile or see stars. None of these activities would be easily available without a car. If I had to walk or bike or take mass transit to all these events, I would have few choices. It is much easier to switch jobs if I don’t like my current one, or switch stores that are going downhill. Life is much narrower without a personal motor vehicle in the garage.
2) Automobiles add to the average person’s freedom. The car is always there; ready to take him or her wherever he/she wants to go. This also adds to the geographic sophistication of the population. How many people never traveled more than 50 miles from their place of birth a century ago? Or only traveled that distance one or two times in their entire lives? Now that most people have their own motor vehicles, that distance is a trivial distance to go in an afternoon. Places like Mississippi are no longer forgotten lands of privation and ignorance. That state is still poor, but the differential between it and richer states is much less than a century ago. The new freedom and sophistication of its inhabitants allow emigration out, and immigration in of others that can take advantage of Mississippi’s attributes. The auto is a big part of this change.
3) The car is a tremendous boon to our economic well being because of its great flexibility. To understand how important this is, look at the lack of flexibility that exists in many inner cities, where many residents cannot afford cars. The stores in those neighborhoods usually have much higher prices, lower selection, and lower quality than similar stores in the suburbs. That’s because the residents have to shop at those stores, or else spend a lot more time on mass transit to get to the better stores. Similarly, these car-less residents have fewer options for employment. Often the inner city has a high unemployment rate even as firms in the suburbs are begging for workers, because the inner city residents can’t get there. The jobs that are within walking distance or on mass transit routes will usually pay poorly and treat the workers badly, because there is a ready supply of replacements. The jobs in the suburbs are usually much nicer positions, because they are forced to be.
Without cars, these miss-matches of companies and workers, or of stores and shoppers, would occur much more frequently. The car provides the flexibility to bring the sides together. Usually one side of a metropolitan area will grow jobs more quickly than another. Naturally, it takes some time for the transit routes to change. In the meantime, those with cars have the flexibility to drive to where the jobs are. Depending on mass transit to service our complex economy is not a viable option.
This flexibility is a tremendous boon to the U.S. economy. Bottlenecks cause recessions, whether they occur because of a lack of capital, certain kinds of labor, natural resources, or whatever. Our road and vehicle system of transportation has the extreme flexibility needed for our ever changing economy, so transportation has never become a cause for a recession. Even with the tremendous traffic jams in our cities, the road system is much better for transportation than any fixed route system. This is one advantage this country has over Europe, which is more dependent on its fixed transportation options.
Even for emergency planning, automobile flexibility is a benefit. It’s the people with cars that got out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
4) We have less to fear from government dictatorship when we travel by car. I don’t know if some agency in the Federal government tracks everyone who flies, but it wouldn’t be very hard to do so, with all the information the airlines require. The same information tracking could also occur with intra-city trains and buses too, if Homeland Security decides to become involved with mass transit. It will never be possible for the government to register every car trip. We can pretty sure that we are free from government surveillance when we’re driving free on the roads.
“None of these activities would be easily available without a car.”
Because everyone has a car. If they didn’t, places would be closer together.
We recognize the benefits of the division of labor when it comes to individuals, why not also when it comes to locations and geographies?
It seems to me that being forced to locate services near where people live because they don’t have access to transportation is not quite as desirable as being able to locate everything in the best possible place, secure in the knowledge that people will still be able to easily access it.
When someone strikes oil in remote North Dakota, are we not really glad that people can hop in their cars and get there from all across the country well before the government has time to build an airport and a high speed rail line and develop housing and grocery stores right next to the oil patch?
>When someone strikes oil in remote North Dakota, are we not really glad that people can hop in their cars and get there from all across the country well before the government has time to build an airport and a high speed rail line and develop housing and grocery stores right next to the oil patch?
The existence of a high-speed rail line between the major population centers, where most people live and work, does not prevent people from having cars (or obtaining them relatively fast if they need one). On the hand, “oil found in the rural North Dakota equivalent” is a relatively rare occurrence. However, the need for people to travel within and between the large population centers is constant, mostly because most people live and work in there as those centers are where the other people live and work (and the work usually consists of doing stuff for other people), because it’s efficient … especially for the division of labor: lots of people living in the same place, more opportunities to specialize.
Though in practice what happens in the “North Dakota” scenario is that the bus companies start scheduling more buses for the route between the oil field (or usually here, a mineral mine) and the nearest local airport / railway hub (for the workers who don’t want to live permanently there), and those who move there in a more permanent fashion, fit in their one family car (and pay for the movers to bring their stuff with a truck).
I see no one arguing for banning cars here, just for making a non-car lifestyle more viable (for some, urban people).
IMO, too many people in this discussion are arguing against a straw man environmentalist who wants to ban all cars.
“I see no one arguing for banning cars here, just for making a non-car lifestyle more viable (for some, urban people).”
That’s fine in theory – but in observation, transportation space in or near major cities is usually limited. As far as I know, cities that have created “pedestrian-friendly” space have done so simply by banning cars from entering said spaces. London famously levies huge tolls on cars entering or leaving the city center to discourage car use. I used to live in a medium size city that wanted to implement a light-rail bus type system on a major shopping thoroughfare. There wasn’t enough space to simply build it new, they had to eliminate a lane of car traffic in each direction to make room.
Not to mention that most public transportation solutions are publicly financed, meaning resources are being spent on them that could be spent elsewhere, including on road maintenance and repair.
Well, it is simply impossible for everyone in London to have a car, due to a lack of parking & road lanes. So at that point you can:
1. Reduce the housing density to make room for parking spaces & roads, which has major repercussions & costs
2. Wait for traffic to grind to a halt and most people to find alternatives. At this point, most people stop wanting to have a car because the ‘car experience’ is horrible. Because you didn’t provide good alternatives, people get to choose between bad and worse.
3. Tax the shit out of car ownership/usage, which has a similar result to 2, except more biased to rich people
4. Switch to transport modes that allow much more efficient use of space.
I understand that you feel like something is being taken away by choosing option 4, but when you choose option 2 or 3, the ability to own a car is realistically taken away for most people as well. It may be your outgroup, while you can still afford it, but is it not better to come up with something that works for far more people?
“It may be your outgroup, while you can still afford it, but is it not better to come up with something that works for far more people?”
Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t – but that flies in the face of your earlier assertion that “we can do both” and “why are you car people so opposed to pedestrian spaces it’s not like that takes away your ability to have a car!”
I live in one of the most car dependent major cities in the US – and despite everything I’ve said, I usually Uber to and from the office when I need to go work downtown just because parking is expensive and driving downtown is kind of annoying (although significant better than a lot of big cities). If Uber wasn’t so cheap here, I’d probably take mass transit (uber is about twice as much as the transit fare would be, but in exchange I get door to door service and a private car).
I’m not opposed to pedestrian spaces or bike-friendly streets or mass transit entirely. I just think it’s a bit disingenuous when people act like these things are win-win situations with no relevant tradeoffs that only dumb American obstinacy stands in the way of. It’s not nearly that simple. There are plenty of good reasons to own and use cars, not the least of which is “people like them.”
My argument is that you can have a system that still supports the use of cars for people with certain needs (which for some people means using them every day and for others means using them rarely); while it strongly incentivizes many people to use pretty good alternatives.
That is exactly why I said that the future of cars in dense places is to no longer own it or drive it yourself, which solves both of these problems. Uber is just a step towards self-driving cars, which will be cheaper and more efficient.
You are already partially living the future I envision, yet you object because I use outgroup rhetoric which triggers you emotionally.
I’m not saying that my proposals are perfect, but I do think that they are far better than a sprawl-based model for urban areas.
That is merely emotional and generational (young people of today are less likely to have a drivers license or own a car).
City planning is about supporting the needs and desires of people in the next 50 years, not those of today (or yesterday). Of course, predicting the future is risky, but my predictions extrapolate on the trend, which tends to be the best method.
I thought city planning was about letting city planners feel like gods by imposing their mystic visions on everyone else. But perhaps I’ve been reading Seeing Like a State, with its description of some planned cities, too recently.
The trick is that you give all that power to a smart person like me, not idiots like them* 😛
* who believe(d) that they are smart people, in contrast to people with other ideas
Seriously: I would argue that the intentional choice for cycling and against sprawl resulted in very positive outcomes for The Netherlands.
>I don’t know if some agency in the Federal government tracks everyone who flies, but it wouldn’t be very hard to do so, with all the information the airlines require
This year, our government started talking about a bright new idea of installing a mandatory SIM-card-internet-device to each and every car, because that way you could tax the cars per individual road usage instead of fixed lump sum. (And as an added benefit, government will know where everybody’s car is, but this was not said aloud.)
In Italy, similar devices that track car’s movements are already pretty popular, because the insurance companies offer a significant discount to every customer who installs one of those in their cars. Apparently helps with determining who was the guilty party in collisions etc.
If my memory serves, new cars in EU will have an emergency locator on them, anyway, the kind that starts broadcasting if the car gets in accident.
On the other hand, they could already know where everybody is, because everyone is carrying around a phone where-ever they go.
But if that tax-and-surveillance thing gets enacted, I can travel without government surveillance much easier with a train than a car, because requiring ID yourself to able to board a train is still too much like the infamous “internal passports” of the Soviet Union.
Do you pay cash at point of use for train tickets? Perhaps so, but if they care the government can make that almost arbitrarily inconvenient, and thus conspicuous.
What that has to do with the main point, that is, in today’s world, cars are not magically exempt from the government’s capability to track where they go, if the government (or insurance companies) will to do so?
(these are slightly different points, so in the case this sparks discussions threads, I make two replies…)
>Even with the tremendous traffic jams in our cities, the road system is much better for transportation than any fixed route system. This is one advantage this country has over Europe, which is more dependent on its fixed transportation options.
You just …. say that… like just stating boldly “it’s better” … makes it true. Without offering any supporting evidence.
And mind you, a car isn’t something that’s virtually unknown outside the US. In Europe, we also have cars. (When you start a family, you usually buy a car if you don’t already have one. For the many benefits already stated in this discussion.) But there’s other kind of freedom, too, than the freedom to own a car (or three cars, and be stuck at your home without one).
Where I currently live, I can take a 15 min walk to any of the three competing supermarkets (and bunch of other shops) in the neighborhood and get most of the groceries I can imagine wanting this week. With public transport, about everywhere interesting in the town is available with 40 mins travel, tops. (And I don’t even have to drive. I usually carry a book or two, sometimes a laptop, for reading when I sit in a train / bus.) If I had a family and kids, I would not need to drive my kids around that much (at least when they reached the school-going age): they would go to the local school and visit their friends or the mall on their own initiative, like I did. This, too, is freedom.
Car-heavy logistical solutions for grocery shopping mostly means that car owners start taking care of a part of the transport logistics between the points “regional central warehouse -> final destination” on their own expense of gas, infrastructure (= car and its maintenance) and time (not only the travel, but the navigating the giant hypermarket). Which probably is grossly inefficient (probably, I don’t have done the math).
That is good, and it is possible to do much of that in relatively dense cities. Although I do wonder how many employers are available within that 40 minute window. In my metropolitan area of about 3 million, there are maybe 40-50 possible employers for the kind of work I do that I could commute to in a reasonable time by car (up to 45 minutes). Very few of those are easily reachable by mass transit. As has been pointed out, that is partly because things are further apart because most folks have cars. But having a larger usable metro area makes the economy a lot more flexible. As business flows to one side of the town or the other, people can get there without waiting for the transit schedules to change (or if dependent on rail, for the tracks to be built). I also have access to probably a dozen or more supermarkets if the three closest to me have issues. Sure, the free market adjusts to maximize welfare for people for whatever resources people have, but the more resources available, the higher the welfare. When you have fewer cars, society adjusts, but the more cars, the more flexibility. When I have been in the very dense and difficult to park city of New York, I can see why doing without a car makes sense (for city travel at least). In any other city I’ve lived in, I’ve seen that almost all mass transit riders get a car once they can afford it. It is simply a lot more welfare enhancing to drive than to depend on buses and trains.
My point is that what is “welfare-enhancing” isn’t always “more cars = better”: much depends on the how the urban area and its transport network have been planned. Sprawly urban areas where there are not enough density for efficient public transport are also an active design choice.
As a consumer, I have quite much resources available already, from my sofa, because I have internet connection to order them and the world-wide transport network will bring them them to me. As I said, professionals taking care of the logistics until the endpoint (the local supermarket or the post office within the walking distance from my home) is more efficient (and less time consuming for me) than me myself doing the fetching the things from hypermarkets far away. The suburban sprawl might be more flexible, but the car-owners bear the cost of that flexibility.
I admit that car would enable me to reach more potential employers, but reasonably many workplaces in my line of business are served reasonably well by the public transport system (result of a combination of zoning, urban and public transport design, which creates a situation where employers want to be reachable by public transport.) So, currently I do fine.
In my experience, the business grows in the areas where there are tracks and other such transport options available, not the other way around. It’s quite similar with cars and roads, really. It’s like arguing that the businesses have a habit of landing in the middle of forest from the heavens above, and then you must built the road there so that people can get there.
Also, creating a car-only urban area without public transport (which is a decision made by the local authorities when they design the city) removes the resource called “city where you can get around without a car”. In my current situation, as described above, I find the lifestyle enabled by this kind of city structure optimal in many ways, and so do many others (population of this urban centre keeps growing).
If had a family with children, I would reconsider what would be the optimal way of living. It would probably involve a car, because a family has more need for doing “moving stuff” from place A to place B (I agree that main negative side of public transport is that you can’t carry too much stuff around), but probably also a bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood and functioning public transport, for the other reasons stated above.
(Another possibility would involve a very good offer from a company that would have offices in middle-of-nowhere, but those are rare.)
I also think that people have weird thing … where they prefer sitting stuck in traffic jam or driving themselves for reasons I don’t fully understand. For example, I very much like trains for inter-city travel: I can sit in a comfy chair, work (do useful stuff with on my laptop, which is my specialty) and possibly get a drink from the bar, instead of spending lot of time doing the menial task of “driving a car” which I don’t particularly like.
Thomas reaches final Schelling point.
Question for anyone with non-American political knowledge and/or expertise:
Is Trump’s recent policy of ‘Comment on and criticize everything Obama does and remind people how things will be different when you’re in charge’ any different than what a Shadow Ministry does in the parliamentary democracies that have them?
I’ve never really understood what the purpose of a Shadow Ministry is, and if their role is anything like what Trump has been doing lately I think I understand them even less.
If you mean things like the British Shadow Cabinets, their main raisons d’etre, as far as I can tell, are (a) the Leader of the Opposition doesn’t always have the time to keep track of and comment upon everything the government does, so it’s useful to have some underlings to do this for him, (b) so that members of the SC can get some familiarity with policy debates relating to their particular area, hopefully meaning that they’ll find the transition from opposition to government easier, and (c) to give voters some idea of who’s likely to be in charge of what if the Opposition gets elected.
I’d add D) To provide a complete set of ministers prepared to step in to the various roles should the government lose the confidence of the House.
Okay, sure, let’s-
Dammit, Britain isn’t the only other democracy out there.
Thinking about the discussion of Young Earth Creationists and whether it is disturbing that there are a fair number of them … .
Consider three people:
A: An atheist.
B: A strongly believing Christian, someone who, in Orwell’s words, believes in Heaven the way he believes in Australia, but who accepts the modern scientific view of evolution, the age of the Earth, and similar issues.
C: A Young Earth Creationist
C seems much stranger to us than B, but I want to argue that the distance between A and B is much larger than between B and C. B lives in a world ruled by an omniscient and omnipotent god, believes he ought to do what that God desires, expects if he does he will go to Heaven when he dies. It is a different universe than the one A lives in.
C disagrees with B on some questions not of enormous practical importance to either of them but they live in the same universe, even if they disagree on its details. Both believe they should do God’s will, both hope to go to Heaven when they die. B would be C if he had happened to be born a few centuries earlier or even born today in some environment that modern science had not yet penetrated.
And yet B does not seem all that strange to us, not even to A, although perhaps he should. Seen from my point of view as A, B could be any of a number of people I know either in realspace or in their writing and think highly of–GKC, C.S. Lewis, Maimonides, or several of my friends.
Which may be part of the reason that I do not find the claim that a significant fraction of the U.S. population is made up of C’s particularly frightening.
A different angle on the question, on the difference between me and B…
There are two or three propositions which I have no argument adequate to rebut but am not capable of believing.
One is the claim that there is no reason to expect the future to resemble the past, hence no reason to believe that today’s scientific laws will hold tomorrow. It is true that yesterday’s scientific laws held today, but in order to deduce from that that today’s will hold tomorrow one needs to assume that the future will resemble the past, making the argument circular.
Another is the claim that I am not living in an emulation.
Another is the claim that normative beliefs are in some sense true or false, that torturing small children for fun really is wicked. The argument that interprets normative beliefs as patterns hardwired into us by evolution hence of no more normative significance than the desire of a paperclip maximizer to maximize paperclips or of a moth to fly into a flame is straightforward. But I cannot believe it.
And since there are features of my view of the world that I retain although I cannot adequately defend them, it is hard to look down on other people with a different view of the world, one that includes a god, that they cannot adequately defend.
It seems strange to me that any reasonable person would choose YECs as the ones to be disturbed about. YECreationism is at worst irritating, and might stunt the scientific education of some children. But there are, I suspect, an even greater number of people out there who believe things that are worse.
Here’s a pragmatic defense of inductive reasoning and external-world realism which would not carry over to belief in God. Reichenbach likened our predicament to a fisherman sailing on uncharted waters; he may have no particular reason to think that there are fish swimming beneath him, but he stands to gain only if he adopts the working hypothesis that there are fish below and casts his net into the sea, because if he does nothing he is guaranteed to go home empty-handed in any case. We devise our scientific theories on the basis of parochial experiments and project them heedlessly into the past and future, and into other unseen regions of the world, for if nature fails to be sufficiently uniform or if appearances contrive too deviously to mislead us we have no hope of predicting or controlling the course of events no matter what steps we take. Belief in God, in contrast, can be dispensed with without seriously impairing our ability to navigate the world, and so carries with it no comparable practical necessity.
Your argument for science is that a mistake in one direction (believing the inductive hypothesis when it is not true) is harmless, since if it is not true we have no basis for deciding what to do, but not believing it when it is true is a serious handicap.
That looks rather like Pascal’s wager. Believing in God when he doesn’t exist means you miss a few pleasurable sins. Not believing in Him when he does exist … .
That’s not right. The payoff matrix for the fisherman is as follows:
Cast net: Starve
Don’t cast net: Starve
Cast net: Eat
Don’t cast net: Starve
While the payoff matrix for Pascal is this:
Believe: Life of needless austerity
Don’t believe: Normal, flourishing life
Don’t believe: Perdition
1. For the fisherman, casting a net weakly dominates not casting a net– it is at least as good in every possible state of the world and better in some. But disbelief is a better policy than belief if there happens not to be a God.
2. All of the outcomes for the fisherman are unacceptable save one, and in that one he casts his net. Disbelief, in contrast, leads to a good outcome in the event that God doesn’t exist.
3. Pascal’s Wager involves infinite utilities, which should arouse our suspicions in light of the fact that orthodox decision theory ends up being crippled by paradoxes wherever infinite utilities crop up. All of the utilities in the fisherman’s plight, on the other hand, are happily finite.
But the choice for “believe” in Pascal’s wager isn’t necessarily a life of needless austerity. For the sake of argument, it could just be “believing in God and not changing your life in any other way”. I think that the main difference/problem with Pascal’s wager is that there are more than two purported Gods, and therefore more than two choices. In a world where there was only one religion I think it would be a lot more convincing (although not a whole lot more, since you can posit Tricky McTrickster the Tricksy God who gives you salvation only if you realise that the mainstream religion is one of his tricks and only believe in him instead).
This is not how the wager is usually presented, for precisely the reason that it makes belief in God weakly dominate disbelief, while the point of the wager is to trade off a small probability of infinite gain against a large probability of finite loss. If the payoff structure is this:
…it will be rationally compulsory to believe for any y>z, even if both are finite and the difference is small. This ruins the game.
In this respect, your science wager is more like Pascal’s than the fisherman’s: doing science in a world where science doesn’t work isn’t at least as good as not doing science, because you’d be wasting considerable amounts of time, effort and money doing something useless.
“Science” here is broadly understood to incorporate all observation and projection of regularities, including regularities like “the sun will rise tomorrow,” “gravity will continue its inexorable downward pull on my body,” and “the next meal I eat will nourish me rather than set my innards on fire.” If these regularities were to give out I don’t think we’d be much concerned with how much money we wasted on (e.g.) researching jellyfish. We’re also really talking about whether it’s rational for an individual to make use of inductive reasoning, and not a ton of people spend “considerable amounts of time, effort and money” learning science just to increase their skill at forecasting their own lives. They are compensated along the way.
I rather think it’s like:
Believe: Life of happiness and mental health
Don’t believe: Life of slightly less happiness and mental health
Don’t believe: Perdition
Belief and religiosity definitely do have temporal benefits.
I think it’s more like
God doesn’t exist
..Believe: large chance of better mental health unless religious practice is a result of physical and mental health
…………..small chance of going mentally off-balance from religion
..Don’t believe: frees up time
God does exist and has stringent requirements for a good afterlife
..Believe correctly and practice adequately: good afterlife
..Wrong or no religion: perdition
I think you’ve got the God exists side wrong. If he exists and is smarter than people, then he must be more rational.
Believer with no evidence: Low status in heaven because irrational
Non-believer because no evidence: On the right hand side of God dispensing advice.
Can it, I wonder — at least, for the majority of people? Correlation is not causation, of course, but people who are more religious tend to be happier and have more children, and it’s hard to come up with a better definition of successfully navigating the world than that.
What makes you think this?
The fact that psychological studies consistently find a positive correlation between religiosity and mental health?
These are just the usual incompetently-designed studies comparing devout Christians to people who are too lazy to bother going to church and too apathetic to sustain any convictions, aren’t they? Do you have any research instead comparing devout Christians to avowed atheists on various indices of happiness and well-being?
I’m being a bit indulgent here, the point of Reichenbach’s analogy was to stress the practical indispensability of inductive inference, and even if religion leads to slightly higher self-reported happiness that’s still a far cry from its being indispensable.
If you want to put forward an alternative explanation, the onus is on you to show that it’s superior, not on others to argue against it.
Doesn’t this argument assume that induction works? You’re using inductive reasoning to determine the results of doing nothing.
Yes, but it doesn’t matter, as the fisherman’s inductive reasoning isn’t doing any work in the analogy.
How is the fisherman determining the “don’t cast net” -> “don’t get fish” causal relationship, if not by induction?
It doesn’t make any difference, although I like the suggestion that the fish might start leaping into his boat unprompted if he does nothing. What matters is that the payoff structure is as I described it above, and that the fisherman’s beliefs about the payoff structure are accurate. Maybe he came by his beliefs by sheer guesswork, maybe an oracle appeared to him. The question is how he ought to behave against that backdrop of beliefs, which means we don’t really care about whether or how the beliefs themselves are justified.
I would argue that it matters enormously how the fisherman acquired knowledge of the payoff structure. In the real world, he would have acquired it through inductive reasoning, which leaves us with nothing. If you just assume that he has somehow arrived at correct beliefs by magic, I think you’re sidestepping the problem.
You’re still confused. The analogy is between inductive reasoning in the actual world and a practical decision the fisherman makes, and, as we’ve seen, how the fisherman ought to act when faced with that decision is totally independent of how he arrived at the beliefs he holds. You’re fixating on an irrelevant detail of the analogy.
Perhaps I am confused. Let me attempt to clarify.
I’m interpreting this as analogous to the following situation: We have no particular reason to think that inductive reasoning works, but we stand to gain only if we adopt the working hypothesis that inductive reasoning does work, because if we don’t, we won’t accomplish anything.
Is that roughly what you’re getting at? I want to make sure that we’re on the same page before I continue arguing my point.
In that case, I think your analogy misses the very thing that makes the problem of induction a hard one. In the real world, we need inductive reasoning to make the causal link between “don’t assume induction works” and “don’t accomplish anything”. In your analogy, you don’t need the fish or knowledge of the fish to make the causal link between “don’t cast net” and “don’t get fish”. Your analogy lacks the recursive element that creates the problem of induction.
That’s my analysis. Am I totally misreading this in some way?
There are three questions that need to be distinguished here:
1. Is it true that if we do not make use of inductive reasoning we will accomplish nothing?
2. Do we believe that if we do not make use of inductive reasoning we will accomplish nothing?
3. Do we have good, independent reason to think that if we do not make use of inductive reasoning we will accomplish nothing?
The answer to the first two questions is presumably “yes,” and I am not sure an affirmative answer to the third question is needed. Reichenbach is asking us to treat the choice of whether or not to employ inductive reasoning as a sort of practical decision, and decision theory traditionally takes the agent’s doxastic states as inputs without further inquiring into their rationality or justification. That being said, the answer to #3 might also be yes. The great majority of our beliefs about the world depend to some degree on inductive reasoning, and purging our minds of all of them would leave us as epistemically impoverished as infants or lobotomy patients. It’s difficult (although not, perhaps, impossible) to imagine ways the world could be that would be congenial to us in that sort of state. So we may be able to arrive at the conclusion that reliance on inductive reasoning is a practical necessity for creatures like us by a method that does not avail itself of inductive reasoning.
EDIT: Posted this comment in the wrong place.
Somehow your argument fails to persuade. A = Jewish, B = Christian and friendly/neutral towards Jews, C = Christian and rabidly anti-Semitic. “I want to argue that the distance between A and B is much larger than between B and C”. Of course it is: different religions, customs, most of their beliefs etc. It’s even true, probably, that “B would be C if he had happened to be born a few centuries earlier”. Therefore, “I do not find the claim that a significant fraction of the U.S. population is made up of C’s particularly frightening.”
How come you associate YEC with rabid anti-semitism? It’s surprising to me and is quite the opposite from my personal experience.
I know a couple of YECs very well and in their circles the Jews are generally viewed very positively. I think the theological reasons I’ve heard of is that they’ll be “God’s chosen race” again once they’ll convert convert to Christianity.
Is that generally different in the US? I mean, over here there are about as many flavors of Christianity as there are churches if not more. So I’m not surprised to learn that there are, in fact, YECs that hate all Jews. But what surprises me is that the terms “young earth creationist” and “person that hates Jews with a passion” seem to mean the same to you.
I don’t think any association is being made (or any anti-association is claimed). The substitution could equally have been A = libertarian, B = peaceful communist, C = stalinist and a similar point made.
I think that for either of the counter-examples to work, you’d have to show that YECs tend to harm people in the same way that anti-Semites or Stalinists do, but that doesn’t seem obvious, at least not to me.
@The original Mr. X
Yes, I’m inclined to agree. Alternatively, there is a distinction between YECs believing something we think is false, and anti-semites/stalinists believing something we think is morally repugnant.
It is similar in the US. A YEC would be much more likely to be philosemitic than the general populace.
B is able to compartmentalize his religious beliefs by enough that they don’t affect any of his beliefs outside religion itself. C is incapable of doing this.
I suspect you are greatly overestimating the extent to which YEC’s non-religious life is affected by their religious beliefs, and would ask that you elaborate. If you are assuming that YECs generally engage in an inductive process to determine that Scientists Lie About Everything and thus wind up disbelieving F=MA or anything else of practical importance, you are mistaken.
I think YEC does lead to distrust of scientists. It is probably related to climate change skepticism, for instance–if you believe that scientists believe in evolution because they have an agenda, you are more likely to believe that they believe in climate change because of an agenda too.
But anyway, I wasn’t referring to that. In this example, YEC is itself an example of something non-religious affected by religious beliefs. B’s beliefs lead him to believe in heaven, which is something that science has nothing to do with. C’s beliefs lead him to believe in YEC, which does impinge on science.
I don’t think that YECs are a particular problem. My only real concern about YECs is not specific to them, I am generally worried about people who appear to have moral weights that are noticeably different from my own. My primary moral values are a sort of vague life/happiness not formalized utilitarianism, YECs are only concerning to me in as much as YEC hints at a morality that puts special weight on a god who has desires that could be totally orthogonal to life/happiness as I understand it. It seems to me that there is a greater risk of my most basic moral values being abused by people who don’t share them.
Getting back to your examples, B people tend to be some sort of wishy washy clock-maker deists who tend to go along with the life/happiness thing. If that is not what you intended by B, or my experience with people in group B liberate me of that notion, then I would have the same problem with group B that I have with group C.
I’m a strong atheist. My best friend is a pastor and (IIRC) a young earth creationist. My experience is that people’s attitudes towards each other and general charity towards each other matters much more in practice.
Part of what makes this challenging is that it’s potentially hard to prove that what you remember from yesterday actually happened. Think Dark City. How do you prove that the universe and potentially your memories aren’t being reshaped every night? That’s a difficult proposition. So some people take it as a given that the earth is ~7000 years old and that evidence to the contrary isn’t. Perhaps it was put there by God to challenge faith. Perhaps it was put there by the devil to challenge faith. Perhaps all of reason is faulty.
Even those who are religiously devout seem to know what the theory of evolution proposes. That is, they are perfectly able to perform analysis inside the framework.
Here is a question I have. How do people here view gender integration in combat in America?
The most recent head of the military Ash Carter opened both women and transgenders to every possible combat position.
The air force didn’t seem to care, with the army being mixed on position. But the marines and special forces seemed heavily opposed to the move.
What I find interesting is how opposed it is in the people in special force combat roles it is.
You have , combined opposition (page 126) to the integration by the special forces at above 90 percent, with ambiguity at 5…leaving support for the move at around 3% in general. The numbers are a bit different for the marines, but support for the move is very very low. (In the navy seals, the opposition to support ratio is around…30 to 1)
What are your thoughts on the topic? Is it good for society? Is it over-active social engineering?
I have a couple friends who were formerly pretty hardcore special ops guys. They absolutely rail against this stuff, and they generally seem pretty progressive on most political and social issues. They insist it’s a sheer matter of physical capability that women just don’t have (and that 99% of men don’t have for that matter either) and they seem concerned that certain tests and qualifications are being made easier for the express purpose of ensuring that women will be able to pass them. (Edit: For the record, they are JUST as upset at the prospect of “lower quality male recruits than we used to have due to easier standards” as they are female recruits)
I feel like their concerns are probably justified. If elite special forces units truly demand the absolute best, the .1% of physical ability, it seems reasonable to assume that will always be men. We can use athletics as a reasonable comparison IMO. Even the best female athletes on Earth routinely get trounced by non-elite (but still professional) males. Women aren’t excluded from the NBA due to sexism, so it seems entirely possible that their exclusion from Seal Team Six isn’t sexism either.
So long as the standards stay the same.
Do you think the same social/political/etc. forces that opened up combat roles to women would leave the existing standards intact?
My guess is “no,” but I know that at least in some cases they have. Ranger school is said to have retained the same standards (caveat: I am not tabbed), and I’m told the Marines kept their standards high (caveat: I’m not a Marine either).
Another reply to the top level but I don’t want to draw additional attention: lol Air Force combat jobs.
It’s fun to bag on the Air Force, but I’ve seen nothing to convince me that Pararescue isn’t a capable force.
You’re right, I am just bagging on their service. I do that to every service because they all deserve it, but in general they’re all really fucking good where rubber meets the road. I am sorry if I offended you or anyone else.
I’m (ex-)Army, so I’m not offended. However, sometimes it’s tough to tell when people are just making fun, or are taking the jokes seriously.
The “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” joke is hilarious, but I ran across people who thought it was an accurate description of French troops; they started believing the Simpsons, and didn’t realize that the French surrender in WWII was due to incompetence of their generals, and not cowardice on the part of their rank-and-file.
When women were allowed into the military, everyone swore up and down that standards wouldn’t be lowered for them. Then, as was predicted, only very small numbers of women were able to make the cut, those that did had much higher rates of injury, and even fewer were able to keep it up into their 30s/40s. After much complaining, standards were lowered. Precisely the same thing will happen with women in combat roles.
I’ve been through basic training and a few extra courses and seen firsthand how they differ by sex. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when talking about standards when it applies to military training because the same word is used to cover two very different kind of requirements; I call these hard and soft standards.
If your role requires you to be able to run 25 miles with a 60lb pack, or be able to tread in freezing water for 4 hours holding a 50lb weight above water the entire time, that’s an important standard to measure and shouldn’t be adjusted based on sex or any other attribute. This is a hard standard because it’s going to affect the effectiveness and capability of whatever unit they’ll be assigned to. Hard standards shouldn’t, and almost always aren’t, adjusted when females enter a program.
If, however, you just need to be in amazing physical shape, then hard numbers don’t matter so much and different standards become, at least in my eyes, totally fine. For example, if the top .1% of men can do 50 pullups in two minutes and the top .1% of women can only do 42 in that same time, even if you “relax” the standards for women you’re still selecting for the top tier of physical ability. Soft standards like this that are trying to find qualities that are beyond or complementing the hard standards can be adjusted for women without affecting a unit’s capability or readiness.
right, but the standards ARE objective. We aren’t trying to select soldiers that look great painted on pots, we’re trying to get people who are capable of doing specific things. the rivers you need to cross don’t get narrower or the packs get lighter for female soldiers. The fact is that something like 90% of men are bigger and stronger than 90% of women, if you’re selecting for a standard that’s high for men, vanishingly few women are ever going to be able to make it.
> Hard standards shouldn’t, and almost always aren’t, adjusted when females enter a program.
they have been in the past. They haven’t yet for combat roles, but I suspect they will be.
I’ve heard (but cannot confirm) that in some cases, being sensitive to this, the standards themselves aren’t being changed, but that policies are being changed such that “high potential candidates” can be waived from “certain requirements” at “the commanding officer’s discretion”
I know a Marine buddy of mine pointed to this not very well known policy when in a long Facebook argument about how in a particular training he once went through, there were several years where many women attempted, but none ever passed, then suddenly in one year five passed all at once. A lot of people were suspicious that the standards were changed, while others (correctly) pointed to the written directives showing they had not been. But it WAS entirely possible that they were being waived from those specific requirements for various reasons. No real way to know without being there I suppose.
My gut reaction is a mix of annoyance (“those damn progressives”), patriotic worry (I hope a lot of brave, decent American men and women don’t die behind this), and disgust/anxiety (because I harbor ideas that are old fashioned and chivalrous, or what some people might call sexist).
But the rational part of me is much less sure:
– I don’t actually know what it’s like to serve in combat with women. In fact I have only a very weak grasp of what combat is like in 2016.
– Some other countries have had women in combat roles for years, and apparently deemed it worthwhile enough to continue to do so.
– There are a lot of very tough young women in this country, and the law of large numbers says there’s probably enough of them to fill enough combat roles to call our military diverse by sex.
– The military might be facing recruitment challenges, I have no idea.
– There could be other nuances to this issue I don’t know about or understand.
I’m trying to come up with a joke about how war is an extension of politics, but I’m falling short.
Some other countries have had women in combat roles for years, and apparently deemed it worthwhile enough to continue to do so.
As far as I understand, that’s mainly due to their infantry being low-tech and not nearly as overburdened as US soldiers. But of course US doctrine can’t really incorporate someone carrying just a rifle and a hip flask…
Our doctrine doesn’t contemplate the increase in casualties that doing away with body armor and radios would cause, so you’re probably correct.
Again, “combat roles” is ill-defined here.
Are there any nations which have had women serving in front-line regular infantry units (as opposed to snipers, MPs, or home-defense militia) for more than ten years or one war? Armor or field artillery? Not Israel – they tried it during the war for independence, and afterwards pulled the women out of those roles. Maybe someone has done this and finds it worthwhile to continue – that would be useful data and I’d like to know about it.
But I don’t know about it, and so will ask for the specifics.
I am very much in favor of it in principle. I am concerned about how it will be implemented in practice. I have no doubt that there are women who could excel in several combat arms MOSes due to my personal experience in the military and a certain amount of amateur research on the subject, but I think it’s important to note that the people screaming objections have a point.
The ideal touted by the Pentagon PAO and the advocates of the current policies is something like THIS…
…But the truth is that the majority of day to day experience and observation from within the military makes the experience of females in the military look more like THIS.
And unfortunately, a lot of people in the military have seen a lot more of the latter than the former. The latter case can work, to some limited extent, for some units not out in sustained combat operations. And to be fair, even in Iraq and Afghanistan there were plenty of Infantry, Cav, and Armor units both Army and Marines that saw only short duration skirmishes and firefights. But that sort of scenario is also exactly what the nay-sayers are talking about when it comes to loss of unit trust and cohesion, even if their other concerns about things like fraternization turn out to be overblown (which I think they will be, though it will probably be a problem).
So to my mind it comes down to the question of whether or not the military leadership and more importantly their political leadership are willing to set appropriate standards for performance and discipline necessary to maintain unit cohesion and unit capability no matter what. If we do this, and in ten years females are still only 5-10% of the Army’s combat arms MOSes, reclass out of combat arms faster and more often, and break down faster and more often than their male colleagues, will the standards hold?
Or will they be changed?
Initial indications on that are mixed, from my POV. On the one hand, the evidence out of Ranger School appears to be positive so far. On the other, stuff like the new Army OPAT (article is very critical but has links to the original documents so you can judge for yourself) to replace the current Physical Fitness Test is somewhat concerning.
To be clear, I was never a PT stud. I was a 130lb, 6′ scrawny geek when I went in, gained 40 lbs of muscle in basic, and I decided to self-medicate stress, alienation, and depression post-ETS with caloric overdose so I’m now a -fat- geek and struggling with the associated issues. I am fully aware of a certain hypocrisy in play here. On the other hand, I struggled with physical fitness and maintained my 240-260 APFT score for my time in and dealt with -being- the geeky guy who wasn’t a natural athlete in that culture, and acknowledge that the guys who gave me shit had a point.
We moved away from the more complicated task-based physical fitness tests for a reason (complexity, time, cost), but they ARE superior to these abstracted tests that have limited applicability to the real-world requirements.
Reading that link given to the physical tests – am I right in thinking that the deadlift test tops out at 220lbs, with a trap bar? Because that’s a pretty feeble test of strength.
Yes, you are, though the prioritization of cardio/aerobic fitness over muscular strength isn’t new. Culturally, the Army tends to prioritize cardio over muscular strength at the unit PT level. Some units have leadership that will work gym days into their fitness plans, but as a general rule a dedicated program of strength training with free weights or machines is something done on one’s personal time as a hobby, not something institutionally supported.
In the US Army, unit fitness tends to be a mix of runs (distance runs and interval/fartlek training), calisthenics, and occasionally mixing things up with sports days, flak vest runs, obstacle courses, or other non-standard events to keep boredom from setting in. Of course, this can vary somewhat by unit type and leadership. A finance company more or less permanently attached to a military base tends to end up a lot less combat-skills-oriented and a lot more focused on “training to the test” as it were (In other words Push-Ups, Sit-ups, 2 mile run) than the Ranger Batt. at Ft. Lewis or an Infantry company of the 82nd Airborne. Units with bigger training budgets and more flexibility are more likely to deviate from the norm.
For that finance company, the APFT score is significant mostly in terms of how it factors into their promotion score. As with everything else, Officers are different from Enlisted, and conduct their own PT individually or as a group separate from their troops except during specifically chosen occasions. For obvious reasons, it is crucially important that an officer be able to demonstrate that they can keep up with their men in PT, or they WILL lose respect and credibility.
Putting females in harm’s way is in general a Bad Idea(TM). Sometimes it is necessary, if you happen to be waging a war of annihilation against similarly motivated enemies, or you happen to be surrounded by enemies on all sides and thus need to militarize everyone or die. The USA is about as far away from those kinds of circumstances as possible. From the government’s point of view, those women would better serve their country by giving birth to some soldiers than being them.
From the military’s point of view, absent the dire need for warm bodies, employing females in most roles is just inefficient when you can employ males. You can save a pretty penny by not having to worry about additional hygenic products, not having to deal with the inevitable pregnancies and rapes in the barracks, or customizing equipment and outfits for a wider variety of body shapes. And that’s even before the issue of sex differences in physical performance goes on the plate and someone starts breathing down some staffer’s neck about no females passing tests intended for males.
>or you happen to be surrounded by enemies on all sides and thus need to militarize everyone or die.
Hey look, its israel!
And for a very self-inflicted group, North korea
And even Israel does it half-heartedly.
And as I’ve said elsewhere, Israel’s best route towards self-defense involves appeasing the U.S. government much moreso than it involves strengthening its own fighting capability.
the Israelis, according to an Israeli general I once overheard, “take the butch girls and effeminate boys and put them on the border with Egypt” there’s nominal integration, but the purpose of women in the IDF is largely to free men for fighting serious threats.
Oh, like cav scouts.
Caveat: I have no military experience
It seems to me that there should be no significant problems allowing women into all roles, provided that physical tests etc. test for all important attributes and they are not made easier for women. If standards are relaxed it is more interesting. The question then depends on if there are sufficient benefits from an integrated military to overcome problems caused by having weaker women (unlikely in my opinion), or if physical tests are actually too stringent, and weaker women (and for that matter weaker men) can perform adequately in some roles. Presumably there are some roles where physical strength is incredibly important, and standards shouldn’t be relaxed. But maybe in this day and age, with the magic of *technology*, there are some roles where physical strength is not so important.
One seemingly applicable point of comparison is the Israeli military. They are famously integrated (to what extent, I don’t know) and given Israel’s situation one would think that their efficacy would be more important than political correctness etc. So that seems like a point in favour of integration. I’m sure there are some commenters who know more about the situation and can compare the two militaries in more detail.
The Israeli army is actually a lot closer to the US model, with the exception of the Caracal Battalion and Lions of Jordan, both of which are units that have been tasked pretty much exclusively with border patrol missions and to my knowledge were not involved in, say, the Lebanon War, Cast Lead, etc. . I have found references saying that the Caracal Battalion was deployed as part of Operation Just Resolve, but I haven’t been able to find reliable evidence, and the way the only Female IDF casualty of that war was treated and the circumstances of her death make me skeptical of the claim that they were part of the front line fighting.
I know we have at least one Israeli or an expat living IN Israel here at SSC. Can you fact-check me and/or expand?
As I said above, I actually am confident that as long as we set good standards and appropriate command policies and guidance to maintain discipline, we CAN open all MOSes to females, but Israel is not as strong a piece of evidence as is sometimes claimed.
It’s also worth noting that “non-combat MOS’ does not mean ‘doesn’t get involved in firefights’ or even ‘not out where the enemy can get at you’. The females I served with who convinced me in the course of FTXes playing OpFor against our Infantry battalions that at least some females could serve in an infantry unit were NBC Recon, which is not without its risks.
Israel uses “universal” conscription, so I don’t think you can really say the military experience is comparable.
In terms of how females have been handled for most of their history, HBC. Some jobs open to females, some closed. Actually as of last year, more combat arms positions are open to females in the US than the IDF.
Keep in mind that Jewish women seem to evade the draft more often than men, apparently partially due rather discriminatory rules.
Women also serve for a shorter period (24 months vs 36 for men).
And as Trofim says, women are funneled into safer jobs.
It seems worth noting that Jewishness is what causes the draft to be applicable to them in the first place, and not something that makes them more successful at evading it.
That doesn’t seem worth noting, as it is quite irrelevant to this discussion, which is about women in combat roles and more specifically subscription.
Arab people are exempt from the draft and the number of Arab soldiers seems rather insignificant, so it seems best to ignore them for this discussion.
“and given Israel’s situation one would think that their efficacy would be more important than political correctness etc. ”
Not so sure about this one. Israel’s “situation” is such that they literally will not survive without backing from the west. In that case, it’s more important to them that the west continues to like them than it is that they achieve peak fighting performance. Having Americans think of them as a horrible sexist society that isn’t morally distinct from the neighboring countries who’d like to annihilate them is a MUCH bigger threat to them than having their infantry be 10% less effective or whatever.
Given that the Israel has had women in combat roles since before it was a state, and e.g. the UK has had them since July, your argument seems implausible.
But maybe in this day and age, with the magic of *technology*, there are some roles where physical strength is not so important.
Female snipers/sharpshooters have been around since forever in other militaries, they are proven to be very successful. Again, the question is whether the US doctrine has any room for the kind of very light loadout those women have had.
Do men consistently beat women in hand to hand combat? I see that claimed all the time, but I’m not sure how one confirms that, since stuff like MMA seems to be sex-segregated. On the flip side, women tend to have greater lower body strength and flexibility than men (honestly not sure how this would affect modern combat) and the endurance differences are lower than I expected (I looked up ultramarathons, and men are consistently ~15% faster at the marathon to 50km level, with the percentage differences from 3-15% faster at distances 100km and up, but inconsistently rather than linearly, suggesting at some point physical ability swaps over to more mental factors of “who is crazy enough to actually KEEP RUNNING”).
My only practical exposure to military is the aussie submarine corps. (Disclaimer: I am not and have never been IN the navy. I work in a job with exposure to submariners and their boats.) Originally, like the rest of the navy, the Australian Submarine Corps were men only. Later it was classified as a ‘front line combat role’, which kept it men when the military was opened up to woman. Later still it was removed from that classification, possibly because someone pointed out the last time an aussie submariner was within physical combat range was 1915, and that was because they sunk and the crew surrendered.
The unofficial policy in the ASC has always been “there is no fraternization between submariners, even if you are serving on different boats, because we don’t want to deal with drama when we’re all locked in the same tin can”. Which applied long before women or openly homosexual/bisexual men could serve in the navy, presumably because they realized human nature is human nature. So there isn’t any segregation into separate bunkrooms or toilets or the like. (I’ve been told that was briefly attempted and rapidly discarded as an unnecessary annoyance.) To the best of my knowledge, mixed submarines haven’t suffered capability or moral issues resulting from this. If anything it’s been a boost that’s let them get more boats in the water.
I know that ‘navy’ wasn’t mentioned in your post, only ‘marines’, but listing as naval acodata anyway.
This ought to be obvious. Strength and mass strongly indicate the victor in any hand-to-hand scuffle. (Numbers trump strength, though.)
Source? Wikipedia claims females have 75% LBS of males on average.
I assume that there’s a qualification of “at equal weight+bodyfat%”
That assumes some really atypical males and/or females. Actually – which claim at you referring to? I edited my comment.
The LBS one. And yes, most men are bigger than most women, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a silly distinction, given that even among males we divide fighters by weightclass. Bodyfat% is maybe trickier since women can’t (healthily) go as low as men.
Sure, sure. If you searched for and found a female with the same mass and muscle-to-mass ratio as your control male, you’d find similar performance results. My best guess at how many such women there are is “about 1 in 10,000”.
Seen it mentioned in multiple places, and at school the girl’s rowing squad could do more squats for a longer period than the boy’s rowing squad could despite being on average younger and smaller, which fits with that.
From the wiki on sexual dimorphism in humans:
>at school the girl’s rowing squad could do more squats for a longer period than the boy’s rowing squad could despite being on average younger and smaller
I’d like to point out that this is because they have far less body mass for their height to push upwards, and not because they have more lower body strength. They absolutely do not. Women have *comparable* lower body strength, all other things being equal.
“since stuff like MMA seems to be sex-segregated”
Why do you suppose it is? Even if we stipulate that for cultural reasons, there would be no appetite for this sort of thing (meaning that nobody would be willing to fund such a promotion and nobody would be willing to watch the fights), why isn’t Ronda Rousey up there demanding she get the chance to fight Conor McGregor?
If top women had even the slightest chance of defeating top men, wouldn’t they be asking to receive their chance?
As I said above, most athletic competitions are not sex segregated by rule, they’re sex segregated by result. If MMA decided to eliminate the concept of “mens division” and “womens division” and focus solely on “the best hundred or so fighters in the world” then they’d end up with 100 men and 0 women and everyone would call them sexist. I think we can be somewhat confident this is true because we know it to be true in basketball, football, baseball, soccer, hockey, and on and on and on even to include less purely physical things such as golf.
It isn’t exactly the same thing, but the experience of SCA combat may be relevant. Women have been allowed to participate though most of the history of the organization–say forty years or so. The top level of competition is crown tournaments, and by now there must be several hundred people who have won at least one. I think that includes about two women, although I may not be up to date. At any time there are likely to be one to five people in a kingdom thought of as the top fighters, the ones to beat, and I don’t think any of those have been women, although I can’t be sure about times and places where I wasn’t present.
The rules are, if anything, biased a bit against size and strength, since if my opponent knocks me down I get to stand up again and there is no grappling, just hitting each other with (nonlethal) weapons. I’m sure there is more cultural pressure for men to do SCA combat than for women, but women doing it isn’t seen as unusual–if anything probably mildly admired. I would guess that ten to twenty percent of fighters are women.
Interesting. I have only my social group as a real sample size to draw from, where the women are clearly superior to the men in both real and mock fights but lose out badly in ‘wrestling’ type engagements, but I wasn’t sure how much that differed from the norm. Thanks.
My comments are not showing up–this is a test.
I worry that it will be bad for unit cohesion. Men tend to interact with each other differently when there are just men present than when in mixed company. Moving to mixed-sex combat units, even if women are only a small minority, will affect intra-unit relations in ways which are difficult to predict and will quite possibly end up being detrimental.
Plus, of course, there’s the potential for jealousy, fraternisation, etc., that inevitably come from getting a load of testosterone-fuelled young men, adding women to the mix, and then throwing them together in a highly-pressurised situation.
Other countries (off the top of my head France, Canada, Australia, and Israel, also USSR historically) with integrated combat units but without lowered standards usually have <1% (I think it's actually .5-.75%) of their combat roles filled by women, and Israel has segregated their women infantry into garrison battalions after attempting to integrate them more generally (and presumably failing). This appears to be in line with what the American military is seeing (anecdotally), so anything over 2%, to be generous, is prima facie evidence of lowered standards.
Personally I think it's a terrible idea. Even under the ideal scenario, you get a trivial and questionable increase in effectiveness and introduce a bunch of problems, with official internal responses to concerns ranging from "you're wrong" to "shut up". There is no evidence that integrating combat units increases effectiveness, and quite a bit of evidence that it makes things worse, but the people in charge of this don't care because the integration drive is a combination of feminist ideology and careerism.
The latter particularly grinds my gears. The feminist ideologues are just wrong on the facts re:biology, but the careerist argument sounds like this: "We need more women Army leaders, those leaders come from certain branches, therefore we need women in those branches". It bothers me because a much more logical argument would be along the lines of: "Intelligence, Logistics, and Strategic Planning (e.g.,) are things the US Army does really well compared to other militaries, maybe more of our top brass should come from those fields?" I don't necessarily agree with this, but it at least makes sense — it's essentially an analogue to the argument that the Air Force shouldn't be ruled by fighter jocks.
(Also: the Presidency, the Congressional Armed Services Committees, the Office of the Secretary of Defense etc. all offer opportunities for high-level military leadership without having to demonstrate above-average fitness in your 20s. But I digress.)
By far the most likely path this follows is that the DoD digs up a few +4SD women who can meet the requirements as mascots (already happening), makes noise about Gender Diversity when the %female percentages subsequently refuse to climb out of the low single digits, lowers standards and lies like they lied about lowering recruitment standards during the Iraq Surge, and creates the illusion of consensus by firing anyone who disagrees.
There are about 75,000 women in the Army, so they can easily use the top .01% or so to fill rooms full of vagina-having badasses who can convince even experts that We Can Do It. For the general public who can't tell the difference between some sap clutching a rifle and veteran shock troops it's even easier, you can just take some pictures of the headquarters clerks at their yearly rifle qualification.
I’ve looked at the various national integration plans and how they’ve worked out. In general, the ones that don’t involve lowering standards have worked out well, but females will be disproportionately under-represented.
Unfortunately, this leads to the careerist arguments SFoil mentioned above, at least in the US. As far as I can tell, in a lot of these other countries the big difference is the willingness to live with the fact that integrating ended up with a 90+% male, couple of % female units and where female officers in combat units were relatively rare. Several countries have opened up their selection courses for SOF to females (Denmark, I think Australia, a few others), but AFAIK no females have passed any of the ones who did.
So, what I would suggest is that the focus should not be on fighting this tooth and nail, digging in heels and screaming. That is just going to get the concerns dismissed and over-ridden, at which point the activists who -don’t- care about standards are going to get their way and the result will be shit-tastic.
The focus should be on holding the line on standards, and ensuring the culture is in place to support the transition. One of the things I took away from the difference between European and American militaries (possibly Canada as well, do we have any vets here who can comment) is an attitude towards sex that boils down to “Don’t do it with superiors and subordinates in the same chain of command, here’s plenty of birth control, we don’t want to know about it.” THAT is going to be a cultural challenge.
I find it sort of telling that for all our rules on integration and sexual encounters and so on, these countries appear to have fewer issues with pregnant women trying to get out of combat deployments than we do NOW. I find that very interesting, and I suspect it’s largely cultural (American sexual culture, not just military sexual culture), but that’s just an ad hoc hypothesis.
You want to know another difference between European and American militaries? The European militaries don’t do anything. They don’t have issues with women getting pregnant to get out of deployments because there are no deployments, or if there are then the proportion of personnel eligible for them is far lower.
The reason some are digging their heels in and screaming (this is an exaggeration, of course, because anyone who actually did that would be fired) is that “activists who don’t care about standards” are already getting their way. For my part if I thought that the DoD would be OK with combat arms that were 95-99% male instead of 100%, I wouldn’t be that bothered, but I don’t.
I actually agree with you that the difference between the operational tempo and capabilities and commitments of the US military and, say, Canada tends to be badly overlooked. That said, they do deploy. Just not as often, not as far from home, and generally not without substantial allied logistical support.
Of the major western powers, Australia and France are the only two nations I can think of with unilateral military deployments in the past ten years.
My point is more that I think that trying to stake out a position of “No Integration Period” is a losing strategy.
Even aside from my personal belief that females should be allowed the opportunity to try, I think that females who can -meet- the standards will then have a stake in arguing against the standards being lowered, and they will have a lot more credibility when arguing against the people who don’t care about effectiveness.
It’s not really fair to put Canada in with the European countries – the Canadian military is underfunded (1% of GDP) and small (under 100k active + primary reserve personnel, versus over 2 1/4 million active + reserve personnel for the US, for a country about 1/10 the size of the US, source Wikipedia) but was committed pretty heavily in Afghanistan (if I’m doing my math right, higher relative casualties relative to total military numbers than the US, and considerably higher absolute and relative casualties than Germany, France, and Italy – although it looks like the UK took the highest relative casualties).
Canada has certainly contributed in Afghanistan. My point was that it’s done so as part of multi-lateral effort with lots of logistical support.
Compare what Canada can and has done unilaterally, vs. what the US can and has done unilaterally. That puts them closer to most European militaries than the US example.
I am not trying to diminish our Canadian allies’ contributions, because they’ve been quite substantial. It’s more that their contributions have been pretty contingent upon -being- allies. Developing and sustaining the capability to go it alone on years-long wars overseas is a whole other kettle of fish.
Now, I will concede that this falls under “feature, not bug” for some people who believe that countries should not be able to mount significant operations far from their borders without broad multinational support.
Ah, then I misunderstood you. I don’t even know if it’s “feature, not bug” territory for Canada. Every time Canada has been to war it has been as an ally of the US and/or UK, and it’s hard to see circumstances under which that would be different. Canada’s a country with a small, sparse population and major links to more powerful countries with larger populations.
This article written by a female veteran makes some good points.
1) Inability to meet physical standards, including ability to take a punch
2) Lack of privacy on the front line
3) Males trying to protect women at the expense of the mission
4) Related to the above, media and enemies treating women as more valuable.
> The few integrated units in the IDF suffered three times the casualties of the all-male units because the Israeli men
Is this part actually true? It seems to fit into the narrative too well. If the full truth really does approximately reflect this stat, that seems like a pretty huge point against gender integration of combat units.
The rest of the article provides some compelling/plausible explanations as to why gender integration might be bad & provides a good counter-narrative to whatever compelling narrative the opposition might spin up, but that stat is pretty important I think.
[Didn’t look that hard, but there’s apparently evidence that all-male US Marine units were better in various ways; I couldn’t find anything nearly as damning as “3x the casualty rate” against gender integrated units though.]
Yeah I’d really like to see her source for that, it sounds very high. It might have happened in a MILES-type simulation or it might be referring to non-combat injuries.
The USMC study you’re looking for.
Since as far as I can tell, the Israelis have not deployed integrated combat arms units in front line combat, I am skeptical.
It may be referring to “Casualty” in the broader sense of non-combat training injuries (stress fractures, pulled muscles, twisted ankles, all that sort of thing) but I’m not finding any hard and fast references on the subject.
Arguing about the rather obvious physical differences is basically pointless.
Many roles in our military have little-to-no requirements for overpowering physical strength. Pilots, medics, logistics, etc. etc. etc. If the ability to fill these roles is evenly distributed among the sexes (and my direct and indirect experience tells me that it is), but physical strength is not (it is very obviously not), then this is simply a resource allocation problem. Let every person fill the role to which they are best suited. More men will end up in the SEALs, where you need to be large. More women will end up as pilots, where you need to be small.
This seems so incredibly obvious. We are a combined-arms military. We depend on specialization. It’s built into our military DNA. Arguing that women shouldn’t be in the military because they are not as physically strong as men is, to me, like arguing that we shouldn’t have any F-22’s because they can’t carry as much as a C-130. Every swarthy, bloodthirsty XY jarhead shunted into the medical corps in lieu of an adept woman due to virtue signalling for BRUTE STRENGTH is just a poor grunt who never gets to water the grass. Every woman who gets told she must remain a pretty, pretty princess is potentially a pilot who won’t get to drop bombs. If relaxing standards means that there are more giant-ass dudes who will pound the ground while their female counterparts rain down airstrikes, yes, relax the damn standards and make our military more efficient.
And sure, our ground troops must be adept in unarmed hand-to-hand combat, for a variety of reasons… but if that is a skill they have to employ on a regular basis, our combat doctrines are abject failures. Who gives a shit if an American woman can out-wrestle an ISIS soldier. I want her to out-shoot him. Out-plan him. Out-fly him. We’re not arm-wrestling or hefting spears here.
The discussion should hinge on what capabilities women can offer. Raw numbers, differences in temperament, culture change, etc., could prove to be far more valuable than any loss of mere muscle strength.
This is to say nothing of the satisfaction we will all feel when our women put bullets in Islamists.
I think you’ve misunderstood what is the exact thing under examination here. The combat jobs that don’t require strength (like flying) have long been open to women and I’ve never heard anyone complain about it. In fact, afaik, all the jobs that don’t require strength have been open to women for a long time.
The recent change we are discussing is about letting women into all combat jobs, to include infantry.
Your comment about how hand to hand combat should be irrelevant if we do our jobs correctly is incorrect. Things go wrong in war all the time, and usually our doctrines are abject failures. You have to plan around that. Remember when they said the Phantom wouldn’t need guns because it’s all about missiles? Would you like to guess whether or not the F-22 has guns? Furthermore, wrestling isn’t the only infantry task that requires strength. Carrying weapons, armor, ammunition, and a wounded buddy are the things I’m more concerned about.
What differences in temperament and culture do you think women would bring to the infantry, and why would that be a good thing?
You’re right. That’s my mistake. But I would still apply my line of reasoning both to the military as a whole, and to each of its subgroups, infantry included.
My claim would be that there may be non-physical differences between men and women that would favor women’s inclusion in the infantry if their inclusion creates a more effective/efficient fighting force.
The counter-claim can only be : there are no such non-physical differences between men and women that would favor women’s inclusion in the infantry. This counter-claim seems hard to justify, if only because our military’s dominance rests in large part on its combined-arms doctrine. This exact kind of trade-off is an important source of our success.
I would agree that soldiering is incredibly physical, and we must enforce standards in order that a unit’s fighting capability is not degraded. Such a standard might justifiably exclude many or most women. But if relaxing or diversifying that standard ultimately produces a better fighting force, then do it. War cares not for our idealized conception of the soldier.
That’s not my claim.
Would you clarify? Because I don’t think this claim can be justified. In order to accept this, one would have to believe that the US military has achieved its dominance despite the predictable failure of its combat doctrines. The counter-claim – most of the US military’s combat doctrines are successful – seems rather obvious.
The F4 Phantom was designed with modern capabilities (beyond-visible-range missile platform) but given a WWII-era air superiority mission (line-of-sight dogfighting). Despite this mismatch and despite the initial lack of a gun, the Phantom was an extremely successful platform in a wide variety of roles, including air superiority. I don’t think its example carries the water you think it will.
For the record, I know a lot of people (myself included) who are fine with female basic infantry. The physical requirements for that aren’t really all that crazy and it’s entirely reasonable that plenty of women would be able to legitimately qualify. As far as I know, that ship has already sailed in the U.S. for most units.
What we’re now talking about is female special forces. Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Marine Snipers, and so on. The elite of the elite of the elite. Training that’s so physically demanding that the majority of male recruits fail it and are rejected. Training that, when initially “opened” to women, no women were ever able to pass.
I acknowledge is it theoretically possible that inherent differences in women might bring something important to the infantry. That I cannot even conjecture what those might be leads me to believe it would not be a worthwhile experiment.
We spend a lot of time not actually winning (see the counter insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam), or curb-stomping militaries that could not have possibly beaten us (the beginning of both Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.).
This is exactly what I’m talking about. Whether or not it was eventually successful is not my point. The point is that you should not trust your technology or doctrine, you should always have a backup. The USAF apparently agrees with me on this point, as the most capable and modern fighter in the world comes with a gun.
Edited for clarity and charity.
A thing I’ve heard– and this is as good a place as any to ask about it, I think– is that women in the military end up in combat anyway(I’m imagining a truck getting ambushed), but don’t get payment or recognition for it.
True? Somewhat true? False?
That is a rather silly argument, since the exact same thing goes for men in support roles. If truck driver Veronica lacks the payment or recognition for the risks, then the same is true for truck driver Bob. So the argument sounds like pure female exceptionalism (where the unspoken premise is that women deserve better than men).
No-one claims that men as a class aren’t in combat roles though.
‘Combat role’ doesn’t mean that the enemy will be nice and only attack these people. It means that these people seek out the enemy in direct combat. So the entire argument seems based on a false premise.
Sure, but that’s beside the point. Some people claim that women can’t succeed in combat roles because they lack physical strength to carry wounded comrades (or, to present an opinion that I have not seen explicitly espoused here but that I am sure is held by some people, they lack a “killer instinct” and ability to cope under pressure in military situations). If women are are actually involved in doing those kinds of things when e.g. a truck gets ambushed then that is evidence against those claims.
True. However, the simple fact that women serve successfully in e.g. transport companies that come under fire and engage in combat, is not evidence that women are doing “those kinds of things” e.g. carrying wounded comrades or killer-instinct CQB. It is possible that such data could be teased out of the detailed combat records of nominally non-combat mixed-gender units that have come under fire, but I haven’t seen anyone try to do that except by unconvincing anecdote.
I would argue that the combat effectiveness of transport units is less of a concern, as these units are not sent out to do combat missions, upon which other units may depend.
It’s rather normal that people who may merely encounter violence sporadically and by chance, rather than seek it out, get less training for it and are not expected to perform as well. For example, SWAT units are quite a bit better trained for using violence than the average police officer. Furthermore, the physical requirements for the former are greater as they may have to carry heavy body armor and gear. So it would be silly to conclude that people who are capable of becoming police officers are automatically capable of being SWAT members. The same goes for support units vs front line combat units.
Taking your SWAT vs police example. Say that women were allowed to be normal police officers but not to be on SWAT teams, because it was thought that they couldn’t carry heavy body armour and gear. But then it turned out that actually normal police officers often have to carry heavy armour as well (and no-one has noticed terrible problems with female police officers doing that). Then that is evidence that women would be successful on SWAT teams.
It isn’t knockdown evidence, because it is likely that carrying heavy body armour is more important to SWAT officers than normal police officers (hence the mistaken conviction on the part of the hypothetical arguer that normal police officers never have to carry heavy armour) and therefore while a drop in performance for female normal police officers due to inability to carry heavy armour might be acceptable, it might not be for SWAT. But it is still evidence.
AFAIK, normal police officers never wear the kind of heavy armor that SWAT teams can use (with ballistic plates and groin & neck protection). I don’t think that normal police officer go above IIIa, which isn’t rated for rifles.
Anyway, I think that you are grasping at straws. Note that I’m not arguing against women in those jobs, just pointing out that your arguments are quite poor.
The police thing was an example, I don’t have any idea what skills police officers and SWAT teams require, how those skills differ between genders, or what the current policies on whether women can be in SWAT teams are. The point was the principle (I’ll give a completely abstract example):
A: Bzorgons can’t work as Gronkas, only Zgarbans have the required stottle to do that!
B: But they can work as Yunpas!
A: But Yunpas don’t need stottle!
B: Actually, sometimes Yunpas do need stottle! *provides citation*
A: You have provided evidence against my assertion! It is not totally compelling, because Yunpas don’t need as much stottle as Gronkas! But nevertheless it is some evidence!
If you want to hear that it is very, very weak evidence, then I’ll concede that. I don’t see how this substantially supports the pro-‘women in certain jobs’ position, though.
Imagine that jobs 1 and 2 both benefit from the same skills, but not to the same level:
– Job 1 is 95% about skill A and 5% about skill B.
– Job 2 is 95% about skill B and 5% about skill A.
It makes perfect sense that you can hire people with very little or zero skill B for job 1, especially if there are other workers, so the person with no aptitude for B can be ‘carried’ by the other workers. The person can still do the majority of the job.
For job 2, it makes little sense to hire a person who cannot do B very well, especially as it is much less viable to offload most of job 2 to other people.
Examples in different sectors:
It normally doesn’t make sense to hire a person who can only serve food well, for a hard labor type of job. Getting coffee is part of what those people do, but too insignificant to warrant hiring a special person to specialize in that part of the job.
Similarly, it makes little sense to hire a hard labor person with no serving skills as a waiter, even though restaurant workers sometimes do need to do some hard labor.
PS. A minority of police officers shoot at a suspect even once in their career. It is really a very small part of their job.
I’ve wondered whether the smallest male soldiers can individually carry the largest male soldiers.
Well, how strong it is as evidence depends entirely on two things. Firstly, what kinds of skills are actually required in what proportions in different military roles. I have no idea about that, do you? Secondly, what the person it is being presented as evidence against believes already. If you have a relatively accurate perception of skills required in different military roles, it will be weak evidence against your beliefs. But it is strong evidence against the beliefs of person A in my example.
I don’t know for sure, but they probably can. Soldiers are seldom very muscular or entirely huge.
Well, the backpack weight for infantry already exceeds what many male soldiers can cope with, apparently.
The military monitors the health of their people extensively, of course, so we have actual data about injury rates, which is way higher for women.
It seems pretty clear to me that the ability to carry a lot of gear is hugely important for infantry, especially as much of the advantage of western troops comes from their equipment:
– Body armor greatly reduces major injuries
– Night vision allows the troops to see others, while not being seen
– A spade to dig in
– Good communication equipment and laser designators allow precision airstrikes, combined arms operations, flying in more troops when needed, etc
– A 60 mm mortar to strike targets behind cover
– Light machine guns to lay down suppressive fire
– Portable anti-tank/plane weapons if the opponent has those
Basically, infantry get to carry the maximum load that they can cope with, where any reduction decreases their combat effectiveness and any addition increases it.
One of the the biggest loads is also the most inescapable: weapons and ammo.
There’s a reason we’ve been trying to develop caseless ammunition for literally decades now, and the ergonomics aren’t the only reason the M4 has steadily supplanted the M16.
It is I think pretty well understood that infantry now gets to carry more than the maximum load that they can cope with, such that any reasonably well-thought reduction would increase their combat effectiveness. Less weight means less gear, but it is hopefully the most specialized gear with the least marginal value that gets left behind. More weight means more people get left behind, with back and knee injuries, and those people were generalists with a wide range of useful skills.
This is independent of whether or not there are women in the recruitment pool. The overloaded-soldiers issue has to be addressed, whether it means taking 20% of the load off an all-male platoon or 23% off a mostly-male platoon, and if it isn’t addressed it probably isn’t the 3% that is going to get someone killed. Balancing the load among the soldiers we do have, who aren’t going to be identical Steve Rogers clones and had better not be carrying identical loads, shouldn’t be much harder if we add 10-20% women to the mix.
Shouldn’t, but there are political reasons that it might be during the first generation at least.
Of course, the infantry balances on the knife edge where the advantage of taking more gear is negated by the downsides of carrying that much (although the infantry often ditch much of their pack before actually fighting, so the ‘carry into the combat zone load’ can be higher than the ‘fighting load’).
It seems pretty clear to me that if the average carrying capacity of soldiers goes down, you lose overall combat effectiveness by moving this balance downward.
The question is whether this happens for women in combat roles. Given the evidence I offered that women have far more injuries, I would not be surprised that this happens even if the entry standards are not lowered.
Just to randomly inject some data into the discussion, since I assume this is what John is referring to (as it’s the best and to my knowledge most recent modern study of the issue):
The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load
As I said, we’re definitely working the issue, but at the moment it’s not a matter of “We’re carrying more than we need to and should stop”, it’s “We are looking for new ways to make what we need lighter”, since the “Make robots carry them for us” and “Invent powered armor” projects aren’t ready for prime time yet.
Indeed, the money quote from your link:
Arguably, the best way to get more women into the infantry is to fix this issue.
“Arguably, the best way to get more women into the infantry is to fix this issue.”
Yes – and problems ensue when the pace of technological innovation lags behind the pace of increasing social pressure for occupations to have a perfectly representational gender distribution.
The only mission that matters is to win the war, and we’ve just lost two of them to an enemy whose soldiers weren’t carrying half the gear on that “essential” list. There are of course many more reasons than overloaded infantry for our recent failures. But at the tactical level, across the board, the mission has to be defined as something that can actually be accomplished with the present resources and constraints.
What missions can the infantry actually accomplish with 50 pounds of 2016 gear, 72 lbs on the approach march, or is there simply nothing they can do and we should leave them home?
On the question at hand, if we add 20% women to the combat arms and aren’t shy about having the guys carry a few extra water bottles for the gals, the effective load limit goes all the way down to 48 lbs combat, 68 lbs march, and if anyone says those last two pounds are crossing the “mission essential”, I’m going to be really suspicious that maybe their secret definition is “it is Mission Essential that Girl Cooties be excluded from the Manly Men war zone”.
US losses, be they Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, didn’t happen at the tactical level. At the tactical level, US troops have excelled in those conflicts, for the most part.
There was an Atlantic article making the case that the excellent performance of the US military at the tactical level provided something of a “buffer” that kept the upper echelons and the politicians from realizing the strategy wasn’t there. I may be misremembering it, though.
AFAIK, one of the main risks to US soldiers is friendly fire, which is a hard issue to solve, because US soldiers tend to be on the offensive. The best way to do offense tends to be to create a highly dynamic battlefield, which makes it hard for the opponent to concentrate his firepower on your units, because they are confused where they are. However, this confusion that greatly reduces casualties by the enemy, also makes it hard to avoid hitting your own people.
The pay isn’t any different for the most part. There are some special jobs which get extra pay, but regular old infantry is not one of them. As for recognition, at least in the army they came out with a badge specifically for non-infantry people to show off the fact that someone shot at them, and if you do something heroic I think you’re probably more likely to be recognized if it’s not expected of you (e.g. “wow, that mechanic risked his life to rescue his buddy”).
To continue with the truck driver comparison: I don’t think anyone claims that they are free from combat, but acknowledging that drivers find themselves in combat is different from deciding we might as well use them as front line shock troops.
What I’ve heard is that promotions above a certain level require deployments into a combat zone and that this was/is an issue for women who wouldn’t be able to do certain jobs.
As for payment, pay in the military is according to rank and occupation, with some bonuses for undergoing special training. As for recognition for combat valor, I really have no idea how to access or locate the percentages/gender/rewards of people in expected vs ‘unexpected’ combat situations.
Actually it’s more like rank and years of service with the occasional bonuses for occupation that requires some amount of skill/special training.
At least that’s how it was when I was in the Navy. I made as much working as a secretary as a lot of the IT guys I knew with equivalent rank/tenure even though in the private sector, their skills would have commanded like 50k+ more than mine.
I assume that by “combat” you mean ground combat, and particularly front-line infantry combat. There is at this point little controversy that women can serve perfectly well as e.g. combat pilots or warship crew. It is the ground combat trinity of infantry, armor, and artillery – and particularly the infantry – where there is still substantial doubt. So:
1 – There will be costs to opening these positions to women. As others have noted, the political pressure to lower standards will be extreme. Accommodating pregnancy and maternity leave during combat deployments is not an easy problem. And we will be entering uncharted territory when it comes to unit cohesion, with the possibility that the best solutions we can come up with will leave us with ground forces more likely to fail under extreme pressure.
2 – The fraction of women physically and mentally qualified to serve in front-line infantry combat roles will likely be small enough that it would not be objectively desirable to accommodate them, in face of the known and unknown costs, except for the fact that we have other strong reasons not to allow any ongoing precedent of the form “women can be disallowed from this job because they are women”. Any remotely liberal society should be willing to tolerate a small reduction in the capability of its infantry forces to avoid setting that example. But the reduction in capability may not be small.
3 – Western liberal civilization absolutely is going to do this experiment no matter the cost, and it might as well be now. In hindsight, the ideal time would have been 10-15 years ago when we had some long wars coming up that we were going to lose anyway, could afford to lose, but would give us plenty of data. I think we’ve still got a decade of wars we can afford to lose before we might be faced with ones we have to win. So let’s do this, but pay close attention to what we are doing and what we learn from it.
The ugly question is, if it turns out that this simply can’t be done without greatly weakening the infantry’s ability to win in a high-intensity ground combat environment, how would we go about rolling it back? The obvious solution is, “lose the war, be conquered by a misogynistic society that imposes its rules on us at gunpoint”, but I’d prefer a less drastic learning experience.
That one’s simple. The war govt decides that the units are to be male only again, and the women are retired or transferred somewhere else. There is pretty much nothing the government, faced with the threat of losing power due to losing a war of annihilation, won’t do to survive.
I seem to recall the Bolsheviks being hardline egalitarians at the start of the RCW, but backtracked really fast on their reforms when it turned out that their units weren’t performing very well without the time-honored practices that the Communists initially took for chaff and oppression. And this isn’t limited to startup revolutionary states; check out the amount of mobilization and command of the economy the western Allies inflicted upon their populations in order to win the war.
An unlimited war is serious business, and bullshit is generally not tolerated.
By the time you have a “war government” in power, and particularly by the time you are losing a war of annihilation, it’s almost certainly too late for any major transformation of your institutional culture to help. You need to have a peacetime government that is willing to use the results of a recent, minor defeat to drive through the necessary changes.
The United States had that in the decade or so following Vietnam, but the changes involved (no more conscription, increased professionalism, etc) were aligned with the general cultural transformation of the era. Asking a peacetime US government in the 21st century to re-segregate the military after a defeat seems like a tall order even if that’s what a military assessment of the evidence would call for. The ultimate decision will be made by civilians who don’t trust the military’s assessment of anything because hey, you losers just showed us how incompetent you are, and now you’re trying to pick on women to pass the buck for your own failures?
Counter-evidence: The Bolsheviks won in the end. Same with the western Allies, after they decided that they’re not going to win except if they don’t buckle down and do everything it takes, no matter how atrocious, to win.
Found the problem. 🙂
The Bolsheviks fought only one war that I know of, in which they were consistently winning from the first days of the October Revolution. There were no major cultural transformations in their armed forces that I know of.
The western allies experimented with things like WASPs and WAVEs and segregated Negro or Nisei regiments, but not on a decisive scale and not until their victory was assured with or without the extra manpower. While there was any question of who was going to win, the task of winning was for straight white males only. The rest were allowed to join the fun when the only remaining question was who was going to pay for the inevitable victory, and they were kept at a safe distance from the people whose contributions were deemed indispensable for that victory.
These are not the examples you are looking for.
Having no better arguments, I concede.
This is the internet; I’m not sure that’s allowed 🙂
I could start calling you names, if that makes you feel better. 😉
Next decade, we will be replacing troops with robots.
Perhaps the military commanders don’t expect humans to do the dirty work anymore.
Citation very much needed.
Especially after what happened to BigDog.
What service does Wikileaks provide better than a random person who says “If you send me some secret documents, I’ll post them on my blog”?
For leakers, confidence that it’s not a government honeypot and that they will preserve your anonymity. (Also, confidence that people will actually read the leaks.)
For readers, confidence that the leaks have been verified as authentic.
A random blogger posting your leaks isn’t any more useful (and is riskier) than posting your leaks yourself on an anonymous blog. Their service is their reputation.
Well, not an American government honeypot, anyway.
When it first started, no better service at all.
At this point:
Visibility: Posting something to wikileaks gives you a much better chance of it attracting media attention and being disseminated and repeated than the average blogger.
Branding: Wikileaks has a somewhat romanticized reputation with certain sectors of the media and the public. This provides limited, but real, insulation from criticism of motivated/false leaks relative to the average blog. I’ll have to check later, but I suspect a survey would find that the average person on the street would be more credulous of “I heard about X on Wikileaks” than “I heard about X on random blog”
So basically Wikileaks is a tool by which strategic and selective leaking for political ends is made more effective and given legitimacy.
I thought that basically was the wikileaks business model.
Wikileaks has a little more durability than your average blog. It’s single-purpose means that they have protocols in place for attacks, such as the dead mans switch, and it’s notoriety means any attacks on it will gain attention. In addition, it has a .onion mirror which is handy for privacy etc.
In terms of authenticity, I’m not sure if they could offer anything more than the average blog could.
Did you create an imaginary world when you were a child?
Can you describe it? And how did it effect you?
I had dreamed up an imaginary world with imaginary characters (one of whom I strongly identified with and thought of as “me”) since I was about 12-13ish. And it stuck with me for a very long time. Sometimes it interfered with my regular life because I would spend so much time thinking about this world. For me this was a really intense experience, I even cried a couple of times thinking about the death of an imaginary person in this imaginary world.
I’m really sleepy so I don’t feel like describing my paracosm right now. But would anyone else like to?
12-13ish is really the END of childhood and the beginning of adolescence for most people. Did you mean to say you had dreamed up an imaginary world up until that age? It would be pretty remarkable for a child to do what you describe (especially crying over made-up people and all) but if you were doing that while you were a teenager, that is very unusual.
How do you think it affected you?
Clearly you’ve never seen a child lose a favorite stuffed animal.
Both children and adults frequently form emotional attachments to inanimate objects. Children especially, and when the inanimate object is soft and plushy and looks like a cute animal it’s almost guaranteed to happen.
Yes, kids endow their stuffed animals with original voices and personalities, but those voices and personalities are tied to the toy, and the toy is tied to a physical context. (E.g. “I took my teddy bear Dabba with me when we went to the grocery store.” “I forgot Dabba in the grocery store, so I cried and cried.”)
That’s very different from forming an emotional attachment to a character that exists entirely in one’s imagination. Wizarniak cried because those characters died in a fantasy world in his head, not because he left them in the grocery store.
I think you think this is weirder than it is. I imagine it isn’t uncommon for authors to get upset when the kill off characters.
I think authors are a pretty small subset of all people, and authors that cry over the death of their own characters are probably a subset of authors.
Also, the situation as described is not even an author getting emotionally attached to a character they have penned, this is completely imaginary.
It seems pretty ‘weird’ to me.
I knew an author who wanted to kill a major character and had a dream about the character telling him off. So the author killed a unicorn instead. (Unpublished book, so don’t bother trying to figure out which book it is.)
Apparently JK Rowling teared up after writing Sirius Black’s death scene.
@rims: As Spookykou said,we’re talking about little kids, not authors. Nevertheless I imagine it is still uncommon—not unheard of, but uncommon—for authors to get upset when they kill off character.
My experience with kids isn’t huge, but it is pretty far from nonzero. Thinking about my childhood, the childhoods of all my siblings, my close friends, my wife and her siblings, my own kids, and about what my parents and other adults have told me of their childhoods…in all that, I’ve never heard of any of them crying because a character in one of their imaginary worlds died. In fact I’m not even remembering any of them mentioning that they had whole imaginary worlds.
I’ve also never seen this crying over characters in imaginary worlds stuff as a trope about childhood (the way “kid calls for parent in the middle of the night/parent enters room/kid claims to have seen a monster/parent says something to ease the kid’s mind/kid goes back to sleep” is a trope about childhood).
Is there some obvious evidence that lots of kids do this and I’m just not seeing it?
My point is that adult authors are probably more emotionally mature than children, and therefore less likely to cry at imagined deaths. I don’t think that either group crying at imagined deaths is particularly common, but I don’t think it’s especially weird either. For another example, people cry at films, books etc. all the time. That’s essentially the same thing, except that the imagined world wasn’t invented out of whole cloth.
This is a guess, but if a child is creating an imaginary world for their own use, they’re not driven by narrative logic in the same way that an author is.
The child simply won’t include character deaths that they don’t want.
I can’t speak for other authors, but one of my limitation is that I don’t like to kill characters I care about. In Harald, my first novel, the only two exceptions are both killed off before the novel starts, so seen only in retrospect, one only by implication. In Salamander, my second novel, the only major character who is killed is a villain.
On the other hand, I mentioned to Vernor Vinge that I had stopped reading one of his novels because it got too dark for my taste, and his response was that he could write darker than he could read.
I started running games of Dungeons and Dragons when I was 8. So yes. Other than probably making me pretty good at running role-playing games, no noticeable change.
Have you not heard of the film Bambi?
Bambi = the result of teams of professional animators and storytellers laboring, frame by frame, over how to build emotional attachment to a character in a young audience. That’s a fundamentally different thing than kids inventing their own whimsical but highly detailed make-believe worlds and then getting so emotionally attached to characters they cry.
After the story was first translated from the Italian by Whittaker Chambers, famous for other reasons.
>famous for other reasons.
No matter how far the conversation may stray from conservative grievances, you find a way to drive it back.
Bambi was about Nazi’s not Commie’s anyway.
Since when not liking communism makes one a conservative?
This prompted me to read the Wikipedia page on Bambi. I might have my facts wrong, but…
Do you mean from the German?
Seems like Bambi was about environmentalism. It was the Nazis who claimed it was about the treatment of Jews in Europe, and that only kinda tangentially makes it about Nazis, since their treatment of Jews at the time was not yet (as far as I know) exceptional.
Do you mean from the German?
I meant from the Italian, but I was going by memory and could easily be wrong.
Mentioning the fact that the translator of Bambi was a central figure in a famous political/legal controversy is driving the conversation back to conservative grievances? Am I supposed to be attacking Chambers, Bambi, Hiss, or someone else I haven’t thought of?
I don’t think I’m the one here who views all conversations through a political lens.
I don’t have very good recollection about my plays etc when I was younger, but about the same age, I used to imagine gigantic space battles and wars and adventures, and I think the difference to early childhood make-believe plays was that this time, my imaginations were more coherent. Sometimes they were military campaigns lasting hundreds of years on galactic scale, bit like the space-operas I was reading about; some other times, especially later, more ‘gritty’ military science fiction style on the solar system scale. It really started bug me when I started to read bit more about phsysics that on galactic scale, even if I had FTL devices and usual scifi trappings, I knew that ‘realistically’ there would be weird time dilatation effects due to relativity, but I did not have a good idea how to account for that.
I tried writing notes down about the ‘best’ stories I had, but writing them down to coherent, good fiction about it turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.
But I can’t say I was very emotionally invested. I imagine that writing fiction isn’t fundamentally too different.
And then of course if table-top RPG campaigns count, then there’s lot of Cthulhu and DnD campaign notes, too.
When a character dies in a D&D game, how much his player grieves can depend on how he died, why (in universe), whether it was important to the plot/led up to/expected/dramatized, or not, and whose decision it was (out of universe).
I never made an organized paracosm.
I wouldn’t call it an imaginary world, in that we didn’t believe it was real, but me and my best friend created a “story universe”, consisting of numerous planets and alternate realities. It’s a bit much to explain in depth here, but these stories were the reason I drew as I grew up and eventually also started writing.
A good example of these worlds include a future Earth inhabited by giant spherical cyborg-beings that were created by humans and then drove humans to extinction, capable of all sorts of nonsensical technological magic as well as real magic, which is real in this universe, ruled by a literally godlike dictator.
From Carnegie Mellon, the Winter 2016 issue of “Link”:
“By the year 2040, there will be more people than food to feed them. SCS researchers are using AI to change that.”
I don’t feel good about either of those sentences.
(Spoiler: they’re actually just trying to improve crop yield, and I’m sort of unclear about what part of their work involves even neural-net-AI, much less general AI.)
The overpopulation issue renews my interest in contraceptive research. For example, I recently encountered http://www.path.org/projects/sayana-press.php which is a three-month injectable contraceptive being offered in developing countries.
I wish there were an “effective altruism” style rating for this. Most of the time when I see people talking about EA, it’s in terms of lives saved per dollar. This charity could be rated in births prevented per dollar…
Our societies’ problems are with too few children being born, not too many.
Citation certainly needed, but in any case it is possible that is true, but other societies’ problems are connected with having too many (there is certainly a correlation at least).
Birthrates are down below replacement level in most if not all Western and Far Eastern countries, and trending hard in that direction almost everywhere else. You can just look that up anywhere; it’s not secret. And if you aren’t replenishing your population, you get all kinds of problems: retirement plans are underfunded, infrastructure can’t be supported, neurotic people who wheel their dogs around in baby carriages, politicians pushing incredibly unpopular immigration policies to the point that they get turfed out and replaced by right-wing strongmen, that sort of thing.
As for other societies who might potentially have too many children, I’d rather leave it up to those societies to figure out if that’s the case and, if so, what they want to do about it. Wealthy, privileged Westerners complaining that those poor foreigners are having too many kids is not a philosophy that has an especially pleasant history.
“but other societies’ problems are connected with having too many (there is certainly a correlation at least).”
Evidence? Is your claim that, on average, countries with high population density are poor? Countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands? The only substantial poor country whose population is denser than those is Bangla-Desh.
Belgium, Japan, and Israel are only a little more densely populated than India, much less densely than Nigeria, Uganda, Guatamala, China.
It becomes our business if overpopulation leads to resource wars, which leads to refugees, which leads to Western political leaders who think those refugees will vote for them pushing to open borders. With Africa’s population projected to quadruple by the end of the century, this is a very real possibility.
Population projections suggest Africans will outnumber Europeans about 6 to 1. I don’t think it’s realistic to hope they will assimilate in those numbers if we enact open borders.
I recommend reading the links I posted about this in the other thread:
The issue of above-replacement fertility has been addressed successfully in other developing countries, and those areas are now stable and prosperous. If we don’t achieve women’s empowerment in Africa, Africa will stay poor and the world will have a large black underclass.
Let’s figure out if a claim is true rather than if a claim is disreputable. Disreputable is not the same as false–just as Galileo.
A lot of African societies have started to figure that’s not the case because they can just dump their excess population on Europe. I don’t think that’s sustainable in the long run; even if there isn’t a backlash from Europe, that sort of thing will put severe strains on the welfare states that everyone takes for granted.
That is an awfully long and fragile chain of causality. A might not happen (probably won’t, based on past history and existing trend lines) but if it does it could theoretically cause B (though it usually doesn’t), which might plausibly cause C, and it’s possible our democratically elected politicians might respond by doing clearly dumb thing D, therefore we need to tell foreigners how many children they can have? That would pretty much justify any intervention into other nations’ affairs you could imagine.
I dispute your assertion that “politicians will respond stupidly” is only a possibility. I’d put the odds of that particular link in the chain at 100% 🙂
@DavidFriedman, I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I think the typical argument is that high rates of population growth / birth rates correlate with poverty, not high population density. E.g some quick googling gives this.
I’m sure some of this is explained by the relationship between poverty and infant mortality, but I would be surprised if that is the only thing going on. A high birth rate gives you more human capital, but beyond a certain point that isn’t going to help with development if the cultural norm is to just pour all that capital back into raising exponentially more children. Plus issues of quality vs quantity, etc.
Didn’t you see that documentary, Idiocracy?
Well-functioning Western societies are reproducing below replacement, in some cases well below. This is a problem. Dysfunctional African societies are reproducing above replacement, in some cases well above. This is also a problem.
It’s not a problem for *them*, especially since the West keeps sending aid and permitting migration northwards.
How do you define “dysfunctional” if not as “having problems”?
Everyone has problems. African society tends to work for them, it’s just our meddling that causes them problems such as having overpopulation in the first place.
By giving them access to Western healthcare and a more Western lifestyle (rather than hunting)?
Africans have had agriculture long before we arrived there; they weren’t obligate hunter-gatherers over there.
What I’m talking about is our botched uplift job. We come in, build a rudimentary western civilization, enable the locals to produce gigantic amounts of food compared to what they could on their own… and then pull out, only a century later. It would have taken something like a millennium or two to make the change self-sustaining, like it took us.
But no, we have to GTFO and leave those people with infrastructure and institutions they can’t yet maintain themselves, with a greatly increased population supported by the increased food supply, and expanding to consume available resources. Then the physical and social technologies we left them begin to degrade, they can’t produce enough food to feed themselves. So we send them food, to feed them for a day, as if not understanding that they will want more tomorrow.
And now, spurred by rumours of wealth and handouts brought on by mass mediafication of the world, they’re migrating north.
I’m not sure I could have done a worse job of it if I actively tried.
It was hardly a “botched uplift job”. Empires weren’t built to try and improve the world. The vast majority of positive change was incidental to the purpose of colonies, which was to benefit Britain, or France, or whoever.
The Europeans trying to hold on when the colonized nations wanted to leave made things worse: a lot of African countries, for instance, ended up with a leadership selected for “fighting against the colonial occupier”, not for “ability to run the place once the colonial occupier has packed up”. The degree to which they tried to hold on usually increased the degree to which things are bad.
Yes. And for those places to be of any use, they had to be civilized. You can’t do business well if you’re running the risk of random natives killing your officials all the time. Your business is helped if they are at least minimally educated in numbers and letters. Savagery is not profitable. Well-ordered societies full of excessively productive people are profitable.
You may say that it would be simpler to just genocide all of them and replace them with one’s own folks, but that’s morally repugnant – and I think the colonizers thought it morally repugnant too.
What of India? It was civilized long, long before England was, and the English were hardly benevolent there.
I’m also not sure why you jump to “well, it’s better than genocide” so quickly. I would think that the most moral option is to simply refrain from what amounts to taking other people’s stuff at gunpoint.
They may have been wrong the previous 1,000 times – but I’m sure THIS time they’re totally going to be accurate about this!
No, it’s totally a scientific fact: in 2040, we’ll have 8.9 billion people, and only several thousand foods (maybe a few million, if you count cooked dishes).
So millions of people will all be forced to eat the same thing.
And that’s only if you extrapolate from the current rate at which we eat foods (about 3 meals per day plus snacks). If marijuana gets legalized or swimming becomes more popular or something so that people are hungrier in the future, they will eat even more foods per day, leaving even fewer foods remaining by 2040.
What sickens me is that Science hasn’t even factored in all the food that’s going to go bad before then.
I am given to understand that there are two Malthusian end states:
1. The resource crash happens. The infrastructure or ecology supporting [resource] production falls out, population reduces by an order of magnitude, and if your lucky foreign historians drop by to write about you before all your cities are abandoned. Happens to non-humans all the time, hasn’t happened to humans in a while .
2. Innovation or investment increases the marginal yield of individual farm workers. The carrying capacity of persons/[resource] goes up above [ten years from now’s population]/[ten years from now’s resource].
I think that if you try to distinguish between “In [year] there will be more people than we can support, here’s my organization for promoting innovation and/or investment in [resource].” and “It’s time to choose between 1 and 2 again, let’s make it 2 again.” Then I think you’re being insufficiently charitable.
I haven’t read the article, but the claim is implausible. We grow much more than sufficient food to feed the present population of the world and feed much of it to animals. In developed countries such as the U.S., which is a major food producer, only a small part of the population is engaged in growing food and quite a lot of land isn’t used for agriculture and could be.
That’s without even allowing for increased yield due to increased CO2 concentration.
For good reason. Current-day agriculture is so efficient and food so cheap, the governments have to subsidize it so that anyone except the hugest corporations living on the slimmest of margins can make a profit and earn a living doing it. The world population could be 10x greater and there would still be enough food, though it would be a bit more expensive and more people would be employed in the industry than the modern 2-5%.
There are things that can change this – for example, an energy crisis. Modern agriculture is the transmutation of oil into foodstuffs. If oil happens to run out or become in short supply, and no alternative is to be found, then we might have a problem. I don’t think it’s terribly likely that it’ll happen fast enough to not give any warning.
Recolonizing Africa and reinflicting modern agriculture, so that it would produce food again like it did under European rule, would definitely help with local shortages.
Does anyone know of a good site/resource for recipes that are easy to prepare and have very few ingredients?
I feel like even the “here’s an easy recipe” videos on Facebook that show the bowl or whatever still give you a shopping list with like 20 different expensive/rare spices to buy – which I usually use once and then never again. I also have a somewhat limited palette such that I don’t feel like I need 20 different seasonings. I’m looking for recipes that have like 3-5 ingredients: some form of meat, 2-3 cheap/common things to season it with, and an optional side dish.
Search on [three ingredients recipes]. A bunch of links come up, and I think there are also books.
I make pork chops as a meal in the following way:
Take a potato, coat with olive oil and kosher salt, then start baking at 450° for an hour. While that’s going on, liberally coat a pork chop with Lawry’s seasoning salt, and some BBQ sauce. I grill on each side for a few minutes, and put on a little more BBQ sauce when I flip the chops over. Make a salad with lettuce, tomato, and bottled salad dressing.
The only spices this requires is Kosher salt and Lawry’s, neither of which spoil and are really cheap. You also have BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s) and salad dressing, both of which last for a relatively long while in the fridge. I can’t claim that this recipe is “good” in an absolute sense, but *I* like it just fine. Mind you, I also make coffee from the Folger’s can, and thought that the food in my college dorm was fine. Calibrate your expectations accordingly.
If I’m making a steak, I just coat it with olive oil, then slather on ground black pepper and garlic salt. Serve with the same salad and baked potato. You can probably just use regular salt, but the garlic salt doesn’t really go bad, nor is it expensive.
What is kosher salt and is the dish ruined if I use regular salt instead?
Regular salt is perfectly fine, and let nobody tell you otherwise.
Kosher salt is merely a coarse salt that was originally used during the Kosher ritual slaughter of beef. I think the coarse grains do a little bit of a better job on crisping up the potato skin during baking, but I don’t see how using regular salt could *ruin* it. Heck, to be honest you’re probably about 90% of the way there without using the oil or salt, and just baking the potato. Remember to poke some holes in it with a fork first.
Edit: If you like a softer skin, skip the oil and salt, and wrap it in aluminum foil. That’s pretty good, too.
For potatoes, just experiment. They cost, like, a quarter each. If you fuck it up, just throw it away and do it differently next time.
To expand on Stefan’s comment, the only difference between Kosher salt and regular salt is the grain size. For any recipe that’s not using the grain size to draw moisture out (the original intent was to draw out blood during slaughter), well, NaCl is NaCl. You *do* need to be careful when substituting one for the other when using volumetric measurements (for example, when a recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of salt) because the grain size difference means that the void ratio will differ and the mass of salt added–what you actually care about–will be different. If you’re measuring by weight, there’s no difference between the two.
NaCl is NaCl, but not all salt is pure NaCl. Most table salt has potassium iodide, giving it a slightly metallic flavor at high concentrations. And sea salts and unrefined mined salts (e.g. Himalayan pink salt) have a variety of trace impurities that can affect flavor.
If you’re just sprinkling a bit on to season food while you’re cooking it, this makes no perceptible difference. And if you live inland and don’t eat much seafood, the iodine fortification has health benefits. It’s when you’re using a lot of salt to brine, salt-cure, or pickle something that the taste difference becomes significant: in those cases, you want to use one of the more neutral-flavored salts (kosher salt, pickling salt, or non-iodized table salt).
The different textures do make a difference in some applications. As mentioned upthread, the coarser grains of kosher salt help draw moisture out when used as a curing salt, and they also make the salt easier to handle if you’re pinching and sprinkling with your fingers instead of using a shaker or a spoon to distribute it.
Larger grains are also useful as “finishing salts” (i.e. what you sprinkle on at the table or just before serving, as opposed to seasoning during cooking), since they dissolve slower and thus sit mostly-intact to give a burst of saltiness against your tongue when you put a bite of food in your mouth. There are also special purpose finishing salts (mostly the aforementioned sea salts and unrefined mined salts) which have larger and flakier grains than kosher salt in order to better serve this purpose: the flakier grain shapes create more surface area against your tongue and deliver a bigger burst of saltiness, and the use as a finishing salt makes the taste of the trace impurities significant rather than something that gets lost in the rest of the food.
Smaller grain sizes are useful when you want the salt to dissolve: in a brine, in a pickling solution, or in a sauce, soup, or stew. Small grains dissolve faster and better, especially in cold water. Table salt is fine for this (quite a bit better than kosher salt), and pickling salt (with even smaller grains) is better still. Kosher salt will still work, but it will take a bit more stirring to get it to dissolve.
But all these differences are fairly subtle. You can use table salt for everything, or kosher salt, or pickling salt, and there are a dozen other things you’re doing that will make more difference to your finished product than your salt selection. With a handful of exceptions (mostly making pickles or sauerkraut), what type of salt you’re using isn’t a “do this or your dog will burst into flames” issue, which I think is what CatCube and others were getting at.
Kosher salt is easier to sprinkle. That’s its advantage.
I’ve seen kosher salt presented as the best way to salt meat prior to cooking – the explanation is that it draws the moisture out (the original purpose of kosher salt – the salt is washed off once the moisture is drawn out) but then the moisture will be drawn back in if you leave it for longer, salting the inside of the meat.
I don’t know if this is the case in reality or this is just “bro science” applied to cooking.
I don’t know if kosher salt is in fact the best salt for this purpose, but it is true that the salt will gradually penetrate the meat. It’s basically brining, but with the meat’s own juices. This guy will explain it to you, complete with charts.
My brother made a website for one of his classes that might have something: http://www.anyonecancook.info/
Huh, I love the style and content and simple descriptions, but it seems to be very light on actual recipes. Do you happen to know if he plans on continuing to update it with more?
I’m not sure. He’s done with the class so probably not in the near future, but I can ask.
I’m going to bookmark that site. I think I’m going to try the stew next weekend.
Look at guides meant for people going to college. Beyond the frozen pizza crowd are many people who are very good at making cheap, easy, filling food.
I have to ask though – what kind of things are you looking for? Just any regular meal? Something simple and filling? My go-to cheap meals are often something along the lines of fried potatoes with sausage and green beans, but it’s not really a ‘dish’ so much as it is a proper meal.
I like the idea but it’s not for me. I feel like their gimmick is to give you a bunch of obscure ingredients and have you cook relatively complex and odd things. While that eliminates the “shopping list” hassle I also want to be able to master things I’ll eventually be able to do for myself with a quick trip to any basic grocery store.
You don’t need recipes. You need technique. My advice is to get Tom Colicchio’s book Think Like a Chef. Great introduction to cooking.
Honestly the ingredients you need, bare minimum, are protein, good vegetables, olive oil, and salt. With good technique you will never find those wanting.
Bread is easy to make. Usual ingredients are flour, water, yeast and salt. Details of recipes vary. My standard is a sourdough bread which also has raisins. The book Artisan Bread on 5 Minutes a Day has a bunch of recipes, many of them pretty simple.
Here’s a really easy recipe. Three ingredients, they all go in the same pan, and are probably available at a convenience store: potato chips, tuna, thick canned soup.*
Crush the potato chips into small pieces. Layer the chips, tuna, and soup in any pan/s. Top layer is chips. Bake till it is all hot and gooey; none of these ingredients actually need cooking.
* Campbell’s cream of mushroom is best, but other flavors might work. Get a kind that says to dilute it, but don’t dilute it. What matters is the texture of the soup; if it’s too wet, it will make the potato chips soggy.
If you like, add green peas, celery, etc.
I don’t know of any such site (though I would welcome to come to know it). The way I do it is search for recipes of any given dish I like and then implementing the simplest I can find.
I don’t have a general resource for you, but since other are posting simple recipes for you, here’s mine:
You’ll need pasta or rice, a vegetable, and a protein. You can season this simply with salt and pepper, or a spice mix you like, maybe some parmesan cheese.
Chop up the protein and the vegetable into bite-sized pieces, then sautee over medium heat. (Use cooking oil or butter too, unless the protein is super fatty.) You’ll generally want to cook the protein by itself first until more or less done, then remove it from the pan so you can cook the vegetable more efficiently, but if your protein is something like bacon or salami you can probably leave it in the pan. Meanwhile, cook the pasta or rice according to the instructions on the package. Combine all when done.
Example #1: Bacon + Cabbage + Pasta, prepared as above, seasoned with salt+pepper, topped with parmesan cheese
Example #2: Tofu + Broccoli + Rice, as above, seasoned with salt and an asian spice mix, plus maybe some sriracha