"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Open Thread 66.25

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

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450 Responses to Open Thread 66.25

  1. paranoidfunk says:

    Peanut gallery, what are your favorite Overcoming Bias posts?

    (BTW, “hidden open thread” is such an irreconcilable oxymoron.)

    • suntzuanime says:

      I support the Open Borders movement, we need to stop pretending we don’t have borders.

      • ….really?

        Its a horrible horrible horrible idea. I think we should do what some European countries are doing and start treating entrance into the country like some skills test.

        + some points/preference for multiple langauge speakers

        + some points for score on entrance exam of countries history and code of law

        + points for work history

        – points for criminal history

        There won’t be any questions as to if an immigrant is more is less skilled then the median worker, with lots of narrowing down of future predictions of groups of people, in a positive direction.

        I view open-borders as insanity.

        Perhaps increase foreign aid as a measure of goodwill.

    • suntzuanime says:

      As far as favorite OB posts, Robin Hanson doesn’t have quite the writerly flair of a Eliezer Yudkowsky or a Scott Alexander. He has memorable insights, but not single posts that are memorable in their own right like Meditations on Moloch might be.

      Like I can say “read the stuff about signalling”, but… it’s all about signalling. There isn’t one particular post I can pick out.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        It’s not about signalling.

      • sflicht says:

        He’s certainly had a couple controversial ones that stand out.

        But you’re right, I think it’s eminently fair to say that Scott’s devoted a lot more effort into the *craft* of blog-style writing, and together with his natural talent this has produced a body of work that may prove more lasting than anything on Overcoming Bias.

        OTOH, while I’ve not interacted with Scott in person, I have done so briefly with Robin (a couple of conversations over meals, some lecture Q&A), and I think his blogging style is remarkably faithful to his extemporaneous mode of thought. Which itself I think reflects his somewhat grander timescale for developing ideas over the course of years, rather than news cycles. That’s not to say Scott lacks broader themes in his work — far from it. But SSC posts are clearly each individually crafted objects, reflecting a particular time and place, including the context of previous posts’ motivations and conclusions. OB posts are but snapshots, which is perhaps reflective of a conception of blogging that has gone slightly out of style. (I think Ashok Rao is working in this un-self-contained tradition, though. To some extent Tyler Cowen does too, particularly in his pre-Bloomberg mode.) If by chance Robin’s later work proves of lasting importance (just as — I’m cautiously optimistic — his earlier work on idea futures will prove important in the long run) then intellectual historians will probably find such snapshots valuable.

      • andrewflicker says:

        The “Never Settle” post is one of the better short ones illustrating signalling, I think.

      • onyomi says:

        Just read that post for the first time. I think it helps explain a lot of the frustrating and seemingly irrational reactions people have to politics, including “dog whistles.”

        For example, Scott and others (myself included, probably) complain about how everyone always attributes or imputes ideas, like white nationalism, to people like Donald Trump who not only have never said anything positive about such ideas, but have, in many cases, literally denounced e. g. David Duke, visited black churches, etc. etc.

        But, if you are a person with a strong personal/emotional/identity-based investment in the “black lives matter/blue lives matter” issue, what are you going to see when you look at Donald Trump? Barack Obama? Trump never says anything really bad about black people and Obama never says anything really bad about police, but based on their skin tone, other statements about e. g. law and order, and general worldview, those who care about this issue can kind of guess that, if you have to throw them in buckets, Trump is in the “blue lives matter bucket” and Obama in the “black lives matter bucket.”

        And guess who else are in those buckets? In the former bucket, the actual KKK and David Duke; in the latter, actual Black Panther-type extremists.

        So even if no one says anything about the KKK or Black Panthers, what matters to many isn’t what Obama or Trump individually feels about these issues, but what their electoral success signals about the relative ascendance of these bigger social elements.

        Hence, even if you thought Donald Trump was an okay guy before he started running for president, as soon as he does, his candidacy almost automatically turns into a proxy war for all kind of bigger social issues, and if he’s on the wrong side of those issues, he becomes the leader of the enemy.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Trump, intentionally or blind-stupidly, signaled common cause with literal white-supremacists by retweeting them during the campaign.

          Conversely, Romney would also be in the “blue lives matter” bucket. The accusations that stuck against him were about plutocracy, elitism and old-fashioned sexism. My sense is any attempt to tar him as a white supremacist got a tepid response.

          ETA: And it’s not like Trump is being attacked as elitist and out of touch. Not the way Romney was.

          I think there is far more to this than simply “you are in a bucket and treated uniformly”. People on the right hate(d) Obama, but they mostly hate him in a different way from the way they hate(d) Hillary.

          • bean says:

            Trump, intentionally or blind-stupidly, signaled common cause with literal white-supremacists by retweeting them during the campaign.

            So do you expect Trump to vet everyone he retweets? If so, how much? What happens if someone is sarcastic, and a major news organization reads what they said as serious? How much should we condemn that organization? (This happened to a friend of a friend.) Or does this sort of stuff just happen in the internet we live in?
            This smells a bit like the dustup we had over that one link that a bunch of people asked Scott to specifically disavow, which he refused to do on the grounds that he doesn’t endorse the contents of the links posts as being more than interesting, and disavowing that one would give the wrong impression.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bean:
            To use a phrase from another interest of mine, stop the JCD (Jump Circle Defense).

            I’m trying to point out that Romney and Trump were treated differently, and whether any accusation against them was warranted or not, the difference in their treatment had to do with different things they actually did.

            This is all in response to onyomi seeming to claim that every Republican will be treated essentially the same (by the Dem coalition, anyway).

            And yeah, when you retweet an image that originated at stormfront that has a six-pointed star over a pile of cash, I expect that you should have said “Hey, wait a minute, six-pointed stars have a strong connection to both the Jewish faith and people who are anti-Semitic. Maybe I should think about what I am doing here”.

            Retweeting that is either intentional or stupid. If it happens to work out if it wasn’t intentional, that’s just luck.

          • Matt M says:

            “Retweeting that is either intentional or stupid. If it happens to work out if it wasn’t intentional, that’s just luck.”

            What if it was part of a very broad-level strategy that boils down to “use Twitter the same way a regular person uses Twitter, to make random comments and re-tweet funny images without spending an hour having a focus group review whether said RT might potentially offend certain key voting blocs”

            To me this goes back to the issue of Trump being “establishment” or not. The fact that he would RT an image that most people would dismiss but upon careful examination is probably racist in some way is a very strong signaling device that he’s anti-establishment. No serious politician’s social media strategist would allow them to do that.

          • bean says:

            @HBC
            First, apologies for going after part of your post without context. I need to do that less often.

            I’m trying to point out that Romney and Trump were treated differently, and whether any accusation against them was warranted or not, the difference in their treatment had to do with different things they actually did.

            I think that there’s some validity to this, but it’s not a principled validity. Yes, the prime thrust of the attacks on Trump was very different from that on Romney. But that’s a matter of expedience. Accusing Romney of racism didn’t work as well as accusing him of elitism and being out of touch, so they didn’t play up the racism angle much. Elitism was a charge that stuck much better to Hillary than to Trump, so it was hastily hidden away while racism was brought to the front, because it stuck a lot better.
            I guess the question is how we define different treatment. If we define it entirely based on the weapons used, then, yes, Trump and Romney were treated differently. If we define it on the meta-principles behind the use of weapons, then they weren’t. Romney was vilified nearly as much as Trump was. The last 5% of hysteria we saw in 2016 may have been absent, but nobody said ‘maybe we should go easy on him, at least the Republicans didn’t nominate (say) Santorum’.
            (Just to be clear, this is not limited to the left. On my own side, the Constitution is always in imminent peril if we lose the current election. I more or less stopped buying it because I remembered that a lot of the same people were saying the same things now that they had in 2012, and we haven’t seen an apocalypse yet. No, I don’t think there’s a good solution to this.)

            Edit:

            To use a phrase from another interest of mine, stop the JCD (Jump Circle Defense)

            Google seems to indicate this is a sports analogy. This seems like a uniquely terrible place to try one of those.

          • onyomi says:

            This is all in response to onyomi seeming to claim that every Republican will be treated essentially the same (by the Dem coalition, anyway).

            I don’t really mean anything that extreme. Of course each individual political opponent will be attacked differently depending on his or her own perceived weak points and also the current circumstances (BLM wasn’t really a “thing” when Romney was running, for example; though probably not as much as Trump, he might have been attacked along those lines to some degree, had it been; unfortunately for Romney, the catchphrases at that time were more about “we are the 99%” etc. Romney was a perfect representative of the 1%–if Trump had been running in ’12, he probably would have been attacked more along those lines, but, perhaps having learned from Romney to some extent, Trump strongly signaled “anti-elite” from the very beginning, weakening the plutocracy charge which, in any case, wasn’t as much on everyone’s mind by then).

            My point is simply that there is such a tendency: there are bigger issues at stake in society, at any given time, than individual politicians’ personalities and beliefs, and whatever their actual beliefs and personalities, they will tend to get turned into “leaders” or “enemies” for groups to focus on. Maybe this is a good thing: I’d much rather a few politicians get scapegoated for several months every few years than for different elements of society to actually fight each other.

        • Adam says:

          While I was agree with Rob K below that this post comes across as a just so story with very little evidence backing it up and no consideration of plausible counterarguments, which is characteristic of Robin Hanson, at the same time it talks to me as well, specifically about why I don’t vote. That is, his bit at the end about people not caring about institutional reforms that would have a larger impact on policy is exactly the opposite of me. I’ve long held that institutional reform is far more important than specifically who holds what office, but I have absolutely no clue what I can personally do to encourage institutional reform, so I stick to doing things I know how to do.

          • Rob K says:

            That strikes me as less of an “is politics about policy” question than a “how do the interests of elected officials as a class differ from those of voters as a class” question.

            Currently elected officials won office under our current system, suggesting that the rules of the current system are good for them. Accordingly, you’d expect them to be hostile to systemic reform unless it’s their primary animating concern as a politician.

            This is why, while I’m usually skeptical of ballot initiatives as a method of government, I support them for things like redistricting reform (or term limits, if I was in favor of those).

      • Rob K says:

        That’s a weird post, to me at least. It’s weird because it gives student body president elections as a corollary to national elections to illustrate that clearly the actual impact of the national elections isn’t why people care about them.

        But…do most people care about student body president elections? I didn’t when I was in school; in fact I don’t know that I could have named who was the student body president most of the time. And if anything I’d say I’m on the “more likely to care about that kind of thing” end.

        If politics wasn’t about policy, why would politics be responsive to the kind of proxies for “good policy” that an average voter can access, like economic performance?

        That post strikes me as a clear case of coming up with the conclusion and then assembling the case for it without checking for counter-arguments.

        • Randy M says:

          I campaigned hard for my friend to win Sophmore class president.
          Well, hard considering he ran unopposed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The only time I was much more than extremely dimly aware of student government campaigns was when a friend ran for some office. Secretary maybe?

            I still don’t think I voted.

            People who think they want to go into politics are far more likely to be involved with and care about student government. If you had a friend like this you might have gotten roped in. Otherwise?

            Students don’t even vote in national elections for President (proportionally).

          • Randy M says:

            If you had a friend like this you might have gotten roped in.

            In my case I’m fairly sure my help was not entirely appreciated. 😉

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is this about high school or university student elections? University student elections can get fairly serious, because there’s actual funding at hand. Although few enough people take it seriously that turnout tends to be very low. This has the frequent result that student governments get captured by a particularly odious sort of sinecured pretend-radical.

    • Jack Lecter says:

      I mostly agree with @suntzuanime- his ideas are pretty great, but the writing itself falls short of Scott or Eliezer’s stuff. Occasionally, though, he just knocks one out of the park.

      I’d point to “Against Disclaimers” as an example of this. It’s incredibly well-written and mind-blowingly useful.

    • Space Viking says:

      This is the Dream Time caused my head to explode.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I just read The Green Progression by Modesitt– I found out about it here.

    But I don’t know of a single intelligence agent of any country who was ever killed in Washington, D.C., despite what all of the movies say. On the other hand, I could not count the number of suicides. Washington will basically dry up your living, alienate you and your spouse, keep your kids from having any friends, and make sure you don’t work in your field ever again. But they won’t kill you. That’s too kind. Nobody wants that kind of hard, gritty, indirect truth in a book. It’s not suspenseful. It’s not thrilling.

    And also “The Washington Times gave The Green Progression a review that said something to the effect of “this is one of the best explorations of how politics really works that’s been written in years.”

    So I got a copy, and it was bizarrely timely. It was about a Russian plot to cripple American industry (drive companies out of the country, make production for space and the military impossible) through irrationally strict environmental regulations. The book was so timely it even had problems related to end-of-the-year scheduling.

    Modesitt is in favor of reasonable environmental regulation, but considers non-quantitativee virtue signalling to be a real hazard. For added snark, Russians start to demand irrationally strict environmental regulations from their government, though they don’t get very far.

    While I have no reason to think that particular thing is happening, I began to wonder how much of the world is the result of governments covertly messing with each other. “Given enough time, every large organization appears to be run by the agents of its enemies”. What if there’s some literal truth there?

    This also undercuts the idea that you can understand and predict a lot by looking at “national character”– I’m not going to say that national character is utter nonsense, but it might be shaded quite a bit by covert influence.

    • Jiro says:

      On the other hand, I could not count the number of suicides.

      This is argument by anecdote, and has the same problem as the Foxconn suicides: there’s a certain base suicide rate, so any large group will certainly have suicides.

    • I began to wonder how much of the world is the result of governments covertly messing with each other.

      That’s the plot of The Cool War, by Frederick Pohl.

      (A “cool war” with secret sabotage, as opposed to a “cold war” with stockpiles of weapons.)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The other thing about the cool war was that there were informal limits about how hard to push– you send the other country flu (mild-to-moderate flu), not plague.

  3. dvmaster says:

    Does anyone have any advice on books or other resources on dealing with an aging parent? I namely need to know what are the things that I need to worry about (driving, financial matters, business) and how to best approach difficult conversations and find solutions. I have found SSC discussions of mental illness very interesting, so perhaps I can find some help here.

    • paranoidfunk says:

      Here’s a book that has certainly assuaged some anxiety of mine while dealing with an aging parent, especially on the medical side of things, but it has other issues that you bring up too IIRC (e.g. financial matters): Treat Me Not My Age. A bit redundant at points, but worth it in the end.

  4. jimmy says:

    @Moon

    I found your previous comment on treating alcoholism interesting. It’d be cool if you left more comments about what, specifically, you’ve done that’s worked, since I think there are often generalizable lessons in stuff like this.

    I’m also curious about the cases where you *weren’t* able to help. What happened in those cases? What do you think made those cases different?

  5. One of the puzzles of Imperial China is the examination system. For well over a thousand years, the imperial bureaucracy was staffed mostly by people who had made it through a ferociously selective set of exams, one stage of which had a pass rate of about two percent. The exams did not test knowledge of law, or administration, or much else obviously connected with the job of an Imperial bureaucrat. They tested knowledge of the Confucian classics, calligraphy, essay writing, ability to improvise poetry. Why?

    Arguably we have the same pattern in a slightly reduced form. Getting into most good jobs requires a college degree, ideally with good grades from a top school. Large parts of what is being taught and tested consist of material irrelevant to the jobs in question.

    Explanation? Ideally for both China and America.

    • Nita says:

      Machines made of people run smoothly when the parts are high in agreeableness, conscientiousness and verbal intelligence?

      Usefulness for passing the filter: Agreeableness adjusts your aesthetic judgment to match what is considered good, and the two other traits help you memorize the facts and texts and develop the skills.

      Usefulness after passing the filter: Agreeableness adjusts your values and beliefs to match the culture of your institution or company, verbal intelligence helps you communicate, conscientiousness makes you reliable and helps you get things done.

    • Nicholas Carter says:

      Well, to start by fighting the hypothetical: Confucian classics are basically essays on the principals of good government on the meta-level, Calligraphy is an important skill when all government documents are hand-written, Essay writing is an important skill in the sense that you need to be able to discuss an idea at some length without babbling nonsense (this is actually a discrete skill from concept-knowledge).

    • Murphy says:

      Imagine a simpler set of tests for some set of positions: At a very young age parents put their children forward as candidates.

      Each year the marshmallow test is applied, all candidates who fail are eliminated. As the candidates are whittled down the timespan is increased and things the candidate wants more in the short term are used.

      After years of this are the remaining candidates less likely to go off the rails?

      Think less about who you’re selecting and think more about who you’re eliminating.

      Any candidate who doesn’t have the mental faculties for the tests: gone.

      Any candidate who tended to get frustrated and give up quickly: gone.

      Any candidate who couldn’t prioritize the long term goal of getting through the tests over short term stuff: gone.

      You’re basically eliminating the people who can’t pull themselves together enough to compete in something that takes long term work. Of course you’re also eliminating people who have other problems like sick relatives etc but the pool of candidates is large and even if you discard many good candidates it doesn’t matter as long as you still have many good candidates remaining.

      To an extent the modern university system does something similar. A lot of students who can’t do anything but turn up reeking from the night before with bloodshot eyes wash out. A lot of students who can’t cope on their own without falling apart wash out. The remainder are typically the ones who can hold themselves together reasonably well.

      Of course programs to help retain such students somewhat dilutes this. You hire someone who’s made it through the system only to find the only reason they made it through was because the school was compensating for their severe dyslexia and dyscalcula, was effectively providing a full time carer to deal with their PD and constant panic attacks and a stream of tutors to drag them through the course despite their learning disabilities and tendency to go on regular binges.

      They get their piece of paper saying they were able to cope with the course but after you take them on you find they can’t cope with anything.

      • andrewflicker says:

        @Murphy I believe you’ve just described why we still do in-person interviews, even if the resume is sterling and well-verified.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This was my experience of university – someone with a degree from a decent university is, at the least, not a complete screwup. If they’re the sort of person to show up bleary-eyed and hungover, at least they’re the sort of person to show up bleary-eyed and hungover and swing a 65% on the exam.

      • Mary says:

        It also helped those families already in the bureaucracy maintain their power because they could afford to put their sons through the lengthy education process. In Korea, the officials demands that all official documents be in Chinese characters for the same reason: only those who could afford to educate their sons could make the documents.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      In general, snobbery. For business, a bit of sales also comes into the matter.

      For the Chinese system, whatever motivations the original Emperors/Empresses who implemented it and its expansions had, along with the snobbery (and “would like to drink a beer with” impulse) of the previous members of the aristocracy. Because who wants to drink a beer with a warlord or merchant who knows nothing other than war or trading? HA HA, be serious!

      https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/octopus.html
      The Ph.D. Octopus, by William James

      Some years ago, we had at our Harvard Graduate School a very brilliant student of Philosophy, who, after leaving us and supporting himself by literary labor for three years, received an appointment to teach English Literature at a sister-institution of learning. The governors of this institution, however, had no sooner communicated the appointment than they made the awful discovery that they had enrolled upon their staff a person who was unprovided with the Ph.D. degree. The man in question had been satisfied to work at Philosophy for her own sweet (or bitter) sake, and had disdained to consider that an academic bauble should be his reward.

      To our surprise we were given to understand in reply that the quality per se of the man signified nothing in this connection, and that the three magical letters were the thing seriously required. The College had always gloried in a list of faculty members who bore the doctor’s title, and to make a gap in the galaxy, and admit a common fox without a tail, would be a degradation impossible to be thought of.

    • ChetC3 says:

      For the Chinese system, the rationale was that good character and civilized values were far more important in an official than any kind of technical ability. Administration wasn’t conceived of as a profession or a skilled trade. A bureaucrat of excellent character but low ability would be able to muddle through at worst. On the other hand, a talented but immoral bureaucrat could do no end of harm. At least, that’s my rough understanding of the justification for the exams’ curriculum in late Imperial times.

      • CatCube says:

        This reminds me of a quote from General Hershey (long-time director of the Selective Service System): “Between a fellow who is stupid and honest and one who is smart and crooked, I will take the first. I won’t get much out of him, but with that other guy I can’t keep what I’ve got.”

    • cassander says:

      The same reason the modern US foreign service test ask questions about classical history, because those things are the sorts of things that good people (read: my tribe) are supposed to know. The signalling model of education explains both perfectly well.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I think Nita’s probably mostly right, but an out-there alternate hypothesis: running the machinery of a great nation is a lot easier than we can imagine, so much so that it doesn’t really matter who does it so long as there’s an orderly process for figuring out who gets the positions and there’s general faith that the process is fair and reasonable.

      As evidence for this, note that great nations have also been successfully run by a number of other selection systems: various combinations of heredity, personal patronage, spoils-system democracy, and even sortion.

    • Levantine says:

      I would add one more facet to the puzzle of the Imperial China’s examination system. Alfie Kohn: “Using standardized test scores as a criterion for admission […..] — the disadvantages are now widely understood to swamp any benefits.'” *

      So, let me summarise:
      One puzzling thing is what they tested.
      Another puzzle is that testing results as criteria for admission ed to an often successful bureaucracy, while today’s educationists, by and large, understand that using tests as a criterion is counterproductive.
      From their perspective, the China’s case is as if somebody has been taking poison in large quantities and has also often had the best health.

      (* – Kohn in an e-mail response to me; arguments here: (https://www.amazon.com/Case-Against-Standardized-Testing-Raising/dp/0325003254))

      Let me respond to a comment bellow: “running the machinery of a great nation is a lot easier than we can imagine” (-Eric Rall)
      Perhaps. It’s hard to take it at face value as true, when the word bureaucracy has an embedded negative meaning: 3. “An administrative system in which the need or inclination to follow rigid or complex procedures impedes effective action:” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/bureaucracy)
      Just the other day, Bill Mitchell (http://www.spreaker.com/user/mitchellvii#) said that running a state administration is very difficult, that’s why it’s so rarely done well”. So, saying it’s true doesn’t lead to anything, other people think the truth is the opposite.

      And, yes, perhaps Kohn & et al. are twits, or are bad at interpreting statistical evidence. I don’t know.

  6. tesidk says:

    Could you write a post on this article in the context of #fakenews and bad academic journalism + bad academic practices that oversell results by using loud language? http://www.vox.com/identities/2017/1/4/14160956/trump-racism-sexism-economy-study

    Here’s my brief evaluation that I admit might be inaccurate as I didn’t sink too much time into this:

    I decided to dig down the rabbit hole to see what the methodology is like. The authors title their paper “Explaining White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism.” The way they measure racism is by aggregating people’s agreement with 3 statements:

    1. White people in the U.S. have certain advantages because of the color of their skin.
    2. Racial problems in the U.S. are rare, isolated situations.
    3. I am angry that racism exists.

    The first two questions are not so much about one professing racist beliefs, but rather professing beliefs about racism — a test of ignorance, if you will. The third one is a test of how angry racism makes you. The Vox writer gets that, and links to a different study, stating that the positions on these statements correlate with positions on straight-up “I don’t like X people”-type questions, the ones that presumably measure racism directly. Now, pretty much everything correlates with everything to some extent, the question is in the magnitude, so I read the study, and it looks like the correlations are 0.2-0.4 — on a 0 to 1 scale. Weak to moderate correlation, basically.

    And so here we have a story about responses about beliefs, that weakly to moderately correlate with responses about actual racism, explaining more of Trump support than questions about economic dissatisfaction do being spun as “Racism predicts support for Trump much more than economic dissatisfaction.” I trust no one

    • Iain says:

      This doesn’t seem particularly unreasonable. First: as the article points out, it is hard to measure racism directly, because people generally do not self-identify as racist. “I don’t like X people” questions do not measure racism directly; they measure a combination of racism and willingness to be open about racism to a pollster. It is not prima facie obvious that asking people the question directly is a better measure of racism than the indirect approach.

      Second, even if the correlation is imperfect, most of the rest of the article still stands if you replace “racism” with “beliefs about racism”. It is still noteworthy that beliefs about racism are more predictive than economic dissatisfaction. It is still relevant that this is a novel phenomenon, and did not apply to McCain or Romney. The conclusion, about reaching out to people non-confrontationally instead of just yelling at them, seems much more in line with the SSC zeitgeist than you might expect from a Vox article.

      There might be a good case to be made against this article, but you haven’t made it yet.

      • tesidk says:

        Agreed that there might be no better way to measure racism! My main gripe is that instead of presenting this is as being about “beliefs about racism, which weakly to moderately correlate with actual racism” it’s presented as being simply about “racism,” which seems unnecessarily (so easy to be more precise here) inaccurate. The rest of the article should still stand with this correction (though maybe this change would imply that the goal shouldn’t be just a simple conversation but perhaps a more fundamental educational effort that highlights the advantages/disadvantages of various demographics in the US, since the answers to the two of the questions in the study could just signal ignorance as opposed to/in addition to lack of empathy).

        • Iain says:

          It’s “beliefs about racism, which weakly to moderately correlate with professed racism and are the best tool we know of for measuring actual racism…”. And it provides the links for you to go look up the necessary information.

          This is, at worst, an editorial decision you disagree with. In no way does it sink to “#fakenews and bad academic journalism + bad academic practices”, which was your original description.

          • quanta413 says:

            “beliefs about racism, which weakly to moderately correlate with professed racism and are the best tool we know of for measuring actual racism…”

            This claim is wrong. We have much better ways of measuring racism. For most of the 20th century, all you had to do was look at the actual law to measure racism. You can also measure racism by doing comparisons between fictional otherwise identical black and white applicants to jobs or similar studies. People do this all the time. To claim that using a question that correlates with professed racism in surveys is the best way to measure racism boggles the mind. Even with all its caveats and problems, disparate impact analysis is a better measure of racism.

            And if your proof that an indirect question is a measure of racism is that it correlates with professed racism, the correct thing to do is just ask and see if people profess racism. Using a weak correlate instead of the actual thing is pointlessly weakening your ability to measure things.

            But honestly this is even worse than that, it’s pretty clear you could cook up a survey and correlate the odds that someone would vote for hillary with beliefs correlated with communist beliefs or some other crazy shit. But that doesn’t actually mean anything. Just spitballing an idea that I’m pretty sure you could get to work, belief that the rich should be taxed more is correlated with belief in the violet overthrow of the government by the proletariat, and belief that the rich should be taxed more is correlated with voting for hillary. Therefore Hillary supporters are Marxists and ____!

            But most of the media would never have taken a study like that seriously even though it’s basically identically terrible.

            doublet edit: made a stupid mistake. Also, I’m not saying it’s not true that racists are more likely to be trump voters. It’s just not very interesting.

          • tesidk says:

            I agree with you that my mention of #fakenews probably wasn’t helpful here, especially given my goal! And I might even agree with “beliefs about racism, which weakly to moderately correlate with professed racism and are the best tool we know of for measuring actual racism…” (only concern about “best tool”). I also agree that substituting the quotation above with “racism” as Vox/the paper did is an editorial decision (for Vox at least), but at the same time it also seems to be bad academic journalism/practice, as we can agree (I think) that those two quotations (“racism” and the long, qualified one) carry substantively different meanings.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            I think that stereotyping (where racism is just a subtype of that) is a core feature of the human mind (essentially, abstract thinking = stereotyping).

            The logical consequence is that we can never really ‘fix’ people in this regard. I think that this conclusion is too unpleasant for many people to accept, so they start to come up with weird definitions, measurements, etc that show that some people have no -ism in them, so then other people can be ‘fixed’ as well. Which is an illusion.

            Of course, it is possible to teach people to not consciously apply their stereotypes to individuals and correct various false beliefs, which seems worthwhile.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Aapje

            I agree that fixing the general behavior of stereotyping is probably not possible. But I think it’s vaguely imaginable it could run along different lines than skin color if the world changed a lot; I’m not sure what the change would have to be but probably something that drastically increased intermarriage and caused people to be segregated along some other lines. I don’t think anyone could intentionally make it happen, but I could see it happening sort of by accident.

            Also agreed that it’s good to teach people to overcome their own reflexive biases.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            I agree that sexual mixing is probably the best bet, because it disrupts the binary by creating much more of a spectrum of skin colors, but also (and perhaps most importantly) because it disrupts race bubbles.

            However, there is a chicken and egg situation here, people are less likely to date people outside their bubble, so how do you get people to sexually mix?

            Perhaps the best way would be to engineer a situation where young people are ‘forced’ together regardless of their bubble (so they don’t get to self-select).

            However, there is still the issue that people seem to be increasingly rational about their mating choices, which has many benefits, but also means that they strongly favor marrying similar people (same social class, same values, same goals, same subculture, etc) because they correctly predict that this makes their life more pleasant.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Aapje,

            I’m sure you’re aware of this on some level, but you do know there’s a lot of really bad implications when you start talking about forcing white women to have sex with minorities? Or vice versa really.

            In general force just doesn’t go terribly well with sex. At least not without a safe-word and a fair bit of prior negotiation.

            Anyway yeah, this is the sort of language that makes me very leery of “in the future everyone will be one shade of brown!” rhetoric. There’s this implicit (or in cases like this, explicit) understanding that interracial mating is something which must happen for the greater good. Even if the women and communities involved want no part in it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Dr Dealgood
            For some reason, Aapje’s suggestion brought to mind not force but rather a series of organized mixers where participants were chosen by pulchritude and race… e.g. you’d have the attractive black men, attractive white women, and significantly less attractive white men and black women at the same event, with other events with different groupings. The idea being to use sorting-by-beauty to overcome sorting-by-race.

            Not sure who would set up such events, though. Perhaps it could be arranged at some of the more progressive universities, if you could come up with a suitable euphemism for “pulchritude”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            “Don’t mind me, I’m just a government pulchritude inspector, here to take a look at your pulchrits. My mobile pulchrometer says you’re in the 5 MP range, which translated from metric is about a 7, but I’m getting a lot of background noise. Please report to the State Ministry for Sexual Attractiveness Sorting within the next two weeks so we can perform detailed tests using the big machine. Sorry for the inconvenience, but social stability demands it.”

            He returns home and slams three double scotches. He hasn’t touched either his wife or his husband in weeks. God. And here he thought this was a good career. He should have just moved to Ancapistan like he wanted to, but three out of four of his parents said he should go for stability. If he had the chance to do it all over… He should have listened to Legally Determined Parent Three. Xe knew what xe was talking about.

            He pours another double scotch. He knows he’s going to get yelled at. Nothing for it. Maybe he can still run away and join a private security firm? He remembers the recruiting ad: BE A PERSON. ENFORCE THE NAP.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            10/10 would read your dark comedic dystopian future fiction again.

          • Aapje says:

            Nybbler is correct, I was referring to taking away the ability for people to self-select with whom they interact a bit & temporarily*, where the assumption is that they will then date/mate with people outside of their bubble voluntarily more readily.

            I was not referring to forcing anyone to have sex and it is true that similar attempts to mix people have been…bad (lebensborn, taking aboriginal and native American children away from their parents, etc).

            Nybbler’s idea is not too bad actually, although I don’t see it disrupting the class divide so much.

            * We do this already and call it ‘school’

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413: I find myself amused by the idea of a world where all the stuff that mostly exists on the internet is real. Not that I’d want to live there.

            @The Nybbler/Dr Dealgood:

            Isn’t this already happening, to some extent? I would wager that there are differences in how integrated by ethnicity different class groups are already, and it’s going to increase. This is entirely based on anecdata, but: The mostly-affluent kids I knew in university seemed to mix by ethnicity waaay more than I see in, say, the working-class neighbourhood I have an apartment in, which is not segregated, but pretty much sorted by block or street.

            The better-off someone is, the more likely they are to travel, to end up living somewhere other than where they grew up, etc. Elite educational institutions tend to attract people from all over the world, and they mostly tend to be affluent. University already reduces people’s ability to self-segregate – you don’t get to pick your roommate, etc. A highly plausible future, I think, is one where there’s a highly ethnically and nationally mixed international elite, looking down upon the far more segregated and nationalistic working and lower classes.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            Yes, there’s a lot of mixing; we’re not living in Richard Spencer’s dystopia. But not enough, I think, to break up the clusters. Particularly not between black people and white people.

          • nyccine says:

            @dndnrsn:

            That doesn’t even come close to describing reality in the US. You will not find a more racially-segregated neighborhood than the ones elites live in; we’re talking in excess of 99.5% white/Jewish. It’s even become a running gag for right-wing trolls; whenever a media personality starts delivering platitudes about how “diversity is our greatest strength,” or chastising right-wingers about how racisty-racist they are, to look up where that person lives, and show how their neighborhood is so segregated it makes Jim Crow south look like a Benetton ad (this is always the case).

            The rationalist community could do with a whole lot less of this “I’ll just reason from first principles (that I haven’t attempted to verify the accuracy of) and that’s the argument.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            @nyccine

            Many elite neighborhoods are now white and Asian, take Alpine, NJ (the country’s most expensive zip code) for an example, about 25% Asian. I assume for the purposes of this discussion Asians don’t count as white. But dndnrsn was talking about elite universities, and e.g. Harvard is not only 22% Asian but 14% black.

          • quanta413 says:

            Elite educational institutions tend to attract people from all over the world, and they mostly tend to be affluent. University already reduces people’s ability to self-segregate – you don’t get to pick your roommate, etc. A highly plausible future, I think, is one where there’s a highly ethnically and nationally mixed international elite, looking down upon the far more segregated and nationalistic working and lower classes.

            Although this is mostly true, I’d point out a couple exceptions. Every university I’ve been at or visited seemed to have relatively low mixing between African-American students and other students. My impression of UCLA from a graduation there was that there are problably as many Nigerian or Nigerian-Americans as there are descendants of slaves. This suggests to me that de facto segregation is still really strong for various reasons.

            I’d also point out that in a lot of ways college’s mixing is highly unusual, and it doesn’t persist afterwards. I guess Asians and Caucasians are arguably well integrated among the elite, but their intermarriage rate is still obviously much lower than would be expected from random sorting.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler:

            Among the less well-off; certainly, but my experiences in university lead me to believe that the elite will have more mixing of ethnicities and cultures than the working and lower classes. In my working-class neighbourhood, the Italians and the Portuguese are still sharply separated, for the most part.

            @nyccine:

            I’m aware of the whole “Tim Wise lives somewhere lily-white” deal. I’m talking, however, of the young people I went to school with, some of whom are going to be the elites of the future. As The Nybbler points out, you will find East and to a lesser extent South Asians living in high-end zip codes, and overrepresented in top universities.

            I also have no idea how I am reasoning from first principles; I clearly stated it was anecdata, unless of course those years I spent in university were all a booze-driven hallucination (entirely possible). I also said “international” at least once, and I’m not an American. The “knowledge workers living in London and jetting to the continent who do stuff for think tanks” people that I know – self-evidently part of the elite, top 1% or higher in income and education – are by and large a mix of white, East Asian, South Asian, with the odd Nigerian.

            @quanta413: I would guess – I’m not sure, as my alma mater has only recently announced plans to publish demographic stats – that black students are underrepresented relative to the city, but maybe not to the country at large. However, Canada has a far lower % of black people than the US does – the major visible minorities here are East Asians (vast majority Chinese or of Chinese background) and South Asians, each at probably something like 5% or so of the population. Black people are around 3%. Maybe a little bit higher, as I’m going by 2011 stats.

            You are right that there are a lot of Nigerians. A majority of black people I know from university are Nigerian or of Nigerian background. The demographics of black Canadians are quite different from black Americans in any case – we never had plantation slavery, which made a big difference – although most black Canadians are from or are descendants of people brought to the Caribbean as slaves (Wikipedia says 30% have Jamaican heritage and 32% somewhere else in the Caribbean, 2011 stats again). However, I met only one person from the Caribbean in university, and he was a foreign student.

          • Aapje says:

            There appear to be major ethnic differences in willingness to date other ethnicities. That is a factor that you also have to keep in mind.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There is also the possibility that Canada is more different from the United States than I thought, and I failed to take this sufficiently into account. We get enough of our news, our entertainment media, etc from the US that we screw this up a lot. Eagleland Osmosis dialed up to 11.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The mostly-affluent kids I knew in university seemed to mix by ethnicity waaay more than I see in, say, the working-class neighbourhood I have an apartment in, which is not segregated, but pretty much sorted by block or street.

            Anecdata: when I lived in a poorer, rural area, I saw far more casual race mixing and interracial relationships than when I lived in wealthy, urban areas. Perhaps it’s an urban-rural thing, not a class thing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Another difference between the US and Canada I did not consider is that visible minorities (which, I have just discovered, is a distinctively Canadian term) live relatively far more in cities than in the US. Example: in the US, a quick Google indicates that 75% of black people live in cities – in Canada in 2011, 97%.

            Canada has a different pattern of urbanization than the US – while 80% of both countries’ populations live in urban areas, about 10% of the American population lives in the three largest urban areas, versus about a third of Canadians. Imagine if 110 million or so lived in the New York, LA, and Chicago urban areas.

          • The obvious way to get race mixing is to have a situation where the characteristics of the two races are similar enough so that race isn’t a major factor in mate choice. My impression is that that is currently happening between Americans of European descent and Americans of East Asian descent. A good deal of it has already happened between Ashkenazi and non-Jewish Americans of European descent, if you count those as racial differences.

          • John Schilling says:

            My mobile pulchrometer says you’re in the 5 MP range

            MP? Everybody knows the SI unit of pulchritude is the mH, or milliHelen. The BIPM keeps a Standard Helen in their vault in Paris for calibration.

            There is also, just to confuse things, the Troy milliHelen. Comes to 1.186 SI milliHelens,

          • dndnrsn says:

            Come on, the Helen is an obsolete unit. We’re not dealing with boats or ancient heroes.

    • Deiseach says:

      1. White people in the U.S. have certain advantages because of the color of their skin.
      2. Racial problems in the U.S. are rare, isolated situations.
      3. I am angry that racism exists.

      How do they expect honest answers to these? Anybody who has had the mildest exposure to “diversity training” will know that, regardless of your actual opinion, you need to answer as follows (especially if you are white):

      1. Yes of course they do! White privilege! Unpack that knapsack!
      2. Not at all – POC are constantly harassed and subjected to everything from unwarranted police surveillance to microaggressions! Racial problems are common and all too many everyday occurrences for non-white people!
      3. Extremely, very, intensely angry! It is all I think about!

      Someone who answers those honestly or at least not in the approved manner will be at risk of being called a racist, as we see from the story.

      • Jiro says:

        #1 is phrased such that even people who answer against the narrative will be taken to be answering in agreement with the narrative, since it doesn’t ask how many advantages or whether they are counterbalanced by other advantages for non-whites.

        • Matt M says:

          I was thinking this as well. No matter how you answer #1, it can be interpreted as you being a racist.

          A no answer is denying racism exists (which only a racist would do) while a yes answer is advocating white supremacy.

      • BBA says:

        Well, that’s the thing: according to the modern narrative, being unfamiliar with the narrative or disagreeing with the narrative itself constitutes racism, and there’s a straight line from that to David Duke.

        I mostly agree with the narrative, and yet I find it constricting that I have no standing to challenge the parts of it that I believe are wrong, because believing parts of the narrative are wrong just makes me racist. I keep this to myself, of course. Unified front, solidarity and all that.

      • If I correctly understand the discussion, not having read the article, the logic is:

        A correlates with B
        A correlates with C
        Therefor B correlates with C

        Here A is certain answers to the questions asked, B is being racist, C is supporting Trump.

        If that is it, it’s wrong. For all we know, half the people who give those answers are racists and the other half voted for Trump.

    • Well... says:

      “Actual racism”

      This concept has been a head-scratcher for me for years now. The existence of the phrase “actual racism” suggests there is also “false racism” or “not-actual racism.” Who is an authority on what is actual racism and what is false racism? Certainly not any journalist.

      I ought to start compiling a list, complete with citations, of things that journalists have called racist, and then order the list by severity. Except then I would have to read more (any?) journalism, which I refuse to do. Maybe someone else can do this instead. Any takers?

      PS. Chuckling to myself now over the phrase “actual journalism”.

      • hlynkacg says:

        This concept [Actual racism] has been a head-scratcher for me for years now.

        Here’s the thing, racism as “a special kind of evil” that must eliminated is incompatible with the modern “dog whistle” conception racism. As such there is a need to distinguish the old fashioned bigots like the KKK form the casual sort of “racism” that everyone engages in every day.

        A similar thing has happened with sexual encounters. Some people are assaulted and have their clothes ripped off before being forcibly penetrated and others have otherwise consensual sex that they did not explicitly agree to before hand but both are examples of “rape” in the modern lexicon.

        • Well... says:

          But racism as a special kind of evil is still a very poor definition. OK, I get that “wanting all members of race X shot and tossed into an open pit for no reason other than an inexplicable hatred of race X” probably counts as a special kind of evil, but there’s undoubtedly a lot of stuff closer to the boundary that people might agree or disagree on.

          And “dog whistle” begs the question. What is the secret signal? Whenever a white person complains about inner-city crime is he secretly signaling that he wants black people shot and tossed in pits?

          And what’s this distinction about modern racism being dog whistling? Just this morning I saw something about four black guys who kidnapped a white guy and bound and tortured him while yelling anti-white slurs at him. One of them live-streamed it to Facebook. I might have the details wrong, but stuff like that definitely goes on…that is definitely not dog whistling.

          People in the KKK don’t live under rocks. They have internet connections and TVs, and their culture moves right along with everyone else’s. If there’s a kind of racism “that everyone engages in every day” the thing that distinguishes it from the racism of the KKK is surely not old-fashionedness.

          TL;DR: you’re begging the question.

          • hlynkacg says:

            There is no secret signal. That’s the point. It’s all just words, words, words.

            What I’m saying is; When you define “Racist” so broadly that otherwise innocuous statements (aka dog-whistles) can be used as proof that someone is literally horse than Hitler. You create the need to distinguish “racism” the largely meaningless slur we use to bludgeon our political opponents from “racism” that thing that neo-nazis and the black-panthers do. Personally I prefer the term “bigotry” to “actual racism” but YMMV.

            In either case you should read the link because Scott already covered this more eloquently and in more exhaustive detail than I ever could.

          • Well... says:

            [Edit: I typed this back when your reply above just said “Can you even define racism?”]

            Like anyone else, I could define racism for myself and stick to that definition consistently, but I would have to reproduce my definition every time I talked to other people because I can’t count on them sharing my definition—and they’d likely disagree with me on or at least nitpick some part of it.

            In practice racism gets used to describe a wide range of attitudes and behaviors from very severe to very banal, yet the seriousness of the charge of racism does not vary much. In that sense it’s a bit like being a registered sex offender (you could either be a violent serial rapist of 6 year-olds, or you could have once gone on a date with a 17.5 year-old whose parents didn’t like you), only more so because the range in severity of possible racism infractions is much wider.

            How would you define a registered sex offender? There’s a technical definition and a practical one. Same for racism, only instead of a technical definition you just have kind of an easy default one: hatred of another race. But it’s also unfalsifiable.

          • Well... says:

            Responding now to your edited comment:

            A dog whistle is when I say something that sounds innocuous but is intended to send a hidden message to a specific set of people. I think you’re confusing that for innocent misstatements or something.

            I’m not so sure most people realize that racism is a meaningless slur we use to bludgeon our political opponents. If that’s true, I don’t see evidence of it; racism is still a powerful accusation, and gets you treated as if you’re a neo-Nazi.

            “Bigotry” as I understand it is a kind of unwillingness to even think about other people’s perspectives. My working definition is, bigotry is the opposite of the belief that intelligent people can disagree about important things.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Sorry about that, I pulled the trigger on a one-line snarky response and then thought better of it.

          • Well... says:

            I caught the snark but also thought it contained a valid question, so I responded to it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            To give a proper reply…

            There is an obvious tension between racism being a “wide range of attitudes and behaviors from very severe to very banal” and the idea that charges of racism are something that should taken seriously/carry serious social consequences, that our host has already expounded upon at length.

            The use of the term “Actual Racism” is a workaround for this, and accusations of “dog whistling” are an attempt to work around the workaround.

          • Well... says:

            But you’re still begging the question.

            I agree, a charge of racism should carry serious consequences. In the same way, I believe that pathogens should be attacked and destroyed by my immune system. But if my immune system starts attacking and destroying any old thing–such as the food I’m trying to eat, or my own healthy tissue–then I have a serious allergy.

            Our cultural immune system has a very bad case of allergies. Lupus even.

          • Well... says:

            Now that my comments are showing up again…

            I caught the snark but thought “can you even define racism?” was still essentially a valid question.

            In your latest reply you are still begging the question. Of course charges of racism should be taken seriously—so long as we assume “racism” describes serious transgressions. But in reality those transgressions and their relationship to racism is still undefined. “Actual racism” is another way of saying “I don’t need to define the transgressions, you know which ones I mean.”

            I wrote once on my blog about how political correctness (e.g. calling too many things racist) is really a sort of malfunctioning in our cultural immune system. It’s useful to have a way to mark people who are dangerous and should be avoided/disregarded, but when it gets overused to the extent racism and other victimhood notions have, you wind up with a kind of cultural lupus.

          • Well... says:

            Man, I typed out like four replies and none showed up. Then one did, I went to edit it, and it disappeared! We’ll pick this up another time.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Well…

            Mind the unmentionable words. None of these terms are allowed: http://pastebin.com/v9QUUb0U

            I would really like for Scott to just a post a full list of banned terms someplace, so we don’t have to gather these up by trial and error.

        • Brad says:

          @hlynkacg
          I don’t think you have much credibility on this issue given that you’ve made it quite clear in your past posting that you have little problem with lynching black people and burning crosses on their lawns.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Jeez, I’ve seen a fair bit of ad hominem on here but this is a new low…

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            What I said was “a lynch mob is democracy in it’s purest form” in response to the claim that something being popular or “the will of the people” made it morally acceptable.

            “Pure Democracy” is just a fancy term for “mob rule”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:

            Given what hlynkacg is saying here, and based on previous interactions I have had with him, I think you either have misunderstood and/or mis-remembered something, or you are engaging in a form of assertion that is highly deleterious to conversation and also is just plain wrong.

            There have been commenters here who probably would have said such a thing, but they usually don’t stick around. But this is a pretty specific charge against a specific poster with a fair amount of history. You should be able to back that up if you are going to make it.

            Can you link to what you are referencing or at least indicate in what way your remembrance of what hlynkacg said differs from what he is saying here?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            I assume you are referring to:

            You made it quite clear in our previous encounters that you view Trump’s supporters as an existential threat and that you feel little compunction about using violence to achieve political goals.

            Am I correct in that?

            Scenario 1: hlynkcg is completely mis-characterizing you, but is doing so unintentionally.

            Scenario 2: hlynkacg is bald-faced lieing or intentionally twisting something you said earlier.

            In neither of those scenarios is it ok to engage in your own version of scenario 2, if you are doing so. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

            As it so happens, I disagree with his line of his reasoning in that thread, because you clearly don’t think we are living in an anarchy, but that doesn’t affect this thread.

          • Deiseach says:

            What I said was “a lynch mob is democracy in it’s purest form”

            If that is what Brad has in mind, then hlynkacg is correct: this is precisely why people in the past were opposed to “democracy” or used it as a pejorative, since it was “rule by the mob”, the demos or common people, and it did carry connotations of “mob mentality” such as lynch mobs put into action: people carried away by their passions and reacting out of strong emotion, rather than being rational thinkers educated and trained to be impartial and to rule.

            Saying this in the context of a political argument does not imply “I think lynch mobs are cool!”

          • hlynkacg says:

            FWIW worth that comment probably crossed the line, there are less acerbic ways I could have phrased it and for that I apologize.

            That said, I still think that the core assertion/reasoning is sound.

          • Brad says:

            @hlynkacg
            Then you should have no problem providing what HBC demanded of me — links. Or you can drop this miss manners charade and admit that you are a despicable liar.

            Where have I advocated political violence? Where have I called anyone or anything an existential threat?

            @HBC
            As you declined to take my suggestion, so to I decline to take up yours.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:

            Where have I advocated political violence? Where have I called anyone or anything an existential threat?

            I’m fully in support of these questions being asked, and I think hlynkacg should answer them. He seems engaged here now, and I hope he will do so, either here or over there.

            That still doesn’t make two wrongs into a right.

            Seriously, I’m all for calling people on their bullshit. But I try to make it a goal not to sling bullshit in response.

            If I had noticed the comment over there, I might have called it out. But you make it really hard to do so now when you seem to taking a tit-for-tat strategy, especially when we are (I think) talking about claims which are, in fact, baseless.

            If your claims are baseless you should retract them regardless of what he does. You aren’t (just) harming him, but yourself and SSC as a whole.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Was that claim, that Brad advocates violence, specifically against Trump supporters, baseless? I don’t know what you mean by over the line.

            If it was baseless, it’s more than just a minor transgression, a mere toe over the line. Characterizing it as merely “over the line” is to let yourself off far to easy. You should “put up or shut up”, so to speak.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HBC

            Crossed a line in the sense that there was a less acerbic and antagonistic way I could have handled that but I did not. That was shitty on my part.

            For example:
            Brad,
            Over the years that we have both been commenting on this blog you have steadfastly defended the notions that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and that the “will of the people” trumps any individual claims of sovereignty.

            Prior to the election (I don’t have a link immediately handy but I’m pretty sure it was in one of the OTs more than 2 months ago but less than 6) you expressed the belief that “Trumpism” posed an existential threat to your life and the Union. and that the country would be better of were they to be removed from the gene pool. In the immediate aftermath of the election I recall you talking about blood being on Trump voters’ hands.

            Finally, in our discussions of the urban/rural divide you have expressed the opinion that you find the fact that rural dwellers receive disproportionate representation to be highly objectionable. The wealth and population, as you say, is concentrated in the cities. and so too should political power. That is to say more so than it is already.

            So given the above, and given that we live in anarchy…

            Why aren’t you taking direct action to eliminate the perceived threat and make your political vision a reality? Stop using bullets as metaphors and go buy a gun

            On one hand, I’m kind of glad that SSC lacks a proper comment log/search function, as I generally loathe “gotcha games”. On the other there have been a lot of threads in the last year and sifting through them individually is turning out to be way more work than I expected, especially when I’m doing it from my phone. Sorry but hadn’t really planned on saving a list of links to all the comments that annoyed me or might prove strategically/rhetorically useful in some future argument.

            If brad disagrees with any of the characterizations above I encourage him too say so.

          • Brad says:

            Brad,
            Over the years that we have both been commenting on this blog you have steadfastly defended the notions that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and that the “will of the people” trumps any individual claims of sovereignty.

            Like almost everyone on the planet I’m not an anarco-capitalist. I believe in liberal democracy not “individual sovereignty.” Even on SSC that doesn’t make me an outlier.

            Prior to the election (I don’t have a link immediately handy but I’m pretty sure it was in one of the OTs more than 2 months ago but less than 6) you expressed the belief that “Trumpism” posed an existential threat to your life and the Union.

            I claimed that Trump, not “Trumpism”, had the potential to do crazy things that could leave the United States in a much worse position. Things that could in turn lead to a military coup and destroy our democracy. I don’t recall ever claiming my own life was in danger but it is possible.

            Scott has made claims not all that dissimilar. Heck he makes it in the next thread from this one in his predictions.

            and that the country would be better of were they to be removed from the gene pool.

            I deny this. Yudkowsky speculated about making a virus to modify Trump supporters, maybe that’s what you are thinking of.

            In the immediate aftermath of the election I recall you talking about blood being on Trump voters’ hands.

            Yep, that’s true. Which makes no sense at all if I’m the bloodthirsty advocate for political violence you make me out to be.

            Finally, in our discussions of the urban/rural divide you have expressed the opinion that you find the fact that rural dwellers receive disproportionate representation to be highly objectionable. The wealth and population, as you say, is concentrated in the cities. and so too should political power. That is to say more so than it is already.

            All true. Nothing at all to do with political violence or existential threats. I don’t even know why this paragraph is in here except that it is your hobby horse.

            So given the above, and given that we live in anarchy…

            I don’t think we are living in an anarchy.

            You made this claim:
            “A law that is not uniformly enforced is effectively not a law.”
            which is absolutely ridiculous. No law is or ever has been uniformly enforced. Hence my retort “Then we have not even a single law and are living in an anarchist paradise.”

            I.e. if we accept your premise then if must mean X. But not X, therefore we should reject your premise.

            It’s a fairly common rhetorical technique, and the second half is often left off. I’m surprised you didn’t recognize it.

            Why aren’t you taking direct action to eliminate the perceived threat and make your political vision a reality? Stop using bullets as metaphors and go buy a gun

            Where have I advocated political violence? Where have I used bullets as metaphor?

            Even your claim that I said we’d be better off if certain were “removed from the gene pool”, which I reject, doesn’t nearly get you to ” feel little compunction about using violence to achieve political goals.” Nothing else you wrote comes even close.

            Your claim about me and my posting history was an outright lie.

            —-

            @HBC

            If I had noticed the comment over there, I might have called it out.

            But you didn’t, nor did anyone else, and so here we are.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Like almost everyone on the planet I’m not an anarco-capitalist.

            I’m not an anarco-capitalist either, that doesn’t mean I but into utilitarianism or “liberal democracy”.

            If you are not prepared to concede that there are circumstances under which individual sovereignty supersedes democracy I stand by my characterization.

            No law is or ever has been uniformly enforced.

            This is an absurd claim. If not, please provide recent examples (within the last century) of someone in the US who unlawfully killed one or more people where this act known to both to law enforcement and the wider public without being investigated or prosecuted.

            Assuming you do find one, it will almost certainly be a case of white on black crime fro the Jim Crow era which only serves to illustrate my earlier point, about irregular enforcement being equal to or worse than no enforcement.

            Otherwise you need to concede there are at least some laws (laws against murder for instance) that are enforced with sufficient uniformity to be effective. The fact that you say we don’t live in anarchy implies that you already know that this is the case.

          • Brad says:

            If you are not prepared to concede that there are circumstances under which individual sovereignty supersedes democracy I stand by my characterization.

            I don’t need to meet a litmus test of your choosing.

            Here are again was your claim.

            You made it quite clear in our previous encounters that you view Trump’s supporters as an existential threat and that you feel little compunction about using violence to achieve political goals.

            You have utterly failed to demonstrate that it is true. No one should take anything you say at face value, because all conversation requires trust and it is clear you deserve none.

            I will point this out frequently on your posts from here forward.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Banned, to be revoked in the unlikely case you can present to me, by email or some other method, evidence that h has said that

  7. Acedia says:

    Canadians who live near busy roads found to have higher rates of dementia than those who don’t.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38506735

    • The large sample size, and the exposure-response data (the closer to the road, the more dementia) is admittedly persuasive. But there are potential issues.

      Poverty is probably a confounder here. Properties located close to heavy traffic are downvalued, hence, occupied by systematically poorer households.

      I think (from local, Ann Arbor, Michigan experience, probably not too different from Ontario) that this price differential has increased in the last generation, as has, of course, the volume of traffic on major streets. People of higher socioeconomic status have become less tolerant of living near traffic noise and risks.

      Another question is how closeness to a “major road” (presumably of residence) was determined. The study followed people for 11 years. Presumably many of the study subjects moved during that time (in the US, about 20% of the population moves in a year).

      What if someone spent five years right next to the 401, moved, and spent six years away from major roads. Were they counted in the at-risk group or not? What if it was ten years in the zone, and one year away? The quoted statistics seem to be premised on everyone staying put, or only counting those who stayed in one spot next to the road. I would guess that more affluent people would tend to move away from major roads, while less affluent ones, with fewer options, stayed put.

      If exposure to heavy traffic has some role in causing dementia, we should expect to see the same effect in people who spend a disproportionate amount of time IN traffic, such as truck and bus drivers.

      Or maybe the effect is not because of air pollution, or any kind of ordinary daytime exposure, but rather, something like the impact of traffic noise on sleep. In that case, the effect should show up in other people who sleep in noisy environments. Here again, though, the more external noise people are forced to endure while sleeping, the poorer they probably are, with higher dementia risk for other reasons.

      Another thought: if someone living next to an expressway is old enough to have dementia, their experience in breathing disproportionately polluted air goes back to the leaded-gasoline era. So perhaps the group most at risk would be those who lived next to traffic arteries in the 1980s or earlier.

      • Well... says:

        Poor people move a lot more than the average person too.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @Larry. I am very impressed at the number of different issues you came up with. What this basically shows is that this study proves nothing, but could be very valuable if used as a springboard to other studies.

        Of course the one thing you didn’t bring up is the single study issue. I consider it extremely unlikely that one study should be considered conclusive about anything. Even if it appears on the face of it to be a perfect study that considers all variables (does such a study exist?), there are bound to be issues that you haven’t considered or simply don’t know about. Replication is everything.

      • Well... says:

        Another thought: if someone living next to an expressway is old enough to have dementia, their experience in breathing disproportionately polluted air goes back to the leaded-gasoline era. So perhaps the group most at risk would be those who lived next to traffic arteries in the 1980s or earlier.

        But then why no association with Parkinson’s?

    • dndnrsn says:

      It doesn’t state whether they controlled for one thing I thought of immediately – aren’t old folks’ homes usually positioned in fairly accessible urban areas, for ease of transporting people, getting to hospitals quickly, making visits more feasible, etc?

      • Well... says:

        Good thinking, but Parkinson’s was not associated with proximity to major roadways, and Parkinson’s is kind of a proxy for old age too isn’t it?

  8. Philosophisticat says:

    The philosopher Derek Parfit died a couple of days ago. I think his book Reasons and Persons is a masterpiece, and I thought I’d share a couple of puzzles from his work, simplified.

    Puzzle One:

    Suppose that Clive is a person with a conveniently symmetrical brain – all his memories, thoughts, and other mental processes are encoded in both halves. Clive is kidnapped by a mad scientist, who drugs Clive and then splits him in two with a laser. Then he creates a molecule for molecule duplicate of Clive’s left half and attached it to Clive’s right half, and a molecule for molecule duplicate of Clive’s right half and attaches it to Clive’s left half. All this is done very fast, between heartbeats. Two very Clive-like people wake up, Lefty (who has Clive’s original left half) and Righty (who has Clive’s right half), and move to Australia and Nevada respectively. The question is, where is Clive?

    a) Clive no longer exists – the experiment has destroyed him
    b) Clive is Lefty
    c) Clive is Righty
    d) Clive is Lefty and also Clive is Righty
    e) Clive is a peculiar being with four arms and four legs, part of whom now lives in Australia and part of whom now lives in Nevada.
    f) Something else?

    Puzzle Two:

    One thing it seems like we have reason to do is make the world a better place. And how good the world is presumably has something to do with how happy people are. But how does peoples’ happiness determine how good a world is?

    Given two potential outcomes A and B

    a) We have reason (of the making-a-world-better-w.r.t.-happiness sort) to choose A over B, if there is more total happiness in A than B
    b) We have reason to choose A over B, if there is a higher average happiness in A than B
    c) We have reason to choose A over B, if the people who will exist regardless of what we do will have a higher total/average (this is equivalent) happiness in A than B.
    d) Something else?

    • paranoidfunk says:

      To hijack this comment: there was a short thread on Parfit at r/slatestarcodex this week

    • Nita says:

      Puzzle One:
      d’) Lefty and Righty are Clives — there used to be one Clive, but now there’s two. So, there’s a Clive in Australia, and another one in Nevada.

      Puzzle Two:
      d) Happiness — which in itself can be a number of different things depending on how you define it — is not the only thing that matters.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        – We don’t typically think of proper names as working like that. Barack Obama isn’t just a Barack Obama, in the way he is a human being. Names are individual labels. To approach it another way, when we ask “which one is Clive?”, another way of putting it is “which one is the same individual as the child Clive’s mother held in her arms, that is in all his photos on facebook, etc?” I’m not sure how to read your answer to that.

        – I tried to pose the problem in a way that did not assume any particular view of happiness or that happiness was all that matters – just that it was one thing that matters. We could generalize it even more just to refer to well-being, if that helps.

        • Nita says:

          Sure, we do not currently use names that way — but we also currently don’t split one person into two people. Language adapts to the necessities of communication.

          Barack Obama is not “a” Barack Obama because he’s (implicitly) “the” Barack Obama. If that could change, we would find a way to talk about it.

          Of course, anyone who needs to think or talk about the two Clives as distinct individuals will probably come up with a new or additional label for each of them, such as “Lefty” and “Righty”, just to avoid confusion. (The Clives themselves have it easy — they can simply use “me” and “the other Clive”.)

          To approach it another way, when we ask “which one is Clive?”, another way of putting it is “which one is the same individual as the child Clive’s mother held in her arms, that is in all his photos on facebook, etc?”

          These questions smuggle in an assumption that exactly one of them is Clive — which is, IMO, completely unjustified.

          The idea of individuals as immutable objects that move through time and space is a simplified model we use for convenience. By convention, we consider adult Clive “the same person” as his childhood self. Alternatively, we could decide that Clive disappears and is replaced by a new, very similar person every moment. Then we would say that the mad scientist’s experiment destroyed Clive. But I think that would be a less useful convention.

          Let me give you two much easier puzzles.

          Puzzle One A:

          The Y chromosome of a particular cell is replicated in the usual way — by gradually separating the two strands and constructing an exact copy of the missing half. After this process, where is this cell’s Y chromosome?

          Puzzle One B:

          Mary, a devout Catholic woman, is expecting a baby. (She has taken a pregnancy test, and it was positive.) Shortly before implantation, the mass of progenitor cells in the blastocyst happens to split, resulting in two embryos instead of one. Where is the baby Mary has been expecting?

          • John Nerst says:

            +1 for just saving me the time to write a post. These riddles are my least favorite part of philosophy, as people tend to take just the wrong (IMO) message from them. Don’t see it as a challenge to come up with a new, watertight account of personal identity (or some other concept), instead see it as a way to show how our words are models used for convenience and can’t answer questions they’re not meant to deal with.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Puzzle One A may not exist. You may not have a Y chromosome itself, you may have a parent strand and a daughter strand, which make of the Y chromosome. Just prior to mitosis you’d end up with a parent strand, two daughter strands (of opposite orientation), and a grand-daughter strand of the same orientation as the parent strand. If this hypothesis is correct.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immortal_DNA_strand_hypothesis

            In context of the original question, I understand that this answer is a bit off-base.

          • hlynkacg says:

            These questions smuggle in an assumption that exactly one of them is Clive — which is, IMO, completely unjustified.

            This is my chief objection to the exercise. The obvious answer is that there are two Clives. Aussie Clive and Nevadan Clive.

        • Deiseach says:

          In this instance, Clive has been artificially made into his own twin. And since it was done by complete duplication, that is, it wasn’t done by making a clone of Clive’s body and downloading his brain pattern into the new, blank brain or taking Clive’s brain from his body and putting it into a different body, we have to say that Clive is now two individuals that are half-Clive and half-Lefty, half-Clive and half-Righty.

          They’re either both Clive, or neither of them are Clive. I think you have to go with “neither are Clive”; you don’t have brain divided from body so you can say “this is the body Clive’s mother gave birth to etc.” or “all that Clive is resides in his brain and this is his brain.”

          Both Lefty and Righty have half of original Clive’s brain and half of original Clive’s body. The mad scientist has created two new individuals, the same as an amoeba fissioning into two daughter amoebae. They are new individuals; they may prefer to keep the name Clive and both of them have an equal right to it, but ‘original’ Clive as was no longer exists. Especially as now both Lefty and Righty will diverge in experiences etc. as one is in Nevada and one in Australia; they will no longer have the same memories, experiences and so forth as each other or as original Clive (who, I presume, lived in neither Nevada or Australia). They are now new people, even if we call them Nevada Clive and Australian Clive.

          If the mad scientist had cloned Clive’s body and downloaded his memories, personality, etc. into the new body, I’d have no hesitation in saying original Clive is the original, not the copy due to precedence in time; he is the one who existed first and who made the memories and had the experiences that the clone copy got.

          (This argument takes me back to James Blish’s Spock Must Die! – is a copy that is identical in all respects the same as the original and does it have continuity of personality, especially if the original has been destroyed in making the copy? But you know, I was way young when reading that novel originally and the author had to put his thumb on the scale as to who was the ‘real’ Spock due to it being an established character that couldn’t really be killed off).

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I think my description of the first case might be misleading, I noticed – Clive doesn’t have two halves of his brain independently and separately generating experiences – he just has his memories, etc. encoded in both halves so that if he lost one, the other could pick up the slack without changing personality.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      I’ve had Reasons and Persons on my reading list for a while now, and haven’t gotten to it yet. Over the last few days, a lot of people have been citing the book, and Parfit’s ideas, and… I sure hope that it’s just that everyone is doing a terrible job of explaining those ideas, because otherwise I have to conclude that Parfit’s work consisted of “nothing but sophistry and illusion” (as a far greater philosopher put it).

      Your two puzzles are excellent examples of this.

      Puzzle one: as Nita says, both are Clives. Perhaps one or both of them might wish to select new names, or adopt nicknames or something. Or not. (After all, we deal with non-unique names in the real world all the time.) To address your responses:

      “Names are individual labels.” No, they’re not. Don’t be ridiculous. Names are non-unique identifiers. (Ever met a man who shared his first and last name with his father? Or his son? What prevents there from being three consecutive generations of “Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov”? Nothing.) They’re a convenient custom we have, and are useful for all sorts of practical purposes (which purposes generally don’t require names to be globally unique, but certainly it’s useful to have local uniqueness, at least in any given context—hence nicknames like “Fat Joe”, “Tall Joe”, “Smart Joe”, etc.). Imputing some deeper philosophical significance to personal names is foolishness.

      when we ask “which one is Clive?”, another way of putting it is “which one is the same individual as the child Clive’s mother held in her arms, that is in all his photos on facebook, etc?” This question no longer has a unique answer. Sometimes our concepts become inaccurate, incomplete, or invalid, when confronted with situations we’ve never encountered before. This is such a case. There is now no single individual who is, uniquely, “the same guy as the guy Clive was”. Deal with it.

      Puzzle two: This one is just tremendously vaguely put. The conceptual and logical sloppiness of your problem statement makes no answer possible, because you don’t even begin to make clear what you’re asking, what assumptions are being made, what stipulations, what your terms refer to even in broad terms, etc. You can’t do philosophy like this. I have to believe the Parfit’s actual version of this “puzzle”, as given in the book, isn’t like this (or else I will be massively disappointed, I suppose).

      Overall: I’ve read a decent number of philosophers and a decent amount of philosophy. This (especially puzzle two) is amateur-hour stuff. For anyone reading this who isn’t very familiar with the field: please don’t think that all of philosophy is like this. One thing I’d hate to see is for people to read all this stuff about Parfit and conclude that this is the best that modern philosophy has to offer. (Vox did a piece on Parfit, where they laid out the argument for the Repugnant Conclusion. Again, I hope it was merely a stunningly bad retelling of Parfit’s original, but gosh, it was just dire. Reading it, I was embarrassed to have ever had any association with the field of philosophy.)

      • Nita says:

        Dude, the guy just died. Perhaps you could have kept some of those feelings to yourself for now, considering that apparently we’re talking to one of his grieving fans?

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Seriously?

          It was not my understanding that Philosophisticat knew Parfit personally. (If he did, his comments seem strange… but I offer my condolences, in that case.) And given that, “grieving” seems… rather a dramatic way to put it.

          “Let’s discuss the ideas of this philosopher” does not mesh at all with “don’t say anything bad about this philosopher, on account of you don’t want to hurt the feelings of his fans”.

          • Anatoly says:

            I don’t think anyone asked or expected you not to criticize whatever you wanted to criticize, but the tone in which you’ve chosen to phrase your critique is simply particularly inept given the circumstances.

            If Parfit didn’t just die, the tone would still be bad (it just wouldn’t be jarring-bad). “Amateur hour”, “was embarrassed”, “gosh it was just dire”. Your comment came across as belligerent, sneering, *trying too hard*. Your words were *saying* that you wanted, nobly, to warn readers against a possible misconception of what good philosophy is, but they were *signalling* pretty hard your ostensible expert status and superior understanding, in what seemed like an inept manner.

            FWIW I mostly agreed with what you said on the object level.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Fair enough, that’s a reasonable criticism.

      • Nicholas Carter says:

        If I recall my seminars on Mind and Identity, Parfait had a rival philosopher at the time he wrote the book (Kriptchie maybe?). The point of the Clive hypothetical is that, while there exist answers to it, you couldn’t claim to believe in the rival theory while also giving any of the answers that make sense, without contradicting yourself.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Ah, that certainly makes sense. As I said, my assumption really was that these recent popularizations are misrepresenting the man’s actual ideas. A lot of modern philosophy really only makes sense in the context of such back-and-forths as you describe, so this doesn’t surprise me. I’ll have to read the book after all, I suppose.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        You should know that your tone comes off really badly here, and would do so even if you weren’t misunderstanding things or talking about a beloved figure who had just passed away. It suggests interacting with you further would be unpleasant.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          My comment wasn’t intended to offend you personally. That said, if you really do think I am misunderstanding things[1], do please explain. I am not commenting in bad faith, I assure you.

          [1] It’s entirely possible and even likely that I am misunderstanding Parfit’s actual ideas, because, as I said, my suspicion is that the fault lies in the retelling. So I would indeed ask and encourage you to help clear up my understanding. It would be much appreciated!

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I have presented these puzzles out of the context in which they were originally given, and I haven’t said anything about what Parfit says about them or what lessons he draws. Parfit’s book has an in-depth discussion of these puzzles, the assumptions underlying them, the consequences of different possible responses to them, and so on, which I have not included because of obvious practical limitations in blog comments and because I thought it would be nice to let people here consider the puzzles on their own terms. So there is really nothing here on the basis of which to negatively judge Parfit. (Note: one of the characteristic features of Parfit’s writing is its thoroughness, and the sense that no possible option has been left unconsidered. Summaries of Parfit cannot replicate this for reasons of space, and so if your response to such a summary [which again, my post was not] is “well why didn’t he consider X?”, the answer is probably “he did”.)

            The point about proper names being labels for individuals, and functioning differently from predicates like “is a cow”, is not that it’s impossible for more than one individual to have the same name. I don’t want to digress into philosophy of language, which is why in my reply to Nita I tried to reframe the question in a way that wouldn’t require it.

            I can’t quite tell whether your answer to the reframed question is “neither of them are Clive” (your penultimate sentence sort of suggests this) or “it is indeterminate what happens to Clive” (that seems more like what you’re saying). The latter is something Parfit, I think, wouldn’t be averse to. His main aim is to use messy cases of personal identity like this to show that many normative facts about Clive’s reasons do not track facts about Clive’s personal identity (if there even are such determinate facts) at all, and discusses the threat this poses to moral views that take identity over time to be significant. Many views take identity over time to be significant, from those that think we have reason to keep promises to forms of egoism which claim we should look out for our own future welfare. I cannot do justice to the cleverness of Parfit’s reasoning here, but the short of it is that the interesting normative relation is one Clive bears to both Righty and Lefty, but identity is not a relation Clive can bear to both Righty and Lefty. So identity is not the interesting normative relation. The upshot is that the normative relationship between me and my future self is not different in kind from the relation between me and other people.

            I don’t really understand your issue with the second puzzle – I tried to simplify it by making some stipulations at the start, but I had a hard time trying to present it without the background of Parfit’s own discussion (which includes the famous non-identity problem), so it’s possible I have failed to present it in a clear way. The basic question at issue is about how considerations about peoples’ welfare factor into our moral reasons. The total and average views are two answers to this question. Parfit looks at a pretty exhaustive set of possible answers and finds massively counterintuitive implications in each, of which the repugnant conclusion is just one. It sounds like you may be misunderstanding this dialectic as well. Parfit doesn’t give an argument for the repugnant conclusion – that would be strange, since he thinks it is repugnant. The repugnant conclusion is a consequence of the total view.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Thank you for the in-depth response, I really do appreciate it.

            I can’t quite tell whether your answer to the reframed question is “neither of them are Clive” (your penultimate sentence sort of suggests this) or “it is indeterminate what happens to Clive” (that seems more like what you’re saying).

            Definitely neither of those.

            My answer is “there is, in principle, no fact of the matter about ‘which one of them is uniquely Clive'”. It’s not “indeterminate” (in the sense of “well it could be one, it could be the other, we can’t know”); “indeterminate” implies that there’s a fact of the matter, but we don’t know it. This is false. There is no fact of the matter. The question presupposes that there is a single unique individual who “is Clive” (i.e. is the same person that Clive was pre-split), but that’s simply false now. There are two individuals. They’re both the same person that Clive was. Yes, that is now possible, thanks to this magical splitting device of ours. Asking “which one is Clive, or can’t we know which of them is?” is thus a wrong question.

            I cannot do justice to the cleverness of Parfit’s reasoning here.

            I sympathize with your conundrum here, and am myself familiar with the difficulties in rephrasing or summarizing the eloquent arguments of clever philosophers. That said, I can only deal with what I’m presented with, which fact I hope you’ll also be understanding of.

            I don’t really understand your issue with the second puzzle – I tried to simplify it by making some stipulations at the start, but I had a hard time trying to present it without the background of Parfit’s own discussion (which includes the famous non-identity problem), so it’s possible I have failed to present it in a clear way.

            My issue with it simply that (as you presented it) it doesn’t even approach being rigorous enough to engage with. Let me try to elaborate a little, by taking on just part of the problem statement.

            One thing it seems like we have reason to do is make the world a better place.

            Does it? (Seem like that, I mean?) People certainly talk about “making the world a better place” on a semi-regular basis. But for me to accept anything like this as the premise of a philosophical argument or chain of reasoning, you’re going to have to do a whole lot of legwork to make it much more precise and specific. How might you do this? Well, perhaps you could start with some LW-style conceptual analysis—you could ask “Hm, people talk about ‘making the world a better place’. What do they tend to mean by it? What sorts of things do they have in mind when they say it? Let’s take a look at how this phrase is used, what connotations it tends to have, what sorts of contexts it’s used in, and how. How do people mean the word ‘better’ in this context, exactly?” and so forth. Or something else—but something.

            And how good the world is presumably has something to do with how happy people are.

            Something, yes. But what? How? Is this a conceptual relationship? A causal one? A definitional one? And what do you mean by “happy”? You said later that you had in mind a broad view of happiness, and possibly meant “well-being”, but that doesn’t help; no matter how broad a view you take, “happiness” or “well-being” can’t encompass everything (or else the words lose meaning). (And we’re not even getting into the hard questions! Like these: do you think you can measure “happiness” or “well-being”? Compare them interpersonally? Perform arithmetic on them? How?)

            These are questions that we have to answer before we even have a puzzle to consider. If we don’t answer them, we have nothing—just vague words. And these are just two sentences!

            Again, I do understand that Parfit wrote a whole book (or even multiple books?) about these things; packing them into a comment on a blog is difficult. If your response is “I really can’t summarize these things, go read the book”—well, fair enough. As I say—I can only deal with what I’m presented with, and in any case I thank you for the attempt at elaboration.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Responding to a couple more points:

            identity is not a relation Clive can bear to both Righty and Lefty

            Yes it is. (See John Schilling’s comment in a parallel subthread.)

            It sounds like you may be misunderstanding this dialectic as well. Parfit doesn’t give an argument for the repugnant conclusion – that would be strange, since he thinks it is repugnant. The repugnant conclusion is a consequence of the total view.

            I understand that Parfit thinks the repugnant conclusion is repugnant. What I am saying is that it doesn’t follow from the premises. Parfit thinks[1] it does (and uses it to argue for rejecting some of the premises). But he’s wrong. It doesn’t. The chain of reasoning that goes from the premises to the conclusion is… let’s go with “flimsy” (although my impulse is to select some stronger words).

            Thus we have no cause to reject any of the premises.

            [1] That is, Parfit-as-he-is-portrayed-in-secondhand-retellings thinks this.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I meant “indeterminate” to refer to what you’re talking about.

            My introduction of those constraints in the second puzzle was not meant to be convincing to someone who denies that human welfare matters for how good or bad the world is, or denies that how good or bad we make the world matters for what we ought to do. I thought they’d be sensible enough that people could get their head around the problem without immediately balking. If you don’t find those claims plausible, you’ll have to either put yourself in the mindset of someone who does, or the puzzle is not for you.

            You can generate versions of this puzzle without assuming that you can assign numbers to well-being or happiness. But again, for simplicity, lets suppose you can.

            Parfit’s own framing of the problem is a little different, and he argues for his assumptions, but I thought this would be a simpler presentation. It seems to me you’re being unnecessarily difficult. You do not need to have a specific account of welfare or happiness in order to think about issues arising from aggregation. If the assumptions here, which are granted by pretty much every utilitarian and many non-utilitarians as well are too far out there for you to take the puzzle seriously, then yeah, I guess you might just have to read the book.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            The repugnant conclusion follows immediately from the view that we ought to maximize total well-being, together with the claim that someone can have a pretty lousy life and still end up with (barely) positive well-being.

            So I’m not sure how you’re understanding Parfit’s argument such that it is invalid. How exactly do you think it goes?

            Perhaps you’re imagining upping the bar on what it takes to have a life that is worth living to something really high, so the very worst, barely positive life would be one we would ordinarily recognize as fantastic. If so, that’s one of those things that Parfit has thought of, and has its own issues.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            My introduction of those constraints in the second puzzle was not meant to be convincing to someone who denies that human welfare matters for how good or bad the world is

            I don’t “deny” this. (I mean, I’m not sure. This claim still isn’t specific enough to endorse or deny. But I don’t think I deny it. I certainly wouldn’t say that I deny all versions of what specific claim this could refer to; that would be quite the extreme view.)

            or denies that how good or bad we make the world matters for what we ought to do.

            I don’t deny this either (with same caveat).

            This is a problem I encounter fairly often, unfortunately. People tend to assume that either you agree with their specific view, or you don’t agree with anything that even remotely, in any way or along any dimension, resembles their view. But the fact is that your[1] specific view is a particular set of answers to a whole bunch of questions; a point at a particular set of positions along a whole bunch of dimensions of variation.

            I answer some of those questions in the same way as you do, others very differently. But you seem to be assuming that the answers you give are a package deal. That simply ain’t so.

            So in order to proceed to any kind of justified conclusions about serious topics in moral philosophy, we really do have to be specific, rigorous, and careful in our reasoning and in our language. I am not looking to be convinced of your constraints. I am looking to understand what your constraints are, because the possibilities for what they could be (based only on what has been stated thus far) are truly manifold.

            [1] Take the “your” here to be general; I don’t claim to fully know what you, personally, think here.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            You can generate versions of this puzzle without assuming that you can assign numbers to well-being or happiness. But again, for simplicity, lets suppose you can.

            Fair enough, but you acknowledge, I hope, that this is quite the assumption; to call it “questionable” would be an understatement!

            Parfit’s own framing of the problem is a little different, and he argues for his assumptions, but I thought this would be a simpler presentation. It seems to me you’re being unnecessarily difficult. You do not need to have a specific account of welfare or happiness in order to think about issues arising from aggregation.

            It’s not my intention to be difficult. I really do think these are not only substantive objections, but that they’re absolutely at the core of reasoning about ethics. A specific account of welfare and happiness is certainly needed to even support the concept of “aggregation” as coherent, much less to think about issues that may arise from it. (You can bracket the issue, of course, but then the conclusions remain bracketed as well; unbracketing them requires that you provide the specifics.)

            If the assumptions here, which are granted by pretty much every utilitarian and many non-utilitarians as well are too far out there for you to take the puzzle seriously, then yeah, I guess you might just have to read the book.

            Understood. I myself am not a utilitarian, so if this puzzle was indeed aimed only at utilitarians and similar (well, I am inclined to question the “many non-utilitarians as well” bit, but am entirely willing to let it drop), then fair enough.

            The repugnant conclusion follows immediately from the view that we ought to maximize total well-being

            Hang on, so this is indeed one of the premises? Parfit assumes that not only can we “maximize total well-being” (that this is even a coherent concept), but that we should?

            I am inclined to check Reasons and Persons out from the library immediately if for no other reason than to see how Parfit defends the former claim! (Or does he?)

          • Iain says:

            If I remember correctly, the Repugnant Conclusion is intended to disprove the idea that we ought to maximize total well-being (or at least force the supporters of that idea to grapple with its consequences).

          • Skivverus says:

            The repugnant conclusion follows immediately from the view that we ought to maximize total well-being, together with the claim that someone can have a pretty lousy life and still end up with (barely) positive well-being.

            I’m curious how well the conclusion holds up to nonlinear utility functions: loss aversion is a thing, after all, and it seems implausible to assume that it’s the only source of nonlinearity in human utility functions.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Said

            Again, Parfit does not accept the repugnant conclusion. It is a consequence of the total view, which he rejects precisely for that reason.

            @Skivverus

            You can avoid the repugnant conclusion with a view where the contribution of happiness to overall value in additional people gets lower and lower asymptoptically. This view also has problems though – it makes what you ought to do sensitive in very strange ways to whether or not there is alien life in faraway inaccessible galaxies, for example. On such a view you also have to decide whether the negative contribution of suffering also decreases as you add more people – and there are bad consequences either way.

          • It is possible, although not likely, that someone here with access to a good library would be interested in my discussion of the problem of comparing alternative futures with different numbers of people in them, written quite a while ago–whether before the work of Parfit being discussed I don’t know.

            “What Does Optimum Population Mean?” Research in Population Economics, Vol. III (1981), Eds. Simon and Lindert.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Reasons and Persons was published in 1984. Parfit is known for circulating his material long before publishing his books (there were responses in print to his most recent book years before it was published itself), so I would guess that much of the material was already in the air in philosophy circles before then, but just from reading the abstract it looks like you anticipated some of the most famous arguments from that book. Maybe you should have published in philosophy, and you’d have gotten to name one of the most frequently discussed arguments of the past century.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      We don’t think about given names like that because we can’t actually do what your mad scientist can do. If we could, “a Clive” or “a Barack Obama” follows. Given two human beings who are:

      -Genetically identical
      -Physiologically identical (they share phenotype, not just genotype, and in fact even share assorted things like old scars, wonky joints from old injuries in the same places to exactly the same degree, etc etc)
      -Shared 100% of their memories up to the point they were split.
      -Shared 100% identical mental processes and personalities up to the point they were split.

      You have by any useful definition of “person”, created two identical copies of a person. They will of course diverge over time based on divergent inputs and non-shared memories/thought patterns created in response to those inputs.

      If you apply the traditional definition of “person”, then both are the same person who their mother held, is in all their photos on facebook, etc. Even after they differentiate enough to be considered as different as the John Smith born in 1947 in Akron is from the John Smith born in 1962 in Tulsa, they will still share that history. It’s wierd, but that’s in the nature of the setup.

      And if you -don’t- apply the traditional definition of “person”, and argue that they are now Lefty and Righty and Clive is dead, then everyone here is guilty of theft, adultery, tax fraud and so on. There is less continuity between the Lysenko that was hired for my day job four years ago and the Lysenko typing this post than there is between Lefty OR Righty immediately post-split and pre-split Clive on any of the four metrics listed above, to use just one example.

    • rlms says:

      Puzzle one:
      c) It is tautological that right is right. So this must be right.

      Puzzle two:
      d) This is just the choice between total utilitarianism, average utilitarianism, some new exciting kind of utilitarianism, and everything else, as far as I can tell. So I pick (d) because my current favoured moral philosophy is greedy preference utilitarianism. The right thing to do at any time is found by considering all the preferences of currently existing things, weighted by each thing’s ranking of preferences and each thing’s number of preferences. Under this theory, it doesn’t make sense to evaluate the utility of a world without a reference present world.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        Your view would entail that it is permissible to create someone who does nothing their entire lives but suffer unimaginable torment, even when you have the option to create them with a life of exquisite bliss, at no cost to anyone else.

        Note: the issue is more general than utilitarianism, because you don’t have to be a full-on utilitarian to think that peoples’ welfare matters in some way for what we ought to do.

        • cerulean says:

          I’m also a fan of “greedy preference utilitarianism”, though I hadn’t known it was called that.

          I agree with your objection, and I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to fix it. Does Parfit have a better solution in his book?

          One thing I can note: although you can create people who are in lousy situations, once you have created those people you become obliged to respect their preferences by getting them out of those lousy situations. As a practical example, society could create a slave, but after creating them it would be immediately obliged to free them.

          Of course it’s possible to work around this through precommitments. For example society could create a slave who was wearing an exploding collar which would detonate if they were ever freed. I don’t have a complete solution to this.

          ——

          I do sort of like option (c), maximizing the happiness of “the people who will exist regardless of what we do”, except I notice that it’s poorly defined. For example, if we have the theoretical capability to nuke the biosphere, does that mean our utility function should ignore the preferences of anyone who doesn’t have a well-stocked nuclear bunker?

          I wonder if we could generate a hybrid of (c) and (d): maximize the happiness of “the people who exist now, plus the people who will come into existence if we do the thing we’re currently planning to do”, and hope that converges on a fixed-point.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            There are views that avoid that problem, but at the cost of other problems. Parfit doesn’t take a stand. Here’s a view that maybe has more of what you’re looking for: you should maximize the benefits-minus-harms of your action. And suppose people cannot be benefited by being brought into existence, but they can be harmed by being brought into existence, if their existence is not worth living. This avoids the problem above. It still suffers from a similar worry, in that it doesn’t require you to create new people as happy as they can be, even if it is at no cost to anyone. That sounds bad, but at least it is less bad than allowing you to create people who suffer torment.

            Option c, as I was understanding it, is just a slight modification of the “existing people” view – meant to include not just the people who already exist but also those whose existence doesn’t depend on our actions. It has similar problems to the existing people view.

            I’m not sure how to read your hybrid view. The point of having a principle like this is to use is to plan what to do. If I read the suggestion literally, it makes what it’s right for you to do dependent on what you’re currently planning to do – i.e. if you’re currently planning to do A, then it might be right for you to do C, and if you’re currently planning to do C, then it might be right for you to do D. That seems very bizarre.

            If you instead mean that we should do the action that maximizes happiness of people who exist plus the people who will exist if we perform that very action, then that’s just equivalent to total utilitarianism.

          • rlms says:

            The name “greedy preference utilitarianism” was just invented by me; I don’t know if there is a proper name.

        • cerulean says:

          Maybe another patch to “greedy preference utilitarianism” would just be to declare that all people must be created equal — ie, we can’t preassign roles to people, can’t genetically-engineer some people to be better than others at certain tasks, et cetera. Do you see any obvious problems with this?

        • rlms says:

          I think there are two issues with that objection. Firstly, as cerulean says, once that person is created we do have to take into account their preferences and relieve them from torment. Secondly, most people have a preference against creating someone in unimaginable torment. The second objection comes from the fact that this system often degenerates into “do whatever the prevailing moral view is” but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            We can just stipulate that you don’t have the option to relieve their torment once you’ve decided to create them. And we don’t want our reasons not to create people suffering unimaginable torment forever to be contingent on us happening not to want to create those people. Even if we didn’t personally care one way or another about their suffering, we shouldn’t do it.

          • rlms says:

            I think your last point is only true if you want an objective moral system that holds in all conceivable worlds. But I’m happy with a system that is useful only in worlds similar to our own (where most people have a preference against unimaginable torment).

    • rahien.din says:

      Puzzle 1 : This is merely the description of identical twins, with the moment of cleaving taking place ex utero. As with twins, they start as one whole, become two molecularly-identical (or so) individuals, and thereafter have divergent experiences, making them two distinct persons, each named Clive.

      Puzzle 2 : It would be better just to examine the mere addition paradox. That makes the definition of the puzzle more clear. Otherwise it is described too vaguely.

      If you mean “is it better to have a smaller world of happier people (higher mean, lower total happiness content) or a larger world of somewhat less happy people (lower mean, higher total happiness content)”, then I think the latter because progress and adaptability are proportional to the number of minds and ideas available to work. Put differently, a small number of very happy people could be vulnerable to a kind of founder effect, and eventually encounter suffering they could not overcome.

      The repugnant conclusion is only repugnant if you think that a group can never improve itself.

    • beleester says:

      Puzzle 1:
      E seems useless – Both halves of Clive are going to start diverging the instant they leave the machine, to say nothing of living in Nevada vs. Australia. Describing two independent things on opposite sides of the planet as “one person” doesn’t seem like a useful description.

      A, B, and C all seem like they have more practical use than D. “Clive” only owns one house, only has one wife, etc., etc. His identity was created with the assumption that it was assigned to exactly one person. So you can either pick one Clive at random and say “Lefty is Clive, he gets to live in Clive’s house, the other one has to move to Australia,” or you can kill off the old Clive and say “The two of you are Clive’s next of kin, figure out how to divide his possessions.” (Mrs. Clive will have to decide whether she loves Lefty or Righty more.)

      A seems like the most preferable, since B and C both involve leaving one Clive in the lurch. Lefty and Righty can rightly complain – “What do you mean, Clive is dead? I’m standing right here!” – but they can’t both be treated as Clive on a practical level. So my reply to them is “Okay, we’re not literally holding a funeral for Clive, but the two of you are now different people with different life experiences. You happen to share 99% of your memories, but that last 1% makes a pretty big difference.”

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Puzzle 1, a puzzle only to a species which does not reproduce via fragmentation. Fragmenting species would already have their answers.

      A is an answer I might have stated when younger, as I used to count mental changes which seemed to divide an older self from a newer self. I’d consider these “deaths of self” in that I was now making decisions, and had life goals, which the younger me would never have done or had. I guess this is growing up.

      B and C are equivalent, and have been answered in ST:TNG. The correct choice is the one who continues on the path that Clive was on prior to the splitting. If this is neither, than choice A is correct.

      D is what I would generally choose now, for similar reasons to the other commenters.

      E makes no sense for the same reason we no longer consider organs which have been donated to be part of the original person: Same-body communication between the parts has ended.

      Puzzle 2:
      Extremes in emotions are not beneficial. There’s a point when too much happiness harms a full life (“well-rounded” life, though I dislike using that term).

      The question also doesn’t consider the future. It deals only with “watts” of happiness, not “watt-hours”, and I think most people would consider “happiness-hours” more important than “happiness”.

      I appreciated the questions. Thanks!

    • tgb says:

      Puzzle One falls into the category of “wrong question” – you’re asking about whether certain words should be applied to certain situations. You should be asking about an empirical difference. Does it matter if we call it two Clives or one real Clive? It depends on the context. Who gets custody of Clive’s kids? His job? His bed? All important questions and are the ones that should be asked instead in this situation.

    • John Schilling says:

      Clive is Lefty and Righty, Lefty is Clive but is not Righty, Righty is Clive but not Lefty Identity is continuous but not transitive.

      We can simplistically define “happiness” as that which makes the world good, but if we stick with the traditionally vague “sense of contentment + some level of joy” we’re going to miss things like e.g. justice. And, as some of your choices hint at, size of the happy population. These will creep back into the “happiness” metric when people become sufficiently discontent with the lack of justice or cannot find partners to share and magnify their joy. But you are doing nobody a service when you either insist on a single quantitative scale of World-is-Good-ness without at least trying to define it, or when you try to co-opt a word like “happiness” that is already in wide use in a manner that only somewhat overlaps what you are trying to say here. Specify a utility function, already.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        I’m deliberately not assuming that the only things that are relevant to what we ought to do are considerations about happiness (I should have said welfare instead). Justice may matter too. The assumption of the puzzle is that the welfare of people matters for what we have reason to do. It is consistent with effects on human welfare giving us reasons, that sometimes these reasons are overridden by reasons of justice, or something else.

        Asking me to specify a utility function would be missing the point of the puzzle. This is something like a puzzle about what the correct utility function is (if you need to think in those terms). Feel free to substitute your preferred view of human welfare – the question of how we aggregate will arise.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      f) Clive, who was his brain, has been broken into two parts, one of which now resides in Australia with Lefty and one of which now resides in Nevada with Righty.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        Perhaps I’m reading you too literally, but this seems to get claims about Clive’s weight, even pre-operation, wrong.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          I don’t see a major problem with treating claims about Clive’s weight as elliptical for claims about the weight of Clive’s body, and similarly for any sentence which heedlessly attributes bodily properties to Clive without the appropriate qualifications. I suspect any account of personal identity is going to encounter similar difficulties, as ordinary language tends to predicate bodily, psychological, organismic, and (less commonly) brain properties indiscriminately of the person. This is especially jarring when it comes to death, where an obituary might mention that David is dead and gone and no longer with us before immediately conceding that he will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery next Wednesday.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Yeah I guess you could do that. I’m just wondering what advantage this has over claiming that Clive includes not just his brain but also the body attached to it. You can still say that Clive always goes along with his brain, that only his brain is essential to him, that post-operation Clive has two disconnected parts (including his brain-halves and both bodies controlled by his brain-halves), without making a huge part of our discourse about people elliptical. The obituary thing seems like an edge case, and if you pressed people they would be happy to say “well, strictly speaking, just David’s body is interred – David himself is of course in Heaven”, whereas I don’t think you’ll easily get people to say anything like “well, strictly speaking, David only weighs three pounds – it’s the organism in which he is encased that is getting a bit chubby lately.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The advantage is that I can survive the destruction of every part of my body except my brain, but if my brain is destroyed that’s curtains for me. Even if I lingered on only as one of these cuties, it would still be me who survived.

            (I agree that it doesn’t matter for the purposes of your version of the fission thought experiment, I was needlessly courting controversy)

            The obituary thing seems like an edge case, and if you pressed people they would be happy to say “well, strictly speaking, just David’s body is interred – David himself is of course in Heaven”,

            Note that earlier you were arguing that ordinary language favors a bodily criterion of personal identity (because Clive, i.e. his body, weighs 150 pounds), while here you are suggesting that it favors a non-bodily criterion (because it’s David’s corpse and not David who is decomposing). Ordinary language is a tangle of inconsistencies on the subject, though it generally escapes our notice.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Those are not inconsistent judgments – a living organism view (which I don’t think is right either, incidentally) will say both that David weighs 150 lbs (actually he’s more like 185 these days) and that he is not in the graveyard after his death. You seem to have a narrow view of the conceptual space here.

            My own view is the very standard one that David, at a time, is composed of his entire body (and whatever mental parts he has), and that it is psychological continuity that determines his identity over time. This view also holds that I could survive the destruction of all parts of my body except my brain. So this is not an advantage of the brain-alone view over the standard view.

            You seem to be assuming that if we think that David at a time includes his entire body, then psychological facts cannot determine his persistence over time. But that is false.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Those are not inconsistent judgments – a living organism view (which I don’t think is right either, incidentally) will say both that David weighs 150 lbs (actually he’s more like 185 these days) and that he is not in the graveyard after his death.

            The organismic view is going to be incompatible with the judgment that David is the sort of thing that could go to heaven.

            My own view is the very standard one that David, at a time, is composed of his entire body (and whatever mental parts he has), and that it is psychological continuity that determines his identity over time.

            I do not think there is any view which can rightly be called “standard.” Personal identity is, notoriously, a topic where there is no consensus even on intuitions. The teletransporter thought experiment, for instance, cleaves philosophers right down the middle, at least if we are to credit the philpapers survey.

            This view also holds that I could survive the destruction of all parts of my body except my brain.

            Yes, but it also implies that you can survive the destruction of your brain, which you cannot.

            You seem to be assuming that if we think that David at a time includes his entire body, then psychological facts cannot determine his persistence over time. But that is false.

            This depends on how we understand the (to my mind, mysterious) constitution relation. If we say that David is composed mereologically of all and only the parts of his body but that his survival depends on psychological continuity, we are left with the uncomfortable consequence that David can survive the simultaneous destruction of all of his parts. How, though, could something survive the simultaneous destruction of all of its parts?

          • Deiseach says:

            This is especially jarring when it comes to death, where an obituary might mention that David is dead and gone and no longer with us before immediately conceding that he will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery next Wednesday.

            This is why we have that useful term in such a situation, “the remains”. Mostly I see obituaries stating that “the burial will take place in the adjoining cemetery after the funeral Mass at 11.00 a.m. on Tuesday” (and not “David Smith will be buried next Wednesday”).

            If you said “David will be buried” outside of the context of “David is dead”, you would get in a lot of trouble re: burying someone alive 🙂

          • This is why we have that useful term in such a situation, “the remains”. Mostly I see obituaries stating that “the burial will take place in the adjoining cemetery after the funeral Mass at 11.00 a.m. on Tuesday” (and not “David Smith will be buried next Wednesday”).

            Yes. Since normally there is only a brief interval between death and the disappearance of the body (via burial or cremation), some slight sloppiness of language is surely excusable.

            This applies especially when the death is very recent. For example, in the song “Louise”, her suicide is implied using just the following words: “Well everybody thought it kind of sad / When they found Louise in her room.”

            Additionally, in the world of funeral homes and cemeteries (a milieu I marginally inhabit as the official keeper of death records), there’s a common slight jocularity to calling the body by the name of the person. For example, if you called the cemetery office to inquire about a specific past burial, the answer would be something like, “Yes, he’s here.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            SADAT IS INTERRED AT RITES ATTENDED BY WORLD LEADERS

            CAIRO, Oct. 10— In a stark ceremony that was attended by leaders from more than 80 nations, President Anwar el-Sadat was buried today across from the reviewing stand where he was assassinated Tuesday.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            On my view, one can survive the destruction of ones’ brain only when something psychologically continuous is left over. I’m not sure why you confidently assert that this cannot be. It’s the view, I think, that fits best with ordinary intuitions, and it’s the plurality take among philosophers as well.

            I don’t find it strange at all to think that someone or something could survive the destruction of all of its (former) parts, if it gets new parts. It might be especially easy for me since I’m a friend of temporal parts, but I also see no obstacle to it on other views. It only seems to me problematic if you’re equivocating between two senses in which your parts could be destroyed. Obviously nothing could survive the destruction of all its parts, in the sense that entails that they no longer have parts. But if something is exchanging its parts from one moment to the next, there’s nothing weird about it surviving the destruction of parts it used to have.

            In any case, whatever your reasons for not liking the psychological continuity view, you can still have a view where the brain is essential and persons perish if and only if their brains do, and hold that their hands are part of them. Continuity over time going with the brain doesn’t mean composition at a time is exhausted by the brain.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I’m not sure this example quite works, since I’m not super clear on the metaphysics of parliamentary bodies, but maybe it will help: suppose in some country, there is an election, and every incumbent loses. At precisely midnight, the new winners officially become MPs and the losers are kicked out. At midnight, then, the parliament has entirely new parts, but it does not cease to be. And it makes no difference if by coincidence,also at midnight every ex-member of parliament spontaneously combusts.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It’s the view, I think, that fits best with ordinary intuitions, and it’s the plurality take among philosophers as well.

            I have no idea whether it’s the view that fits best with ordinary intuitions, and I don’t see how you could know that either. I am not at all confident that ordinary intuitions even tell a coherent story on the subject. I am also suspicious that our intuitions about personal identity have been tainted by centuries of cultural influence from Judeo-Christian theology.

            It is true that a narrow plurality of philosophers (36%) believe that we can survive the teletransporter (with 31% saying we do not survive). But we could just as readily describe this distribution of opinion as “64% of philosophers do not accept that we survive teletransportation.”

            But if something is exchanging its parts from one moment to the next, there’s nothing weird about it surviving the destruction of parts it used to have.

            This is plausible only with a gradual and piecemeal exchange of parts. If every part of O is simultaneously annihilated at t, it’s very difficult to see how O could continue to exist thereafter.

            Continuity over time going with the brain doesn’t mean composition at a time is exhausted by the brain.

            This may be. But it seems to me that the body is a sort of exosuit or carapace for the central nervous system, a part of me, the person, only in the same loose and attenuated sense that the monitor or keyboard is a part of the computer.

            since I’m not super clear on the metaphysics of parliamentary bodies, but maybe it will help:

            It would be weird to assume that the metaphysics of social institutions must operate according to the same rules as the metaphysics of ordinary objects, or of persons.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I think you’re missing the dialectic – I’m not assuming that the metaphysics of social institutions must be identical to the metaphysics of chairs or of persons. You were implicitly arguing from the premise that nothing can survive the instantaneous destruction of all of its parts (put as a rhetorical question) (really, I think the issue is better framed as whether things can instantaneously change all of their parts – the destruction I don’t think adds anything). I gave what seems to me like a counterexample. Of course, the fact that some things can survive the instantaneous loss of all of their parts doesn’t mean that persons can, but the burden seems to me to be on you to explain why we should be independently confident that persons cannot, since you’re the one who wants to use that claim against the psychological view. I just don’t understand your motivation. Is it some sort of basic ground-level metaphysical intuition about persons? If so, I don’t share it, and thinking about the cases that point towards the psychological continuity view makes me doubt it. Is there some other independent reason?

            But it seems to me that the body is a sort of exosuit or carapace for the central nervous system, a part of me, the person, only in the same loose and attenuated sense that the monitor or keyboard is a part of the computer.

            Interesting. I don’t think that I think of my body that way. I wonder if there’s some psychological difference between us in the way we experience our bodies.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You were implicitly arguing from the premise that nothing can survive the instantaneous destruction of all of its parts (put as a rhetorical question)

            The quantifier here is restricted to concrete objects mereologically composed out of parts all of which are also concrete. The composition of social institutions may be non-mereological (it sounds strained even to say that MPs are “parts” of parliament, rather than members), or they may have parts whose ontological status is dubious. I don’t really know, I don’t follow the literature on the topic.

            Can you cite a clear example of a mereologically-composed concrete object which can survive the simultaneous destruction of all of its parts?

            Is it some sort of basic ground-level metaphysical intuition about persons?

            I expect that the brain criterion is going to be most attractive to people on the extreme empiricist/nominalist/naturalist end of the spectrum, which, based on our past interactions, I occupy and you do not. So it would not be terribly surprising if we just had an irreconcilable difference in intuitions.

            Interesting. I don’t think that I think of my body that way. I wonder if there’s some psychological difference between us in the way we experience our bodies.

            Have you ever had a serious concussion? My experience is that after waking up from a concussion you feel as though a part of you, the person, has been damaged or altered. Bodily injuries don’t have quite the same phenomenal experience.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I would have thought that empiricist/nominalist/naturalists would be all the more likely to take criteria of identity over time as a matter of convention (sometimes we care about such and such collection of temporal parts/carving up of spacetime, sometimes so and so, and none of it is privileged as far as science is concerned), and avoid heavy-duty metaphysical principles or intuitions about object persistence.

            I can’t think of a very clear example of a concrete object that loses all of its parts at once, but the kind of thing I’m looking for is : suppose we had a name for a part of a river that was located in a particular spot – this is a concrete object that at each time is made up of a bunch of water, but the water moves very fast, so it’s constantly exchanging parts. Pushed to the limit, we might imagine the water moving so fast that it shares no parts from one moment to the next.

            Re: concussions: I do suspect a brain injury might make me more sympathetic to your view 😉

            Oh come on, you walked into it.

          • quanta413 says:

            Have you ever had a serious concussion? My experience is that after waking up from a concussion you feel as though a part of you, the person, has been damaged or altered. Bodily injuries don’t have quite the same phenomenal experience.

            I know I’m not who you’re asking, but that’s very interesting. I had a mild (I’m not sure where the line for serious is but this seems the best description) concussion which lightly impaired my hand-eye coordination for about a month and prevented me from running because it hurt like hell when my foot hit the ground, and that wasn’t my experience at all. It was just kind of exhausting and annoying. Given, mild vs serious etc.

    • blacktrance says:

      Puzzle Two:
      (Assuming utilitarianism or something like it)

      First, we want to avoid having to make new lives at a net cost to the rest of the population, even if those lives would be well above worth living, because they don’t count for anything if they don’t exist, so there’s no point in making existing people worse off to create them. This rules out both total and average utilitarianism.
      Second, we don’t want to disregard new lives, either. For example, we don’t want to create a horribly suffering being if its suffering outweighs the gain to the previously existing population. Less extremely, we don’t want people to trade small benefits for themselves for large harms to new lives, even if the new life is still worth living.

      It seems that if the utility of both the original and new (original + new life) populations are higher if a new life is created and the utility of the new population is maximized, then the new life should be created, and otherwise it shouldn’t be. To put it more clearly:
      – If the previously existing people are better off before creation, don’t create.
      – If the utility of the previously existing people before creation is greater than the utility of the previously existing people after creation plus the utility of the new life, don’t create. (e.g. if the old population gets an extra 10 utility total but the new life is -100 utility, don’t create).
      – If the previously existing people are better off after creation, and the new population (including the new life) has a higher total utility than the previous one, create.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        Good, although if I’m understanding your view it’s still vulnerable to a version of the repugnant conclusion. Suppose that I have to choose between A and B and doing nothing. In both A and B, the existing population gets +10, in A, we add a billion new ridiculously happy people at +1000 each, and in B, we add a zillion gajillion new people with lives barely worth living (but whose total happiness exceeds a trillion). [we can even imagine that among those zillion gajillion are the billion you would have created by doing A] As far as I can tell, your view recommends B, which seems wrong.

        One might also worry that the mere order in which you create people comes out as important in a weird way.

        • blacktrance says:

          That’s a good point, though it’s not a problem if the threshold for “worth living” is sufficiently high. Alternatively, one could use average utility instead, though that would have the counterintuitive conclusion that if the previously existing population had extremely happy lives, it’d be wrong to add merely very happy new lives.

          One might also worry that the mere order in which you create people comes out as important in a weird way.

          I don’t see that as an issue. It’s not counterintuitive to say that what you should do for t2 depends on where you are at t1.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            It might not be counterintuitive to say in general that what we should do at t2 depends on what’s going on at t1, or that the order of our actions can matter in some way, but it’s still counterintuitive that certain kinds of order issues are morally significant. If you have two jars, one on your left and one on your right, and pressing a button by each jar would turn that fetus into a person, which would (later) go on to have a certain life, it would be counterintuitive to claim that pressing the left button followed by the right button was wrong, but pressing the right button followed by the left button was okay, or pressing both buttons at the same time had a different moral value than pressing one and then the other, with no other morally relevant factors being affected. That said, I don’t think this problem is that bad. (Or at least I hope so, since I think I’ll probably end up having to say something similar)

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Hi Philosophisticat,

      So I got my hands on a copy of Reasons and Persons. However, the book is unfortunately structured in such a way that makes very difficult to navigate (and there’s no subject or keyword index). Would you by chance be able to point out to me in which section Parfit argues for the possibility of aggregating any sort of measure of happiness or well-being (or at least explains how happiness or well-being, as these concepts are used in his arguments, are operationalized and/or measured)?

      I tried going right to the Mere Addition Paradox and related sections, but they seem to start with very many assumptions, which I assume are argued for in previous sections, but I’m having trouble finding where.

      Thanks in advance!

      • Philosophisticat says:

        Parfit intends to be neutral between competing conceptions of well-being. As far as I recall, he does not argue that well-being is comparable – it is a background assumption shared between him and his targets. If well-being is not even roughly comparable, then the views that he is challenging, such as the average and total view, cannot even be formulated. Remember, Parfit’s aim in the relevant section is negative – he wants to show that we lack a satisfactory story about reasons stemming from peoples’ welfare. If welfare is incomparable between persons, then that just makes it even harder to give such a story. So this assumption is spotting something to his targets. If you’re interested in whether or not various conceptions of the good are comparable, and want to see arguments for or against those claims, Reasons and Persons is not the place to look.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          I see… that’s disappointing. Thanks for the response, though.

          Do you know of any kind of summary of what Parfit is arguing for? (Or is he arguing for anything?)

          P.S. This is a digression, but “roughly comparable” is not really a meaningful concept in these sorts of situations. Values either are comparable or they are not. (I find moral philosophers’ generally low level of understanding of levels of measurement, coherence and meaning of mathematical or logical operators, and related issues to be one of the most serious sources of error in this domain.)

          • Philosophisticat says:

            The concluding chapter would be a good place to look for a summary of what Parfit is arguing for.

            You are wrong if you think philosophers who talk about rough comparability are ignorant about measurement or coherence or the meaning of mathematical or logical operators. The debate over rough comparability is a substantive one over the “better than” relation, or more generally the structure of value facts and concepts.

            The general thing I want to say about this whole discussion is that philosophers are not as dumb as you think they are.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            The concluding chapter would be a good place to look for a summary of what Parfit is arguing for.

            Thanks! I’ll give it a close read.

            The general thing I want to say about this whole discussion is that philosophers are not as dumb as you think they are.

            The thing is, I have—I’ve found—a substantially higher opinion of philosophers, and philosophy, than many in “rationalist” communities (especially among folks who, like me, have a computer science background or similar). There are many who simply dismiss the entire field, or who specifically don’t think that modern philosophy has anything interesting or useful to say and that cognitive science and other such disciplines can answer all the questions that philosophers ask.

            I don’t agree with such views. I think philosophy still has many important and interesting things to say, and that the ideas of many currently-living or relatively-recent (i.e. 20c onward) philosophers are not nearly appreciated enough in the context of rationalist discourse (examples that spring instantly to mind are Dennett, Gendler, Chalmers, Putnam, Nozick; there are others). Lack of familiarity with these people’s work leads to a lot of wheel-reinventing among rationalists who find themselves (inevitably) venturing into the realm of philosophy.

            Nevertheless, there are some clear gaps (such as the sort that Dennett alludes to in this quote). I’ve simply never seen a serious, rigorous treatment of the mathematical issues I noted. Blithe assumptions seem to be made that are entirely unwarranted and indeed contrary to common sense or experience.

            But your comment gives me hope about that last part! You say:

            The debate over rough comparability is a substantive one over the “better than” relation, or more generally the structure of value facts and concepts.

            You’ll have made my day if you can give me a reference or two to follow, for this!

          • Philosophisticat says:

            This isn’t my area, but I know Caspar Hare and Ruth Chang write about comparability issues.

            Here’s a paper by Ruth Chang about comparability: http://fas-philosophy.rutgers.edu/CHANG/THE%20POSSIBILITY%20OF%20PARITY.pdf

            And by Caspar Hare, about related issues and their significance for decision theory: http://web.mit.edu/~casparh/www/Papers/CJHareTaketheSugar.pdf

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Thanks!

            Edit: The Chang paper is, sadly, exactly an almost ideal example of the sorts of problems in philosophy that I referred to. There is a tremendous amount of wheel-reinventing, and a great deal of fumbling with concepts that are clarified in short order in any good undergrad CS course. There’s also much that succumbs trivially to LW-style conceptual analysis.

            (Off-topic aside: I found fascinating a casual comment in passing to the effect that economists since the 1930s widely hold the view that utility is incomparable between individuals. True, of course—and, in my experience, basically unknown in rationalist circles. “Clearly a meeting of the minds is in order”, indeed!)

            The Hare paper is interesting in the abstract but not particularly relevant.

            In any case, I’ll follow some citations and see what else there is. Thanks again.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            This is another instance of the sort of tone Anatoly was flagging above.

            There are legitimate criticisms to make of philosophy as a discipline, but philosophers have been doing conceptual analysis much longer and much more rigorously than less wrong, and the claim that they are so incompetent in their own domain of expertise that their arguments are refuted by undergraduate understanding of unrelated fields is pretty unlikely. I don’t really want to argue about Chang, but if it seems to you that the work of prominent physicists is refuted by anthropology 101, chances are you’re probably misunderstanding something. In any case, a modicum of humility plays a lot better.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            philosophers have been doing conceptual analysis much longer

            Yeah

            and much more rigorously

            Nope

            … unless of course by “philosophers” you mean “only those philosophers who were doing the rigorous stuff”. Was Russell a philosopher? Was Frege? etc. You could answer “yes”, I suppose, and then credit those philosophers’ rigor to philosophy-as-a-whole, but I feel that this is cheating. (Not particularly worse than the converse—dismissing all of philosophy because of Hegel, say—but still an intellectual sin. I’m not saying all philosophers lack rigor, after all…!)

            I don’t really want to argue about Chang, but if it seems to you that the work of prominent physicists is refuted by anthropology 101

            Sure, I don’t eith—wait, what?

            physicists

            I assume you mean “philosophers” here… as far as I can tell, Ruth Chang has no background whatever in physics.

            anthropology

            What…?

            With respect, I begin to suspect that if there is indeed misunderstanding here, it’s hardly one-sided.

            the claim that they are so incompetent in their own domain of expertise

            [emphasis mine]

            First of all, the claim is not about the general “they”, but about specific philosophers (even if it’s “most of them”).

            Second, and more importantly… the claim is, exactly, that the domain in which they are, perhaps, experts, is not nearly the most useful domain when it comes to handling the sorts of questions they (and we) are asking. The claim is, in fact, that their domain (as it has been delineated and as it is practiced) is full of sophistry and demagoguery, that “expertise” in it is of little value to anyone who is interested in the problems at hand, and that other fields entirely are far more applicable (if not necessarily *solely* applicable!) to those problems.

            Finally: I accept the charge of lack of humility. That is not where my comparative advantage lies, and I leave it to others to put my points more tactfully. I in any case apologize if my comments have offended.

          • rlms says:

            @Said Achmiz
            The physics and anthropology thing was (I presume) an analogy. Suppose someone comes to the conclusion that anthropology 101 invalidates general relativity. Which is more likely, that they are correct, or that they have misunderstood general relativity (or anthropology 101)? In your case, physics=philosophy, anthropology=computer science. Side comment on that case: in the non-analogical case, it seems plausible that there are more than zero philosophers who’ve taken computer science 101.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @rlms

            Ah! I understand, thanks.

            But it’s not at all a good analogy! Surely Philosophisticat would not, in the very same comment, suggest to me that I would benefit from more humility, and then imply that philosophy is comparable in rigor to physics?

            (The anthropology / computer science analogy is also suspect, but certainly less so)

            I don’t particularly want to open up an argument about whether expertise in physics is the same sort of thing as expertise in philosophy, or how much expertise is required to do philosophy (as compared to physics), etc. I will just say that this is a great difference which is quite closely related to my above points.

            it seems plausible that there are more than zero philosophers who’ve taken computer science 101.

            Oh, certainly. At least, if we include such philosophers as the already-mentioned Russell or Frege (who studied matters which, while not being “computer science” in the modern sense, are certainly the same sort of thing).

            If we don’t… well, you did say “more than zero”, and also “computer science 101”, so undoubtedly this is literally true. But… well, let me put it this way:

            Name three.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t particularly want to continue arguing for Philosophisticat (there’s only so far you can go in arguing a specific point made by someone else before it’s difficult to know what they actually meant), so I won’t.

            Regarding philosophers who did computer science 101: I can’t be bothered finding three to name, but off the top of my head Peter Millican is a professor of philosophy with a masters in computer science.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Cool, thanks.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I looked it up on a “wouldn’t it be just perfect if…” whim, and Ruth Chang herself worked as a computer programmer.

            So, uh, yeah.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Oh? Source, please? 🙂

            (I only ask because I can’t find any mention of this in her CV or in a couple of interviews she did or her wp page—I do try to avoid the “too lazy to Google it” thing.)

            ETA: Never mind, I see it in her CV, in the blurb at the end: “… and a computer programmer promoted to analyst writing and implementing software for the marketing division of a large international company.” Well, ok. That’s not really the sort of thing I was talking about. Certainly credentials aren’t required to be a good programmer or developer, but I don’t actually see any evidence of any academic CS background, and she seems to have spent her career doing… not that.

            I’m not really sure how to respond, here. On the one hand my inclination is to say “ok, fair point, that does technically fit what I asked for”. On the other hand, it actually technically doesn’t. I mean… at this point, we’d have to talk to Ruth Chang personally and quiz her about implementation of mathematical variable types and their operators, or something. Failing that, and lacking any actual evidence re: her background in or knowledge of computer science / etc., all I have to go on is her published work in her field. That leads me to the conclusions I laid out above.

    • Wrong Species says:

      What is your view on puzzle one? Don’t most philosophers believe in Hume’s “bundle of sticks” theory?

      I always thought that the most important aspect, practically speaking, is the continuity of conscious. That’s why we wouldn’t consider someone to have gone through a transporter dead. Since the process happened at the same time, then they both have equal rights to everything that Clive originally owned. I’m not sure how they would split up their job or their family though. Or anything that has sentimental value. Maybe they could split up the job until one(or both) decides to quit. The sentimental items could be split as evenly as possible and both given access at all times. And I guess both would have to split up their family duties. As they diverge from each other, they can lay claim to a separate identity over time.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        I assume you mean his “bundle of perceptions” theory. Although the view that we are all bundles of sticks is pretty tempting.

        Most philosophers nowadays would not accept Hume’s view, although many views do give a pretty big role to experiences and mental states more generally.

        My favorite view on the first puzzle is that there are two overlapping people even before the operation, one of whom is the same person as Lefty and one of whom is the same person as Righty, who share all of the same parts and all of the same thoughts. (Not because of anything about the structure of the brain, but just because they later diverge – other people with the same kind of brain as Clive but who do not undergo the experiment are just single people.) The view looks less weird if you accept a picture where people have not just spatial parts but also temporal parts – where me-as-a-baby is literally a part of the long spacetime worm that is me. Then you can look at Lefty and Righty as two spacetime worms who just happen to share some of their earlier parts, just as siamese twins share some of their spatial parts despite being distinct people.

  9. dndnrsn says:

    The news/opinion media right now – ranging from real grownup paper sources, to random blogs – is extremely prone to lying, not by commission, but by omission, emphasis, etc. Two people with different political views might be getting wildly different news stories, different explanations for the same stories, and so forth. Anything to preserve a coherent narrative where you’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys.

    The narrative doesn’t have to be consistent, either. A lot of American right-wingers went from “support the president!” during the Bush years to, uh, not supporting Obama as president, and will probably switch back to castigating left-wingers for not supporting Trump. Or, before the recent election, it was a cause for scandal among most on the left that Trump would not accept the results of the election if he lost, there was fear that his supporters would see the election as stolen, accusations that Clinton was a pawn of foreign powers were seen as dangerous, Trump and his supporters were seen as entertaining conspiracy theories, but now that everything is reversed… In both cases, it’s a situation where a switch in what’s productive to believe and say happens, with close to zero self-awareness. Of course, people can come up with a million reasons about how it’s different, but we humans are great at coming up with reasons for believing, saying, and doing what we already wanted to.

    Can anything be done to change this, on a large scale? My first thought was “people should try to build media outlets, blogs, etc that try to split contributors evenly between different positions” but this probably would not work. Even if you made, say, a news site with a carefully-selected mix of different positions, or a 50-50 left-right split, or whatever, the result would be a “stalemate” that would eventually break: commenter balance would end up at 55-45, then 60-40, etc, and drive one side away, or something like that, or perhaps among “big name” contributors the place would get a reputation leading contributors of one stripe to be of higher quality than another, or any number of other things. Sites with comments, forums, etc that focus on politics tend to develop a monoculture – the same thing is happening here, to whatever extent (not just in a shift to the right, either – Death Eaters disappeared in the Reign of Terror, although that was less an organic and more a top-down thing).

    Pessimistic conclusion: We’re all full of shit; I like to think of myself as someone who is careful to get different stories, to check the facts, etc but I’m probably full of shit and lying to myself just like everyone else is (and you are too – we all are); opinions are derived to support positions that give personal benefits of various sorts; we are all even more adept at lying to ourselves than at lying to others; we’re just monkeys that have gotten especially good at making excuses; etc.

    I hope that the pessmistic conclusion is incorrect. Does anybody have any thoughts as to what could be done?

    • cassander says:

      >I hope that the pessmistic conclusion is incorrect. Does anybody have any thoughts as to what could be done?

      Do you mean on a personal level or societal?

      • dndnrsn says:

        More a societal level. On a personal level, individuals can try to check the facts, read stuff from multiple sources, try to keep everything from fitting into a predetermined narrative, etc – although, as I note, it’s easy for a person to trick themselves into thinking they’re doing this when they’re not actually.

    • Matt M says:

      “In both cases, it’s a situation where a switch in what’s productive to believe and say happens, with close to zero self-awareness.”

      I don’t think there’s zero self-awareness. I think everyone who does this sort of thing knows they are doing it. They just don’t care. Advancing your political agenda is literally the most important thing you can do. You know you are being inconsistent with your past statements, but circumstances have changed. As this becomes more and more obvious I think more and more people are openly admitting it and dropping the veil. More and more of my left-leaning friends, when encountered with something like “You loved executive power when Obama wielded it, but now you hate it when Trump wields it!” would not deny this accusation at all, they would say “Yeah, because Obama was an enlightened progressive while Trump is a vile racist.”

      • dndnrsn says:

        I don’t know about this. People very rarely admit inconsistency, to others, and probably not to themselves. I don’t think people say “I must advance my political agenda”, they just perceive reality in the way that suits it.

        I have not, for instance, seen right-wing friends say “well, supporting Right-Wing Leader was good and right, but we should not support Left-Wing Leader, on account of them being bad” – they just go straight to the second part of the sentence. I have not seen any left-wing friends (of whom I have many, many more than right-wing friends) remark that, while it was bad that going into the election Trump was indulging in conspiracy theories to lay the groundwork to claim that a loss was bogus, but now the election actually was bogus due to meddling by foreign agents. They just go straight to the second bit, too.

        • Matt M says:

          I mean, you’re right in that very few people are overly enthusiastic about admitting this publicly.

          But I do think “everyone switches sides on a wide variety of issues depending on who is in power” has become such a repeated and blatantly obvious cultural meme that everyone recognizes it as true.

          Even in the most insulated bubbles, I have to imagine hard core left-wingers have been encountered with at least one criticism of “you were upset that Trump wouldn’t accept election results, and now you are not accepting election results.” The level of cognitive dissonance required to dismiss this is pretty extreme. Now extend it out to all the other issues it applies to (executive power, federalism, war, etc.) and it gets that much more difficult.

          • Iain says:

            Not every situation is perfectly symmetric, and sometimes those asymmetries matter. When you expand it out to “You were upset that Trump wouldn’t accept election results (because of repeatedly debunked claims about widespread voter fraud), and now you are not accepting election results (because the intelligence community is unanimous in accusing Russia of deliberate interference)” then it is not prima facie obvious that hypocrisy is involved. (It’s also not clear that a comparison between “Republican presidential candidate rejects election results” and “random liberal rejects election results” is particularly meaningful, but let’s set that aside for now.) Most people can come up with an explanation that is at least superficially plausible for why this case is different. Sometimes, sure, that plausibility is only superficial — but your ability to take two situations and frame them to look similar is not in itself proof of hypocrisy, especially when you yourself are just as vulnerable to motivated reasoning.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M:

            Those other guys change their opinions whenever it suits them” is something everyone recognizes as true. I agree with Iain – inconsistency and hypocrisy are different things. Hypocrisy implies a level of intention and purpose not there with mere inconsistency.

            @Iain:

            I would argue that the “Russia interfered in the election” narrative is being presented in a really misleading way. Russian intelligence was probably involved in phishing and so forth that resulted in private stuff getting released that hurt Clinton, but the election itself was not tampered with.

            “People made a decision in part based on private information made public, and that information was made public by hackers who probably are/have a link with Russian intelligence” is a true statement, but phrasing it as “Russia tampered with the election” creates all sorts of connotations that simply aren’t true. Those connotations are getting across – half of Clinton voters think that the Russians actually tampered with the election results.

            While you are correct that Clinton has not refused to accept the results, the fear wasn’t just that Trump wouldn’t, it was that his followers wouldn’t. This is the Democrat version of the false claim that there’s massive voter fraud of which Republicans are fond.

            Of course, the mainstream right is more prone to conspiracy theories than the mainstream left, but I would argue that this is election is a turning point in that: Birtherism brought conspiracy theories into the mainstream for the right, and “Russians hacked the election” is going to be the Birtherism of the American left.

            I basically think that this is, not hypocrisy, but inconsistency. Had Trump won the popular vote but lost the EC, and had this been in part due to the release of private emails by hackers from China, Mexico, or Saudi Arabia who according to the CIA were/were linked to intelligence operatives of the country from which the hacking came, it would be Trump voters believing that the election was illegitimate, that the hackers had messed with the vote tallies, etc, and Clinton voters calling them conspiracy theory nutjobs.

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn:
            I agree with almost everything you say. In particular, I think the number of Democrats who think Russia directly interfered with vote totals is depressing. I don’t think it goes as far as birtherism, though, at least not yet. Right now, it’s plausible that it’s an artifact of people misunderstanding news reports about Russian interference, or misunderstanding the question. If the number is still that high a year from now, then we can talk.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            I have no doubts it’s a lot of people misunderstanding things – I think, though, that a lot of the people doing things like writing articles, etc, are either intentionally being vague about what “Russian interference” or whatever means, or are not trying too hard to not be vague.

            As to whether the perception will fade: 41% of Republicans several months ago thought Obama was definitely not born in the US. It looks like a year after the election, just under 60% thought he wasn’t.

            If Democrats believing the election itself was actually tampered with follow a similar pattern, by the time Trump leaves office, maybe a third or so will still think the election was stolen in such a fashion.

          • John Schilling says:

            When you expand it out to “You were upset that Trump wouldn’t accept election results (because of repeatedly debunked claims about widespread voter fraud), and now you are not accepting election results (because the intelligence community is unanimous in accusing Russia of deliberate interference)” then it is not prima facie obvious that hypocrisy is involved.

            Has the intelligence community released substantially more evidence of the alleged Russian interference than Trump did of the alleged widespread voter fraud?

            Possibly the hypocrisy moves back one level, to people who will dismiss the “intelligence community” when it talks about e.g. Iraqi WMDs but eagerly embrace its claims re Pro-Trump Russian Hackers. And if I think it is more likely than not that the FSB or GRU did hack the DNC’s emails, that is being argued in an extremely deceptive manner and the quantitative impact is unknown. Meanwhile, I am quite certain that some finite number of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton and the quantitative impact of that is also unknown (and was being argued in a highly deceptive manner before Trump’s victory was sealed).

          • Adam says:

            Any poll of how many people still believe that Diebold conspired to win Ohio 2004 for Bush? That was a popular theory on the left in the immediate aftermath of that election.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I can’t find anything after a little bit of Googling. What a blast from the past, though.

          • Iain says:

            @John Schilling: I mean, you can get halfway there with publicly available information. See the Twitter thread starting here, for example.

            @Adam/dndnrsn: Partial proxy: Gallup found that a higher percentage of Democrats accepted Trump as a legitimate president than accepted Bush in December 2000. This isn’t a perfect measure, though, because Gallup polled right after the election, before most of the Russia stuff hit the news.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            From my perspective, at least, the 2000 election was a huge mess. People went in intending to vote for one candidate and, for various reasons, either unintentionally spoiled their ballots or voted for another candidate by accident.

            I don’t see anyone making a good argument that the people who in this election gave it to Trump by voting for him or voting third party didn’t mean to. They may have been influenced in their decision by emails released by hackers/phishers who may have links to Russian intelligence, just as they may have been influenced in their decision by Comey’s actions, but it was still a decision they made knowingly and intentionally.

            Now, “people voted Trump for stupid and bad reasons”, yeah, that’s got legs, but if we kept people from voting because they were voting for stupid and bad reasons…

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn: Definitely not what I was trying to say. I think Trump is a legitimate (though terrible) president-elect. I’m just pointing out that, by at least one metric, the conspiracy theories on the left are less prevalent than they were 16 years ago.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But the question of legitimate doesn’t map solely to a belief in conspiracy theories.

            The SCOTUS really did overrule the SCOFL on a party line vote before the recount was complete. That is a different thing to hang illegitimate on than conspiracy.

            The thing that I think is scary is the damage to governing norms that has been done. The Republicans have absolutely scorched them, but trying to get the Electoral College to over throw the popular vote was the kind of thing that can bite you in the ass later on.

          • Randy M says:

            but trying to get the Electoral College to over throw the popular vote was the kind of thing that can bite you in the ass later on.

            Loaded terms like overthrow aside, you are saying that the Republicans intentionally used a strategy to eek out an electoral college win, contra all previous strategies that targeted primarily (pardon the pun) the popular vote?
            I recall Democratic candidates, for example, spending a lot more time fund raising in safe, populous CA than actually campaigning; likewise, states that split their EC votes get relatively little attention. Instead, it’s all about the swing states, and has been for cycles, not because they have large populations to offer, but because they offer the most easily contested EC votes.

            In short, you appear to be trying to create some new spin to keep the “illegitimate win” narrative alive.

          • Iain says:

            @Randy M: I’m pretty sure HeelBearCub agrees with you, and wrote “over throw the popular vote” by mistake where he presumably meant something like “overturn the Electoral College result in favour of the popular vote”. The rest of his post doesn’t make sense otherwise.

          • Randy M says:

            @Iain & HBC; If so, I retract my objection and request clarification on what governing norms the Republicans have “absolutely scorched”. It was the juxtaposition of those lines that led me not to assume a typo.

          • Iain says:

            I presume that one of HBC’s examples would be the SCOTUS decision in Bush v. Gore, given that he mentioned it in his post. Beyond that, I’ll let HBC speak for himself.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            I wasn’t saying that was what you were saying and I apologize if I made it seem like I was. I don’t think “Gore should have won in 2000” was really a conspiracy theory, though.

            Sports analogy: “the boxing match was really close, and the local boy won a hometown decision” is a different thing from “the winner’s gloves were loaded”.

          • Iain says:

            A good chunk of the confusion here appears to be my fault for misreading / forgetting that the Diebold/Ohio conspiracy theory was 2004, not 2000. It appears 2000 was less rife with conspiracy than I remembered (although I do vaguely remember some nonsense about Jeb Bush as governor of Florida something something voting machines), which makes my comparison to Bush/Gore less relevant, which makes your response more reasonable. Cool. I think we are all on the same page now. My bad.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @RandyM:
            The Dems who were trying to get the Electoral College to overthrow the popular vote *in their state* by being faithless did damage to governing norms. There are other examples on the Dem side.

            Do you really want me to compile a list of all the governing norms that Republicans have broken in the last 24 years? I guess I could do some loose attempt. My fear is that, the way you ask the question, you aren’t actually interested.

            Comey took an official action against a candidate less than two weeks before a presidential election.

            Trump did not release his tax returns.

            Trump is not divesting from his business.

            Many, many, many more.

          • Randy M says:

            Was wondering what general sort of things you had in mind. You’re welcome to expand your points into something substantive or leave it as an aside. Don’t put in too much effort on my account, I’m not in the mood for putting in an argument, or at least one defending republicans or looking up counter-examples to give a balanced condemnation. Your previous post did genuinely confuse me as I thought it was one railing against the electoral college stifling the popular vote rather than the opposite, as was pointed out.

        • Jordan D. says:

          I both agree and disagree with this.

          The tone-deaf switch you’re describing absolutely does happen, but I’ve seen it both ways. I know people who would, with total earnestness, say “Trump’s refusal to accept election results pre-election was nonsense, but there’s evidence that Russia hacked the election, so that’s different” just as I know people who would leave out the front part. As an example, I know a lawyer who will tell you straight-up, in one sentence, that it was reasonable to block Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for a year because ‘Obama was on the way out’ but gets outraged at the thought of blocking Trump nominees because ‘he has a mandate to change things’, whereas Senator McConnell himself doesn’t even bother to explain his total 180 degree shift in tone on blocking nominees.

          I think it depends a lot on the kind of people you’re talking to. I think the Republican lawyer friend of mine is being led by his emotions* and rationalizing why those emotions are really supported by his principles, whereas Senator McConnell’s driving principles are ‘my side should win and theirs should lose’, so he doesn’t actually need to rationalize anything.

          And since I’ve set up a sliding scale- from ‘naive-but-partisan’ to ‘partisan-but-cynical’- everyone will be a gradient. Pretty much nobody can stop themselves from being led at least a bit by partisanship, but self-awareness will naturally vary.

          *I know this is true in my case where, despite my honest and heart-felt objection to Judge Garland being sidelined, I feel only a sense of satisfaction at the thought of doing the same to a Trump nominee. I try to overcome this by resolving to publicly support a fair hearing for any nominee of average qualifications, even if I disagree with their philosophy.

          • Matt M says:

            “whereas Senator McConnell himself doesn’t even bother to explain his total 180 degree shift in tone on blocking nominees.”

            Right, and I think that everyone (including right-wingers) is aware and would admit that Senator McConnell is doing this, and that he is doing it for partisan reasons.

            And if you admit that HE’S doing it, it becomes that much harder to maintain that you are doing something entirely different.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Jordan D.

            I gave examples of both right and left in the US doing this. We all do it, because we are all humans, using the same human brains. I absolutely am not trying to say that this is the province of one political affiliation but not another.

          • Jordan D. says:

            @dndnrsn

            I apologize if my post came off as accusing you of such- I didn’t intend to do that. I just wanted to argue that both you and Matt M. were independently correct about the meta-level principles. That’s what I meant when I said ‘I’ve seen it both ways’; both people who are naive partisans and cynical partisans.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Jordan D.

            Not accusing, just that maybe you missed a bit. I agree you see both.

            I suppose the whole problem is that we as a species are really bad at meta-level thinking, because being a stickler about meta-level thinking is usually a hindrance to real-life success.

      • cassander says:

        >I don’t think there’s zero self-awareness. I think everyone who does this sort of thing knows they are doing it.

        I’ve got to disagree. It’s a classic irregular verb, I’m nuanced, you’re inconsistent, he’s a flaming hypocrite. When we’re inconsistent, we know we have a good reason, so we excuse ourselves. We are less charitable with others, but there’s no deception it it.

      • Adam says:

        I wouldn’t necessarily take all of these cases as inconsistent so much as people just being wrong about what their actual positions are. Did they say at some point they’re in favor generally of expanded executive power? If so, they were wrong. They were in favor of Obama’s policies. They’re not in favor of Trump’s policies. So they want Obama to be more powerful and Trump to be less. That isn’t inconsistent. Same with McConnell. His stated positions are inconsistent, but that’s because he’s lying about his position. He wants judges nominated by Democrats to be blocked generally and judges nominated by Republicans to be confirmed. It’s not inconsistent. It’s just partisan. He holds to no meta-principles about how governing should happen.

      • Spookykou says:

        I don’t think there’s zero self-awareness. I think everyone who does this sort of thing knows they are doing it. They just don’t care.

        This, or similar ideas seem really popular here on SSC, they seem to boil down to the idea that nobody ever holds principled meta level positions on anything.

        I wonder to what extent belief that nobody is principled on meta level issues reflects how principled a person is on meta level issues?

        Are principled people constantly confronted by people who fail to hold themselves to their own principles? ( A small minority is principled)

        Are unprincipled people constantly seeing that their side is clearly principled and the other isn’t, through a sort of self delusion? (About half of all people are principled)

        Are unprincipled people simple suffering from the like mind fallacy? (Nobody is principled)

        Are the principled? (Everyone is principled)

        I wonder if a simple model like this could be useful? I wonder if somebody better at making simple models could improve on it?

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          My suspicion, and this is only suspicion with no empirical evidence beyond anecdata to back it up, is that the vast majority of the general public is fundamentally unprincipled on the meta-level. If you query them, they can probably generate some meta-level principles they would believe in, but they will forget about those principles shortly after the conversation is over and revert back to object-level thinking.

          Of the people who profess meta-level principles in the form of some coherent political theory (neoliberalism, socialism, ancap, minarchism, whatever), the majority are simply not very good at it. This is especially true for politicians.

          Political and Bureaucratic processes necessarily and actively select against people who stick to principled meta-level positions, as they are less likely to compromise, coalition-build, and generally “get stuff done”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t even think most people are that principled on the object level, even. I know a lot of people who hold two object-level views – eg, they would support a policy that does x, and a policy that does y – that conflict with each other. Of course, there’s usually also a meta-level conflict.

        • Jiro says:

          Are principled people constantly confronted by people who fail to hold themselves to their own principles?

          I suspect yes. Consider how many people here have some variation of “I actually took my religion seriously and realized it didn’t make any sense” while everyone around them did not take their religion seriously.

    • Adam says:

      Pessimistic conclusion is probably correct. My only response is who gives a shit. We’ve built a pretty nice world in spite of this and I see no reason we can’t continue doing so. Luckily, engineering problems are not nearly as subject to this kind of idiocy and solving them goes a long way. I’d rather have indoor plumbing and antibiotics than my favorite team winning elections. Not that there aren’t consequences, the Micah Davises and Dylann Roofs of the world, but they aren’t apocalypse-inducing or anything. By any reasonable measure of goodness in the world, we’ve been on a general upward trend for centuries in spite of everyone being full of shit when it comes to politics.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I suppose it comes to where you stand on the issue of human-caused catastrophes, which our unfortunate tendencies will probably keep us from addressing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Death Eaters disappeared in the Reign of Terror

      Not all of us. And I’m not just referring to myself. Some people just hide their power level better than others.

      • rlms says:

        SSC conspiracy theories: Moon is Jim.

        • Anonymous says:

          What’s your logic on that point?

          • rlms says:

            It is a humorous (jocular, amusing etc.) statement (otherwise known as a joke. The humour is derived from the fact that Moon frequently puts forward opinions that are more left-wing than the average here, whereas Jim held opinions considerably more right-wing than average. Although now that I think about it, they do have a kind of similar style…

          • Anonymous says:

            Oh. Moon sounds like one of those people who were active in the periods when I’ve been inactive.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            Moon AKA Jill was banned for a while. But I’m pretty sure you know the poster.

            When she is active, she is very active.

            Also, “Moon is Jim hiding their power level” is funny. That is all.

          • Anonymous says:

            Oh, Jill, of course. I recall Jill.

          • Spookykou says:

            Made me laugh

    • commenter balance would end up at 55-45, then 60-40, etc, and drive one side away, or something like that

      While this is only one problem of several, one could solve this by either not allowing comments, or potentially with more experiment approaches, such as having a comment section whose default view filters out comments from your outgroup after you’ve interacted with it for a while (e.g. on basis of up and downvotes – though I’m not sure how quickly these bubbles could be made, and it would probably make for strange reading for someone new to the site), or having comment sections by topic (e.g. “Do you think: The people affected by this are getting what they deserve?(link) This new regulation is bullshit?(link) The technical aspects of this are fascinating but might have problems?(link) Other?(link)” – people could pick something other than they believe, of course, but at large I imagine this filtering could work)… with either of those combined with the option of breaking out of the bubble if you really want to.

      (Meanwhile the authors of the site itself would just have to ignore the comment section and continue posting 50/50.)

      Different approach: Have a neural net pick stories and their comment sections on a 50/50 basis and blog them somewhere, anonymised, but with links to where it’s from (short URL form so the link doesn’t serve tot bias). You’d only be able to comment at the source, which itself would have a lean in the one or other direction.

      (Mind, I have no idea how these things would work in practise, I just like trying to come up with ideas, and hope that they can serve as some kind of inspiration for people more intelligent than me to find actual solutions.)

  10. asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

    A few years ago I used MDMA/LSD on 10-ish occasions, and would often dance to electronic music while doing so. While I no longer take drugs (except alcohol), I still enjoy dancing to electronic music, and when doing so I often experience hints of the sort of euphoria I used to feel when dancing on drugs. I used to dance to electronic music before taking any drugs (but with similar quantities of alcohol, say), and this non-drug euphoria was not present then. I was wondering if anyone else has had similar instances of activities where there’s a clear pre/post – drug use difference in how you experience them.

  11. asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

    I didn’t enjoy the movie Silence, and I’m having a hard time putting in to words why. A lot of people seem to be in agreement that it was too long, but I can’t think of any length it could be without still being unrelentingly boring. Rough (non-spoiler) thoughts so far:

    Andrew Garfield wasn’t very good, Adam Driver was much better.
    They somehow managed to make Japan look unimpressive geographically (it turns out they didn’t actually film on Japan)
    The practise of forcing suspected christians of stepping on icons of Jesus and Mary is apparently historical, and I guess it’s interesting how ineffective this approach would be nowadays.

    • Well... says:

      Haven’t seen it, just watched the preview.

      Was surprised to see Scorcese as the director. The movie somehow has the look of a young director, beginning with that bass drum thump that starts the trailer.

      Funny that Liam Neeson’s in it: a few seconds in I thought, “Oh, it’s The Mission: East.” The Mission was one of Neeson’s early roles.

      Anyway, looks shitty, probably won’t see it.

  12. asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

    I’ve been really enjoying Jonathon Franzen lately, both his novels and his esssays. The book of essays I’m reading prints the original year of publication at the end of each piece, and it’s always years earlier than I’d have guessed, if that’s worth anything. I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations of similar authors.

    Edit: Here’s a sample essay — https://issuu.com/hcpressbooks/docs/a_reader_in_exile_from_how_to_be_alone

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      I recommend Geoff Dyer’s essays. In his collections, he sorts his essays by topic, so I wouldn’t recommend anything in particular. It depends on your interest. The only work of his I’ve read in full is “Another great day at sea,” where he takes a writers-in-residence gig on an aircraft carrier.

  13. dndnrsn says:

    (This is budding off a thread in the last OT, and I’m calling @Iain and @HeelBearCub in, pinkos assemble!)

    Is there a good, quick way to express the sentiment “you are acting in a way contrary to your expressed opinions, because you have absorbed the belief system those opinions ostensibly act against; you have been infiltrated by opinions you have consciously set yourself against”?

    The example in point from the previous thread is self-proclaimed feminists who reproduce patriarchal ideas. It is not uncommon to see people express views that essentially derive from a patriachal worldview – men are brutal and dangerous, women lack agency and must be protected, men should be capable providers, etc – while saying that they are against patriarchy. An example focusing on the right wing (these are things of which all are guilty) would be people who proclaim a fondness and desire for the “olden days” – hearth and home, family, traditional living – while promoting policies that destroy those things (as an example, the “good old days” of one man being able to support a family of stay-at-home wife and 2.5 children often depended on that man having a union job in the manufacturing sector – but there are policies pushed by the right that have weakened unions and the manufacturing sector).

    The Death Eater and adjacent types have a rather unpleasant term of abuse that sort of describes this, but not really; it carries other connotations and marks you as one of them. Is there a neutral, non-marked way of saying that you are, er, hatching another bird’s eggs?

    • Randy M says:

      “You’re being a tool!” perhaps?

    • Adam says:

      False consciousness? I believe that originated with Marx, way before 4chan coopted the cuckoo.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I don’t think that right-wing example is that similar. It is pretty explicit that the right-wing is a coalition between separate ideologies. It is good to remind people that those factions are different and may come in to conflict, but that’s different from being infiltrated by an outside ideology.

      The N℞ expression you refer to is “unprincipled exception,” right?

      • dndnrsn says:

        You do end up, however, with situations where the same person uses the rhetoric of the former while supporting the latter.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Wait, is “unprincipled exception” a Death Eater term? I coulda sworn I’d seen it elsewhere.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I’m sure it’s ancient, but when I google it (without cookies or use duckduckgo) I get SSC and right-wing stuff tracing back to Larry Auster (2004).

          (Well, not that ancient. Only 7 google books hits before 1980. Maybe there is some other phrase before then.)

      • Anonymous says:

        The Death Eater and adjacent types have a rather unpleasant term of abuse that sort of describes this, but not really;

        The N℞ expression you refer to is “unprincipled exception,” right?

        I’m curious – what IS the term?

        Nothing in particular springs to mind except maybe “jugaad morality” (which is when you lose the ability to maintain efficient patriarchy because of memetic corruption, but you’re still human and still implicitly recognize natural laws governing our species, so you set up an unjust, inefficient version that works just well-enough that your society doesn’t collapse).

        • dndnrsn says:

          I thought I was being oblique, but only mildly so, to avoid tripping the word filter, but it turns out that “cuck” isn’t even on the word filter. Huh.

          A DE/adjacent (more the adjacents, really) would describe, say, an American self-proclaimed conservative who proposes ideas that they (the DE/adjacents) consider to be derived from liberals or leftists (not that they are necessarily great at differentiating liberals from leftists), that they consider to be opposed to “real conservatism”, etc, as “cucked”, a “cuckservative”, etc.

          Similarly, someone from my examples is “cowbirded”, “infiltrated”, whatever. The (person who calls themself a ) feminist whose policy proposals involve treating men as inherently lustful in a dangerous way and women as fragile, in need of protection, and implicitly as lacking agency, is infiltrated by patriarchal thought – the major difference between that position and a well-brought-up Victorian is that the Victorian opposes female promiscuity – the self-proclaimed feminist is marinated in patriarchal culture, as we all are (this is even a standard idea for academic feminism) but does not recognize that some of their ideas are derived from patriarchy (which is yuuuuuge on “we need to protect our women!”) and thus cannot possibly defeat the patriarchy. They have been infiltrated.

          The Republican senator whose rhetoric reaches back to the Good Old Days when a man could work in a factory and make enough money to support his wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog in the suburbs and they all go to church (maybe not the dog) but whose voting record has weakened unions, sent jobs overseas, and thus destroyed the nuclear family that is supposedly the goal is likewise infiltrated. They support a “fiscal conservatism” that is hardly conservative, that destroys the Good Old Days nuclear family model to enrich Wall Street sharks who are hardly models of good moral values, and that is not even remotely compatible with social conservatism (big corporations are now on board the LGBT rights train, for instance) in the name of “conservatism” and they seriously think this is coherent – they likewise are infiltrated.

          The general idea is “you are hatching someone else’s eggs; you serve your enemies and you don’t even know it.”

          (Of course, the genesis of the term “cuck” involves men who get off on the humiliation of another man penetrating their wife, and doing a better job of it; this is a big part of the insult value of the word, but I think it’s a false analogy).

          • Anon. says:

            I’m pretty sure the original meaning did not involve taking pleasure in being cucked. The fetish came later.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Many people see male lust as a very dangerous, powerful force, that needs to be controlled. In the traditional model, this is done by preventing temptation for men and eliminating opportunities for sex. Modest female clothing, separating the sexes as much as possible, arranged marriages, men and women only meeting with others present and other means.

            Substantial parts of feminism still believe in this, but want to eliminate the burden on women and instead want to put the burden on men: affirmative consent (which the man has to obtain continuously), men policing their friends, allowing men to only court in some places & in some ways, making the woman the sole (legal) arbiter of whether an encounter was rape, etc. It’s less unpleasant than the traditional solutions*, but still derived from the dichotomy that you describe: the beauty and the beast, the vampire and the virgin; the man as predator and the woman as prey.

            That model also inherently puts women at the mercy of men, makes men the protector, because he is strong and she is weak. He provides the force, she directs the power as an advanced martial artist does (not absorbing the attack, but making the attack part of the defense).

            So in dating, he moves in, she rewards or punishes to control the pace or end the encounter. When there is a threat, she directs her protector to it. When a decision has to be made, he makes it, but she rewards him when the decision is what she wants and punishes him if it isn’t.

            She teaches him his place and he teaches her her place. And they lived happily ever af Fuck this shit. It’s all based on a lie.

            * Although the traditionalist system is at least clear, while the more extremist feminist solutions seem incredibly capricious, leaving men in a situation where there is no real safe path anymore.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Anon.

            The original term was “cuckolded”, though – didn’t “cuck” in its current use originate within the cuckoldry fetish community, and was then repurposed?

            @Aapje: I don’t think that “believe” is the right word. Again, it’s … I’m not sure if “subconscious” is the right word. Those who have been cowbirded, infiltrated, or whatever in this fashion do not set out to reinforce a model in which men are the brutish pursuers and women are the fragile pursued, in which men have agency and women do not – but that is the result of their actions.

          • Anonymous says:

            @dndnrsn

            I see.

            While your analogy is decent, I don’t think both phenomena proceed from the same reasons – unless you can show how feminists get infected by traditionalist memes, the way supposed conservatives are infected by leftist memes. I don’t think the support structure is there for transmission in that direction; just about everything in polite society is pointedly suggesting that one should become more egalitarian, more liberal, less “oppressive”, etc. Did the feminist fall into the bad company of some tradcaths or something? I don’t think so.

            In the feminist’s case, I think the contradiction stems from a) feminism not being about equality of the sexes, but women’s privileges, b) natural interests of women due to human biology.

            Of course women want to be protected; an untrained average man could probably clobber most top, professional female fighters in a fair fight. Of course women want support, whether from the state, a husband or extended family; pregnancy and childbearing requires it. Of course women want to control over who gets to impregnate them; pregnancy is costly and it pays to maximize the quality of the mate. Feminism wants to secure things like that, and minimize the burdens and responsibilities of women at the same time; certainly not give them any more. And just like every other mono-cause institution, feminism does not care what it has to break to get what it wants.

            TL;DR: I think the feminist understands feminism better than you do.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think you’re imputing motives to your ideological opponents that they do not necessarily share. Even the people (regardless of gender) I know who fall into the “ostensible feminist reinforcing a different flavour of old gender norms” category … I don’t think they’re doing it on purpose. If you want to argue that everyone is following their biology, OK, but that doesn’t explain how you get the same message from those feminists, regardless of gender – what is the biological interest for a man, say, in promoting norms that harm him specifically?

            As to your question of “how did that get in there” … the “traditional” way of doing things is far, far older than the “new” way of doing things. Whether the traditional way of doing things is “natural” – whether it is the result of human biology, in its entirety or in large part – is an open question, but regardless, it’s baked into society in a way that isn’t going to disappear in 25 or 50 or 100 years. The DE/adjacent looks at those they would call “cuckservatives” and sees them as people who think they are fighting for the past but have been “infected” by the present/the future. I’m saying that the self-proclaimed feminist who, when you scratch the paint off, is basically saying that men are big and scary and dangerous and women are small and weak and need protection, whose worldview basically assigns agency differently, is someone who thinks they are fighting for the future but has been “infected” by the present/the past.

            Now, feminists (in general) know this – the degree to which small children, for instance, are indoctrinated into gender norms is a big deal in modern feminism, and is something where I think the approach is basically correct. However, people in general are exceedingly bad at looking at themselves and examining their own motivations, presuppositions, etc. Take rationalism – there’s practically a “tragic flaw” level thing going on, where people set out to defeat all the old cognitive biases and so on, but fail completely to notice that they reproduce them themselves. We’re all using the same hardware.

            I think you also underestimate the difference skill makes – a fairly mediocre professional, perhaps even an amateur, male fighter could probably dust most/all top-level female MMA fighters – but a random untrained person off the street sucks at fighting. I would take a solid 135 or 145lb weight class female MMA fighter over at least 50% of untrained men, maybe not to smash him, but certainly to not get beaten. Quick one-two in the kisser and run away.

            It’s also a bit odd to say “they understand themselves better than you do”, if you are arguing that they don’t understand themselves, unless you are arguing that those are their real (conscious) motivations and they are lying. If you’re arguing that it’s unconscious – which, in a way, is similar to my position; they think they are fighting something but in fact they are serving it – then by definition they don’t understand themselves.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            While your analogy is decent, I don’t think both phenomena proceed from the same reasons – unless you can show how feminists get infected by traditionalist memes

            I would argue that they get infected the same way that everyone else gets infected: these are the social norms/wisdom, which they don’t examine and reject. So on the one hand they are not worse than anyone else, but on the other hand, they are supposed to know better because they recognize it when it happens to women and their theories generally say that they should examine and reject it for both genders.

            Of course women want to be protected; an untrained average man could probably clobber most top, professional female fighters in a fair fight.

            It seems very logical and reasonable, basically: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

            However, it actually doesn’t work out that way in practice. Let me explain why:

            Humans adapt to the demands placed on them. The protector role requires suppressing certain emotions: stoicism. The issue is that this makes men stop asking for help, so they are misperceived as not needed it (or as much).

            The opposite is true for women, because they know they can solve problems getting help after emoting, so they exaggerate a bit and ask for help more easily. Because of this emoting, women are perceived as more fragile, so they get more help for the same level of complaining.

            So for example, assume that a man and woman are victim of a terrorist attack and have the same injuries, where the severity is 5 on a scale from 1-10. The man will emote 4 and the woman 6. Because men are perceived as less fragile, his 4 will get perceived as an actual 3, while the woman’s 6 gets perceived as a 7. So then you suddenly have a huge gap in the perceived ‘need’.

            In practice, you see this in much more aid being given for men with problems and that male victims don’t generate as much outrage as female victims. For example, when many people die, the news will often note the number of women and children who were among the victims, ignoring the men.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think you’re imputing motives to your ideological opponents that they do not necessarily share. Even the people (regardless of gender) I know who fall into the “ostensible feminist reinforcing a different flavour of old gender norms” category … I don’t think they’re doing it on purpose. If you want to argue that everyone is following their biology, OK, but that doesn’t explain how you get the same message from those feminists, regardless of gender – what is the biological interest for a man, say, in promoting norms that harm him specifically?

            And I’m not claiming that they’re doing it on purpose. They don’t need to. They just need to have a minimally correct intuitive grasp of how the world actually works, which skews their intents towards something that putatively reconciles both their intuition and their nominal beliefs.

            As to your question of “how did that get in there” … the “traditional” way of doing things is far, far older than the “new” way of doing things. Whether the traditional way of doing things is “natural” – whether it is the result of human biology, in its entirety or in large part – is an open question, but regardless, it’s baked into society in a way that isn’t going to disappear in 25 or 50 or 100 years. The DE/adjacent looks at those they would call “cuckservatives” and sees them as people who think they are fighting for the past but have been “infected” by the present/the future. I’m saying that the self-proclaimed feminist who, when you scratch the paint off, is basically saying that men are big and scary and dangerous and women are small and weak and need protection, whose worldview basically assigns agency differently, is someone who thinks they are fighting for the future but has been “infected” by the present/the past.

            That’s why I said your analogy is decent, rather than refuting it. I agree on the level that these are similar enough in structure to be called by the same name, perhaps reversed. I don’t think they come occur in the same manner.

            Now, feminists (in general) know this – the degree to which small children, for instance, are indoctrinated into gender norms is a big deal in modern feminism, and is something where I think the approach is basically correct. However, people in general are exceedingly bad at looking at themselves and examining their own motivations, presuppositions, etc. Take rationalism – there’s practically a “tragic flaw” level thing going on, where people set out to defeat all the old cognitive biases and so on, but fail completely to notice that they reproduce them themselves. We’re all using the same hardware.

            Fair enough.

            I think you also underestimate the difference skill makes – a fairly mediocre professional, perhaps even an amateur, male fighter could probably dust most/all top-level female MMA fighters – but a random untrained person off the street sucks at fighting. I would take a solid 135 or 145lb weight class female MMA fighter over at least 50% of untrained men, maybe not to smash him, but certainly to not get beaten. Quick one-two in the kisser and run away.

            I think you underestimate the difference mass and muscle makes. Female MMA classifications go up to 65.8 kg. Average (white, American) man is around 80 kg. That kind of mass difference is brutal in a fight. I would not want to fight at that disadvantage even if I were trained and the opponent untrained.

            It’s also a bit odd to say “they understand themselves better than you do”, if you are arguing that they don’t understand themselves, unless you are arguing that those are their real (conscious) motivations and they are lying. If you’re arguing that it’s unconscious – which, in a way, is similar to my position; they think they are fighting something but in fact they are serving it – then by definition they don’t understand themselves.

            I’m arguing that their natural, intuitive perception of the world moderates their ideology towards achieving ends that are actually at least somewhat beneficial, as regarded by their nominal goals. This is probably not intended, no.

            But I would call that an improvement over “if reality objects to my ideology, then fuck reality” that pure feminism is like.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            That’s probably helped along by the very biological issue of men being the disposable sex. One man and a whole village of women is sufficient to repopulate the tribe. One woman and a village of men is not. We’re very probably hardwired to dismiss male casualties compared to female, because to do otherwise is a pretty strong filter.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Anonymous:

            I think you underestimate the difference mass and muscle makes. Female MMA classifications go up to 65.8 kg. Average (white, American) man is around 80 kg. That kind of mass difference is brutal in a fight. I would not want to fight at that disadvantage even if I were trained and the opponent untrained.

            Have you ever trained MMA or one of the disciplines that shows up in it? Getting dusted by someone considerably smaller is not unusual. I’m an average-sized guy, and if I got really lean I’d probably be walking around somewhere around 150. There are BJJ competitors – not elite worldbeaters, but successful regional competitors – 20-30 pounds lighter than that who massacre me.

            The physical advantage men have over women is clear – I can stymie women considerably more talented and skilled than me using brute strength – but I’ve run into both men and women smaller than me (of course, a woman has relatively less lean body mass than a man of equivalent weight, and a woman will still generally be weaker than a man of the same lean body mass) where the skill gap is enough to overcome that. And I’m not a random guy off the street – I’m mediocre, but rolling with a guy the same size and strength as me who’s new to it is almost comically easy.

            But I would call that an improvement over “if reality objects to my ideology, then fuck reality” that pure feminism is like.

            I don’t think this is “pure feminism”. It’s not as though the suffragettes or the early second-wavers thought like that. It’s something that’s common to a fair bit of “academic left” thought – a sort of “reality is negotiated” way of seeing the world. From where I stand, generally on the left, academia becoming increasingly left-wing and left-wing thought becoming increasingly influenced by particular academic ideas was a disaster, because it’s a profoundly dysfunctional way to actually try and understand, much less affect, the world.

            Feminism as arguing for rights and opportunities that have historically been denied to women is great. Feminism as arguing for breaking down illegitimate double standards is great. Feminism as loopy “actually hormones don’t do anything and biology doesn’t real” is not great. Feminism as coming up with cool new illegitimate double standards is not great.

    • Aapje says:

      “You are enforcing (fe)male gender norms when you…”

      Seems pretty neutral.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Ah, but I want something snappy.

        • Aapje says:

          Snappy words that criticize a person are commonly referred to as insults.

          It’s just a matter of time before anti-feminists will adopt the term, which will then tar the snappy word. When there is tribal behavior, criticism is automatically perceived as partisan behavior.

          The only way it can work is if the word is more gratuitously insulting to the other tribe than it is critical of the person.

          • Randy M says:

            “Looks like you’ve picked up a mind-virus, there.”

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HBC

            agreed

            @ Randy

            don’t be shitty

          • Spookykou says:

            Maybe the goal isn’t that the phrase won’t be an insult, instead just that it won’t be so loaded with tribal affiliation?

            . . .

            Out of curiosity, what ‘insults’ do people think are not tribal or less tribal?

            I think accusations of corruption seem to be popular with both sides.

            Maybe also incompetence? I think the left is more likely to call the right, some kind of ‘stupid’, but the particular claim of not being competent or capable, seems like it gets decent play on both sides?

          • Randy M says:

            @hlynkacg: May wish to move that before the edit window ends? Also, premise rejected.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Too late

    • gbdub says:

      If there is a quick way, it’s probably not a good one.

      What you’re describing is a real but nuanced phenomenon, and convincing someone that they are actually exhibiting it is going to take some work. A short descriptive phrase is going to feel like (and probably mostly be used as) an insult or “gotcha” (e.g. the common “why do people vote against their interests?” sneer).

      If you suspect someone is engaging in it, I’d say it’s probably best to try to focus on questions of fact or policy instead of arguing about labels.

      • dndnrsn says:

        On the one hand: you’re right.

        On the other hand: what if a short, snappy quasi-insult that alienates your interlocutor but lets you feel a smug sense of superiority is just that much more fun?

        • quanta413 says:

          On the other hand: what if a short, snappy quasi-insult that alienates your interlocutor but lets you feel a smug sense of superiority is just that much more fun?

          But how many times is it that much more fun? When will the emptiness of it all finally envelop you?

    • Spookykou says:

      Well, saying somebody is being cuckoo’d might be too similar in terms of the letters involved.

      Maybe the more general Cowbird, cowbirding, cowbirded?

      Brood parasite sounds really cool, but I am not sure how to conjugate it for this particular use.

      I agree that this is an interesting, and frustrating problem, and have personally also experienced the form you describe.

      I agree with D.K., your right wing example is considerably weaker, not just because social and economic conservatives are potentially separate groups of the right wing, but also because even assuming they aren’t separate groups, this still feels like it is not as direct a connection as the patriarchy example.

      • dndnrsn says:

        It’s maybe a little weaker, but you do see stuff like politicians running on social conservatism then pushing, not even economic conservatism, but the globalism-crony capitalism package. The classic What’s the Matter with Kansas? situation.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      “Degradation due to environmental exposure”

      ?

    • quanta413 says:

      Infested Terran after the starcraft unit?

    • beleester says:

      “You’ve become what you hate?”

    • gbdub says:

      Well, if you need snappy, might I suggest something with “premises”?
      “Check your premises”
      “You’ve conceded the premise”
      “You premised all over yourself”
      “Looks like you might have some incompatible conclusions there”

      Basically, the issue I think you’re getting at is a particular form of logical inconsistency: someone supports conclusions that are only valid if they accept premises that lead to other conclusions they have explicitly disavowed. This person has reached their conclusions and then cherry-picked premises that support them, rather than starting from an accepted premise and following it to all its logical conclusions.

      For the feminist example: You (hypothetical you) say you are against patriarchy (disavowed conclusion) but you also believe women deserve special protections (supported conclusions) because of weaknesses/vulnerabilities particular to their sex (a premise that also supports patriarchy).

      The right wing example (I’ve had to more heavily rephrase this one but I think it fits the spirit of your example): You say you are against government interference in the economy (rejected conclusion) but also believe that companies should not outsource manufacturing (supported conclusion) because operating on that pure profit-motivation hurts American workers (a premise that supports government intervention in the economy).

    • dndnrsn says:

      Maybe “infiltrated”. Implication is that someone has had “enemy thoughts” sneak into their head, and they are unknowingly acting according to them.

    • Artificirius says:

      Does hypocrite work?

      • dndnrsn says:

        “Hypocrite” suggests (at least to me) a certain degree of intentionality.

        Simply saying “you’re being inconsistent” works, but what I’m describing goes beyond that – it’s someone arguing for anti-x, but their worldview is polluted by x to the point that their anti-x is really just a different flavour of x.

        • Artificirius says:

          I am presuming that an attempt to outline the discrepancy was at least attempted first, thus making any ignorance more of the willful variety.

          Ignorance is a poor defence at the best of times, willful ignorance is not one at all.

          • Aapje says:

            It never seems willful at all, but rather born from strong prejudice which is constantly reinforced by the environment of this person which supplies cherry picked data, rationalizations for double standards, the tabooing of certain arguments (so they are never considered on their merit), etc, etc.

            Aka a very strong bubble.

          • Artificirius says:

            I have great respect for the autonomy and agency of others. If they make a bed, then they too may lie in it.

          • Aapje says:

            Unfortunately they are crawling in bed with others and then pulling the entire blanket to their side.

        • CatCube says:

          I’m going to stand up to this misuse of the term “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is saying one thing, and believing another. Action isn’t a component.

          The example that my pastor used when pointing this out is that if you say that smoking is bad for you and you shouldn’t do it, but give in to your addiction and have a cigarette anyway, that’s not hypocrisy. That’s failure.

          To extend his example, a doctor who declaims that even one drink during pregnancy places the baby at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and only an awful mother would have even a single glass of wine once a week, while knowing that a single drink or two a week presents no risk whatsoever is a hypocrite, even if she follows her own advice.

          To put the best possible gloss on the actions of feminists who use sexual insults against men while calling them out against women, maybe they break down in anger and use the easiest insults to hand (“dick”). This analysis does lend credence to the theory above that many people who use sexual insults against women don’t particularly hate women, but use the easiest insults to get a rise out of the target.

          Now, we don’t have windows into other people’s souls, so we often use actions as a proxy to attempt to determine beliefs. It certainly could be fair to say that in this instance, the people calling out insults against women don’t actually care about sexual insults in general, but only those they don’t like. But it’s worth remembering actions are only a proxy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @CatCube:
            I think this analysis ignores the obvious point that people can believe contradictory things at the same time.

            I’m trying to think of a relatively neutral example.

            “We need to punish those who violate laws harshly enough so that it is a deterrent”

            “I got fined $250 for speeding in a school zone. That’s ridiculous!”

            It’s possible to simultaneously believe both of those things sincerely. And it is hypocritical.

          • Aapje says:

            @CatCube

            Wikipedia says that in moral psychology, hypocrisy ‘is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.’

            So your example is actually both failure and hypocrisy. To make it less hypocritical, the person who opposes smoking should admit that their moral rule is hard to follow and that they personally fail. Furthermore, if they fail, they should not go out of their way to hide their failure and/or rationalize why their own failure is not as bad as the failure of others.

            For example, Christianity seems to do this fairly well, by admitting that their moral rules are hard to follow and that humans cannot avoid to break the rules. However, my experience with the more strict forms of Christianity is that they often have a high degree of hypocrisy (where people break the rules secretly, but strictly enforce the rules on others).

            I would also argue that it is a form of hypocrisy when people fairly arbitrarily claim that they themselves can break the rules, while others have to follow them. But I guess that this hinges on whether one considers the rationalizations for these claims to be valid or not.

          • Anonymous says:

            But I guess that this hinges on whether one considers the rationalizations for these claims to be valid or not.

            I was gonna say. Good save with the edit.

          • Artificirius says:

            I’m going to stand up to this misuse of the term “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is saying one thing, and believing another. Action isn’t a component.

            I think this incorrect. We don’t have any way of knowing what a person believes besides what they say, and how they act. Hypocrisy is when the statements and actions are at odds with each other.

            A person who says smoking is unhealthy, and people should quit, but smokes themselves is something of a grey area. If they were lecturing people about the weakness of their character as a result of their addiction, and to just ‘say no’ while smoking in secret, they are most definitely a hypocrite. If they can’t muster the ability/willpower to quit (Which is a hard, hard thing to do) but tell people about how much the downsides suck, and urge people to not make their mistake, they most definitely are not a hypocrite.

            Similarly, your doctor is simply a liar. Maybe on in a good cause, but a liar nonetheless. They are not a hypocrite.

            To put the best possible gloss on the actions of feminists who use sexual insults against men while calling them out against women, maybe they break down in anger and use the easiest insults to hand (“dick”). This analysis does lend credence to the theory above that many people who use sexual insults against women don’t particularly hate women, but use the easiest insults to get a rise out of the target.

            That or they are not actually operating from a framework that is designed to create equality, whether by mistake or malice.

          • Jiro says:

            Claiming that you should do X often carries the implicit claim that the benefits of X don’t balance out the harm of X. Doing X anyway implies that you do consider the benefits of X to balance out the harm of X, and thus it is hypocrisy after all.

            (Either that, or you think it’s okay to consider the benefits of something to yourself when done by you, but not to other people when done by them, which is its own sort of hypocrisy.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            Wikipedia says that in moral psychology, hypocrisy ‘is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.’

            Then Wikipedia is wrong. (Shocking, I know.) Or, at least, the Wikipedia definition is incomplete. Calling somebody a hypocrite normally carries the implication what they don’t believe what they’re preaching; somebody who does believe what they’re preaching, but fails to live up to their professed standards due to weakness of will, wouldn’t be a hypocrite.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Your definition is predicated on a strict dichotomy between rational and irrational behavior.

            I don’t believe that there is such a clear separation and thus, that is it rather meaningless to strongly differentiate between ‘believing’ and ‘weakness of will.’

            PS. I would also argue that the Wikipedia definition is not so much wrong, but rather simply different from yours.

          • quanta413 says:

            @The original Mr. X
            @CatCube

            I’d like to see a source for the claim that hypocrisy has nothing to do with actions. Not only does common usage usually refer to actions, but merriam-webster, googling “define: hypocrisy”, Aapje’s source, etc. all involve definitions including behavior (actions) as a criterion.

  14. Spookykou says:

    I read SSC on two different computers, and a lot of the gravtars seem to change colors from one computer to the other. Does anyone else experience this/know why it happens?

    • dndnrsn says:

      It probably has something to do with cookies. For the longest time, one computer (history enabled) kept my old one, while another (history not enabled) had the new one. Eventually the former computer caught up.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Turning off history turns off caching, which definitely fixes the problem. In normal operation gravatar doesn’t use cookies, so that is not it.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Gravatar changed their algorithm back in August, probably to reduce the frequency of swastikas. But their server promises that they never change, so one of the web browsers never checks and keeps using the old images. Different brands of web browsers interpret cache rules differently. Also, if one of the computers is new, it only ever saw the new gravatars.

      Here is dndsrn’s gravatar. For some web browsers, clicking on that link will cause it to reload and update, even though it has been showing the old one for months. Here it is a pixel larger, so neither of your computers have ever looked at it and it is guaranteed to be fresh. That will tell you which computer is up to date.

  15. Mark says:

    Interstellar civilisation could not operate on the same principles as planetary civilisation.

    Given the rate at which planetary, or local, civilisation mutates, and the length of time which it takes to communicate between planets, a mechanism that promoted coordination between each stellar civilisation would have to be of a different sort to mechanisms that promote coordination within a local society.

    If there is no mechanism to ensure coordination between each stellar society, we can expect resource competition until coordination is achieved.

    Let’s say some interstellar entity evolves. The selective pressures acting on an interstellar entity operate on a far larger time scale than selective pressures operating on a local civilisation. So, the rate of mutation of the successful interstellar entity must be far less than the rate of mutation of the local civilisation.

    There has obviously been enough time for intelligent life to evolve, but I wonder if there has been enough time for successful interplanetary entity to get off the ground.

    [Is the rate of cultural/social mutation increasing? Hunter-gatherers 100,000 years, agriculture 11,000 years, industrial society 300 years – Ancient Egypt was around for a long time… perhaps something to do with communication technology? Possible answer to Fermi paradox – com tech increases rate of local cultural mutation which makes it harder for anything emerging from that society to become interstellar entity. Prokaryotes to Eukaryotes – but if the Prokaryotes had a tendency towards increasingly high mutation rate, information is destroyed before higher level entity can evolve? ]

    • Spookykou says:

      If you assume that you get immortality before you get interstellar travel, I think immortality could put a serious damper on the rate of mutation in any given solar systems civilization.

      • Noah says:

        If you assume that you get immortality before you get interstellar travel

        That seems unlikely to me. There are not entirely infeasible proposals for interstellar travel (as in, we could probably send out an interstellar ship within 10 years for less than a trillion dollars). Immortality is more or less a giant question mark. Of course, it depends on the hypothetical aliens’ biology.

        • Spookykou says:

          They are talking interstellar society not just sending an unmanned interstellar craft that can actually get somewhere in a reasonable time frame. I have no idea what the time scale is for a human interstellar society, but some form of immortality being worked out before that seems probable to me.

    • Tekhno says:

      @Mark

      Interstellar civilisation could not operate on the same principles as planetary civilisation.

      Given the rate at which planetary, or local, civilisation mutates, and the length of time which it takes to communicate between planets, a mechanism that promoted coordination between each stellar civilisation would have to be of a different sort to mechanisms that promote coordination within a local society.

      I strongly suspect that galactic empires will be unlikely for this reason, and stellar nationalism will be the norm. After all, the same process of centralization on Earth was only able to take place because of technology, especially in communications. The tensions now in the US between the states and the federal government exist because of the ever growing connectivity between states. The vastness of space would send things back to a frontier paradigm. Only in a Star Trek like situation in which you have FTL travel can you have a Federation.

  16. Acedia says:

    “After humanity spent thousands of years improving our tactics, computers tell us that humans are completely wrong. I would go as far as to say not a single human has touched the edge of the truth of Go.”

    From Ke Jie, the #1 player in China, who declared himself the favourite to win against AlphaGo less than a year ago. Fascinating.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/ai-program-vanquishes-human-players-of-go-in-china-1483601561

    (revisit via this link if you’re not getting access to the full article)

    • James Miller says:

      Yes, this seemed important to me as well. What else will computers soon show us that we are completely wrong about?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Perhaps this is what comes of playing to win (human Go playing history?) instead of playing to explore (AlphaGo)?

      We humans got caught in a local maximum, while AlphaGo explored a much larger space.

      • pseudon says:

        That seems like an inaccurate description of what AlphaGo does. (In fact it plays to win with the highest probability ignoring the margin of winning.)

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Thanks for the correction.

          Edit to add: I appear to be not wrong:

          https://www.tastehit.com/blog/google-deepmind-alphago-how-it-works/

          Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) is an alternative approach to searching the game tree. The idea is to run many game simulations. Each simulation starts at the current game state and stops when the game is won by one of the two players. At first, the simulations are completely random: actions are chosen randomly at each state, for both players. At each simulation, some values are stored, such as how often each node has been visited, and how often this has led to a win. These numbers guide the later simulations in selecting actions (simulations thus become less and less random). The more simulations are executed, the more accurate these numbers become at selecting winning moves. It can be shown that as the number of simulations grows, MCTS indeed converges to optimal play.

          MCTS faces an exploration/exploitation trade-off: It can tend to focus too early (after too few simulations) on actions that seem to lead to wins. It turns out that it is better to to include an exploration component in the search, which adds a random component. We talked about the exploration/exploitation trade-off in a previous blog article, but in a different context.

          All previously mentioned methods for Go-playing AI rely on some kind of tree search, combined with hand-crafted rules. AlphaGo however makes extensive use of machine learning to avoid using hand-crafted rules.

          my bold

          • pseudon says:

            It searches for moves in order to pick the one with the highest probability of winning. If that’s what you meant I have nothing further to add 🙂

  17. Controls Freak says:

    Continuation of prospective consent discussion with Earthly Knight from here, which began here.

    First, it is not obvious to me why we should take an agent’s mental states rather than her speech acts as constituting consent.

    Again, you’re missing a qualifier, which is why you’re missing the point (as I mentioned, the entire point of Westen’s book). There are different types of consent, because we pack a lot of different concepts into that one word. Her speech acts are certainly an expression of consent, but that is divisible from her factual consent, which is tied to a mental state. I gave the Sleeping Beauty cases above as an example of this. Heck, your Tourette’s example is fantastic here. Another example Westen used was to consider a person’s first experience in a swinger’s club. She is asked a question and gives a response that she does not believe is providing consent, but within the context of the club, everyone in said club would interpret it as giving consent (I can’t recall what the specifics were at the moment, which is a shame, because I do recall how strikingly plausible/realistic it was). She remains silent as the person proceeds to have sex with her.

    Here, she did not factually consent. Her mental state was that of non-consent. However, in the context in which she uttered the phrase, it was interpreted as an expression of consent. This might be considered for the purposes of a defense against a criminal charge. However, these various cases (and I’m sure a whole host of other cases that I’m not recalling off-hand) made it abundantly clear to me that we simply cannot identify expressions of consent with factual consent. They are different things, and they do different things. (Also, neither of them is necessarily directly identified with prescriptive/legal consent; I think you’re likely still making this mistake, as well.)

    I do not agree that Odysseus genuinely wants to follow the siren’s call and perish on the rocks. What Odysseus truly wants it to make it home to Ithaca, and Penelope.

    We see the slight of hand immediately. What he “truly” wants. This is simply different than his mental state at the moment. We can think that the skydiver “truly wants” to jump and that the rehabber “truly wants” to live, but what we are actually doing here is accepting the consent they provided at a different time over their non-consent in the moment… because of these various factors. You’re just re-wording, “I accept their prospective consent over their contemporaneous non-consent, because…”

    The siren’s enchantment is a sort of simplistic, alien stimulus-response mechanism grafted onto his psyche, not genuinely his and not sufficiently integrated with the rest of his cognitive states to count as a bona fide desire.

    Again, there is a spectrum here. You can go all the way to a true hypothetical mind-control device, or weaken it to various influences. Remember the, “Girls, don’t let me go home with him again,” case. She thinks she’s a sucker for his muscles, his sweet talk, or maybe his sex pheromones. Prospectively, she expresses a wish to non-consent. The entire point of all of these examples is that we have different consent states at different times. External influence on mental states may be a fine reason to accept a prospective consent in lieu of contemporaneous non-consent, but I don’t see why it’s a good reason to strip factual consent away from mental states entirely. I’m not sure where else you would ground it (because I’m utterly convinced that expressions of consent don’t suffice).

    Let’s adjust the hypothetical slightly yet again. Instead of Odysseus, consider a crewmember, let’s call him Crewdysseus. Crewdysseus works in the deepest, darkest part of the ship, and he’s never even heard the story of the Sirens. He’s never considered the matter before. While he’s sleeping, some of the crew ties him to the mast before sailing through the area. In the moment, he awakens and asks to be untied. He does this not because of any regular aversion to being untied. He requests to be untied because his mental state under the influence of the Sirens is that he wants to be untied in order to go get dat music!

    I think it would be silly to think that we can say anything about his consent at that time with respect to some hypothetical unaltered mental state. Sure, hypothetically, if he knew all of the facts of the situation, he might think it was better to remain tied. It might even actually be better for him to remain tied. If someone wants to try to form a defense of leaving him tied (probably not of the original tying; perhaps assume two different groups) in terms of “what is better for him”, then we could perhaps go that route… but I don’t think it makes sense to provide such a defense through a consent rationale. Crewdysseus simply has a non-consenting mental state, and he’s expressed his non-consent, as well.

    The only difference for Odysseus is that he had previously given prospective consent. Thus, if we accept his prospective consent, it can provide a defense (that is not “what is better for him”) to the whole crew.

    If we go purely with some sort of “true desire” analysis, I don’t see that we’re tying factual consent to anything… and I’m not sure how it can remain an instantaneous property, either. Your whole point at the beginning was that someone can change from consenting to not consenting in an instant. It’s an instantaneous property. Are you tying factual instantaneous consent to some preferred mental state at a different time… some hypothetical mental state… some sort of “what is best for a person”… or something else? (Again, I find tying it to expression to be out of the question.)

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Her speech acts are certainly an expression of consent, but that is divisible from her factual consent, which is tied to a mental state.

      You should call this by a different name– “mental consent,” maybe– both for the sake of clarity and to avoid begging the question.

      She is asked a question and gives a response that she does not believe is providing consent, but within the context of the club, everyone in said club would interpret it as giving consent (I can’t recall what the specifics were at the moment, which is a shame, because I do recall how strikingly plausible/realistic it was).

      What you’re saying is that the phrase she uses meaning “yes” in public language and “no” in the vernacular of the club. This strikes me as a case where consent is ambiguous, not a case where consent is absent, much as though she were to respond to the question by at once shaking her head and saying “yes.”

      This is simply different than his mental state at the moment.

      I say that this is what he truly wants because it’s the desire most deeply integrated into the rest of his web of goals and beliefs. You claim that this is different than his momentary mental state, but that is true only if by “mental state” you mean “what he takes himself to desire on introspection,” which I do not.

      I think it would be silly to think that we can say anything about his consent at that time with respect to some hypothetical unaltered mental state.

      I do not see why. We do not normally hesitate to attribute intentional states like desires and beliefs to people who are asleep or otherwise briefly incapacitated. Think about the rationale the other members of the crew would give for keeping this guy tied to the mast– wouldn’t it be something like, “he doesn’t really want to follow the siren’s song to his death, that’s just the enchantment talking”? This characterization seems accurate to me.

      If we go purely with some sort of “true desire” analysis, I don’t see that we’re tying factual consent to anything… and I’m not sure how it can remain an instantaneous property, either.

      I suspect the reservations you’re voicing here are rooted in deeper suspicions about attributions of dispositional and counterfactual mental states. These reservations are understandable, but ultimately misguided. There can be no science of the mind, or of anything else for that matter, unless we are comfortable with dispositions and counterfactuals. You ask what grounds dispositional and counterfactual mental states, which is a complicated question to answer, but for the most part it will be unconscious brain states.

      You did not address my case of the epileptic whose seizure induces a brief aversion to sexual activity. What you’ve said here seems to entail that if a man consents explicitly to sex while in full possession of his faculties at 6:00, experiences the seizure at 6:01, and recovers by 6:02, his consent is not ongoing at 6:03. Am I reading you correctly?

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Her speech acts are certainly an expression of consent, but that is divisible from her factual consent, which is tied to a mental state.

      You should call this by a different name– “mental consent,” maybe– both for the sake of clarity and to avoid begging the question.

      She is asked a question and gives a response that she does not believe is providing consent, but within the context of the club, everyone in said club would interpret it as giving consent (I can’t recall what the specifics were at the moment, which is a shame, because I do recall how strikingly plausible/realistic it was).

      The word she uses in response to the question is effectively a contronym, meaning “yes” in the public language and “no” in the vernacular of the club. This strikes me as a case where consent is ambiguous, not a case where consent is absent, much as though she were to respond to the question by at once shaking her head and saying “yes.”

      This is simply different than his mental state at the moment.

      I say that this is what he truly wants because it’s the desire most deeply integrated into the rest of his web of goals and beliefs. You claim that this is different than his momentary mental state, but that is true only if by “mental state” you mean “what he takes himself to desire on introspection,” which I do not.

      I think it would be silly to think that we can say anything about his consent at that time with respect to some hypothetical unaltered mental state.

      I do not see why. We do not normally hesitate to attribute intentional states like desires and beliefs to people who are asleep or otherwise briefly incapacitated. Think about the rationale the other members of the crew would give for keeping this guy tied to the mast– wouldn’t it be something like, “he doesn’t really want to follow the siren’s song to his death, that’s just the enchantment talking”? This characterization seems accurate to me.

      If we go purely with some sort of “true desire” analysis, I don’t see that we’re tying factual consent to anything… and I’m not sure how it can remain an instantaneous property, either.

      I suspect the reservations you’re voicing here are rooted in deeper suspicions about attributions of dispositional and counterfactual mental states. These reservations are understandable, but ultimately misguided. There can be no science of the mind, or of anything else for that matter, unless we are comfortable with dispositions and counterfactuals. You ask what grounds these sorts of mental states, and the answer to that is complicated, but let’s say that it’s unconscious brain states.

      You did not address my case of the epileptic whose seizure induces a fleeting aversion to sexual activity. What you’ve said so far seems to entail that if the man consents explicitly to sex while in full possession of his faculties at 6:00, experiences the seizure at 6:01, and recovers by 6:02, his consent to sex is no longer ongoing at 6:03. Am I reading you correctly?

      • Controls Freak says:

        different name– “mental consent,”

        I’m not terribly opposed to this, but I don’t see why it’s preferred over the term used throughout the literature. I certainly don’t see how it begs the question. I recall most authors making explicit arguments for tying factual consent to mental states… though I’m probably not as good at reproducing them, because they were less my interest at the time that I really engaged with this literature.

        respond to the question by at once shaking her head and saying “yes.”

        I would agree that this expression is ambiguous, but I don’t think the situation is analogous at all. The expression of the woman in the club seems clear to both her and the members of the club… just in different directions. In fact, even your new case still helps my point. We can clearly suppose two subcases. Headshaker A factually consents to the sex, while Headshaker B does not. They both simultaneously shake their head and say “yes”, such that their expressions of consent are both ambiguous. Factual consent is not determined by expression or a possible interpretation of her expression. It’s just a different thing. (Again, the Sleeping Beauty cases and Tourette’s case also point toward this view.)

        the desire most deeply integrated into the rest of his web of goals and beliefs

        Given that these are almost certainly unlikely to change rapidly, how can you follow this analysis and hold that a person can revoke their consent in an instant? “Shhhhh baby, I know the desire most deeply integrated into the rest of your web of goals and beliefs, if ya know what I’m sayin’….” I think someone who normally has a regular sexual relationship (and who thinks said regular relationship is well integrated with the rest of her web of goals and beliefs) should be able to remove her consent by saying, “I have no reason to give that would seem to integrate into my web of goals and beliefs, but I’m just not feeling it right now.”

        We do not normally hesitate to attribute intentional states like desires and beliefs to people who are asleep or otherwise briefly incapacitated.

        I agree that we attribute them. I’m less sure that such attribution is always valid…

        Think about the rationale the other members of the crew would give for keeping this guy tied to the mast– wouldn’t it be something like, “he doesn’t really want to follow the siren’s song to his death, that’s just the enchantment talking”? This characterization seems accurate to me.

        …and I don’t agree that we can call this “consent”. While there is maybe some sort of “true desire” or counterfactual mental state calculation going on, the key difference is that Odysseus got to make that call when he prospectively consented and Crewdysseus didn’t. We’re trying to make that call for him. We might be right sometimes. We might even do the right thing sometimes because of such analysis… but I just don’t think we can call it “consent”.

        You ask what grounds these sorts of mental states

        No. I ask what grounds factual consent. I think it’s going to be quite difficult to ground it in dispositional mental states, since they must be actualized in conscious mental states, anyway… and I explicitly asked whether you would prefer grounding it in hypothetical (or counterfactual) mental states. Do you?

        the man consents explicitly to sex while in full possession of his faculties at 6:00, experiences the seizure at 6:01, and recovers by 6:02, his consent to sex is no longer ongoing at 6:03

        I don’t think it makes sense to use the term “ongoing”, because it was interrupted at 6:01. When he recovers at 6:02, his factual consent resumes.

        Now, there is a separate question of the sufficiency of a consent-based defense to a charge of rape against the person having sex with him. This is where expressions of consent can come into play. If there is absolutely no outward sign of this seizure activity, I don’t think it would be morally wrong to continue having sex. If, at 6:01, there is some expression produced that indicates non-consent, either an explicit denial of consent or the appearance of unconciousness, I think the person should stop having sex. I don’t think his partner should be able to just guess, “Oh, he’ll come around in a minute or two, I bet.”

        However, if the man knows that he has such seizures from time to time, for whatever reason is not concerned that it is a medical issue in need of attention, and gives prospective consent (“Look, this might happen. It’s never lasted more than a minute. Just keep going unless I’m out for longer.”), then I could consider accepting that prospective consent in place of his factual lack of (or non-) consent.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        I certainly don’t see how it begs the question.

        Because I dispute that consent is a function of the agent’s mental states. Hence, if you say that mental consent amounts to “factual consent” you are assuming the dispute to have already been resolved in your favor. You should use neutral terminology.

        Headshaker A factually consents to the sex, while Headshaker B does not.

        I would describe these both as cases where consent is ambiguous, where A intends to consent while B does not.

        I think someone who normally has a regular sexual relationship (and who thinks said regular relationship is well integrated with the rest of her web of goals and beliefs) should be able to remove her consent by saying, “I have no reason to give that would seem to integrate into my web of goals and beliefs, but I’m just not feeling it right now.”

        I agree, but this is because I think consent is constituted by the speech act and not by the agent’s mental states.

        We’re trying to make that call for him. We might be right sometimes.

        Because the presence of dispositions and the truth of counterfactuals cannot be directly verified by the senses, any attribution of counterfactual or dispositional mental states is going to carry a risk of error. That’s okay. It’s still the case that what someone truly wants depends on which desire is most thoroughly integrated into the rest of their cognitive states.

        I explicitly asked whether you would prefer grounding it in hypothetical (or counterfactual) mental states. Do you?

        I think an agent’s desires are all grounded in features of her brain. When all goes well, what an agent truly wants will coincide with what she consciously takes herself to want, but in rare cases the true desires will not be present to consciousness and to get at them we will need to look instead to the agent’s dispositions.

        As I’ve noted several times above, I think that consent depends on public communicative acts and not on mental states of any kind.

        I don’t think it makes sense to use the term “ongoing”, because it was interrupted at 6:01.

        This seems obviously wrong to me. I don’t think consent can be given or revoked by brute electrical activity which occurs during the course of a seizure but has no enduring consequences.

        At least now I see the purpose for introducing all of these weird different types of consent– they’re needed to repair the problems which arise when you erroneously take consent to be a function of the agent’s mental states.

        • Controls Freak says:

          Headshaker A factually consents to the sex, while Headshaker B does not.

          I would describe these both as cases where consent is ambiguous, where A intends to consent while B does not.

          Why would you use an unqualified “consent” here? What type of consent is ambiguous? Why is it better to say “intent to consent”/”consent” over “factual/mental/internal/attitudinal/whatever consent”/”expressive consent”? I think the latter is far more clear. I’ll even use mental/internal/attitudinal.

          I think consent is constituted by the speech act

          This is the core disagreement, and I’ve deleted the rest of my response to your comment, because I don’t think we can make any progress until we come to agreement here. I have rejected this about seven ways from Sunday (Sleeping Beauty, Headshaker, Tourette’s, First Time Swinger), and you’ve never really responded to my claim. Furthermore, why do you insist on not including the qualifier “expressive consent”? This seems fine as a descriptor, and you can very well proceed to say, “I think the only determination of prescriptive/legal/whatever consent is expressive consent,” if that’s what you think.

          It’s really not worth talking about any details of mental states at all if we actually want to tie it just to a speech act. Dispositions/counterfactuals? Don’t matter. Integration into the rest of their cognitive states or their web of goals and beliefs? Doesn’t matter. The difference between brute electrical activity and beliefs/desires? Fuhgeddaboudit! The only thing that matters is the utterance.

          I don’t think we are “fixing problems” that arise from a bad initial choice. We’re dealing with the inherent problems that arise from the fact that expressions of consent are one thing… and there is something else out there we might care about – some sort of internal mental consent. (And this problem arises in matters of consent far more broad than just sexual consent; second-order concepts like the difference between fraud in factum and fraud in the inducement are well developed elsewhere.)

          Let me add another case – Forced Consent: A man holds a knife and instructs a woman, “Tell me you want to have sex with me.” She complies, giving an expression of consent. …are you really wanting to say that we’re done here?! No need to think about mental states? (Or wasn’t there a case a while back about a woman who said, “…if you wear a condom”?)

          The moment we start thinking about any fear-based exceptions, we have to be thinking about a mental state instead of an expression. And this line of questioning is difficult – most people think that fear of death is sufficient to invalidate an expression of consent (whether verbal or nonverbal), but that, say, fear that he won’t love you if you don’t have sex isn’t sufficient.

          Also, consider Yes Only Tourette’s: A person has Tourette’s and will occasionally say, “Yes yes yes,” as a tic. Also, when he gets excited, he has trouble forming other utterances. Someone gets him excited (through whatever means), asks whether he would like to have various forms of sex, and proceeds to do so upon hearing the expression. For kicks, let’s consider two subcases – in Case A, the person knows this man’s condition and exploited it; in Case B, the person met this man for the first time and after unwittingly getting him sufficiently excited just thought that the encounter was going really positively.

          Again, I don’t think expressive consent is useless… it’s just different than attitudinal consent, and there’s not one true unqualified consent. To the extent that we care about the man’s blameworthiness (and mens rea), expressive consent is often really useful. To the extent we care about the harm caused by the act, attitudinal consent is really useful, because I think the harm we’re trying to prevent is a person having sex that they don’t, ya know, want… and that necessarily implicates mental states.

          EDIT: Oh! I remembered one of the examples from distinguishing between fraud in factum/fraud in the inducement that also has implications for the current matter. It was an example of fraud in factum: a doctor, behind a curtain, tells a woman that he is inserting a medical probe into her, but he is actually inserting his penis.

          The woman gave an expression of consent, but she consented to what she thought was going to happen, not what actually happened. The only way this can come into play is if we consider mental states. I just don’t see how we can strip mental states out entirely, because, again, the harm we’re trying to prevent is a person having sex that they don’t want.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          The only thing that matters is the utterance.

          That’s not quite right. We can retain the requirement that the speech act be (a) a product of the agent’s rational agency and (b) voluntary, which will rule out cases of incapacity and coercion. Unfortunately, most of your objections seem to have been constructed around the misunderstanding that this requirement was no longer in place.

          because I think the harm we’re trying to prevent is a person having sex that they don’t, ya know, want… and that necessarily implicates mental states.

          I think that people often consent to sex they don’t genuinely want, either out of a sense of duty or just because they’re confused about what their desires are. I do not think that having sex under these circumstances is automatically harmful.

          The woman gave an expression of consent, but she consented to what she thought was going to happen, not what actually happened. The only way this can come into play is if we consider mental states.

          That’s not true. The act being consented to by the woman is obviously going to depend on the surrounding linguistic context (and probably some extra-linguistic context, too, but we don’t need that here). If the doctor asks “Is it alright if I insert the probe now?” and she answers in the affirmative, she consents to his inserting the probe, not to his inserting his penis.

          • Controls Freak says:

            (a) a product of the agent’s rational agency and (b) voluntary

            These immediately implicate mental states.

            I think that people often consent to sex they don’t genuinely want, either out of a sense of duty or just because they’re confused about what their desires are. I do not think that having sex under these circumstances is automatically harmful.

            So does this.

            The woman gave an expression of consent, but she consented to what she thought was going to happen, not what actually happened. The only way this can come into play is if we consider mental states.

            That’s not true … she consents to his inserting the probe, not to his inserting his penis.

            That’s… exactly what I said. She consented to what she thought was going to happen, not what actually happened. The only way this can come into play is if we consider mental states.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The rationality condition “implicates mental states” to the extent that it requires that the agent’s total suite of beliefs and desires be minimally coherent, but it doesn’t place any constraints on their content, so it is not at all like the view that you’re defending. And the voluntariness condition doesn’t involve mental states at all, it just requires that the agent’s consent not be coerced by force or threats of force.

            You claimed that the reason why mental consent is important is that having sex you don’t want is “the harm we’re trying to prevent.” I responded that this was false, because having sex you don’t want is not guaranteed to be harmful. It is neither here nor there whether my response talks about mental states or not.

            She consented to what she thought was going to happen, not what actually happened. The only way this can come into play is if we consider mental states.

            When the doctor says “Is it alright if I insert the probe now?” and the woman responds “yes,” she is assenting to the insertion of the probe and not the insertion of some other object. This is a mind-independent linguistic fact about their utterances. The source of the confusion here is probably naive psychologism about language.

          • Controls Freak says:

            The rationality condition “implicates mental states” to the extent that it requires that the agent’s total suite of beliefs and desires be minimally coherent, but it doesn’t place any constraints on their content

            The “product of” part does.

            the voluntariness condition doesn’t involve mental states at all, it just requires that the agent’s consent not be coerced by force or threats of force.

            I gave multiple examples above about why this immediately involves mental states.

            You claimed that the reason why mental consent is important is that having sex you don’t want is “the harm we’re trying to prevent.” I responded that this was false, because having sex you don’t want is not guaranteed to be harmful.

            You are correct here. I misspoke. I should have said that the harm we’re trying to prevent is people having sex they don’t choose for themselves. That is, their exercise of autonomy.

            When the doctor says “Is it alright if I insert the probe now?”

            There are a bundle of different ways the conversation could go down. Literally does not matter. The point is that in order to assess what the end result of the linguistic parsing is… for the purposes of determining what it is she thought she consented to… we have to go to her mental state. Remove the linguistic process entirely for all I care. Or have her say, the moment he walks in the exam room, “Skip the spiel, doc; I’ve got a headache. Just do what you’re gonna do.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The “product of” part does.

            I don’t see why. All that the “product of” clause requires is that the agent’s total mental state lead by a non-deviant causal chain to the speech act.

            I gave multiple examples above about why this immediately involves mental states.

            The question we’re after here is whether “A forced B to phi” can be cashed out in terms which don’t refer to B’s mental states. Would you repeat whatever example you supplied which shows that it can’t be?

            I should have said that the harm we’re trying to prevent is people having sex they don’t choose for themselves.

            Aren’t we also trying to prevent the harm of people having sex they do choose for themselves but that they don’t express consent to? Suppose that Suzy decides to have sex with Frank, but Frank commences sexual activity before she gets a chance to actually communicate her choice. Doesn’t this also violate Suzy’s autonomy?

            The point is that in order to assess what the end result of the linguistic parsing is… for the purposes of determining what it is she thought she consented to…

            Linguistic parsing does not depend on knowing the contents of any individual’s mental states. This is how we are able to understand and interpret text without knowing anything about the author.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m going to skip the other points for now (I promise to come back to them if this is unfruitful), because I think the important bit is here:

            Aren’t we also trying to prevent the harm of people having sex they do choose for themselves but that they don’t express consent to? Suppose that Suzy decides to have sex with Frank, but Frank commences sexual activity before she gets a chance to actually communicate her choice. Doesn’t this also violate Suzy’s autonomy?

            It seems like you’re saying there are two fundamental harms, not that we’re doing the latter instead of the former. If that is correct, then my point is made – at least one of the fundamental things we’re doing inherently references mental states… whether our law is phrased in terms of mental states plus some caveats or in terms of expressions plus some caveats. Do you agree with this?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Sorry, I still see only the one type of autonomy-violation. We have two cases to compare, one involving an agent who (a) decides not to phi, (b) does not overtly agree to phi-ing, and (c) is forced to phi, and the other involving an agent who (a) decides to phi, (b) does not overtly agree to phi-ing, and (c) is forced to phi. I don’t think there’s any morally significant difference between the pair.

            I should add that it’s probably a mistake to couch this in terms of “harm,” because we often use “harm” narrowly to mean “phenomenal states with a negative valence.” In this sense, consensual sex can be harmful and rape harmless (as, for instance, with someone who is raped while under anesthesia). We should be speaking exclusively of autonomy- or rights-violations instead.

          • Controls Freak says:

            In your two cases, remove (c). Then run again with something that doesn’t include force. The presence of force can obviate both attitudinal consent and expressive consent, so your dual hypos can’t distinguish between the two.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The idea is that, in the first case, Jim propositions Sammy, Sammy decides to say yes, but Jim proceeds to have sex with Sammy before she communicates her consent, while in the second, Tim propositions Tammy, Tammy does not decide to say yes, and Tim proceeds to have sex with her anyway. I think the violation of Sammy’s autonomy and the violation of Tammy’s autonomy are comparable.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I think the violation of Sammy’s autonomy and the violation of Tammy’s autonomy are comparable.

            …so, am I reading this correctly that you think violations of attitudinal consent and violations of expressive consent are comparable?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            That is not the way I would phrase it. I would say that the same violation takes place in both cases, namely, that J/Tim has sex with S/Tammy without first securing her consent.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Continued in the new open thread here.

  18. Tekhno says:

    Has anyone ever invented a machine that automates the removal of pencil marks from paper?

    Despite the existence of computers, we still use paper a lot, but tend to throw it away after covering it in writing or sketches. We can use an eraser to rub out pencil manually, but it takes a long time and leaves smudge marks. Surely there’s some kind of process that could rapidly remove pencil or even pen marks from large amounts of paper so that the paper can be re-used. This would be useful in schools where even today a LOT of paper is used and covered in pencil marks and then thrown away, creating tremendous amounts of waste from good material.

    • CatCube says:

      I don’t know that there’ll be a much more efficient process than “recycling.”

      I know they used to have “eraser machines” that were basically little motorized erasers for removing ink from vellum when drafting was done manually; both because the vellum was very expensive and there was a lot of time invested in the drafting. I’m sure you could invent a machine that rubs a roller over paper as it’s fed in, but the time and manpower necessary to organize and feed in the individual sheets will probably eat any possible savings.

    • Murphy says:

      The upper bound would be the energy cost of mulching the paper, bleaching it and making new paper from it. Infrastructure for that already exists and is fairly cheap so that’s a low upper bound.

      Compare to that the cost of a local machine which can take arbitrary size paper of arbitrary quality and remove graphite from it without damaging the paper or leaving smudges. Given that graphite can be embedded quite deeply and it’s a pretty tough problem to deal with well.

    • The Nybbler says:

      De-inking (and de-penciling and de-tonering) is done as part of recycling, but it isn’t done with intact paper. There’s a couple processes to remove toner from paper leaving the paper intact, but as far as I know they aren’t commercially viable. I expect a similar process could work on pencil, and the solvent process might work with inks.

      https://www.technologyreview.com/s/427209/laser-erasers-gently-remove-ink-from-paper/

      http://rspa.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/465/2112/3839

  19. ckrf says:

    “Subscribe via Email” doesn’t work for me. Does it work for others?Is this a known problem?

  20. A question on the idea of a guaranteed basic income … .

    Suppose we had such a thing at a level you would think appropriate. How many posters here would seriously consider living on it even though they could find some sort of job, trading income for leisure? For those who would, how high would the basic income have to be?

    The same question again, assuming not whatever job you now have or think you can get but a job at the low end of normal–above the current minimum wage but not a lot above, on the level of attractiveness of being a store clerk.

    • Deiseach says:

      Having been a store clerk (or the equivalent thereof), no contest: take the UBI by preference. Minimum liveable amount: works out to $210 per week at current exchange rates. (More would of course be nice but eh, if it’s going to be a universal income paid to everyone, it’s going to be the lowest possible amount so that’s the lowest I reckon I could get by on with no other source of income from work, etc.)

      If I had a job I enjoyed (I am thinking of one that I did have before), I would prefer to work. But I’ve worked enough drudge work that the dignity of labour can go fly a kite – you don’t get thanks from your employers or appreciation from customers. Much prefer to have enough to cover the basics and have my time my own.

    • Skivverus says:

      Personally, it would be tempting – my current living expenses do not exceed what I’d get on a minimum wage – but some amount of leisure time would nonetheless be spent on socially acceptable pastimes, and labeled “work”. Payment would be something I’d have to figure out; salary/contract negotiation is a skill I have not presently mastered.

    • John Schilling says:

      At an effective $50K/year UBI, I’d probably retire from my currently lucrative and mostly enjoyable career to a life of leisure, occasional consulting work, and private research projects – which if successful I would monetize. If monetizing private research projects is illegal in the proposed new economic regime, I’d explore a career as a criminal mastermind.

      If the only jobs are store-clerk level, say $25K/year and tedious but not painfully laborious, any UBI of less than $30K/year would probably still have me working part-time to subsidize my more pleasant but expensive hobbies. Also to expand my social circle, increase status, and yes, feel a bit less useless.

      Roughly double all of those numbers if I have to pay for medical care, retirement savings, etc, out-of-pocket, and also adjust for the inflation that will inevitably follow any introduction of a UBI. It’s quite hard to do a real apples-to-apples comparison here, so best to pretend we’re giving just me a UBI that comes with the same benefits package, etc, of a comparable job.

      • Matt M says:

        “occasional consulting work, and private research projects – which if successful I would monetize”

        I’m not entirely sure, but I feel like David might be asking, “How much would UBI have to be for you to never even attempt to make any effort towards gaining income from any non-UBI source”

        • John Schilling says:

          Why would I ever do that? However much money I’ve got, at the margin, more money is better. And some subset of the things I’d do for my own reasons, are also of value to other people such that they will pay me for them if I ask. Or sometimes even if I don’t ask.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      For me, the primary lure of a basic income would be a backstop for career experimentation. I sometimes think about starting a solo practice, for instance, since even just two or three clients could sustain most of my current income in the absence of overhead for staff (who mostly function as tech whisperers for older attorneys) and physical offices (in IP law, there’s very little need for one if you’re only handling prep/pros and licensing). But the risk of gambling my savings is usually enough to keep me from seriously pursuing the idea.

      I suspect, but can’t prove, there are many (especially young) people with similar reservations, which is part of my affection for a basic income.

      But if by “living on it” you’re not talking about a temporary stay, I’d say that $2000 a month would be the bare minimum for me to entertain the idea. That would cover rent, food, power/telecom, various forms of insurance, and still allow some slow savings growth. For reference, I’m a single introvert who lives in a cheap Southern city. Anything less than that and I’d still be looking for leisure money from a low-end job delivering pizzas or driving for Uber.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Is the actual UBI that everyone gets, or is it tied to current income in some manner? When am I to assume it starts or started? How is it being paid for?

      Assuming it is truly universal, is just starting now, and has a significant net postive on my cash flow:
      With two kids about to be in college at the same time, and an adopted (older) third not yet fully on his feet, I would still probably be constrained in keeping my current job, but it makes me more likely to leave for a higher risk, lower salary start up job. Given that all the kids could also count on UBI, once college is paid for, I could see being even more incented to leave.

      I’m not really sure how to answer the cashier question, because I don’t know the circumstance in which I can only get such a position. Assuming I retain my skills, my current company folded, and I just haven’t found a new tech job, I keep looking for one or start my own venture.

      If I suffered some sort of malady that rendered me incapable of coding (not really sure what that would be), I would imagine I would want to do something that was sort of like work, but I wouldn’t take a cashier job at Walmart just to have something to do. My disability insurance would presumably kick in, so I wouldn’t even need the money. Maybe volunteer work, but again, I’m not sure the scenario where I can do useful things but I can’t code.

    • Matt C says:

      I wouldn’t try to live on it. But if me and my wife were both getting it I’d probably drop down to working half time.

      Back in my mid 20s I was working as a shop clerk. I certainly wouldn’t have worked full time. I might have worked part time, at a guess I’d have looked for odd jobs as they came up with no ongoing commitment.

      At that time many of my friends were slackers too. Many of us didn’t do a great job making it into work and holding down a job when paying rent and buying food depended on it. With a UBI? Ha.

      I don’t think a UBI would have been good for any of us. Probably we would have outgrown being potheads and drunks and layabouts eventually, like we mostly did in this reality, but it would have taken longer. I know a couple people who drank themselves to death as slackers, I bet there would have been more with a UBI.

      I think a UBI that you could actually live on would mean very substantial disincentives to work. Not necessarily quitting entirely, but working a lot less.

      I’m sure some people would do wonderful, creative, and benevolent things with their extra leisure, but I don’t think that would be typical. Most people would slack like people slack already.

    • Iain says:

      I enjoy my job too much to give it up for a UBI, but if my only alternative were being a store clerk, I would be satisfied on a relatively low UBI: rent, food, utilities. A future self, married with children, might disagree, though.

    • Jordan D. says:

      I would continue to work, but it would definitely make me think about semi-retirement sooner. I enjoy the job I have now, and would prefer to keep doing it rather than take a pay cut but have limitless free time; but at some point in the future, I am fairly sure I would prefer to do some kind of equally-fulfilling part-time work for less pay.

      When I was younger, I worked as a cashier for a large grocery store chain at slightly above minimum wage. I would laugh in your face if you told me to take that job again rather than spend my free time at my (inexpensive) hobbies, assuming I could survive off of the UBI.

      • Deiseach says:

        When I was younger, I worked as a cashier for a large grocery store chain at slightly above minimum wage. I would laugh in your face if you told me to take that job again

        Former retail workers represent!

        Yeah, it’s not particularly the poor wages or the standing on your feet for eight hours at a time*, it’s the treatment of you as a thing, and a not particularly valuable thing either.

        My former employer is long out of business so I can talk about this – they had a large turnover of employees and I discovered why. After three or so years, you were due a wage increase – we’re not talking huge amounts here, we’re talking literally a couple of quid more per day. Rather than pay that piddling increase, they would find some excuse to fire you/pressure you to leave, then hire on someone new at the low starting wage. And the only reason I knew about “you are entitled to earn 50p an hour more after X years” is that I saw a notice from head-office that I was not supposed to see. They certainly never told any of their employees they were entitled to this.

        Service industry work can be really, really crappy and not just because of pay/conditions but because of how the customers and the bosses treat you. Factory work can be like this, too, but because generally it’s unionised you have a chance of better pay and better treatment.

        *Yes we were supposed to have seats, but the employer didn’t permit this as they thought it made you lazy. So there was a seat at the till, as mandated by health and safety law, but if you sat in it you got into trouble. They had lots of cute little habits like that. No wonder they became millionaires!

    • Controls Freak says:

      My officemate and I have discussed this. We both have lucrative engineering research jobs, and you’re not going to believe the numbers we settled on. At $10-12k, we both started thinking about it. By $16k, we both were totally on board with quitting, moving to a low COL area (I grew up in a place that cost much less than where I live now), and frankly, I could even live without a car.

      There are some practical caveats we’ve kicked around. Obviously, we’d wait a couple years for transients to shake out, see what happens with the COL in our intended destinations. Paired with that, we’d begin our lifestyle drawdown and save a bunch of money in the process. I already have minor proclivities toward the FIRE mentality, so at the very least, I’d immediately put together a spreadsheet to map out options for turning retirement from a 20 year thing to a 2-3 year thing.

      Probably the biggest item of uncertainty that I would study more and watch closely would be healthcare. It can prove to be a big-ticket expense, and with the federal government showing a willingness to jump in there and provide requirements on individuals, this is the wildcard. That being said, any political move toward UBI and reductions in other services is going to be immediately confronted with examples of people who literally cannot work, and, “How are they going to pay for their healthcare on $X/yr?” So, I can’t imagine such a move would leave no conceivable option… and I really don’t know how desirable that option would be until I see it. So yea, that’s the major uncertainty.

    • Artificirius says:

      Presuming that prices of all things stay the same?

      I would consider living on nothing but an UBI, provided it was at least 50k. Less than that, and I would likely find some alternate source of income to supplement on a part time or seasonal basis.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      [Content: Suicide]

      For the first question I would still choose to work, because I don’t work primarily for the money so much as for the cash as much as the challenge and sense of purpose.

      I’m not saying I don’t need the money to eat. Obviously not wanting to live on the street is a big motivating factor. But I could have chosen to work in, e.g. medicine, and be positioned to make a lot more money once I paid off my loans. Hell if I had skipped college and followed my dad into HVAC I’d still probably be making more than I am now. In terms of opportunity cost I paid a decent amount for the chance to work in science.

      For the second question, I have no idea. The last time I thought my options were that limited I nearly killed myself. I’m in a much better place now but can’t say whether I’d pick the slow death of idle hedonism over a fast clean death. Maybe I’d try being a full-time PUA or get baptized and go around evangelizing to people.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Given a basic income high enough to cover my living expenses, I’d retire now. I have significant savings I could use for luxuries. Unfortunately that’s just not practical unless I move (though moving becomes more practical if I don’t have to be near a lucrative job).

      If the best I could do was a lousy low-normal wage job (and no significant savings), then if basic income was just enough to meet living expenses I’d probably work for several months at a time (to make money for luxuries), then quit for a while. If basic income was high enough to get me some luxuries, enough that a low-normal job wouldn’t change that much, I would likely not work or work only rarely.

    • Cadie says:

      I wouldn’t completely live on it, but I would definitely stop doing a regular job and move on to solely freelance-type stuff. This includes driving for Lyft/Uber/etc., getting better at programming and doing projects for individuals and small businesses, and that sort of thing. My main personal issue with work is that it’s regularly scheduled and my energy fluctuates dramatically. Some weeks I can take on 80 hours and feel fine, some weeks 20 is difficult and 40 makes me so drained and miserable that I can’t do anything else… I can barely do the minimum in household chores and take a shower, there’s no way I can socialize or do anything productive. If I worked when I felt good or at least okay, and took a pass on it or at least did a lot less when I felt terrible, it would be much better.

      So with basic income I would probably not take a regular job the requires showing up at scheduled times that I have little control over, but I would still have some kind of job. The only way I’d pick a normal job is if I couldn’t make any money any nicer way (too many people trying?) and it would definitely be part-time. I’d spend the rest of my time on art and informal education.

    • Mark says:

      It depends how difficult it was to get the job – if I had to fill out an extensive application form, or attend an interview, or got rejected, I’d take it as a sign that too many other people were willing to do the job in question to make it worth my ethical while.
      If there was something I could just turn up to and do, I think I’d do it, but I wouldn’t work for long hours. Maybe 5 hours a day?

    • Nyx says:

      I don’t see basic income working at a level above subsistence wage (it would require too much taxation and have to divert money away from healthcare spending which I think the government should do). Something like £4000 a year; note that at £350 a month, that’s not much more than current Jobseeker’s Allowance. As a single man with no dependents and a fortunate living situation (low rent) who’s been forced to live on £250 a month before, that’s actually pretty bad. I know a lot of people who could literally not make ends meet with that much (due to rents). It certainly leaves nothing left for luxuries or emergencies.

      My own position is this; absolutely not. I’ve been unemployed for a long time before, and while it’s superficially appealing, I really think it wasn’t good for me, and even my current situation, which is slightly above min. wage employment in a fairly crummy job, is vastly preferable. I would work less hours, though.

      Maybe I just need better hobbies?

      (However, this should come with a caveat; I think that a GBI should come with elimination of the min. wage. And in the long term it might completely change employment as we know it. It’s hard to say; would wages go down, since there’s less demand to drive our artificially inflated economy? Or would wages go up, since people will exit the labor pool, decreasing supply?)

  21. Deiseach says:

    Update on Semple vs Kapoor!

    Who acquired the World’s Pinkest Pink and gave it to Kapoor, violating the terms of sale?

    Turns out it was his gallery, the Lisson Gallery. And Stuart Semple has written to them about it.

    This silly feud (which has now turned into performance art) is the funniest thing to happen in 2016 and it looks like it’s carrying over into 2017. What will Kapoor do now?

  22. dndnrsn says:

    On the topic of UBIs and so forth: one proposal I have repeatedly seen is to basically get rid of all social programs – public medicine, public schools, welfare, housing assistance, etc – and replace it with a UBI. The reasoning being that it would be easier and cheaper to administer, less of a political issue (needs-tested social programs tend to alienate those who do not receive them, especially the lower-middle-class), more responsive to local circumstances, etc.

    However, one thing I have not seen is the discussion of what happens to people who are unable to work and, for reasons usually having to do with serious medical issues, disability, etc, require more care than a UBI would be able to pay for.

    Let’s say the UBI is 30k a year. What happens to someone who cannot work, and requires 40k a year spent to live?

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Well, this is a problem regardless of what system is adopted; some hasty Googling indicates SSDI payouts in the US currently max out at something like $1700/month. Charles Murray’s most recent UBI proposal comes with a health insurance mandate (a certain amount of your UBI must be spent on health insurance). That would at least cushion short-term shocks like hospital stays.

      I also don’t think a UBI would necessarily replace public medicine or public schools as a whole. It might replace the most expensive pieces of those things, like Medicaid or government-backed college loans, but most UBI proposals are strictly per capita payouts to adults that don’t provide windfalls for children (for obvious reasons), so there will still be a role for government there.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Someone with a serious chronic illness, as an example, would either be denied health insurance, would have to pay more than everyone else (if insurers have to take them), or would drive everyone’s costs up (if insurers have to take them and can’t charge them more), wouldn’t they?

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          Sure, but that’s not a problem if you’re selling UBI as simply an improvement over the current safety net, rather than a solution to all of society’s (literal) ills

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But, if it is supposed to replace Medicaid/Medicare and other disability programs, it becomes an issue of creating a problem that the old system was solving.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            How is the current system “solving” the issue of chronic and disabling conditions requiring >$40k a year in care? SSDI doesn’t scale that high.

          • Brad says:

            Neither Medicare nor medicaid have any cap on per person spending. (For medicaid different states have somewhat different programs, so I couldn’t swear to it except for NY, but I don’t think the federal rules would allow for a cap.)

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Let’s say the UBI is 30k a year. What happens to someone who cannot work, and requires 40k a year spent to live?

      Huffington Post puts up a stock photo of a sad yet attractive-looking poor person up next to their name on a think-piece about the cruelty of insufficient UBI. CNN picks up the story and runs with it until that someone becomes a household name. Politicians seeking (re-)election promise to “do something” about this problem.

      Within a year or three one or both of the following will happen. The UBI gets raised to $40K per capita and/or the old entitlement programs get reinstated on top of the $30K UBI.

      That’s one of the several reasons that this scheme cannot work. The same incentives that drove the accumulation of social services pre-UBI will still exist post-UBI. After a year or two of novelty the UBI will be just one more program among dozens.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Leaving aside the political response, etc etc. Let’s say the UBI isn’t administered by the US government, but rather by an alien overlord of the thought-experiment variety. This one is benevolent, non-repressive, and just wants everyone to be happy, but has a limited budget: 30k a person a year. We’ll call this alien Gnarfl.

        If Gnarfl gives everyone 30k a year, including children, what happens if you have a child born with severe disabilities requiring their parents to be full-time caregivers, with family costs going over 90k a year?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Major Nitpick: One of the central features of UBI is that it’s redistribution. Even if that comes in the form of inflation, with Gnarfl printing 30K of undetectable counterfeit money per person, it’s ultimately other people paying that money. You can’t abstract out the payers in your thought experiment: they are a very important piece of the puzzle.

          Anyway, in this thought experiment I’d say the kid dies. We deliberately severed the feedback between popular opinion / politics and payment, so it can no longer respond to public pressure.

          The important thing to note is that the “kid dies” dollar threshold still exists in any rationing system, market or otherwise. As we specified there are limited resources: no matter how well-constructed a system is, it can always be attacked along that angle. UBI just draws a brighter line which makes it particularly vulnerable.

          • rlms says:

            “The important thing to note is that the “kid dies” dollar threshold still exists in any rationing system, market or otherwise.”
            What if the rationing system is “Gnarfl gives no money to anyone other than dying kids”?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Probably, yes.

            I’m not a medical economist but I’m not sure there’s really any upper limit on how expensive medical treatment can get. There are a lot of diseases and injuries which can mess up pricey parts of the body and/or require scarce resources to treat.

            If some kid has Made Up Disease (MUD) which requires monthly intestinal transplants to the tune of $14.5M then Gnarfl will be hard pressed to cover that and also pay for the ward full of kids next door who all have to get $1K-a-pill HCV drugs. At some point the costs are going to force it to actually make a trade-off.

          • rlms says:

            But going with the 30k per person as the spending limit, you can afford to have MUD occurring as frequently as 1 in 500 people and still cover the $14.5 million cost. I agree that with the made up disease MUD2 that costs a billion trillion dollars to treat you would have problems, but in a vaguely realistic situation I think you can cover all dying kids with 30k per person. Once we move into the more general realm of all healthcare, since there are a lot of ill old people. But a brief search suggests that $10k per person would cover it (and that figure would presumably go down by a factor of 2 or 3 if Gnarfl was ruling any country other than the US).

    • John Schilling says:

      Let’s say the UBI is 30k a year. What happens to someone who cannot work, and requires 40k a year spent to live?

      The hard-anarchocapitalist answer is that if they were smart, then before they got sick they paid a few bucks for a long-term disability insurance policy that would cover them for the $40K or whatever, and if they didn’t do that we laugh at them for being non-smart and then maybe pass the hat and see if people are willing to cough up enough in charity. And if they were disabled from birth then presumably their smart parents paid for a prenatal disability policy…

      At which point everybody who isn’t a hard-ancap acknowleges that “basically get rid of all social programs” should not be read as “absolutely literally get rid of 100.00% of social programs”, with severe long-term disability insurance as something that will require special attention. For best results, this should be taken care of before we implement the UBI and cancel all the other programs, but we’re a long way from that so there’s plenty of time. Meanwhile, it’s an edge case that doesn’t affect most of the virtues or vices of a UBI, so is it something you seriously want to discuss in its own right or are you just nitpicking the definition of “basically all”?

      • Deiseach says:

        if they were smart, then before they got sick they paid a few bucks for a long-term disability insurance policy that would cover them for the $40K or whatever

        You don’t think health insurance companies could figure out a way around that? Maybe requiring a genetic screening test and if it comes up “you’re likely to develop Parkinson’s in your fifties” sorry buddy, no insurance for you, this is a pre-existing condition.

      • dndnrsn says:

        (Epistemic status: Exhausted, rambly) A bit of column A, a bit of column B. I think most Americans (most people here are Americans, right?) have an experience of public health care where it’s for old people, poor people, and military personnel/veterans. Health care in Canada is basically “everybody gets public care, with limits.” Stuff like prescription drugs, dental, eye care are usually not covered or aren’t covered well. Specialist care is either not paid for, or you get a choice between paying and waiting for some stuff.

        Rationing, of course, occurs, and exists mostly in the form of inconvenience and wait times, but every week or two the paper will have a story about how province X isn’t paying for expensive/unproven drugs/therapy for condition Y.

        Meanwhile, there’s increasing talk about basic incomes … but reading between the lines, I’m increasingly thinking that politicians are going to cook up a slightly different flavour of welfare and call it a basic income, and not get rid of the already-existing social assistance programs that in theory a basic income would replace (whether or not you go full ancap). Of course, nobody is talking about doing away with the public health care we have. Bitching about Canadian health care is the national pastime, but we’re also all proud of it, and talk of health care in Canada usually includes a certain degree of “do we want to be a blasted postapocalyptic hellscape where the poor are left to die and the living envy the dead, like America?”

        I suppose my question, put better, is something like “public health care systems have some people using more and some people using less, with little individual rationing – what happens to the people currently using more under a system where everyone gets $z and is on their own after that?” Or, slot in welfare, education, etc. Health care is just the one I have the most experience with.

        While in theory I like the idea of a UBI – in general, I think that non-means-tested, universal programs are vastly superior to means-tested social services, for a whole bunch of reasons – I worry that Dr Dealgood’s answer above is correct.

        As for the specific edge case, it’s just one that I’ve had on my mind. The most common “they can’t get help from the government and are paying out of pocket” story one sees in the papers is “couple whose finances are destroyed paying for out-of-pocket treatment for disabled kid”. And I find myself wondering, is there a system that resolves that, or is the answer just “well, hope real hard you don’t have a disabled kid”?

      • John Schilling says:

        Maybe requiring a genetic screening test and if it comes up “you’re likely to develop Parkinson’s in your fifties” sorry buddy, no insurance for you, this is a pre-existing condition.

        If we’re going to define genetic predispositions as diseases, disabilities, or “conditions” for this purpose, that brings us back to prenatal insurance policies. Or prenatal genetic screening and “discretionary” abortion on penalty of lifetime poverty…

        …at which point normal people run, don’t walk, away from the doctrinal purity that says the UBI has to mean eliminating 100% of all other social programs. It’s a “basic” income, right? Says so on the label. So there can still be special programs for special cases.

  23. Controls Freak says:

    In concert with David’s post on UBI, I want to bring back something mitigatedchaos brought up on the Batman thread:

    Lower the minimum wage to a dollar, make up the difference with per-hour wage income subsidies.

    I vaguely recall seeing a blog post or something expressing something similar to this way back in the past, but I don’t remember what. Anyway, it got me thinking about it again. One of the things I remember them arguing is that it puts regular other people right into the mix of demanding labor. “Don’t you have some odd job you’d pay someone to do if you could pay only $1/hr (and get the rest from the government)?!” Also, currently, there is a fair amount of employment of disabled people that simply relies on a charity model (see Goodwill). I know a guy got “eviscerated” on The Daily Show for saying it, but in an actual free market, there are people for whom the marginal product of their labor will be on the order of a couple dollars an hour. However, if it has that value (seriously guys, strictly monetary value, not normative value) and someone can actually pay that rate for it (with the remainder being covered by the government), that brings such labor outside of the shell of the charity model, so it’s accessible to everyone.

    I have other, weird ideas on things like “how to pay for it”, so I’m not too interested in complaints of that sort. Instead, I’m currently trying to come up with methods by which a scheme like this could be gamed, so that we can plausibly set some constraints (perhaps with unknown constants) that at least shape the whole project.

    The first, obvious method of gaming starts from the fact that the per-hour wage subsidy (for work at the minimum wage) is going to have to be greater than $1, because nobody will accept a solution where the effective minimum wage is $2/hr. Anytime I see a subsidy greater than the original, I see abuse. Suppose, just for example, that the subsidy for work paid at $1 is $3. Well, if I can ever create a ring of N people, it’s game over. I can pay two people $1/hr each, they can pocket $2/hr and each pay two others $1/hr. Repeat.

    The first, obvious method of constraint is going to be a limit on how many hours you can report as eligible for wage subsidy to some Schelling point like 40hr/wk. You can’t get 40hr from Joe and 40hr from John in the same week. If this is all we do, everyone can still game the system just fine, but it basically functions as a guaranteed income floor. You can get an effective minimum wage by doing nothing other than getting someone to say that you “worked” 40hrs. (It might be a little worse than this. Presumably we’ll have a sliding scale – if someone values your work at $5/hr, you’ll probably get a little more post-subsidy than if someone values your work at $2/hr. So, people might be able to come up with schemes or just easy lies to increase the effective no-work minimum. I’m undecided yet on the extent to which the various constraints I’m thinking about below will fix this.)

    Where I’m getting stuck is how to encourage actual work instead of ^that. The old blog post I recall proposed a system of requiring everyone who received wage subsidies to offer their services on a website, so their labor could be bought by anyone (and I think he said large corporations couldn’t buy labor here to appease some political concerns). I really don’t like this. IIRC, it became very fraught with needing a rating system for good/bad employees/employers in order to avoid problems… and frankly, I don’t think there’s really any way to get someone who doesn’t want to work at all to place a remotely attractive sounding offer up.

    Instead, I’m thinking that we have to contract the supply in some way. That is, in addition to saying that you can’t get 40hr from Joe and 40hr from John, we also want to put a limit on the total number of hours Joe can “sign off on”. Then, he has to think, “Do I want to waste them on my brother who isn’t going to do anything, or do I hire the housecleaner for $2/hr who actually provides me a service?!” Do you think it’s enough to have a simple cap? “You can only hire Xhr/wk of subsidized labor.”

    Do you think we should scale this in some way? Maybe, “You can hire (40-X)/2+f(Y) hours of subsidized labor (where, say, X is the number of subsidized hours you work and Y is something like your other income level) up to an overall cap of Z hours.” So, if someone is using less subsidized labor and earning other income, she can maybe hire a housecleaner, a dog walker, a lawn mower, and so on (perhaps some full time, some part time) that adds up to, say, 100hrs? I think we could play with constants, depending upon a lot of different factors. I think the biggest issue is whether a rule for this supply gets so complicated that it distorts the market nearly as badly as the original minimum wage. Worse would be if we estimate the constants wrong and over-limit the supply, such that there simply aren’t enough subsidized hours out there for people to take.

    (As in my reply to the UBI thread, I think healthcare is a massive wildcard here. I don’t particular want to include this factor, and I’d prefer to not privilege full-time work over multiple part-time jobs for multiple people (a mini-business, essentially). If need be, assume that we’ve come up with some other method for that; worst case something like the Marketplace where we have a pretty good sense that it’s possible to live with healthcare on the subsidized effective minimum wage.)

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      The US already has low wages partly paid by government with Earned Income Credit, although obviously not to the extent you suggest. And in fact, it has been said that part of the rationale for the EIC when it was first enacted in the ’80’s was to be instead of a minimum wage increase. Of course none of the advocates of increasing the minimum wage seem to remember that now.

      I do think that the dramatic expansion of the EIC you suggest, of receiving $1/hour privately, and the rest from the government, would be severely gamed and thus unworkable. It’s been my position that we should just pay everyone welfare up to the poverty line or thereabouts, and otherwise completely liberalize employment rules. I know the purpose of EIC is to encourage people to work, but I am not sure if that makes a lot of sense. We have all these complicated welfare rules now that incentivize working, and I think it doesn’t make much sense. It is a better idea to give people welfare, and let them decide for themselves what to do with their time. It costs less, gives more freedom to recipients, and only the folks who want to increase their income or want to work are competing for jobs. Better all around in my opinion. And it doesn’t even cost more than the US already spends. If we took all the welfare programs we have now (78 federal programs plus lots of state and local ones), we would have more than enough money to bring every person out of poverty.

      There was discussion in the David Friedman thread about the shortage of welfare for those who have extra medical costs. I didn’t join that thread because it was already too crowded. My thought is that the US should have a separate kind of welfare for medical welfare. This would be somewhat complicated, but not more complicated than our current system. And then everyone who didn’t have inordinate needs for medical care could just pay for their own care. A completely deregulated system for the majority would greatly bring down costs, in my opinion, since in most cases people would have incentives not to spend more than they need to, because it was their own money. Even if there is disagreement on that last part, it makes a lot more sense to me to highly regulate medical care only for the minority that have high demand, instead of regulating everyone’s care just so those who can’t afford it have care.

  24. IrishDude says:

    I’d like to do an informal poll. I’m engaged in a debate on the previous OT where it is claimed that saying the pledge of allegiance once, as the long as the person is at least 18, gives the state a just claim to dominion over the person’s property in perpetuity.

    Do you agree or disagree with the claim?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      If it takes place at your citizenship ceremony, yes.

      (Of course, if you’re born a citizen it’s completely irrelevant. And in both cases, “in perpetuity” has the caveat of “unless you later jump through the hoops of giving up your citizenship”.)

    • Mark says:

      Disagree. I think that the rules which apply to property should depend on where the property is (or the system in which the property exists) rather than the citizenship of the owner.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      This “poll” is out of context to that debate and in poor form.

      • IrishDude says:

        If you’d like to add useful context I’d like to more accurately capture what you think I’m missing that’s relevant. I’m just doing an informal check of what people think the pledge of allegiance is agreeing to. I’m not trying to intentionally mislead and apologies if I’ve given that impression.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You are arguing about the legitimacy of government to exist at all, and trying to ground it in property rights. Your claim is being tested on the terms that you set. Which is why the pledge of allegiance is relevant to property rights to that argument. It’s about the adult who owns the property recognizing the legitimacy of the government.

          Your poll makes it sound that the argument is about whether the federal government has divine right over the property (or something), and doesn’t have to recognize any claim of right of property. That’s a very biasing frame to put on the question.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I am kind of confused by this whole thing. The way Irish put it, I find it hard to believe that anyone would truly believe that. I certainly don’t remember anyone saying that. EK has said that we have duty to the law if we stay in a particular country after we turn 18, but that is much weaker than Irish’s statement above. Did someone mention the Pledge in a previous thread?

            HBC — I would love to hear what you say the argument was about. Whether or not we have a poll about it.

            I thought I would also add that I think the Pledge of Allegiance is one of the stupidest things we do in the US. It starts out by saying that we promise to obey our flag, and doesn’t get much more coherent after that.

          • IrishDude says:

            @HeelBearCub

            In this comment, Earthly Knight asserts that government can gain dominion over lands from six methods. For method 3 he asserts:
            “(3) Explicit consent through subsequent oaths of allegiance. Anyone who has ever freely sworn allegiance to the US government and its constitution has thereby ceded dominion over their lands to the federal government in perpetuity. This will also include all naturalized citizens, all past and present members of the military, all peace officers, and so on.”

            In this comment, Earthly Knight expounds on his method (3) to say:
            “(3) encompasses all land belonging by rights to anyone, living or dead, who ever said the pledge of allegiance as an adult, or took an oath of enlistment, an oath of office, a law enforcement oath… This alone is going to give the government dominion over most of the country many times over.”

            It’s this claim, that a person saying the pledge of allegiance as an adult gives the state just dominion over their land in perpetuity that I dispute. This claim wasn’t set on my terms, as I didn’t enter the conversation until after Earthly Knight stated his six methods for the state gaining legitimate dominion over lands.

            EDIT: Note that the thread started from David Friedman’s question “That argument assumes that the “body politic,” presumably meaning the government, owns the country and so can obligate you to leave if you don’t accept the contract. How did it obtain that ownership?” To which the first comment I’ve linked here is Earthly Knight’s response.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It would be helpful to give the rationale for the claim and not just the claim itself:

            Pledging allegiance to the republic commits you to respecting the claims made in the US constitution, the republic’s central charter. The fifth amendment to the constitution asserts dominion over all property falling within the territory of the United States. Hence, a pledge of allegiance to the republic cedes dominion over whatever property you own to the federal government.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark V Andersen:
            Allegiance and obedience aren’t the same thing.

            Every one pledges allegiance to the same flag, we are allies of the the flag, which stands for the republic, which is us, the people.

            We are pledging to be allies to each other.

            When I was young I thought it was stupid.

            Now that I am old, I simply see it as expressing that we are bound together, which I’ve pretty much always believed anyway. And I truly believe it’s beautiful and damnit I am actually a little misty as I type this. Rodney King had the right of it. Can’t we all get along?

            But that’s probably lost on your average 3rd grader.

            As to the argument that EK and ID are having, it’s a little too “does reality even exist” for me. I’m more at the “my heuristic is to accept that reality exists. Can we move on to what to do about it?” stage of life.

          • IrishDude says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            Thank you for adding more context by giving your rationale. If I could edit my OP to add your rationale I would do so.

          • IrishDude says:

            @HeelBearCub

            My reciting of the pledge of allegiance while in school, up into high school, was pure rote regurgitation based on prompting from school authorities with little to no consideration of what the words meant. As an adult considering the words, they don’t hit me in the feels given that my tribe I feel affiliation to are my friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors, but not to random strangers that live within the borders of the nation. I’m pretty anti-nationalistic.

            I think both is and ought questions are interesting. Yes, I pay my taxes and mostly follow orders from state agents. No, I don’t think the situation is just. I think if people more widely held my moral beliefs about the unjust nature of the state, that would help some with questions like “what to do about it”.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Allegiance and obedience aren’t the same thing.

            Every one pledges allegiance to the same flag, we are allies of the the flag, which stands for the republic, which is us, the people.

            I think allegiance and obedience are essentially the same. I think you are saying that the Pledge is a metaphor, since the words certainly don’t say that we are allies together. Should we be making promises about things as a metaphor? Especially since I doubt everyone thinks of it that way?

            When I was in 3rd grade I didn’t think the Pledge was stupid; I had no thoughts about it at all. It was just something I had to say in school. And I think 95% of other 3rd graders were like me. Should we be having kids take oaths when they have no idea what it means? What the Pledge does is teach kids that promises don’t really mean anything — they are just something you say.

            I think you get misty-eyed because it is something that all Americans do and it kind of symbolizes our connections. I think it would be better if we had a song that did the same thing, and not a bogus pledge to rally around our nation’s sacred cloth. But I would prefer America the Beautiful or This Land is Your Land to the Star Spangled Banner, because SSB is too militaristic and doesn’t really talk about the country.

    • Brad says:

      I’m not really sure what the right answer is for someone that thinks the democracies have just dominion over their, err, dominions without the necessity for anyone to have said the pledge.

    • quanta413 says:

      By “just” do we mean the connotation of “lawful” or of “justice”? I’m very confused. What if I’m of the perspective that the state’s claim to the ability to define its boundaries, the rules of property, etc. is lawful by tautology (the state makes the law) and the state’s own claim can only be unlawful so much as the state itself has rules or laws that make its claim unlawful. This, of course, has nothing to do whether I think the state’s claim is ethical or moral.

      To oversimplify, I view all government as basically being descended from the winner of a usually violent struggle backed up by having enough tacit consent and violent force at its beck and call that no one else has yet won a new violent struggle.

      • IrishDude says:

        By just, I mean morally right and fair.

        The pledge of allegiance claim is a response to the question: how did the state come to own all the lands within its borders? The claim is then provided as one way the state justly came to have dominion over people’s land. The rationale provided by poster making the assertion is:
        Pledging allegiance to the republic commits you to respecting the claims made in the US constitution, the republic’s central charter. The fifth amendment to the constitution asserts dominion over all property falling within the territory of the United States. Hence, a pledge of allegiance to the republic cedes dominion over whatever property you own to the federal government.

        I view all government as basically being descended from the winner of a usually violent struggle backed up by having enough tacit consent and violent force at its beck and call that no one else has yet won a new violent struggle.

        That’s a positive claim, which I pretty much agree with. The claim cited in the OP is a normative claim.

        • quanta413 says:

          That’s a positive claim, which I pretty much agree with. The claim cited in the OP is a normative claim.

          As a normative claim, I strongly disagree with idea that saying the pledge of allegiance grants the state dominion over your property or indeed binds anyone to anything at all. Normatively, I think anything forcibly recited by rote has less claim to binding anyone to anything than an EULA. I could maybe view it as something that ought to be binding if the pledge mentioned property and you had an alternate option to saying the pledge, in which case the state somehow didn’t have dominion over your property; presumably you’d lose something else as a cost of not submitting to the state.

          To be fair, I’m not sure there is any normative claim I can think of that I would strongly agree with about why any state should have dominion over property. So I may just be way out on a limb away from a more normal person’s view.

          Not that I think government and law is bad; I just think its good to keep in mind that fundamentally power (violence) is what justifies it.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          It’s been illegal to force school students to say the pledge since some Jehovah’s Witnesses complained about it back in the 40’s. Assume, for the purposes of the discussion, that we are speaking of 18-year-old high school students who say the pledge of their own volition.

          • quanta413 says:

            It’s been illegal to force school students to say the pledge since some Jehovah’s Witnesses complained about it back in the 40’s. Assume, for the purposes of the discussion, that we are speaking of 18-year-old high school students who say the pledge of their own volition.

            I don’t really find it very relevant that it’s technically illegal to force someone to say the pledge; my observation is that the social mores of the U.S. press down pretty hard on saying the pledge. Maybe that’s just where I grew up, but I kind of doubt it. About half the people of the U.S. seem pretty frustrated when football players kneel during the anthem or whatever. And the pledge doesn’t say anything about property so it’s still irrelevant on that count. In almost all contexts (I only leave this caveat in case there is some weird context I am unaware of), the pledge is just part of the standard sort of rote glue designed to build a feeling of national unity.

            This whole theory strikes me as really weird; it’s pretty clear the U.S. government does not in any way think that people saying or not saying the pledge influences its sovereignty/dominion.

            Now, in theory, I can imagine a nation with a different sort of pledge that every person born in the nation may make upon reaching adulthood that determines whether on not they become a full subject of the state with all the attendant rights and obligations, but I can’t think of any state in the world that works this way. It’s an interesting theory to imagine what such a state would be like, but I don’t think it has any bearing on how states actually operate in our current time period.

            EDIT: Just to be clear where I’m coming from, I don’t feel the slightest emotion when somebody kneels during the anthem as a form of protest. It’s not just that I think that it’s a protected form of speech; I actually just lack whatever feeling of repulsion some people get at seeing “disrespect” or whatever to a symbol and the brouhaha all just looks super weird to me.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            it’s pretty clear the U.S. government does not in any way think that people saying or not saying the pledge influences its sovereignty/dominion.

            People have different standards for what sorts of ways of a state can acquire dominion over land. The US government implicitly operates under the standard that the democratic consent of a clearly-demarcated territory is sufficient, but my arguments here are addressed to those who believe we should abide by stricter standards, libertarians and so on, to show that by their own lights they must also think the government has dominion over their property.

            You raise two objections to my claim that taking the pledge of allegiance obliges you to obey and uphold the constitution. The first is that the pledge isn’t binding because it’s learned and recited by rote. The second is that the pledge is commonly said under duress, not forcible coercion (which would be unconstitutional) but something more like social coercion or peer pressure. Both of these objections fail, and for similar reasons. It could not be true in general that agreements entered into by rote are invalid, because a great many contracts are signed automatically and carelessly, and we do not normally take this to relieve the contracting parties of their obligations. And it could not be true in general that agreements which would not have been made if not for the effects of peer pressure are invalid, for this would likewise nullify a great many deals we all regard as legitimate. So if you think there is something wrong with the claim that the government gains dominion over the property of any adult who freely says the pledge of allegiance, you will have to come up with some other explanation why.

          • quanta413 says:

            my arguments here are addressed to those who believe we should abide by stricter standards, libertarians and so on, to show that by their own lights they must also think the government has dominion over their property.

            Is this actually a generic libertarian position? My guess is most libertarians would be on board with my description that all existing states’ dominion flow from tacit consent and violence. Now maybe in theory, they would like a different sort of state with a well-defined contract that has a reasonable exit option, but the pledge is not that contract.

            You raise two objections to my claim that taking the pledge of allegiance obliges you to obey and uphold the constitution.

            Actually I raised three objections, the strongest one being that the pledge doesn’t saying anything about property. But it’s even worse than that it doesn’t mention property; it’s too vague to be thought of as any sort of contract. Allegiance is not a well defined binding legal concept, nor is there any tradition of treating the pledge as binding those who say it to specific behaviors. That’s why I said I could imagine an alternate pledge that does cover property and is binding. If you can actually find a country with such a pledge I’d be very interested.

            The first is that the pledge isn’t binding because it’s learned and recited by rote. The second is that the pledge is commonly said under duress, not forcible coercion (which would be unconstitutional) but something more like social coercion or peer pressure. Both of these objections fail, and for similar reasons. It could not be true in general that agreements entered into by rote are invalid, because a great many contracts are signed automatically and carelessly, and we do not normally take this to relieve the contracting parties of their obligations. And it could not be true in general that agreements which would not have been made if not for the effects of peer pressure are invalid, for this would likewise nullify a great many deals we all regard as legitimate.

            Stepping back a couple posts, when I said I was making a normative claim I meant normative in terms of values or morals etc. So how well it comports with U.S. contract law or any other contract law wasn’t my main point. I said “As a normative claim, I strongly disagree with idea that saying the pledge of allegiance grants the state dominion over your property or indeed binds anyone to anything at all. Normatively, I think anything forcibly recited by rote has less claim to binding anyone to anything than an EULA.”

            However, the comparison to law is still interesting and I already went there by analogy when I mentioned EULA’s so let’s go back towards that path.

            I am not a lawyer, but loosely speaking, contracts can be invalid because they occur under too much duress or carelessly. Duress or standardization doesn’t always invalidate them but neither is it true that duress and care have no influence on the validity of a contract; it’s a balancing thing. I’m kind of shocked you think this isn’t a valid objection. Even imagining the pledge was a contract, it would arguably be a contract of adhesion and/or unconscionable.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_form_contract#Contracts_of_adhesion

            It’s hard to think of a contract that has a more ridiculously lopsided imbalance between parties (some schmo vs. the fount of almost all legal violence and power) than what is being proposed here about the pledge.

            So if you think there is something wrong with the claim that the government gains dominion over the property of any adult who freely says the pledge of allegiance, you will have to come up with some other explanation why.

            To be clear, my first post in response before clarifying about whether this was about morals or law was trying to make clear my belief that government needs no pledge or anything like that to have dominion over the property of an adult. It already has dominion by violent force and tacit consent. It’s not a terribly nice way to gain and maintain dominion, but that doesn’t mean I can think of a better way.

            I’m interested in your defense of why the pledge of allegiance has anything to do with the U.S. government’s dominion over a person’s property. Can you produce any court cases to this effect? Can you show that an individual’s allegiance involves a ceding of their property rights (say property they have in foreign countries) to the U.S. government?

            EDIT: Nevermind, you say “The US government implicitly operates under the standard that the democratic consent of a clearly-demarcated territory is sufficient but my arguments here are addressed to those who believe we should abide by stricter standards, libertarians and so on, to show that by their own lights they must also think the government has dominion over their property.”

            Which means we agree on at least half of how it works in practice anyways. Maybe you agree on the violence part maybe not. It seems to me that by trying to use the pledge of allegiance as the contract at hand here you’re attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s just totally lacking the language necessary and has no other reasonable option, so it just can’t do what a ancap/libertarian/whatever would want in terms of justifying the state in the theoretical way they would like as a binding voluntary contract.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Is this actually a generic libertarian position?

            It is a generic libertarian position that agreements not appreciably different from the pledge are binding, yes. My goal is to show that people who hold this sort of view must likewise see the government’s dominion over their property as just and rightful.

            Actually I raised three objections, the strongest one being that the pledge doesn’t saying anything about property.

            Does this matter? If I swear an oath to uphold and defend the constitution, doesn’t that commit me to upholding and defending every provision in the constitution, including those concerning property? The only space for an objection here, so far as I can tell, is that the pledge talks about the republic and not specifically the constitution, but that looks pretty close to hair-splitting to me.

            So how well it comports with U.S. contract law or any other contract law wasn’t my main point.

            I am nowhere discussing the law. You and I both think that (a) contracts formed under peer pressure still generally give rise to moral obligations, and (b) contracts signed carelessly still generally give rise to moral obligations (at least so long as the contracting parties had ample opportunity to review the terms of the agreement, as is the case here).

    • Anonymous says:

      Independent states* are best understood as organized mafias. They have their territory, and they make the rules that apply within that territory. You disobey at your peril, regardless if you said a pledge, or have voting rights, or other inconsequential de jure formalities. I don’t think there’s any place where you de facto have dominion over yourself unless you can actually defend your claims yourself (alone or as part of a coalition).

      * Here, the term is taken to mean autonomous enough that they can levy taxes and use those taxes to enforce their claim, and don’t have to pay taxes themselves to a higher authority.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Strongly disagree, based on the principle that you shouldn’t be able to give away your rights forever by saying a couple of words out loud and not even signing a piece of paper with an explicit contract on it or something.

      That being said, the original question is a little absurd as the state’s authority over you is not really based on some clever sneaky contract they con people into “signing” in one way or another; it’s based on a monopoly of violence.

      • Artificirius says:

        Can we conflate authority and power?

        Even if we can’t, I would argue that all authority is so derived. If we can, certainly so.

    • BBA says:

      The claim is the statist equivalent to arguing that the gold fringe on the flag deprives the court of jurisdiction. I.e., so ridiculous it’s not even worth rebutting.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Yep. Whenever someone starts talking about a mechanistic interpretation of the law which uses some alleged microscopic loophole to create an enormously out-of-scale result, one can safely stop listening. Because (among other things) the law is interpreted by human beings, not emotionless computer algorithms, and those human beings don’t appreciate being messed with.

        • Brad says:

          This whole discussion has nothing to do with the law. It is a discussion that flows from the anarcho-capitalist premise that governments are illegitimate without some form of explicit consent from each and every person in their putative sovereignties (or maybe only landholders, it’s not clear to me).

          The question then becomes: what form does that consent need to take?

          If you are going to complain that the discussion amounts to asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, you need to back up much further than the part about the pledge of allegiance.

          • BBA says:

            I think the anarcho-capitalist premise can be more accurately described as governments are illegitimate, period, and trying to convince an ancap otherwise within their own premises is as pointless as trying to prove Euclid’s parallel postulate in Lobachevskian geometry.

          • IrishDude says:

            @BBA

            As an AnCap, my premise is that political authority is illegitimate (a la Mike Huemer): state agents should be held to the same moral standard as non-state agents.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Brad

            The discussion only focuses on claims of government legitimacy that would flow from them being just owners of all the land within its claimed borders. There are other theories of government being legitimate that might not require the government having just ownership over the land, but those other theories aren’t being discussed in the current thread.

          • BBA says:

            A distinction without a difference. No matter how much I add up those angles, I won’t reach 180 by your rules.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            This whole discussion has nothing to do with the law.

            Er, no? The original question was about an assertion that “saying the pledge of allegiance once, as the long as the person is at least 18, gives the state a just claim to dominion over the person’s property in perpetuity.” I would indeed complain that this discussion amounts to asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because there’s no way that you are going to convince an American court that it doesn’t have dominion over you because you never said the Pledge of Allegiance — or because of any other weird fiddly chain of logic you come up with. Real-world courts don’t work that way.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            there’s no way that you are going to convince an American court that it doesn’t have dominion over you because you never said the Pledge of Allegiance

            You’re denying the antecedent– the claim we are discussing is that if you say the pledge of allegiance, then the state dominion over your property. As a matter of logic, it does not follow from this that if you do not say the pledge of allegiance, then the state does not have dominion over your property.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            As a matter of logic, it does not follow from this that if you do not say the pledge of allegiance, then the state does not have dominion over your property.

            Is the assertion that saying the Pledge can have some effect on the state having dominion over your property, in some circumstance? If yes, my objection stands; if not, why even bring it up?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ThirteentLetter:
            I believe, as I said elsewhere, this is an attempt to prove legitimacy of US government to an (ancap?) libertarian on his own terms for what counts as legitimate. EK seemed to have established a laundry list of things that would give the existing government legitimacy, even on IDs own grounds, but they are picking a nit about one of them (pledge of allegiance).

            If you don’t accept arguments that the US government is not now and never has been legitimate, this argument is not for you.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Is the assertion that saying the Pledge can have some effect on the state having dominion over your property, in some circumstance? If yes, my objection stands; if not, why even bring it up?

            The problem is that never having said the pledge of allegiance (freely, as an adult) is only a necessary condition on the government lacking dominion over your land. There are other necessary conditions that also must be satisfied. The argument you make before the judge would have to go something like this:

            “All of my life, I have dissented from the rule of the federal government. I have never said the pledge of allegiance nor taken any other oath swearing fidelity to the constitution. Not only that, the person I acquired all of my land from was also a dissenter. In fact, every person who has ever owned this land, stretching right back to the nation’s founding, at all times in their lives denied the legitimacy of the federal government. What’s more, the owner in 1790 wanted no part in the union of states, and had his representatives vote against the ratification of the bill of rights. For this reason, I view the federal government’s claims over this piece of territory as invalid.”

            This is the kind of argument that would be needed to show that the federal government lacks dominion over your land, just according to our ordinary rules for how property may be justly acquired. (The fact that libertarians and their ilk seldom make this sort of argument suggests that they have not really thought through the consequences of their views). As a matter of law, it might not do much to persuade a magistrate, but if all of the claims made above are true I think that this would at least give you a legitimate grievance to lodge against the government.

          • IrishDude says:

            @HeelBearCub

            EK seemed to have established a laundry list of things that would give the existing government legitimacy, even on IDs own grounds, but they are picking a nit about one of them (pledge of allegiance).

            To add context, I ‘picked a nit’ about ALL six methods EK proposed to establish legitimate government ownership (or dominion) over all lands within its borders. See here.

            I only focused in on the pledge of allegiance claim in a later post because EK said that saying this pledge (or oaths of enlistment, office, or law enforcement) was sufficient to “alone … give the government dominion over most of the country many times over.”

            Since EK thinks this one method is sufficient to give government legitimate dominion over most the country, and since this claim is prima facie absurd to me, I thought it was a claim worth picking out for further discussion. The claim seems absurd enough that I strongly suspected EK of engaging in sophistry, but couldn’t get him to directly respond to questions about whether he sincerely believed the pledge of allegiance claim he was putting forward. I still don’t know if he believes what he’s saying, but I give him the benefit of doubt given that he’s willing to continue to defend the claim on this new thread here.

            I don’t think you’ve given your two cents yet on the matter. Assuming the state doesn’t have dominion over a person’s property, do you think an 18 year old saying the pledge of allegiance is sufficient to give the state legitimate dominion over that person’s property in perpetuity?

          • IrishDude says:

            @BBA

            Me: As an AnCap, my premise is that political authority is illegitimate (a la Mike Huemer): state agents should be held to the same moral standard as non-state agents.

            You: A distinction without a difference. No matter how much I add up those angles, I won’t reach 180 by your rules.

            Are you saying you disagree that state agents and non-state agents should be held to the same moral standard? I can’t tell from your response.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @IrishDude:

            Under the actual system of government we have? No. Under libertarian rules, where contracts and oaths are sacrosanct and the only form of organization and cooperation? Yeah, probably. I think you are equivocating between the two views.

            But my real take was this:

            As to the argument that EK and ID are having, it’s a little too “does reality even exist” for me. I’m more at the “my heuristic is to accept that reality exists. Can we move on to what to do about it?” stage of life.

            So, why am I here?

            Because other people clearly will be sucked into this conversation misunderstanding the context, and that leads to bad argument and poor feelings.

            Note that this is occurring even now, with comments posted in the last hour to your “poll”.

          • IrishDude says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Under the actual system of government we have? No.

            Appreciate the response.

            Under libertarian rules, where contracts and oaths are sacrosanct and the only form of organization and cooperation? Yeah, probably. I think you are equivocating between the two views.

            I don’t think contracts and oaths are the only form of organization and cooperation. I do think mutual consent to exchanges is an ideal worth striving for in social arrangements (hence why I consider myself a Voluntaryist), with some limited exceptions.

            As to contracts being sacrosanct, here I list elements of a contract that I think make it more just, including: (1) offer; (2) acceptance; (3) consideration; (4) mutuality of obligation; (5) competency and capacity; and, in certain circumstances, (6) a written instrument.

            Not all contracts are created equal, and merely uttering a pledge of allegiance in the context that 18 year olds do misses many important elements of a morally binding contract.

            Because other people clearly will be sucked into this conversation misunderstanding the context, and that leads to bad argument and poor feelings.

            The only context I’d add to my OP would be the rationale that EK provides above. I’m doubtful that would sway people’s opinions though.

            I think you may be saying that EK doesn’t really believe his claim, but is trying to set it forward as a claim libertarians must accept on their own terms. I don’t see this caveated in EK’s post here in response to David Friedman’s question asking how government came to own all the land. However, since EK is around he can answer for himself. So, Earthly Knight, do you really believe that the pledge of allegiance is sufficient to give the state dominion over lands, or not?

            HBC – Do you think the question about how the state comes to initially gain legitimate dominion over lands is worth exploring? If so, I’m curious how you think just dominion over lands can be gained.

          • IrishDude says:

            @HeelBearCub

            In case EK isn’t around at the moment to speak for himself, this post of his in the other thread seems to indicate the pledge of allegiance claim is his true belief:

            “My view is that anyone who thinks we can relinquish property rights just by checking an “I Agree” box must a fortiori accept that we can relinquish property rights by swearing a solemn oath. Since you and I both sincerely believe the former, you and I must also sincerely believe the latter as well, on pain of inconsistency.

            It was his response to my post:
            “You didn’t let me know if this belief is sincerely held by you. I’m aware of the superficial similarity between the pledge of allegiance and a binding contract, but am not interested in going into a more detailed rebuttal unless I know you’re arguing in good faith. So again, just let me know.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            So, Earthly Knight, do you really believe that the pledge of allegiance is sufficient to give the state dominion over lands, or not?

            This focus on what I believe is weird and misplaced. It does seem to be a consequence of rules for acquiring property which both of us accept that the pledge of allegiance said freely by an adult gives the state dominion over the land of the speaker, yes.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I focused on what you believe because HeelBearCub accused me of poor form in my OP for not providing context. The context HBC thought I needed to add was that you were debating on my terms and not your own, which seemed to me like HBC didn’t think you actually believed what you were saying. Your response here noting that you truly believe the claim in my OP is a refutation of HBC’s accusation of poor form.

            Among other reasons previously stated on why I don’t buy the pledge of allegiance claim, is this response by John Schilling: “Agreements are morally binding if and only if there is a social consensus that a particular sort of agreement is binding and they are framed in such a manner that a reasonable person would understand the terms and nature of the agreement. Neither are true in our society of your proposed reinterpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which is generally understood to be a bit of meaningless fluff.

            Everyone thinks the pledge of allegiance is fluff, and not a contract, except for you. Since no one else (that I’m aware of) agrees to your interpretation of the pledge of allegiance as a binding contract (not high school students, or even agents of the state), it is not a legitimate way for the state to acquire dominion over lands.

            I’m sure you’ll continue to disagree, but you’ll need a different line of argument if you want to convince me.

        • Robert Liguori says:

          Interstate commerce?

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s a tax!

            Seriously, though, the state and its agents can afford to be ludicrous in their interpretations, at the price of undermining obedience to their system. But if they are willing to pay that price, they can get away with anything they consider convenient. Not so the powerless peasant-citizen.

    • John Schilling says:

      …saying the pledge of allegiance once, as the long as the person is at least 18, gives the state a just claim to dominion over the person’s property in perpetuity

      What if we just get them to click an EULA that has the pledge embedded somewhere in it?

      No. Not even the laws of the nation you would have people hypothetically pledge allegiance to, are that daft. Agreements are morally binding if and only if there is a social consensus that a particular sort of agreement is binding and they are framed in such a manner that a reasonable person would understand the terms and nature of the agreement. Neither are true in our society of your proposed reinterpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which is generally understood to be a bit of meaningless fluff.

      Something like the Oath of Citizenship is another matter, and we could I suppose require everyone to take the Oath on their 18th birthday or find a new home by their 19th. But even then, they’d only be signing up to the U.S. Constitution’s explicit terms and conditions, and those include more protections for private property rights than are consistent with the simplistic idea of “state dominion over the person’s property”.

      • IrishDude says:

        Agreements are morally binding if and only if there is a social consensus that a particular sort of agreement is binding and they are framed in such a manner that a reasonable person would understand the terms and nature of the agreement. Neither are true in our society of your proposed reinterpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which is generally understood to be a bit of meaningless fluff.

        I agree.

    • rlms says:

      I agree with everyone else who has said this argument is pointless. I think it is pretty clear that you would not accept anything remotely resembling the pledge of allegiance as giving the state perpetual dominion of a a person’s property. Or do you think that the government does have dominion over the property of the random selection of people who make a special oath of allegiance, e.g. clergymen, members of the armed forces, Boy Scouts, certain civil servants etc. (in various countries)? It is even clearer that Earthly Knight does not consider a pledge of allegiance necessary to give the government this dominion, since presumably they are happy for it to tax and arrest people (e.g. those who were homeschooled) who have never said the pledge. So there is nothing productive I can see in arguing over the details of the pledge.

  25. R Flaum says:

    What’s the actual difference between high-quality, expensive butter and the lower-end stuff?

    • Anon. says:

      The taste of the cow’s output depends on what they eat. Good butter comes from grass-fed cows.

      Try a blind taste test.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Grass-fed butter is supposed to have all sorts of good stuff in it that grain-fed butter doesn’t, just as grass-fed beef is supposed to, or wild salmon vs farmed.

    • Marketing, usually. Maybe flavoring, like a bit of cinnamon and other ingredients.

      For grass vs corn/soy cows, there may be nutritional differences in some of the elements, with the largest one being Omega-3’s.

      Its *usually* cheaper to get those missing nutrients from things like various vegetable oils.

    • Brad says:

      European (style) butter uses clotted milk which gives a different flavor. There’s also different percent fat butters.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      Lately, I’ve noticed that every brand of low-end butter I try has got too sticky. At any temperature it sticks to the knife or spoon. I haven’t tried any high-end for years.

  26. Deiseach says:

    Seemingly robotic art is already a thing.

    There’s the usual pretentious art wankery in this article, but it does have some interesting points to explore.

    Can’t Help Myself questions the place of the machine in humanity’s grand narrative and explores what robotic artist Bill Vorn calls the aesthetics of artificial behaviors. As machines learn and respond to more information and technology advances, human/machine relationships become increasingly complex. “Human beings have to learn from machines in order to take control of them,” the artists explain. “Yesterday’s people can hardly understand today’s narrative, and likewise, we will find it difficult to construe the narratives of the future. This is because machines, as an integral part of our knowledge, are continuously changing and correspondingly accelerating the changes of human beings. It is an endless interplay of entanglement and containment between human and machine: they both take advantage of each other and progress with each other.”

  27. pseudon says:

    Youtube suggested https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n691pLhQBkw to me, Steven Pinker’s 2005 defense of Lawrence Summers. I’m impressed by the clarity and humility of the arguments. Then I watched the full debate and was slightly disappointed, though again happy that the conversation was so civil.

    I’d be interested if there’s any takers for valid criticisms of Pinker’s view?