SSC Survey 2017

If you’re reading this and have previously read at least one SSC post, please take the 2017 SSC survey. Warning: it’s pretty long.

You can talk about it in the comments, but don’t read them until you’re done taking the survey.

EDIT: Note that a lot of this is going to be processed by computer. That means you should give simple, machine readable answers. If the question is “what city do you live in?”, a simple, machine-readable answer is “Los Angeles”, which easily aggregates into the same bin as everyone else who answered “Los Angeles”. Bad answers would include “I live in Los Angeles”, “Just north of Los Angeles”, “Los Angeles but sometimes in Dallas for work”, et cetera.

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480 Responses to SSC Survey 2017

  1. deepmockito says:

    I really liked the survey design. Either you put a lot of thought into getting the questions right, or they happened to be especially well matched for people like myself, but it was a lot less frustrating trying to fill this in than I expected.

  2. The Do-Operator says:

    Some IQ tests, like WAIS-IV, report two different summary measures of IQ: Full scale and general ability. These can be quite different for people with AD/HD (who probably make up a significant chunk of rationalists who have taken a professional IQ test.) Which summary measure should be used in the survey?

  3. caryatis says:

    I’d like to have the ability to collapse threads on SSC, as I can on Reddit. Often I get discouraged from reading comments when I have to plow through a very long thread I’m not interested in–on Reddit you can just click an arrow and see that thread disappear.

    • Andrew G. says:

      There’s a “Hide” link on every comment that seems to do what you want there?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        That feature exists and is technically useable, but it can be inconvenient when you are in the middle of a long comment stream at max depth to find your way out of it.

        One problem is that the “Hide” and “↑” links are at the bottom of comments, which means they are never in the same place on the screen, or even necessarily on the screen since sometimes it’s the long comments that start the long threads.

        “Hide” also doesn’t persist across page reloads. But making it persist might not be what everyone else wants.

      • caryatis says:

        Thank you! I didn’t realize that would hide the whole thread.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I’m not very good at all the tricks of using this blog, but I think I can do that. Click on Hide to lose all the responses to the first comment. I rarely do that, however, because I rarely know from the initial comment if I will be interested in the replies. Well for gaming comments I hit Hide, probably nothing else.

  4. Sniffnoy says:

    Here’s another ambiguity: What does “prefer monogamous” vs. “prefer polyamorous” mean?

    I.e.: Is it about literal number of partners (which to me seems like a silly distinction), or is it about the requirement of exclusivity (which seems more fundamental to me)?

    I interpreted it as the former, as that’s what I recall previous surveys asking about, but I feel like that should be clarified.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I.e.: Is it about literal number of partners (which to me seems like a silly distinction), or is it about the requirement of exclusivity (which seems more fundamental to me)?

      I interpreted it as the latter. It is somewhat common these days for people to have so-called serial monogamy, where multiple partners are more being unable to commit or unlucky in love, than any kind of a preference for polyamority (not sure if that is a word). I think the question only makes sense if it is asking if you believe that partners not being exclusive is the ideal.

  5. themadmammaker says:

    Survey completed! You can now upvote me as per the ancient tradition.

  6. carvenvisage says:


    I think the einstein mask is a control for the dancer question: My understanding of lighting isn’t the best, but the tip of his appears to cast a shadow, and I don’t see how that could happen if the nose was sunk into rather than rising out of the surface

    • The Nybbler says:

      The mask IS sunk in the surface. The shadow is not cast by the nose; it is cast on the nose.

      • carvenvisage says:

        Then why does it start precisely at the tip of the nose? I could be wrong, but it seems like there’s a light source somewhere up and forehead-ward from the nose, which is either blocked by the nose, or which is blocked by a precisely position floating triangular object to give that impression.

  7. carvenvisage says:

    I filled out the survey, but, being a ‘total autist’, I’m unsure about how to interpret several questions and multiple-choice-answers. In very rough descending order of pedantry and/or long words:


    * If my parents are different denominations of christian, should I put ‘other: “christian (mixed)” ‘, or will that get thrown away and I should put the denomination of one of them at random?

    * Should I choose a favorite post if I don’t have a clear single favorite, but do have several definite favorites?

    * If I identify with no gender, is that other, or is it ‘cis by default’?

    * Does a physical job where you lift heavy things count as weightlifting? (If so what about kind-of-heavy things?)


    What does “atheist but spiritual” mean? Things that come to mind:

    1. alternative & non-theistic religions

    2. religious-style communal gathering, group rituals, etc (like rationalist solstice)

    3. exercises associated with religions, like meditation, fasting, prayer, asceticism (like sam harris)

    4. Belief in transcendental values. (like the opposite of ‘existentially depressed’)

    5. ‘Not that kind of atheist’. An atheist but not an evil one like raskolnikov, or all behaviourists (joke, sort of).

    I don’t know which, if any, apply. How do I know if I I fall under ‘atheist but spiritual’ or ‘atheist but not spiritual’?


    *If I comment intermittently, do I guess an average, or answer the question literally (‘at least once a..’) Also, is five comments in one session one time commenting, or is one comment one time commenting?

    * For ‘estimate politics’, is an ‘SSC frequent commenter’ defined as someone who answered ‘at least once a week’?

    * For bio risk and AI risk, do I put my literal level of concern- a feeling, -which happens to actually exist in my mind, or my belief as to their likelyhood/potential damage?


    * If the moral philosophy I believe in as the meta ethical basis and grounding for all morality, and the one I find most useful as a heuristic, and thus actually try to weave into my identity, are different, should I put the one I ‘most identify with’, or should I put the one I believe is fundamentally true? (Or should I put ‘other’?)

    * For trump, is it my opinion of him as a person? Or also as an alternative to clinton etc?

    * do you find an ideological bias amongst SSC commenters’. Like an irrational bias? Or just a demographic tendency?


    * For the psychological condition questions, should I refrain from answering if I don’t really believe in them? (I believe in them in the sense that I believe in the mbti, but way less.)

    Or should I answer them based on what I think would get a diagnosis (mainly clusters of symptoms + impact on life), + actual diagnoses. -Like I would answer an mbti question.

    Also, suggestion: the last option for these questions (“no one in my family has this condition”) should have ‘to my knowledge’ appended)


    * If my opinion on frequency of identity politics comments is ‘don’t care either way’, should I leave that question?

    * For the ‘typical SSC reader’ (whatever that means) question, if I think what it means is “white, into computers, high iq, ‘professional’ job, etc”, but I think that that isn’t a type, because those are incidental traits, I should leave it blank, right? -If I put no then my answer is counted as: I think there is a typical SSC reader *whateverthatmeans, and I’m a different type?

    • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

      I think for questions like “typical” and other vaguely defined questions I am supposed to understand it as “if you had to define X (like “typical SSC reader” so that maximum amount of people – including you – would consider this definition least weird) then define it that way and proceed with the question using that definition”. Of course, I could be wrong and Scott could have meant something else 🙂

  8. Alan Crowe says:

    Do you remember your dreams?

    I sleep poorly and sometimes it gets to 2am and I haven’t got to sleep, but at least I’m not being chased by a Sergal any more. Wut? I realise that I’m remembering the dream from which I’ve just awoken and I infer that I must, in fact, have got some sleep.

    Come morning I can remember what happened when I was awake that night. I remember that I inferred that I had slept, on the basis of remembering a dream. But the content of the dream has gone. How do I know that I dreamed that I was being chased by a Sergal? I don’t; that part of my comment was fiction. I want to write in a concrete style, with an example of the kind of obviously-a-dream content that lets the recently-awakened me know it was a dream. But the memory of the specific content doesn’t last until morning.

    I answered that I do remember my dreams. I guessed that the question is assuming that everybody dreams and is interested in knowing about people who don’t remember their dreams at all, to the point of thinking that they don’t dream. So I answered to cooperate with that inquiry.

    I think that if you keep pen and paper by your bedside and write your dreams down quickly, before they fade, you learn to remember them. Many years ago, I had a friend who was procrastinating writing his PhD thesis by analyzing his dreams. He got better and better at remembering them, and ended up remembering enough to spend half his waking hours analyzing his dreams. This made his life a lot worse. There were no insights to pay back all the time he had invested.

    I resolved not to go down that path myself. Since then I have always been careful not to obstruct the natural process by which dreams are forgotten in the morning. So perhaps I have in some sense learned to forget my dreams?

  9. The Obsolete Man says:

    It would be interesting to see a question that would ask something like this:
    “Of the brothers in the Brothers Karamazov, which brother best represents your personality?”, or something like that. Dmitri, Ivan, or Alyosha?

    • Protagoras says:

      Why did you leave out Smerdyakov? Trying to avoid spoilers, or did you just think nobody would pick him anyway (which I suppose is plausible enough)? Anyway, I approve of this question. And while none of them really fit, I suppose I’d have to take Ivan. I expect we’d have a lot of Ivans around here.

      • pipsterate says:

        I’d pick Smerdyakov. Of course I’d like to be Ivan, but if you think about, wouldn’t Smerdyakov probably like to be Ivan as well?

  10. trustacean says:

    The religion question is missing a null option.

  11. sachit says:

    The feminism question could be better split into a few more questions:
    1a) what is your opinion of the specific *incidents* current feminism focuses on
    1b) and how it deals with them
    2a) what is your opinion of the meta level *issues* current feminism focuses on
    2b) and how it deals with them

    • Cypren says:

      I agree with this, at least to the extent that the goal is to get an opinion of feminist principles as opposed to the feminist movement. (I’m not sure it was.)

      I put down that I have an extremely negative reaction to feminists, which I do — as a white male nerd I’m basically their religious devil-figure, and I resent that. I don’t really have any objection to the idea that men and women should be treated equally, but as far as I can tell, modern feminism has little to do with equal treatment and is more about misandry and rent-seeking than anything else. There’s a large disconnect in my mind (or maybe just a motte-and-bailey) between what the movement claims as its motivating principles and the policies it actually tries to enact with coercive force.

      Questions that separated the meta-principles from the visible and organized actors claiming the title of “feminist” would probably have gotten a much more neutral response from me.

  12. The Pachyderminator says:

    Some notes on the questions:

    – The employment options seem too slanted towards white-collar jobs.
    – I wish there was a “still considering it/waiting until I have something to donate” option for Giving What We Can. (I ended up leaving the question blank.)
    – I answered “Bad / too burdensome / detracted from quality of discussion” on the question about comment registration because I think some worthwhile commenters won’t/don’t comment because of it, even though I don’t dislike the idea myself.
    – The proposed “knowledge question” is a terrible idea, but if it is implemented, the question clearly needs to be a high-level conceptual one, not “remember the name of a particular researcher who’s been mentioned in a few posts.”
    – That spinning dancer is the most frustrating optical illusion I’ve ever seen. I can make it switch directions eventually (I always initially perceive it as clockwise), but it never gets easy.

  13. gathaung says:

    Nearest city + exact age + the entire rest is enough to be personally identifying, and some of the other questions are at least somewhat sensitive.

    Nearest city + “publish data” is necessary in order to help solve the coordination problem of “where to meet up”.

    What should we do?

    Workaround: Fill in the questionaire once, skipping nearest city, maybe entering age +- 2 (people LIE on the internet?). If interested in meetups, submit it a second time, this time ONLY entering nearest city and no other datapoints. Scott’s filtering should catch this.

    Actual solution: Scott comitts to scrub the published “almost raw” data by discretizing age into the usual buckets (<18, 18-20, 20-25, etc), and removing "nearest city". For "nearest city", only aggregate statistics are published, regardless of whether survey-takers agreed to "publish raw data".

    In view of the size of the data-set, a correlation between nearest city and age/mental health status/etc has no positive value, except for personally identifying survey-takers. Maybe even (US-) state is too fine to leave in the raw data.

    @Scott: If you don't clarify your publishing policy, and don't actively object (falsified age! bogus answers, requiring extra filtering in order to determine the actual number of test-takers!), then I will follow the workaround. If you object, then I will mark my survey as "don't publish raw", diminishing its value.

  14. Tetrikitty says:

    Never; I only lurk.
    (This survey reminded me that I had an account here.)

  15. Not Joseph Stalin says:

    I answered that I was a communist, even though your example of “communist” didn’t sound anything like what I believe. For example I believe in abolishing the state, which is pretty much the opposite of “complete state control.”

    • Bugmaster says:

      How would that work ? Let’s say that I and my 99 friends operate a shoe factory. How do we decide who gets the shoes, and where do we get the leather, thread, electricity, and other materials needed to make the shoes ?

      As far as I understand, under anarcho-capitalism, we sell the shoes on the open market, and use the money to buy the supplies (alternatively, we can trade the shoes directly for supplies, since the concept of “money” becomes somewhat fuzzy).

      Under our current system, we pretty much do the same thing, except we have a reasonably stable currency (so there’s no need for barter) and market regulation (so it’s harder to cheat our customers, but also maybe harder to start up the business).

      How would that work under the kind of communism that you subscribe to ?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Sounds more like left wing anarchism than communism.

        Although s/he could be imagining some utopia where everyone lives in agricultural communes that are all smaller than Dunbar’s number.

        Not that that is really achievable.

        • Bugmaster says:

          To be fair, that is theoretically achievable, as long as your capitalistic society spends a ton of time and resources getting to that point. Possible solutions (at least, those that do not involve genocide) include asteroid habitats, consciousness virtualization, mass cold sleep, etc. Of course, there’s no way that an agrarian society would ever achieve any of those, but still…

          Edit: that said, I’d like to hear from the OP, I don’t want to strawman him.

          • Not Joseph Stalin says:

            Hi, OP here. I appreciate your willingness to hear about my views, which I understand are not typical in SSC comments sections.

            I am, as HeelBearClub guessed, closer to a left-wing anarchist, so to speak. However, my understanding from talking to communists is that the difference between anarchist and leninist communism (the latter is being what I assume is what HeelBearClub meant by communism, and not to imply this is a dichotomy) is really procedural.

            Obviously, the procedure has ended up being a pretty big deal in practice. But my understanding is that there was never any intention, in theory, that the state continue to exercise huge power all the time indefinitely. The idea was always that the state would wither away.

            I happen not to think that that’s particularly good methodology, particularly in the way it’s tended to be executed under the leninist framework, a fact which is obvious in hindsight but didn’t go over the heads of the anarchists and left-communists of the day either.

            There’s not really any point going on about definitions, which people use inconsistently, but in my view, the most inoffensive alternative wording of the question would have been to have socialist as an option instead of communist, with an explanation something along the lines of “the means of production are under democratic control”.

            I understand that what you’re really interested in is how economic planning should be conducted. My view on this matter, which is not really technically a communist view, is that there would probably be a market on luxury consumer goods and other commodities for which markets are a good distribution method, overseen by a democratic body. The vendors in this economy would be cooperatively or “socially” owned (such as by a system where everyone in the constituency owned part of the company). The rest of the economy would operate based on federated democratic councils which would allocate resources in whatever manner they found most efficient.

            If you want to hear better thought-out versions of this idea you could look up parecon or Towards a New Socialism.

            I am a transhumanist and not someone who has any illusions that politics is about planning utopias. In some sense, a society with asteroid habitats or consciousness virtualization or whatever would be beyond politics, so there is really not much point discussing those things. In my view politics ought to proceed from the conditions that exist now.

            And in my view the condition that exists now is that there are massive coordination problems in society (which you probably agree with if you read this blog) and obvious situations where the existing market economy isn’t allocating resources in a way that makes sense (why is it possible to get such good “deals” on QALYs by donating to eg. the AMF?). And my expectation is that both of these things will get worse as automation kicks in and especially if hansonian predictions about the direction of AI come to pass. And I haven’t been convinced that there’s any good way to solve these problems except by extending democracy to our resource allocation mechanisms.

            I explained my argument in good faith but please keep in mind that I am probably not the best messenger for it, and my space of known unknowns here is pretty large. And it seems like there are some more communists in the comments section now. So maybe you should ask them too.

          • HeelBearCub says:


            I need a better avatar…

            @Not Joseph Stalin:
            It just doesn’t seem, very much like the absence of a state, is all.

            “overseen by a democratic body” and “federated democratic councils” seem very much to be describing some form of government.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Not Joseph Stalin:
            In addition to what HeelBearCub said, your proposed system does not — as you have pointed out — sound very Communist, either, since there’s still a free market, which implies some sort of currency, profit and loss, enlightened self-interest, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, it’s just kind of odd to call your system Communism when it possesses two of the major features that Communism seeks to eliminate: centralized governments and free markets.

      • Why would the concept of money be fuzzy under anarcho-capitalism? Money doesn’t have to be created by a state, and some historical moneys weren’t.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Well, it doesn’t have to be created by the state, specifically; but I don’t see how a unified currency could exist under anarcho-capitalism, without some central authority (or a cartel of such authorities) regulating it.

          Certainly you could have lots of local mini-currencies. For example, my corporation(*) could have BugBucks whereas yours could have DavidDough, but it’s not clear what the exchange rate would be based on (other than barter). At best, it would fluctuate wildly; and we’re seeing some of that with Bitcoin (though Bitcoin can still be traded for dollars, which limits the volatility somewhat).

          Of course, if BugCo takes over a huge area of the market, and becomes a sprawling enterprise that services most of the needs of its millions of employees, then its currency would likely stabilize… but, at that point, what’s the difference between BugCo and a government (and a big government, at that) ?

          (*) I’m assuming we’d still have corporations under AnCap, although some flavors of AnCap may not allow those.

          • Nornagest says:

            Earlier in the development of money, banks — not necessarily central banks, just regular old banks — would issue their own, usually backed by precious metal. There was a lot more currency in circulation than weight of metal, though; this usually worked because customers would rarely march into the First Bank of the Terrible Marching Powder with a wheelbarrow full of notes and demand the equivalent in silver. The lack of unification was not a problem because it was all backed by the same stuff.

            Metal-backed currency has its own issues, but there are other options, like cryptocurrency. The volatility you see in Bitcoin is more linked to speculation and a small market than anything inherent to the format; there isn’t really any stable source of value in fiat currency, either. Or for that matter in gold; its practical value is way way lower than what’s accorded to it by people using it as a store of value.

          • Why do you assume that the currency is linked to “my corporation,” whatever that means? Under current circumstances, I use products from many different countries. If the advantages of uniform currencies are large, we would end up with a small number of private currencies, each used over a large area.

            So far as exchange rates, exchange rates of government currencies are currently set mostly on the market. If reasonably stable exchange rates were important to users, money issuers could maintain them by all defining their currency in the same units, whether a single commodity such as gold or a basket of commodities.

            Perhaps I am misreading you, but I get the feeling that you are imagining A-C as involving mini-governments called corporations, and assume that since money at present is mostly issued by governments, A-C money would be issued by those mini-governments.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Nornagest, DavidFriedman:

            If the advantages of uniform currencies are large, we would end up with a small number of private currencies, each used over a large area.

            there isn’t really any stable source of value in fiat currency, either.

            This was kind of what I was driving at. If you want to have a stable currency, then you will eventually end up with some sort of a large organization that manages and stabilizes the currency (as much as possible). This could be a cartel of banks, a megacorporation, a democratically elected congress, or whatever. DavidFriedman says,

            I get the feeling that you are imagining A-C as involving mini-governments called corporations, and assume that since money at present is mostly issued by governments, A-C money would be issued by those mini-governments.

            But my point is the exact opposite: the organization that manages the currency will inevitably take on many (though perhaps not all) of the roles and responsibilities that are currently held by governments. Furthermore, I think that having a stable unified currency is a really useful idea, so we should expect people to desire it.

          • But my point is the exact opposite: the organization that manages the currency will inevitably take on many (though perhaps not all) of the roles and responsibilities that are currently held by governments.

            I don’t see why.

            Managing a private currency is pretty straightforward, and there are lots of historical examples–when Adam Smith was writing, the Scottish currency consisted mostly of bank notes issued by private banks.

            You start with an organization that has sizable assets–in the Scottish case, an unlimited liability partnership with some rich partners. You issue bank notes redeemable for silver on demand. You hold a stock of silver adequate to redeem (say) ten percent of the notes outstanding. If there is a run on the bank, you trade other assets for more silver. As long as it is clear to money holders that you will redeem your notes, you have an interest free loan for ninety percent of the notes outstanding, which you can invest in interest bearing assets. If you are seriously worried about runs, the bank notes have an option clause, permitting you to delay redemption for (say) six months in exchange for paying interest on the delay.

            In a competitive system where costs are low, the revenue is likely to be competed away in one way or another, for instance by checking accounts instead of notes, which can be interest bearing.

            If you are interested in the general issue, I have an old article up on the Cato site.

          • anonymousskimmer says:


            the Scottish currency consisted mostly of bank notes issued by private banks.

            Did these banks have Royal, or at least local government charters? In the eyes of the populace that mark is significantly different than a corporation or other entity with no charter.

  16. Adrià says:

    Are Spanish people Hispanic? If yes, what are Portuguese, Italian, French (with similar genetic makeup, and not-so-different language)? If no, why is the name so misleading? :S

    • Subb4k says:

      Hispanic explicitly refers only to Latin America (i.e everything South of the U.S.). The survey even says so.

      Why are white people “Caucasians” even though inhabitants of the Caucasus are not that often white?

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Remnant terminology left over from defunct anthropological theories of the late 1700s, as I understand it.

        Much like many other terms that are around because of history and inertia but bear at best limited relevance to empirical reality.

      • Andrew G. says:

        Why are white people “Caucasians”

        Because Blumenthal and Meiners thought that Georgians were pretty, and therefore they must represent the closest thing to the “original” white racial type (and indeed the original type of all humans).

      • Deiseach says:

        Why are white people “Caucasians” even though inhabitants of the Caucasus are not that often white?

        White people are Caucasians, but Caucasians are not white (e.g. North Africans). Has to do with skull measurements and facial angles and hair texture and the whole nine yards of now-defunct anthropological measurements and classifications. So a Berber, let us say, has straight hair, no epicanthic fold, a certain nasal angle, etc. and is thus Caucasian (or Caucasoid) just like an Irishman.

        Though, depending on your attitude, an Irishman might not be all that Caucasian at that.

  17. bhrubin1 says:

    Some of these are also linked answers in ways that are hard to respond to separately. For instance, I had trouble with the minimum wage answer because I support guaranteed minimum income, and with a GMI in place, I oppose the minimum wage. But without one, I don’t think I can justify getting rid of it. I had initially clicked that I supported minimum wage, but then further down I saw the GMI question, and I went back and changed my answer. So the survey will record me as opposing minimum wage, but that’s not strictly true, in a vacuum. Then again, the opposite answer would not have been strictly true either. My answer is contextually contingent on the other question. Not sure how to fix this, but I’m going to guess I’m not the only person on this site who had this issue with this pair of questions.

    • anaisnein says:

      +1 — I support minimum wage now and GMI with no min wage in theory. I answered “support” on both because I assume it was a tacitly accepted premise that min wage is feasible/present/reality and GMI is theoretical/potential, therefore the respective questions shouldn’t be seen as bound to the same context.

      • sconn says:

        I did the same. I would be very opposed to abolishing minimum wage without GMI, so I said I was in favor of it even though, ideally, we should get rid of it after instituing GMI.

  18. Wintermute says:

    What will the section on “brain teasers” be used for? Will it be looked at as an independent metric or is there an assumed association I am not aware of? (e.g. correlation with other questions in the survey perhaps?)

    I am also interested in the results of commenters versus non commenters. I would have liked to see a question addressing reasons why, if this is even true, people are adverse to the idea of commenting.

  19. anaisnein says:

    I checked “waiting for Unsong to be finished” but it’s more “would read Unsong if it were an e-book I could put on my Kindle.” I mostly read fiction on the subway or over a quick meal out. Reading it in a browser sitting at a computer is really pretty painful. I’ve done it, a bit, for SCP, but not as much or as thoroughly as I’d otherwise have plunged into the same material.

  20. mingyuan says:

    First of all thank you for taking the time to do this; I’m really interested to see the results so I can know if my answer to the last question was accurate. And a special thank you for including the meetup section – hopefully that data will make it easier for me and other people in big cities to actually find people to come to our meetups!

    Now nitpicking and questions:

    -> Is there a specific meaning of ‘traditional Chinese’ religion? I wasn’t sure if just any folk religion practices would fall under that umbrella, or if there’s some standard accepted definition? since as far as I know there’s wild variation in the practices from region to region, but the underlying principles (e.g. ancestor worship) are more consistent. I ended up just going with Catholic, for my mom’s side, but I’d still like to know the answer.

    -> In addition to the unfortunate use of standard US racial classification, I really really strongly feel that it should be possible to pick more than one. ‘With what race do you most identify?’ is not an easy question to answer; it’s a pretty even split and I always feel extremely weird and like I’m lying when I have to choose one or the other. I ended up checking ‘other’, but that also seems wrong.

    -> I second that there should be a ‘past diagnosis’ option – I was diagnosed with OCD as a child but I don’t have it anymore. I checked ‘I have a formal diagnosis’ but I probably shouldn’t have, since I’m guessing that will get me lumped in with ‘percentage of readership who have OCD’, which is a misrepresentation. Sorry about that.

    -> Regarding whether thought processes are more verbal or more abstract, I answered toward the ‘verbal’ side but this isn’t really accurate; I tend to think in full sentences but there’s no voice in my head. If I focus hard on my internal monologue I see text, but I wouldn’t call that ‘verbal.’ Anyone else have this experience?

  21. AM says:

    Accidental double post; first post submitted after Part 5, then went back and did the rest of the survey (with the exact same answers for the first 5 parts). Hopefully you can find this and remove it (let me know if you need more info).

    • RhetoricalViking says:

      Me too. Except I accidentally submitted 3 times before I actually managed to finish the survey and do a proper submit. Google Docs seems to have an annoying thing where just pressing the Enter key on your computer or the Go button on your iPhone keypad submits the survey.

  22. ksvanhorn says:

    I couldn’t answer the question about where I fit on the left-right spectrum — I don’t think it’s very meaningful, and in particular there is no place on it for libertarians.

  23. chughes says:

    Also, clothing tags: felt uncertain whether this was physical/psychological feeling: physically irritated by an internal wash instructions label (“clothing label” in UK, though we do have “security tags”: possible US/UK language issue), or mentally uncomfortable with being branded by an external logo. In context I concluded this was about sensory sensitivity/autism, but that could have been clearer.

    • Nornagest says:

      Sounds like a US/UK language issue. The question was unambiguously about internal labels to me, the type you’d find on the inside collar of a shirt giving the brand, the size, and sometimes the washing instructions.

  24. Kevin C. says:

    I have to note that on the “moderation policy” question, there’s no “Anarcho-tyrrany” option; that for some groups of commenters, moderation is too strict, too many people get banned, and I don’t like having to constantly worry about watching what I say, while simultaneously for other groups, moderation is too lax, not enough people get banned, and they can misbehave with few consequences.

  25. MartMart says:

    With regard to minimum wage, I don’t think we could have an effective federal wage covering the entire country. Too big of a difference in the cost of living, anything sufficient as a minimum for some areas will be far in excess of what other areas could possibly sustain. But I support a more regional minimum wage that is a better fit for the economic area.
    This wasn’t an option on the survey, which left me saying that it should be eliminated, which suggests I oppose the concept entirely, which isn’t the case.

  26. Catlick says:

    I was struck by three questions in the psych experiment section: the clothing tag, the noisy environment, and the startled by noise questions. Respectively, I put 5 for very annoyed by clothing tags, 1 for very bad at following conversations in noisy areas, and 5 for very startled by noise. I know this was just three of many in that section, but those seemed to be the three that were the most “physiological” in nature, and it was a bit strange to realize that I was all the way to one side or the other for all of them.

    Are these three things commonly known to cluster like that? Is that indicative of something that I’m not aware of? I knew that clothing tag sensitivity was correlated with autism to some degree, but that’s all.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t know, but I suspect that they all point to sensory processing issues, which are highly correlated with autism-spectrum disorders.

      • Deiseach says:

        It seems to be something that has developed with age; I have always been sensitive to tags in clothing and don’t like noisy environments, but as a child my father used to startle very noticeably at what (to me) sounded like a moderate noise.

        Now I’m older myself, I find myself reacting much more strongly to noise, especially sudden noises – just like my father. And given that my paternal family is probably all on the autism spectrum to some degree, I think this could be indicative.

        • Nornagest says:

          Other way around for me. I startled easily when I was in high school and college, but now I don’t.

          That was more likely to be a hypervigilance issue than a sensory processing one, though. On the other hand I can’t follow conversations in noisy bars quite as well as I used to, but that’s probably thanks to going through a ruptured eardrum and ongoing mild tinnitus. And tags have never bothered me.

          • Catlick says:

            Tags and the like have always bothered me, especially as a child. Socks in particular were awful because of the stitching across the toe. Which led to wonderful conversations between my parents and elementary school as to why I was getting off the school-bus in December without socks on.

            My startle reflex seems only to have gotten really bad in adulthood (I’m in my mid-20s). Although that seems to be broader than noise sensitivity: I will also react very strongly if I turn a corner and someone is right there unexpectedly. I’ll muffle a gasp and my whole body will jump about a half-inch.

          • Aapje says:

            I bought some base layers for cycling and they had the tag on the outside. Genius. Tags on undergarments are invisible anyway, unless you are Madonna or into rap culture.

            PS. There do seem to be web shops that cater to the sensory sensitive.

      • sconn says:

        Yes. Sensory processing disorders (or simply being a highly sensitive person) do correlate with ASD, though not perfectly. Almost everyone in my family is hypersensitive to stimuli — which, in a family of six kids, can be difficult — but only one or possibly two of us are autistic. It seems there is a genetic relationship between SPD and ASD, and of course sensory issues are part of the diagnostic criteria for autism.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Let me just chime in here as an individual who has, at very different times, been diagnosed with both.

  27. Hummingbird says:

    I’m very, very interested in the question about verbal inner speech. It’s been an interest of mine since discovering in college that no one else I knew thought in exclusively verbal terms.

    In fact, unless I am saying trivialities I’m used to saying, (“How’s it going?”, “How was your day?”) I am unable to vocalize without first thinking of the phrasing verbally. When speaking for more than a phrase, I think of the words of the next phrase, and structure the phrases and sentences ahead of that, while speaking.

    For years I’ve asked friends and acquaintances about their inner speech, and only met a few who have very verbal inner speech.

    • Acedia says:

      For me it’s age-related. When I was young (<25) my thoughts were mostly abstract concepts, but the general trend as I get older has been for them to become more and more verbal.

      It actually bothers me quite a bit, even though it's made me better at communicating – I feel like my thoughts were "freer" before, whereas now they're often limited to ideas that can be easily expressed in English. Language deforms thought.

  28. deciusbrutus says:

    Strange request: can you add a survey question regarding veteran status, whether the respondent has served in a military, and if so whether it was voluntary?

  29. Quixote says:

    I would say the most ambiguous question for me was the disorder section. I wasn’t sure if cousins counted or not. I ended up interpreting it as immdete family and direct ancestors / descendents.

    Also Singapore is not a reactionary country and is an unfair biased example. Singapore governance has more in common with Norway than it does with reactionary ideals. Singapore is a very highly regulated state, but the regulation is generally competent with low levels of corruption. It aims to micro manage a wide variety of behaviors from finance, to noise levels, to traffic congestion. In NR terms it’s one of the most Cthulhu heavy countries in the world.

    • Anon. says:

      I don’t think regulation of noise levels what sets apart reactionaries from other ideologies. Having a de facto dictator in charge for 30+ years seems like a more important point.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yeah, I was a little surprised at the Singapore example, but maybe it is right. It certainly puts a better light on the far right than one usually sees, since it is my understanding that Singapore is a very nice place.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Isn’t generally competent regulation with low levels of corruption exactly what want? I think you might have confused them with libertarians. Cthulhu isn’t Big Government, it’s The Cathedral, it’s universalizing moralizing thought-policing cake-totalitarianism. Regulations that act in an effective way to solve actual problems (traffic congestion as opposed to pronoun use) are totally compatible with philosophy.

      BTW can I register a complaint as to how ridiculous the banned word list is when you tell us to discuss a survey containing a banned word in the comments?

      • Anonymous says:

        Damn, I missed my chance to comment on the ridiculousness of the word ban in the survey. It should at least be public which ones are banned.

    • simon says:

      I interpreted it as including cousins but perhaps I was incorrect to do so.

    • Anonymous says:

      Also Singapore is not a reactionary country and is an unfair biased example. Singapore governance has more in common with Norway than it does with reactionary ideals. Singapore is a very highly regulated state, but the regulation is generally competent with low levels of corruption. It aims to micro manage a wide variety of behaviors from finance, to noise levels, to traffic congestion. In NR terms it’s one of the most Cthulhu heavy countries in the world.

      What suntzuanime said.

      Additionally, Singapore is just about the only place I can name that is actually anti-race/religion/ethnicity-baiting. They actually do jail if you insult not just Islam, but also Christianity, or Buddhism, and suppress identity politics as the cancer that it is. Compare the West, where this is applied only to Christianity, whiteness and right-wing-ness – religious and ethnic minorities and left-wingers generally get a pass on stirring the pot of tribalism, causing resentment and riots.

  30. >Please don’t include commas or dollar signs.

    Removing commas or dollar signs is so easy, don’t be lazy.

  31. Edward Scizorhands says:


    As a general Internet hygiene rule, you might want to advise people they can open the survey in an incognito tab. I forget the exact rules of when it can and cannot happen, but sometimes you can figure out the google ID of who opens a document.


    The questions about various mental disorders didn’t let me select both “I think I have this but I haven’t been formally diagnosed” along with “I have family members who have definitely been diagnosed.”


    You forgot to remind people to open the growth mindset link in a new tab.

  32. Elephant says:

    A demographic question I’m curious about is how many readers have children. I do, and not only is it a major reason I’m happy with my life, but, more relevant to this survey, I’ve found that it’s changed the way I look at a lot of the topics that come up on this blog.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I agree this would be relevant. I think Scott has no kids so it didn’t occur to him. I have kids too, and could think of half a dozen questions that might affect how we do our discussions.

  33. anonymousskimmer says:

    I would like questions which, analogous to the sexual ones, probe for asocialness. The closest you had were those asking about meetups, to which I responded “no” to both.

    Do you consider yourself asocial? For purposes of this question, an asocial is someone who doesn’t enjoy gatherings or belonging to a group; they may or may not enjoy one-on-one discussion, arguments, et cetera.

    What is your preferred socialization style?
    A) Large group activities
    B) Small group activities
    C) Large group Intermediated by technology
    D) Small group Intermediated by technology
    E) Uncertain / no preference
    F) Other

    Socialization Status
    A) Only at work, transit, other places of business
    B) With work colleagues outside of work (you’d consider this even if you don’t have a job, or have only had one for a short time)
    C) With non-work friends
    D) With a formal social group
    E) B and C
    F) B, C and D
    G) Internet only
    H) I only infrequently interact with people online or offline

    At this point in life I’d answer: Yes, D or F, A.

    Etc…. These should probably be rephrased, but this is the gist. A question parsing for ways in which a person rebuffs other people can help distinguish between asocialness and antisocialness.

    On the “paying attention to word duplications question”: I did not notice the duplications here. Because I’m usually a scanning reader (as per my username), but when very interested in, or very challenged by, a written work I am quite good at finding typos (including duplications) and even found an “expect to except” typo in the most recent series I’m reading.

    So I’ll mention this: “A Einstein mask”, “An”?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I would like questions which, analogous to the sexual ones, probe for asocialness.

      Well, it might be interesting. I would guess that this forum has a lot more asocials than average in the population. But I don’t know how much that affects this forum itself. Do asocials have different points of view than more social types? Although you could probably say the same about the sexual questions. But Scott is a psychiatrist — doesn’t he HAVE to ask about sex? 🙂

      Many of the other questions have direct bearing on our discussions here — such as ideology, country, maybe even income and charitable giving.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        “But Scott is a psychiatrist — doesn’t he HAVE to ask about sex? ?”

        Only psychiatrists with sexual hangups think this. ?

        Aren’t modern psychs supposed to also ask about one’s social life?

        1) Asocials, by their very nature, are likely to be far more likely than average to not notice each other. Polls on asociality by the socially-inclined could really help fill in a blindspot for us.

        2) That’s the thing. I don’t know how many people here (at least active as commenters) would would be asocial. I do posit that about 1/3rd (+/- a large fraction) of the population has some degree of asocialness, so maybe among the thousands of lurkers there might be a good number.

        I have nothing to say about the forum, except that I am now on it, for a least a bit of time. And this is an issue that I tend to bring up.
        I am likely only social to the extent I am because my father is very social, and I am his eldest son. Though I haven’t spoken to him in a while, the formative experiences are done. They will never be re-written with my kind of fun. So I’m kind of stuck with this.

        I also think I find the social important in much the same way asexuals find the sexual important. There’s social pressure for them, and survival pressure for me. Humans have always been the consistently greatest threat to each other. And those social-oriented climbers are hellaciously powerful en masse.

  34. zluria says:

    I am an Israeli Zionist. Zionism is a nationalist revivalist movement, so basically your definition of an alt-right movement. However, this seems wrong – there are many mainstream left or center-left Zionist political parties in Israel – they are neither alt nor right.

    • MartMart says:

      The whole left/right divide gets really squirrely when comparing different countries. Part of it that often times a certain tribe holds a position that should theoretically belong to the other side, for historical reasons.

    • Eli says:

      (Fellow Israeli here.)

      I don’t think most Zionists qualify as “alt-right” in the sense that alt-righters usually self-identify. We think that being Jewish meant that we’ve been kicked around by history, but not that it has some other causal significance which gives moral grounds for separating Jews from everyone else. If you think our nice Jewish genes are tainted by intermarriage or that normal democracy cannot function when it mixes Jew and Gentile, then you’re something like a Jewish alt-rightist.

      In direct contrast, Labour Zionism analyzed society the way left-wing movements typically do: in terms of class. They said, “Antisemitism happens because Jews get locked into serving as the professional middle-class who help the rulers exploit the workers, so the solution is for Jews to leave societies which lock us in this way and build our own society, where we can be liberated, socialist workers.” So they all quit their accounting jobs and went to go build communal farms.

  35. J Mann says:

    At first, I was stuck on clockwise, but after reading the article, I was able to switch to counterclockwise by scrolling my window until I could only see the shadow under the dancer’s feet, waiting until i saw the shadow as going counterclockwise, then slowly scrolling to see the rest of the animation. I could switch back to clockwise by doing the same thing from the top.

  36. Urstoff says:

    Hitting enter on any field submits the survey (oops); that seems like poor form design.

  37. manshman says:

    I would never have seen the book question as ambiguous; to think that many people like it I would have had to see it say “many like it” instead of “much like it.”

    • tgb says:

      I think you misread the options provided: they are “I have read this book, and I think it is good” and “I have read this book, and many others similar to it”. Neither is about many people liking it, which I agree would clash with the grammar of the given sentence.

      • sconn says:

        Still, it should be “many like it” if you mean “many books like it.” I suppose it could be “much material that is like it”?

  38. RDNinja says:

    For the religion questions, I think splitting Protestant into Evangelical and Mainline might be useful.

    Also, I do almost all of my charitable giving through my local church, which puts together its own programs for missionary work, third-world medical relief, school supplies for local needy children, etc. This might be a useful category to ask about.

    • JonathanD says:

      I would wager that the pledging/tithing community here is small, and this falls into the same category of having no blue collar category but three for computer folk.

  39. timujin says:

    I used to be able to switch the direction of the dancer at will, but now it spins strictly clockwise despite all my attempts.

    Interesting fact: my perception of many optical illusions have changed, abruptly, at a specific point of my life (summer 2015). For example, I used to see the face\goblet illusion very clearly as two faces pressed against a goblet. Now, I can choose to see the faces, or the goblet, but not two at the same time.

    Also, the princess\grandma illusion. It used to work on me as stated. But now I can only see the princess. When the picture is upside down, I see an upside-down princess.

    I also remember an episode when they showed me a picture of an elephant and asked me if I can find an elephant there. I could. It turned out that most couldn’t, which confused me, because the picture was literally just an elephant against a solid backdrop. Next year (after summer 2015), I happen upon the picture again. Now all I could see was a mountain chain. With some effort I could tell that it vaguely resembled an elephant, but I couldn’t see it clearly. I can’t find the picture on the internet right now, but if someone knows what I’m talking about, please post it in a comment.

    What could have happened to me that changed my perception so dramatically?

  40. Subb4k says:

    I was slightly annoyed that there was only one field for “Favourite Blog Post”. I couldn’t really choose between and (I ended up putting the first one)
    There are wildly different kinds of posts on SSC and it’s not trivial to compare them to each other.

    Also, on “favorite other blog”, I interpreted that as “favorite other English-language blog”. Otherwise I’m not sure what good it is for Scott. In the even I was mistaken, please replace one instance of “Ex Urbe” in this answer by “David Madore’s Weblog” (has some very rare posts in English, but the overwhelming majority is in French).

    • quarint says:

      Funny to find another reader of David’s blog here. Cheers !

    • Alex C says:

      Indeed, it’s very hard to compare across all kinds of SSC posts. I couldn’t decide between Meditations on Moloch and Tom Swifties…

  41. Subb4k says:

    Hmm… I’m in the process of changing jobs because my current career (and location, to a lesser extent) made me unhappy. So my answers are kind of a mix between my current situation and what my situation will be in a month, based on which way it was easier for me to answer the question.

    For example, I’m currently a postdoctoral researcher, so I know that’s in “Academic” for careers, but I’m not sure whether a high school teacher would be under “Academic” or “Government worker” (ignoring the fact that I’m also technically a government worker now). But, in the other way round, when answering on whether I would be interested in joining a SSC meetup, it makes more sense to project myself in my future situation than think about the current situation which I do not like and will leave soon.

  42. Trofim_Lysenko says:

    IQ test question for those who have some adult knowledge of them. I was given two when I was 11-13 years old, Stanford-Binet and another test (I think WISC given my age but don’t know for sure). I remember being told that my score was 184 on the former and 135 on the latter.

    My mother might have the test results somewhere, but I don’t know how relevant they’d be now that I’m 35, but:

    Is that right/plausible? I’ve tended to use the second, lower number in discussion as an adult.

    The only other piece of information I remember was that there were some fairly extreme splits (Verbal intelligence/processing being extremely high, spatial reasoning being only a little above average, for example)

  43. hyperboloid says:

    Please give the score you got on your most recent PROFESSIONAL, SCIENTIFIC IQ test – no Internet tests, please! All tests should have the standard average of 100 and stdev of 15.

    I remember someone calculated that the average Internet user has an IQ of 150 and an eight inch penis. I for one have an IQ of 156.7, but I am measuring from behind my balls.

  44. atreic says:

    Sorry, I haven’t got time to read all the comments today, which means this is probably duplication, but I wanted to feed back anyway.

    I think it would be better to have ‘do you want to disclose anonymously’ at the end, I ticked yes (because data sharing and transparency is good), and then when I did they survey and realised I was probably the only sex-age-location person, spend all my time pimping SSC to my friends, and had disclosed salary, sexual orientation and lots of health information decided it was far too disclosive and went back and ticked no, but it was a pain having to scroll back to the top.

    The subreddit and unsong questions were annoying, I wanted to answer ‘No, I want to read it but not as much as I want to read ssc, and tend not to have time’ and ‘I read the first few chapters, but keep forgetting it exists’, so you got ‘no I don’t want to read it’ and ‘no I am waiting until it’s done’, but that’s only an approximation of the truth

  45. meltedcheesefondue says:

    Completed it. The charity option didn’t seem to allow you to count donations in terms of your job itself.

  46. quarint says:

    As a 50/50 mixed white/non-white raced individual, I’m confused as to which race I’m supposed to check. I don’t look white but culturally I am white. I went with “Other” but it feels unsatisfying.

  47. akarlin says:

    Since there is considerable overlap with the LW demographic, which is predominantly liberal, social democratic, and libertarian (of whom a good proportion call themselves left-libertarians), I think no more than 30% at most of SSC readers will be on the right side of the political spectrum.

    Re-Religion. How about functionally atheist, but identifying with Christendom/Islam/Hinduism/whatever? There should be an option for the position proposed by Golda Meir (I believe in the Jewish people, and the Jews believe in God) and Alexander Lukashenko (I am an atheist, but an Orthodox atheist). So I put my religious views as “Atheist and not spiritual” and my religious denomination as “Christian (Other non-Protestant, eg Eastern Orthodox).”

  48. Dahlen says:

    I was a bit uncertain how to answer the IQ question — how high does Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices test measure? My impression was, not very high, since by the end of the test I had the impression that I could take on more and harder questions, and wasn’t feeling as though my brain was on fire like a properly challenging test should have gotten me feeling (I also completed it in about a third or a fourth of the time allocated). They gave me a numerical answer which I think was in the upper range of what it could measure, but, looking up the percentile and frequency of IQ scores at or above that, I’m certain it was a very low floor of what my score really is; there’s no way I could have had that many peers in my league or above. I answered the survey question with that score anyway, but I don’t think it’s all that accurate, and there was no option for “my scientific, legit IQ test had too low a ceiling, so take this as a minimum”.

    The distractibility questions seemed like proxies for (a facet of) ADHD/ADD, and yet no ADHD question in there.

    Also, what about mental conditions that one had in the past, but no longer does? Depression, eating disorders, and addiction all seem to qualify for temporary/treatable issues in some people.

    • One problem with the IQ question is that it doesn’t distinguish between the results of childhood tests and adult tests. As I understand it, the childhood figure is adjusted by age. That explains the fact that, when I was a councilor at a camp for gifted children long ago, one of the kids had an IQ of 201, which should be pretty close to impossible if you take the usual definition by standard deviations. But it was entirely possible if it meant “this eleven year old is as bright as a very intelligent fifteen year old,” which he may well have been. So it gives a distribution with more weight in the upper tail, at least as I understand it.

  49. benwave says:

    Thank you. I’m sure the results will be interesting. Herewith a list of questions I wasn’t sure how to answer:

    For the question of income, I entered my after-tax income. I’m not sure if this is what you intended but I couldn’t find specific instructions regarding tax. Since SSC readers come from different jurisdictions I figured after-tax income might be more useful.

    Regaring whether thought processes are more verbal or more abstract, I answered towards the verbal side but my experience is that I seem to use different faculties in different situations. In more mathematical or visual problems my thoughs become less verbal.

    Regarding the question of hard work/talend for learning new skills I couldn’t really decide on a sensible answer. It seems to me like either of these things would help, and to a certain extent be redundant for each other. If I am talented at something it requires less hard work, if I have a propensity towards hard work it requires less talent. I struggled to give an answer on a linear scale.

    • hls2003 says:

      FWIW, I put in a rough approximation of pre-tax income (not consistent year to year); so Scott may want to take note that people were using different methodologies for that one.

    • alexschernyshev says:

      Same issue here. I assumed after-tax income was implied and reported that, since pre-tax income isn’t really meaningful to compare country-to-country.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Neither is after-tax income since people have various amounts of debt and necessity expenditures (housing widely varies in cost).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Especially because many of the things Americans pay for with after-tax income are paid for by the state (with tax revenue) elsewhere.

          In addition, taxation level is (if desired) roughly determined by country (and city), as are other cost of living calculations.

          So, pre-tax income seems like the obvious answer.

  50. Callum G says:

    Awesome! I’m really looking forward to seeing the results of this. I know it’s not perfect data but I think it will still be interesting. Anyone want to predict how many responses it will get? I’m thinking about 3500.

  51. Rachael says:

    Depression: I don’t think I have depression, but I have chronic fatigue which doctors have suggested might be depression, and they gave me an SSRI on spec but it didn’t help. Don’t know if that counts as being diagnosed with depression or not. I went with not.

  52. Rachael says:

    The income and charity questions are tricky for couples with shared finances. Maybe it should ask for household income and household giving? At the moment my husband is earning and I’m looking after the kids, but we make decisions about giving jointly. I ended up leaving that question blank because I thought if I said I was a homemaker with an income of 50k my data might get thrown out.

    • I interpreted the question as applying to the household. Otherwise, how would one divide up charitable gifts that are coming out of jointly owned property?

    • Cypren says:

      I took the various financial questions as applying to my household and just used rounded figures from last year’s tax returns. But I don’t know if that was the intent or not.

  53. Bugmaster says:

    I consider myself a “transhumanist”, in the (relatively weak) sense meaning that I can’t wait for new physical, perceptual, and cognitive enhancements to be developed for humans (contra Adam Jensen). However, I am in no way a “Singularitarian”, and I consider belief in the Singularity to be nearly religious in nature. But the survey lumps the two beliefs together…

  54. Forlorn Hopes says:

    The Human Biodiversity question doesn’t have an option for “I think it’s factually true, but we should mostly pretend it’s not”.

    • konshtok says:

      practically that’s equivalent to ‘it’s not true’

      • Aapje says:

        I would think the opposite.

      • Murphy says:

        There’s a world of difference between accepting something is true while choosing to not let it shape your decisions vs closing your eyes, putting your fingers in your ears and screaming “LA LA LA LA”.

        It’s the difference between an interviewer just refusing to hear that the person they’re interviewing is in a wheelchair and scheduling the interview in a top floor room in a building without an elevator vs knowing but they’re in a wheelchair and doing their best to not let it factor into their hiring process if it’s irrelevant to the job.

  55. nimim.k.m. says:

    The psych questions were a bit difficult. I don’t know the detailed psych medical history of my family, but I’m aware that certain family member had something they don’t want to talk about, and some other might be undiagnosed other.

  56. Unirt says:

    There are a couple of double-barreled questions that I couldn’t answer, e.g. the reddit question:

    No, I don’t want to read it
    No, I didn’t know it existed

    My true answer would be: No, I haven’t got round to it

    This is very common in questionnaires; a typical double-barreled question is “Do you often make plans and stick to them?” I often make plans but never stick to them so I never know how to answer.

    Unrelated: I answered the politics questions like the one about minimum wage as if meant in the US context, though I’m not American. Otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to compare the answers; the situations in different countries are too different.

    • Seth says:

      I did notice a few problematic questions like in the survey, but I’m not seeing how the planning question is comparable. It seems straightforward to me: if you often make plans to which you never stick, then you never make plans and stick to them. The question’s asking about the combination. Answering ‘yes’ in your case would be like saying you often eat bread & jelly because you often eat plain bread.

      The country-specific questions could be easily sorted and meaningfully compared since Scott also asked everyone which country they live in.

    • chughes says:

      Agree: I several times felt forced into an answer which was a poor approximation of truth. Any question with qualified “X [because] …” options should also have an unqualified “X (other)” response.

      It’s almost as if Scott is setting us up to terminate Unsong etc. because “30% of readers don’t want it”, as opposed to “don’t have time”. Frankly this comes too close on the heels of the Modi app demonetisation poll “Yes, Minister” fiasco for it to be funny.

    • Subb4k says:

      Similarly with Unsong. I read the first two arcs (roughly, stopped a bit before that), then decided I didn’t like it much and stopped reading. Not sure what I should have answered in this case.

    • MartMart says:

      I find the rate 1-5 questions difficult. On a scale 1-5 how much do noises bother you? Well that depends on what 5 is. Suppose noises bother me more than most anything else I encounter on a day to day basis, does that make it a 5? Because at the same time, I could easily imagine people who are much more bothered by noises than I am, so is 5 the most I can imagine a person be bothered by noises? Those are very different levels. The same can be said for concern about AI risk, or anything else really. 5 needs some kind of a definition.
      This was especially apparent during the AI persuasion essays. Read the essay, get to a question, in the absence of a 5 definition, make up my own. A few weeks go by, second survey comes around, asks basically the same questions. Great, what was the definition for 5 I decided on?

  57. johnjohn says:

    I answered “meh” to the filter questions one. But mostly because the example question is a terrible filter question

  58. onyomi says:

    It actually seems shorter than in the past (a good thing)? I seem to recall quitting the last survey halfway through, whereas completing this one with some degree of attention didn’t feel burdensome (perhaps the older quizzes included more complex, nuanced questions, but that also makes it more of a chore to take, which I guess significantly lowers response rates).

  59. Asking where one is on a classic left/right spectrum is a problem if one is not on a classic left/right spectrum. As a libertarian anarchist I listed myself as extreme right, on the theory that if libertarian was right then I was an extreme version, but I wasn’t very happy with that solution.

    • Seth says:

      Luckily, I didn’t have to think too hard about that one – I just used my conveniently recent results from The Political Compass.

      • Tibor says:

        What bothers me about that is that they don’t offer a “no opinion” option. There is often “A better than B” type of statement and you can only either agree, disagree or strongly agree or disagree. So it is not a particularly well-written test. Jonathan Haidt and people around him have much better written tests of this kind (and they also use the results as data for their research).

      • Deiseach says:

        I just used my conveniently recent results from The Political Compass.

        According to that I’m a Left Libertarian, so the accuracy is disputable.

        • anonymousskimmer says:


          So far (have read 3-5 comment threads here) I agree with a number of your posts and I know I’m a left libertarian, to which the test agrees.

          • Deiseach says:

            Now I am going to have to re-think all my previous convictions about my political beliefs! 🙂

            That seems to score left/right on purely or mainly economic values, so I’m not surprised I skew left by American standards (though it was a lot more to the left than I was expecting). As with the political party question, I would have been inclined more to answer Labour but there’s a huge chunk of the Irish (and British New Labour) policy* I do not agree with at all; Bernie Sanders reminds me of old-school Labour so I’d be sympathetic to him.

            I was expecting to come out a lot more authoritarian, though, so the libertarian (even if “just about” dipping under the axis) result did surprise me.

            I still think I’m centre-right but maybe we’re all Left Libertarians here on SSC or maybe it’s the pernicious influence of SSC that has changed my views over time!

            *Mainly because they dropped the working class and repositioned themselves to fight for the middle-class urban vote every party over here wants to get as support because that’s seen as what will win elections for you. Something along the lines of the Democrats deciding the blue collar union vote was either already in the bag, or was on the way out as traditional industries declined, so they switched to chasing college-educated, women and minority voters instead.

    • Tibor says:

      I had the same issue and I was pretty surprised that Scott would have it. I chose the exact middle point between left and right.

      As it seems, he intends to use that to answer the alleged right-wing bias of the SSC readers/commenters. But I am not sure whether forcing libertarians to choose on the one-dimensional scale is going to make the results clearer or muddier. I would definitely add an option “neither” or “leave blank if unwilling to categorize yourself as one or the other”, which would leave out only people who do actually identify as right-wingers or left-wingers (even libertarians who do).

      • IrishDude says:

        As a libertarian, I chose 1 to the right from the middle after puzzling what to select, but don’t feel satisfied that captures any useful information about my beliefs. If I took the survey again I think I’d pick in the middle like you did.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I suspect this is going to confound those concerned about “right-wing bias”, who would tend to take David Friedman’s approach and rank most “libertarian” viewpoints in the outer 2-3 “right wing” bubbles.

    • I was concerned about this as well, but since it’s possible to select ‘Libertarian’ later on, I figured it would probably be accounted for in post-processing.

      I did the same thing you did (and am in the same niche as you are), for what it’s worth. 🙂

    • phisheep says:

      I found myself rather irritated by the lumping together of the Republicans and the Tories, since I’m slightly to the right of David Cameron and slightly to the left of Hillary Clinton. Over here I’m a nice conservative, over there I’d probably be a revolutionary.

      Can’t even remember how I answered that one now – whatever it was it’ll be misleading somehow.

      Also, only entering the city name might sound a sensible idea to get consistent answers, but there’s an awful lot of Bristols around. summarising things

    • webnaut says:

      Another problem is that ‘far right’ and ‘far left’ are colloquially used in newspapers and causal conversation to imply ‘person with political disposition towards violence’.

      This generates scenarios where the David Friedmans and Aryan Brotherhoods of the world are placed into the same box. Now everybody is unhappy.

      • Cypren says:

        From the perspective of the establishment, this is not a bug, but a feature.

        • webnaut says:

          I’m not sure how organic or inorganic this is Cypren, but it is definitely a thing. The political compass graph doesn’t have some rather important dimensions.

          I’d add ‘apathy’ to it for instance. This is an underrated dimension.

          My guess is that although partisan passions can be destructive, it is when you have a large bulk of the population which is apathetic that is the equivalent of a earth mass with the potential energy to produce a landslide. It’s like how a phase change material works in physics. A large amount of energy can be released suddenly once the temperature reaches a certain special threshold.

          I’d also add an dimension for class, because the different classes express politics differently.

          Take the Brexit vote. The losing camp appear to believe a legal sleight of hand could turn the tables. In a British working class housing estate, this is not the consensus.

  60. konshtok says:

    I have a question

    On the sample question for checking commenters familiarity with whatever

    “Fill in the blank – cognitive bias research by Daniel Kahneman and Amos _____”

    how many people answered GOOGLE?

    • Aapje says:

      That’s what I was thinking too 🙂

    • Yxoque says:

      Which is exactly why I think a policy that requires people to answer questions is ill-advised.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Well, I had remembered the spelling of Tversky correctly, but I did still go to google to check.

    • Subb4k says:

      I Googled it, answered Tversky, and left a comment about that in the free comments section.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      I almost put in “and Andy,” does that count?

    • Bugmaster says:

      Even if we put Google aside, is it really super important to prevent people from commenting here unless they can memorize the names of specific researchers ?

      • suntzuanime says:

        I mean, the idea is to pick something that correlates strongly enough with the right interests, to filter out the people who don’t know shit about fuck and just want to make tedious arguments about politics. It’s a bad idea and it won’t work, but that’s the thinking behind it.

        • Deiseach says:

          My problem is that I tend to answer “oh yeah, whatshisface, I know him but I can’t think of the name” when such questions are sprung on me because my brain likes plenty of notice and to warm up gently, thank you very much, where remembering stuff is involved. I could Google but I thought we might be on our honour to answer honestly (she said virtuously).

          No, I mean I did have a vague idea but couldn’t bring it to mind, so Googling the answer would mean I sounded more on the ball than I am and would have been a distorting answer, so I left it blank.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, I have difficulty caring to remember names too. I thought perhaps I was the sort of fellow we would be hoping to screen out, but you at least are officially Wanted.

          • Bugmaster says:

            When I’m interviewing people for a programming position, I’d much rather get an applicant who knows how to efficiently traverse a graph, than an applicant who only knows how to spell “Dijkstra” properly. FWIW.

          • Aapje says:


            For me it’s not just about caring, it’s that my brain needs a certain amount of logic for me to remember things. I am extremely bad at remembering names as they are random (within a group of viable names based on nationality, ethnicity, etc, which in this case, was not even available data).

            This really clicked into place when during an oral exam, I managed to get the examiner to change his question from ‘give a list of category names’ into ‘explain the categories’ and I aced it easily.

    • shakeddown says:

      I like it. It filters for people who are either familiar with behavioral economics or willing to undertake the trivial inconvenience of googling. Most people who can do neither are probably good targets for filtering out.

      • suntzuanime says:

        If you have to google the question to register for a community, that’s a signal that the community doesn’t want you. So you’re filtering for people who are impolite enough to go where they’re not wanted.

        • tcheasdfjkl says:

          Yeah, this can definitely intensify the impostor syndrome of people who don’t feel like they belong. (Same with the questions people are complaining about as feeling exclusionary, like the “what’s your job” question.) Possibly worth it to screen out the people you really don’t want, but you probably will be screening out people you DO want as well.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          “If you have to google the question to register for a community, that’s a signal that the community doesn’t want you.”

          All this is fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes Scott and others here start talking about things which impinge on my domains of interest.

          Should they be left to be “wrong on the internet” simply because I don’t care about behavioral economics? Or don’t pay attention to the names* attached to the few articles or discussions I’ve read that do refer to behavioral economics?

          * – As an insular version of an asocial, I have to be relatively psychologically healthy to even pay attention to the names of people I am directly interacting with, much less someone whose work I am merely reading. Even then I still “suffer” from being better at faces than names.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m the same with names; good at face recognition but useless at names. Regularly forget the names of people I worked with for a couple of years about two weeks after leaving the place, and when introduced to new people have to make little notes like “Karen is the one with glasses” so I can remember who is whom.

            So you expect me to remember the name of “I’m sure I read this thing by some guy where he says that this stuff happened, it was very interesting, oh who was it by? Ah, um, first name started with J – or it could have been B? And I’m nearly sure his surname was McGrath – unless it was O’Donoghue?” 🙂

        • Yxoque says:

          If you have to google the question to register for a community, that’s a signal that the community doesn’t want you.

          Good to know that people with memory issues aren’t welcome here.

          I know that’s not what you meant, but that’s what your statement implies. There are legitimate reasons not to remember (or know) Amos Tsverky’s last name.

    • the.verbiage.ecstatic says:

      I put “Google” too! Seemed like the obvious right answer — clearly a trick question!

  61. Seth says:

    Like a few others here, I was unsure how to quantify the opinion that gay marriage XNOR straight marriage should be legally recognized, with strong preference for gay marriage NAND straight marriage being legally recognized.

    I was also unsure how to quantify being non-entrained for your early bird/night owl question.

    I’m confused as to why you decided to specify a definition of ‘asexual’ (‘does not enjoy sex’) that is significantly different from the definition that is commonly accepted in the asexual community (‘does not experience sexual attraction’).

    Lastly, and most significantly for the usefulness of your results, for the questions about topic proportions, I have absolutely no idea whether you meant for, e.g., answering ‘3’ to every question to mean ‘the current proportions are just right’ or ‘each topic should get equal representation’.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Oh yes… Since I’m still a virgin, I have absolutely no idea whether I’m asexual by Scott’s definition.

      I ended up answering based on the standard definition (no, I do experience romantic attraction.)

      • Urstoff says:

        Do asexuals masturbate?

        • Deiseach says:

          Do asexuals masturbate?

          Rather a personal question but let’s all assume you’ll still respect me in the morning, so okay, here we go.

          Since we asexuals are in human bodies like other people, yes this happens. Since I’m not in possession of male genitalia I can’t comment for that side of the house, but going for a slightly more classy source than Jezebel, women can experience heightened libido around the time of menstruation* (hormones do funny things to your moods and evolution doesn’t care about your preferences, it cares about “you should be having babies, last chance to get knocked up this month!”). You can add two and two and answer the question for yourself here.

          Asexuality is more “doesn’t want to do the fun stuff with other people”, although as noted, this is not a hard (ahem) and fast rule. Some have no feelings of desire at all, some do. Sexual attraction can be experienced but the desire to translate that attraction into action with another person or the person to whom you are attracted is not in the mix. Some asexuals can have sexual relationships as part of a romantic relationship where it’s about intimacy and closeness to a partner, not “I’m horny and I need to get off with you right now”. Some asexuals can have and enjoy sex as sex but it’s not regular libidinous feelings.

          It’s a spectrum and probably everyone will have their own answer.

          *Yes, that article talks about ovulation but it also happens that immediately prior to and even during menstruation the engine revs up noticeably if you know what I mean. Personally I think it’s due to the rise in testosterone during menses, but it’s complicated.

          • Aapje says:


            Are these all part of the same spectrum or are there actually multiple spectra for which people use the same label?

          • Deiseach says:

            Aapje, I’ve only really found out that “you mean asexuality is a thing? and aromanticism is a thing? my God, that explains so much!” in the past couple of years, so I’m not up on the Current Acceptable Terms. The AVEN website is a resource but apart from poking around on it at the start (“so okay, tell me about this thing that seems to be applicable to my interests”), I haven’t used it much.

            There is a tendency to Special Snowflakeness (lithromantic? aposexual?) but yeah, mostly it’s on a spectrum and people are more towards one end or another or somewhere in the mushy middle. Like the rest of life, really 🙂

          • Aapje says:

            My issue is not so much with definitions, but more: Is there any actual scientific evidence for the described symptoms having the same cause?

            Of course, I don’t just have this issue with asexuality, but with also with parts of DSM.

        • shakeddown says:

          I’m just-barely asexual enough to fall into the “sorta” category, and for me the answer is yes – though occasionally it’s more of a stress reliever than a sex thing.

        • Cadie says:

          I’d think some do, some don’t. I don’t and I’m not even asexual, but sort of in between, with a low yet not non-existent sex drive. So if some gray-zone people don’t masturbate, then it would be very weird if there weren’t some asexuals also deciding not to. But there are many who apparently do.

        • Urstoff says:

          Okay, so then asexuality is not (all) about libido but about (not) being attracted to other people? Or being attracted in the abstract (e.g., visually stimulated) but repulsed (or indifferent?) in person?

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s a tricky one. It’s perfectly possible to look at (a picture of) an attractive naked person of one’s preferred gender and go “Oh, that looks very pretty” and admire it on an aesthetic level but not be aroused (once, when channel-surfing, I stumbled into what I belatedly realised was a porn movie half-way through; I was going “yeah yeah, can we skip the scenes of the detective banging the maid because I’m nearly positive the murder was done by the butler acting in cahoots with the housekeeper and I want to see if I’m right – oh hang on, the reason there are sex scenes every five minutes is because this is a porn movie, not a detective movie!”)

            It’s also possible to look at a picture of an attractive naked person of one’s preferred gender (or not even naked) and go “Woof! I’d throw him up against a wall and destroy him!”, and even enjoy fantasies of throwing them up against a wall and ravishing them, but if you got the chance in reality, you’d really rather have a nice cup of tea and a chat.

            Mostly – and it’s really where the aromanticism kicks in especially strongly in my case – it’s regarding the rest of the world with bemusement: “And why did you do this really stupid thing?” “Because I looooooove him/her!” “Yes, but why did you do this really stupid thing?” Sexual/romantic attraction as this overwhelming force that over-rides good sense and other instincts just doesn’t make the same sense 🙂

          • Sexual/romantic attraction as this overwhelming force that over-rides good sense and other instincts just doesn’t make the same sense

            There is a large distance between asexual/aromantic and an overwhelming force that over-rides good sense.

    • Seth says:

      Almost forgot: I only just registered because I haven’t felt the need to comment since guest comments were disallowed (ironic that I should become annoyed by the new system because I felt the need to comment on the post about the survey in which I said I had no opinion on the new system because I never felt the need to comment), and discovered that when registering, the Captcha is 5 characters long, but the form field for entering it only allows a maximum of 4 characters. Are you actively screening for people who know how to use their browser’s dev tools? 😛

      • cube says:

        I noticed that when I signed up, as well.

        My guess is that noticing that the input form is only 4 characters is a human intelligence task that most generic “CAPTCHA and POST” bots would overlook.

        I’m curious, though, if it’s just a bug and if you actually manage to submit 5 characters it still works….

        • Seth says:

          Huh. I didn’t even try submitting only the first 4 characters; just assumed it wouldn’t work. I edited the input field’s maxlength property using Chrome’s dev tools, then entered all 5 characters, and that did work just fine. I would be surprised if this somehow filters out bots – I’d expect for them to dumbly try to enter all 5 characters and for the 5th character to be truncated without causing an error, and according to you, that still works.

          • Aapje says:

            A bot could and probably would just ignore the maxlength (which is merely a suggestion for a browser, not something that the client is forced to obey). It might actually screen out bots if it only accepted 4 characters, but rejected 5.

    • Deiseach says:

      Well, asexuality is a spectrum (and no mention of aromanticism! this also exists!) Can go from “absolutely no interest in sex, never experience sexual attraction at all” to “does not enjoy sex” to “can and does have sex but does not experience desire or need for it in the same way as non-asexuals”.

      I do my share of griping about special snowflakeness but yeah, this is a case where it’s not really cut-and-dried and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. For instance, it’s possible to experience sexual attraction/arousal as a purely physical response to stimuli (external or internal physiological) but with no mental desire or intent to engage in sex or look for sex or wish to have a sexual partner, even that person whom you find attractive. Like a rumbling stomach – you may decide that means you’re hungry and you should eat now, or you may ignore it because it’s not time for your next meal yet.

    • tgb says:

      I really can’t tell what you mean by using XNOR and NAND in this context. Do you mean that you prefer to not have both gay and straight marriage legal, but are indifferent between the remaining three options of none are legal, just straight marriage is legal, and just gay marriage is legal? That would seem surprising.

  62. Zombielicious says:

    Minor stuff I ran into, most of which may be intentional:

    1) No option for “engaged” versus “married” or “in a relationship.” No option for “long-term cohabitation but not married” either.

    2) Medical history of “family” doesn’t distinguish between own ancestors, offspring, and relatives by marriage (assumed it meant past ancestry).

    3) No option for “used to comment a lot but no longer do.” (General problem of happening to catch people in certain phases of their posting cycles – maybe it averages out?)

    4) Lots of types of charity left out (e.g. social or political causes). Not sure if “charitable giving” should include only listed types or most any 501(c)(3) type thing.

    5) Superintelligent AI risk doesn’t really distinguish between Yudkowsky-style paperclipper stuff or more mundane human-misuse scenarios. Some might estimate very low on one and very high on the other.

    6) No questions regarding childlessness, number of offspring, natalism, etc. Would have been curious myself.

    • JulieK says:

      #2: I assumed it meant any blood relatives.
      #6: Good idea. Hmm, asking about polyamory and asexuality but not about children is kind of like listing three types of computer occupations and no blue-collar ones – that is, it indicates that the survey was designed for a group that’s demographically quite unlike the general population.

      • Randy M says:

        Right, one reason I feel no hesitation saying I don’t consider myself part of the ‘community’ of the blog or affiliated network.

  63. Chalid says:

    For “race,” I would have appreciated a “two or more races” option, or, even better, “check all that apply.”

    • KG says:

      Agreed. I put “other”, but would have gone with Asian and Hispanic, maybe Pacific Islander too but usually that gets lumped with Asian.

  64. MawBTS says:

    Suggestions for next survey
    1. More physical questions, like height, weight, BMI, and disabilities
    2. Hexaco/Big 5/MBTI results (or whatever you think is the most reliable)

    • Urstoff says:

      None of those personality measures are particularly reliable (and MBTI is just pseudoscience)

    • Deiseach says:

      More physical questions, like height, weight, BMI, and disabilities

      Height – short and aggressive, like Napoleon (but with less success in conquering Europe)

      Weight – let’s just say you won’t like it if I fall on you

      BMI – take a wild guess from the above two answers

      Disabilities – I’ve told you all about my mental problems already, physical – time and gravity are taking their toll but not (yet) blind, deaf or lame

      • Bugmaster says:

        MawBTS proposed some research questions, but it sounds like you’re answering “a/s/l” 🙂

        Do kids still say that nowadays ? Back in my day, that was all the rage on IRC… get off my lawn.

        • Deiseach says:

          Well, height weight and BMI are very dicey questions; yeah it’s fine for all you fit muscular athletic tall young things to boast of your Greek statue physiques but some of us are built for comfort not for speed.

  65. HeelBearCub says:

    By family did you mean relatives from whom you are descended?

    Because I read at as including children and grand-children. That seems like it should be incorrect, now that I think about it.

  66. leoboiko says:

    I appreciate that the question included an explanation, but I find the ethnic category “Hispanic” to be funny/absurd, so I put in “white”, even though I think an American would classify me as Hispanic once they learned about my place of birth.

  67. Wm Jas says:

    The “preferred relationship style” question was ambiguous. The question doesn’t distinguish clearly enough between moral or rational convictions on the one hand and “what turns me on” on the other. It’s like asking, “Which do you prefer, a healthy diet or one with a lot of junk food?” Does it mean “Which, in your considered opinion, is a better choice for you?” or “Which, prior to reflection, do you find more enticing?”

    I checked that I “prefer monogamous,” but using the language of “preference” frames the whole issue in a weird way, presupposing a nihilistic pro-sexual-revolution point of view. It’s like asking, “Is donating to charity one of your hobbies?” or something.

  68. NoahSD says:

    I think a lot of the choices are too restrictive. Pretty much every question needs an “I don’t know/no opinion/other” box (even if not selecting is an option, since radio buttons don’t allow you to unselect). This is especially true for the 1-5 questions, where I ended up answering 3 for many when really I just didn’t feel confident enough to give an answer.

    There are also questions like: “Do you *do this thing*? (1) Yes. (2) No, I didn’t know about it. (3) No, I don’t want to.” My answer to almost all of those is “No. I know about it, and I wouldn’t mind doing it, but I haven’t gotten around to it.” I imagine a lot of people feel similarly.

    • Richard Meadows says:

      +1. For example, I know about the Giving What You Can Pledge and will almost certainly sign it, but I’ve only just started learning about EA so haven’t actually taken action yet. There were a few other questions which put me in the same awkward position.

      Minor quibbles aside, that might be the most interesting survey I’ve taken – excited to see the results!

    • Deiseach says:

      Poor Scott. I agree about the necessity for a “how the hell should I know????” option, but you probably won’t get much useful data from multiple entire surveys full of “no opinion” answers (apart from “blimey, what a shower of fence-sitters!”) 🙂

  69. anonymousskimmer says:

    “When you imagine eg a tree, do you really see the picture of a tree in your brain the same way you might see it on a TV screen, or does it feel more like metaphorically understanding a tree without explici visual stimuli?”

    I’m more of an impressionistic visual thinker, so answered 2.

    Echo cabalamat. I couldn’t answer that question.

  70. leoboiko says:

    I’m very very annoyed that the only Communist option was Leninism—and some sort of degenerate Leninism at that, where the theoretically temporary stopgap of an educative government has become an end unto itself. I found it surprising that there was no option for democratic socialism, as defended by Einstein or George Orwell, or anarchism, or even simply Marxism . I had to take a step back and do a double-take to avoid my own confirmation bias (my first impression was that this strange definition of Communism is “typical” and “telling” of the tribe: all “you guys” care about is “government interfering on my freedoms”). This has annoyed me enough that I just spent fifteen minutes struggling with lost WordPress passwords to de-lurk and whine about it.

    Communism means workers’ ownership of the means of production. “Means of production” doesn’t mean personal belongings, but such things as buildings, farms, factories, industrial robots, shares etc. “Workers’ ownership” means these things, and consequently decision powers and profits, are shared equally between those who use them to perform work. Gone is rent-seeking, gone is earning the lion’s share just by owning things on paper.

    Leninism means social control by a Vanguard Party, meant to teach the alienated masses about their shackles, and in this way bring about workers’ ownership of the means of production (or at least that’s the justification for it). Vanguard Party is the means, workers’ ownership of the means of production is the end.

    Like a lot of people, I’m a communist but not a Leninist. I believe Leninism was tried, and failed, resulting in yet more non-worker ownership of the means of production. Though I generally find government to hold more potential for accountability and fairness than for-profit enterprises, government ain’t the workers. I’m not for more government control; I’m for workers’ ownership of the means of production. Lacking that option, I chose Nordic model, because between Leninism and welfare state I’ll choose the latter, even though I identify as a communist.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Agreed. I answered “Non-hierarchicalist” in the fill-in option.

    • Yxoque says:

      Lacking that option, I chose Nordic model, because between Leninism and welfare state I’ll choose the latter, even though I identify as a communist.

      I put in “Communism, but not as described above,” in the “Other” box, but on reflection your reasoning makes a lot of sense.

    • shakeddown says:

      I’m curious how your model of communism works. For example, most moderns tech companies give workers stock options. Does that match your model? would the workers have to have the majority of the stock for it to count? How would you maintain it without government intervention when businesses go bankrupt?

      • Yxoque says:

        I can’t speak for leoboiko, but

        would the workers have to have the majority of the stock for it to count?

        Not exactly. Going by the idea of using stock to share power, everyone working for the company would have the exact same amount of stock, whether they be CEO, cleaning lady or software developer. Decisions regarding the company would be made democratically and everyone would be making the same amount of money.

        If i’m not mistaken, there already are companies that operate like that.

        • shakeddown says:

          I can see that working for individual companies, but how would this system handle funding new companies? Under the current system, we have someone giving them money in return for a large portion of ownership later on, and I don’t see a good method to replace this. (This system would also leave some economic inequality between people who worked for wealthier companies, but that seems like an acceptable level of inequality).

          Also, does this system have a good way of dealing with people who are either between jobs or chronically unemployed (due to either disability or just general lack of competence)? Or is this out of the system’s expected bounds?

          Edit: I can see something like this working for a post-innovation society, but it also seems like a post-innovation society would be post-scarcity, and wouldn’t require anyone to work in the first place.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            but how would this system handle funding new companies?

            Loans? (Bank or family/social)
            Spin-offs of current companies?

            Off the top of my head.

          • Kevin C. says:


            “but it also seems like a post-innovation society would be post-scarcity”

            How so? Can you really not imagine a society where further “innovation” and progress has ground to a halt at a level short of that needed for true “post-scarcity”?

  71. FeepingCreature says:

    How much do you enjoy puns?

    5: punconditionally
    4: a punch
    3: pun occasion
    2: puncommonly
    1: not at all

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      8: ultimately
      7: punultimately
      6: punctilliously

      0: punderwhelmingly
      -1: punberable
      -2: punderworld

      (I just got that 1 had no pun it in. Very nice.)

  72. MarginalCost says:

    I write the following in the hope that you appreciate everyone’s feedback on their nitpicky annoyances on the survey. If we seem ungrateful it is not intentional! Feel free to skip if this feels too critical.

    There is no option in the “political affiliation” question for those who favor traditional values but higher redistribution of wealth. This is not a weird pet-issue stance – this is a very visible quadrant that’s missing. There’s a lot of (valid) suspicion that such people are very small in number, but you won’t know unless you measure that. And I suspect it’s more common in the general population than anything like neoraction or alt-right is. Call it “populist” or “Christian democratic” if you want.

    Also, for the Tversky question it might be useful to have an option for “I do not know” so you can more easily distinguish between people who affirmatively cannot answer the question, and those who just decided to skip the bottom half of the survey/write-in questions/whatever.

    Finally, commentators with privacy concerns who OK’d the anonymized release of their information should be wary of posting on this thread too close to the time of survey submission, lest the time stamps aid in your identification.

    • shakeddown says:

      With any question that’s not radio buttons (I think this includes the Tversky question), you can just leave it blank.

      • MarginalCost says:

        Right, but that’s my point. Let’s say 60% of respondants answer Tversky, and 40% leave it blank. Now I don’t know if that 40% is all people who didn’t know the answer, or, say 30% who didn’t know and 10% who knew, but skipped the question because they didn’t feel like trying to remember how to spell it on their phone.

        Incidentally, this is vaguely similar to the problem with the NYT reporting of the poll of economists on school vouchers: if they only tell you 36% support, you don’t actually know anything for sure about the other 64%.

    • dapijab says:

      There is no option in the “political affiliation” question for those who favor traditional values but higher redistribution of wealth. This is not a weird pet-issue stance – this is a very visible quadrant that’s missing. There’s a lot of (valid) suspicion that such people are very small in number, but you won’t know unless you measure that.

      To whit, I think this description describes a large portion of Trump voters.

      • ChelOfTheSea says:

        Maybe _this site’s_ Trump voters. But a good chunk of his base just doesn’t really give a shit about policy, they just know they’ve been screwed and want to fight back somehow.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      There is also a lack of option for those who prefer less redistribution and zero traditional values. I went with Scandinavian because I live there and it seems to work OK even though I suspect our policies is not the reason we do well.

    • Unirt says:

      There is no option in the “political affiliation” question for those who favor traditional values but higher redistribution of wealth.

      Right. In different countries the left-right conservative-liberal divides can be different. As an illustration, where I live, the “traditional values but high redistribution” crowd is pretty large and backing a major party. However, they are not religious at all, they might be even somewhat anty-christianity. They are called conservatives, while the low-redistribution crowd gets called liberals over here.

      • Peffern says:

        Can I ask where?

      • while the low-redistribution crowd gets called liberals over here.

        Isn’t that just the common European pattern of using “liberal” in something close to its 19th century meaning instead of the modern U.S. meaning of “democratic socialist in dilute acqueous solution.”

        • Unirt says:

          Isn’t that just the common European pattern of using “liberal” in something close to its 19th century meaning instead of the modern U.S. meaning of “democratic socialist in dilute acqueous solution.”

          Could be; also, our Soviet past was characterized by high redistribution, so it may be percieved as the natural (well-tried and low-risk) conservative option. In any case, it’s difficult to concord it with the US classification.

    • Murphy says:

      very much a nitpick but I wasn’t sure if I should pick what I believe works best (as in improves lives for most people) in practice right now or what I believe would be morally best if we lived in a much richer world where all the necessities of life could be covered for everyone trivially such that choosing my preferred option doesn’t have morally horrible side effects.

    • apprenticebard says:

      Yeah, I didn’t know what option “fewer laws and regulations, but significant redistribution of wealth in the form of basic income” and “traditional values are very often Good and Right and people should adhere to them, but government control is generally not an appropriate method of encouraging this” fell under, and I don’t have a handy label for it, so I checked “other” without leaving any text. I’d guess I’m closer to moderate libertarian than conservative or liberal, but it really depends on what issues are being prioritized. Since minimal taxes and minimal wealth redistribution don’t sound good to me, I didn’t think the listed definition fit very well.

    • Subb4k says:

      Also, the description for the alt-right (i.e. literal actual nazis) is misleading. The Front National is basically identical to Trump on policy, up to a few details. Unless you believe Trump is a literal actual nazi, which Scott made abundantly clear he does not, this labeling should change. “right-wing populism” or “far-right populism” seem more appropriate.

      (None of this comment should be taken as normalization of Trump or Le Pen or any of the similar wackos currently gaining wind. They’re just not quite as bad as Hitler.)

      • Cypren says:

        I really wish people would stop saying that even modern American Nazis are as bad as Hitler. Until someone literally murders millions of people in an ethnic group and wages a war that kills tens of millions more, they are not as bad as Hitler. It doesn’t matter if their ideology is similar or they use the same iconography or if you think they probably would have done the same as Hitler with the same opportunities.

        All these Godwin comparisons cheapen discussion and trivialize the epic pain and suffering of one of the worst incidents in history to make rhetorical points.

        • shakeddown says:

          I think modern american actual nazis probably are as bad as Hitler, in the sense that if they were a majority of the population they probably would kill millions of people.

          I mean, consider this in terms of distribution: 1930s Germany shifted to nazism, mostly due to economic conditions and other stuff. Social shifts are really hard, and I don’t think even conditions in 1930s germany had as large an effect as replacing half the population with modern american nazis would.

          • Part of this is the problem of moral luck.

            Consider two drivers, both driving carelessly at night. One runs down a small child. One just misses running down a small child because the child gets out of the road in time.

            Judged by qualities of the driver, moral and otherwise, they are equally at fault. But we feel that the one who ran down the child is worse.

            If you know someone was a concentration camp guard in Nazi Germany, you see him as a bad person. Suppose you are convinced that, given the circumstances of Nazi Germany, most people offered the job would have taken it. Do you conclude that the actual guard is no worse a person than average?

            One moral view is a judgement of the inside of someone’s head. Another is a judgement of the actual deeds he has done.

            For anyone sufficiently interested, I discuss the issue in Part VI of an old article.

          • Deiseach says:

            Do you conclude that the actual guard is no worse a person than average?

            They’re not, that’s the whole point. There is no Special Evil Concentration Camp Guard type that we can all agree on “Well, plainly I would never be one of those!” Ordinary people going along to get along, some of whom were all for the political ideal, some of whom were probably sadists or enjoyed the exercise of power and cruelty, most of whom probably were genuinely “just following orders”. C.S. Lewis, in “That Hideous Strength”, has a character (Miss “Fairy” Hardcastle) who is head of the secret police and who is a sexual sadist, who argues when reprimanded:

            “…I should not be doing my duty if I failed to remind you that complaints from that quarter have already been made, though not, of course, minuted, as to your tendency to allow a certain – er – emotional excitement in the disciplinary side of your work to distract you from the demands of policy.”

            “You won’t find anyone can do a job like mine well unless they get some kick out of it,” said the Fairy sulkily.

            And while there’s some truth in that, it’s not necessary. You can get the guards who are “well, it’s better than being on the Front” but who are not getting any special kick out of it and who will do their job thoroughly all the same.

            Anyone can be a Nazi or a prison guard at a gulag (whether it be for the Czars or Stalin).

          • carvenvisage says:



          • Aapje says:


            Anyone can be a Nazi or a prison guard at a gulag (whether it be for the Czars or Stalin).

            This is highly unlikely. Experiments like the Milgram electroshock study heavily trade on escalation of commitment & social pressure, yet a substantial number of participants stopped (depending on whether you want to exclude those who didn’t fully believe that the experiment was real, 1/3 – 2/3 refuses to finish the experiment).

            If you would be right, whistle blowers would not exist.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I agree with Deiseach, though I think David has a point. My takeaway is that it is dangerous to try and talk about moral judgements of internal states rather than external actions.

            That said, yes, given the right circumstances, anyone. Aapje, the Milgram Experiment has extremely, extremely LOW amounts of social and peer pressure applied to the test subjects and still got alarmingly high level of compliance. If only a 1/3rd of people refuse to complete because some random stranger with a lab coat says “no really, it’s ok”, how much more does that drop when their entire society and culture, their friends, their family, people they’ve been close to for months or years say “no really, it’s ok”.

            As another data point on the “people who become part of mass atrocity are not predominantly psychopaths or otherwise particularly abnormal relative to the average person”, it’s worth noting one of the driving reasons the Nazis switched to gas: The massive issues they were running into with the Einsatzgruppen and even moreso with the Wehrmacht forces when they were trying to use them for mass killing of civilians.

            Even the Einsatzgruppen, supposedly selected for their willingness and eagerness to carry out the program of extermination, were becoming crippled by a mix of morale and discipline problems like alcoholism, desertion, suicide, etc. And it got even worse when the Nazis were forced to try using Wehrmacht units. That’s not the portrait of a bunch of cold-blooded psychopaths.

          • carvenvisage says:


            There are 7.5 billion people on this planet. That roster includes people like giles corey, Thích Quảng Đức, and Jean Moulin (just some high profile examples). It also includes many times more like the ones who refused to participate at the time, resisted their occupiers, refused to participate by leaving, left and then opposed them, etc. including now-elderly russians and germans who are still alive.

            anyone‘ is literally just a trite soundbite. There’s no rational reason to believe it.

            Probably its appeal is that it makes the speaker feel wise, or that it lets them imagine they’re absolved of the duty to be a whole lot better than that. In any case it insults and undoes the work of people who suffered and died to set that example, promotes a defeatist view of human nature, and is a dagger in the back of people struggling with such pressures right now in 2017.

            Yes, people should be careful, not assume they are immune to such pressures, and work at developing their own independent conscience. No, the attempt to do so is not futile. No not everybody participates in evil. Not even close to “everbody” doesn’t put their lives on the line for a chance to strike a blow against evil.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning is a useful read on the subject. It’s very focused, but the (non-Einsatzgruppen, non-SS) men in the unit who were involved in shooting over 80,000 Jews in Poland in 1942-1943 saw very few men request to be transferred to other duty, or even take the offer when it was made. They did, for the most part, experience a great deal of anguish; some men, however, were or became very cruel and enthusiastic. A common motivation for doing the shooting even though they found it repulsive was that, if they asked to go guard the trucks or whatever, their friends in the unit would have to do it all the same – they saw not doing vile things as making other people do more vile things.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:


            Principled and clean-handed resistance fighters are rare as hen’s teeth, and even then I don’t think you can safely say that they would never cross that moral line. After all, they’ve already crossed the line with regard to killing that so many modern people can’t even imagine stepping over.

            I actually have a great deal of respect for the people who fought and died and kept their hands as clean as possible while they did it despite the pressures not to. Hell, I served with them when I was in Iraq, and they had it easier than people in WW2 often did.

            I would paraphrase Emerson: “A moral man is no more inherently good than an evil man, but he is good for longer.”

            As for those who “resist” by refusing to participate, you need to go back and study your history books again, because they’ve never been in the minority.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            As for those who “resist” by refusing to participate, you need to go back and study your history books again, because they’ve never been in the majority.


          • carvenvisage says:


            I dunno if you lost track of the conversation or you’re just being dishonest but no one was talking about majorities, or being ‘clean handed’, I was saying that obviously not everyone is going to either participate or cooperate in evil.

            Initially I just thought this was careless semantics-



            but you came in with yes (in the right circumstances) anyone. Your latest post has nothing do do with the question in question.

            There’s an infinite difference between ‘yes normal people (just like you and me!)’, and ‘yes, ANYONE’.

            (note that I don’t have to either disagree with or concede the former point, because I never put it forward)


            Anyway, either you’ve been a complete fucking illiterate here, or you’re deliberately trying to conflate these ideas. I hope it’s the former.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Also no one gives a shit what you did in Iraq, or your buddies didn’t. ‘clean hands’ isn’t a relevant category. The relevant questions are right vs wrong, and, if wrong, understandable vs unforgivable. Tell me if I’ve missed an axis. Pretty sure I haven’t though. Anyway without further information on what you’re talking about, it can’t pertain to this conversation, because I don’t know what the fuck you mean by ‘dirty hands’.

            By the information I have, it could be anything from a surreptitious confession of serious war crimes, to you being precious about having to shoot enemy combatants.

        • Subb4k says:

          I agree with shakeddown that they’re as bad as Hitler in a “moral character” sense.

          In dangerousness I agree they’re way less dangerous, and people who act like “thinks maybe punching Spencer wasn’t such a great idea” is the same as “would have advocated not going to war with nazi Germany” are missing that important point. I guess I could have worded it more carefully above.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Don’t people who identify as Nazis pretty much support Hitler in most of his programs? These Nazis may not have killed people, but they support his policies. I don’t know whether the individual Nazis are as bad as Hitler (perhaps they are mostly play-acting and would back off if things got truly nasty), but the policies they support are.

          • Aapje says:


            I agree with shakeddown that they’re as bad as Hitler in a “moral character” sense.

            In the case of Hitler we know that he was actually willing to maximally implement his theories, but a lot of people use direction pushing rhetoric that they don’t necessarily want to implement fully.

            As such, I think that we should be wary to equate mere rhetoric with actual implementations.

    • hls2003 says:

      I agree that you could continue to parse the political affiliation down further. One can believe in traditional values (the Conservative box) on a voluntary community level while also believing that government should not interfere. Or hold a strong federalist position, allowing for local experimentation. Or believe something like communities should be encouraged to ostracize to enforce their virtues, but not to formally punish. Personally, I am quite libertarian, but do not hold “permissive views” on social matters, other than “permissive” in its most literal sense of “not outlawing certain conduct.”

      In the end, though, you can’t capture every nuance and still get useful data, so I didn’t think it was crazy. I mean, if you take Gary Johnson as the essence of a libertarian, I can argue he isn’t philosophically consistent, but I can’t argue that you pulled it out of nowhere, since he got millions of votes with an “L” next to his name.

      • MarginalCost says:

        You’re definitely right that we can start subdividing a lot and we have to draw the line somewhere. But I just find it odd that the primary descriptors of the first few groups ( traditional values and redistribution) very obviously (to me) omit one of the 4 possible combinations of that 2×2 grid – and then proceed to throw in some relatively minor off-grid options.

        • hls2003 says:

          Scott seems to be familiar with / somewhat fond of Chesterton, so it is a little odd he didn’t consider the “socially conservative, fiscally liberal” angle of the Distributivists or other Catholic types.

          • Liberal in the 19th century, not the modern American, sense. Chesterton was a libertarian, although a somewhat odd one, and identified with liberalism in the older sense.

  73. howardtreesong says:

    I took a single Zoloft earlier this year, after suffering from anxiety. I’ll never take another.

  74. 27chaos says:

    I’m surprised that you didn’t include egoist as a category of morality. It seems fairly common around these parts.

    • blacktrance says:

      Consequentialism includes egoism.

      • simon says:

        Wouldn’t that depend on the psychology of the egoist?

        In any case it’s not exactly what comes to mind when thinking of “consequentialism”, so if it is popular – and I don’t know what info 27chaos has to say that it is – it would make sense for it to be a separate category.

        • blacktrance says:

          Consequentialism is the family of theories in which the rightness of an act or rule is determined its (actual or expected) consequences. Egoism is the type of consequentialism in which good consequences are those that are good for the agent.

          • simon says:

            I’m not convinced that that definition of egoism is the best possible. What if the egoist thinks it’s good to pursue self-interest (i.e. is an egoist) but defines their self-interest, independently of the current world-state, as depending on past conformance to deontological rules?

            Sure, you could twist that into consequentialism by saying that they are pursuing the consequence of having that definition of self-interest fulfilled, but that doesn’t seem any more reasonable to me than saying a regular deontologist is pursuing the consequence of having the deontological rules fulfilled.

            You could also say that anyone who has such a weird definition of self-interest isn’t an egoist. A case might be made that such an “egoist” is really not an egoist but rather is adopting that definition of self-interest in order to import their real morality. I would probably believe that in a particular case, but am uncomfortable assuming that to be necessarily true. Perhaps if I knew more about philosophy I would be comfortable assuming it, but I don’t know enough.

            In fact though, I noticed when I looked up “egoism” that the word “egoism” has two meanings: one normative (what we are talking about) and one descriptive (something else). Let’s look at the world for the moment from the perspective of someone who believes that descriptive egoism is true. Then, since people in fact claim to believe that they are deontologists, virtue ethicists etc., if the descriptive egoist believes them, it follows from the descriptive egoist’s perspective that those people must have weird self interests. So, I think that the claim that people can have weird self-interests is not any crazier than descriptive egoism, and so should be taken at least as seriously as descriptive egoism. Which might not be very seriously, but maybe seriously enough not to simply define it as false.

          • blacktrance says:

            What if the egoist thinks it’s good to pursue self-interest (i.e. is an egoist) but defines their self-interest, independently of the current world-state, as depending on past conformance to deontological rules?

            What if you defined dogs as furless bipeds? They’d still be furred quadrupeds. The same goes for self-interest – it’s your well-being, not whatever you define it to be. Of course, there’s some variety in how it’s affected by different states of the world, but if one doesn’t think that one’s well-being is what one ought to maximize, one isn’t an egoist. And well-being is a consequence.

            Then, since people in fact claim to believe that they are deontologists, virtue ethicists etc., if the descriptive egoist believes them, it follows from the descriptive egoist’s perspective that those people must have weird self interests.

            The far more obvious conclusion is that psychological (what you call “descriptive”) egoism is false.

  75. birdboy2000 says:

    Most communists would not describe communism as “complete state control of many facets of life.” It happened, but that wasn’t the point, even for the hardcore Stalin apologists; state control was a means to an end.

    I’d phrase it as “Management of the economy to enforce practical equality of wealth” but that may be a bit too rose-colored for the non-commies here. (Perhaps “central management” if you want to exclude leftcoms and the like)

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Yea, I answered communist and support Marxist goals but I don’t see how the system I am thinking of would be anything but a significant reduction in the scope and amount of time people spend concerned with complete state control of facets of life vs. the modern neoliberal security state.

  76. dg says:

    How often do you lift weights?

    Many programs call for 3x a week. If you do that religiously, do you still put 5 (Daily / very often)? I assume so, but it’s a little ambiguous.

  77. eh says:

    I wasn’t sure what to put for the gay marriage question. I was going to put a 1, but only because I don’t think the government has any more moral authority to define marriage than it does to publish an officially sanctioned list of emotions or make Wednesday illegal. That didn’t seem to be in the spirit of the question, so I just stuck a 3 down.

    Also, my IQ was last measured when I was 11, and between then and now sits nearly two decades of binge drinking, recreational drug use, a few surgeries including one very close to the brain, and the abandonment of anything remotely resembling mental and physical exercise.

    • Gazeboist says:

      We do not discuss the forbidden day.

    • Deiseach says:

      Civil marriage is a legal, not a moral, question. The only reason for the government to get involved is because not getting involved meant people in all kinds of situations claiming “he married me!” “no I didn’t!” and other kinds of confusion. Getting the government out of “you have to be THIS old and really you shouldn’t marry your sister” will only mean that the courts will be the ones deciding on a case-by-case basis where “I really thought I was in love with Sally and that’s why we had a baby together but then that bitch cheated on me with Jane so I want her name off the birth cert as a legal parent” “Maisie is only saying that because she was running around on me with Vicki and besides the house is in my name so suck it, you stupid cow!” Fun times. Because people may say “we don’t need a piece of paper to be married” and “it’s all about love”, but when break-ups happen, then it becomes “this is my stuff, you owe me maintenance, and you can die homeless in the gutter for all I care” and that’s when both sides lawyer up to get what they consider their fair dues. Between Education and Social Housing Provision, I’ve seen the aftermaths of relationships and it ain’t pretty.

      Apart from that, I would have been “gay civil marriage is probably as legally justifiable as straight civil marriage, given the mess we’ve made of marriage” but I was really jaundiced by the pro-same sex marriage side’s campaign in my own country so I had to go for “3” in the end.

      • Yet offering up a marriage contract template and encouraging people to use it (or even requiring them to make a marriage contract between each other, if you so want) is independent from demanding the template must be followed as-is.

        I think former is acceptable (though I’d disagree with you about that it’s necessary – people that aren’t married but in a relationship together have pretty much the same problems and the world hasn’t fallen to pieces over it yet); I don’t think latter is.

      • tcheasdfjkl says:

        Apart from that, I would have been “gay civil marriage is probably as legally justifiable as straight civil marriage, given the mess we’ve made of marriage” but I was really jaundiced by the pro-same sex marriage side’s campaign in my own country so I had to go for “3” in the end.

        This might be a derail, but I’m really curious about what you mean by this – can you elaborate?

        (My perspective here is that I’m a social-justice-type person in the U.S. and I’ve heard a lot of “social justice rhetoric is why Trump won” and I’m trying to learn about how much of that is legitimate issues with social justice rhetoric, or value-neutral things that I’d be happy to abandon for better electoral success, and how much of it is core principle stuff that I will absolutely not abandon. (Definitely there is some in both categories.) Seems like your experience might be relevant.)

        • Cypren says:

          I fall into the category of “marriage should be purely contractual and not State-sponsored”, but supported both the anti-prop-8 efforts here in California as well as the Obergefell decision of the Supreme Court out of a general feeling that if the State is going to be involved, it should sanction marriage for anyone. However, the aftermath of that victory, what I would characterize as a “burn the fields, salt the earth” attitude among the victorious Social Justice crowd left a terrible taste in my mouth and almost made me want to rewind time just to vote against them. (Examples: harrassing Brendan Eich out of a job, the whole Memories Pizza fiasco, etc.)

          One thing I see no real awareness of in the SJ side is that politics in civil society are largely based on the mutual understanding that even if you lose on issues, the other side is not going to try to hunt you down and destroy your life for having had the temerity to oppose them in the first place. That issues are disagreements and not war. That compact is rapidly failing in the modern era, and I see the SJ component of the Left as mostly responsible for the failure. It’s an extremely dangerous path to go down, because once you turn politics into total war, where only the destruction or complete and total groveling submission of the other side will suffice, history indicates that it usually turns into von Clausewitz’s “politics by other means” very shortly thereafter.

          • Wency says:

            Indeed, I’ve spent most of my life in the “indifferent to gay marriage” camp. I’ve intellectualized a number of opinions about it, but it never really mattered to me, and I never thought it should matter too much to anyone else. At this point, Western secular marriage is mostly nonsense anyway, and for me, the “debate” only served to highlight that.

            But between Brendan Eich and the pizza and cake incidents, I started feeling like I have to be against gay marriage, or at least on the side of its opponents, if only to oppose the rapidly expanding definition of thoughtcrime that has come with it.

          • Deiseach says:

            I do think the gay marriage, and now the trans bathrooms, were stalking horse issues: yes, important to those who were/are emotionally affected, but mainly used to get a foot in the door about gay rights and trans rights, normalising the idea so that opposition to either means “you are a horrible homophobe/transphobe who hates ordinary people who only want the same rights to live and love as everyone else”.

            If you straight-out ask people to accept “gender is only a social construct, biology has nothing to do with it, a man can have a uterus, a woman can have a penis” and all that goes with the politics and the theory, they may push back. But phrase it as “we simply want to use the bathroom in privacy without being hassled” and who can argue against such a reasonable request? It’s the same expectation of privacy and courtesy everyone has in day-to-day life, accepting this is no big deal, surely?

            Personally, I don’t care who pisses in what room. Unless you stand in the middle of the floor and pull down your knickers, how do I know if you’re Jimmy or Janie? But I do care about being asked to accept “There is absolutely nothing – behaviour, biology, dress, appearance, anything – specifically belonging to one gender over another but at the same time I have really strong feelings that I am, and I should be accepted as, this gender and not that gender and that includes changing my physical body, clothing, name, appearance, everything to the qualities associated with that gender”.

          • eh says:

            @Deiseach: this really worries me, because when an argument is lost to rhetoric or sophistry there’s always temptation to respond in kind. I don’t think anyone here wants to choose between denial of sexual dimorphism and repression of all homosexuality, but if the middle ground is eroded then that’s what we’ll be left with.

        • Anonymous says:

          This might be a derail, but I’m really curious about what you mean by this – can you elaborate?

          I can probably explain the “mess” part.

          Consider that there were innovations into the institution of marriage that were implemented (in the West) chiefly in the last 50-60 years or so. Can you imagine a marriage that is dissoluble for-fault only, or not-at-all unless you prove it was invalidly entered into? One in which the spouses legally owe sex to each other? One which is not adjudicated by the government, but rather only recognized by way of your religious affiliation? One which is the only way to guarantee that your children will be able to inherit after you die? One in which cheating is a severe, sometimes capital crime? One which both parties enter without any particular infatuation with each other, but are expected to love each other as a marital duty?

          Rounding off to regional variation, this was pretty much the default way marriages were done a century or more ago. Recent legal changes have watered down what it means to be married so much that one doesn’t have a leg to stand on to refuse the same to two men, two women, a man and a dog, etc.

        • Deiseach says:

          This might be a derail, but I’m really curious about what you mean by this – can you elaborate?

          In my particular instance, I was apathetic. I thought that legalising same-sex civil marriage was probably arguable on the grounds of natural justice. Since straight couples no longer believed pre-marital cohabitation, having children out of wedlock, deciding not to have children when married, divorce and remarriage etc were problems undermining marriage and that it was reduced to “if we like each other and we feel like it, we’ll have a ceremony to mark our contract until or unless one or both of us decides to end it”, then why shouldn’t gay people have the same opportunity?

          And if the pro-same sex marriage side had stuck to arguments like that, I’d have either not bothered voting or would have voted ‘yes’.


          (1) The two parties in the Coalition government at the time, for their individual reasons, both enthusiastically jumped aboard the bandwagon and indeed pushed it as hard as they could. Never mind that during a referendum the government is supposed not to promote one side over another, or at least not without presenting the balanced case – due to a legal challenge in 1995 we have a Referendum Commission for this, it was for cheap popularity. It wouldn’t cost them anything (unlike the USA, the mood of the country was generally ‘yeah okay’ on the topic) and it would allow them to present themselves as brave social liberals striking a blow for freedom against the forces of repression, all without actually risking any blowback. Also, there was anticipation of a boost to the economy from the ‘pink pound’ – all those gays getting married and spending loads of money like straight couples on big fancy weddings, not to mention wedding tourism. So that was bad enough, but eh, politics, what else do you expect?

          (2) The attitude of the chattering class and the right-thinking opinion-formers in the national media was pretty much what you’d expect. Anti-marriage equality types were all redneck religious bigots who weren’t sophisticated like our urban betters in the capital and were motivated by bigotry, hatred and being too stupid to tie our own shoelaces. No question that the ‘no’ side in the referendum might have a case to put; it was all about being mean to nice gays and lesbians who only wanted the white wedding. Besides, we knuckle-draggers down the country were making a show of our hip city-cousins in front of the neighbours in Britain and the Continent, don’t you know!

          The zenith – or nadir – of this came with the Abbey Theatre which was doing something called “The Noble Call” in conjunction with its production of a famous Irish play “The Risen People” – basically the usual arty-farty types getting a chance to speechify on the platform about whatever struck their fancy as relevant to society today. Due to a storm in a teacup about a drag queen appearing on a TV chat show and calling certain named individuals homophobic (and the libel suit they brought against the TV station), this opportunity was offered to Panti Bliss (the drag queen in question) to give the Noble Call.

          I haven’t watched this because the media purring in approval about it was quite enough. I can’t even.

          (3) It was all about love. You know the line yourself, you’ve heard it. I’m really not one for emotional appeals; as I said, an argument on “this is asking for the same legal rights as current civil marriage” would have gone a long way further with me than “We’re in looooove and we only wanna get marrrried like anyone else, why won’t you give us the chance so my mother can cry at the wedding!” stuff.

          There was a glutinous series of radio and TV ads on this theme which I mostly tuned out. But – and here is where it is absurd, I quite admit – the tipping point or turning point for me was one particular radio ad in this campaign. I heard it on the radio while on the bus, so I had no way of turning it off or avoiding it, and I pretty nearly had apoplexy. This turned me from “eh, can’t muster up enough of an opinion one way or the other to bother voting” to “I WILL DEFINITELY GET OUT AND VOTE, AND IT WILL NOT JUST BE ‘NO’, IT WILL BE ‘HELL, NO!!!!‘”

          Because it was stupid. It was a real insult to the intelligence. You can say I over-reacted and I can’t argue with you, but given that the entire campaign was based on “the no side are all smelly backwards dum-dum bigots while the yes side are all smart cultured nice progressives”, they ran this? How stupid did they think people were? How much contempt did they have for the intelligence of the ordinary person remaining to be convinced?

          There had been the usual Real Gays and Real Family Members Of Real Gays doing the ad campaign. This one was fake.

          It was a male comedian, speaking in his persona as a female impersonator (not a drag queen, an old-fashioned pantomime dame type character) about his character’s son. His fake character’s imaginary gay son (i.e. the character played by an actor on the sit-com who was supposed to be the son of this ‘woman’). Who ‘she’ hoped would one day have the same chance at happiness by being able to marry his boyfriend as ‘she’ had when ‘she’ married ‘her’ husband.

          If the guy had stuck to “Hi, I’m [Insert Name], comedian and star of [Female Character I Impersonate Show]” and said “I want you to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum”, I could at least respect that as his opinion and his right to express it. But instead they went with ‘her’ happy married life with ‘her’ fake husband and their imaginary gay son and his imaginary boyfriend, none of whom existed in reality, and who were supposed to persuade us to change the law of the land via a constitutional referendum. Because after wiping away the sentimental tears shed contemplating the never going to happen wedding day because both parties were completely imaginary, we would then march to the polls in civic fervour to promote love and happiness.

          Yeah. That’s how dumb the voters of Ireland are, according to our betters: we don’t know the difference between soap operas or sit-coms and reality, we think actual humans and imaginary characters are both equally real and we will grant real rights to fake characters.

          Plainly, I was not the target audience for this campaign.

          So, for your own campaigns, if you have to go the “we don’t have any actual decent arguments that will hold water in a debate, but look! puppies and rainbows and pretty girls kissing! are you against niceness and happiness?” route, at least use real lesbians and gays?

    • I wasn’t sure what to put for the gay marriage question. I was going to put a 1, but only because I don’t think the government has any more moral authority to define marriage than it does to publish an officially sanctioned list of emotions or make Wednesday illegal.

      Just wanted to say I had the same problem.

      Otherwise really enjoyed the survey, though. I hope it’s insightful to you, overall, Scott! 🙂

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes, I had the same issue also. I put my number in the middle to express that gay marriage is neither better nor worse than other marriage, even though I don’t believe we shoudl have marriage laws at all. It makes sense that people should be allowed to determine who visits them in the hospital, makes decisions for them if they become incompetent, and inherits their money after death, but marriage should not be this determinant. Maybe this topic should be in an open thread.

  78. paranoidfunk says:

    1. I don’t know why you didn’t include ACT scores near the SAT question – couldn’t answer that because I took the ACT instead. Also, I haven’t taken an IQ test in a long time (AFAICR) so I didn’t answer that; might add an option “I haven’t taken one”, or “can’t remember”.

    2. Not sure of your intent, but perhaps the Donald Trump question is better worded as “what is your opinion of DT as president?“. I think he’s an OK guy and his Apprentice show was entertaining for a few years, but, considering current climate, maybe you are screening for opinions of him in this political context? My opinion of him has been lessened recently because of the political endeavor. I think I’m not explaining clearly, and I apologize, very tired after a move-in (and your survey, ass!).

    3. Longest survey I’ve taken in recent memory; I’m glad to do so for an entity / community I enjoy, and hope others do the same. (Although per Scott’s instructions, if you’re in the comments section, maybe I’m just preaching to the keyboard choir…)

    • Deiseach says:

      Trump is another tough one: do I think he’s not a very pleasant personality? Yes. Do I think he’s the devil out of hell? No. What’s he like as president? I have no idea, he was only sworn in the other day, but no I don’t believe he’s going to push the big red button and doom us all in a fiery nuclear holocaust. Four years of his administration? The US will be more or less the same as it is now – he’ll have achieved some things, failed in others, and the people will be living neither in Utopia nor The Handmaid’s Tale.

  79. ChelOfTheSea says:

    Also, I don’t have a valid answer on the Spinning Dancer. I see it both ways, but can’t voluntarily swap between them.

    • simon says:

      My situation was the same, but I chose “I was eventually able to see the dancer as spinning in either direction, or even switch between them at will” because I interepreted the “or” as a disjunction. If it meant that you could do either, then an “and” would have been more clear.

  80. Vortex_God says:

    You have a section for SAT scores. But many people from the American Midwest took ACT tests as well, and some only took ACT tests and didn’t take the SATs. I myself fall into the latter category, so the best I could do is put in my ACT score into one of the boxes. The ACT is a score between 1-36, so that would throw off the statistics a bit.

    Any way for you to add a section for the ACTs?

  81. ChelOfTheSea says:

    Hey Scott, just an FYI – the SAT is once again graded out of 1600 as of last year. It was reworked substantially to be more similar to the ACT, and the Essay score is now a separate score on a different scale (with the 1600 returning to X/800 Math and X/800 Verbal).

  82. massivefocusedinaction says:

    Is the question on puns inclusive of Tom Swifties? I like the stereo typical pun, but have hated Swifties since they were the most disappointing part of the jokes section in Boy’s Life decades ago.

  83. astaereth says:

    Survey annoyances:

    Comments may be ideologically biased in a way that doesn’t fit a straight left/right line.

    If I work in the billing department of a health care company, do I work in health care, business, or other?

    I wish I remembered my SAT score.

    I left favorite post blank because I was going to put the post that brought me to the blog, but that made me sad and probably doesn’t reflect reality. I probably just forgot which post I liked when I marathoned the entire archive over the course of a month or so.

    Edit: Oh, and I too didn’t know all the philosophies and had to look them up. Some of them have very poor top-of-Google definitions.

    • shakeddown says:

      Yeah, favourite post was a tough one. I put “evening doc”, because (much like Sam’s description of Rivendell), it had a little bit of everything: Poetry, sadness, dark humor, worldview…
      My all-time favourite Scott post (except for Unsong) is The place we lived when we were young. It probably doesn’t count though, on account of being pre-SSC era..

  84. Alia D. says:

    On the psyc diagnosis questions it sound like you were asking about genetically related family so I did include things my husbands has, but I did include “formal diagnosis” even when I think the diagnosis was wrong.

  85. Garrett says:

    When it comes to SSRIs, you didn’t mention SNRIs. I figured as a p-shrink you’d be aware of the differences precisely, but not everyone is so people may be lumping them in together in their mind. If you are simply interested in “how many people with depression take meds for it”, it won’t mess up your data. But if you’re trying to gather data specifically about SSRIs it might.

  86. spudtowards says:

    I’m on an SNRI for anxiety and ahedonia. I put I think I have a depression as the response because it seemed to fit best.

  87. dapijab says:

    Alright, I’ve filled in the questionnaire, but as usual with your surveys I got kind of annoyed by the AI risk (and related) question(s). I’ve put in a “1” on the question of “how worried am I about AI risk,” because that’s my level of worry on the subject *as usually defined in these parts*. But I *do* feel there is a very real and extremely worrisome danger that comes with the increasing progress that’s being made in the field of AI, I just don’t think it is *at all* what people in the “rationalist” and “transhumanist” communities usually like to talk about.

    And the last time I posted about this on here, I guess I did a really bad job at explaining my point of view and so in response was then swamped with and somewhat overwhelmed by replies that asked me why “the only thing I’m worried about in terms of AI risk are fully-automated AI-controlled weapons platforms” or somesuch, which inspired in me a feeling that I can really only describe with the classic quote from Charles Babbage that goes “I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question,” although I fully admit that it was my mistake due to my failure to properly communicate the issue, and so gave up on making any further comments about it.

    Luckily, in the time since then pop culture has equipped me with a set of common reference points that I feel confident will enable me to shorten the memetic inferential distance such that I should be able to succinctly state my point, which goes like this:


    “I feel like the future is going to look a lot more like what was shown in the movie ‘Elysium,’ rather than like in the ‘Terminator’ or ‘Matrix’ films.”

    Which is to say, I don’t feel the people who will actually OWN the AI’s and machines and robots controlled by them will ever encounter a problem in making them do *exactly* what they want (which is the subject of “AI risk” as usually defined by the “rationalist community”); the problem will be the overwhelming amount of power that will give to that very small part of the population.

    In fact, I think the statement I made up there about those movies is accurate to such a degree, that my reaction upon seeing Elysium for the first time was basically to smarmily think to myself: “I thought this was supposed to be a science FICTION film. What, did they just invent a time machine, travel a couple of decades into the future and film a documentary instead?”

    I know the movie was commonly received as a kind of allegory on the present day, but I didn’t see it like that at all. As I said, I saw it as a shockingly accurate reproduction of what all of our future most likely is going to look like, right down to a lot of very precise details, like the billionaire CEO snorting at the foreman in his factory not to breathe on him.

    Except, of course, that the billionaire AI owners (as I’m going to coin a term for them here) aren’t going to allow themselves to be chased off to some faraway ghetto on a space station. “Elysium” will, in fact, consist of the impenetrable fortress-mansions that cover 95% or so of every square foot of desirable real estate right here, down on the planet, with the rest of the population trapped in towering ghettoes in the remaining wastelands, with no hope of resistance or change or employment as the AI controlled robotic super soldier law enforcement forces will ensure. AND of course, there will be no heroic underclass Robin Hood who with the help of a colorful band of Merry Men and some stolen military hardware will be able to infiltrate the spheres of the super-rich and give citizenship in their mansions and access to their AI-controlled technology to Everybody[tm]. The AI cops will not be anywhere near that incompetent nor ineffectual. In fact, thanks to the AI enforced, militarized security, from that point on forward, any form of change or resistance to the established social order will forever remain impossible. I could go on for some time, but I hope by now I’ve made my point clear.

    So, the last time I posted about this I complained about how childish I feel the usual AI risk worries are that I typically encounter around these parts, and I want to reiterate that part. AI will not suddenly “just happen,” nor in that explosive fashion people seem to like to imagine. Nor will control over it just slip from the grasp of those who create it. No, firm control will be established from step one, and remain in the hands of those that create and continue to improve it along every step of the way.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      You posit that the consequences of giving overwhelming power to a few people would be

      …impenetrable fortress-mansions that cover 95% or so of every square foot of desirable real estate right here, down on the planet, with the rest of the population trapped in towering ghettoes in the remaining wastelands…

      What makes you think that the rich and powerful would be so selfish? Many billionaires today have pledged to give half of their wealth to charity. I suspect that even more people would give even greater amounts if they had the virtually unlimited resources that strong AI could provide. You wouldn’t even need all of the elite to be bleeding-heart altruists; you’d just need some of them to not be completely incomprehensible monsters.

      Nor will control over it just slip from the grasp of those who create it. No, firm control will be established from step one, and remain in the hands of those that create and continue to improve it along every step of the way.

      How are you so certain of this? A strong artificial intelligence would have at least the intellectual strength of its creators (otherwise, what would be its point?). It seems intuitive to me that such a technology would be extremely volatile, especially since translating “do what I want you to do” into machine code is notoriously difficult.

      In general, you seem confident in a very specific prediction of events. What makes you so sure of this scenario’s probability?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        “What makes you think that the rich and powerful would be so selfish?”

        Read history.

      • dapijab says:

        Thank you for the reasonable and relevant response. I got really discouraged the last time I posted about this here by the large amount of replies I got that seemed to completely miss my point, but it seems this time I’ve been better able to explain my position. Hollywood to the rescue, it seems.

        I’m only going to write a relatively short reply to your post right now, as it’s already quite late where I live, but I can write a more fully-fledged response to the points you brought up later on (maybe tomorrow, or the day after that) if you like.

        To start, I’m not actually as sure as I may have given the impression about any particular future scenario, including the one I outlined above; the future possibilities that result from strong AI seem to me to lie along a certain axis, however, which includes things like the EM scenario described by Robin Hanson, and the one I described in my original post on another.

        I do, however, generally reject the notion of strong, super-human AI coming about “all of a sudden,” as a self-reinforcing seed arising out of unstable starting conditions, which seems to me to be the most common scenario leading to what Yudkowski calls “paperclip maximisers” and the like. It is in particular that kind of scenario and outcome that I reject as, like I called it, “childish;” the way human-equivalent and even super-human AI will come about will be the result of long, drawn-out and slow-moving processes, during which lots of experience will be gathered about the process of making your AI agents behave in the ways that you want it to, long before it gets to the point of being super-human. In theory, I’d be sufficiently confident about this prediction (that super-human AI will not suddenly arise, seed-like, to the surprise of their creators out of unstable initial conditions) that I’d take just about any bet that I can imagine to that effect, no matter how unfavorable the terms, except of course for the fact that the terms of the bet, no matter what they are, wouldn’t matter any more by the time it comes to fruition.

        To give an example, think about the robot police drones depicted in the movie Elysium; these were portrayed as being far from super-human in intelligence, but quite capable nonetheless. This kind of technology WILL become a reality at some point in the not-too-distant future; and the potential customers of such technology will have a very strong interest in the police drones acting in exactly the manner they want them to, enforcing exactly the commands and rules they wanted in the way that they intend them to be enacted. Note that at this point, these AI’s are still way below super-human, and have limited, precisely delineated capabilities; the ability of their human masters to enforce any changes to fix their behavior when they malfunction by acting against the wishes of their masters is at no point in question, as we’re not talking about some world-encompassing “operating system for all matter in the solar system” seed AI. And any stronger, more capable AI that comes later on will grow, slowly, step by step, over time out of these earlier efforts. Compliance will be enforced every step along the way.

        As to your other point about my prediction relying on the selfishness of billionaires to an unreasonable degree, that is not actually the case. As I was saying I want to keep this short, so I’ll just say that the post “Meditations on Moloch” ( ) by Scott himself gives one of the better overviews of the kinds of forces that will, as I see it, make the kinds of developments I am predicting here inevitable. Suffice it to say that, among the upper class enjoying the advantages of AI-enabled absolute dominion over all the resources of the planet, there may be different tiers; the billionaire who gave away, say, 90% of his wealth to charity, will occupy a lower tier, with a comparatively smaller estate, with the wealth he gave away maybe enabling a small enclave of even lower-ranked members who, thanks to his generosity, get to partake to some degree of the available wealth when they would otherwise have been peasants. For the vast majority, however, even this comparatively low status will be out of reach.

        A last point I’d like to make before I go to sleep is the following: Maybe a better statement of my position, and ensuing prediction, is that it is, specifically, about the interaction of the two systems of *capitalism* and strong AI. Mostly it is that I don’t think it will be easy for the creators of AI to lose control in the way so often feared and discussed in these circles, and so I foresee a point in the future in which the enforcement of the prevailing social relations will become absolute and impossible to mitigate due to a totality of control heretofore unimaginable. If those rules and social norms happen to be those of capitalism, and the world has reached a point where all human labor has become superfluous, it will lead to catastrophe.

      • dapijab says:

        I also wanted to add, maybe let’s move this discussion, if we continue it, to the latest open thread (maybe the next publicly visible one) where it might be more visible; as I said I only made my original post in reply to this topic because it was triggered by my annoyance at the framing of the relevant question in the survey.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          Ok, I’ll post a response later today or tomorrow in the latest or next open thread.

          • dapijab says:

            I would appreciate it if you could also make a post as a reply here that directly links to that post when you get around to it, so that it will be easier for me to find. I say that because I just checked the latest OT and there didn’t seem to be a post about this there yet, and I don’t want to have to keep checking the entire comment section there every day, thanks.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        I think OP is optimistic. All you would need to wipe out the masses entirely is one super-overlord being an incomprehensible monster and for good men to do nothing.

      • Deiseach says:

        The “impenetrable fortress-mansions” may be a bit exaggerated, but the “desirable real estate right here”? Where are the actual billionaires right now living?

        Why does everyone want to live in the Bay Area? If all the innovation is happening on the West Coast, especially around Silicon Valley, you need to live there.

        It need be nothing more sinister than “birds of a feather flock together”. Sure, right now a billionaire could live next door to you, but how likely is that? Even the most philanthropic one?

        I agree with dapijab that the danger of AI is not the AI itself, it’s the people who use it and control it and the ends they wish to attain with it.

  88. Daniel Frank says:

    I feel as if the immigration question would be more revealing/relevant if it was country specific.

    I have lived in Canada, Singapore and Israel, and the immigration question in these countries all mean very different things.

    • ashlael says:

      I agree. A lot of those policy questions do depend somewhat on the country in question, as they ask “more or less X” rather than there being a specific anchor point.

      Eg I think the US immigration system should be more open but the Australian one is just fine.

      • dapijab says:

        But that doesn’t make any sense, seeing how the Australian one is one of the most restrictive policies in the world, whereas the US one is one of the more open ones. So you’re saying the US should be even MORE open that it already is, but meanwhile it’s fine for Australia to be basically completely closed to immigration?

        • Evan Þ says:

          That’d be a consistent position to take – they’re different societies and different economies; they could have different needs.

          • dapijab says:

            Yeah it *could* be, but I feel that, if that actually is what he meant, because that would be kind of counterintuitive he should maybe make that more explicit in his statement; or otherwise, maybe he just mixed them up in his statement. Which is why I was basically asking for clarification.

        • ashlael says:

          Australia does not have a restrictive immigration policy at all. Something like a quarter of residents were born overseas, and almost all of them immigrated legally. We continue to have a very high immigration rate.

          I feel you might be confusing strict enforcement of our (still quite generous!) refugee intake for a stricter overall policy than we actually have, but I don’t want to presume. I would encourage you to explain why you perceive Australia’s immigration policy to be so strict though.

  89. Evan Þ says:

    There were some missing options under the psychiatry questions. I’m pretty sure I have a mild form of Asperger’s, but was never formally diagnosed, so I was able to answer that. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure my sister has OCD, but she was never formally diagnosed – but there was no option on the survey for that.

    (I ended up answering “no one in my family.”)

    • cactus head says:

      Related: would be better if those questions allowed you to tick both the ‘suspect but no formal diagnosis’ and the ‘family member has it’ boxes.

    • Gazeboist says:

      Also: no AD(H)D?

    • Deiseach says:

      Same here for the family members – strong suspicion but no formal diagnosis of certain things (or if there is, I haven’t heard about it), so had to select the “nobody in the family has it”.

      • Randy M says:

        Right, I clicked on yes for family members for one of those questions, but a better response would have been “If I’m remembering right and they heard right, than someone in my family had x.” So, like 85% certainty.

  90. Trofim_Lysenko says:

    I suspect that I am rather poorer and with lower educational attainment than the average for the commentariat, but I did find it sort of striking that your question about occupation lumped so much into “other”. I mean, I suppose you could call someone working at McDonald’s being “in business”, but to me that has the connotation of a (an?) MBA or at least a salaried cube farm job with casual fridays, a desk, a water cooler or coffee machine in the break room, and so forth and so on.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I’d say you’re mistaken, Trofim. Food service usually counts as business, because a McDonald’s worker might make manager, or a waiter might make host then manager, etc., etc.

      • Logan says:

        I can’t think of a single profession where you can’t, given enough promotions, end up working in “business.”

      • Deiseach says:

        Here is a site that breaks down what is considered unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour, and the link to the directory used by Social Security to classify jobs:

        The best way to see how Social Security will classify your job is to search the Dictionary of Occupational Titles for the occupation that best matches your job (both in terms of title and duties). You need to look at the SVP number assigned to the job: SVPs of 1 and 2 mean the job is unskilled, SVPs of 3 and 4 mean the job is semi-skilled, and SVPs of 5 and above mean the job is considered skilled.

        So Trofim, as a supervisor at a casino, comes under (in order of increasing definition of job):

        (a) Amusement and Recreation Service Occupations
        (b) Gambling Hall Attendants
        (c) Supervisor, Cardroom (which, with the SVP of 6 number as above means it is skilled)

        Supervises and coordinates activities of CARDROOM ATTENDANTS (amuse. & rec.) Is engaged in selling gambling chips, collecting house fees, and serving food and beverages to patrons of cardroom: Assigns workers to serve patrons at designated group of card tables. Examines collection reports, submitted for approval by workers, for accuracy and timeliness. Explains and interprets operating rules of house to patrons. Circulates among tables and observes operations to ensure player harmony and adjust service complaints. Notifies BOARD ATTENDANT (amuse. & rec.) of vacancies at tables so that waiting patrons may play.

        Does that sound about right for what you do, Trofim?

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:


          For values of “about right”. Different department, a bit more technological complexity, but a bit less regulatory burden relative to the Floor Supervisors working in the Table Games dept. or the Cage Supervisors working with the Cashiers. But about the same level of pay and responsibility overall.

          I’m guessing that list is only updated very infrequently.

          Either way, thanks for the reference, it’s interesting and potentially useful.

          • Deiseach says:

            Oh, if it’s a typical government list it’s only been updated sometime in the early 80s when those “computer” things were starting to be used in proper businesses and offices, and Miss Jones the Grade III Clerical Officer was learning how to use this “word-processing” thingamajig so they needed to put that in 🙂

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Eh, perhaps. I’m a salaried supervisor at a casino now, but I’d feel I was being a bit of a pompous ass if I described myself as a “Business professional” or “In Business” before I made it at least to a “Manager” slot in the back-of-the-house offices with their own office.

      As a result, I selected “Other”. For the examples of food service, I think that anyone short of the franchise owner/operator and maybe in the case of some restaurants the executive chef and the sous chefs are in a whole different world, and have more in common with their friend doing overnight stocking at Wal-Mart and their other friend doing janitorial work than they do with the restaurant manager, even if he’s only one step up the ladder.

      Some of that may be “Hourly/Salaried” divide, but I don’t think that’s all there is.

    • Emily says:

      Seconded. I confess to having felt a bit nettled, actually! Three separate categories just for computers but literally any blue-collar job is all swept under “other”? I had a moment of “well, I guess simple folk like me just ain’t meant to be reading blogs obviously aimed at them with master’s degrees.”

      • shakeddown says:

        We like having non-computery people around! We don’t get as many (I think something like 75% of the people I met in solstice worked in start-ups), but we want more!

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I understand your perspective, but from a practical point of view – right now, with 1000+ responses, the “computer programming” category has four times the number of responses in the “other” category.

        • nweining says:

          Fwiw I am one of those computer programming people and was also surprised and jarred to see all blue collar work lumped under Other.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Oh, I saw the surveys from previous years, and I understand where the bulk of your readership comes from. I just think you might be losing some useful data here.

          Even having two additional categories like “Blue Collar/Skilled Labor” and “Retail/Cust. Service/Other Hourly Pay Job” or somesuch would help on the next iteration.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Agreed, it would’ve been interesting to see how the other survey questions break down for “retail” vs. “skilled labor” categories (just to bring up one example).

      • Deiseach says:

        Emily, we also serve who only clean the offices, serve in the canteens, fix the plumbing, make sure the wiring is not electrocuting anyone, do the payroll, and insert the hard copies of paperwork into the suspension files in the cabinets in the Filing Room of the buildings where our Computer Overlords work 🙂

        (Some of that is technically pink collar rather than blue collar, I suppose).

      • mister salty says:

        hey, I program computers and I only ever finished high school 🙂

      • webnaut says:


        You’re not alone Emily, I too am a unappreciated proletarian.

        Remember George Orwell Em, the future lies with us proles!

        Working class people who read books and do projects are way more interesting. I have been studying the Tiny House movement as I prepare for my build and I notice that while most of the glossy HGTV styled Tiny Houses are owned by middle class refugees, almost all the major progress in making Tiny Houses evolve in a superior structural direction is nearly entirely down to a handful of working class Tiny Housers. Interesting, that.

  91. dianelritter says:

    I felt like there were some missing options on some of the questions:

    On ‘Relationship Style’ you didn’t include ‘Prefer Single’

    On ‘Work Status’ you didn’t include ‘Retired’ I finally chose ‘Independently Wealthy’ as the closest, but it somehow doesn’t feel like a very close fit.

    On ‘Unsong’ there is no ‘started it and then quit’ choice

    On ‘Gay Marriage’ you didn’t include the option ‘state should not be involved in deciding who is legally married!’

    On ‘Feminism’ you should define what you mean by ‘Feminist’, because there is such a very, very wide range of opinions that could be considered ‘Feminist’ all the way from ‘no discrimination of any kind based on sex!’ to ‘Kill all males!’ to ‘People who perform cliterectamies should be put in jail!’

    On Charity: How about the Methuselah Foundation? Or the Khan Academy? Or how about a more open-ended question along the lines of ‘what is your favorite charity’?

    • cbv says:

      I think “independently wealthy” is right for you. It’s confusing, but in use the “indepedently” refers to style in which you have wealth, not the way you acquired it. The phrase should by “wealthily independent,” I think.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        The phrase should by “wealthily independent,” I think.

        I am provisionally retired but will return to work if the stock market crashes or I get bored. I adore the phrase “wealthily independent” and will adopt it as my status henceforth.

    • Saint Fiasco says:

      On ‘Feminism’ you should define what you mean by ‘Feminist’, because there is such a very, very wide range of opinions that could be considered ‘Feminist’ all the way from ‘no discrimination of any kind based on sex!’ to ‘Kill all males!’ to ‘People who perform cliterectamies should be put in jail!’

      I think the survey results will be more informative if he does not define it. “How do you feel about X” is fundamentally a question about how you define X. How many readers believe that the central example of Feminism is something negative like “‘Kill all males!’” or “No fair trials for presumed rapists”? That’s useful information to have, and it would be spoiled by giving a precise definition of feminism.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        I wonder if a future survey could tease out that difference by keeping that question the same about “opinion on feminism” but then way later down in the survey (so people who read ahead a little won’t cheat it) the survey provides one precise definition of feminism. That question could be randomized to various definitions of “feminism” with a specific call to not go back and change the previous answer.

  92. Ilzolende says:

    Having the “trans when” question be for transgender people only fails to account for detransition/reidentification.

  93. jrdougan says:

    Started, won’t finish. The available answers would mischaracterize my positions.

    • cube says:

      I ran into mischaracterization issues as well, particularly, on questions with options such as “No, I didn’t know it existed,” and “No, I decided not to.”

      I often found myself in the “No, I haven’t decided yet” camp, which I didn’t see a way to express.

      In most cases, I just left those questions blank. (I.e., if the answers didn’t adequately reflect my position, or if I felt I could not answer without being misrepresented, then I skipped it.)

      One problem I ran into with this approach, though, was I sometimes discovered that I didn’t want to select from the given set of answers *only after* having marked one as selected in the browser, and I couldn’t find an obvious way to reset a given question to the no-answer-selected state without risking starting the survey over.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I sometimes discovered that I didn’t want to select from the given set of answer *only after* having selected one in the browser, and I couldn’t find an obvious way to reset a given question to no answer selected without risking starting the survey over.

        Yep, that was a big problem for me too.

        Scott, maybe your next survey could have a radio option for “I don’t want to choose an answer, but I checked something anyway”?

      • markus says:

        My experience as well.

      • ShemTealeaf says:

        I answered such questions with the ‘No, I decided not to” option. I might do them in the future, but I’ve decided not to do them right now.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        “No, I’m too busy to get into Unsong at the moment, but I might like it at some point.”

        • hls2003 says:

          Yeah, I had that thought too. Checked “don’t want to” because I’m aware of it and have considered reading and decided not to for various reasons – it is a voluntary thing – but it doesn’t mean I have no interest.

  94. suntzuanime says:

    “How would you describe your opinion of the the idea of ‘human biodiversity’, eg the belief that races differ genetically in socially relevant ways?”

    There doesn’t seem to be an option for an option for “I’m against it, but Azathoth didn’t ask my opinion on the matter”.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Also, the word ‘races’ could be changed for ‘subpgroups’ to be closer to what HBD actually means.

    • LCL says:

      Also kind of stumped there.

      Parsed directly, it’s trivially true. The point of “races” as a concept is to pick out clusters of genetic difference. And obviously genetics are socially relevant, because anything that affects human characteristics is socially relevant. So, highest score.

      But asking my “opinion of an idea” seems to implicate something beyond direct parsing for truth value. Like the history of how people have used the idea. Lowest score.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I took “socially relevant” to be a moral or ethical statement to which you agree or disagree, and answered appropriately.

      • LCL says:

        On reflection my reaction is more like “sure that’s true but I’m suspicious about why you’re bringing it up.” So, the kind of thing that Scott wrote about here.

        I’m still not sure how to score that on a five-point scale. I can’t remember what I selected and it should just be counted as noise.

    • Murphy says:

      I wasn’t quite sure how to treat that one.

      There isn’t an option for : “I could care less about the answer but it deeply bothers me that it’s a position that could have a truth value of ‘true’ but which I’m required to say ‘false’ no matter what data may or may not pass in front of my eyes if I want a career”

      Fossegrimen also makes a good point too. “Race” (socially defined) is a very different beast from “race”(population genetics). A Solomon Islander might look a lot like someone native to madagascar but from the population genetics view the difference may be much much larger than between a snow white South African and a jet black South African.

      Or perhaps more simply, whenever I hear those horrible little feel-good quotes or slogans like this:

      I find myself thinking “actually when we’ve sequenced a bunch of blood samples one of the basic QC steps is to run PCA against control exomes from various populations and if some of the samples end up in a group that doesn’t match their description… double check for sample mix ups or sample contamination. just like we’ll check whether a sample contains a Y chromosome matching the sex description. So there kind of is a test which works pretty well.”

      ( the PCA results look something like this: )

      I don’t believe there’s currently much good evidence that many populations “differ genetically in socially relevant ways” but I feel a visceral hostility to the fact that anyone who wants a career in science cannot address that question honestly with the mere possibility of ever getting “actually yes” as an answer.

      • Aapje says:

        I don’t believe there’s currently much good evidence that many populations “differ genetically in socially relevant ways”

        Different genetic populations have different risks to get diseases and can react a bit different to medicine on average, which is relevant to doctors and researchers.

        • Murphy says:

          Absolutely, again, I’m interpreting “socially relevant” to mean major things which should reasonably affect your judgement noticeably in normal social interaction rather than things like population X being a bit more likely to get cancer or suffer lactose intolerance.

          • Aapje says:

            I admit that I found ‘socially relevant’ to be a rather baffling term. I’m still not sure what it was supposed to mean.

          • If the average IQ of one group is ten points higher than another for genetic reasons, is that socially relevant? I would have said yes, even though it is smaller than the intragroup variation.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            If the average IQ of one group is ten points higher than another for genetic reasons, is that socially relevant?

            I suspect this is what Scott was getting at.

          • Murphy says:


            Pretty marginal, it’s roughly on a par with one group being on average 2 inches (2/3rds of a SD) taller than another. You’d expect a few more basketball players but for most it isn’t that big a difference.

          • Aapje says:

            What about self-reinforcing effects? For gender, it seems pretty likely that biological differences became exaggerated due to feedback loops. For example: men have more muscle strength -> male gender is perceived as physically more capable and are expected to do the heavy work -> men react by training more to perform their gender role better -> men have more biological and more nurtured muscle strength.

            Theoretically, similar things can happen to ethnic groups, for example: Jews have a bit higher biological IQ -> Jews are perceived as smart and Jewish grandmothers want their grandchildren to date college educated people/doctors -> Jews work very hard in school -> Jews have a higher IQ due to both biology and nurture.

            In theory, a relatively small biological effect can trigger a huge nurture effect (especially if different groups get into opposite feedback loops).

          • eh says:

            I’m not sure how useful the comparison to height is, since we all know what an inch is and know how height is distributed. Intelligence, on the other hand, could skew left or right, and we wouldn’t be able to see that because IQ doesn’t show it.

            For example, compare height with income distribution.

          • it’s roughly on a par with one group being on average 2 inches (2/3rds of a SD) taller than another.

            Judging by a little googling, 2 inches of extra height imply something close to two thousand dollars a year of extra income. Not enormous but significant.

  95. Mark V Anderson says:

    Overall, I liked the survey, at least the more demographic questions and questions about comments and ideological view. I look forward to the latest self-identified ideological spread of SSC frequent commenters. I am also very interested in the countries and states people are from.

  96. K says:

    You haven’t got a past diagnosis option for psych conditions – e.g. if somebody has had depression or an eating disorder in the past and doesn’t currently, and nobody in their family has had it, they’ll presumably choose the last option. I wasn’t sure what you meant by “within two generations” – does that include cousins and aunts/uncles, or only siblings, parents, and grandparents? I assumed the former but I would have thought that having a parent with schizophrenia is meaningfully different to having a cousin with it.

    Some questions seem like they should allow multiple answers – e.g. my mum’s family were Catholic and my dad’s were Protestant. The jobs question doesn’t allow for people who work across sectors, e.g. government and non-profit. It wasn’t clear to me as a research academic what I was supposed to pick.

    You didn’t specify what country you were referring to in the minimum wage question. I said the minimum wage should be higher because I think that’s true for the US and the UK where most of the minimum wage debate is currently happening, but I don’t think it’s true in Australia, where I actually live (and where the minimum wage is already $17 an hour, hence the absence of a debate).

    • shakeddown says:

      Australia brought the minimum wage all the way up to 17$/h without massive protests or economic fallout? This feels like important information. I’m pro-minimum wage increase and even I was a bit surprised.

      • Nornagest says:

        That’s probably AUD, so something in the neighborhood of 13 USD.

        • K says:

          It is AUD, yeah. I think our average cost of living is higher than yours, as well, so it doesn’t go as far as the same amount of money would in a lot of the US.

          We’re currently in the middle of a scandal regarding some industries and specific employers failing to pay it, though. 7/11 have been found to be forcing employees to pay back half their wages in cash such that they’re on <$10 an hour, and a lot of migrants working in farming out in whoop whoop are getting paid complete bullshit for work that should be attracting penalty pay (e.g. 12 hour days on weekends, etc). But in general, Australia has much stronger unions and a better history of labour rights compared to the US. We got the first eight hour day, all contracted employees are entitled to four weeks annual leave a year, paid maternity leave, etc etc. It's being eroded by increasing casualisation, but yeah.

      • ashlael says:

        Some key additional information regarding Australia’s minimum wage system:

        1. Australian wages are pretty high in general. Few people are on the minimum wage, so it doesn’t much matter whether they are a long way or a small way above it.

        2. The min wage only applies at full value to mature workers. Young people are subject to a different, significantly lower rate.

        3. The Australian unemployment rate is currently 5.8%.

        Not trying to convince anyone of anything, just providing relevant detail.

      • Bond says:

        Because of their mining exports, the Australian dollar fluctuates a lot with commodity prices. Their currency nearly doubled in value against USD from 2009-2011. So a lot of those wage gains (and housing price increases) were made back when the AUD was weak, but the larger figures stuck around when their currency rebounded. Quite a trick to pull off.

      • Every set of minimum wage laws has exemptions, Australia’s has more than most. IIRC 60% of the workers in the US earning between the US and Australian minimum wages wouldn’t be subject to the Australian minimum wage in Australia.

    • tcheasdfjkl says:

      For the “past religions in your family” question, there was a “Mixed/Other” option, which seems to fit the situation where different branches of the family are or were of different religions (at least, that’s how I interpreted it).

      • I interpreted the past religions in your family question as asking me to go back as far as necessary to find direct ancestors who identified with a religion, which in my case meant my Jewish grandparents. I did not interpret it as covering my wife (Christian) or children (one Christian).

        • tcheasdfjkl says:

          Ah, I also interpreted it as referring to ancestors only, but not necessarily only as far as necessary to find one religious branch – I put “Mixed/Other” because my mom’s paternal grandparents, while my paternal grandma is Christian.

        • Fossegrimen says:

          And how far back should you go?

          I think there may be some christians in my ancestry, but the oldest relative I have talked to was an outspoken atheist born 1886. His parents were non-believers too.

          If you go back before 1814 people were put in jail for not attending church, so they probably did show up, but whether they believed I cannot say.

          I assumed the question was along the lines of “What’s the default religion in your family” and went with other/atheist.

          • Tibor says:

            I assumed background meant your parents only, so I left it blank (I think) as my father is atheist and my mother is kind of a “spiritual agnostic” or something. Otherwise I’d have to say something like Catholic/Jewish which was not even an option (well, ok, other would fit of course).

          • JulieK says:

            I assumed it meant your childhood.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I assumed it meant your childhood.

            Yes, me too. My assumption was that Scott was trying to get a feel for those people that left the religion of their parents, which I presume is a relatively high portion of this group. Or maybe I am making assumptions based on my own background, because I did.

          • Tibor says:

            Yeah, that is essentially what I meant by “parents only”. Though of course, upbringing is done not only by parents, so you described it better.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hm – I stuck with my direct family for that one; I didn’t really consider, for example, a cousin who became a Jehovah’s Witness. Mainly because the background anyhow for everyone is going to be more or less Irish Catholic, even if recent generations have more options.

  97. 57dimensions says:

    Two notes:
    1. I kind of still consider myself a student even though I’m taking a gap year, but I put myself down as working instead. That also means my “annual” salary is very low, I’ve only worked full time for a few months and will not work full time for a whole year.
    2. I did take 2 different SSRIs during a 6 month period, but I have taken an SNRI for nearly 5 years straight now. I answered the question just about my usage of SSRIs, but SNRIs are still fairly similar, so I feel like answering “I have used SSRIs for 5 years” might actually be closer to the ‘truth’ than “I have used SSRIs for a few months to a year.”

  98. nomghost says:

    Very surprised not to see an option for ‘Media’ in the list of occupations.
    I couldn’t make the dancer switch at first but after reading the wikipedia article through and practising for about a minute.

    • Ransom says:

      And there was Physics and Biology but not Chemistry!

      • doubleunplussed says:

        Pick one, you fence sitter!

      • Randy M says:

        More amusingly, there was one for neuroscience. I know the blog has a specialized option, but how big is that category likely to be, versus, say, education?

        (Not to slight any of the neuroscientists reading!)

        • Placid Platypus says:

          And there weren’t any blue collar options at all. I wonder how the “other”s break down. It would be interesting to have a text entry box for it.

      • Peffern says:

        Yeah, what gives?

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        There were all manner of academic subjects but not history! I can’t believe I, a history teacher, had to go with “other.”

      • Marie says:

        I went with “Art,” because I figured musicians could sort of fit under that category. I would at least have appreciated the opportunity to pick between visual and musical arts, especially since computer people get three separate options! 🙂 I’m also embarrassed that I failed to notice the complete lack of blue collar jobs, until Placid Platypus pointed it out.

    • Murphy says:

      Still missing academic (non teaching), and for that matter there’s like 5 of the options I could reasonably tick so perhaps checkboxes rather than a radio form?

  99. Ninmesara says:

    Do you find an ideological bias among SSC commenters?

    This question is ambiguous. Does it mean

    1. Do people on average have a bias toward Left or Right? or
    2. Some people have a bias toward Left or Right?

    I went with 1. based on the options (if 2. was the correct interpretation there would be no way of having people with a Left bias and people with a Right bias, which doesn’t make that much sense).

    • drethelin says:

      I went with 3 but I tend to think there’s too much blatant ideology on both sides

      • Ninmesara says:

        Yes, there is ideology, but is there bias? Are people discounting contrary evidence or are they analyzing the data and/or their life experience in good faith and reaching different conclusions?

        I have no idea, except for some really blatant cases.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Yes, there is ideology, but is there bias?

          This is a good articulation of the lack of clarity I felt but couldn’t pin down. Did Scott mean “the community average is left or right of the gen pop” or “thoughtless, ill-conceived bloviation occurs more on the left or the right”?

          My reading of it was the former, thought the word “bias” made me hesitate. Scott’s warning that the survey was long kept me from thinking hard enough to notice what bothered me.

          • Randy M says:

            It seemed fairly obvious to me that the question was an attempt to get at the frequent complaint/observation of a right-wing slant in the demographics of frequent commenters.

          • Aapje says:

            Just like the feminist question, it seems to be a Rorschach test.

  100. cabalamat says:

    The “Moral Views” section should include a description of what these terms mean.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Yes another somewhat esoteric question. I knew my answer for that one, but I can see for many they haven’t paid much attention to such things.

    • paranoidfunk says:

      Agreed – I had to google. Might look clunky though.

    • Murphy says:

      How I identify varies strongly based on the problem domain.

      The only one I can feel comfortable throwing in the bin entirely is “natural law” since it’s the only one which has looked more incoherent the closer I looked at it.

  101. shakeddown says:

    Also, I used to be able to switch perceptions on the dancer and mask and couldn’t now. Not sure if it’s because I’m tired or because I’m older. Anyone else had this experience?

    • Nornagest says:

      I can do it on the mask but can’t on the dancer. I don’t know why.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I couldn’t do it for either. It looked clear to me that the dancer was rotating clockwise, and I couldn’t conceive how it could be other wise. But I do have poor spatial intelligence, so maybe that’s why.

        Is Scott using some of his psych superpowers to make judgments about us based on these questions?

        • Anatoly says:


        • Gazeboist says:

          I couldn’t without the helper images, but using the helper images allowed me to flip back and forth after ~30 seconds of viewing.

          • Alex C says:

            The dancer helper images let me switch the main dancer image back and forth with just a few seconds’ looking, but I just could not switch the dancer without using the helper images, even trying to mentally impose the same structure the helpers provide.

        • Aapje says:

          Is Scott using some of his psych superpowers to make judgments about us based on these questions?

          The culling will commence in 14 days.

        • I have excellent spatial intelligence and I couldn’t do it either. I could construct a clockwise dancer in my head with the same silhouette with my eyes closed but when I opened them it wasn’t perfectly synced with the image and then my perception of it being counterclockwise took over immediately.

        • Alejandro says:

          I used to be able to switch the dancer easily, but this time I “locked into” clockwise and it took me several minutes to be able to switch to counterclockwise. I was never able to see the mask as the inner side.

        • hls2003 says:

          I could see both aspects of the mask with considerable effort, but none of the suggested interventions allowed me to see the dancer as anything other than clockwise.

        • vakusdrake says:

          It’s weird I switched between the two (though with a strong preference towards clockwise) yet I couldn’t choose to switch on purpose, it just happened after a few minutes of staring at it with my eyes unfocused.
          Weirdly whichever way I saw it spinning I couldn’t conceive of how it could possibly be seen as spinning the opposite way, despite having seen it that way just seconds prior.

        • kronopath says:

          I did have the sneaking feeling that he was trying to see whether I could be diagnosed with autism throughout the survey. Not necessarily in these questions but definitely in questions like “do you think in pictures” or “how bothered are you by tags in your clothes”.

          • sconn says:

            Yes – or, at least, autism cluster symptoms. I’m not autistic, but I have sensory processing issues, an autistic brother, and an autistic kid. So it’s fair to say I probably have a gene for it. Which Scott apparently wants to know.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I can do it on the dancer but not the mask, mostly. Just a hint of it for a split second. I’ve tried before and I can do it on the mask if it’s upside down. And I _know_ the mask is facing the opposite of the way my visual system insists it is facing.

      • Tekhno says:

        I could do it on the dancer but not the mask. I don’t know why.

    • I can easily switch for the dancer. I was very surprised that I couldn’t do it for the mask. But then, I’m fairly tired right now.

      • dwietzsche says:

        Yeah, I thought about trying to get einstein to flip, but made a time calculation and decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          After spending a few minutes failing to get the dancer to flip, I figured there was no way I’d get the mask.

          And I’ve flipped the dancer at other points in the past.

      • cactus head says:

        I can only switch the dancer at the moment that her legs cross over.

    • flockoflambs says:

      The leg moving right to left goes lower than the leg moving L2R, making an oval.

      So if you imagine you are above the dancer, she appears to be moving clockwise. If you can imagine you are below the dancer, you can see it as counter clockwise.

      But it’s really outside our experience to be viewing dancers from below, so it’s pretty hard (for me at least) to read it as ccw.

      • Enkidum says:

        Don’t we pretty much exclusively see dancers (at least professional dancers, like this one is meant to represent) from below?

        I have seen this image many times for i think well over a decade now, and I’ve very occasionally been able to switch, but never deliberately, and I almost always see it as CCW.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      I can switch the dancer by focusing my gaze just above the top of the image and then slowly looking down to make her rotate clockwise or doing the same just below to make her rotate counter-clockwise. Focusing in on the nearly-stationary foot works as well sometimes, when I reduce it in my mind to an amorphous blob and then visualize it rotating in the other direction.
      I see the mask facing me and can’t get it to flip. Probably because I see the outside of people’s faces more often then I see the inside of their faces? Despite my brain’s insistence that it’s protruding and lit from the upper left, I suspect it’s equally likely to be hollow and lit from the bottom-right. Even when I adjust the lighting in my room to try to fool myself, I can’t get more than a small portion of the dark area to “flip”.
      My god, it’s The Dress all over again.

      • sflicht says:

        Ooh good tip. Focusing on the nearly-stationary foot was the only way I managed to see the CCW rotation.

    • Seth says:

      I can easily switch the dancer by looking at the reflection of her foot. Switching the mask is a heck of a lot harder. I see it as convex by default, and can force myself to see it as mostly concave, but it takes effort and I can’t hold it for long. There doesn’t seem to be a trick to doing it effortlessly, like there is with the dancer.

    • Null Hypothesis says:

      The dancer was always easy for me to switch.

      But the mask… I looked at the mask, and it wasn’t immediately obviously easy to switch. It just naturally looked like it was extruded towards me.

      And so instead of trying too hard to see something I thought was wrong, I just started looking at the mask.

      The light source in the picture is clearly coming from the top left. The bottom right of the nose and chin, as well as the sections of skull in-between the hair on the right side, are all in shadow.

      It seems like the mask really is extruded towards you (mask is looking at you, not ready to be put on), because the shadows don’t make sense otherwise. If it was concave, the light coming from the top left would shine most brightly on the lower right sections, not leave them in shadow.

      I’d love to hear if that mask is a specially made CGI mask that truly is equi-probably an in-ee or an out-ee. To me it just looks like a straight-on picture of a real (or animated) 3D mask with an explicit direction, that was taken flat, but had asymmetric lighting that gives away the 3rd dimension.

      I could probably force my mind to see it the other way, but it defaults to looking towards, and I think the shadows are the reason. I think it really is one and not the other.

      Oh, also, a tip on the dancer for people struggling. Try closing your eyes for 2 seconds while imagining the dancer spinning the other direction, then open them and look. It’s hard to switch it on-demand while looking at it, because your brain isn’t just seeing the chain of static images – it’s predicting the motion of where the dancer will be, and you can’t let it do that. If you break that chain, and pre-configure your brain with the dancer spinning the other way, you’re more likely to switch.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The mask is real but the photo is a deliberate trick; the light source is coming from the lower right and it is concave.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I couldn’t do the mask, but could do with the dancer … though not easily. I had resort to a trick: cover a (large) part of the dancer with your hand, so that the part you can see resembles more of an abstract moving shapes than a rotating dancer. Then I could swap the rotation direction about at will, and the rotation direction would stay same if then revealed the dancer in full.

      I could see how the mask could be ambiguous, but nevertheless, it always was towards me.

    • Murphy says:

      The mask I can’t switch at all, the dancer I can switch if I squint and slowly open by eyes trying to trace the movement of the leg but once my eyes are open I can’t switch while looking at it.

    • Subb4k says:

      I saw the dancer as spinning counterclockwise.

      Then I realized the question asked t read the article, so I skimmed it (because although I didn’t remember everything, I wasn’t so interested in it), and the other animations made me see the dancer as spinning clockwise.

      Now without priming (i.e. looking at the one with leg outlines first) I can’t see the dancer spinning counterclockwise anymore, even when focusing on the shadow.

      I have never been able to see the mask as hollow. Or the dress as blue and black for that matter, even though it wasn’t in the survey.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      I can kind of switch on the dancer, but it’s random. I can do the perceptual switch at will on a Necker cube, though. And if you really want your head to hurt, look at a Necker cube and tyr to ignore that it’s a cube and just see the lines.

      • The Nybbler says:

        And if you really want your head to hurt, look at a Necker cube and tyr to ignore that it’s a cube and just see the lines.

        I can do that but it does indeed make my head hurt.

    • Peffern says:

      I had this also. I think it has to do with being prompted to do it on demand.

    • carvenvisage says:

      I had a much easier time with the dancer than before. I’m pretty sure I’m not smarter or more open minded than I was the last times. Probably the opposite in both cases.

      I tried the mask once or twice without getting it, then I noticed that the nose was casting a shadow, which it wouldn’t if the mask was sunk into rather than rising out of the paper, so I moved on. For the time being I think the mask is a real mask with a right way to see it.

  102. Anon. says:

    I have a dream…that one day non-cognitivists will get their own option and will no longer suffer the indignity of being lumped into “Other”.

    • james317 says:

      As a non-cognitivist myself (I think?), I disagree. Non-cognitivism is meta-ethical, not ethical. Surely you have a personal morality of some sort even if you don’t think ethical statements have a truth value?

      • Anon. says:

        That would be silly.

      • hyperboloid says:

        He may mean theological non-cognitivism, the logical positivist position that claims about god have no truth value.

      • Urstoff says:

        That’s how I took the question. I think Mackie’s Error Theory (and thus Moral Anti-Realism, although not non-cognitivism) is correct, but tend to think consequentialism is the best way to act, with some exceptions forced by strong moral intuitions that I can’t help but heed (e.g., don’t torture the homeless man no matter how much pleasure you get out of it, people should be able to dispense of their property however they want, etc.).

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Didn’t there used to be an option for that? On the LW survey I guess probably, rather than SSC.

  103. shakeddown says:

    Some questions that might help in stabilizing results:
    “Your country” – Do you mean country of origin, greatest cultural identification, or current residence? (I went with origin)
    City – any preference for explicit name or initials? (e.g. “NYC”, “New York”, “New York City”)
    Race – are (Israeli/Mizrahi) Jews middle eastern or white? (I went with middle eastern).
    Job – do grad students count as student or academic? (I went with academic, since I’m past taking courses).
    IQ – If we have no formal test, should we fill in by GRE (by here for example? I left the field blank) alternatively, a GRE score section for people without SAT scores?

    • Winter Shaker says:

      For those that didn’t do a formal intelligence test, or it was so long ago that they can’t remember if they even got the results or if their school didn’t release them, maybe someone could brew up an SSC intelligence test 🙂

      • Deiseach says:

        I had to leave all those blank, since I’ve never taken an IQ test and we don’t have SAT over here (I probably could calculate my Leaving Cert points but that’s a whole different thing, and they didn’t even score by points when I was doing it).

        The politics one really hurt – I would have picked “conservative”, only Scott had to go mention the Tories. I will die in a fire before I identify with the Tories or our local wannabes version, the Blueshirts, to refer to them by their post-Civil War nickname (the other Tory Party wannabes, the Progressive Democrats, eventually imploded and no longer exist). So I had to go “other” for that one but I didn’t give a party affiliation since there was probably enough identifying information already that I might just as well have written down my home address and be done with it.

        For the relationships question, I would have liked a box beside “Other” to explain, or options such as “Don’t have one, don’t want one”. Maybe just an “Oscar the Grouch” option?

        For the alcoholism and related questions, I would like there to have been an option about “no formal diagnosis in the family but I have my suspicions” or something along those lines because, while I don’t have official confirmation about certain things in the family, I have an idea stuff is going on.

        I really hope my results don’t skew this survey beyond any use! 🙂

        • moridinamael says:

          For the alcoholism and related questions, I would like there to have been an option about “no formal diagnosis in the family but I have my suspicions” or something along those lines because, while I don’t have official confirmation about certain things in the family, I have an idea stuff is going on.

          Agree with this.

        • Cadie says:

          The mental disorder questions, especially those that aren’t usually lifelong conditions, should have had a “had this diagnosis in the past, not currently” option. There’s a difference between never having a condition and having recovered from it.

      • sov says:

        Off topic, but:
        Are you a Wovenhand fan?

    • akarlin says:

      I agree.

      As a foreigner who spent a decade in another country, another decade in the US, and is now back in his original country, answering such surveys is… fun. And possibly raises the danger of the survey maker tossing the results out as that of a troll.

    • J_in_SEA says:

      Your Country – If there were a follow-up survey asking all three of those, it might be interesting to see which of the three people chose to interpret the question as.

      City – As someone who’s spent a day or two cleaning up messy geographic data, I feel qualified to answer: please do not abbreviate city names.

      Job – I’m also a grad student past taking classes, but I went with “student” on this. Mainly because I associate classwise with students more than professors — I have way less money, job security, and location security than a professor. On the other hand, I have more in common on all those fronts with the median “person in front of a group of undergrads who teaches them and grades their tests” since at least in my department that median person is a grad student.

      IQ – It seemed pretty explicit to only do IQ tests… sticking to that will at least keep it clear who the respondents are so the results can be interpreted as “conditional on being in the small weird group of people who have taken formal IQ tests.” Also, that site doesn’t seem to account for the new GRE scoring scale (max 170 on any section).

    • hls2003 says:

      I have not taken a formal IQ test (at least not in adult life – and my parents never shared the results of any childhood IQ tests if there were any). So I just left the IQ section blank while inputting the applicable test score. Presumably if Scott wants to consult a proxy chart, he can; but it’ll only mess up his methodology if I pick a different conversion chart than he does.

    • kronopath says:

      I’m going to join the dogpile of people complaining about the “Country” question here. Just asking for “Country” without specifying “country of current residence” vs. “country of legal nationality” vs. “country of origin” vs. “country of cultural identification” means you’re going to get a bizarre skewed mishmash of people answering all of those.

      +1 for allowing us to submit GRE scores. It would let you get some measure of intelligence data for people who haven’t taken the SAT or actual IQ tests.

      And dear god, do I hate surveys that ask you about “race” and then proceed to give the US-centric divisions established by racial “scientists” from the 1950s. Not to mention that this survey confuses race and ethnicity by defining “hispanic” as a race. Should a black person of South American descent put themselves as “black” or “hispanic”? How about a black Brazilian? No one seems to agree on whether Brazilians count as “hispanic” or not.
      (Sorry to get on a rant. American racial science is a mess and surveys like this exemplify it.)

      And since I’m busy complaining and nitpicking:
      – It’s probably a good idea to add “Not sure/don’t remember” to the survey question about referrals. You can implicitly say that by not answering the question but I feel it would be better to have it explicit.
      – For “Favourite post” or “Favourite blog”, it’s probably a good idea to specify whether you want the name or the URL.
      – Typo in the “imagination” question: …does it feel more like metaphorically understanding a tree without explici visual stimuli?

      • Deiseach says:

        Should a black person of South American descent put themselves as “black” or “hispanic”? How about a black Brazilian?

        End Lusitanian discrimination! We are all Peninsular! Andorran inclusion now! French and Gibraltarian Iberians are valid too! 🙂

        North American racial categories are endless fun and diversion. When I were a lad lass, I could never figure out why on American cop shows they described white suspects as “Caucasian” but didn’t use corresponding “Negroid” or “Mongoloid” classifications. And then I got older and discovered a bit more about the world and why this would be a no-no.

  104. dndnrsn says:

    I answered “3” for a few things where I don’t know enough to really make an educated statement, such as AI risk – I can’t say I think it’s not a threat, but I don’t know about it to say whether it is or isn’t. Likewise, I put a 3 down for the global warming question – I think global warming is real, but I do not think that anything (other than trying to mitigate local effects) can be done about it without everyone in the world committing to do something, and I do not think that will happen.

    • Jack Lecter says:

      Same here- 3 was pretty much my default answer.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes, 3 was my default in many cases. But I put 1 for AI risk and bio risk, simply because I don’t think about them. Some of the more esoteric questions of the survey may not be the best data because of different interpretations of how to answer them.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I think everyone does that and it’s probably factored in when analyzing.

      For global warming, I answered 3 because yes, it’s a problem, yes we need to do something, but we’re already doing it and if it weren’t for Jane Fonda we’d already have it solved.

      What’s being done in order of importance:
      -China is going nuclear at breakneck pace
      -Europe is going nuclear/solar/hydro/wind
      -US is going natural gas because it’s cheaper than coal
      -Africa is skipping fossil entirely and going directly solar because of infrastructure cost
      -Sequestering programs through managed forests are proceeding nicely (NZ being furthest along)

      It’s not that we won’t see temperatures rise, but it’s quite tricky to see how we could transition significantly faster as coal needs to be phased out as opposed to just shut off, killing thousands for sudden lack of power.

      • Also, the cost of renewables has been dropping very quickly. I’d support some sort of carbon tax just because you’ve got to tax *something* and you’re always going to get distortions so you might as well make the distortions work for you. I guess what I’d really like to see is more investment in the grid itself to make transporting power from sunny areas more practical.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Investing in the grid is a good idea even without solar. It’d be nice to know that one irate squirrel could no longer disrupt power to a major city…

    • Aapje says:

      Interestingly, I considered these all significant threats, based on these reasons:

      V yvir va n pbhagel jurer zhpu bs gur ynaq znff vf orybj frn yriry.

      V’z nsenvq gung nqinaprq NV jvyy nyybj sbe ebobgvmrq nezvrf, fb n fznyy tebhc bs crbcyr pna rafynir znal.

      Jr nyernql frrz gb or pncnoyr bs ratvarrevat ovbybtvpny jrncbaf hfvat Pevfce. Vg znl or n znggre bs gvzr orsber n uvtuyl vagryyvtrag greebevfg fgneg hfvat gung gb znxr jrncbaf.

      (rot13 to reduce the risk of influencing the survey)

      • Bugmaster says:

        Gur rssvpnpl bs PEVFCE vf frireryl bireengrq. Vg qbrfa’g nyjnlf jbex, naq vg’f uneq gb gnetrg vg cerpvfryl. Jung’f jbefr, rira vs lbh unq fbzr jnl bs cresrpgyl rqvgvat QAN rirel gvzr jvgu znpuvar-yvxr cerpvfvba, ab bar xabjf rabhtu nobhg gur uhzna trabzr (be nal bgure trabzr sbe gung znggre) gb perngr nalguvat gung vf erzbgryl fvzvyne gb n gnetrgrq ovbjrncba. Bs pbhefr, vaqvfpevzvangr ovbjrncbaf fhpu nf naguenk ner zhpu rnfvre gb znxr, naq qba’g erdhver PEVFCE ng nyy…

        • anonymousskimmer says:


          V nafjrerq ovbybtl nf svryq bs jbex.

          Rknpgyl. Naq ratvarrevat gur yvxr bs ivehfrf vf nyernql nf rnfl nf cbffvoyr gunaxf gb QAN flagurfvf zrgubqf. Lbh fgvyy unir gb unir gur fpvrapr gung gryyf lbh ubj gb ratvarre vg sbe ivehyrapr.

          Gur cbgragvnyyl fpnel guvat nobhg QAN flagurfvf vf gung juvyr qfQAN flagurfvf cebivqref (va gur HF, ng yrnfg) ner erdhverq gb qb fbzr fperravat sbe fryrpg ntragf, byvtb cebivqref ner abg (vg’f abg pbfg rssrpgvir). Naq vs fbzrbar jnagf gb or irel haqre gur gnoyr, nalbar pna chepunfr byvtb flagurfvf znpuvarf naq erntragf, naq qfQAN-sebz-byvtb nffrzoyl erntragf, naq abg unir gb tb guebhtu nal fperravat.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’m more worried about bioweapons than unfriendly AI of the “Skynet is eating us all oh no here’s SHODAN too”. Bioweapons already exist, for one thing.

        As for your country belowing under sea level, your country is also one that’s planned for this, hasn’t it? That’s the right way of doing things. I live in a country that doesn’t face the same threats, but neither of our countries has the ability to do anything to stop the sea levels from rising. Nor would the US alone. Nor China alone. Nobody is going to unilaterally reduce emissions because they would immediately lose a great deal of economic and military competitiveness against other countries. Given that we’re screwed anyway, why unilaterally tank your economy just for the sake of doing the right thing?

        • Aapje says:


          Gur NV qbrfa’g unir gb nhgbabzbhfyl qrpvqr gb xvyy uhznaf, V’z zber jbeevrq nobhg vg orvat noyr gb nhgbabzbhfyl vzcyrzrag n cbyvpl.

          Jr qb cyna sbe sybbq evfxf, ohg ng gur ynfg purpx, 1/3eq bs gur qlxrf jrer vafhssvpvrag (nygubhtu bhe abezf ner snveyl fgevpg). Svkvat gurz jbhyq pbfg nobhg 4-7 ovyyvba rheb naq pyvzngr punatr zvtug nqq nabgure 6-12 zvyyvba. Jvgu n tenlvat cbchyngvba, V’z jbeevrq gung fhpu ybat grez fcraqvat orpbzrf yrff cbchyne.

          Abgr gung jr npghnyyl unir frcnengr ryrpgvbaf sbe gur jngre pbageby obneqf, juvpu znantr ybpny jngre znantrzrag, orpnhfr vg vf pbafvqrerq fb vzcbegnag, uvfgbevpnyyl (gurfr pbhapvyf tb onpx gb gur 13gu praghel).

          CF. Qhevat gur ynfg tybony fhzzvg va Gur Argureynaqf, Bonzn jrag gb ivfvg n zhfrhz, juvyr gur Vaqbarfvnaf ivfvgrq gur jngrejbexf. N qvssrerapr va cevbevgvrf gung V pbafvqrerq irel vagrerfgvat.

        • US says:

          Don’t see any need to ROT 13, Scott explicitly told people not to read the comments before taking the survey.

          Anyway, as for bioweapons I read the Springer text Bioterrorism and Infectious agents a while back and consider it a decent introductory text to this topic, even if it’s probably a bit dated (it’s from 2005). I blogged the book here. I’m not really sure whether it made me more or less worried, but it made me understand some key tradeoffs and ‘how these things work’ much better. For most people reading a book like that it will probably replace some ‘anxiety’ (by which I here mean something like ‘worries without specificity’ – ‘I can imagine a lot of things going bad, but I don’t know much about which things specifically are worth worrying about, because I don’t know much about this topic’) with fear (worries about ‘specific things you know about’ – sort of like: ‘disease X is highly lethal but does not easily transfer from person to person, whereas disease Y is less lethal but transfers more easily and so may be expected to cause higher casualties, and disease Z may be somewhere in the middle but also is hard to diagnose, which may lead to a worse prognosis’-kind of thing). A relevant quote from my blog post:

          “[A]nthrax is not the only one of these agents which ‘for practical purposes’ do not transmit from person-to-person (e.g., “Only two well-documented instances of person-to-person spread are recorded in the [melioidosis] literature”), and […] some of those that do actually require quite a bit of exposure to transfer successfully – the ‘everybody who stands next to someone with the Incurable Cough of Death disease and get coughed at will die horribly within 24 hours and we have no cure’-situation will never happen because such diseases don’t exist. On a related note, the faster a disease kills/incapacitates you, the less time the infected individual has to actively transfer it to other people; so even severe and fast-acting diseases will often be self-limiting to some extent. On a related note, “With the exception of smallpox, pneumonic plague, and, to a lesser degree, certain viral hemorrhagic fevers, the agents in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) categories A and B […] are not contagious via the respiratory route.””

          I.e. at least at the moment there are few ‘ideal’ agents available, and they are well known. Also, many potential scenarios involving bioweapon applications involving the agents described in that text would actually be a lot more insidious and protracted than people usually imagine when they think about this stuff; you wouldn’t suddenly have people start dropping like flies, you’d often instead have some people randomly showing up in various hospitals/GP’s offices in a trickling fashion with diseases which are serious but perhaps hard to diagnose, and it would take time and effort to establish a pattern of what was going on; this was actually one of the motivations the authors had for writing the book, to make it easier for health care personnel to realize when something unusual might be going on.

          Interestingly, when you think about these things some curious dynamics may pop up when you consider the game theory aspects of bioweapon application. The book doesn’t talk about this (as far as I can remember, but it’s been a few years and I may be wrong..), but it’s worth mentioning. Let’s for example say you use an agent with a long incubation period and the area you expose is an airport, leading to wide victim dispersal. People may then fall sick many different places later on, a pattern will be very difficult to establish. This would lead to a close to ideal casualty profile, given the agent, but with a terrible propaganda impact; even the terrorists wouldn’t know how many people they killed/infected, and some of the victims might never know that they’d been exposed and so would not be tallied. Another example: Say a disgruntled Palestinian were to spread Bad Disease X in Israel. Israel has a good health care system, so victims are likely to survive. Palestinians do not have a good health care system, and the disease spreads from person to person and does not respect borders… (On second thought I seem to recall now that they do talk a little bit about this sort of stuff in the book, but not in much detail).

          Oh, another thought: The text Water Supply in Emergency Situations also covers some related topics (brief coverage of those aspects of the text here), though not in much detail. One thing I learned from the book is that many developed countries have given some thought to the vulnerability of the water supply system and have taken various steps to make it harder for people to compromise it, which wasn’t something I’d given much thought before, but it also goes into quite a bit of detail (considering the page count) about stuff like how mathematical models can be – and are likely to be, at least in large events – used in an emergency setting to inform the emergency response in an optimal manner. I would say that after reading the book I think it’s much harder to ‘poison the water supply’ than I would have thought if you’d asked me before I read the book, at least if you live in a developed society. That said, there are good reasons, covered in the text, why any ‘acceptable risk level’ for these events should be non-zero (two reasons I recall from the book: a) monitoring is costly, b) you need flexibility in the water supply system to deal with e.g. stuff like firetrucks needing a lot of water in specific places at specific times – and such flexibility tends to make it harder to optimize monitoring systems for counter-terrorism purposes, e.g. because a design of the water supply system facilitating such flexibility tends to make it harder to track the water in the pipeline system from source to end-point).

          Last thought, back to the bioterrorism book: The safety of the agents involved is actually a variable to include in the risk assessment. It’s a bad agent if it kills the people who handle it. Some agents are unattractive simply because they’re thoroughly unsafe to everybody, including the people who are planning to make others sick with them. This is also a relevant parameter in the context of CRISPR. Hypothetical newly developed, highly infectious and highly lethal agents developed that way may both kill the developer and his entire family, friends, etc. Indiscriminate diseases have obvious drawbacks even to people who are perfectly willing to die for a cause.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I’m afraid that advanced AI will allow for robotized armies, so a small group of people can enslave many.

        This seems like an unreasonable worry.

        I mean, an army of 8000 Spartiates was able to enslave roughly 200,000 Helots back in the Bronze age. The phalanx isn’t exactly post-singularity technology.

        I don’t know much about the economics of slavery, but I’d imagine that the profitability of slave labor is the limiting factor on size rather than weapons technology.

        • Anonymous says:

          Modern states have what, maybe 1% of the population working in the military and police? Yeah, enslavement of the many by the few is extremely easy.

          • Aapje says:

            That still requires substantial psychological manipulation (like ‘othering’) to make that 1% willing to use violence to oppress others. This is not trivial.

            AI doesn’t have an inherent morality.

          • Anonymous says:

            That still requires substantial psychological manipulation (like ‘othering’) to make that 1% willing to use violence to oppress others. This is not trivial.

            Seems trivial to me. Simply specialize labour. Some legislator passes oppressive law, doesn’t have to implement it himself, but delegates that to people who are willing to do it. The executors, in turn, think of themselves as just following orders.

          • Aapje says:

            In practice, we see cases where executors simply stop being willing to ‘just follow orders.’ This mental state of ‘just following orders’ requires psychological manipulation to achieve, it’s not automatic.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I had trouble with the global warming question because I’m not sure what “strong action” entails. I’m certainly not a deep green or someone who wants to pursue de-industrialization or population control. On the other hand, while it’s pretty uncontroversial among economists and academics even of the lukewarm persuasion, a carbon tax seems to be perceived as radical by most laymen.

    • WashedOut says:

      The one about bio-risk…conditional on bioweapons being wielded on humanity, the risk is huge. But there is a whole string of steps before we get to this stage that are each quite low-probability/low-consequence in and of themselves, such as making the necessary scientific advancements in order to harness the disease or whatever.

      Maybe i overthought it but things like this made some questions difficult for me to answer.