Open Thread 75.5

This is the (late) twice-weekly hidden open thread. As the off-weekend thread, this is culture-war-free, so please try try to avoid overly controversial topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit, the SSC Discord server, or the Cafe Chesscourt forum.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

424 Responses to Open Thread 75.5

  1. Marshayne Lonehand says:

    As of right now, some of the oldest, thickest Arctic ice — the multi-year ice of the Lincoln Sea — is coming apart at the seams; an ice-melt event not seen before at this early date. Moreover, NOAA’s latest sea-level projections have Trump’s Mar El Lago underwater by 2100

    Probability assessment: in light of accumulating scientific evidence, the Bayesian likelihood that Trumpish alt.denialists are right-on-science has decreased in the spring of 2017 by yet another factor of order 1/2, to circa 5×10^(-4).

    This reasoning is plain Bayesian common-sense, isn’t it? The folks in the White House simply aren’t rational — in any science-respecting or Bayesian sense of “rational” — are they?

  2. rlms says:

    What do people think about this article: “Oxford student who stabbed boyfriend could avoid jail ‘because of her extraordinary talent’“, and in general the policy of caring about whether sending someone to jail would harm their chances of success?

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I saw that in the print newspaper today, about the talented aspiring heart surgeon who stabbed her boyfriend, and I thought: Well, technically that is what surgeons do, right?

      Less glibly, I guess if she really is that brilliant as a surgeon, then allowing her to finish her qualifications should result in a non-trivial number of lives saved that will easily outweigh the number of lives endangered by her, assuming she really has sorted herself out. But as several of the commenters on your link suggest, the corrosive effects on respect for the law in general are worth worrying about.

      I’m really not qualified to do the maths on that, I’m afraid, but as a general principle, considering the severity of the holistically-considered effect of a sentence, rather than just the narrow inconvenience of the direct punishment, doesn’t seem totally crazy, as long as could be applied in a way that is seen to be fair.

    • Brad says:

      To me the most interesting part isn’t that she gets out of jail time because of her talent, but rather that she is getting out of jail time specifically because of the collateral consequences.

      The article says: “her dreams of becoming a surgeon were ‘almost impossible’ as her conviction would have to be disclosed.” Suppose that’s true — shouldn’t it be up to the medical school admissions board or whomever to decide whether or not to make an exception in this case instead of the judge manipulating the sentence in order to take the decision out of their hands? Isn’t he (the judge) committing a kind of fraud?

    • Jaskologist says:

      Not only justified, but obligatory under utilitarianism.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        For the record, I think it’s a good thing, and directly in line with the stated purpose of the penal system, however:

        Not only justified, but obligatory under utilitarianism.

        Is it, though? People get very upset when those who commit a wrong don’t get a proper punishment, and it’s a lot of people in today’s hyperconnected world. I don’t think the moral calculus is as simple as that (from an utilitarian perspective).

        • Spookykou says:

          This seems like a classic straw man version of utilitarianism to me, where a particular decision/choice is evaluated as if it existed in a vacuum without accounting for broader consequences.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Good lord, it’s Affluenza all over again. Disgusting then, disgusting now.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s difficult. On the one hand, you want every case judged on its merits, and if this was an aberrant action that is highly unlikely to ever be repeated, then maybe her life should not be permanently adversely affected. (Though do you want a surgeon with access to sharp things who tends to go stabbity-stabbity if they lose their temper?)

      On the other hand, this does sound like “one law for the rich, another for the poor”. Suppose she were not a talented would-be surgeon but a talented dressmaker, or waitress, or worker on a packing line in a pharmaceutical plant. Would she get the benefit of the doubt there? Would the judge be saying “clearly someone this gifted should not be sent to jail”?

      I do have to say, it sounds to me like it’s leaning in the direction of “you can get away with (attempted) murder, just be sure to be of the same class as the people likely to be prosecuting you and/or make sure you have a skill or potential employment prospects that are, at a minimum, middle-class or better. Being a lower middle-class secretary, no matter how good a person you are normally and how out of character this one event was, will not save you from doing jail time. Being an Oxbridge student will”.

      I know that sounds cynical, but it does seem to shake out that “a person of my social class? jail will be a disaster and ruin their lives for them! a person below my social class? oh well they probably are used to it already and besides they have no lives to ruin”is often the attitude in these types of cases.

      EDIT: Okay, it wasn’t as serious as attempted murder. What I do find of more concern is the “drug-fuelled rage” bit. There’s already a tendency for medical professionals to abuse drugs, someone who is going into it with a habit already and who makes a habit of getting sufficiently off their face to get into “drug-fuelled rages” is perhaps someone who should not be permitted to become a surgeon, at least not without a lot of monitoring and evidence that she’s clean now.

      And yeah, I have to say, if she had been Sharon the supermarket cashier who was drunk or high and stabbed her boyfriend in the leg, the judge would not be “clearly she must be saved from jail so her life will not be ruined”. This is not impartial administration of justice. I’m also rolling my eyes a bit because she went for rehab to The Priory which does have a high reputation but also has a reputation for being the detox clinic of choice of celebs or those who are wannabe celebs.

      You often see these kind of appeals when nice middle-class youth are up in court for assault charges, about how they come from a respectable background, this was a moment of madness, they have such a bright future ahead of them, jail would ruin their lives etc etc etc. I’m nearly inclined to go the other way: people who have had many advantages in life should perhaps be treated more harshly (or at least as harshly) as those who have not had the same advantages. If they’re so bright and respectable and all the rest of it, they knew what they were doing when they got drunk or high and violent with it. “From those to whom much was given, much shall be required”. What’s sauce for Sharon the shelf-stacker is sauce for Lavinia the Oxbridge student.

      • episcience says:

        In New Zealand, where I’m originally from, there have been a number of high-profile cases where comedians and rugby players are (a) acquitted and (b) granted name suppression due to the impact that a conviction would have on their careers. Slightly more lower-class-friendly careers, though I suppose still high-status in their way.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Presumably they’re acquitted because the evidence is insufficient, though? Making sure someone doesn’t suffer from having a false accusation made against them is very different to finding someone guilty and then letting them off anyway.

          • Making sure someone doesn’t suffer from having a false accusation made against them is very different to finding someone guilty and then letting them off anyway.

            Criminal conviction is supposed to be by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury concludes that the probability of guilt is only 70%, they are supposed to acquit. So it isn’t “a false accusation” but “an accusation we are not sure is true.”

            And some people might prefer not to attend a performance by someone whom they believed had probably but not certainly committed a serious crime.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Rule leniently, and I guarantee a lot of people will be thinking, ahh, but what if she were a talented swimmer?

      • The Nybbler says:

        A talented swimmer? Why, they’d never have charged her in the first place, of course; can’t have our sports stars subject to the vagaries of the legal system.

        (OK, actually that’s the US answer; I don’t know if the UK is similar)

        • Matt M says:

          I’m quite sure this was meant to be a reference to Brock Turner, where everyone was outraged that a judge gave a lenient sentence to someone because they wanted to avoid ruining their life.

          • BBA says:

            AIUI, he has to register as a sex offender for life. Even if they aren’t forced to live under highway overpasses anymore, that’s still pretty ruined.

    • John Schilling says:

      If it’s true that the local judiciary would extend the same discretion to a young [insert locally-unfavored ethnicity] man from the streets who has pulled his act together and has a shot at making it through trade school, and if it is true that medical schools will basically reject anyone who has spent time in jail, then the system is doing what it ought to and the media is doing what it oughtn’t by making this out to be something exceptional. I’m skeptical, but I’m at least as skeptical where journalistic bias is concerned as I am the with the judicial variety.

      In either case, someone please knock some sense into the medical schools about students with non-traditional life experiences.

  3. sohois says:

    Is anyone here familiar with the living situation of Macau? My curiosity was piqued by this article on Hong Kong: Coffin Homes of Hong Kong, a series of photos covering particularly squalid living conditions for various Hong Kongers stuck in tiny, “coffin” homes.

    Whilst this seems a pretty obviously terrible way to live, my first though was: but what can you do about it? Hong Kong has one of the highest population densities in the world and a distinctly limited area on which to build. Plus, anyone even vaguely familiar with the territory would know it’s not exactly a place constrained by nimby policies or a bunch of existing low density housing like a San Fran is. Mainland China might be bidding up the market to a far worse condition than somewhere like Singapore, but even if you take that away you’re still going to run into the same space constraints eventually. Microhousing seems an inevitability.

    I went to check the density level to confirm my assumption, only to discover that Macau has a considerably higher pop. density**, almost 3 times as much at over 21000 per sq km. Pretty much anytime you see a “dystopian city life” article like the one above, Hong Kong will be the ur-example. No one ever seems to mention Macau, even though it has the exact same issue as Hong Kong of tiny island space and lots of foreign money driving up prices. A quick google for articles on Macau as city dystopia produced basically nothing*. I thought there might be some kind of accumulation effect, since total Macau population is still much smaller than Hong Kong so maybe having to build all kinds of infrastructure and transport networks causes things to get a lot worse as you scale up the city. For example, you would presume that very small states would need far fewer roads or rail since people can just walk everywhere, and perhaps hospitals and schools can be more efficient in serving the population, which would probably explain why Monaco doesn’t seem to have issues. Yet this travelogue describes Macau as having a ridiculous road system, far in excess of what is necessary. That provides some evidence against this as a theory, at least for Macau.

    Has anyone spent some time living in Macau, or could direct me to any reading, about how they have been able to avoid coffin house dystopia?

    *sidenote: This article from the Guardian about Macau’s darker side states that everyone in Macau receives a check from the government every year, i.e. a basic income, currently worth around £900 per year. Wikipedia states that even non-permanent residents receive a lesser amount every year. And Macau has still become one of the wealthiest provinces in the world. How come you never hear about that in basic income discussions?

    **second sidenote: I am aware that pop. density for cities looks a bit different. The wikipedia article on city population density is uniquely terrible but says that Paris actually has a higher density than even Macau, as well as a number of slum cities in the third world. However, this article at the IBTimes has both Hong Kong and Macau in the top 10, indeed with basically the same level of pop. density, so I don’t really know what to believe.

    • Brad says:

      Hong Kong the political entity is not nearly as dense as the Hong Kong the urbanized area. You can read about hilly or mountainous areas, but at the end of the day it is a series of political decisions and economic factors that causes Hong Kong to have areas as dense as it does, not a pure lack of land as compared to population.

      The Hong Kong Island and Kawloon districts have about half the total SAR’s population but only about 10% of its land area.

      Because of that, Hong Kong’s overall population density is that of a not-particularly-dense city but that’s not reflective of the density experienced by the median resident.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      Some people want to save money and be centrally located much more than they care about living space, so homes that size exist in Hong Kong and elsewhere because it’s either legal or the relevant regulations can be successfully evaded, not because it’s made necessary by population density.

      There actually exist hotels with rooms about the same size as those “coffin homes” hiding in New York’s Chinatown as well – I lived in one for a couple weeks when Hurricane Katrina had rendered my own apartment inaccessible.

      Here’s an article about one of the worst New York ones – the one I stayed at didn’t have a noticeable bug problem but had rooms about the same size – as small as 4 foot by 7 foot, just big enough to hold a (very small) single bed and not much more, with a cheap tv mounted on a shelf, communal bathroom down the hall, and walls that mostly don’t go all the way to the ceiling so lots of noise pollution when other tenants are around.

  4. beleester says:

    Book Recommendation: The Happy City by Charles Montgomery.

    It’s about how urban design impacts the psychology, behavior, and happiness of the people who live in a city. It takes us on a world tour of urban design, from a Bogota mayor who banished cars from the city center to Vancouver’s intricate planning to keep skyscrapers from wrecking its natural views, to a Paris bike-sharing program. There’s a particular focus on how most American cities were designed for cars at the expense of pedestrians, and on how changing the ways people move through a city or a suburb changes how they interact, make friends, and support the social fabric.

    In his review of Seeing Like A State, Scott asked if there was really anything you could learn from it, besides “don’t uproot society because you’ve got a fetish for rectangular grids.” Well, this book takes a stab at answering that question. If Le Corbusier was bad urban design, what does good urban design look like?

    • qwints says:

      It reminded me a lot of Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic, both of which I quite liked. Like Traffic, however, it’s not a particularly technical or deep exploration of the issues and tends to elide the fact that it’s presenting a particular point of view.

  5. nimim.k.m. says:

    Alex Tizon for the Atlantic: My Family’s Slave

    She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been.

    Thought the people here might find this an interesting read.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Very interesting; thank you.

      I’m not sure what to take from this story, aside from “being in abusive situations too long can really mess up your life.” According to the author, Lola had no idea how to find her way around the United States, and felt prohibitively uncomfortable trying – when the author gave her an ATM card, “she got flustered” and never used it again. If someone had intervened twenty or thirty years before, she could probably have been helped a lot better.

      (I’m largely ignoring the immigration problems. The author’s parents committed a serious crime; there’re existing visas for victims of crime who can testify against their perpetrators.)

      It’s a very sad story. And I’m curious about what the author’s neighbors thought about the situation – though if I were there, I’m not sure the possibility of slavery would’ve crossed my mind either? But I’m not sure what lessons to take from it.

      • JayT says:

        I’m sure the neighbors just assumed that she was a family member that was living with them. It is common for immigrants to live with extended family.

        • Evan Þ says:

          That was the story, but the author’s childhood friend (and neighbor) apparently didn’t buy it:

          When I once referred to Lola as a distant aunt, Billy reminded me that when we’d first met I’d said she was my grandmother. “Well, she’s kind of both,” I said mysteriously.

          “Why is she always working?”

          “She likes to work,” I said.

          “Your dad and mom—why do they yell at her?”

          “Her hearing isn’t so good …”

          • JayT says:

            Yeah, I can see a kid thinking it’s weird because they expect other families to basically be the same as their own, but I think the average adult would just look at it as weird foreigners doing weird foreigner things.

  6. Sniffnoy says:

    On the topic of “mysterious things causing obesity by throwing off the lipostat”, here’s a paper suggesting that carbonation in particular has the effect of increasing food consumption, with ghrelin being involved in the mechanism.

    Oddly they didn’t directly test carbonated water on the rats, which is a bit suspicious. They did on the humans, but somehow skipped it for the rats.

    This can’t really be a complete answer even if it holds up, but still interesting.

  7. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Google is boasting about using machine learning to quantify on-screen gender bias.

    Is that too culture war-y to post?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Seems very CW to me.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Seems fine as long as we keep it meta enough and interpret “bias” as in sampling bias.

      I have not read the actual paper, but this has pushed me more towards “gender bias in media is a thing that happens.” There are also some anecdotal assertions about what effect that has on viewers which I did not find convincing.

      The methodology could be used in a tribe-independent way. For example, those who believe that Hollywood is engaging in tokenism can use this to argue their point.

  8. ThaadCastle says:

    As to the very low income there are two additional potential reasons they don’t use uber/lyft. 1. They don’t have smart phones/their smartphones are too under powered to use the app (relatively unlikely), and 2. they don’t have credit/debit cards because they have such bad credit they are unable to get credit cards and don’t have sufficient funds to open a checking account. I don’t think that uber/lyft take pre-paid cards (for obvious safety/payment related reasons) so credit crunched people are trapped out of the market.

    • JayT says:

      You can connect a prepaid card to PayPal, which is the main way people pay for Uber, as far as I know.

      • ThaadCastle says:

        Really? I would have thought most people just connect their credit card to uber…are you in the US (idk if it is different elsewhere)?

        • JayT says:

          Yeah, I’m in the US. Everyone I know uses PayPal because it’s the easiest thing to set up on a phone. Maybe my friend group is not representative of the whole.

          • Matt M says:

            You can literally take a photo of your credit card and Uber will put all the numbers in for you!

          • Spookykou says:

            I feel like a major part of the Uber business model is to be as simple as possible, I seem to remember setting it up for the first time with my credit card information in 2-3 minutes. I think they are also the easiest/very easy to get a job with in terms of hoop jumping.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            You can literally take a photo of your credit card and Uber will put all the numbers in for you!

            It’s not my domain (I know more about HIPAA), but that sounds questionably PCI compliant…

          • JayT says:

            I’ve been on Uber for years, I don’t think that was available when I joined. You are probably right that PayPal isn’t the main method of payment.

          • random832 says:

            It’s not my domain (I know more about HIPAA), but that sounds questionably PCI compliant…

            Why would this be any different from entering it in a text box? What matters is what happens to it once it reaches Uber’s servers.

            Of course, presumably you’ve still got to type in the CVV2 – or take another picture of the back (though the CVV2 is harder to OCR, and mine’s worn off)

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            It’s perfectly PCI compliant to do the take-a-picture-of-a-card thing. It only takes a picture of the front of a card — it’s fundamentally no more information than you’d get from an old-style contact paper card reader (or what’s contained on the magnetic strip of the card). The CVV is still entered manually and not stored.

          • Matt M says:

            They are far from the only app to offer that functionality. I’ve seen it on others (although I can’t recall where off the top of my head)

          • JayT says:

            Amazon and Starbucks both do it for gift cards. I’d assume it works for credit cards as well, but I’ve never tried.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            All right, fair enough. I just had visions of card pics getting sent to indefinitely chill out in a tmp (or, god forbid, Downloads) folder somewhere. If the image processing is done client-side s’all good.

            Though they should still make sure to properly delete it afterwards.

          • JayT says:

            It’s OCR, so there is no image being saved. However, they definitely save your credit card number. You don’t have to add a card every time you use the service.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Jay: PCI compliance allows you to save credit card numbers. You store them two-way-encrypted, and there are regulations about how any component that can talk to the database that stores the card can be accessed and how to do key rotations and so forth.

          • JayT says:

            I know, I was just responding to Gobbobobble’s comment about deleting the information.

  9. Kevin C. says:

    What would it take for America to get its crime rates down, and case solving/closure rate up, to, say, Japanese levels?

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Well, you could apply Japan’s solution, but (perhaps increasingly less) people are big on rights over there.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        you could apply Japan’s solution

        What, make our culture crazy restrictive & homogeneous and dig a 30-mile-wide moat between us and Mexico?

        • random832 says:

          I thought Japan’s solution involved a combination of “don’t open a case you can’t close” and pressuring suspects into confessions.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Ah, interesting. Thanks! (Does sound like it falls under making the culture crazy restrictive)

          • Kevin C. says:


            For the “case closure” rates half, perhaps. But what about the “crime rates” part? How do you get Americans to be as law-abiding as the Japanese?

          • random832 says:

            I’m not so sure it doesn’t affect the crime rate either. One of the tactics they supposedly have is to rule unnatural deaths to be suicides rather than murders whenever there is not a clear suspect.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It is true that every murder is “closed” with the arrest of a suspect, but only half confess and the the rest are released. I’m not sure what the right comparison is, but I think that’s a lower rate than American plea bargains (per murder arrest).

            I don’t know what’s going on, but it suggests an impressive example of focus on specific statistics. The police must care very much about their closure rates, and the prosecutors about losing, but not about dropping cases, even murder suspects.

      • Kevin C. says:

        you could apply Japan’s solution

        And what solution is that? Being an ethnically-homogenous nation? Having a long history of a Confucian-ish, “collectivist” society and resulting cultural (or possibly genetic) tendencies to orderliness and obedience? Community policing from a multitude of kōban? Minimal gun possession, and particularly orderly and organized “organized crime” who use their near-monopoly on illegal smuggling to cooperate in blocking the importation of illegal firearms?

        And how, exactly, would one implement any of these? How, for example, would you change American “Don’t Tread On Me” individualism into Japanese conformity?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Lower the GINI coefficient by 10%?

      As far as politically easy and cheap things, the common-sense demands of BLM (more cameras, less incentives for asset seizure, increased police deployment to poor and minority neighborhoods) might help. Regardless of whether you think the police’s crisis of legitimacy is deserved, there’s no way it’s helping and there are reasonably cheap things that can be done to correct it without lowering police officers’ social status.

      • JayT says:

        Lowering the GINI by 10% would get the US to the same levels as places like Iraq, Egypt, Niger, and Afghanistan. OF course, it would also get the US down to the same rates as places like Switzerland, Germany, and Japan.

        I’m not convinced the GINI coefficient really tells us anything useful about crime.

  10. JayT says:

    When you ride by yourself in an Uber/Lyft do you sit in the front seat or the back seat?

    • Brad says:

      Back. As far as I can tell this is universal in NYC but I understand it is different elsewhere.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        From what I understand, in some places it’s advised to sit in the front seat because taxi drivers try to track down ubers.

    • Matt M says:

      Back, passenger side. Feels more formal and less like I’m up in the driver’s personal space.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Back unless with a group that needs the seats, then we’ll use all available.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Usually front, unless the car is obviously kitted out for passengers to sit in the back. I know it’s slightly weird, but:

      a. I’m tall and front seats are usually more comfortable.
      b. If the driver is amenable, I usually like to chat, and the conversation is more fluid if we’re both in front, rather than back-and-front.

    • Cheese says:

      If it’s me only, front. Seems weird and rude to sit in the back (standard Taxi custom here is you sit in the front).

      If it’s me + other half, the back so we can chat without neck twisting.

  11. Carolus says:

    Tyler Cowen has had a few posts concerning the longevity of China recently. The second one* hit’s one of my pet peeves when comparing Rome and China – claiming the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century. Now, I can see the advantage of using the 5th century as a stand alone date when looking at the history of Europe; when comparing to China it obscures that China shrank and expanded many times (Southern Song! Southern Song!) and was conquered by people who where subsequently Sinicized. Using the later date of the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire is a more useful and accurate point of comparison. It changes the question from “Why was Imperial China long lived?” to “Why did the imperial hegemon in the West never reestablish unity?” or something similar. In the end, I think “Imperial China” is a rhetorical trick that simply worked better than any claims to being “The Third Rome.” The common perception of Chinese history as being completely continuous seems to be a function of Western ignorance and Chinese rhetoric. I may be overstating my claims slightly, but well, pet peeves don’t foster nuance.

    I figure this open thread could spur more useful commentary than MR’s. Am I missing why the fall of the Western Empire should be the strong point of comparison with Imperial China?

    *Not written by Cowen himself, but a quote.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Not a historian but my $0.02;

      China has managed, despite multiple waves of barbarian invasion, to retain it’s Hàn ethnicity and culture. When Rome fell, it fell hard: the Latins are for all intents and purposes extinct.

      It makes sense to talk about the continuity of Chinese or Greek or Jewish civilization because those guys are still around. It makes no sense to talk about the continuity of Roman civilization when modern Europe is populated predominantly by the peoples who destroyed it.

      • Deiseach says:

        The Han are one ethnicity out of several and there’s some grumbling about the attempt to suppress other minority cultures within China. As to one continuous culture – well, that’s a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ question. Is modern-day China Confucian? Is Confucianism a continuous culture? What about pre-Confucianism? Buddhism – alien interloper or assimilated religion? Taoism – is that a cultural binding thread? North China vs South China – Mandarin vs Cantonese and any other dialects you like.

        Saying that there is A single unitary Chinese culture that is continuous over millennia is saying rather a lot, I think.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The Han are one ethnicity out of several

          The one which comprises >90% of the population and is responsible for almost the entirety of Chinese culture as we know it, yes. Even the characters are literally Hànzi: Hàn characters.

          Manchus, mongolians, tibetans, hui, etc etc all have their own distinct and very worthy cultures. But the Chinese culture is Hàn culture, whatever the CCP or the KMT before them might try to claim.

          As to one continuous culture – well, that’s a ‘how long is a piece of string?’

          Tracing the lineage of ideas is important but IMO a civilization isn’t primarily comprised of ideas: it’s comprised of peoples. And the lineage there is undeniable.

          Whatever the Chinese believe, communism or neo-confucianism or even christianity, they’re still Chinese.

          • Deiseach says:

            Whatever the Chinese believe, communism or neo-confucianism or even christianity, they’re still Chinese

            So are you basing your unitary Chinese civilisation on biology or culture? Because on the one hand we have the Manchu who, as you agree, are not Han coming in, assimiliating, and becoming the ruling dynasty. Are they therefore “Chinese by virtue of culture”? Then the barbarians who adopted and adapted Roman and Imperial culture are the heirs of Rome.

            If we’re instead talking about “Chinese because Han because that’s the major by a mile ethnicity”, then yes, we get the “Whatever they believe, be it Buddhism, Christianity or Communism, they’re still Chinese”. But then we have to say the Manchu are not “Chinese” and I’m sure that – despite initial attempts at integration via intermarriage – this is an argument made by somebody. But then that blows your “one unitary Chinese culture” argument out of the water, since those under the same culture are not all “Chinese”, and imported beliefs can replace parts of traditional Chinese culture but still not affect the “Chineseness” of the Chinese.

            So only if we pare it down to “Real Chinese culture and the real Chinese people are the Han”, which is discouraging for the other ethnic minorities living in China as not being ‘really Chinese’ and probably does lie behind a lot of the political tensions over what is happening in Xinjiang where the attitude does seem to be “the only real Chinese are Han”, then we can say that there has been One Continuous Chinese Culture And People For Three Thousand Years, unlike the fallen Roman Empire in the West.

            Your comments did interest me enough to wonder had anyone done genetic studies on the Chinese population and the Han, i.e. you can say “this population is 90% Han” but what sort of mixing with the natives went on? Wikipedia says:

            However, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of Han Chinese increases in diversity as one looks from northern to southern China, which suggests that male migrants from northern China married with women from local peoples after arriving in modern-day Guangdong, Fujian, and other regions of southern China. Despite this, tests comparing the genetic profiles of northern Han, southern Han and southern natives determined that haplogroups O1b-M110, O2a1-M88 and O3d-M7, which are prevalent in southern natives, were only observed in some southern Hans (4% on average), but not in northern Hans. Therefore, this proves that the male contribution of southern natives in southern Hans is limited, assuming that the frequency distribution of Y lineages in southern natives represents that before the expansion of Han culture that started two-thousand years ago. In contrast, there are consistent strong genetic similarities in the Y chromosome haplogroup distribution between the southern and northern Chinese population, and the result of principal component analysis indicates almost all Han populations form a tight cluster in their Y chromosome.

            …These genetic observations are in line with historical records of continuous and large migratory waves of northern China inhabitants escaping warfare and famine, to southern China. Aside from these large migratory waves, other smaller southward migrations occurred during almost all periods in the past two millennia.

            China is such a huge land region, it’s hard to think of it as one culturally and ethnically homogeneous (more or less) country. It does seem that the Han successfully became the dominant ethnicity and culture within China and have maintained that status over centuries, which is admittedly impressive.

      • hyperboloid says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal

        I’m seeing a lot of Anglo-saxon/Germanic bias showing through in your account of European history.

        I dispute that the Latins ever truly went extinct, they just sort of fragmented. There are 800 million speakers of romance languages, and more than a billion members of the Latin church alive today. The people of Latin Europe did assimilate many of their barbarian conquers, all be it not to the same extent as the Chinese, and the people they assimilated went on to build empires that passed on at least some of the Latin heritage to many more people.

        If you don’t believe me, look at the case of one Jorge Mario Bergoglio , a man born to parents of fine Italian stock, in a distant corner of the Iberian cultural sphere, who has achieved the rank of Pontifex Maximus.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m seeing a lot of Anglo-saxon/Germanic bias showing through in your account of European history

          Guilty as charged. More Saxon than Anglo but I tend to focus on northern and middle Europe.

          I dispute that the Latins ever truly went extinct, they just sort of fragmented. There are 800 million speakers of romance languages, and more than a billion members of the Latin church alive today.

          But how many of those are related to the ancient Roman? I was under the impression that modern French, Italians, etc were mostly descended from a mix of non-Latin natives conquered by Rome and the post-Roman invading tribes with very little Latin ancestry outside of a few cities.

          If I’m wrong I’ll eat crow but it sounds like saying the Babylonian civilization is alive because we measure time in seconds and minutes. The actual people are gone.

          • rlms says:

            How many ancient Romans had Latin ancestry? Maybe someone with more knowledge than me can give the proportion of Emperors with 100% Latin ancestry, but I get the impression from skimming Wikipedia that it isn’t all that high.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Fun fact: the Greek-speaking Eastern Romans used both “Frank” and “Latino” as a blanket ethnonym for under-civilized Western Christians.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But how many of those are related to the ancient Roman? I was under the impression that modern French, Italians, etc were mostly descended from a mix of non-Latin natives conquered by Rome and the post-Roman invading tribes with very little Latin ancestry outside of a few cities.

            If we’re defining “Latin” as “someone who can trace his descent to ancient Latium”, probably not a lot. Then again, if we’re going to use such stringent criteria I think we’d end up disqualifying most Chinese people from being properly Chinese; we’d have to say that they were “mostly descended from a mix of non-Chinese people assimilated into the Chinese cultural sphere and invading barbarians from the north”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ rlms:

            How many ancient Romans had Latin ancestry? Maybe someone with more knowledge than me can give the proportion of Emperors with 100% Latin ancestry, but I get the impression from skimming Wikipedia that it isn’t all that high.

            If we believe the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women, none of the Romans after Romulus’ time had 100% pure Latin ancestry. If we don’t believe the story, Rome was nevertheless remarkably open to accepting and assimilating foreigners, unlike for example the Greek city-states, where citizenship was a jealously-guarded privilege and only those descended from citizens on both sides of their family were usually eligible. The idea that you needed to have Roman ancestry to count as a proper Roman was completely alien to the Roman mindset; to them, anybody who spoke Latin and adopted Roman culture was Roman, regardless of who their ancestors were. There’s no evidence that the “non-Latin natives conquered by Rome” were considered any less Roman, by themselves or by other people, on account of the fact that their ancestors had been hairy moustachioed Gallic warriors rather than Latin farmers.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Mr X

            Citizenship may have been common by the Empire days, but it did take some effort to get there.

      • Brad says:

        the Latins are for all intents and purposes extinct.

        Is there any way to figure this out using DNA testing?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Actually that’s a good question.

          I knew a guy at my undergrad who was working on population genomics / ancient DNA (aDNA) and he was very enthusiastic about the number of iron age specimens available. Given how much we’ve learned from one complete Neanderthal genome, the Romans should have left us more than enough in their tombs to get a good handle on how much of their heritage is still with us.

      • cassander says:

        had there never been a re-unified chinese empire, it seems impossible that there would have remained a unified chinese culture. you’re putting the cart before the horse. china stayed han because it repeatedly unified, it didn’t unify because it stayed han.

        • LHN says:

          I also sometimes wonder how much is different historiography. There were various internationally recognized Roman Emperors up through 1806. If Europe had been unified by a Napoleonesque figure who made use of that traditional Imperial status instead of kicking it over to start a new one, a lot of medieval history could have been retrospectively cast as the Eastern Comnenus Dynasty or the Northern Habsburgs, surrounded by provinces and inner and outer barbarians in varying degrees of allegiance or revolt, with the reemergence of large-scale Imperial power a regular drumbeat punctuated by unfortunate periods of disunity. Likewise, as long as Latin stays the language of officialdom, the Romance languages necessarily aren’t all that different in relation to it than the aurally unintelligible “dialects” of Chinese are to Mandarin.

          Granted, that becomes increasingly untenable in our own history once Constantinople falls and even formal recognition of the pretensions of the Holy Roman Empire starts to wane. (And the rise of written vernaculars versus Latin starts even earlier.) But a lot of cultural tradition hinges on what’s remembered and emphasized and treated as normal, and what’s an aberration or ignorable.

          • cassander says:

            1806 might be a bit too late to make it all come together (though it’s notable that even then napoleon names his heir “king of rome”), but there’s a lot of truth to this notion. I’m not well read in chinese history, but even what little I know of makes it pretty clear that the notion of 2000 years of continuous empire is basically nonsense, and that getting there requires a whole lot of stitching together and retroactive proclamation.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I would like to second this explanation as the most likely – most of Chinese “unity” is a result of historiography, plus a few legitimately different historical events, with a final pinch of — well, I don’t know if outgroup homogeneity bias is the best word, but let’s go with that.

            First, the historiography. China has emphasized its unity for propagandistic reasons much more than Europe has. Europe had only a few moments of near-unification since 476 (notably Charlemagne and Napoleon, with the Catholic church also a plausible candidate), but the various dynasts from Madrid to Moscow nevertheless adopted Roman forms to establish their legitimacy – Napoleon’s titling his son and heir the King of Rome has been noted, and of course everyone is aware of the Holy Roman Empire, the czars (stemming from “Caesar,” cognate with “Kaiser”), and the “Third Rome.” In China, these imperial trappings were emphasized to a much greater degree, as each succeeding dynasty insisted it was the legitimate inheritor of the Mandate of Heaven and harkened back to the original Han unification. Moreover, many places not part of historical Chinese empires (Manchuria, Tibet, Xinjiang first come to mind) are today still considered “China,” excepting only Tibet with its internationally well-known independence movement. I don’t think you see the parts of Europe considered “European” grow nearly as quickly.

            Why does China emphasize its Chineseness, while European nations emphasize their own national histories? Well, I think that comes from the fact that no European empire ever did succeed in bringing the various barbarian tribes to heel – no one took the Spanish, the French, the Lombards, or the Germans and made them Roman the way that various dynasties made the different Chinese ethnic groups more Han. And so the French glorified the Frankish kings and Frankish culture, becoming ever-more culturally French, while the Italian city-states did the same, as did the German princelings, the Spanish became Catholic zealots due to their ongoing wars with the Moors, etc. The culturally common aspects (language, law, and church) of Europe were de-emphasized, and the nationally distinct aspects were emphasized, while in China the reverse was true – nationally distinct bits of culture were suppressed, while the unifying Han culture was promoted.

            Second, China historically has been much more unified than Europe. China’s periods of disunion have grown shorter and shorter down through the centuries: her history almost a thousand years of disunion starting with Shang, Zhou, and the Warring States and ending with Qin. After the fall of Han, it’s more than 300 years until Sui and Tang put the pieces back together again. The disunion after Tang lasts only a century or so, and from Song through Qing each dynasty is replaced either with foreign conquest or swift civil wars.*

            Why is China more easily unified than Europe? We went into it in more depth a few open threads ago, but in brief I’d argue it’s a combination of geography (China’s mountains tend to encircle it, her rivers facilitate communication, while Europe’s many rivers, mountains, and peninsulas tend to divide would-be empires, like Spain from France, France from Germany, Germany from Italy, England from everyone) and infrastructure. Each Chinese dynasty further reformed the bureaucracy, making administration of a vast state more efficient, they improved communications (most notably between north and south – the north is more easily unified than the south, and you see a historical pattern of empires originating in the north and eventually conquering the southern hills), and they helped establish a common language and culture, all of which would tend to make subsequent re-unifications easier. This is why I think each period of disunion grows shorter in Chinese history.

            If Charlemagne and the Byzantines had ever re-unified, you might have seen the same pattern in Europe – each new Roman dynasty would further improve administration, improve communications, and embed Roman culture deeper into the European continent. The Romans themselves had already made a deep impression – Roman law, the Latin language, and the Catholic church could all be seen as the seeds for a later reunification. Then you’d probably see European historiography resemble Chinese, and we’d talk about the Eastern Theodosians, the Later Macedonians, or the Ten Western Kingdoms.

            Third and finally, I think as Westerners we’re simply more familiar and conscious of the differences between Western nations – no one would mistake a Frenchman for an Italian, or a Spaniard for an Englishman. We recognize them all as culturally distinct nationalities. But in China everyone is “Chinese,” whether they’re from Manchuria or Shandong or Guangzhou or Fujian or Xinjiang. It’d help Westerners a lot, I think, if these were different nation-states – people here sort of think of nations and independent states as more or less synonyms, and so a multiethnic empire like China gets thought of as a single “nation,” in the sense of one group of people.

            Bottom line: I think both sides have a point. Yes, it’s possible to emphasize China’s unified culture too much, or ignore Europe’s shared culture – I think the standard histories of both places are guilty of this. It’s also easy to ignore how multi-ethnic China is, a mistake harder to make in Europe’s patchwork of independent states. BUT it would also be incorrect to ignore China’s real history of greater unification. It’s not as strong as the imperial dynasts claim it is, but it’s definitely a real historical force.

            *I’m not sure how the end of Qing fits into this. From the deposition of the last emperor to the establishment of the PRC is 1911 to 1949, so roughly 40 years of disunion. However, heavy foreign involvement has messed with this timeline a lot – there’s a good reason to believe that foreign powers propped the Qing up long past their time in the mid-19th century, which would seem to argue for a longer period of disunion. On the other hand, the Japanese invasion also prolonged the civil war after Qing, which the Nationalists were on the path to winning. So the disunion following Qing breaks the historical pattern and I say it’s unknowable how long the “natural” period would have been, had China been left in isolation.

  12. etmoseley says:

    Hi all,

    I saw some folks mention freedom of immigration from the perspective of Libertarians, in addition to some other issues. I’m not a libertarian, but I am very familiar with Hans Hermann Hoppe et. al.’s work and can answer any questions if folks are interested.

    I did see someone say earlier that taxes are the equivalent of rent, and that is not so. Taxes are compulsory, and as such the price paid to avoid asset forfeiture and prison. Asset forfeiture and prison are the only things exchanged on the part of the governing body during a tax transaction. Rent does not compare.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I dispute that taxes are compulsory. It is very easy to not pay taxes in America and suffer no negative consequences–simply keep your earnings low and don’t buy real estate.

      • etmoseley says:

        I agree that that would cover both income and property taxes, but the regressive taxes like sales taxes and tarriffs aren’t similarly avoidable.

      • Jiro says:

        In order to avoid taxes this way, you do suffer negative consequences–the consequences are the restrictions on your activities.

        Just pointing out that you can, if you wish, obey those restrictions doesn’t change that. By your reasoning, lynching black men for having sex with white women would not mean there are negative consequences for being black, since you could just avoid having sex with white women.

  13. Jaskologist says:

    Confessions of Augustine discussion thread

    Today we’ll discuss Chapters 3-4.5.

    Previously: Chapters 1-2, Intro

    Texts: Online | eBook | Audio | Latin | Abridged dead tree

    • Jaskologist says:

      One of the more interesting anecdotes in this section is that of Augustine’s dying friend. His best friend falls sick. Augustine had previously converted this friend to Manichaeism, but while he was unconscious and near-death, his presumably Christian family has him baptized. And when he wakes up, suddenly he’s a Christian.

      For when, sore sick of a fever, he long lay unconscious in a death sweat and everyone despaired of his recovery, he was baptized without his knowledge. And I myself cared little, at the time, presuming that his soul would retain what it had taken from me rather than what was done to his unconscious body. It turned out, however, far differently, for he was revived and restored. Immediately, as soon as I could talk to him — and I did this as soon as he was able, for I never left him and we hung on each other overmuch — I tried to jest with him, supposing that he also would jest in return about that baptism which he had received when his mind and senses were inactive, but which he had since learned that he had received. But he recoiled from me, as if I were his enemy, and, with a remarkable and unexpected freedom, he admonished me that, if I desired to continue as his friend, I must cease to say such things.

      • Deiseach says:

        His friend may well have considered that baptism healed him, so Augustine joking about “Wow, those crazy family members and their hokey rituals, amirite?” would go down about as well as “Wow, those crazy family members that brought you to the hospital for the emergency appendectomy, amirite?” “Actually, those crazy family and their hokey rituals saved my life, so don’t make fun of them or it, dude!”

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Great, now I’m imagining smug young Augustine saying “Hokey religions and ancient medicine are no match for a hypodermic blaster by your side, kid.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “Kid, I’ve sailed from one side of this empire to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Lord controlling everything. No Jewish deity controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”

        • Jaskologist says:

          This strikes me as so plausible, I’m bummed I didn’t think of it myself.

    • Jaskologist says:

      So, Augustine is now a young adult, and has gone off to Carthage for his education. He’s studying rhetoric, and in the process finds a love of philosophy. Reading Cicero has given him a thirst for wisdom, so he naturally turns back to the faith of his childhood, and the Bible in particular, to learn more. He finds it… lacking. Aspiring Rationalists can probably relate.

      When I then turned toward the Scriptures, they appeared to me to be quite unworthy to be compared with the dignity of Tully [Cicero]. For my inflated pride was repelled by their style, nor could the sharpness of my wit penetrate their inner meaning. Truly they were of a sort to aid the growth of little ones, but I scorned to be a little one and, swollen with pride, I looked upon myself as fully grown.

      Augustine has always been the smartest person in the room, and now finds that he’s too smart for Scripture. This causes him to drift away from the faith and into a group called the Manicheans, who insisted that all of their doctrines were derived rationally and could be proven.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I’ve mentioned before that Augustine and his mother Monica represent two opposite poles, and an underlying theme of the book is tracking their two journeys. Augustine is very intellectual and questioning, while Monica firmly and completely accepts and trusts the faith that was handed down to her. Both are presented as flawed.

        We see this especially in Augustine’s turn toward heresy, which of course horrifies his mother.

        My mother, thy faithful one, wept to thee on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed to weep for the bodily deaths of their children. For by the light of the faith and spirit which she received from thee, she saw that I was dead.

        Monica is eventually given a dream promising her that where she is, Augustine would be also. Augustine tries to reinterpret the dream as meaning that one day she too could become a Manichean. But though he has always been able to argue circles around priests, Monica is not fooled. She knows exactly what she was promised.

    • Jaskologist says:


      Read most of the way through Book 5. Augustine takes a break from the autobiography to mull over his friend’s death, and the nature of friendship itself.

  14. Matt M says:

    Re: Silly-con valley post, I’d like to discuss Uber for a bit.

    I was pretty surprised that in a place where most people are generally pro (or at least tolerant of)-market, pro (or at least tolerant of)-tech, anti (or at least skeptical of)-regulation, that so many people here were such vociferous opponents of Uber. I honestly don’t get it. I consider Uber to be the most life-changing invention probably since smartphones. I think it clearly benefits humanity in a wide variety of ways, even just from the consumer standpoint (putting aside that it basically ends involuntary unemployment if you live in a city where it operates). It dramatically increases the feasibility of not owning a car, which is not only a benefit to people who can’t afford cars, but probably helps with the environment and stuff too (assuming you care about that – which I don’t).

    I’ll concede that my life is probably set up that I benefit from it maximally: high-income, frequent traveler mostly to large cities, live in a large city with low gas prices, high parking costs, and limited public transportation, etc. But I have to imagine it can still provide great benefits to middle, or even lower class people as well.

    Anyone feel like sharing exactly why they dislike it?

    • herbert herberson says:

      In descending order of general applicability:

      A.) The pedant in me gets extremely eyerolly at all the rhetoric around it. For all the breathless talk about “the sharing economy” etc, I just see a cab company whose primary competitive advantage has been ignoring the regulations all its competitors follow. I call it pedantry because I’m neither invested in cab regulations nor outraged by scofflaws… but I am invested in hating self-important companies.

      B.) I dislike the way they try to strongarm and manipulate municipal policy (which, I realize, creates sort of a double-bind with A, but less-intense forms of lobbying would bother me far less)

      C.) My peak period of technological adaptation was before the smartphone era, so I don’t really like “aps.” I don’t like the lack of transparency and control, I don’t like the inability to use it as easily on my desktop computer as on my phone, and I don’t really like using my phone as a computer in general–I’m already borderline-addicted to regular screens and am not eager to extend that to the one I carry in my pocket.

      D.) I don’t really like alcohol and own a car, so it’s much less useful to me personally than it probably is to some people.

      E.) The one time I did try to use it, to take me from a subway stop to the airport, I had three hails canceled on me and I almost missed my flight.

      • Matt M says:

        I will attempt to address A and B. C-E seem like largely personal issues or odd experiences so I’ll leave them be unless you specifically ask me to address them.

        A. At its core, it is basically a cab company, although better in every way such that it becomes almost an entirely new class of good. Someone in 1915 saying “I don’t get all the talk about these auto-mobiles changing society, they’re basically just a slightly faster version of a carriage, what’s the big deal?” And they technically weren’t wrong. A car provides the same basic service as a carriage did – but was so much better that it became a category entirely separate from them. In most cases Uber is faster, cheaper, easier to use, more available, and more pleasurable than cabs are. It is the Model T and a taxi is a guy whipping some horses and yelling at them to run faster.

        Is it possible that taxis could have done all that too if they were willing to ignore the regulations? Maybe, but not likely IMO. My guess is that in most cases, the taxi companies were the ones who demanded the regulations in the first place, to keep the market non-competitive. It’s somewhat telling that their response to Uber has NOT been “please waive us from these regulations so we can do this stuff too” but rather “force Uber to be as shitty as we are plz!”

        B. This probably ultimately gets down to ones personal politics. I would say it’s less them strong-arming local politics and more them refusing to allow themselves to be strong-armed by local politicians. They have a service people like – so at the end of the day, someone who takes the position of “ban this thing people like!” is going to have to face the music from the voters. The main difference between Uber and say, heroin or prostitution is that the “people who like the thing” tend to be well off, upper class, respectable people of influence within the community. It’s easy to ban meth – because meth heads probably don’t vote. Johns are just perverted losers so who cares what they think. Uber isn’t just popular, it’s popular with the right sort of people. Why shouldn’t they use that to their advantage? Why should we expect them to just roll over and die and let themselves be regulated into oblivion when they have a card they can easily play?

        • John Schilling says:

          In most cases Uber is faster, cheaper, easier to use, more available, and more pleasurable than cabs are.

          In no particular order:

          “More pleasurable” is subjective. Agree that Uber is very good at marketing a taxi service for white-collar blue/grey tribe, but I don’t see this as revolutionary or transformative. Or, more precisely, the assumptions that make it transformative are ugly ones.

          Easier to use, meh. Easier than dialing the number of the local taxi service, saying “I’m at X and need a taxi to Y”, and listening as they tell you how long it will be? There’s not that much room for improvement there.

          Faster: Not that I’ve noticed on any of the routes I have used. Perhaps you have quantitative data on this one?

          Cheaper: Absolutely. Because Uber subsidizes the service using investor capital, in an inherently unsustainable matter. The idea that something inherently unsustainable is also transformative, ought to be a frightening one. What happens when Uber, in its current form, goes away.

          Oh, also:

          Uber isn’t just popular, it’s popular with the right sort of people.

          You’ve just told everybody who doesn’t already favor Uber, which is to say everyone who is the target audience for your post, that they are the wrong sort of people. How can you be at all confused as to why Uber faces so much opposition, and anticipatory schadenfreude at the possibility of being regulated into oblivion.

          • rlms says:

            “Not that I’ve noticed on any of the routes I have used. Perhaps you have quantitative data on this one?”
            The only test of speed between Uber and taxis I know of was between Uber and a London cab, and the cab was faster by a relatively small margin. For taxis driven by people who haven’t been forced to memorise minute geographical details of the place they are in, they would presumably be the same speed.

          • Matt M says:

            When I say faster, I’m mainly considering pickup times. Every time I’ve called a cab the wait has been unbearably long. With Uber, there have been multiple times where I’ve hailed a ride from my apartment, and the guy was already waiting for me by the time I got downstairs (and I’m only on the third floor!)

            Edit: Also, every time I’ve called a cab, they’ve lied about the time. They say “It’ll be ten minutes” but it’s actually 20. With Uber, you see where the driver actually is and you can adjust your expectations accordingly.

            You’ve just told everybody who doesn’t already favor Uber, which is to say everyone who is the target audience for your post, that they are the wrong sort of people.

            That was really not the intent of that comment. The purpose was not to compare people who like Uber and people who don’t, but rather to compare people who like Uber with people who like drugs and prostitutes and gambling and other things that have been banned for “the common good.”

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Once you’re in the car, I wouldn’t expect Ubers to be significantly different from cabs in speed. Maybe in some cases cabbies would know the area better and know how to route around some traffic problems. In other cases, using Waze or whatever would be better for routing around traffic problems. I strongly suspect that there isn’t a ton of savings either way.

            In terms of ordering a ride, it’s definitely faster to use Uber than to call a voice line and interact with a person. It’s also easier, less error-prone, and more people like it more.

            In terms of the wait from “time of ordering the ride” to “driver arrival,” usually Uber will be superior. There are a lot of reasons for this, but probably the chief two reasons are:

            1. Taxis want to stay in very restricted areas that offer a lot of street hails (because they need street hails), and which are probably a reasonably long way from where you want to be picked up.

            2. For the most part, if you call a dispatcher and order a ride, the dispatcher will ask people on a radio to come and pick you up, and the driver who accepts may not be the closest one to you, may already have a fare, and may pick up a street hail instead of you and then drive off (don’t judge the cabbie too harshly for this — part of the reason he’ll do this is that you’re statistically fairly likely not to be there when he arrives to pick you up).

            You also can see where the Uber driver is, and can if you choose pay close enough attention to recognize bad behavior on his part (like driving in the wrong direction) and intervene (by cancelling and getting a new ride). You get a notification when he arrives instead of a call. You can see his license plate number and car color on the app.

            The app mediation really is a markedly superior service. It’s also an easy service to create, and has no “moat” or defensibility.

            Source on all this: I was the lead server engineer for an Uber competitor that worked with taxi cabs.

          • bean says:

            Easier to use seems to include things like ‘not having to figure out where I am before I call’. Yes, it’s something a taxi company could do, but I’m not sure why they would without Uber forcing them to do so.
            As for price, while subsidization from capital is obviously not sustainable, I expect the equilibrium price will be somewhat lower than the taxi monopoly used to charge. As Matt says, faster is more about how fast I get the ride than how long I spend in the vehicle, and Uber wins there by a big margin.
            Unless your experience with taxis is exclusively in Singapore (where the only problem the taxis haven’t solved is the one about having to know your location, and that might have been because I was using a dumb phone), this just doesn’t match my experience.

          • LHN says:

            Easier than dialing the number of the local taxi service, saying “I’m at X and need a taxi to Y”, and listening as they tell you how long it will be?

            Much. No twenty minutes on hold, no ambiguity about the location, and the ability to track and contact the driver to have a sense whether they’re stuck in traffic or just decided not to bother with the pickup.

            There’s also the rating system, which gives Uber/Lyft drivers an incentive not to drive like a maniac by having the passenger experience matter. (Tipping theoretically might do that for cab drivers, but in my experience it never has.)

            I avoid cabs whenever possible, even if it takes much longer (taking the L downtown and then back out to the airport) or costs more (paying for city parking or a long parking stretch at the airport), and my experiences when necessity demands that I use them haven’t done anything to persuade me that they’ve gotten better. Uber/Lyft are just better experiences.

            (Whether that’s sustainable is another question. I have a sense of a gradual regression to the mean in the last year or so. But if the ride experience becomes indistinguishable from cabs, I’ll go back to the alternative options.)

          • Matt M says:

            One more thing – Uber is universal throughout the US (the world maybe, I’m not sure?). One app serves you fine wherever you go.

            I can fly to Dallas or San Francisco or Chicago or Jacksonville and take out my Uber app and get a ride in minutes. Drop me in any of those cities and tell me to “call a cab” and what do I do? I guess I bring up google and search “cabs san francisco” and call the first one? I don’t know who the local cabs are, who has a good reputation, whatever.

            With Uber I know exactly what I’m getting, it requires no time or effort or thought on my part. I press a button and I have a ride. Glorious.

          • JayT says:

            Easier: Absolutely. I don’t have to call a dispatcher that barely speaks English while I’m in the middle of a noisy city.

            Faster: Again, absolutely. I’ve never waited less than 20 minutes to get a cab I called for, and where I live it’s usually closer to an hour. Once I’m in the car, my experience is that Uber drivers just want to get the ride over with as quickly as possible and will take side streets to avoid traffic jams, and will listen to me when I request a specific route. I’ve walked away from many cabs because the driver would refuse to turn off a main road that was backed up, even if it was obvious that the side streets were wide open.

          • John Schilling says:

            With Uber I know exactly what I’m getting, it requires no time or effort or thought on my part. I press a button and I have a ride.

            A button on your smartphone, which has GPS mapping and Goolge. So, yes, it’s faster and easier than looking up your location, looking up the number of a local cab company, and making the call. But it’s not going to be so much faster and easier as to be a world-changing transformation like, e.g., the smartphone itself.

            Or, what were you all doing for transportation when e.g. visiting foreign cities, when summoning a taxi required the intolerable burden of using three whole smartphone apps and talking to a human being?

          • Spookykou says:


            Most large foreign cities that people have cause to visit(or at least that I have had cause to visit) also have better public transit than you will find in the US. In my pre-uber travels I probably spent a combined 6 months in foreign cities(I am not terribly old) and at the moment I can only remember 1 cab ride, to get to the airport on time in London.

            I also think you are forgetting the power of trivial inconveniences. Hell, if I am with anyone else I make them hail the uber and pay them back by buying lunch or something, because I don’t want to go through the trouble of pulling out my phone and opening the App.

            Although, as I have commented before, I have incredibly low base motivation/agency so I am probably something of an outlier.

            Just in general my experience with Cabs, living in a medium to large sized city, has been horrible. Calling a cab to pick me up from home works ok, although it is considerably slower than Uber, but trying to get a Cab while on the street but not in a high traffic area is a nightmare, Uber seems dramatically better at that task in particular.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t use taxis frequently, but when I do I order them online, they arrive promptly, and take my preferred route if I ask them to. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe this varies between countries.

          • Spookykou says:

            I have only ever used a taxi by calling the taxi service, and have not used one since Uber. Like I said if I arranged for a taxi to pick me up from my house and take me to the airport at an appointed time, it worked fine. If I called a taxi to come get me from wherever I happen to be in the city, half the time they never show up. If they do show up, the best response time I have ever gotten was about 20 minutes. I have never had an Uber fail to pick me up after ordering one, and often get response times sub 5 minutes. The particulars of my use might impact this, though, I mostly use some kind of car service to go downtown/to go home after a night downtown, or while traveling to pick me up from a random residential area where my Air BnB is located, and take me downtown.

          • LHN says:

            For foreign travel, I used transit (or walking) almost exclusively. The major exception is the one cab ride– well, two, there and back– to a restaurant in Xi’an, which should probably have charged extra as a thrill ride. (Granted, just crossing the street in China was an adventure given the barely advisory status of traffic signals; we mostly just waited for locals to cross and followed them.)

            Going back, we wandered blindly for a while, and eventually gave up on trying to hail a cab and went into a hotel and tipped the doorman to do it for us. Being able to whip out a smartphone and click a button would have saved quite a bit of time and stress. (But I had a flip phone that I was only going to pay international rates for in an emergency, and internet ride services were years in the future.)

            Though in that case, I’m doubtful that the ride would have been less exciting, since my impression is that that’s just how Chinese traffic rolls.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, even as a huge uber fanboy, I never used it once on a 10-countries-in-30-days tour through Europe last summer. Public transit got me absolutely everywhere I needed to be, even some random obscure rural area where a musical festival was happening had a regular bus route that went by every 30 minutes.

          • Garrett says:

            I’ve never used Uber, but local Taxi cab medallion systems can DIAF.

            I’ve attempted to use a cab twice for medical purposes. The first involved a scheduled surgery. I scheduled a cab pick-up 24h in advance. I was sitting on my porch in the morning, waiting for the taxi to arrive. Nothing. I called the company and asked where my cab was. Oops. I still ended being ~30 minutes late for early-morning surgery.

            The other involved a case where I’d been unable to sleep due to pain for almost a week straight. Once I couldn’t take it any more, I called the 24h nurse line with my insurance and they told me to go to the ER and not to drive myself. So I called for a cab. Okay. After half an hour and no cab, I was told that because the bars were getting out, it would be a while, and they weren’t able to tell me how long it would take. So I drove myself. The cartel can die a painful death and I’ll enjoy it.

          • Cheese says:

            You can pretty much summarise the entire reasoning behind people preferring Uber to a cab in 2 ways I think, as these comments show.

            1. Cheaper. As John says it is somewhat unsustainable and it will be interesting to see what happens when they have to raise cost.

            2. The dispatch system. Oh god the taxi dispatch system.

            To be on hold for 30 minutes + at a peak time. To not even get a time estimate but the brusque “next available”. To have it just not rock up, or to have it rock up and instead of waiting 1-2 minutes for you to grab your bags and get out the door, have it drive off again (rinse and repeat booking process). To be utterly unable to assess what the cost and wait time might be before booking.

            I genuinely believe that if Taxi companies by and large had ploughed a large amount of resources into developing a streamlined and highly functional app, Uber wouldn’t have gotten a look in where I live. For novelty value it might have grabbed a small market share. But if the taxi companies had popped out an app which allowed easy assessment of wait times, streamlined booking, a cost estimate, a rudimentary complaint system for shitty drivers…

            Where I live there’s an effective monopoly on taxis by one services company which provides booking and payment services. They have their own cabs but also there’s a lot of smaller operators who plug into their system. They absolutely had the capacity and resources to do that. As it stands 5 years post-Uber they *still* don’t have an app with anything approaching decent functionality.

            I don’t particularly like Uber but the utility difference to me is staggering. It seems to be a fairly common theme that taxi companies have dug their own grave with respect to ease of use.

            Although it’s interesting to note that when I visit Sydney there is an ‘uber taxi’ option on the app. Slightly more expensive than Uber X but often more convenient. It really is the dispatch system.

          • John Schilling says:

            Most large foreign cities that people have cause to visit(or at least that I have had cause to visit) also have better public transit than you will find in the US.

            Bad phrasing on my part; by “foreign” I meant “not the city you live in and so know the local transit infrastructure”, including US cities. And for context: my most common use of a taxi or uber is flying into a general-aviation airport in the US, with my ultimate destination being more than a bicycle ride away, and needing a ride. Taxis are always a phone call away, and in that context reliable. Uber ranges from completely unavailable to marginally faster and more convenient than taxis.

            I also think you are forgetting the power of trivial inconveniences.

            That is a nearly irresistible temptation to snark. I’ll leave it at this: If the effect of Uber is to move the trivial-inconvenience needle across your personal line from “won’t bother” to “will use”, fine, that’s an improvement. Describing this marginal improvement as the “most significant life-changing engine since smartphones”, is the sort of exaggerated hype that contributes to anti-Uber sentiment among everyone else.

          • Matt M says:

            As it stands 5 years post-Uber they *still* don’t have an app with anything approaching decent functionality.

            Exactly this. To me, complaints of “Taxis can’t compete with Uber because of regulations” run extremely hollow. The vast majority have not even tried, despite years of having their asses kicked. 100% of their efforts have gone into political lobbying, and approximately zero into “making their own product better such that it can compete with Uber”

            I can’t imagine EVERYTHING better about Uber is literally illegal for taxi companies to do. And yet, they are trying basically none of it. Their business strategy is to have the competition declared illegal, and that’s the ONLY strategy they have.

          • Matt M says:

            Describing this marginal improvement as the “most significant life-changing engine since smartphones”, is the sort of exaggerated hype that contributes to anti-Uber sentiment among everyone else.

            Out of curiosity, could you name three post-smartphone inventions YOU would pick for that title?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Out of curiosity, could you name three post-smartphone inventions YOU would pick for [“most significant life-changing engine since smartphones”]?

            Dunno about John, but I can think of one, plus two on the near horizon: 3D printing, self-driving cars, and drone delivery service.

          • JayT says:

            Industrial 3D printers predate the smart phone by many years. I guess you could say home 3D printers are a post-smartphone invention, but even with that, I don’t think they have really changed many people’s lives yet. At least not at the level Uber has.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            As seen elsewhere on this thread, I’m no particular fan of Uber, and I roll my eyes at some of their claims about how they’re going to change the world, but:

            Rides-for-hire on your smartphone (Uber-like apps) are the #1 software compliment to the smartphone hardware. The reason that Uber is the best-funded app-maker ever is the recognition that this is a new, important thing that is made better by doing it on a smartphone in a way that nothing else so far has been.

            It happens that Uber in particular has really serious flaws as an organization, that are in no way intrinsic to the concept of “getting a ride-for-hire on your smartphone,” and that Uber let their own hype get away from them so that instead of being a very successful multi-billion-dollar company, they let themselves get funded to a multi-tens-of-billion-dollars level and now are beholden to grow bigger than they actually can.

          • John Schilling says:

            Out of curiosity, could you name three post-smartphone inventions YOU would pick for that title?

            My personal technology use is highly idiosyncratic, and I don’t think WAAS GPS approaches are what you are looking for.

            So: Facebook. Amazon Prime. Netflix/Hulu/etc. Plug-in hybrds and practical electric cars generally. And really, same-day painless root canals and crowns saved me more grief in one day than Uber has in its corporate existence, but it would be cheating to bring up medical advances in a discussion of consumer electronics.

          • rlms says:

            Define “post-smartphone”. Post-prototype, or post-iPhone?

          • LHN says:

            I don’t think same-day crowns have filtered to my area of the Slow Zone. When my wife lost one relatively recently, IIRC, she had to get a temporary and wait for the permanent same as last decade. (Sounds great, though.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I haven’t used taxis in a few years, mainly because of Uber and Lyft. But I did before that, and I remember their convenience in a given city as being highly, highly idiosyncratic. I’ve called a cab and had one show up in ten minutes (DC, Vegas). I’ve called cabs and had them show up in two hours or not at all (SF Bay Area generally). Most cities seemed to be in the 20-30 minute range.

            Even if all cities had cab services that could be there in ten minutes, though, I think there’d still be room for Uber in the user-experience department, because with Uber I don’t need to spend twenty minutes going through Google results (or, formerly, the phone book) to find a reputable-looking cab service every time I visit a new city. Nor do I have to talk to a dispatcher and make sure they’re not screwing up my address. A well-designed app for a cab service could fix problem 2, a well-designed aggregator could fix problem 1, but those services do not reliably exist.

          • gbdub says:

            @ John Schilling – if you mostly just use taxis to get to/from the airport, you’re kind of cherry-picking their best use case/user experience. There’s almost always a taxi stand with a cab waiting, taxis like going to the airport for that reason, and often it’s a flat fare.

            Then again, part of their advantage there is a protectionist monopoly cab companies arrange with the airport, so it’s not really a fundamental superiority.

            @ Everyone – I wonder why no one has come up with a general purpose Uber-for-legacy-cabs hail and dispatch app? Basically make a national network of cab companies, who could pay a licensing fee to tap into your system. The app would work in any city with a participating cab company and show an Uber-like user interface with car positions, one touch hailing, etc. So when you get to a new city, just pull up the app.

            You’d probably have to do it on a national level to make it worth the development cost, but it seems like something local cab companies would buy into since they don’t really compete with the cab company from the next city over, no reason not to join them in the network.

          • JayT says:

            One of the big differences between cabs and Uber (at least where I live) is that with Cabs they have specific areas that they serve, and they can’t leave that area to pick up a fare. If a cab’s area is a residential area where everyone is staying in that night, the cabby can’t decide to go get fairs at the stadium that is letting out because it’s in a different area. Uber doesn’t have any such restrictions, so even if the cabs had an app that worked like Uber’s, they wouldn’t be able to to send a car as efficiently as Uber can.

          • bean says:

            I don’t think that’s quite right, but I agree that John’s use is not typical. He’s flying into general aviation airports, which don’t usually have taxi stands. What they do usually have is a desk with someone who can give you the number of a good taxi service. That’s going to be really nice compared to taking a chance based on google.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @gbdub: I worked on exactly that product (Uber for legacy cabs). I don’t mean as a personal project or anything — I was the lead server engineer at a startup that was trying to do that, from 2012 to 2014. It failed. I can talk about the problems with the concept if there’s an interested audience.

          • gbdub says:

            @ John/bean – sorry, brain fart on the “general aviation” part. Apologies for the miss.

            @ sandoratthezoo – I’d be interested, if you’re willing to share. Maybe start a top-level comment on the next open thread, assuming Scott posts one today? It would probably get buried here.

          • LHN says:

            @sandoratthezoo Count one more vote in favor– it sounds interesting.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Sure. I’ll do it in the next open thread.

          • John Schilling says:

            What they do usually have is a desk with someone who can give you the number of a good taxi service. That’s going to be really nice compared to taking a chance based on google.

            Unless you land after hours, in which case it’s google or Uber, and some locations don’t have the Uber penetration to make that a sure win. But usually, yes, ask at the desk for a recommendation. Lately, the recommendation is for Uber as often as not, and I haven’t noticed a general difference in the speed or quality of service (provided I follow the recommendation).

          • CatCube says:


            Put me in as somebody else who’d love to hear the issues.

          • BBA says:


            I wonder why no one has come up with a general purpose Uber-for-legacy-cabs hail and dispatch app?

            Arro exists, though it’s only available in a handful of cities. I mainly use it to pay for taxis I hail off the street.

            The way Arro works, through the credit card acceptor/advertising screens, shows why there will never be a truly national taxi app. For one thing, cabs in many cities don’t accept credit cards, or (in smaller towns) even have meters. Landing at Newark Airport and taking one of their cabs into the City is a lousy experience if you don’t regularly carry lots of cash around. (And the taxis are noticeably older and dingier than NYC cabs, and the drivers will try to cheat you if you don’t understand the zone-based fares. However, since about 99% of people using Newark taxis are non-Newark residents being picked up from the airport, there’s no reason for the city government to bother trying to regulate them properly – it’s not like they’re losing any votes for it.)

            There are also just too many cab companies in America to be able to make a one-size-fits-all app for all of them. Still, Arro proves that you can make an Uber-style app for boring old taxis and it works pretty well.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      For me it’s because the people at the top are such cartoonish scumbags and the company so revels in playing the “Not touching you” game with the law. I’d never take an Uber but would consider a Lyft or some other competitor.

    • Travis, like most wildly successful CEOs and founders, is a jerk. Unlike most other CEOs, he’s apparently unable to hide it. Combine that with a culture of aggressively successful, smart, and rich, men. Rumors (potentially true) of anti-women bias or harassment. There is also the fact that they are viewed as anti-working class, by participating to the gig economy. And, not to mention, a willingness to skirt the rules and disobey government regulations, and you start to hit on all the facets of what lots of modern progressivism despises.

      It’s a really potent emotional combination, which is far easier to react to than more abstract ‘rational’ perspectives (e.g. we estimate Uber has saved X lives from drunk driving. Or, Uber has provided an opportunity for working class folks to have a second job on their own schedule) Or, Uber isn’t creating the gig-economy, and whether we like it or not that appears to be a new fundamental structure to our economy.

      • Matt M says:

        Right but like…. I’m asking why there’s such hatred for it HERE, in a rationalist-aligned space. Yes, the CEO is a jerk, but CEOs are jerks a lot of places. Yes, there are allegations of harassment, but there are allegations of harassment lots of places. Yes, the “gig economy” is a shameful capitalist exploitation of workers (if you lean that sort of way), but there are lots of places that participate in the gig economy.

        Like, it would be really obvious why commenters at Mother Jones or wherever would hate Uber with a passion – but I’ll admit to being somewhat surprised to seeing this place react in a similar way!

        • Brad says:

          I haven’t noticed it being an especial punching bag here. Do you mean “why aren’t people here as enthusiastic about it as I am”?

          • Spookykou says:

            At least a few people have expressed the sentiment that they won’t use Uber, regardless of the quality of the service, because of issues with the CEO. Which is making me update my beliefs about the libertarian claim that informed consumers will reduce corporate externalities, maybe it really would all work out!

          • Matt M says:

            I feel like in the silly-con valley topic there were far more negative comments than positive ones, and this is a place, more than any other, that I would expect to have positive feelings towards it. But maybe my perceptions of the commentariat are wrong.

        • He’s more successful than I’ll ever be, I also work in tech, and it’s because he’s both smarter and more conniving than I am (I am too nice of a person to be conniving, by nature) 😛

    • Deiseach says:

      But I have to imagine it can still provide great benefits to middle, or even lower class people as well.

      From a 2015 survey (so the data may be out of date):

      26% of Americans with an annual household income of $75,000 or more have used these services, while just 14% have never heard of them. For those living in households with an annual income of less than $30,000, just 10% have used these services and 49% are not familiar with them at all.

      So the interesting part here is, why don’t lower-income urban people use Uber/Lyft, especially as these are probably the type of people who rely more on public transport to get them to work, etc.?

      Is it (a) Uber targets better-off people? (b) lower-income people think of Uber as a taxi service, not a ride-sharing service, and they have a mindset of “we’re not the sort who take taxis to work, we take the bus”? (c) lower-income people think of Uber as something they would work for, not a service they would use?

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think (d), it costs too much.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Uber, as a gross generalization, is for people who have more money than time.

          Yes, that statement is wrong in lots of ways, but it’s also basically right.

          • LHN says:

            Though it depends on circumstances. When my brother was visiting town, at first we planned to use transit. But given the size of the group (me and my wife, him and his wife, five kids) piling everyone into a couple of Ubers/Lyfts was at least competitive.

            (And since they’d picked a cool weekend that the rain never let up during, much more pleasant.)

          • Matt M says:

            Would this NOT have been said about automobiles when they were first invented too?

            I feel like “it was invented a few years ago and is not yet cheap enough that it is universally accessible to the poorest 10%” is a pretty weak criticism. How many life-changing inventions are also immediately priced to be universally available?

            Cars didn’t replace horse-drawn carriages instantly. Netflix didn’t replace Blockbuster right away. All cool new things start out as toys for the rich. Saying “this new thing can’t be cool because it’s just a toy for the rich” seems a bit counter intuitive does it not?

          • Incurian says:

            …is for people who have more money than time.

            I think this is the basis of all trade.

          • Nornagest says:

            I feel like “it was invented a few years ago and is not yet cheap enough that it is universally accessible to the poorest 10%” is a pretty weak criticism.

            I feel like criticism along these lines assumes that technological progress doesn’t give you any meaningful change in quality of life — that it’s Juiceros all the way down.

            I disagree, obviously. When I was a kid, fruit in winter cost a ton of money if it was available at all; now seasonality is barely a thing. And even my iPhone, maybe the most-cited status good out there, really improves my life. I don’t need to buy a Walkman or an alarm clock or a set of encyclopedias or a landline phone because my mobile does all of that for me. And I can never get lost. I don’t even own a paper map of my city and I still can’t get lost unless something takes out the cell network. That would have blown my mind in 1990.

            Middle-class cost of living has been flat for decades, sure, but that’s because non-technological factors have offset the very real technological progress.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            I realize that you are trying to get down to the brass tacks of your original question, but I first want to point out that I was really just trying to to amplify an answer given to Deiseach about why use of Uber, Lyft and other mobile hailed taxis (ride-sharing? pish!) is overrepresented among those with more income.

            Would this NOT have been said about automobiles when they were first invented too?

            Absolutely! And many other modern amenities. And there was lots of backlash against automobiles (people were, among other things, criticizing how fast they could go and opining whether this would have deleterious affects on the human body).

            Cell phones (and beepers) used to be hated for being useless status symbols. Now cell phones are hated for being to ubiquitous.

            You can always find people willing to criticize a thing for being: a) a useless status symbol of the rich, b) a marker of the unwashed masses who do not appreciate the finer things, or c) a marker of the bourgeois masses who do not appreciate the “real” world. This is nothing new. There might be probably scrawled graffiti in Pompeii asserting one or all of these, I wouldn’t be surprised.

            As to the question of why Uber is hated around here … is it? I’m actually kind of surprised to see this contention. I thought it was municipalities and taxi companies that were hated for standing in the way of a market innovation.

          • Nornagest says:

            From what I remember of the Pompeiian graffiti, it was too busy declaiming about who had sex with whom where.

        • bean says:

          Definitely. It’s much more reasonable than a taxi, but I can’t say it’s competitive with actually running a car yourself if you look only at cash. And lower-income people are less able to afford trading cash for convenience. I only use it to get to and from airports, because it’s cheaper than parking a car there for a week, and it’s nice to be able to be picked up at the terminal instead of hauling your luggage out to the car and driving home.

          • Matt M says:

            There are definitely some situations in which using uber exclusively can beat owning a car, although it largely depends on living in a place where uber is cheap and buying a non-cheap car (which is surprisingly common for a whole lot of young/poor people to do)

            I’ve done the numbers and it would save me a lot of money to sell my car and just Uber all the time (although I bought a fairly expensive car which definitely alters the deal a bit)

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Uber has cost me about $30 for a 40-mile trip, IIRC. At that rate, I’m paying $75k for 100k miles. I can put about 300k miles on my own car, for which I’ve paid about $30k. However, I’m also paying for gas, oil changes, tires, brake replacements, various maintenance, parking, insurance, tag renewal, emissions testing, and training. Fuel alone is another $25k; tires are a few hundred every couple years; insurance is in the low thousands, I think; these expenses add up.

          It might be possible for an alternate version of me to get a license, and then live completely off Uber/Lyft + rentals for long trips and save money, given what I’ve seen. I don’t know how insurance would work in that case.

          • JayT says:

            If you live in a place with expensive parking that is another way services like Uber can save you money.

          • Matt M says:

            Uber is definitely optimized for getting around town and not for 20+ mile trips. If you have to regularly make long trips outside of town, owning a car is still definitely economical.

          • Matt M says:


            Yep. I live fairly close to work (but not close enough to walk). The parking garage near my building is $18 per day. An uber both ways is about $12. Literally cheaper to have someone else drive me around than to drive myself!

      • Matt M says:

        I think the average lower-middle class person today has already adapted to life in a pre-Uber world, where taxis were expensive and inconvenient, therefore they optimized for either car ownership or public transit options.

        The true value of uber is that it vastly reduces the need to own a car, while expanding your potential transit options well beyond where public transit runs. Obviously this won’t be of huge benefit for someone who figured out how to buy and maintain a cheap car already, or who carefully considered their home/work location to run along major public transit lines.

        I’d be curious to see that survey controlled for age, as well as more obviously, cities where Uber operates. Like, how much of that 14% gap can be explained by “higher income people live in cities where Uber exists and lower income people live in rural areas where it simply isn’t an option” I would imagine that if you were to survey “people who live in cities where uber operates and are under the age of 35” the gap shrinks dramatically.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      On this board you’re looking at a group of extremely communitarian rationalists (hence the interest in preserving local cultures, national homogeneity, etc.). They are probably going to see value in the corporate form, where employees and employers have unstated traditional obligations to each other, and to therefore see less value in a system like Uber’s.

      For what it’s worth, my understanding is that Uber is in the business of screwing their drivers with hidden costs. Supposedly if you drove for Uber full time and factor in wear-and-tear on your vehicle you’d be making about $10,000 a year. But people don’t factor in wear-and-tear so they think driving for Uber is a good deal. Has this directly contributed to the low esteem in which they are held? Probably not, but Uber certainly seems like the sort of company that would work like this.

      • Matt M says:

        I agree with the notion that most people’s view of their earnings is probably overstated because they are not properly accounting for depreciation.

        That said, I summarily reject the view that hundreds of thousands of people are working a job for essentially no pay because they’re all too stupid to realize they aren’t actually making any money, and that this situation can continue indefinitely.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Uber is not acting like they expect it to continue indefinitely.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          It’s obviously not the case that a full time Uber driver is misunderstanding the difference between let’s say a decent $35,000 a year job and a $10,000 a year job due to depreciation of his vehicle. How much do people think that these vehicles are worth?

          • Matt M says:

            I will say that I encounter a surprising amount of uber drivers who drive vehicles that are definitely NOT optimized for Uber (although some of that is Texas, where certain people refuse to drive anything other than giant trucks for what can only be described as religious reasons).

            Also a surprising amount of not-rich-looking drivers in high-end consumer cars, or low-end luxury cars. I think people who don’t have a lot of experience interacting with the lower-middle class underappreciate the ability of people in it to buy vehicles that are way more expensive than you would expect such people to own. Buying a stupidly expensive car is one of the most common financial traps that a lot of lower-middle class people find themselves in.

          • LHN says:

            My last Lyft driver said he was basically driving for a year to pay for the car (which was IIRC a reasonably basic sedan rather than a luxury model). While I obviously didn’t see his balance sheet, he’d been doing it for a few months and it seemed to be working out. (Though he told me that he didn’t like it enough to keep doing it once the car was paid off.)

            Of course, I also don’t know how the math works for him between that and his doing something else for a year and buying last year’s model with that much mileage on it.

          • Matt M says:

            I did see a Bentley with an Uber sticker on it the other morning.

            I feel like even if you’re exclusively doing Uber Black trips to the airport…. that can’t POSSIBLY be profitable!

    • rlms says:

      Do people hate Uber that much (I only skimmed the comments on that posts)? I don’t use it myself, but my view is broadly that it’s providing a nice service in redistributing money from rich investors to its customers, and I’ll be sad when it crashes and burns.

      • Matt M says:

        I feel like “this is a scam that only works by bilking investors and will inevitably crash and burn” qualifies as hatred, even if it’s based on an entirely different line of reasoning…

      • Deiseach says:

        So if Uber is subsidising its fares by using the investor money, and can therefore offer cheaper rates than taxi firms, is it perhaps the case that taxi firms are not greedy monopolies over-charging their customers but are indeed setting a reasonable market rate in line with what it realistically costs to provide such a service, and that if/when Uber stops having access to piles of cash and has to live off the fares it charges, those fares will go up?

        • rlms says:

          Indeed. They might be able to provide a service that is better (for the price) than taxis, but not as much better as their current prices suggest.

        • Matt M says:

          But, as discussed, Uber is a more pleasant experience than a taxi in basically EVERY possible way. By a wide margin. They could charge 20% more than taxis and I’d still choose to use them. The fact that they’re actually cheaper is icing on the cake.

    • MNH says:

      I’m not pro- or anti- Uber, but the most compelling anti-Uber argument I’ve encountered so far was made here.

      • LHN says:

        That’s an argument against investing in Uber, but not particularly against using it.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Hailing a ride-for-hire with a smartphone is a highly worthwhile innovation that Uber popularized, though did not invent, and which is here to stay. Having the ability to turn extra time and a decent car into a small income stream is a worthwhile innovation that is probably here to stay unless it’s strangled by regulations.

      Uber is not necessary for either of those things to continue. It has plenty of competitors, and had more before it ferociously price-competed to the tune of losing several billion dollars per year. If Uber disappeared tomorrow, you’d still be able to hail a ride-for-hire with your smartphone, and to turn your car + your free time into money.

      Reasons to hate specifically Uber, not the general concept of an Uber-like-service, in no particular order:

      a. The corporate culture seems to at best condone and at worst glorify the sexual harassment of employees and generally acting like a parody of a group of douchebags.

      b. As a company, they unfailingly choose the douchiest possible approaches to growth. In a memorable incident a few years ago, they claimed that their median UberX driver in NYC made $97k per year. When challenged, they were literally unable to produce a single driver who made that much. When they had a problem with driver density, their solution was to just straight up lie and show cars on the map that aren’t there, real close to you. I mean, christ. Meanwhile, the actual functionality and performance of their app is usually pretty shitty for a company as well-resourced as they are (though they do slowly improve).

      c. The fact that they’re gifted this enormous pile of money by credulous investors and used it to offer their service at gross discounts meant that they drove a bunch of generally less douchey competitors out of business. Short term, this has been great for drivers and passengers who have diverted billions of dollars of investor money into their pockets. Long term, it’ll be fine as this too shall pass and we’ll end up with some kind of basically functioning market for transportation. Medium term it’s kind of shitty as once Uber’s subsidies stop, someone will have to build the new rides-for-hire market up out of the ashes of failed expectations.

      d. Shut up, Travis Kalanick.

      e. Also, shut up Uber no you are not going to make flying cars.

    • Matt M says:

      Worth noting that half the complaints are “It’s too expensive” and the other half seem to be “It’s too cheap”

      So perhaps it’s actually priced just right?

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        It’s too expensive to really be a critically important transportation infrastructure component, but even so, it’s unnaturally cheap due to the very large subsidization. These can both be true.

        • JayT says:

          Would you consider cabs to be a critically important part of the transportation infrastructure? Uber isn’t that much cheaper than cabs in most cities, and it seems to me that cabs have always been treated as a critical part of transportation in cities.

    • eighty-six twenty-three says:

      I’m a big fan of Uber and Lyft. Taxis are terrible and Uber is better in many ways, and I support this.

      I’d like to start by noting: by disrupting an industry, these companies have made enemies of a lot of taxi companies. Taxi companies can retaliate by trying to generate negative press about Uber. So, when we see negative press about Uber, we should think carefully about whether this is a genuinely bad thing or something someone might have paid for.

      Having said that, there does seem to be a lot of bad press around the company. Like, dramatically more than Lyft, even though there would seem to be equal reason for taxi companies to attack either of them.

      The thing that most worries me about Uber is that I’ve heard it’s not profitable — that they’re burning through venture capital by subsidizing rides. I wish they wouldn’t do this.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Oh my god, taxi companies are small-to-medium-sized local businesses, not sinister cabals that control the world. Do they benefit from a certain amount of regulatory capture (which develops in a way more-organic, less-sinister way than people tend to imagine)? Yes, absolutely. Are they often kind of terrible businesses? Yes, absolutely.

        Are they capable of coordinating sophisticated astroturfing smear campaigns against organizations hundreds of times their size with hundreds of times their marketing/PR budget and far more political clout? Of course not. Don’t be absurd.

        • Incurian says:

          They do have unions.

        • JayT says:

          There are lobbying groups that tie all of those small-to-medium-sized companies together though, and they have been able to keep ride sharing companies out of certain markets.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            There are not lobbying groups that tie them all together. There may in some cases be some successful lobbying by the taxi companies in a few markets. But note that the taxi companies have unilaterally lost to Uber, and that Uber is bigger, with better lobbyists and far more political clout, than the entire taxi industry in the United States put together.

            The idea that taxi unions or lobbying is some giant sinister force with incredible clout, is, most charitably, a notion that had some truth in 2010 but has long since lost much explanatory power. Less charitably, it’s a lie that Uber spreads because it’s convenient for Uber to be regarded, incredibly, as a rebel upstart. It’s a $70 billion dollar company, guys. David Plouffe lobbies on its behalf. It is not the underdog here.

      • Deiseach says:

        The thing that most worries me about Uber is that I’ve heard it’s not profitable — that they’re burning through venture capital by subsidizing rides. I wish they wouldn’t do this.

        That’s how they can undercut the fares charged by taxi and hackney cabs – they’re subsidising them. Once they’ve captured the market, they can then stop subsidising their charges and put them up to market rates, just like those evil monopolistic taxi companies – oh, wait… what’s that dynamic pricing strategy again?

        Whatever Uber started out as, right now it’s a taxi company in all but name. Though really, by the definition used over here, it’s a minicab firm. Their employees are not employees, they’re independent contractors and they don’t have the licence to operate (Uber does) so at least in the USA they can’t set up as independent taxi/minicab drivers. I see Irish Uber requires that drivers do have a SPSV licence of their own, so they are more like independent contractors, and the two high-end/luxury services that Uber USA offers also require drivers to have commercial licences:

        Uber limits the number of Black cars that can be active in a market to keep prices and demand high. With the other Uber services, you can apply at any time and get started as soon as you complete the application process. But with the Black and SUV service, you can only start the application process if Uber is accepting new vehicles. In a lot of ways, the Black system is just like the taxi medallion system. Black accounts are so scarce that some people end up selling their Black accounts for big money.

        If you’re hoping to break into the Black market, you’ll first have to find out if Uber is accepting new Black drivers. Email Uber support until they tell you if they are accepting new drivers. That way, you won’t go through all the hassle and expense of figuring out commercial registration and insurance if there are no spaces open.

        It’s a great business model (or it will be a great business model once it starts turning a profit and not relying on pumping in investment funding to keep solvent) because it turned the egalitarian, environmentally-inspired (hey, let’s carpool!), communitarian, ‘hippy’ (sorry to use that word, can’t think of any other that gets across the nuance I want to communicate) idea of “Joe needs to get to the city centre for work, but he doesn’t have a car/access to public transport. Bill drives into the city centre every morning for work. How about if we put Joe in contact with Bill to share the ride into the city, and Joe throws in some money for gas?” notion of the original app and turned it into a commercial “small public service vehicle” cab hire business where Joe and Bill are no longer equals, Bill is an employee/contractor providing a service for Joe, the customer, who feels the same entitlement to quality of service any customer feels when paying for a service and this is reflected in the reviews they leave, while managing to keep the image of “we’re bold independent empowering pioneers shaking up the transport market by giving people the opportunity to be self-employed using their asset of a motor car and their skill as a driver, and rebel upstarts against the entrenched profiteering taxi firms!”

        • LHN says:

          Once they’ve captured the market

          It seems pretty difficult to capture a market like this, where the barriers to entry are comparatively low. They don’t even have a monopoly on their own fleet: most of the drivers I’ve seen have stickers for both Uber and Lyft and are presumably accepting rides from both. If those start charging duopoly prices I’m not sure what stops a new entrant from recruiting those selfsame drivers and undercutting the other two.

          They won’t charge below-market rates forever, but without the artificial scarcity enforced by the taxi medallion system it’s likely that the equilibrium price for app-summoned cars is lower than that for cabs. There doesn’t seem much of an opening for them to be able to charge monopoly or cartel rents without drawing new competitors into the field.

          (Unless they can buy sweetheart deals with the municipality, but at worst that just duplicates the existing system rather than creating a new problem.)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          The problem with the hippie-ish approach is that there’s a good bit of fear of extending trust to strangers. I’m not sure how many people would be unwilling to having someone they don’t know anything about in a car with them, but there’s definitely a fair number of them.

          I think there was a sign of something going wrong in the late sixties or so when it seemed as though the attitude if there was violence between a driver and a hitchhiker, it wasn’t a simply bad thing or a disgraceful violation of trust, it was almost a justified punishment for being such a fool as to trust a stranger. (This is my impression of how people were thinking– anyone else have an opinion about whether this is accurate?)

  15. Kevin C. says:

    So, a question on dating, a request for advice/guidance. How does an unemployed, introverted, ultra-rightist atheist with Aspergers, who doesn’t drink for medical reasons (medication interaction), and who (for multiple reasons) cannot move from his current city of residence, who has a practically nonexistent sex-drive (even before antidepressants) and literally no dating experience go about searching for a potential wife (for the purpose of meeting a moral obligation to reproduce)?

    • Matt M says:

      Would donating to a sperm bank fulfill your moral obligation?

      • Brad says:

        I assume this is a spin-off of this discussion:

        In which case donating to a sperm bank would be entirely beside the point. Maybe even counterproductive.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Or simply give money to a person with good genes who will reproduce earlier if they get financially settled earlier. (I wonder if there are any kickstarters for this?)

        • Kevin C. says:

          But will they raise those children in my moral/tribal values? (See Brad’s link.) Plus, again, living on government support, so no money to speak of.

          • onyomi says:

            If the key point is to raise children with your moral/tribal values, then you could adopt (unless the goal is to produce more people with the genetic makeup that predisposed you to have your current values, in which case sperm donation would be fine).

            I would note, however, that neither of these things is necessarily easy. Adoption, from what I understand, comes with a ton of red tape, and sperm banks don’t actually want your sperm, I don’t think, if you’re not a tall, healthy person with a preferably Ivy League degree and above-average sperm count (or maybe you are all those things, besides whatever mental health issues you have)?

            Easier than either of these, and possibly more effective at achieving your goals might be to volunteer as some kind of youth mentor. I don’t know if your social anxieties will allow you to do this, but I imagine if it’s at all within the realm of possibility, it might be an easier way to achieve your goal of passing on values without the need for romance, sex, or a lot of money.

            One other alternative: if you have any nephews, nieces, etc., you could just devote yourself to doing whatever possible to help them become successful, socially and reproductively, while also possibly trying to teach them some of your values within the limits possible without becoming a creepy uncle; since they will share a fair number of your genes, you will indirectly be helping your own genetic line. If, thanks to your help, for example, a brother or sister or cousin of yours is able to afford and do a good job raising more children than they would have otherwise, then that is not really that inferior an option, from a broad genetic perspective, as compared to having your own kids.*

            *Side note, apparently there is an effect whereby the more older brothers you have, the higher is a man’s probability of being gay. I can imagine a genetic reason for this might be that, at a certain point, a man’s chances of passing on his genes may be better served by indirectly helping with the raising of his sisters’ children (who, in any case, he can be sure are related to him in a way he can’t be sure of the children even of the women he might have slept with) rather than competing with his brothers for scarce wombs.

          • Kevin C. says:


            then you could adopt

            Since when do they let single men living entirely off government welfare adopt?

            volunteer as some kind of youth mentor… it might be an easier way to achieve your goal of passing on values

            And how long will whatever “youth mentor program” (or the parents) allow me to keep volunteering when I start passing on values that are “racist, sexist, homophobic,” etc.?

            if you have any nephews, nieces

            No, my brothers don’t look to be any more reproductively successful than me any time soon; my youngest is even worse of financially and health-wise than I am.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      In all honesty, you’ll probably want to change at least a bunch of those things.

      • Matt M says:

        Which is easier? Changing a bunch of those things, or convincing him that he doesn’t have to reproduce?

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Well, we can try both and see which one sticks.

        • Urstoff says:

          The easier choice here is not necessarily the better choice.

          • Matt M says:

            Fair enough. I’ve found myself much happier since I gave up on the idea of ever finding a relationship (and therefore stopped trying to change virtually everything about myself) – but to each their own.

            I just think that “give up and figure out how to be happy alone” is, in fact, legitimate advice and a sound strategy that doesn’t get proper consideration in many cases.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Life unwinds like a cheap sweater,
            but since I gave up hope I feel a lot better.

            (Content Warning: video contains pure distilled 80s, as well as well as the original selfie-stick.)

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Matt M

            I have no data to back this up, but as a single I’ve occasionally thought about looking at the online dating market, but has been mostly stopped (any thoughts about attempting anything on that front) by thinking [1] about it like this: if you are desperately seeking a partner at the places where such people would seek such a thing, how likely you would end up someone as desperate? Which might or might not be conductive for a successful relationship. Normal, well-adjusted people you’d like to have relationships with seem date through their social circles.

            [1] I’m quite sure it is not my original idea. No idea where I first heard it, most probably on the internet.

          • Matt M says:

            Online dating is mostly a sham. It is sold as “this helps desperate people date too” but for the most part, it’s actually “this helps attractive and successful people obtain dates with greater efficiency”

            You are wrong that normal people aren’t there. The normal people ARE there, messaging the same girls you want to message, only doing so with more attractive photos and better social skills.

            The desperate are there also. If Kevin says “I refuse to give up” then my best honest response would be to troll Tinder and swipe on 100% of girls every 12 hours or whatever the max is now, and stick to POF (bottom of the barrel) and focus on the fat girls as they tend to have lower standards (don’t mean this as offensive to anyone, just my observations from about a decade of trying to pull this off from a not nearly as desperate situation as he is)

          • Deiseach says:

            focus on the fat girls as they tend to have lower standards (don’t mean this as offensive to anyone)

            None taken 🙂 I have been on the receiving end of “She’s fat, so she must be desperate, so I have every chance with her and don’t have to try beyond indicating I’m willing to stick my dick in that” interactions, and I would just like to thank God, Jesus, Allah and Mother Nature for making me aromantic/asexual because dear Lord in Heaven if I wanted love and relationships I would have every reason to throw myself under a bus.

          • Matt M says:

            A slightly more positive spin would be “they aren’t used to anyone trying, so if you try even a little bit, they’ll be super impressed and think you’re some kind of don juan”

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Jaskologist says:
            Life unwinds like a cheap sweater,

            It’s alright to say things can only get better;
            You haven’t lost your brand new sweater.

            Wait, what?

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, I never expected to see a Sultans Of Ping FC reference on here! 🙂

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I did think about tagging you on a they’re-from-your-neck-of-the-woods basis, but I somehow didn’t have you down as a likely fan 😛

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I’m a little bit surprised that there isn’t a niche dating website for this demographic already 🙂

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Seconding Whatever Happened To Anonymous here.

      I know from personal experience that unemployed ultra-rightist atheists who can’t drink for medical reasons and had no prior dating experience can date successfully. Personally I read Bang and Day Bang, got a short-term job as a donut shop cashier which helped me learn smalltalk, started going to the gym regularly and learned how to cook, then set myself a quota of approaches per day until I had worn down my approach anxiety. Not married yet but I’m in a relationship with an incredible woman who wants to start a family with me. I also had a ton of casual sex in between but that’s mostly gravy.

      That exact advice might not apply​ due to other factors (I’m neurotypical and very tall) but the gist is the same. The first step in attracting women is to become a more attractive version of yourself. That mostly means improving your health through changing diet and exercise habits, dermatology, improving your posture or just getting better sleep. But it will also mean behavioral changes: learning to be less frightened of normies and how to flirt effectively.

      TL;DR: Build habits which are good ideas anyway, like daily exercise and a regular sleep schedule. Get a job if possible. On top of that approach a lot of women, over and over, until the idea stops being daunting.

      • Kevin C. says:

        learned how to cook

        Already do this, like the rest of my family (I and my siblings grew up to poor to afford to eat anything premade other than “canned”), though not nearly as well as my brother with the culinary arts degree from the Culinary Institute of America.

        As for getting a job, I’ve gone through my state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation twice. Both times, they ultimately turfed me out to an employment agency — the same one both times (as I’ve put it to others, DVR is used to and set up for dealing with the physically disabled, the cognitively impaired, and recovering addicts, not mad geniuses). The first time, after months of fruitless searching they found me a part-time job with a math-tutoring business (a franchise of a national chain), which went out of business about a year later in the economic downturn. The second time, after more searching and applying and resumes, the agency threw up their hands, gave me a new printer, a paper shredder, a copy of QuickBooks, and a box of business cards and said “here you go, you’re now a self-employed tutor”, and while that lasted, my best customer was the school-age son of the person I worked with at the employment agency, and most the rest were DVR referrals. And as Alaska’s economy continued to slide down into its current state, even that dried up.

        An added complication, I might add, is that I don’t drive, and our bus service is lousy (and about to become even worse this October).

        quota of approaches per day

        Where? How? Who?

        I also had a ton of casual sex in between but that’s mostly gravy.

        Again, not interested in that. In fact, one of the barriers to overcome is my lack of interest in the procreative act itself.

        That mostly means improving your health through changing diet and exercise habits, dermatology, improving your posture or just getting better sleep.

        What makes you think these are a problem? That I don’t have good habits in this area? It’s not that I’m getting “shot down”, it’s that I’ve literally never tried. I’ve never asked a woman out, never tried to flirt (and have no idea how), never really been interested in doing so. I’m talking about starting totally from scratch halfway through the Biblical three-score-and-ten.

        learning to be less frightened of normies

        It’s not so much being afraid of “normies”, as not caring about their stupid opinions, and generally pissing them off, due to lack of tolerance for bullshit and inability to hide my feelings and “fake” things I don’t believe or mean.

        On top of that approach a lot of women, over and over, until the idea stops being daunting.

        Again, where? How? Which women? And it’s not that it’s “daunting”, it’s that I literally have no clue where to start.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m sorry if it came across as me calling you a homely weirdo. Weight, acne and anxiety were issues I had and are very common in the population. It’s admirable that you already have good habits.

          Where? How? Who?


          I know very little about the state of Alaska but what I do know indicates that advice from NYC probably won’t translate in a useful way.

          When I was living in a more rural area upstate I would just start conversations with whomever I ran into. Coffee shops, stores, public transit, the street. And if I didn’t have a reason to be walking around I would invent one just to get out among people.

          (I’ve never been to a Church service but those might also be an option?

          In terms of what to say and how to say it, PUA is your friend. Particularly materials relating to ‘Day Game.’ Their advice is geared towards more short-term relationships​ but it works just as well to build attraction for a future wife.

          It’s not so much being afraid of “normies”, as not caring about their stupid opinions, and generally pissing them off, due to lack of tolerance for bullshit and inability to hide my feelings and “fake” things I don’t believe or mean

          Yeah that’s a problem. You need to, at the very least, improve your ability to hide that disdain.

          • Kevin C. says:

            (I’ve never been to a Church service but those might also be an option?

            Again, not religious. I’ve never been to any sort of church service; pretty much a total heathen here.

            You need to, at the very least, improve your ability to hide that disdain.


        • JayT says:

          If you have no ideas of where to go to meet new people, I recommend moving someplace that has more people.
          Right out of college I got a job in the same town as my university, which is about 50% students and the rest are old people and families. The population of 25-35 year old professionals was minuscule. I moved to a big city, and was married within two years. Your odds of hitting a target are a lot higher if there are more targets.

          • Kevin C. says:

            If you have no ideas of where to go to meet new people, I recommend moving someplace that has more people.

            I think you missed the part where I sad that, for multiple reasons, moving to a different city (and state) is not an option available to me?

          • JayT says:

            I didn’t miss it. I’m telling you that this is the easiest thing a person can change about themselves, even if you think it can’t be changed. You laid out a lot of barriers to finding a partner, and you seem unwilling or unable to change them. I’m telling you that you can move to a bigger city. It’s painful at first, but it is easier than changing your personality or looks.

          • Kevin C. says:


            I’m telling you that you can move to a bigger city.

            First, not without losing more than half my income; namely, the state welfare check, and the rent subsidy (tied to my current residence). Without those, I just have my ~700/mo. SSI.

            Secondly, the last time I tried to live away from my kin, the core of my support system, (when I tried to go to grad school), I wound up being psychiatrically hospitalized twice in under six months.

    • Deiseach says:

      Why do you consider you have a moral obligation to reproduce? I don’t mean that in a “why would anyone with your crappy genes muddy up the gene pool”, I mean “what is the obligation here? continuation of the family name? anti-anti-natalism? to keep up the numbers of my ethnic/whatever group? religious reasons – ‘it is better to marry than to burn’?”

      The reasons you think you are obligated to reproduce are important, as is the question “and why do you think you would be a good parent and husband?” If it’s merely a case of “I should have offspring for Reason X Y or Z” then finding someone who wants a sperm donor and helping them, and then staying out of their lives thereafter, makes as much sense. If you do want to marry, there’s an awful lot more to it than “I now have an appropriate mate who can produce offspring, that’s it done and dusted”.

      I’m interested in your reasoning because I think there are a lot of people who have kids who should not have had kids, and in my own case it would have been an absolute disaster if I ever had children (apart from passing on the paternal line crappy genes, I would have been a dreadful mother and fucked them up like the Philip Larkin poem). So I genuinely do think some people are excused from the duty to reproduce, if there is such a duty in the first place.

      • Spookykou says:

        My personal moral obligation to reproduce goes something like.

        “There is a line going back 3.5 billion years from me to the first life on earth. Countless ancestors have strived, struggled, and survived in order to pass their genes along to me. Five mass extinctions, and my line has survived them all. To let my genes die with me, to be the final link in that unbroken chain going back over 3 billion years, would be truly tragic, unforgivable.”

        It’s more poetic than substantive, but I like it.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Spookykou, are you male or female?

          • Spookykou says:


          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK. Just curious, because that both limits and opens up reproduction options relative to women.

          • Spookykou says:

            I am not sure I follow, if you would care to elaborate, I am now curious.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sure, let me unpack that:
            The bottleneck on mammalian reproduction being pregnancy, the species can flourish as long as the average reproduction per woman is high enough for her to have a female heir, which would probably be about 4 total children with sex equality at birth and high child mortality. In the mating game, each woman’s reproductive capacity is valuable, while Evolution Badger don’t give a F— about a particular man’s involuntary celibacy.
            OTOH, I’ll have to actually rear children to meet that obligation. Being male opens up options to reproduce without the responsibilities of a dad, the most socially acceptable at present being sperm donation.

          • Spookykou says:

            Ah yes, indeed sperm donation is my fall back assuming I fail to achieve my goal through more traditional means.

        • Deiseach says:

          There’s seven billion of us at last count. All descended from those survivors of the mass extinction events. We’re not likely to run out of those genes soon, and unless you are literally The Last Fertile Person Of Your Gender left on the entire Earth, you are not going to be the final link in the chain.

          Those that want and are able to care properly for children, good luck to you, but unless we’re approaching it from the religious angle of “the purpose of sex is procreation, no sex outside marriage, therefore the only licit means of being sexually active is to be married, and that means being a parent”, I do not see the moral obligation.

          • Spookykou says:

            As I said, more poetic than substantive, but, I am unique, and I personally have an unbroken chain going back, from me, to the first life on earth which would end if I failed to have offspring.

      • BBA says:

        As a slightly aspie, asocial, depression-prone weirdo, I consider how miserable I’ve been in a world that wasn’t made for people like me, then I consider how likely my offspring are to be like me, and I decide it would be best not to bring another misery-prone person into this world, for my sake and humanity’s.

        Kevin, if you are as miserable as your posts here make you seem, I hope you will keep this in mind.

      • Kevin C. says:


        Why do you consider you have a moral obligation to reproduce?

        You commented repeatedly in this thread; don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten it. Weren’t you part of the whole “despair is a sin” responses? That simply accepting that my people and values are utterly doomed to total destruction by the “alien entity from beyond the void which devoured its summoner and is proceeding to eat the rest of the world” is not acceptable, and that I’m morally obligated to “fight back” somehow, no matter how futile? To quote from “Well…” in that thread:

        Why aren’t you reproducing more now, and raising your kids as you see fit, while you have the chance? Doing so is probably your best bet against not being allowed to later.


        Spoken like a single person without descendants. I’ve said many times on my blog (for example, here) and in comments elsewhere that if you’re a traditional conservative there’s one very basic thing you can and should be doing for your civilization: having as many kids as you can.

        And quoting that linked blogpost in its entirety:

        The civilization you want is made up of people like you. Luckily, nature has endowed you with the ability to create more people like yourself.

        Or hlynkacg, after the bit about Scaevola sticking his arm in a fire, and me asking for what this means in the present context of battling the Left and centuries of “Progress”:

        If the situation is as dire as you claim “doing what your ancestors did” is in itself an act of “Scaevolan bravery”.

        By which the core part of “doing what your ancestors did” is having kids and raising them in my values and culture.

        And further down,

        If you actually valued anything that western civilization ever represented, you would understand why despair is to something to be abhorred. Rostand saw it, and through Cyrano, gave voice to it. Deiseach, and Anonymous see it too.

        If your purpose is not to advance the cause of civilization, but to spread despair and doubt among it’s faithful. You are not an ally, but an enemy. A cowardly, perdiferous, enemy at that.

        So, since I’m required to “advance the cause of civilization”, rather than, to quote you, “sitting in a corner casting dust on [my] head and bewailing the state of the world”, and since your fellows Well… and hlynkacg that the best way to do that is have and raise kids… well, to do that, it takes two to tango and all.

        Basically, if I shouldn’t breed, then how should I meet my moral obligation to fight back against extinction? If I want the future to have more White Kyriarchist Feudalist Monarchists, how, besides having and raising more White Kyriarchist Feudalist Monarchists, should I work toward that?

        • Creutzer says:

          Meant less snarkily than it sounds: Don’t bother thinking about it, because you can’t. That’s a personal you, not a generic one. It’s perfectly possible to say that people in general have an obligation to do something, in as much as they can, and you just personally happen to be in circumstances where you really can’t, and so you don’t have any obligation. In fact, moral systems that do not allow for this possibility are widely regarded as unreasonable.

          The problem, as you posed it here, is unsolvable. People have pointed this out, and started speculating about which of the constraints you have noted might be easiest to alleviate so that it becomes solvable, and you keep telling them that no, these are hard constraints that cannot be avoided. At the same time, you don’t seem to be prepared to accept the conclusion that your problem doesn’t actually have a solution. Why?

          • Matt M says:


            I know it sounds harsh and cruel or whatever and isn’t really “advice” but I think this is about accurate. You throw out like eight different criteria which make you an undesirable mate, and declare all of them to be completely rigid, inflexible, and impossible to change. This makes it nearly impossible that a solution exists. To the extent that women who are willing to tolerate all eight of your undesirable traits exist, they’ve likely already been snatched up by guys who only have five undesirable traits.

            It also doesn’t help that your flaws are fairly, let’s say well diversified. It’s not as if you’re saying “I’m short and non-muscular and have acne and my nose is too big”, all of which could be lumped into “appearance” which, as a general category, could be overcome by money or stability or social skills or other general successful categories. You are essentially declaring yourself unfit in almost every category. You might as well say “How do I become a great basketball player? By the way I’m short, I’m slow, my hand-eye coordination is bad, I’m a poor shooter, I don’t have much stamina – and I can improve none of these things.”

          • Kevin C. says:


            At the same time, you don’t seem to be prepared to accept the conclusion that your problem doesn’t actually have a solution. Why?

            Because when I do, I get people like Deiseach and Well… and hlynkacg screaming on and on that “despair is a sin!” and that I’m a “Grima Wormtongue”, a “cowardly, perdiferous, enemy” to my own people for not fighting on despite all evidence of futility.

        • PedroS says:

          My reflections have been prompted by Kevin’s May 17, 2017 at 4:13 am post, but are meant for anyone who accepts the idea of bearing children as the best way to safeguard the survival of one’s preferred worldview.

          Whatever you think of missionary religions with celibate clergy (like Catholicism, or early Buddhism) they at least show that one worldview may be efficiently propagated without bearing one’s own children.

          Furthermore, having your own children will not necessarily guarantee that they will grow to be White Kyriarchist Feudalist Monarchists. I assume (simply by statistical reasons) that you were not born as a Kyriarchist Feudalist Monarchist: you became one after reading, analyzing, thinking about the world around you and how it fit (or most likely did not fit) your idea of what a good society would look like. I think, therefore, that one way of raising more Kyriarchist Feudalist Monarchists (or whatever other worldview one would like to promote) is to show other people how that worldview aligns with their own terminal values. That entails listening to their stated beliefs, observing their behavior to analyze their unstated beliefs and tailoring one’s message to them. It is not easy, it is not at all a guarantee of success, but I think it is much more likely to be effective than breeding for success. Children are malleable, indeed, but they are not as devoid of intelligence and observation power as to avoid realizing that they are being raised as a “means to an end” rather than as “ends in themselves”.

          As a last contribution: if you are indeed asexual (or almost asexual) you should be very wary of entering a marriage with a non-asexual person. By marrying you (and unless you are both polyamorous) your partner will forgo the possibility of ever having a healthy, guilt-free, relationship with a sexual component with anyone else. Even in the most favorable cases (e.g. deeply commited people who do love each other, hold the same philosophical/religious views, and lovingly share the burdens of domestic life) extreme differences in libido are a very powerful way to make the higher-libido person feel rejected, worthless and defrauded, and to make the lower-libido person feel pressured, violated and unloved.

          • Kevin C. says:

            As a last contribution: if you are indeed asexual

            Amoebas are asexual. Bacteria are asexual. Human beings still take two to reproduce.

        • Deiseach says:

          Very well, now I understand where you’re coming from. And you perhaps can understand why, given that you did despair over the fate of the world, I wondered why you felt an obligation to reproduce.

          Be very careful, though; once you have actual children, these are not theoretical objects to be manipulated in a global game of chess for the destiny of nations. These are people, who are vulnerable and dependent on you, and who can be hurt very badly by how you parent them, interact with them, and your expectations of them. You can’t just hatch them out of eggs, stick them into The Learning And Child-Raising Machine, and twenty years later fully-grown and educated adults pop out with no further input or effort from you in the intervening period.

          Please excuse me saying this, I am not trying to insult you, but if you are looking for a wife and mother, any woman interested in marriage and children is going to consider “Can you support a family?” and right now you are saying “I can’t even support myself”. Things like “a job, a house or somewhere secure to live, some prospects of having a reasonable life” are going to factor into the decision of whether you are or are not a suitable mate.

          I don’t even think the sex need necessarily be a part of it; there could be low-libido women who would like to be mothers but don’t want to be sexually accessible on-demand to their husband all the time so “infrequent sex for the purpose of pregnancy” might be exactly what they’d go for. However, “compatibility of mood and temper” is going to be a big factor there, and if the idea is “he’s going to sit at home all the time sulking and snarling”, you should be prepared to allow her to live practically a separate life where she has her interests and you have yours and you don’t do things together. How that would affect any children is a matter you must also consider, because you and your wife, as parents, are going to be their models for what “adult romantic and familial relationships” are like when they’re at the impressionable stage, and they may very keenly feel the difference between their home and what the parents of their friends in their homes are like.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Okay, Deiseach, if it is indeed morally acceptable for me to conclude that I’m unsuitable to be a husband or father, and it’s okay for me to not have kids, then how do I meet the moral obligation you and Well… and Hlynkacg say I have to “fight back” despite all signs pointing to the futility of such action, if not by meeting Well… and Hlynkacg’s admonition to have and raise kids? How do I get you and Well… and Hlynkacg to stop calling me a “cowardly, perdiferous, enemy”!!?

    • James Miller says:

      You could use an international dating service to find a woman in a poor country who wants to live in the United States. Since you live in Alaska I suggest a woman used to the cold meaning you should probably focus on Russians.

      • Spookykou says:

        Given the particular situation/constraints that Kevin has laid out, this does seem like the best option for him, ignoring any nebulous moral questions about the nature of international dating services.

        It seems like it would mostly solve the two biggest problems that I can see in his post, forming a relationship with someone, and interacting amicably with another person who does not share a lot of his beliefs.

        • Kevin C. says:

          @Spookykou, James Miller

          But what about the monetary cost factor?

          • sohois says:

            How big are the reasons tying you to your current place of residence? The cheapest way to find a woman from a poor country and bring her back would be to take some english teaching job for 6 months to a year and find a local to marry. You might even make money from such an approach, but if you really can’t move then I suppose it isn’t an option

          • Spookykou says:

            Someone in my family married a foreign woman, I always suspected that it was done through some sort of international dating service. Cohabitation just in general is a huge money saver, but also ultimatly she got a job and started contributing to the household finances.

            There might be an upfront cost that would be hard for you to meet though. Still, “how to save a couple thousand dollars” sounds like a dramatically easier problem then the one you started with.

          • Kevin C. says:


            How big are the reasons tying you to your current place of residence?

            See my comment to JayT above. Over half my income is tied to either my current residence (rent subsidy), or to this state (Adult Public Assistance). And the rest, SSI from Social Security, is of course tied to the US. Add in psychiatric hospitalizations when away from family, and that my medical providers are all here, and you see why moving is a problem.

        • episcience says:

          I wouldn’t call the moral questions involved “nebulous”.

          • Spookykou says:

            I am assuming that not all international dating services are created equally, and that while all are socially unacceptable, there is a wide range in the moral implications, based on which service you use. The one mail order bride that I have known personally, seemed very genuinely happy with her marriage, and seemed to have made the choice entirely of her own free will. It seems to me that a true ‘international dating service’ is not very different from a dating service where people post their tax returns so you can know how wealthy they are, only the country they are from is used as a proxy for wealth. It is not obvious to me that this would be morally wrong, even if it might be a bit of a faux pas to use such a service.

            However, I also imagine that at least some ‘international dating services’ skirt the sex slave trafficking territory.

            Of course I am not terribly well informed on this so it could be that I am wrong, and no ‘international dating service’ is actually a international dating service.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      So here’s an honest question: Do you think you’d be a good father? Do you think you’d be a good spouse or partner to the hypothetical mother of your child? If you do not think you’d be a good spouse, do you think that you’re up to the (crazy high) demands of single-fatherhood?

      If the answers above are “no,” then I don’t think that it would be moral to tell you how to reproduce except potentially via sperm donation. If the answers above are “yes”… really? It doesn’t seem like it would square with the other information you’ve given about yourself.

      • Kevin C. says:

        sperm donation

        That meets the part of preserving my genes, (though it doesn’t prevent mixing with those of rival Tribes), but not my culture and values, which is at least as important here.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          I can’t help but notice that you didn’t answer my question.

          • Kevin C. says:

            The answer is mostly “no”, indeed, but that does not free me of the moral obligation, imposed on me by the likes of Hlynkacg, Well…, and Deiseach, to fight back against the demon summoned from the void devouring the world. If having and raising kids, the method Hlynkacg and Well… repeatedly insisted was the best and easiest, is not the way to do so, then how do I meet that moral obligation, and avoid being called a “cowardly, perdiferous, enemy”!?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      The internet will tell you that you can’t form platonic friendships and then try to turn them romantic. This is 100% false, particularly for people who aren’t super into sex and romance. Develop some friendships[*], then after a few months and if you feel like you would like to date them, you say “conjecture: we should date.”[**] 10% of the time it works every time.

      Incidentally, you don’t need to drink to hang out in bars. The trick is to order a ginger beer – this costs the same as a real beer so the bartender will not resent you, and it is also delicious. Tip exactly one dollar per drink, including any cups of water that you specifically asked for. Make sure to sit at the bar; if there are no open spots at the bar then turn around and go somewhere else. You are allowed to bring a book if the sun has not set yet. Bars before 7PM are an effective way to meet people (after 7PM they pretty much suck).

      The key to interacting with people of different ideologies is to establish yourself as a careful thinker before revealing how far out you’ve gotten. This will happen automatically if you can find topics of conversation that reward careful thought but which are not ideological, political or philosophical. Local decision-making (county-level or below) is good for this, as is griping about whatever systems you were interacting with before entering your current conversation. The DVR would be an excellent topic.

      [*] This is the hard part
      [**] But this may feel like the hard part

      • Kevin C. says:

        Develop some friendships*

        All my friends I met in grade school, one as early as 4th grade, and all of them male.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Aside from the all male part I don’t think this is so unusual for people who haven’t moved much (not that I know your life history but you sound pretty rooted).

          The weak-social-skills strategy for making friends boils down to “repeatedly exist in the same place around the same people until you become a ‘regular”‘. At that point more socially proactive people will have an incentive to get to know you. Places that have a consistent cast of characters and are therefore amenable to this include job sites, climbing gyms, dive bars, churches, and parks where old dudes play chess (the last one is very male ofc).

          • Kevin C. says:

            parks where old dudes play chess

            We don’t exactly have those here in Alaska (too much snow too much of the year). And many of your other examples require money and/or having one’s own vehicle.

    • Mark says:

      There are some women who dig the wild, intense, old testament prophet thing. Look at cult leaders.

      If you’ve got intelligence, and you commit to an honest message, it can be attractive. Attractive to people who are just pretending to understand what the hell is going on (most people), but you need to appear to *not give a shit* about stuff that isn’t on your ethical agenda.

      So, I would advise you to become really shit hot at speaking, train up, develop charisma through channelling your “I don’t give a shit, I’m right, you’re wrong, righteousness”. You’re a true believer, it’s important stuff you’ve got to say – live it, tell it, make yourself an ethical example.

      Do interesting things.

      Connect with people who are receptive to your message, be selective, look for a woman of a similar ethical bent, and Bob’s your uncle.

      OR… if charisma is completely off the menu… basically, to make a social difference, one way or another, you need to be connected socially. If the social connections you currently have aren’t sufficient to find someone with whom to mate, start making new ones. So, I would focus on making social connections, and again, living the ethical life.
      A commitment to honesty can allow you to make a meaningful connection with people, as long as you have some compassion for them. So, go around doing that for six months, and see what happens. The fact that you aren’t particularly interested in sex with women might help you here.

      tl;dr: join clubs, do social stuff, talk to shopkeepers, treat people with honesty and compassion, report back in six months.

      • Kevin C. says:

        So, I would advise you to become really shit hot at speaking, train up,

        How? I’ve tried Toastmasters; didn’t much help.

        live it, tell it, make yourself an ethical example.

        How do you “live” and “make yourself an ethical example” of feudal monarchism in a world without feudal monarchies? How do you live and be an ethical example of a submissive peasant who concerns himself not for the affairs of lords, and be a fulminating firebrand at the same time?

        Connect with people who are receptive to your message, be selective, look for a woman of a similar ethical bent, and Bob’s your uncle.

        First, how many receptive people are there out there, and how do I connect with those few people. And again, how do I “look for a woman of a similar ethical bent,” if such a creature even exists, and is not already taken? Where should I seach?

        join clubs, do social stuff

        Pretty much all of this in my community seems to take money and transportation I don’t have. (There aren’t actually a whole lot of clubs here in Anchorage.) For example, I used to be part of a local atheist Meetup group, but all the meetings kept being held at fairly expensive restaurants and the like, nowhere near the bus routes, at times of evening when the busses generally stopped running. (That and for practically everyone else, “atheism” equaled Left-wing politics, which was all they’d talk about.)

        • Mark says:

          How? I’ve tried Toastmasters; didn’t much help.

          It depends on what your problem is. It doesn’t seem like you are afraid of social situations, so just get up there, have someone record you, and afterwards have a look and see if there are any obvious areas for improvement.

          I would guess that if you find it very difficult to express emotion through tone, gesture, facial expression in any circumstance, it would be far more difficult to become a compelling speaker, though I think there might be something impressive about a confident, intelligent, robot-man telling us how it is. I’m not sure that toastmasters is really designed around that kind of thing – more entertaining best man speeches, right?

          How do you live and be an ethical example of a submissive peasant who concerns himself not for the affairs of lords, and be a fulminating firebrand at the same time?

          Imagine that you are speaking on behalf of your patron. There must be some measure by which a peasant can recognise his rightful lord. Tell people about that.

          And again, how do I “look for a woman of a similar ethical bent,” if such a creature even exists, and is not already taken? Where should I seach?

          I don’t know. But, if you want to make a social difference, you need to make social connections. It’s unclear where best to make them, so I guess the best option would be to go as broad as possible. To be honest, I would just go with whatever is going to start with.
          Having said that, I don’t think atheism is a good place to start. You want to look somewhere where people aren’t completely infected with individualism. Try working class people who’ve never really thought about what they are doing, and aren’t as likely to be offended by (or talk about) political ideas. I don’t know, it’s very difficult to give any specific advice, you kind of have to work the details out yourself – but if you want to make a social difference you need social connections, if you have no idea where to start, cast your net wide.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Try working class people who’ve never really thought about what they are doing, and aren’t as likely to be offended by (or talk about) political ideas.

            And where should I meet these folks? They aren’t exactly the sort to attend clubs, meetups, etc., or, from what I’ve seen, congregate at all outside their jobsite and their church.

    • episcience says:

      Given that you don’t like meeting people, can’t move to a different city, and don’t want to have sex — but you would still like children to continue on your ideology — have you considered adoption?

      (Or, if you want to both pass on your genes and your ideas, combine sperm bank donation with adoption.)

      • Kevin C. says:

        have you considered adoption?

        Since when do they let jobless single men on welfare adopt?

    • dodrian says:

      Cultivate a hobby.

      Find a local group: the nearer it is to where you live, the easier it is to keep up, and the more likely you are to meet people

      My personal recommendation is to join a mixed-voice choir. Choirs are usually female dominated, so they love when new men join. Community choirs often don’t mind if you can’t sing too well as long as you’re willing to give it a go. The performance aspect of a choir can be daunting – but it’s actually the best place to learn confidence in front of others, as when you do perform you do it as part of a big group (it’s how I became a confident public speaker, even though I’m otherwise highly-introverted). Also, fees are usually low, and there’s no special equipment required (maybe a pair of dress pants for a concert).

      If that’s really not your thing look into other arts. Again, performance arts are great if you want to build your confidence around others (amateur dramatics, dance, music, etc), but there’s also painting, sculpting, ceramics. Look around to see if a local studio or community college offers lessons. A local college or even retail store might also offer classes in sewing or cooking. The key is to choose something that’s done as a class or in a group so you can be around others.

      There might be nearby clubs that do things like board games, LARP, DnD, hiking, rock-climbing, birdwatching, fishing. Again, these can be good for improving your confidence around others and social interaction – though these activities tend to be more male-dominated.

      My biggest advice though would be to do it with a goal of self-improvement. If you go in with the mindset “I want to learn a new skill (and enjoy it)”, and with a secondary mindset of “I want to be better at interacting with others” it will make your other goals easier later down the road.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        Saw the question and wanted to write something like this. Finding a hobby you enjoy that can be done in a group setting is a great way to meet people. It immediately gives you a shared interest and something enjoyable to do.

        I second all of the recommendations and the only thing I can think of that wasn’t mentioned would be dance. Some kind of swing or ballroom can help get you in shape and gives you a chance to practice small talk.

      • Kevin C. says:

        My personal recommendation is to join a mixed-voice choir. Choirs are usually female dominated, so they love when new men join. Community choirs often don’t mind if you can’t sing too well as long as you’re willing to give it a go.

        From my searching, we don’t seem to have this in my area. There’s a couple of children’s choirs, one women’s choir, and the highly-selective “Concert Chorus”.

        If that’s really not your thing look into other arts.

        Again, to the extent that any of the things you list are present here, they’re out of my price range.

        There might be nearby clubs that do things like board games, LARP, DnD, hiking, rock-climbing, birdwatching, fishing.

        Again, not much in Anchorage.

    • Brad says:

      I hesitate to suggest it, but if you can’t change any of the other things how about reevaluating the “ultra-rightist” part?

      • Jaskologist says:

        I had a similar suggestion, but for the “atheist” part.

        • Kevin C. says:

          I’m reminded of something my Catholic Reactionary friend once said; paraphrasing from memory, it was that, despite wishing I would become Catholic (for the sake of my soul), he doesn’t bother trying to proselytize me because, barring God Himself saying directly to me “Kevin, go and join My Church”, it’s not going to happen.

    • Barely matters says:

      Given all the advice above has covered most angles, there’s one more that I haven’t seen addressed. Everything so far focuses on the limitations making your situation more difficult, so you might stand to gain a lot by taking a step back and outlining the assets we’re working with here.

      Having read some of your comments in other threads, I know that you understand that nothing is free. So given that you’re expecting some kind of value from a partner (ie, the use of a functional womb at an absolute minimum) you’ll need to find something that the demographic you’re interested in wants and then leverage it hard to overcome the other aspects that are holding you back.

      You’ve noted that you’re a ‘mad genius’, which at an object level is a phrase that for the purposes of attracting partners I’d advise you to strike from your vocabulary. Because telling people how smart you are instead of showing people how smart you are is one of the least attractive things a human being can do, and curtailing a single phrase is solid low hanging fruit to improve your performance that is immediately actionable. But returning to ‘mad genius’, this can absolutely be an attractive identity given the right aesthetic and outcomes, so let’s run with that.

      If you’d like to go further with this, how about listing off some of your positive qualities and abilities that we can focus on improving and bringing to bear on your situation. To be clear, this is a license to brag about your accomplishments in a reply. Have at, you’ve got the floor.

      • Kevin C. says:

        how about listing off some of your positive qualities and abilities that we can focus on improving and bringing to bear on your situation.

        151 IQ, 6 feet tall. That’s about it for positive qualities.

        • Barely matters says:

          You’ll need to expand on this list.

          Bluntly, you’ll need to develop more than that, as it doesn’t even match your bare minimum criteria of “Functional Womb” on its own.

          Luckily, the advantage of a 150+ IQ is that it sets you up to be able to learn new skills and abilities to compensate.

          The single largest gain I notice that you could make from reading this thread is to develop the ability to self study. When people have made suggestions upthread, your normal response is “How?” and then to drop it. This skill would let you overcome that barrier by going first to google and then forming a plan to learn it, rather than considering it an immovable obstacle and giving up.

          So the plan overview for you would be:

          1. Think of areas in which you have comparative advantage (If none, move one meta level up and think of areas where you could learn to have comparative advantage).

          2. Use your 3+SD over norm IQ to research how to learn about and improve at those areas

          3. Enact those methods until you have a more robust answer to “What are the assets you bring to the table?”

          4. Leverage those assets to attract a mate.

          If at any point you don’t know how to do one of those steps, type “”, write in your question, and follow the links.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Oh, and as a follow-up for where this is coming from, you can add in that an IRL friend just this evening said I have a duty along these lines. More specifically, our conversation drifted to the topic of this chart (and the tallest bar on it), and to the recent HuffPo article “Muslims Are the True Feminists“. This led my friend to a comment about what it is “these women” are asking for, which I almost certainly cannot repeat here. And further, that it’s down to me to provide it, as he’s already married. And thus, it is my “duty to my nation” to “go down and smack a ho”.

      (I might mention this is the only friend I have who actually has children of his own, the sole example of reproductive success amongst my peers.)

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      and literally no dating experience go about searching for a potential wife (for the purpose of meeting a moral obligation to reproduce)?

      It might be more efficient to start with considering the final goal, ie a suitable woman — and work backwards from there. For example, where would a far-right atheist spend her time? Likely on a forum that discusses Rand, Hawking, etc. Discuss a lot of philosophical and political issues, slowly leading up to how she feels about the kind of marriage you want.

  16. Iain says:

    There has been some discussion in previous threads about neural networks and our tools for understanding what they are doing. Here is an example, with pictures, of the kinds of tools that people are working on. The two most interesting techniques are occlusion grids and saliency maps. Occlusion grids cover up parts of the image and check to see which regions are most important to the classification; saliency maps identify the particular pixels of the input image that most dramatically affect the classification.

  17. Robert Liguori says:

    Now that Unsong is finished, does anyone know if there are plans to turn it into an ebook?

    I enjoy my Kindle and prefer my long-form fiction read from there rather than webpages, so I may do this myself if sufficiently motivated. I don’t suppose there are weird House of Leaves formatting tricks or large images embedded?

    • Anatoly says:

      This worked for me without issues:
      I don’t mind putting up a link to the resulting ebook file for those who aren’t technical enough to use this script, but I’m not sure if Scott has ever spoken against people distributing Unsong as an ebook, anyone knows? (Wildbow used to be against that w.r.t. Worm).

      • Robert Liguori says:

        Neat. Thanks for putting this up.

        I’ve done nothing with Ruby, so this is a learning opportunity for me as well!

        • Anatoly says:

          Sorry I was unclear: that’s not me who wrote that script, I just found it on Github.

      • anaisnein says:

        As a person who is not technical enough to use this script and who would really, really like Unsong for Kindle, I would appreciate Scott’s ruling on this.

  18. Longtimelurker says:

    Hello commentariat. I have been lurking on this site for about 2 years and finally have the courage to get an account. Thank you for being possibly the best commentariat on the web. I hope to have great and illuminating discussion/debate with you.

  19. J Milne says:

    In light of : Given the chance to drop something on Trump’s desk for him to read, what would it be?

  20. Levantine says:

    From the link bellow:

    My name is Dr Katherine Horton. In 2011, when I was a research fellow at St John’s College, Oxford, I became the target of British intelligence ……. What began as overt surveillance became intrusive harassment ……. And eventually, it morphed into open, rampant criminality by people connected to the intelligence agencies and the police. …….
    I was forced to investigate herself. I came across the testimony of hundreds of victims online who were begging for help like me …..

    Here are those testimonies:

    Victim cases you can quote, Assembled by John Finch

    700 torture cases from the Americas
    300 torture cases from Europe
    250 torture cases from China & Asia-Pacific ……..

    Another website devoted to the same, or a closely related subject:

    Fight “Gang Stalking”
    Expose illegal stalking by corrupt law enforcement personnel

    • sohois says:

      Gang stalking is pretty widely held to be a delusion, is it not?

    • Aapje says:

      After my first court hearing, MI5 shot me repeatedly in the head with microwave guns when I returned to my hotel room such that I collapsed from pain. When my husband arrived, they repeated the assaults such that I collapsed from pain in front of him.

      This person seems to be suffering from psychosis.

    • Deiseach says:

      Did not follow any of your links, Googled the lady’s name, found her Twitter and, um, she sounds a little bit maybe not completely in touch with reality if you read the very first item (she’s basically doing an open letter to the head of German intelligence to stop collaborating with British intelligence in torturing her by microwave):

      Your agents also moved a woman in next to my parents who I have reason to believe is conducting experiments on my family. The neighbour next door to her reported her to the police for alleged poisoning with gasses. Some months later, I was microwaved from the direction of that house too.

      … Your agents have also hooked me up to some AI supercomputer that attempts to steer my thoughts by now and gives me regularly electric shocks to the head. The existence of these weapons systems has already been made public by Dr Robert Duncan and Bryan Tew.

      I can’t diagnose people from afar (I’m not even a psychiatrist) but this sounds very similar, to me, to one of our social housing clients who was a paranoid schizophrenic and, when off her meds, accused us of doing things like inserting cameras up the pipes in her toilet so the Government could spy on her.

    • lvlln says:

      I’ve seen a handful of gang stalking videos online, and I do find it a little fascinating. The delusion seems obvious, a way of convincing oneself that one is very important and worth paying attention to, by reinterpreting the entirely natural behavior of others as some vast conspiracy to stalk them. In a sense, it seems like the mild delusions of grandeur everyone has, taken up over 9000. The comment threads I saw indicate that arguments like this are worthless for pulling people out of this delusion, and I wonder if any successful cases of people escaping this delusion exist, what therapies were effective for it (maybe plenty do exist, but they’re not ever publicized?), and what that person thinks of their past self now.

      • Deiseach says:

        I do hate “armchair psychoanalysis” but in some cases I think mental illness may be the answer. That unfortunate woman is talking about electric shocks in her head and mysterious pains all over her body, so there may be some physiological cause. Of course, any suggestions of going to a doctor to get her mental state checked out are just going to reinforce her delusions of persecution – now the agents of British and German (and several other countries) intelligence want to have her locked up as a lunatic so they can perform horrible torture medical experiments on her!

        It’s a sad case, and very hard on her and her family.

      • Aapje says:


        The fightgangstalking website talks about intimidating the ‘stalkers’ who apparently live close by, by pointing loaded guns at the neighbor houses. It also talks about shooting the ‘stalkers.’

        So my suggested intervention is to stay away from these people. There is too big a risk that your attempt at intervention marks you as the Illuminati, IMO.

  21. episcience says:

    Libertarian-minded people who support immigration controls — how do you reconcile these views? Aren’t you effectively using government force to prevent people from freely moving and bargaining? If I contract with an employer to earn money and contract with someone else to buy a house, why should the government interfere with that because of an accident of my birth?

    • John Schilling says:

      Same was I justify not letting homeless people decide to set up camp in my living room. A nation is the collective property of its citizens, on account of their having built it and/or inherited it from its builders(*), and nobody gets to trespass on someone else’s property without their (in this case collective) decision.

      * or stolen it but far enough in the past and with enough subsequent domestic improvements that we aren’t going to relitigate the issue.

      • episcience says:

        A nation is the collective property of its citizens, on account of their having built it and/or inherited it from its builders

        Does this trump the individual’s rights to freedom of movement and contract? (Surely it must to forcibly deprive foreigners of the right to move across the border.) If not, doesn’t this concept “prove too much”, by allowing the collection of citizens who own the nation to decide on other individual-right-violating rules like taxation?

        • John Schilling says:

          doesn’t this concept “prove too much”, by allowing the collection of citizens who own the nation to decide on other individual-right-violating rules like taxation?

          When did we establish that taxation(*) is intrinsically individual-right-violating? Or are we just talking about the anarchists here?

          * with representation, and other rule-of-law type protections.

          • rlms says:

            I think episcience was looking for libertarians who oppose taxation on moral grounds.

        • Anonymous says:

          John can speak for himself, but a view consistent with his opinion on immigration is that taxation is the price you pay for living in the country. The citizens (or king) own the place, and you are renting the right to live and work on their turf and under their protection.


          • Jiro says:

            If you’re a part owner, it’s your turf, not “their” turf. You don’t pay a price for renting something when you own it.

            Taxation would be the equivalent of a homeowner’s association agreeing to pay money to the association. If you think that each tax and each government action is equivalent to an uncoerced, non-fraudulent, contract, you would then be able to justify taxation. However, I find that equivalency to be questionable. (Also, if you think of government as a contract, it’s so noncentral an example of a contract that it would be easy to have general principles about contracts that would limit government without limiting ordinary contracts.)

          • Anonymous says:

            If you’re a part owner, it’s your turf, not “their” turf. You don’t pay a price for renting something when you own it.

            Maybe not in theory. In practice, you totally do, if there’s any upkeep involved. Even wholly owned apartments have costs that you have to pay, imposed usually by the council of the tenants. This is pretty much exactly like taxation in a republic.

            Taxation would be the equivalent of a homeowner’s association agreeing to pay money to the association.

            More like: It would be like a homeowner’s association agreeing that individual members should pay into the collective treasury.

            If you think that each tax and each government action is equivalent to an uncoerced, non-fraudulent, contract, you would then be able to justify taxation.

            I don’t and I still think taxation is justified. Either the sovereign owner charges you for doing whatever on his turf, or the collective of the citizens does. The republican process for deciding taxation is deeply flawed and disempowering, sure, but that doesn’t mean that it’s in principle unjust.

          • Aapje says:


            You don’t pay a price for renting something when you own it.

            The ownership comes with services and you pay for the latter.

            In my country, you can buy apartments where care services are part of the deal. The apartments themselves can be sold on the free market, but any owner has to pay for the care services.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The ownership comes with services and you pay for the latter. […] In my country, you can buy apartments where care services are part of the deal. The apartments themselves can be sold on the free market, but any owner has to pay for the care services.

            I wouldn’t call that true ownership. If it were, you could elect to forgo the service, or contract with a different service to maintain your property. What you appear to own is the right to use that property in certain ways (i.e. as a residence), with the service being the owner of service rights in perpetuity.

          • Anonymous says:

            I wouldn’t call that true ownership. If it were, you could elect to forgo the service, or contract with a different service to maintain your property. What you appear to own is the right to use that property in certain ways (i.e. as a residence), with the service being the owner of service rights in perpetuity.

            Well, “ownership” really is an illusion, in the end. If you’re incapable of unilaterally defending your property, it’s not your property, and even the mightiest sovereigns are merely stewards, taking care of God’s property that He permitted them to temporarily possess.

          • John Schilling says:

            I wouldn’t call that true ownership.

            What you would call “true ownership” is I think what the legal community calls allodial title, which with a few narrow exceptions is limited to governments. What most people (including corporate people) get when they buy real estate for cash is ownership in fee simple, which does involve obligations that you can’t get out of by saying “get off my lawn you damn kids/state/whatever”.

            True ownership, where you are solely responsible for everything, is A: a monumental pain in the ass and B: a menace to the neighbors if done poorly. It would be interesting to see a sincere attempt at doing it to first-world standards under an anarcho-capitalist system, but I don’t see it having broad appeal.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Worth noting that if you unilaterally changed the understanding of existing property ownership from fee simple to something more sovereigny, it would constitute a massive transfer of wealth to property owners.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            [allodial title; fee simple]

            TIL; thanks.

            Another one of the big contrasts I see with the arrangement Aapje describes and what I’d called “true ownership” is that I probably couldn’t pull out all the residential accoutrements and put up a storefront instead. (Even something that fits with the decor, such as a clinic, private eye firm, etc.) That’s in addition to my apparent limited choice in maintenance.

            To be clearer: I imagine it’s much easier (and cheaper for me) to opt in to whatever firm services the whole building, fixing leaky plumbing, renovating the wiring, etc. But if I found an alternate contractor that I preferred, and did not detract from the safety or aesthetics of the space that isn’t mine, could I switch? If so, then this sounds closer to true ownership. (It also sounds closer if buying an apartment essentially makes me a member of a co-op of other apartment owners, and we all decide on who to contract for maintenance.)

            True ownership, where you are solely responsible for everything, is A: a monumental pain in the ass and B: a menace to the neighbors if done poorly. It would be interesting to see a sincere attempt at doing it to first-world standards under an anarcho-capitalist system, but I don’t see it having broad appeal.

            Some of the usual failure modes I’d predict on B are damage to nearby property,and noise level. Both of these strike me as roughly manageable in the same way it’s handled in suburbs and rural areas, just scaled up a bit more due to the proximity. Were you thinking something different?

            And all of this seems consistent with Jiro’s point. Taxation looks more like coerced membership in an HOA. At best (and to address “monumental pain in the ass”), it’s coerced membership that everyone’s largely okay with, since there are no obvious preferable alternatives for most people. (I’ve long suspected that in the limit, most ancap societies would settle into something pretty close to present-day arrangements.)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I probably couldn’t pull out all the residential accoutrements and put up a storefront instead.

            Zoning laws would prevent this in many homeowning cases that are closer to “true ownership,” too, so I think John’s point still applies.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Zoning laws: sure. Except that I’d cite zoning laws as another obstacle to “true ownership”. If you then countered that this is a No True Ownership argument, then I’d agree (in two ways!).

            In other words: one point John seems to be making is that we wouldn’t have true ownership even if the purchase contract let me opt out of the collective service agreement. I agree with that. Another point he seems to be making is that we wouldn’t want true ownership anyway. I kind of agree with that. (I’d prefer we had the option, and believe most of us would use the current one anyway.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Except that I’d cite zoning laws as another obstacle to “true ownership”.

            Zoning laws can certainly be abused, but they’re a compromise to keep the peace. You the owner and master of all you survey may decide to set up a scrapyard in your back garden or operate as a mechanic or some other business out of your own home, but I can guarantee your neighbours won’t be any too happy with the noise, smells, people constantly coming and going, and parking on the road in their spaces if you do so, and they will complain loud and long. Because they too have the absolute right to enjoy the peaceful possession of their houses being the owners and masters of all they survey.

            At best it will end up in court, at worst in fist fights and physical assault or worse. People get into stupid rows over hedges, dogs, noise, early/late comings and goings; they complain about “this person is running a hairdressing business out of her house and that’s against the rules in the tenant’s lease” and other things. Zoning laws saying “if you want to operate a garage, you have to locate your premises here and not there” are one way of avoiding trouble.

        • JulieK says:

          Does this trump the individual’s rights to freedom of movement and contract? (Surely it must to forcibly deprive foreigners of the right to move across the border.)

          You would have a stronger argument to say that you are interfering with a citizen who wants to hire (rent to, etc.) a foreigner. Obviously, it will depend on what flavor of libertarian you are addressing- presumably one who wants limited government, not zero government.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree with you, but:
        – Nations are people. What you want here is a ‘country’ or ‘state’.
        – Countries/states are only collective property of their citizens only if they are republics. A monarchy is the property of the sovereign.

      • Urstoff says:

        I never knew libertarianism was so collectivist.

    • Brad says:

      This is supposed to be the no culture war thread.

      • Anonymous says:

        OP doesn’t strike me as especially culture-warry.

      • Aapje says:

        Does this extend to intra-tribe debates?

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Culture microaggressions? (Am I allowed to say that?)

        • Brad says:

          The prompt says avoid overly controversial topics. Immigration is an overly controversial topic. I don’t think ostensibly limiting the discussion to libertarians changes that. Do you think it would comport with the no cultural war thread rule if I made a post that said “Left wingers: what do you think about the topic of white privilege?”

          Based on his post below, I think episcience probably just didn’t realize. A lot of times my eyes just skip past the opening post in an open thread.

      • episcience says:

        Apologies. Scott, if you want to delete this thread for breaking the “no culture war” rule, that’s okay with me.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s basically a concession to practicality.

      The obvious one is aside from anarchists, most libertarians concede one of the legitimate uses of government force is defense. It’s not possible to have a very effective defense if your enemies can just march their army in calling them “immigrants”.

      The second is related; if you’re a democratic libertarian state you don’t want statists to start an Unfree State Project and move enough people into your country under the guise of immigration to outvote you.

      The third is the same as the second, only without it being deliberate.

      And the fourth is the welfare state objection; if your state is already so non-libertarian as to have a welfare state, it may be better to exclude welfare-seeking immigrants than to accept them, even though in the ideal you’d prefer to not have the welfare state and accept more immigrants.

      • episcience says:

        Thanks, this is a really helpful response.

        On your second and third points, if you have to deprive individuals of their rights to move/associate/contract to maintain your libertarian state, is that in accordance with libertarianism? In other words, can a libertarian government be arbitrarily statist in order to maintain itself? If so, haven’t you recreated the problem libertarianism is supposed to solve?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Note that #2 and #3 are problems not with libertarianism per se, but with libertarianism plus democracy. Get rid of democracy and there’s no problem; this is part of why Thiel and others claim libertarianism and democracy are not compatible. #4 isn’t a problem in a libertarian system; you just don’t have a welfare state. And #1 is preventing force/fraud, so is compatible with a libertarian system.

          The answer to

          In other words, can a libertarian government be arbitrarily statist in order to maintain itself?

          is “of course not”. At some point you can’t really say it’s libertarian any more. But “libertarianism in one state” where the benefits of liberty are not granted to those not citizens of the libertarian state, is, I think, not too near that point.

        • rlms says:

          “If so, haven’t you recreated the problem libertarianism is supposed to solve?”
          Libertarianism in one country is doomed to failure (see Trotsky for more details).

        • John Schilling says:

          In other words, can a libertarian government be arbitrarily statist in order to maintain itself?

          The essence of libertarian government, as opposed to anarchic lack of government, is the understanding that there inevitably will be a government. Therefore, if you believe that government is best which governs least, you endorse the government that governs at least well enough to keep out all other governments. Whatever that may turn out to be under the prevailing conditions.

      • rlms says:

        Regarding the first (and to a lesser extent the second), you can maximise liberty by having open borders unless people start taking advantage of them to invade (say, anyone can immigrate unless they bring a tank with them).

  22. Levantine says:

    Michael Caine, the actor, has observed that people with higher status act and speak more slowly, people with lower status act and speak faster. In one (hard-to-place) Youtube video, he termed this a ‘basic law’ of human behaviour.

    I wonder if there is any study that would confirm / disconfirm this, and, in any case, tell us something more about it.

    It may be useful in various kinds of social settings.

    • Wander says:

      Just going by personal experience this seems wrong, mostly because the absolute lowest status people have a reputation (in this country, at least) of talking extremely slowly. If you think about any stereotypical lower class group – rednecks, bogans, chavs – they all talk with a slow drawl.

    • onyomi says:

      I have heard that you get more gravitas points by speaking and moving slowly and deliberately. I have also heard that people tend to associate rapid speech with intelligence, presumably because it may reflect an agile (or confused) mind. Probably both are true to some degree.

      Personally, the most impressive speech quality to me is what I might call “speaking in paragraphs” or, even more impressive, “speaking in essay form.” That is, people whose relatively spontaneous speech exhibits the sort of organization and focus you might expect of good writing. This is especially impressive to me when the speaker can e.g. speak extemporaneously without notes for an extended period without a lot of backtracking, losing the thread, etc.

    • Aapje says:

      The speed at which people talk is probably impacted mostly by:
      – How efficient they need/want to be
      – how willing people are to let others finish their sentences

      • DrBeat says:

        – How confident they are in their innate status to know other people won’t interrupt them

    • smocc says:

      If this is true it is not a cultural constant. When I was working in India an Indian colleague once cautioned me that people might think I was stupid because of how I paused and spoke slowly. I was surprised, and I realized I associated slow, careful speech with wisdom, but Indian culture does seem to associate speaking quickly with wit, intelligence, and power.

    • Anatoly says:

      Speaking slowly vs fast seems to be a distinction that is too coarse.

      A speaks slowly while talking to B. B urges A on silently; toys with finishing A’s sentences ahead of time in their mind, or even out loud; gets more and more annoyed.

      C speaks slowly while talking to B. B is impressed with the weight that seems to be attached to A’s words, ponders the meaning during the pauses, and unconsciously slows down their own fast speech a little in imitation.

      Suppose A and C are saying literally the same words (this is unrealistic, as usually there’ll be a difference in content as well). Is that possible? I think it is, and the difference may be in where they put the pauses (a pause inside a clause where it’s obvious what the next words are vs a pause at a logical boundary), the tone and the body language and their interplay, e.g. accenting the key words with intonation and at the same time with eye contact and gestures).

    • herbert herberson says:

      Public speaking training usually tries to get people to slow down.

    • rlms says:

      I think it depends on context. Speaking slowly and carefully so that everything you say is meaningful (or at least sounds like it is) is high status. Speaking slowly with a low content/word ratio is low status. Speaking quickly and meaningfully in a conversation indicates intelligence, but not necessarily high status. Speaking quickly when giving a speech is bad public speaking and hence low status.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      There’s cultural variation in how fast people talk.

      Talking in paragraphs may partly depend on social context. Maybe I need to find some diffeent people to hang out with, but I literally need to say “I am going to say something. It will take several sentences. Don’t interrupt me before I’ve said them.” If I do that (which isn’t often), people do comply.

      One of my big preferences is people who don’t repeat themselves in the short run. Unfortunately, I have a sensitivity to how much people repeat themselves, and I tell you, Waiting for Godot is actually fairly realistic.

      I’m not sure why people repeat themselves so much, and I do it to, though I hope less than most. Possibilities include uncertainty of being heard, nervousness, custom, and the desire to take up conversational space.

    • Spookykou says:

      I have heard it referred to as ‘Slow play’ which is to intentionally talk slowly with a southern drawl to try and trick the person you are talking to into thinking you are stupid. Luke Wilson’s character in the Bad Blood episode of X-files seems to do this, and I have a vague recollection that a southern politician was famous for doing it as well.

  23. axiomsofdominion says:

    In the previous thread I discussed the potential of a detailed espionage system. In the current thread I’m here to ask about conspiracies, propaganda, diplomacy and politics.

    Most games really lack any sort of political and plotting system. Because of this pretty much every game lacks a functioning coordination system between characters. Relationships between characters, even in Paradox games, are shallow, there are few actions available, and you can’t really build the kind of relationships that create the fascinating things that happen in GoT, or the real life War of the Roses.

    The major reason for this, aside from lack of vision, incompetence, etc, is the complexity required. A very simplistic boardgame type system, as we see in games like Civ, really requires human players to function.

    In Axioms I have developed a number of detailed interacting systems to attempt to alleviate the lack of truly interesting fantasy world simulators. First there is a population system with an ideology system and a detailed opinion system. Populations can have beliefs and feelings about each other, characters, and actions/ideas/policies. Further there are several stats for opinions outside of direct opinion such as trust and fear and respect. Characters also have these feelings/beliefs.

    Second there is a propaganda system. This allows you to influence a vast number of things including the value of different foods and materials, the ideologies of characters and populations, opinions on religions and nations, opinions of other characters, and more.

    Thirdly there is the sort of whole purpose of the espionage system, the conspiracy system. This system is designed to allow the really interesting stuff to be coordinated. You create a conspiracy and assign a goal, goals can be pretty immense like becoming emperor of a nation or more simple like working with another duke to split a third dukes lands among yourselves. Once you assign the goal you begin to try and recruit members. If you used the previously discussed secret system to determine someone’s secret desire, granting it can easily get them into your conspiracy. You can assign tasks, and a commensurate reward to your cabal members. They’ll only accept if the combination of reward value and trust that you’ll actually provide it is sufficient as well as a modifier based on the difficulty. They will then determine the most effective way to achieve the goal and how much effort they will divert from other things they want to do. Conspiracies can be discovered by espionage. Things you could ask for include changing sides in a significant battle, keeping troops out of a battle, providing troop intel secretly, spending resources on relevant propaganda, persuading new members to join, providing funding, and many, many other things.

    AI can use this system as well to coordinate for various purposes. Acting as a member of an AI conspiracy providing intel or resources or other things can allow you to wield significant power without being a military nation.

    More direct open politics also provide such options but that may be extending the length of this post too far.

    • Incurian says:

      That sounds really neat.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      what is the win condition, and how do you prevent alliances from simply forming to cheat towards the win condition OR almost never forming because the win condition is set up to prevent these game-breaking alliances


      you hint at this with the concept of commensurate reward, but I am still skeptical. I guess you just don’t have alliances unless you’re both losing, or maybe you do the alliance to put you roughly equal and then try to outmaneuver from there. Well, maybe that’ll work out OK.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Its sorta like a Paradox game, no win condition. Each AI character has various goals, including the default goals of gaining land and wealth. The AI can’t cheat because it has to follow the opinion and ideology rules. The game is single player so if the player tries to exploit the rules, assuming they can even do it, its their own choice.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          so then how on earth does the AI decide if to get into the conspiracy

          like, I don’t know if the AI could be good enough to do any of that other stuff anyways, but deciding whether or not to ally in that fashion seems like it’s way beyond the reach of an AI. But whatever, that’s your business IG.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Based on relevance to its goals, its opinions/trust/fear of you and other members, and what you promised them for assistance.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      This sounds like a good setup for playing as the Big Bad. You’d just need a scenario with the following conditions:

      All other nations have a defensive alliance against the player. The player’s main is very strong, but no match for the full alliance. Technology and/or geography are such that neither side can successfully attack the other. All other nations have opinions strongly against the player, but the player has good agents and advanced magic to support them. So the player is tasked with corrupting as many people as possible to try to somehow get enough advantage to defeat the alliance and rule the world.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        That would be a pretty fun scenario to run. Modders will probably dig deep on that kind of thing.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I tend to think that the limiting factor of these kinds of subsystems is not “complexity of technical implementation,” but rather “complexity of player experience.” How are you addressing this?

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Its probably both but hard to say which is more limiting. This is a game mostly intended for serious post Paradox players. However I’m working to make the UI as easy to use as possible and to really help players ease into the complexity and making sure there is really good documetation.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Your “detailed opinion system” sounds like it could be used to implement a representation of market behavior, in addition to the cloak and dagger stuff. (Note: I’ve never played Paradox Interactive games, and I don’t know how much of this they already do.)

      For example, if news arrives of some poison occurring in wheat, some of your population will learn of it. Your game engine might then decrement their value judgement of eating wheat. That will in turn cause fewer of them to be willing to buy wheat, which in turn causes the price of wheat to drop, and perhaps the price of other grains to rise.

      If your avatar is able to negotiate trade deals with other nations on a per-commodity basis, and you see this news in time, you might raise substantial revenues by directing your farmers to grow more rye, or other products not derived from wheat. Such fiddling with the market might be a fun gameplay feature (not to mention instructive).

      You could develop this even further. News travels fast, but it travels faster with the right technology. It’s also understood or misunderstood as a function of tech. Want to try a bunch of market scares? Research radio, but skimp on building schools. What does the opposite do? High literacy, but slow reaction to events. Alternately, you could exploit such weaknesses in other nations – provided your intel on their tech levels is correct.

      To improve the player experience, I would probably offer a difficulty level that determines how perfect your information can be. Furthermore, I would offer a “post-mortem” mode where, after the scenario is over, the player can see a timeline of events with perfect information, highlighting decisions and events that the game engine determines to have had the greatest effect (“your disinformation campaign about the earl in 1417 worked wonderfully everywhere except in Grundurby, which is why they held out longer”).

      And all this is in addition to the intrigue mechanism.

      I think I mentioned here months ago how the Sid Meier Civ series disappointed me in one regard, namely, having no interesting model of how lacking important information could lead to player / AI errors. This system sounds like it might scratch that itch.

  24. metacelsus says:

    I originally posted this on Reddit but I thought I should also post it here:

    As a reminder, the Minneapolis SSC meetup will happen on May 20 at 10:00 am at the Dinkytown Starbucks. The address is 425 14th Ave SE. I am expecting between 5 and 15 other people to attend. If there are more than this, the Starbucks meeting location may not work well.

    I will bring nametags and a sheet for people to write their contact information (if they want). Feel free to suggest anything else you would like me to bring.

    • Thanks for setting this up. It’s been so long since this was set up, I was wondering if others had forgotten it. But I plan to be there. So at least two of us have remembered. 🙂

  25. BBA says:

    Small bug report: the comment count (“X responses to Open Thread 75.5“) includes comments deleted by moderators. As I open this page for the first time on this PC, the count shows 8 but there are only 6 comments (and the “new comments” box agrees).

  26. Rob K says:

    some thoughts re: a couple of posts that I found interesting, specifically the Jim Scott review and the “universal culture” post.

    In “universal culture”, Scott talks about the way that historical “western medicine” – balancing humors, avoiding miasmas, whatever else – got replaced by the thing we have now with antiseptics and nutrition and chemotherapy, and how this process has been repeated in other fields. For this post I’m going to refer to this as “empirical medicine” instead of “universal”, but same thing.

    The connection to the Jim Scott article is via this idea of empiricism. The high modernists Scott talks about in Seeing Like a State would be huge enthusiasts, for the most part, of the universal culture idea (the exception here would be Nyerere, who clearly believed that he was creating a mix of international socialism and Tanzanian, or at least African, distinctive characteristics – but who nonetheless was clear that there were universalizable elements to his project). They’d be eager to identify themselves with the “empirical culture” idea as well. They’d be wrong.

    Name a high modernist – Robert Moses, Oscar Niemeyer, the “scientific forestry” dudes from the book – and they’d be quick to tell you that their work was part of the enlightenment and empirical traditions. but the thing was, they largely weren’t doing empirical work; they just did stuff that had aesthetics in common with the empirical work of the time, but was basically made up out of whole cloth. And if you look at the history, it’s not like everyone was spotting this at the time.

    Two points about this.

    One, I think Scott (the book author, that is) definitely has a point about the intent to render society and nature “legible”, but it seems to me that this aesthetic pseudo-empiricism also had a lot to do with many of the projects he describes in the book.

    Second, I do think this should make us a little more cautious of the “universal X” idea, be the X culture, medicine, or whatever else. There’s gonna be a portion of that “universal” thing that’s empirical; but there’s also likely to be a portion (especially as you wander away from the peer-reviewed research or wherever else ideas are being most actively tested) that’s accumulated tics, the personal aesthetics or preferences of the majority of practitioners, and which won’t be an “entity summoned up from realms of applied reason” or whatever we’re calling it, but just the same path-dependent accumulation of habits that compose large portions of any culture.


    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I agree with you. There is no “universal culture,” and it’s the height of arrogance to assume “this culture works great for me and people like me. It must be universal!”

      I think conservative (voters, not leaders/neocons) at least learned this with the Iraq war. I don’t think a lot of Americans understood much about Islamic culture at the time, and honestly thought, “those poor oppressed people. If we just free them from Saddam, they’ll want to be just like us with Big Macs and blue jeans and the rock music.” And the answer is no, they like Islamic culture. Ask them what they want and what they want is an Islamic state. People in Islamic nations are not sitting around thinking “grrr I’m so mad about these Sharia police, oppressing me so I can’t blaspheme Allah and draw pictures of the Prophet Mohammed.” They’re sitting around thinking “I sure am glad we have these Sharia police punishing anyone who blasphemes Allah or draws pictures of the Prophet Mohammed.”

      Last week I read on Current Affairs an article about a Blue Triber going out into the wilds to find out what the hell is wrong with the Red Tribe and it still has that same error of “we’ve unlocked the last Civic on the tech tree ‘Western Liberal Technocracy’ and we just need to educate everyone else to get them on our level.” The interviewee describes all the ways the “front row kids” (the liberal/neocon elites) don’t understand the “back row kids” (the working class) and then says

      …and also, just to make this clear, I don’t have much hope the back row is going to understand the front row either. It’s a two-way street. I happen to believe the front row is in power so there’s more of an obligation for them to understand the back row.

      No. The back row kids absolutely understand the front row kids. How can they not? All the front row kid culture is pumped into the back row kid homes every single day. The TV shows, the movies, the nightly news, the national newspapers and magazines. These are all made by the front row kids and express front row values and cultures. The back row kids have seen it, they understand it, and they don’t like it.

      This is the same frustration every time there’s an Islamic terrorist attack and the TV blames economic conditions, or when elites assume as soon as you bring Muslims into the west they’re going to naturally assimilate to our culture. Through osmosis I suppose, while we never, ever criticize Islamic culture because Islamaphobia. Why would the Muslims ever adopt this decadent, dying western culture? They’ve seen it. They’ve seen the drugs, the debauchery, the weak men, the promiscuous women, the yappy feminists, the self loathing and said “it must go.” Islamic culture is strong, expanding and growing. Who gives that up for the self-loathing west? Bin Laden said “when you put a strong horse next to a weak horse, people tend to prefer the strong horse.” Islam is the strong horse.

      There is no universal culture, and this is not the end of history where we just wait for everyone else to “catch up.”

      • herbert herberson says:

        No. The back row kids absolutely understand the front row kids. How can they not? All the front row kid culture is pumped into the back row kid homes every single day. The TV shows, the movies, the nightly news, the national newspapers and magazines. These are all made by the front row kids and express front row values and cultures. The back row kids have seen it, they understand it, and they don’t like it.

        Can’t say I’ve ever felt particularly understood by Red Tribers.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Are you confusing “not understood” with “not liked?”

          • Brad says:

            No. If there was understanding but hostility I would expect the strawmen to at least hit a little close to home.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yep, exactly. They paint this picture of a neurotic, guilt-addled, and totally cucked genderfluid failson who knows nothing about the real world, when I actually grew up on a farm, live in “flyover country,” have a rock-solid marriage, a good job, and too much of a sense of perspective to feel “guilt.”

            Not to imply I’m beyond reproach; I’m also a lazy pothead who doesn’t respect the troops. Fact of the matter is, sometimes the classics are classics for a reason.

      • Iain says:

        I think conservative (voters, not leaders/neocons) at least learned this with the Iraq war. I don’t think a lot of Americans understood much about Islamic culture at the time, and honestly thought, “those poor oppressed people. If we just free them from Saddam, they’ll want to be just like us with Big Macs and blue jeans and the rock music.” And the answer is no, they like Islamic culture. Ask them what they want and what they want is an Islamic state. People in Islamic nations are not sitting around thinking “grrr I’m so mad about these Sharia police, oppressing me so I can’t blaspheme Allah and draw pictures of the Prophet Mohammed.” They’re sitting around thinking “I sure am glad we have these Sharia police punishing anyone who blasphemes Allah or draws pictures of the Prophet Mohammed.”

        This is an over-correction, or at the very least a case of making the same mistake in the opposite direction. It’s like finding out that not all Americans are snooty cosmopolitan New Yorkers, and concluding that Americans are actually all a bunch of southern hicks.

        It is absolutely the case that there are people in the Middle East who prefer an Islamic state enforcing Sharia law. It is also absolutely the case that there are people in Iraq who like blue jeans and Big Macs and democracy. (Check out the politics of Rojava, the Kurdish region of Syria.) “Iraq” is not an undifferentiated blob with a single opinion. Much like any western nation, it includes a bunch of different people with different values who want different things. You wouldn’t trust an analysis of America that described a Blue Tribe (or Red Tribe) monoculture. Don’t assume that other countries are any more tractable.

        …when elites assume as soon as you bring Muslims into the west they’re going to naturally assimilate to our culture. Through osmosis I suppose, while we never, ever criticize Islamic culture because Islamaphobia. Why would the Muslims ever adopt this decadent, dying western culture? They’ve seen it. They’ve seen the drugs, the debauchery, the weak men, the promiscuous women, the yappy feminists, the self loathing and said “it must go.” Islamic culture is strong, expanding and growing. Who gives that up for the self-loathing west?

        Except that’s actually not what happens.

        Here’s a survey of Muslims in Canada. I invite you to read through it. It’s nothing like the picture you’re painting. A representative paragraph:

        As a population made up mostly of immigrants (many having arrived in the past decade), Muslims truly stand out as being among the most enthusiastic group of Canadian patriots. More than eight in ten are very proud to be Canadian (more so than the non-Muslim population) and this sentiment has strengthened over the past decade, especially in Quebec. Strong religious identity notwithstanding, Muslims are as likely as others in this country to say their Canadian identity is very important. And they agree with other Canadians on what makes Canada a great country: its freedom and democracy, and its multicultural diversity.

        Somebody linked an equivalent American survey, showing roughly the same results, in one of the previous iterations of this discussion on SSC, but I can’t find it right now.

        • Creutzer says:

          Muslim immigration to the US and Canada is small, and there are probably selection effects at work that mean they get relatively westernised people. Studies about that say nothing about (i) the propensity for Muslim countries to westernise as a whole and (ii) what happens in the face of mass immigration of Muslims (i.e. in Europe). And these are the questions of global relevance.

          • Iain says:

            Those are not, however, the questions that were raised in the post to which I was responding. You may agree with me that Muslim immigration to North America is not concerning, but I doubt Conrad Honcho does.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I didn’t mean to imply Iraq had a monoculture. I meant to state they do not generally value the “universal” western culture. Individually some might, but collectively when they tried to write a constitution they kept trying to put Sharia law in it and US advisers had to keep saying “no.”

          Also, how about what British Muslims think?

          Picking of nits aside, do you agree there is no universal culture, or do you think there is a universal culture?

          • Iain says:

            There are methodological criticisms of that study. The sample was drawn from areas that are at least 20% Muslim; pretty much by definition, that’s going to over-represent people who are less fully assimilated. That’s not to say, of course, that those attitudes don’t exist — but it hasn’t been that long since many of those statements (or the Christian equivalents) would have received similar responses from large swathes of the native-born western populace. Attitudes change. The Canadian survey that I linked above looked directly at approval of homosexuality and gender equality, and found that there was a significant improvement in second-generation Muslim Canadians. That’s how assimilation works.

            Picking of nits aside, do you agree there is no universal culture, or do you think there is a universal culture?

            I think western liberal democracy is a remarkably seductive ideology, and will win more converts over time than it loses, but that it is most effective when it is allowed to spread organically. If you tell Muslims that Islam and western values are incompatible, they will batten down the hatches; if you invite them in and tell them that you respect their culture, then in a generation or two all the rough edges will have been sanded off, they will fit right in, and everybody will wonder what all the fuss was about. People are people.

            If that’s universal culture, then sure, sign me up.

      • Yakimi says:

        On the other hand, the neoconservative delusion that they could turn Iraqis into Americans was at least informed by the experiences of the former Axis powers, the populations of which were also intensely resistant to the imposition of “universal culture” up until they lost the war, after which they immediately traded their fanatical nationalism for foreign, bovine liberalism. In light of that enormous, successful feat of cultural imperialism, it’s hard for me to believe that America’s failure in Iraq owed solely to Iraqis loving their culture too much. They don’t seem uniquely protective of it.

      • sohois says:

        Why would the Muslims ever adopt this decadent, dying western culture? They’ve seen it. They’ve seen the drugs, the debauchery, the weak men, the promiscuous women, the yappy feminists, the self loathing and said “it must go.” Islamic culture is strong, expanding and growing. Who gives that up for the self-loathing west? Bin Laden said “when you put a strong horse next to a weak horse, people tend to prefer the strong horse.” Islam is the strong horse.

        I think you’re underestimating how much people really, really like drink, drugs and debauchery

        • John Schilling says:

          Similarly, you may be overestimating it. But more importantly, there’s probably a negative correlation between debauchery-tolerance and parenthood, and parents have a disproportionate influence on the path a society or culture will take.

  27. HeelBearCub says:

    More data (from a Swedish Study via Kevin Drum) on the Lead-Crime Hypothesis.

    This might mean nothing, since the error band is quite large. But if it’s right, there’s no threshold for lead poisoning and violent crime…. In other words, getting that last little bit of lead out of the environment might pay off considerably in less violent crime 20 years from now.

    One other interesting aspect of this paper is that it tests the effect of lead on non-cognitive traits, which is useful since the effect of lead on cognitive traits like IQ is already about as settled as the law of gravity at this point.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Thanks for posting this. More people need to know about the lead/crime link.

  28. random832 says:

    I think the odds are higher that he recorded his conversation with Comey (and possibly others) specifically on an ad-hoc basis (e.g. on his personal phone) than that there is a systematic recording system installed in the oval office. Unfortunately, if this is true we might never find out unless Trump decides to follow through on his threat to release the recordings.

    Should we really be discussing this on the no-culture-war thread though?

  29. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Does anyone think the fact that cheetahs are so tame and their unparalled low genetic diversity could be related? Couldn’t they have been extinct in the wild at the dawn of recorded history and the wild African population founded by a small number of ferals?

    • Cjcashel says:

      I’ve not heard anything about this phenomenon but that does seem like a really interesting hypothesis. Do you have a link to any papers or articles about this genetic diversity I could read up on?

    • Charruau et al. (2011) say that there’s actually a lot of divergence between the African and Asiatic subspecies (the Asiatic subspecies had not been examined by the earlier genetic studies because there are less than 100 individuals remaining in the wild, and just 2 in captivity); they date the split to 32,000–67,000 ya, which is surely well before cheetah domestication.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Interesting. P. Dobrynin et al. 2015 claim two genetic bottlenecks in the African population, one >100,000 years ago that they associate with a founding population that crossed Beringia into Asia, the other 11,000-12,589 YA (very specific!). They call the latter “coincident with late Pleistocene large mammal extinctions”, but that’s completely out of context: that extinction event was limited to the Americas and northern Eurasia.

        With a sample size of just 2, it’s impossible to make scientific claims about the behavior of Asiatic cheetahs in captivity. The most striking thing about African cheetahs in zoos is that they flourish when raised with domestic dogs.
        I would frame the hypothesis as African cheetahs having a founding population of feral pets from a culture that lived on the now-submerged Pleistocene African coast >11,000 YA.
        In historic times, pet cheetahs are well-documented in Africa from the reign of Hatshepsut, with controversial claims in Asia from Sumerian times. Wikipedia goes on to claim that hunting with tame cheetahs only became common in Asia at the beginning of the Islamic Era, which hints at acquiring them in Africa rather than taming of the local cheetahs.

    • onyomi says:

      According to this, it may just be that they are specialized to go after smaller prey, and being of a skinny, lithe build as compared to lions and tigers, have an instinct not to try to take down big creatures (whereas lions will even attempt to take down an elephant, meaning humans easily fall within their “prey range”). The fact that they have this specialized body and specialized hunting strategy may be due to low genetic diversity, however?

      It doesn’t necessarily need them to have been descended from once-tame pets; it could just be that they selected for speed and agility, allowing them to catch smaller, faster animals unavailable to other big cats; the tradeoff for this advantage, however, was they became too small and weak to take down bigger prey, which they developed an instinct to avoid.

      Somewhat coincidentally, I was thinking recently about pandas and how it seems so maladaptive to basically only be able to eat this one, super fibrous grass thing, such that you have to spend all day eating and digesting, and are out of luck if said grass thing is unavailable. Made me think about what I might call an evolutionary “cul de sac” (there is probably a specialized term for this). That is, if you are a bear thing in an environment where bamboo is extremely plentiful, the ability to digest it is going to be a big advantage; go too far down that road, however, and you get “stuck” in a way that e.g. pigeons and rats never would be. I feel like this is a metaphor for something, though not sure what.

  30. bean says:

    I promised more detail on the secondary armament of battleships when I posted part 1. (Series index)
    The biggest element I left out of my description of medium-caliber secondary guns was the issue of fusing. Obviously, it’s wasteful to simply attempt to hit an airplane with a shell that’s 3” or larger in diameter, coming from a gun that fires one round every few seconds. Traditionally, medium-caliber AA guns used time fuses set by the fire-control computer to detonate near their target. This had several problems. The biggest was that the fuse only worked if you got all four dimensions right. Not only did the shell have to pass close to the target, it had to do so at the right time. The other was that the fuse was set in the ammunition hoist, but not started until the gun was fired. This meant that there was a delay while the shell was moved from the hoist during which the plane could maneuver, and that variations in the crew’s loading rate could throw shells off.
    These problems were solved by the introduction of the proximity, or VT (variable-time) fuse. This is one of the most important technological innovations of the war, and one of the least-known, at least among the general public. It consisted of a miniaturized radar placed into the shell that would set the shell off when it detected a target within a certain range. This was a technological masterpiece, as it had to survive the 20,000 G acceleration on firing, be cheap and reasonably reliable, and fit in a 5” shell with enough room left over for the explosives.
    When it entered service in January of 1943, the VT fuse was considered so secret that it was only authorized for use where any duds (and there were many in the early days) would fall into the water, to prevent the Axis from capturing examples and reverse-engineering them. The early models were said to increase effectiveness relative to time fuses by a factor of 5, while the ratio for later models was 7-10, depending on the source. The moratorium on overland use was finally removed in late 1944, when the fuses were famously used against German troops during the Battle of the Bulge (although, interestingly, the Army’s official history says that they’ve been given much more credit there than they deserve.)
    Medium AA guns are not the whole story, though. Battleships, particularly during WW2, carried masses of lighter AA weapons. These were automatic weapons, generally between 12.7mm and 40mm, designed to kill with direct hits. At the beginning of the war, a typical battleship outfit was 4 mounts for heavy automatic guns (>25 mm) and a small number of free-swinging lighter weapons, usually 12.7mm (.50 cal) or 20 mm. Different navies had different weapons. The British preferred the quad or octuple 2 pdr pom-pom, a relatively low-velocity 40 mm weapon. The US initially used the quad 1.1” gun, but later switched to the 40 mm Bofors, in twin or quad mounts after the 1.1” proved unreliable and ineffective. The Germans initially used a single-shot 37 mm gun, later switching to an automatic version. Of these, the Bofors proved by far the best, shooting down a third of Japanese planes killed by USN AA fire during the war. For light weapons, the US and British both started with the .50 cal Browning machine gun, then went to the 20 mm Oerlikon. The Germans used a different 20 mm gun, often in a quad mounting feared by allied pilots in its land-based form. The Japanese had only one light AA gun, the triple 25 mm, which was slow-tracking, slow-firing, and not very powerful.
    During the course of the war, the lighter weapons became less and less useful, as airplanes became faster and more durable. Kills had to be made at longer range, and in a shorter space of time. Off Okinawa, it was said that the only use of the 20 mm battery was to alert the crew that a Kamikaze was about to hit. Even the Bofors was becoming marginal by that point, and the plan was to replace it with an automatic 3” gun, firing VT-fused ammunition, although none of the battleships ever carried that weapon. (Until fairly recently, it was impossible to make an effective VT-fused shell in a caliber smaller than 3”.)
    The fire control for the light AA batteries changed radically during the war. Initially, they were aimed using simple ring sights, with the tracers helping to compensate for any aiming mistakes. Later on, remote directors were introduced. Initially, these were just to move the aimer away from the distractions of the gun firing, with no automatic compensation for range or target movement. The Japanese used an even more primitive system, the officer in charge of the guns pointing at the designated target with his sword. Later directors, like the US Mk 51, used a gyro to measure the angular rate that the target was moving. This allowed the system to make a first estimate of the necessary lead angle, which was then compensated for by the operator of the director. This worked pretty well, and was adapted so that some of these sights were mounted on individual 20 mm guns. By the end of the war, some directors were receiving radar, which allowed the system to compensate for range as well (the Mk 51 had worked on the assumption of fixed range). And even the 5”/38s were being connected to Mk 51s, to give the capability to track more targets and ones maneuvering in ways that the Mk 37 system did not handle well.
    Iowa herself had 19 quad 40 mm mounts (as opposed to 20 for her sisters, as a mount on top of Turret 2 would have blocked visibility from the command level of the conning tower, which the other three ships did not have), 52 20 mm Oerlikons in single mounts and 8 twin Oerlikons at the peak of her AA armament. Three of the single Oerlikons were on top of Turret 2, in place of the quad 40 that normally would have gone there.
    All of these weapons carried a heavy cost in manpower, both to man them in action and to keep them running despite damage from the sea. Originally, she was only to carry 4 quad 1.1″ mounts, with spots for another 6 opened up when the majority of the boats were removed. The mount on Turret 3 was reasonably dry, but the other 8 suffered badly in a sea. By the end of their 1950s commissions, most of 40mm mounts were gone, and they were removed entirely before the ships were recommissioned in the 80s. During her deployment off Vietnam in the 60s, New Jersey retained the tubs, although the mounts themselves were removed, and one of them was used as the only swimming pool ever installed on a battleship.

    • dndnrsn says:

      How small a target would the VT fuse work against? On land, how would it differentiate a target from an inanimate object of similar size?

      • Incurian says:

        Depends on what it’s made of!

      • bean says:

        I know that some were set off by seagulls during their use against V-1s over the UK. It probably depended on how close the fuse got. It can’t really distinguish targets.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I used to work for a defense contractor that makes EW equipment, and I can confirm that target distiguishing via radar is a hard problem (I’d be very surprised if they’d have been able to come close to solving it with 1940s tech for something that needs to fit in a 3″ shell), and that distance matters a lot more than size for ability to detect something via radar.

          A basic radar setup sends out a pulse of radio waves. The pulse scatters off things in its path, sending some of the energy back at the receiver. The radar gets up to four pieces of information from this:

          1. The direction of the target, based on where the antenna was pointing when the return pulse was received. This isn’t 100% reliable, since directional antennas receive most strongly from their primary direction, but not only from that direction. There’s a diminishing return a bit off-center from the main direction, and there are “sidelobe” directions way off the side where a signal will still get picked up (stronger than most random directions, but weaker than the main direction). Even getting this much info requires a directional antenna, which I doubt you could get in an AA shell with 1940s tech. And you probably wouldn’t want to do this even if you could, since a directional antenna can only look in one direction at a time.

          2. The speed of the target towards or away from the radar. Due to the Doppler effect, the return pulse gets red-shifted or blue-shifted based on how quickly its moving towards or away from the radar. By comparing the return pulse frequency, you can get the velocity back. To do this, you need a tuning circuit or frequency analyzer to compare the frequencies, and you need some kind of logic to turn that into a velocity. Again, this would be hard to fit in a 3″ shell with 1940s tech.

          3. The strength of the return relative to the pulse. This indicates a combination of size, composition, shape, orientation, and distance. The first four factors are abstracted into “radar cross section” (comparing the object to a hypothetical perfectly-reflecting sphere in the same position). The strength of the return varies linearly with RCS, but it varies with the inverse of the fourth power of distance (the outbound pulse’s strength when it hits the target is 1/r^2 of its source strength due to the inverse square low, then it scatters and is reduced by another 1/r^2 on the way back to the receiver). So while a warplane might have several hundred times the RCS of a bird, the return strength would be about the same if the plane is only 4-5 times as far away as the bird.

          4. The distance to the target. This can be measured by timing how long after the pulse is sent the return pulse is received. If you only send one pulse, this will be accurate, but in practice you usually send multiple pulses at a fairly rapid rate. The more pulses you send, the better you can keep track of your targets, but it comes at a cost of risking losing track of which pulse you’re getting a return from. This gives a concept of “range gates”, bands of distance where if you know which pulse is being returned you have a very good picture of distance, but if you don’t know for certain which pulse is being returned your range could be off by an even multiple of your range gate size (the distance light travels round-trip in the time between pulses).

          If you have a sophisticated setup that gives you all four factors (especially if you have multiple sets feeding signals to be analyzed together), and you have a computer setup or a skilled human operator to correlate all the input, you can get a pretty good idea of what you’re looking at. You can keep track of range gates, cross-check them by varying your range gate size and making sure they make sense with your measured velocity (there’s also a “velocity gate” issue parallel to the range gate issue, but I don’t remember the technical details), and figure out the true radar cross section. Over time, you can put together a trajectory of your target, which combined with the RCS will give you a pretty good idea of what you’re dealing with. Not a perfect idea: there was an incident in 1988 when an Airbus 300 was mistaken for an F-14, with tragic results (Iran Air Flight 655).

          But if you just have #3 and #4 (or #3 alone) feeding into a very simple logic circuit that needs to survive being fired out of a cannon, the best you’re going to do is “Near a thing: go boom”.

          • bean says:

            This is the best resource I know of on WW2 proxy fuses. It was basically #3, with some cleverness used to make sure that it didn’t get set off by the ground (unless that was what you wanted).

          • Nornagest says:

            I can think of situations where you might want a directional antenna for AA purposes. For a proximity fuze attached to an continuous-rod warhead or something, you’d want to detonate when your target is in the rod’s plane, meaning side-on to the projectile. You could sorta do that with a omnidirectional antenna by tracking when the signal stops strengthening and starts to weaken, but that takes a fair amount of logic and probably wouldn’t work at the relative speeds between an airplane and a missile or artillery shell.

            You could do better by giving the receiving antenna a strong sensitivity peak in that plane. Antenna design isn’t my field, but I bet it wouldn’t be too hard to do that efficiently, given that your average dipole is already most sensitive perpendicular to its axis.

            (I don’t think continuous-rod warheads existed in WWII, though.)

          • bean says:

            The VT fused shells in WW2 were pure HE-fragmentation. Obviously, modern proximity fuses are much more complicated, and probably involve lots of counter-countermeasures, anti-seagull devices, and directional antennas to make sure that they’re abreast of the target so the continuous-rod warhead hits it correctly.
            (Thinking it over, I suspect the reason for the ban on overland use of the shells had more to do with countermeasures and less to do with the potential for duplication of the fuses.)
            To put all of this into perspective, the dud rate on the first VT fuses was somewhere north of 50%, and they were still a lot more effective than time fuses. (Which also had a fairly high dud rate, to be fair.)

      • Aapje says:


        On land, how would it differentiate a target from an inanimate object of similar size?

        If you use it on land against planes, that wouldn’t normally be a problem. If you use it against ground targets, it would detonate when getting close to any object that is significant enough.

        For example, it could be used to produce air bursts, increasing the effectiveness of artillery shells against infantry.

        • bean says:

          This is what I should have said to dndnrsn’s last question. When used against land targets, the VT fuse produces a reliable airburst, which makes the shell much more effective against a lot of targets. Normal shells burst on impact, and that means that a lot of the fragments go into the ground, and those that don’t are on a flat trajectory. This makes them easy to take cover from. To protect against airbursts, you need overhead cover, which is a lot harder to get quickly than cover against horizontal attacks. Diving into a shell hole or behind a tree won’t help.

          • beleester says:

            Couldn’t you do the same with a regular timed fuse? You aren’t shooting at a moving target, so you should be able to calculate exactly what time it should detonate to get an airburst, no?

          • bean says:

            In theory, yes. In practice, it doesn’t work that well. You need to be exactly dialed in on the target, which can be hard if you’re trying to do a quick fire mission. And time fuses aren’t perfect, either. I think the typical scatter for naval AA time fuses was ~100 yards. (I’m at a loss for why I didn’t mention that above.) That means that a lot of your shells are either going to be buried in the ground or too high to be effective when they go off. A proxy fuse always goes off at the right time.
            (Note that the traditional artillery method of dialing in will be made harder by time fuses, because you’re now spotting in three dimensions instead of two.)

    • LHN says:

      Formatting request for future posts: would it be possible to put a space between paragraphs?

      (Assuming that it would be generally helpful for readability; if it’s just me, then disregard.)

      • bean says:

        Is this generally helpful? Regular readers, please weigh in. I don’t normally write with extra breaks except between major sections, but I’m willing to change (when I remember) if the consensus is that I should.

    • gbdub says:

      Would a task force deploy in any particular way when expecting air attack? We’re there specialized air defense ships or was every ship equally expected to defend itself? Presumably given radar and radio they’d have some sort of picket system in place, but was there any central coordination of selecting/assigning targets and patterns of fire when under air attack?

      • bean says:

        All answers that follow are based on USN doctrine in the later half of the war. I’m just about to start the Friedman book on AA gunnery, so this isn’t my strongest area.

        Would a task force deploy in any particular way when expecting air attack?

        Yes. You’d have an inner ring of carriers, then a ring of battleships and cruisers, and an outer ring of destroyers.

        We’re there specialized air defense ships or was every ship equally expected to defend itself?

        Sort of both. In terms of ships with no real mission outside of air defense, the Atlanta-class cruisers come closest. By the end of the war, everything bigger than a destroyer didn’t really do much beyond AA, as the Japanese surface fleet was gone. But every ship in the task force had pretty impressive AA armament, and a lot of the destroyers were being refitted with more at the expense of ASW.

        Presumably given radar and radio they’d have some sort of picket system in place, but was there any central coordination of selecting/assigning targets and patterns of fire when under air attack?

        Not that I know of. There was a reasonably sophisticated system of fighter direction, but I think that by the time the planes reached gun range, it was more or less a free-for-all. This isn’t as weird as it sounds, as each ship had lots of guns on different sides, and could see what other ships were shooting at thanks to flack bursts and tracers. The coordination you describe would have been very hard before modern tactical data systems.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      In regard to radar development, arguably the very best reference (known to me) is Henry Guerlac’s two-volume Radar in World War II (1987).

      It is much too easy, now that we are all fully aware of the immense military value of radar, to assume that its revolutionary significance must have been fully grasped at the beginning, and that the development of a device with such potentialities must have fired the imagination of all persons to whom the idea was disclosed.

      This was far from being the case. It is an important fact that during the early phases of its development […] radar encountered a great deal of skepticism not only in the Bureaus, where in certain quarters it amounted to outright antagonism [which] did not evaporate until the feasibility of the equipment had been demonstrated beyond a doubt. […]

      Radio detection devices using the pulse-echo principle were developed independently and almost simultaneously during the 1930’s and 1940’s by a majority of the great powers. In 1939 closely guarded secret programs were in various stages of development in Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, and the United States. Russia, China, Japan, and Italy were at that time without the equipment, and seem to have acquired it after the outbreak of war, by capture and by disclosures from their allies. […]

      Such a duplication of effort will surprise only those who cling to a hero theory of scientific progress, and demand for each discovery or development a single putative inventor; or those who are unaware of the frequency—one is tempted to write, the regularity—with which such parallelisms are encountered in modern scientific work. […]

      Clearly, such a striking instance of parallel and independent discovery raises a number of fundamental historical questions. When a real burgeoning takes place we are led to ask what were the conditions which favored it. The main lines of inquiry are obvious. First of all, when a serious effort is put behind a given development, as it was in the case of radar, it is evident that it satisfied a clear and urgent need. Second, since the principle nihil ex nihilo applies quite as surely to the history of science as to biology, it is obvious that some key features or central ideas in pure science must have been the point of departure. Lastly, when success is attained, it is obvious that the state of the art, that is, the perfection of engineering skills in this or neighboring fields, must have reached a point where success was fairly well assured.

      Hmmm … what other field, of broad interest to SSC readers, is informatically and thermodynamically amenable to million-fold improvements, and moreover has “reached a point where success [is] fairly well assured”? 🙂

  31. PedroS says:

    Technical details about last Friday’s WannaCry attack, its M.O. and how it was thwarted seem to be freely shared in open channels.I know that is the fastest way to spread info, but doesn’t that transparency also help the attackers to devise new exploits and close loopholes? I am honestly conflicted…

    • Nornagest says:

      Consensus in the security world is that once an attack’s been deployed, transparency is more useful to the good guys than the bad guys, mostly because attacks like this can scale indefinitely and so it doesn’t much matter if there’s one attacker or several. It’s common for an attack discovered by the good guys to be kept under wraps until details have been released to the major software vendors and a patch hopefully developed, but even those are usually publicized fairly soon.

    • James Miller says:

      Governments should make it a crime punishable by prison to pay off a ransom with Bitcoins.

      • Nornagest says:

        Ransomware’s been around a lot longer than Bitcoin has.

      • eighty-six twenty-three says:

        (1) It’s a bad idea to criminalize something that lots of people do and that we can’t enforce effectively. If you were really capable of (a) clearly communicating to everyone that paying off a ransom with bitcoins is illegal, and then (b) identifying everyone who did it anyway and throwing them all in prison, then from a certain perspective that might be okay. But if you can’t do those things, then you’ve created yet another law that the police can use to throw people in prison if they feel like it, but otherwise doesn’t matter. (ie, “I don’t like this person’s sex habits and I think they’re a pervert, so I’ll look for something to arrest them for, and I notice they paid off a ransom in bitcoin, so that’s a prison sentence.”)

        (2) If you have a way to de-anonymize bitcoin transactions, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to just arrest the people receiving the ransom?

      • cthor says:

        Yeah let’s punish innocent people who’re already having a bad day.

        • Jiro says:

          Paying off ransoms is a tragedy of the commons. It makes things better for the person who pays off the ransom, but worse for everyone else, and the end result will be that everyone pays off ransoms and everyone is worse off (by being potential victims).

          • cthor says:

            Coordination problems are hard and bad solutions just make things worse.

            The whole idea behind a ransom is that the perp holds something sufficiently priceless hostage. Adding an extra cost to paying ransom won’t stop everyone from paying it and won’t stop there being a “market” for it. In the end all you do is make things worse for the victims.

      • humeanbeingblog says:

        The “X is bad so the government must be empowered to stop X” fallacy is seductive but awful. The more power we give to the state, the more they use it. Eric Garner was choked to death for selling cigarettes without the government’s permission. Giving the government statuary authority to imprison Bitcoin users will be abused as well, and it’s naive to think otherwise.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        I can’t fathom why anyone would think that’s a good idea.

        • James Miller says:

          See Jiro’s comment. Bitcoins make certain types of crime much easier by allowing criminals to get money from victims in a way that doesn’t let law enforcement determine the criminals’ identity, and my proposal would mitigate this problem by making it in the self-interest of people running large organization to not give in to Bitcoin blackmail.

          • LHN says:

            Or to give in (to get their stuff back) and then actively assist in the cover-up (and certainly don’t report the infection if possible) rather than cooperate with the police, in order to avoid being tagged with the liability.

          • James Miller says:


            True, although if you “give in…and then actively assist in the cover-up” you make yourself vulnerable to blackmail to someone who has already extorted you and determined that you are willing to pay off criminals.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Because imposing ridiculous penalties for silly reasons never backfires and results in people attempting to avoid the penalty without actually fixing the problem…

      • Matt M says:

        Is it clear that paying the ransom actually does restore your files?

        I always figured it was a trick – like, you pay the ransom, and then you lose all your data anyway.

        Is it typical that there actually is honor among anonymous untraceable thieves? Why would there be?

        • LHN says:

          While it’s surprising to me, reports suggest that most (but certainly not all) ransomware is honest to that extent. One article (mentioned in an earlier thread) had twenty percent of victims not getting their stuff back, which implies that 80% did. Apparently enough of them currently want to establish a pattern of dealing that makes it likely that people will pay.

          I’d expect defections, and maybe the rate will gradually go down. But maybe there are countervailing forces I’m not seeing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ve heard that one reason the take on WannaCry is so low (relative to the scale of the attack) is that the word is out that lots of people aren’t getting their data back when they pay.

            If so, I wonder if the “kidnappers” weren’t prepared for the amount of penetration they got.

            But it does suggest a certain kind of logic to going ahead and releasing each hostage as paid for, which is that each release is not a one off event, it’s part of the same attack.

            It also suggest that you want to be one of the early payees (rather than risk that the criminals have decided they have reached the point of diminishing returns).

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Is there any actual reason for defecting? Like does the defecting party get any benefit from doing so? If not, I would not expect defections, since the scheme only works if victims expect their files back.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, there is some sort of investment of, at the very least, time in making sure that the “customer” has a successful transaction.

            And I imagine (complete speculation) that the longer you squat on one piece of malware, the more likely that you can be definitively connected to it.

        • rlms says:

          In general, yes. In this case, no, which means that whoever’s behind this attack is making vastly less money than they could ($65,000 from over 200,000 computers).

        • martinw says:

          In an earlier ransomware case, the crooks behind it actually went so far as to set up a helpdesk to help people who had technical problems with decrypting their data after paying the ransom and receiving the decryption key.