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

Open Thread 80.5

This is the 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.

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413 Responses to Open Thread 80.5

  1. eyeballfrog says:

    Having recently moved to Madison, WI, a very bike-friendly city, I started wondering: would major American cities switching to a primarily bicycle-based transportation paradigm have a significant effect on carbon emissions? And, further, could such a change be practically implemented? I can see problems with practicality of longer trips, changes to infrastructure, and cultural inertia, but I’m not sure how big of a problem those would be.

    • shakeddown says:

      At least on the margins, making cities more bike friendly is low cost and can significantly reduce traffic (where “significantly” probably means up to 20% or so iirc). So not a panacea, but definitely a cost-effective improvement.

    • Well... says:

      Bikes make it difficult to travel with very small children. Way more difficult than cars anyway. I hypothesize that a city catering primarily to cyclists is going to be a place people tend to leave once they’re ready to settle down and have kids. This would have implications for the city, but I only have guesses as to what those implications are, and no idea whether they’re net good or bad for the city in terms of growth, economic activity, etc.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Oh I hadn’t thought of small children. That’s definitely a problem. I do know that there are bike trailers one can get for children, but there’s obvious safety issues there.

        • secondcityscientist says:

          I have a small child and mostly bike for transportation during the non-snowy months. It’s not that hard – the main thing is that he doesn’t go that far away from home. We walk to daycare every morning, we walk to the grocery store, we walk to the park. We do take the car for longer rides, like to the doctor, but for day-to-day we walk most of the time and don’t go very far.

          I visited my parents in their suburban-style development a few weeks ago. Strapping him into the car every time we stepped outside wasn’t very pleasant.

          Making a built environment that supports kids is more zoning than anything. Grocery stores and parks need to be close to where people live. Daycares and grade schools need to be on walkable streets. If cities wanted to do it, they could.

        • Well... says:

          I think other commenters’ defenses of leading a bike-centric lifestyle with small kids are either reporting unusual results or they are ignoring whole classes of problems (e.g. getting around in bad weather, being able to also transport kid-related stuff like strollers and carriers, etc.). A bike would be nice for short trips to a known, kid-friendly destination. In the US, it’s common for families to tote their kids by bike to the local ice cream shop. But there’s a reason families aren’t clamoring to use bikes for all the other places we have to take our kids.

          Bike-centric cities are also unfriendly to the elderly and the infirm.

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            One point often made in urbanist blogs and such is that car-centric cities are unfriendly to the elderly and the infirm. Bike-friendly cities tend to also be pedestrian- and transit-friendly cities, and people tend to lose the ability to safely operate an automobile before they lose the ability to walk.

            It’s really more of a zoning and urban design issue, though. The majority of the American built environment is designed to spread things out as much as possible under the assumption that everyone will drive, and this can only be mitigated so much with bike lanes and crosswalks.

          • Well... says:

            It’s easier for old people to ride in cars than buses or trains–to say nothing of hopping on a bike.

            Besides, many old people can drive just fine, even if they have trouble walking or bending.

          • pontifex says:

            It’s easier for old people to ride in cars than buses or trains–to say nothing of hopping on a bike.

            A “bike-friendly” city still would have cars. They would just not be the only means of transit. Old people can use taxis or Ubers. In many cases the local government even pays for drivers for the elderly through Medicaid or Medicare.

            Besides, many old people can drive just fine, even if they have trouble walking or bending.

            It depends on why they have trouble walking. Sure, if the issue is arthritis, then driving is probably fine. If the issue is that their reaction times and motor coordination is getting worse, then there are going to be serious problems. The issues are similar to the issues with drunk driving. Bad reaction times, distracted driving, inability to focus, poor coordination and decision-making.

            The harsh reality is that many– maybe even most– old people will eventually not be able to safely drive. A lot of people have trouble facing this. The parent of a friend of mine had 6 accidents before they finally decided “yeah, Dad’s too old to drive.”

          • Well... says:

            I thought the post was about bike-centric cities, not merely bike-friendly ones. Though you’re right, I suppose even then it’s conceivable that some people could still drive if they needed to.

            Anyway, I think you’re underselling old people. Yes, some of them have the problems you mention—and what to do about their driver’s licensure is a tricky thing we probably ought to be thinking harder about as a society—but most drive just fine. I would venture to guess that if you look at the demographic aged 16-22 and the demographic aged 80+, the same percentage of drivers in each probably shouldn’t be driving.

      • sohois says:

        In the Netherlands I saw a large number of bikes built especially to carry one or two children, typically with some kind of trailer attached to the back or the front of the bike. So it’s by no means impossible to travel with children, though perhaps a more important factor is the sheer size of US cities compared to Dutch cities.

        • Aapje says:

          Cargo bikes are quite popular in Dutch cities, as they can be used both to transport children and groceries. They cost more effort to ride, so they do have reduced range (although you have electrically assisted cargo bikes as well).

          I don’t think the size of cities is prohibitive, it’s more about the size of the area where you mostly travel around. In the urban and sub-urban parts of The Netherlands, we have a very large number of supermarkets (twice the number per capita as the US), which often seem to be a bit smaller on average than those in other countries. Kindergartens and elementary schools are also fairly frequent.

          • sohois says:

            Yeah that’s what I was thinking of.

            But regarding the services, could it not be that [greater/smaller] sprung up in response to more cycling, rather than enabling it?

          • Aapje says:

            Certainly and one of the objections to large shopping malls at the edge of Dutch cities is that it favors cars (too much).

            Ultimately, a lot of it is choice. Different ways of life have different up- and downsides.

      • SamChevre says:

        I mostly got around by bike for several years (we owned a car, but my wife drove it 90% of the time). Carrying two small children in a trailer was not that difficult; I’ve bought a weeks groceries, with two small children, on a bike many many times.

        Inclement weather is a problem, though; I wouldn’t want to manage a bike and trailer in heavy rain or when the roads are icy.

    • skef says:

      I’m told that other people can consistently adjust the gears and their effort on bikes so that they don’t get sweaty going up hills. I’ve never figured out how to do that, though*. So it seems like in a lot of cities the change would require a higher acceptance of sweatiness/smelliness than is usual today.

      * This is even harder when it’s cold and you’re wearing a lot of insulating clothing. Those battery storage things would presumably be of some help.

      • Charles F says:

        Is there a problem with walking your bike up a hill?

        • skef says:

          If it’s just one shortish hill in an otherwise flat area, it doesn’t seem like a problem. If the town itself is hilly it becomes a matter of diminishing returns.

    • BarnabyCajones says:

      I lived in Madison for about a decade, and it’s actually kind of an interesting example of the problem with biking.

      Culturally, the people of Madison are great fits for biking. They really want biking to work, and there is a nice system of bike trails throughout the city.

      And Madison is fairly flat, and at least on the near east through to the near west sides of town (which have older, denser, less suburban roads), for part of the year it actually is a nice place to bike.

      HOWEVER, for an indeterminate part of the year, which could start as early as late October and last as late as mid April, Madison is often an icy tundra hell, a frozen wasteland, and biking is mostly not a reasonable option for normal people. Even driving is really, really miserable for a fair bit of that stretch. Madison winters are no joke.

      Because of this, there is really no reasonable way for the city to orient itself much more towards biking than it already has, barring some sort of massive heated underground network of biking tunnels or something comparably drastic.

      • Charles F says:

        I don’t think it’s as bad as you make it out to be. I* used to bike to work from downtown to Verona unless it was currently snowing/thundering, and it’s fine with proper layering. They clear the paths pretty reliably too. Not saying this is you, but no matter where you go, there tend to be a lot of people saying how impossible biking is for them without having given it a fair shot (and then other people and newcomers repeating the same reasons), and I think that general attitude is almost as big a deal as the infrastructure.

        [Edit]*I have sometimes been told I’m not a normal person

        • shakeddown says:

          I’ve had a similar experience in Connecticut winter (which aren’t quite as cold, but colder than most of the US).

        • BarnabyCajones says:

          Biking downtown to Verona in January? Yeesh.

          I had a roommate who would routinely bike from roughly the intersection of N High Point and Old Sauk Rd over to where Odana meets S Whitney Way in the worst of January, so I’m aware that it’s possible. But he was not a normal person either (and was keeping start up programmer hours, too, so some of that biking was at some pretty absurd hours).

          I think the “proper layering” issue is the sticking point. At least when I was in Madison (and this was the late 90’s through around 2010, so it’s possible this decade has perhaps had somewhat milder winters?), there were very frequently times in, especially, January and February, when I was just miserable to be outside at all, with the bracing cold and the nasty wind (especially if you’re close at all to either lake). I never really biked in the winter, but I walked a LOT in Madison, so I’m very familiar with what being outside in the winter means.

          But maybe things have changed in the last years? The last time I was there, on the near east side of town, it definitely felt like biking was a very, very seasonal thing – tons of biking once the last major snow started melting in March or so, and biking kind of petering out in November or early December depending on the first snow fall that stuck as most people swapped over to the bus or cars.

          • Charles F says:

            “Proper layering” for me has sometimes meant zero exposed skin, with a mask and goggles and nice gloves/socks, when the temperature is in the double digit negatives (F). (I think it’s true that that’s been less common in recent years, luckily for me.) I can empathize with a lot of people being nervous about going quite that far. But as you say, biking sort of drops off once there’s snow on the ground (and it’s usually in the positive teens or so) which is a point I think people could handle perfectly well if they gave it a shot.

    • James Miller says:

      An increase in biking would cause people to eat more, which would increase carbon emissions from the agricultural sector.

      • Charles F says:

        Anecdotally, people who bike everywhere seem to be much more likely to be vegetarian and/or vegan. Fewer people eating meat would reduce the carbon emissions from the agricultural sector. Possibly enough to offset the increase in consumption.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Given America’s current obesity problem, I’m not sure it would actually cause people to eat more.

        • James Miller says:

          The obesity problem would increase the carbon cost of biking assuming that obese people have weight set points that their bodies fight to retain by increasing the desire for food if it looks like they would otherwise lose weight.

      • Elephant says:

        Given that the power consumption of a human body is about 100x smaller than that of a car, even if one’s metabolic rate when biking *doubled* compared to sitting (an absurdly high increase), and even if the power needed to produce food is ~10x the metabolic power provided (again, high), there’s no way the increased carbon emissions from greater food consumption would come close to the decreased carbon emissions from not driving. I occasionally hear comments like yours, but never with even the slightest numerical backing, which drives me up the wall (sorry).

        • James Miller says:

          You also have to take into account that gas-powered-engines generate power far more efficiently than food-powered-humans do. Arguments like mine are basically saying “it’s more complicated than you might think because you are not taking into account all of the relevant tradeoffs.”

          • random832 says:

            Sure, but the engine has to generate a lot more power, because it has to move the weight of a whole car. The reason a car weighs more than a bike is partially because of safety requirements (due to the higher speeds it’s capable of), partially due to the weight of the engine itself and structures needed to carry it, and partially due to cargo and passenger capacity that may not actually be needed for many use cases.

          • Elephant says:

            “Gas-powered-engines generate power far more efficiently than food-powered-humans do.” Meaning? I’ll wait for you to put numbers on this before responding. See also the reply from random832, and fill in, quantitatively, how much power a car needs to move. To claim that you’re arguing that one is “not taking into account all of the relevant tradeoffs,” without numbers that define what “relevant” means, doesn’t make sense.

          • Dog says:

            This is a fairly thorough analysis of the energy efficiency / carbon footprint of biking: https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/11/mpg-of-a-human/ When you factor in the use of fossil fuels in agriculture etc. you get a final efficiency for biking of 70-130 mpg of oil equivalent. More efficient in terms of fossil fuel use then a car, but not dramatically so. This is with an estimate of 10 calories fossil fuel -> 1 calorie food, so things would look dramatically different in a different agricultural system.

          • Aapje says:

            @Dog

            Your link counts the base metabolism as part of the cost of long distance cycling, which is rather…creative. By that logic, his car figures are only valid for dead drivers, but zombie math has limited utility in my non-zombie bubble.

            Anyway, biking can replace other exercise. If that car driver drives to a gym while the cyclist doesn’t, the car driver will both make more trips and will still have the higher energy usage due to exercising.

          • pontifex says:

            Your link counts the base metabolism as part of the cost of long distance cycling, which is rather…creative. By that logic, his car figures are only valid for dead drivers, but zombie math has limited utility in my non-zombie bubble.

            Yes, exactly. The baseline metabolic rate for humans is surprisingly high compared to the metabolic rate when you’re “doing something.” I wasn’t able to get good numbers with a quick google, but the estimate is that BMR is at least half of the calories you consume at any given point.

            In any case, people need exercise to stay healthy. So if you drive everywhere, you probably also drive to the gym and burn those same calories– just not productively.

          • Aapje says:

            In general, I think that exercising (more) and eating (more) has substantial utility to many people, because exercise and eating seem to make most people happier.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Don’t think so. Upper limit in the US seems to be 7% of commuters will bike (Portland). Transit as a share of CO2 emissions is like 27%, of which only half are vehicles. Driving commute is 76.6%, bikes being a trivial .6%. If you increase national bike share up to Portland level (which is likely impossible), and assume it ALL comes out of car, you’d reduce the car share by 10%.

      So you’d reduce C02 emissions, at the absolute most, by like 1.3%.

      Keep in mind that:
      1. Not all car emissions are commuting emissions.
      2. Biking may not be a substitute for driving, but a substitute for public transportation.
      3. Long commutes are quite common outside big cities. 70% of Americans have commutes that are 6 miles or longer, an average bike commute is like 20 minutes. Bikers don’t have typical commutes.
      4. New built infrastructure requires carbon input. Dunno how much, but it might not be trivial.

      Elon Musk self-driving cars plugged into a green energy grid are a much likelier and better option than mass-scale biking, IMO.

      Personally, I can’t really imagine grocery shopping on a bike, especially in the current built environment. I’d need to get a sizable bike trailer and bring myself out on a road where people are hauling at 45 MPH. Mmmmm…pass.

      • shakeddown says:

        1-2 precent reduction in emissions (plus side benefits like reduced traffic) is actually pretty good, considering the low cost.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          It might be useful for other benefits (like reducing traffic/noise/cost of total infrastructure/local pollution/etc.), I just don’t think it’s going to make a big impact on total global emissions.

          In comparison, the goal for the Clean Power Plan was 32% by 2030.

    • would major American cities switching to a primarily bicycle-based transportation paradigm have a significant effect on carbon emissions?

      U.S. transportation produces about four or five percent of world CO2 emissions, so figure auto emissions in major cities probably produce under one percent. Warming depends on CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, not directly on emissions, and current concentration is already above the level that would give the current temperature in long run equilibrium, so reducing emissions by one percent should reduce the rate of warming by less than one percent. Figure, as a very rough guesstimate, that eliminating auto emissions in major U.S. cities would reduce global temperature in 2100 by a hundredth of a degree C or so.

      Would you consider that a significant effect?

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Not really, no. I guess some people take an “every little bit counts” approach to the problem, but it sounds to me like climate change is not a strong argument for increasing bike-friendliness of cities.

  2. Well... says:

    What might explain a guy in his early/mid 30s having to pee seemingly every 5 minutes between about 5:30am (when he gets up) and 7am (when he gets to work) but then being able to easily hold it for hours at a time throughout the rest of the day even though he doesn’t drink much when he first gets up but drinks water constantly at work? (Same pattern holds on weekends too.) Do men’s prostates change size throughout the day?

    • Matt Swaffer says:

      Not a doctor but my son is diabetic… I’d have my blood sugar checked if it were me.

      For less serious explanations, caffeine in your morning coffee might be the culprit (sometimes considered a diuretic).

      Not a nutritionist or a doctor…just life experience.

  3. onyomi says:

    I wonder if there is any inverse correlation among SSC users between libertarianism and consequentialism/utilitarianism?

    It seems sort of like there is, and it would make sense to me for there to be one (personally, I can’t justify any state on any non-utilitarian grounds), but I’m not sure if I’m imagining it.

    *Edit: wait, wasn’t the last hidden OT “culture war free”?

    • bean says:

      *Edit: wait, wasn’t the last hidden OT “culture war free”?

      I suspect that Scott is conducting some sort of psychological experiment on us. That, or he’s just suffering from severe car lag. I’d avoid CW topics this time, as this is the thread that should be CW-free.

      • Rob K says:

        or he’s trying to replace the culture war with the culture war war, in which people vigorously debate when and whether it’s appropriate to discuss the culture war, and slowly align their other beliefs with their opinions on this subject.

        • Aapje says:

          Is a no culture war thread also a no culture war war thread or can we culture war war when we cannot culture war?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How much culture war would a culture warrior wage if a culture warrior could wage culture war?

          • Jordan D. says:

            Okay, that’s it. Culture war or no, everyone in this thread is getting the Culture gulag for their crimes against Culture.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      I think it would depend; libertarianism has a lot of good points from a consequentialist standpoint, but the more ideological you get, the less consequentialism comes into play, and there are many highly ideological libertarians.

      • onyomi says:

        I know some good consequentialist arguments for libertarianism and some at least plausible consequentialist arguments against libertarianism. I don’t know of any non-consequentialist arguments against libertarianism which seem plausible to me (which is not to say none exist, only that I can’t think of any which I’ve personally found convincing or which are frequently offered here). The first one which comes to mind is social contract theory, but I don’t see many on SSC defending it.

        Maybe this thread would be better (and less culture war-ish) as a kind of poll? Those willing to answer can just say “libertarian, minarchist, virtue ethicist,” “progressive, centrist, utilitarian,” “Burkean conservative, deontologist, social contract theorist,” or what have you. If any pattern arises, then that pattern may be discussed in a different OT.

        For me, it’s “libertarian, anarcho-capitalist, ethical intuitionist/moral realist with maybe some consequentialist concessions.”

        • shakeddown says:

          There’s a selection effect here though, where if you are a hardcore libertarian, there will exist no arguments which use both your value system and which you consider plausible arguments against it.

          • onyomi says:

            Sure, but I’m not only saying I don’t see plausible arguments against libertarianism here, I’m saying I don’t see many non-consequentialist ethical arguments against libertarianism on SSC, period.

            Which is why I’m trying to find out if there are, in fact, many people here who are neither libertarians nor consequentialists, and, if so, what arguments they do find convincing.

            I’m trying to see if there is an inverse correlation here between libertarianism and utilitarianism.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m saying I don’t see many non-consequentialist ethical arguments against libertarianism on SSC, period.

            Because selective consequentialism is a useful meta-ethic, and SSC tries to focus on meta-ethics because that’s the only way so many people with distinct cultural and political opinions can converse civilly?

            I can say “homosexual intercourse is bad because God says it’s a sin” but that’s not going to get far unless you believe in my same God. On the other hand I can argue against the normalization of homosexual intercourse because of bad consequences: correlations with mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, STDs, suicide. (I would then note that the ancients weren’t dumb when it came to the whole “how to make a society that doesn’t die when everything around you wants to kill you” thing and speculate they noted things that lead to bad outcomes and were inspired to formulate them as God’s laws.)

          • onyomi says:

            I can argue against the normalization of homosexual intercourse because of bad consequences: correlations with mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, STDs, suicide.

            It sounds like what we agree on here is not consequentialism, but something more like Ayn Rand’s ethical system, which basically just asserts that that which is conducive to human flourishing is “good” (because within any argument about “bad” consequences must be some conception of what “bad” means, and I don’t think we usually mean “alcoholism and STDs make God sad”).

            Either that or we’re all closet ethical intuitionists like me (though I am open about it): the good is simply that which “seems” to be good.

            (While we’re at it, how do consequentialists avoid becoming intuitionists at the end of the day? Because when you say “the good” is defined by that which produces “good consequences” you still don’t get out of defining “good consequences.” You can appeal to things like “that which makes the greatest number happy,” but you are still ultimately relying on an intuition that making people happy is “good.” Also, you are going to have to rely on your intuition to determine whether the “best” consequences means e.g. the maximum total amount of happiness in the world, the highest level of happiness per capita, a higher floor of happiness for the least fortunate, etc. etc.)

          • carvenvisage says:

            While we’re at it, how do consequentialists avoid becoming intuitionists at the end of the day

            “Eyeballing shit” is a pretty good method, but if you make that the definition of your ethics, then if your intuition is wrong you’re automatically off the hook, which seems like it would lead to temptation and suchlike.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Probably I should have said something like “subtle aggregate judgement” instead of “eyeballing shit”. Wasn’t trying to be terse, was just typing while stupid.

          • onyomi says:

            @Carvenvisage

            I’m not sure you’re understanding my primary objection:

            It’s not that it’s hard to know how much utility is gained or lost in the world by an action (though that is hard). Rather that one’s most basic definition of “utility” needs some justification. Of course, you can define utility as “that which maximizes survival, reproduction, and/or happiness,” but it still doesn’t get past the is/ought problem.

            That is, even if we concede to the consequentialists that “the good” is best defined as “that which brings about the best consequences,” I am still left asking where the consequentialist gets his definition of “best” (not his estimation of “best,” but his standard of evaluation for “best”).

            The only way I know of is intuition: it “seems” right to me that happiness and life and health are better than sadness and death and sickness. I may then disagree with the utilitarian that that which results in the most happiness and life and health is necessarily ethically good, but that’s a different “level” of objection.

          • carvenvisage says:

            The difference in framing I outlined still applies in that case. Whatever the basic nature of good consequences are, it doesn’t just mean whatever your process for determining that happens to output, obviously it’s more like what that process should aim at approximating.

            Like you don’t need to have a definition of ‘good consequences’ to think that good consequences would be good. Saying “you don’t really like good consequences, just the approximation of them you have in your head” is true in one sense, but wildly misleading.

             

            Also do you think deontology virtue ethics etc don’t have that issue? If you subscribe to those I don’t think it gets you a stone tablet in the mail with the definitive nature of “good” engraved therein. (without reference to anyone’s or any system’s happiness or health)

          • onyomi says:

            @Carvenvisage

            As for whether other ethical systems provide a built-in definition of “good,” the way I see it, there are 3(ish?) options:

            1. Just be a moral non-realist or nihilist: the idea of “good” is meaningless, arbitrary, or just a description of an emotion. This requires a fair amount of bullet-biting: there’s no real sense in which Gandhi was a better person than Hitler; it’s all just a matter of perspective.

            2. Divine command theory: what God or holy book says is good is good. This has two problems: you may not believe in God and, second, even if you do, most people can at least logically conceive of God asking you to do something bad. If you believe in God but can logically conceive of God asking you to do something bad, then that means you have a separate intuition about what constitutes “bad” and “good” other than just “what God says.”

            3. Which leads to ethical intuitionism, the view I hold: moral facts exist and are not all relative or subjective, but they can’t be seen, heard, touched, or otherwise physically measured. They can, however, be logically perceived or intuited, like a mathematical proof. Unlike a mathematical proof, however, there are no physical tests of them. They exist only in the realm of intuition and logic (very Austrian of me, I know).

            Regarding consequentialism meaning just “that which brings about good consequences is good” I have to say I find it a very… tautological definition? Like, who would be against “good” consequences? “Good,” by definition, means morally desirable. The definition feels like a cop-out. I guess it can be a matter of focus: on the state of the world rather than the inherent virtue of the person or action, but it also seems strange to say “the right thing to do in this case will have bad consequences.” Utilitarianism, usually gets a bit more specific than that, but once it does, it opens itself to attacks you probably know (organ harvesting, Omelas, etc.)

          • carvenvisage says:

            I admit “Your choices are bad or good based on the consequences that should be expected from them” is kind of obvious and boring if you spell it out.

            And what bearing that has in practice is another question. (personally I never go around calculating consequences, I just have it in the back of my mind not to totally disregard them) (because I find other heuristics are better aka lead to better consequences) (consequentialism can very directly reduce to other moral systems via this general path). And of course it does nothing to determine what’s good and what’s bad, or even why we should prefer good to bad.

            Anyway, here are two moral grounding arguments I made earlier (first starts with a quoted line it was written in response to):

            1:

            It’s obvious that morality is purely a matter of aesthetics

            if nothing else, it’s also a matter of what things an imperfect liar must believe in in order to not give off accurate hints that they’re a bad person to have around, or more directly provoke retribution.

            So perceiving the kind of things which would mark you as someone to be shunned or killed, as having their own special ontological category, is very practical.

            Even the idea that such things damn you is fairly accurate if you extract the baggage. You murder one lousy person and your option to live a normal life is greatly cut off and your options mostly narrow to escalation or starting your life anew elsewhere.

            I think it’s also a matter of rationality, insofar as no one is born realising there are other people and those other people’s nature is such that they can suffer be happy live etc, much like we can. Being things like kind and honest allows you to perceive your nature and past both rationally and with pride. Conversely rvery time you’re evil you damage your past, and so (unless you are a perfect liar) your ability to engage the world directly. Otherwise there has to be some reaction, some crack that forms, whether it’s having to lie to yourself, lie to others, face your sins, partition your mind, forget or run from the past, etc.

            I suppose all of that is escapable, and there can be equilibriums where it never comes up in the first place, but for an ordinary person there are self-interested reasons to have a moral sense, and in the absence of knowledge of what kind of world you’re living in, your instinctive prior should be that it’s possible that people who harm others for the sake of it might suffer retribution, and be afraid of doing/becoming that.

            So morality is not purely aesthetic, it’s also at least our (instinctive) game-theoretical fear of making ourselves the natural enemy of anyone who wants a quiet life. What’s natural, or a priori worth consideration can later be screened out when we see we live in a world where justice is weak, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a (lets say) natural platonic pattern.

             

            2: Lets say I’m not just a moral nihilist but an all around nihilist. -Every value strikes me as bankrupt or worse, I have no preferences.

            In this case I might still have preferences for my preferences (even if only aesthetically).

            If this is so, I could potentially adopt these preferences-for-preferences directly as my preferences, seeing as I have no stronger object level preferences to counteract their influence (the preference-preferences).

            (This is looking at value the opposite view as before, starting with no preexisting values, only aesthetics.)

            If that makes sense so far, I think I should also also be able to the same for what, not me personally, -but ‘one’ or ‘everyone’, should prefer. What kind of values are in themselves more aesthetically pleasing, and what kind of values in practice lead to a world which is more aesthetically pleasing?

            I like to think most people would prefer others to be kindly disposed and honest, and perhaps rational to some extent, so as to be able to act towards and maintain their values. We would prefer others to have preference that would lead the world to tend towards improvement, towards positive sum games. In more melodramatic terms, towards a world where there can be things worth losing, where you can have tragedies and not just squalid not-even- knockoffs like you get in a real race to the bottom.

            Actually I suppose that’s a different argument, so-

            3: there’s a huge difference between tragedy and squalor. You can certainly make a case that sorrow is greater than joy, but it’s much harder to make a case that…. well I’m sure you can imagine something suitably horrifying.

             

            So in conclusion, you can get morality from a desire to safeguard preexisting values, you can get it from pure aesthetics without values, and if you’re a human you probably have strong preferences anyway for what kinds of things are ok and which ones are not. Morality is rationally extrapolating those kind preference to apply to others, as if they are also humans like you, which they are, and expecting them to do the same, because 1. that’s not a lot to ask, and 2. if they don’t/can’t they might be evil or super-dumb, which are both bad signs. And because it lets you be rational and prideful at the same time.

          • carvenvisage says:

            >but it also seems strange to say “the right thing to do in this case will have bad consequences”

            Doesn’t sound that odd to me. I’d guess the speaker is probably not counting some costly precedent their judgement/heuristics tells them will be worth it, as a consequence/thing which gives rise to consequences. Not counting things which are hard to track/quantify seems like a common way to interpret consequences. If you can’t prove it, measure it, isn’t real. But you know it is real, so you have to justify it somehow else.

          • beleester says:

            Like, who would be against “good” consequences? “Good,” by definition, means morally desirable. The definition feels like a cop-out. I guess it can be a matter of focus: on the state of the world rather than the inherent virtue of the person or action, but it also seems strange to say “the right thing to do in this case will have bad consequences.”

            It doesn’t seem strange to me – most of the attacks on deontological ethics are of this form. For instance, if your ethics says that lying is wrong, but the Nazis are at the door asking about the Jews hiding in your basement, your intuition of the “right thing” doesn’t align with what has the best consequences for you and the people you’re trying to help.

            I think your description of “focusing on the state of the world rather than the inherent virtue of the person or action” is exactly the right way to look at it. Some ethical systems say that doing the wrong thing is okay if you get good results, and some say that it’s okay to do the right thing even if that leads to terrible consequences.

            I think that’s what carvenvisage is objecting to – if you follow your intuitions and the result is (intuitively) bad consequences, your actions aren’t excused because you meant well.

            You can take a step back and say “Well, they’re both using intuition to judge what’s good, it’s just one is evaluating the action and one is evaluating the result,” but since those two lines of thought lead to very different actions I think it’s worth having two different words for them.

          • random832 says:

            For instance, if your ethics says that lying is wrong, but the Nazis are at the door asking about the Jews hiding in your basement

            How does this situation arise without lying, even if only by omission, to them about your willingness to conceal their presence? Something like “Unfortunately, I am bound by an unusual ethical system to always tell the truth, so if the Nazis come and directly ask me I will inform them of your presence, or at least I will not deny anything and we can both predict what inferences they will make from that. You should probably find somewhere else to hide. And make sure not to tell me where.”

          • carvenvisage says:

            I think that’s what carvenvisage is objecting to – if you follow your intuitions and the result is (intuitively) bad consequences, your actions aren’t excused because you meant well.

            I’m sure Onyomi wouldn’t disagree with this. My objection is one meta level up and significantly more pedantic-

            If you follow any process, and that leads to your-best-approximation-of-good-consequences, but your understanding of good-itself is wrong (enough to make those consequences actually bad), then the self-definition you want is the one where you can update your understanding (of what good is), not the one where

            the good is simply that which “seems” to be good.

            -you collapse your current perception of the goal and your ideal
            perception of the goal or the goal itself (because by that definition there is no room to recognise such a mistake).

            TL:DR, “That which “seems” to be good” is (by definition) our best working approximation for what is actually good, not a replacement for it, because it’s possible to be wrong about what good is as well as about how to be and cause good (-your understanding/definition of)

            (even if your definition of good is purely subjective to your values. “CEV” and so on)

            Or even more TL:DR: don’t (by default) define yourself by your perceived goal, rather than ideal goal, in case your perception of the goal is wrong.

            But Onyomi’s later outline of intuitionism

            moral facts exist and are not all relative or subjective, but they can’t be seen, heard, touched, or otherwise physically measured. They can, however, be logically perceived or intuited, like a mathematical proof. Unlike a mathematical proof, however, there are no physical tests of them. They exist only in the realm of intuition and logic (very Austrian of me, I know).

            ends up not conflicting with this objection and afaict having nothing to do with the original one I was disagreeing with, (actually it sounds quite a bit like “natural platonic pattern”), so my guess now is that Onyomi was just speaking loosely when they said the first one.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Market socialist/liberaltarian, consequentialism with a contractarian layer. So more or less confirming your hypothesis.

          To brainstorm non-consequentialist anti-capitalist arguments… You could maybe argue that capitalism is virtue-ethically bad because it makes people selfish? Though I tend to have the opposite concern, c.f. Homo Sovieticus and Twenty-First Century Motors.

        • It’s a little tricky.

          I have long favored using consequentialist arguments to defend both libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism. But the entry under utilitarianism in my Machinery of Freedom is “Utilitarian, why I am not.”

        • AnonYEmous says:

          I mean, an argument is either consequentialist or it is moral. Morals are different for every person; there are many people who would say that it is morally wrong to hold wealth so long as someone else needs it and that the government is morally obligated to redistribute it, so certainly the moral (or ethical, if you want to go there) arguments exist. Are they…good? How do you measure this? Certainly they’ve worked on a lot of people throughout history, and since libertarianism has never taken full hold on pretty much anything for an extended period of time they seem to work better than libertarian moral arguments in many cases.

          • onyomi says:

            I guess this is also making me think that everybody is a secret ethical intuitionist.

            Here you’re contrasting “morals,” which are personal and individual, with appeals to consequences, which are, you seem to imply, relatively universal. But that requires some shared conception of what constitutes “good” consequences, no? And also, I think many consequentialists consider their consequentialist arguments to be moral arguments, no?

            If I argue that policy x is a good idea because it will make everyone healthy and wealthy and wise, then that argument depends on my assumption that just about everyone shares my ethical intuition that people being healthier, wealthier, and wiser is a good thing.

            This relates to David Friedman’s argument about why consequentialist arguments may work better: there are many cases where you agree with your ideological opponent on desired outcomes but disagree on the best way to achieve those outcomes (I agree that is often the case; not sure I agree it’s usually the case–I think the ideal future world the Marxist or hard-core environmentalist imagines is very different from the ideal future world I imagine, so it’s not just a disagreement on how to get there).

            But that sort of argument also depends on people having widely shared intuitions about “the good.” David Friedman just said he’s not a utilitarian, but if he were one (and there seem to be a lot around here), I’d ask him where he got his base-level definition of “good” (looking quickly at Machinery of Freedom, he defines utilitarianism as something like “that which maximizes sum or average human happiness is good”; if he subscribed to this view himself, I’d ask why happiness is better than suffering, if not because we have an intuition that it is).

          • AnonYEmous says:

            But that sort of argument also depends on people having widely shared intuitions about “the good.”

            Yeah, pretty much.

            I think the simplest way to put it is that people are secret self-serving intuitionists. If killing people is OK, then what’s to stop someone from killing you? And so it becomes ingrained on a genetic level. There’s probably also something along the lines of “disruption of society is bad”, which is mostly believed by those who benefit from the society and actively disbelieved by those who don’t.

            However, this makes consequentialism usually much more effective. I also think there’s something to the idea that consequentialism tends to speak to bigger issues like death, assault, bankruptcy, whereas ideologies usually speak to things like freedom (give me liberty or give me death is a noble sentiment, but how many slaves kill themselves?) which are not nearly as important.

    • DeWitt says:

      I mean, what does a deontological argument against libertarianism even look like? One from another set of ethics?

      If you’re consequentialist, you can point to libertarianism leading to X, not preventing Y well, and so on, and so on. You can agree with these arguments, you can disagree, and there’s plenty of consequentialist/utilitarian arguments for libertarianism as well. Okay.

      But ideologically, I really don’t think we live in the right times for that sort of objection against libertarianism to be in vogue. There’s some fringe cults of Death Eaters that might object, but the world has precious few confucianists and absolutists left otherwise. People that aren’t libertarians tend to view the state as a necessity, maybe a necessary evil, even a rather good thing, but despite the griping about those evil statists some libertarians can get up to, I don’t think most people are that ideologically invested into the state as-is.

      • onyomi says:

        You make it sound like most people nowadays are utilitarians. I don’t think that’s true. Though maybe more are utilitarians in practice than would claim to be in theory.

        • DeWitt says:

          I don’t think people need to really be utilitarians or consequentialists to make utilitarian or consequentialist arguments. Most people nowadays aren’t utilitarians or consequentialists; most people nowadays, as well as in the past, are people who have never heard of these terms, and probably haven’t given that much thought to their support or opposition of libertarianism in the first place.

          • onyomi says:

            I agree. I think most people subscribe to a kind of “common sense morality,” which is, in fact, a mish-mash of virtues, deontology, consequentialism, divine command, intuitions about purity…

            Surprisingly, though, “common sense morality” doesn’t seem to do very well at justifying the state, except insofar as the status quo always seems somewhat “commonsensical.”

          • Aapje says:

            ‘Pure’ morality like utilitarianism is very risky IMO, because adherents often make elementary mistakes like assuming that the value function that governs outcomes is continuously increasing or decreasing and thus, that if a move by epsilon in a direction makes the outcome better, that a move by any quantity in the same direction makes the outcome better.

            For most people, it seems better to have some common sense checks on their reasoning, as they are poor at reasoning. So if they take their flawed reasoning to its ultimate conclusion, that conclusion often involves gulags and the like.

  4. bean says:

    Naval Gazing:
    Why the carriers aren’t doomed, Part 2: Finding the carriers
    Series Index
    Last time, I handwaved away the problem of finding the carriers, to look solely at the math of a missile engagement. It’s now time to come back to that problem, and see just how hard it is to generate targeting-grade data.

    The basic problem is that the sea is very big, and ships are small and mobile. In WW1, the British used codebreaking and direction-finding to keep track of the German fleet, which allowed them to set up Jutland, while the Germans thought it was a fluke, and that they’d stopped a British sortie into the Baltic. In WW2, the British would listen in to the reports of Italian scout planes, and if their position reports were far enough off, they wouldn’t bother shooting them down.

    Obviously, radar and modern navigational systems have made it easier to track ships at sea. Clouds are no longer going to hide the surface, and it’s harder (though not impossible) to mess up your navigation. But there are still problems. A typical radar system will tell you that there is a target there, but it won’t tell you what the target is. The Soviet Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites (RORSAT) could only measure the targets parallel to its orbit, so carriers would turn to face it, shrinking their signature considerably. While the RORSAT cue did help, as did data from passive platforms and other sources, the final localization had to be done by a platform vulnerable to the carrier’s defenses, to make sure that the missiles found the carrier and not one of its escorts, usually an airplane of some sort. In the Mediterranean, the Soviets employed destroyers to fulfill this function. These would shadow US groups, and had rear-facing anti-ship missiles, to be fired as they turned away (to avoid becoming targets themselves.) The turn-away was an important indicator of an impending attack.

    The preferred way to solve the identification problem is electronic signal measures, or ESM. At the most basic, if there is a radar that only exists on carriers, and you detect it coming from a ship, then that’s your target. On a more sophisticated level, military radars are usually essentially hand-built, and it is possible to take a ‘fingerprint’ and identify a specific radar remotely. The US, Russia, and China all have sea-surveillance ESM systems. However, these can be defeated by emissions control, or EMCON, a common practice in western navies. Satellite communications allow ships to avoid most of the disadvantages of EMCON, as a satellite can transmit to the surface over a broad area, and a ship can send a tight beam back to the satellite. The ship can rely on data from other sensors (including ESM and IR satellites) to learn of an incoming attack, and only break EMCON after it has been located.

    Optical cameras don’t require cooperation from the target, but are stymied by clouds and darkness. IR cameras have issues seeing through the atmosphere. Modern SAR platforms like TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X are quite capable of identifying ships from space using synthetic aperture radar. However, they do have limited swath width, particularly in the higher-resolution modes that are required to get firm identification. The combined TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X cost approximately $400 million. Jane’s says that it can image 90% of Earth’s surface within 2 days, although there are several different resolution modes. The best data I have suggests that you can get data between 20 and 45 degrees off-nadir, which translates into a swath between 170 and 460 km off the ground track, on one side. This is probably enough to provide a precise location for a carrier that has already been roughly located, although the finer modes have widths of only 10-30 km. X-band radar, though, is badly affected by rain (something Airbus fails to mention in their marketing literature), and the US used to hide ships from similar Soviet systems in bad weather. I’m not sure how effective electronic warfare is against this kind of system, and sources differ on the matter.

    But what about non-space-based options? Can’t we just send out drones to look for the carriers?
    The obvious problem we come to again is emissions. A radar can usually be detected at least twice as far away as it can detect anything. The obvious solution for the carrier is to use some form of low-power low probability of intercept (LPI) radio to vector fighters out to kill the snooper. (Or even simply brief them on deck and send them out under full EMCON.) The E-2 Hawkeye has a very good ESM system, and with tankers and cleverness, could manage to at the very least significantly mitigate the ‘flaming datum’ problem. Optical surveillance, besides being flummoxed by clouds, has a very limited range compared to radar. The obvious suggestion is drones, but drones probably have to talk to base to be effective. Automated detection systems could solve that, but you’re still looking at a high false alarm rate, and the system would be quite expensive.

    For a wonderful explanation of the methods that a carrier group would use to avoid a firm detection, see this essay.
    (TL DR: There are a lot of things a carrier group can do to not look like a carrier group. They work very well.)

    But eventually, the carrier’s luck will run out, and the bad guys will locate them, and they’ll die, right?
    Not so fast. A location, particularly one that is targeting-grade, is inherently perishable, and if your opponent knows you’ve got it, then it’s going to spoil even more quickly. Essentially, you have to get your weapons near the target before the area where the target can be gets bigger than the area the weapons can search, and then make sure that those weapons lock on to the right target. This is true regardless of the nature of the weapons, although different weapons have very different parameters for search and lock-on. One example would be an air strike. Searching for the carrier is a good way to get killed by defending fighters, but the attacking aircraft can still compensate for some degree of imprecision in the fix.

    A missile is much less capable of such compensation, and this has been a long-term problem with anti-ship missiles. The US has stopped installing Harpoon missiles (range of ~70 nm) on destroyers, and removed the submarine-launched version from service, out of fear of hitting the wrong target. The original Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile, which had an effective range of over 200 nm, was going to solve this problem by using ESM, looking for the radars of a hostile ship. However, this was problematic, and in exercises, the hit rate was around 25%.

    Ballistic missiles have an even bigger problem. Unlike a cruise missile, they cannot wait and search for a target. The first ASBM, the Soviet SS-NX-13, was designed to home in on radar emissions, but never entered service, as it would have displaced ballistic missiles on submarines, the numbers of which were limited by treaty. The guidance mechanism of the DF-21D is not known, but there are only a few options. Optical guidance is right out, as it doesn’t work at night or in bad weather. IR does work at night, but is still vulnerable to bad weather, a common phenomenon at sea. Radar might work, but is vulnerable to countermeasures and there are limits on what can be done with a platform the size of a missile warhead, particularly in terms of non-cooperative identification. (In plain English, the missile can’t tell the carrier from a destroyer with a blip enhancer or a merchantman.) Home-on-radar is an option, but can be foiled by not using radar or using the wrong kind of radar. (Also, SPY-1 apparently has special modes to fool radar-homing missiles.)

    All of this gives a very limited window for the attacker to take a targeting-grade sighting and get the data to the weapons. This is usually ignored in popular articles, but it’s very important. Every minute, the carrier gets another ~900 m away from the initial fix. The internet makes instant, reliable communication seem easy, but the list of disruptions due to various bad actors should be a reminder that this kind of communication is difficult and vulnerable to disruption. Throw in an active and very hostile power, and the network is likely to be seriously disrupted at best, and brought down at worst. China might have made the investment in targeting platforms and communications to be able to effectively target something like the DF-21D, although we can’t be sure how well their efforts will work until it’s tried for real. Enemyistan almost certainly hasn’t. I do know that early US attempts at this kind of networking often saw data delayed by an hour or more, for whatever reason, and they were not facing the full array of countermeasures that a major power can bring to bear. If the delay is too great, then there’s nothing in the missile’s field of view when it shows up, and it either plunges into the sea or takes out something it thinks is a carrier, but turns out to be a Dutch container ship.

    None of this should be taken to mean that the US carriers are completely safe from detection. There are ways to find ships at sea, but they are expensive and difficult, and their effectiveness can’t be absolutely certain. But anyone who ignores those difficulties when discussing the effectiveness of the carriers is either ignorant or dishonest.

    • James Miller says:

      Are US carrier groups in international waters constantly shadowed by Russian or Chinese ships during peacetime?

      • bean says:

        Not constantly, but often enough. Soviet warships used to follow formations, and then there were the AGIs, usually modified fishing trawlers used to localize ships for the Soviet Ocean Surveillance System. They had a habit of making a nuisance of themselves. I’m not fully up to speed on the current situation, but there are enough encounters between US and Chinese warships to confirm that the same games are still being played today.

        • James Miller says:

          So if the Chinese wanted to launch a surprise attack on a carrier group, they would be able to get a targeting-grade location. What would happen during a period of high tension between the U.S. and China? Would we warn and then sink any Chinese ship that got too close to a carrier group?

          • bean says:

            Maybe. In a situation where things look to be turning hostile, the US is going to be doing all it can to break away from the trailers, or avoid acquiring them in the first place. There’s a good chance we’d succeed, at least for most ships. They probably would also run into the same problem the Russians faced, which is that you don’t want to dilute the salvo by being too close and having some of them go after you. I just don’t know enough about their doctrine to be sure. I doubt we’d sink trailers before the beginning of hostilities, although that could be our opening move if the balloon goes up. (This is very unlikely.)

          • James Miller says:

            bean, you obviously know far more about navies than I do, but I find it hard to believe that a Chinese ship optimized to keep up with a carrier group couldn’t do so (absent it being fired upon) given that it could make promiscuous use of radar and wouldn’t have to carry weapons or armor.

          • bean says:

            I find it hard to believe that a Chinese ship optimized to keep up with a carrier group couldn’t do so (absent it being fired upon) given that it could make promiscuous use of radar and wouldn’t have to carry weapons or armor.

            Ah. In theory, that is at least somewhat practical, although the Chinese haven’t built any.
            The normal trailer is a destroyer, and there are lots of tales of games played with Soviet shadowers. I think my favorite is one where a destroyer, operating as part of a group, started welding together scrap on the flight deck, while the rest of the group frantically tried to keep between them and the Soviet shadower. Worst comes to worst, the carrier detaches one escort to keep the shadower off while everyone else runs over the horizon. The shadower would need a big performance margin over the escorts to foil this, and building a ship capable of 40+ kts in rough seas isn’t cheap. Rough sea speed generally scales with size, so you’re fighting an uphill battle if you want your dedicated ship to be small and cheap. I think the Chinese have probably decided to rely on other targeting methods, particularly as the shadower is really only capable of maintaining a fix, not generating one. As for radar, there are all sorts of countermeasures. One that was quite popular was to fill a potato gun with undercooked spaghetti, and fire it at the other ship’s antennas. It would stick and harden, and was apparently a real pain to remove.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think my favorite is one where a destroyer, operating as part of a group, started welding together scrap on the flight deck, while the rest of the group frantically tried to keep between them and the Soviet shadower.

            I’m not sure I follow. Why were they welding scrap? And they were worried the Soviets would see them welding scrap?

          • bean says:

            I’m not sure I follow. Why were they welding scrap? And they were worried the Soviets would see them welding scrap?

            They didn’t want the Soviets getting a clear view of them welding scrap because then they might have figured out that it was scrap, and not some new device that the US was working on. I’m sure that some research institute got a project to try to figure out what they were up to, which must have been fun.
            Reagan did the same thing on a much larger scale, and it cost the Soviets a bunch of money, a lack of which ultimately brought them down.

          • James Miller says:

            > fill a potato gun with undercooked spaghetti, and fire it at the other ship’s antennas. It would stick and harden, and was apparently a real pain to remove.

            Isn’t this kind of an act of war? I wonder if this being silly makes it acceptable and unlikely to cause escalation.

          • bean says:

            Isn’t this kind of an act of war? I wonder if this being silly makes it acceptable and unlikely to cause escalation.

            In practice, it’s not an act of war. The line between ‘war’ and ‘peace’ at sea has never been as tightly defined as on land, and things happen. Occasionally, ships even bump into each other. There have been similar confrontations between the US and China. A popular thing back in the Cold War (on steam-powered ships) was to get the Soviet ship downwind and then activate the soot blowers. The cloud of soot would at the very least give the Soviet sailors something to do.
            There are also tales of US ships shadowing the Soviets coming into station for replenishment, with all the correct signals, and US ships delivering ice cream to the Soviets via helicopter. And then there was the Cod War, which happened between members of NATO.

          • There are stories in the SCA about a Soviet ship observing SCA fighter practice on the deck of a carrier–there was an SCA floating canton, Curragh Mor, on the Nimitz.

          • bean says:

            There are stories in the SCA about a Soviet ship observing SCA fighter practice on the deck of a carrier–there was an SCA floating canton, Curragh Mor, on the Nimitz.

            If I was the commander of the Nimitz, I’d tell them that they’re more than welcome to do so, but not to talk about what they’re doing for a while. Just to keep the Soviets guessing.
            (Of course, my first thought when I read SCA fighter was that you were operating aircraft.)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Are there any stories of either the Russians or Chinese gaslighting the US or other western powers in similar fashion? (For some reason, I have an easier time visualizing Russia doing this than China.)

          • bean says:

            Are there any stories of either the Russians or Chinese gaslighting the US or other western powers in similar fashion? (For some reason, I have an easier time visualizing Russia doing this than China.)

            None that spring to mind immediately, although I’m sure it happened. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Soviet ships occasionally ‘tried’ to replenish from USN oilers, for instance. But there were a lot more USN ships being followed by the Soviets than the other way around, and I’d guess that all the really good “we did this to them” stories are only in Russian, which I can’t read.

          • John Schilling says:

            I find it hard to believe that a Chinese ship optimized to keep up with a carrier group couldn’t do so (absent it being fired upon) given that it could make promiscuous use of radar and wouldn’t have to carry weapons or armor.

            How big is the Chinese ship you are imagining, and how long is it expected to keep up?

            An interesting feature of hydrodynamics is that all ships have something called a “hull speed”, roughly proportional to the square root of the waterline length, below which they can cruise at very low power but above which power required increases almost exponentially. The simple version is, the ship winds up trying to climb its own bow wave, and ships really don’t like to sail uphill. So any intuition that says small ships should be able to outrun large ships is generally false – particularly over the long run.

            A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has a hull speed of just over forty knots; actual top speed is classified but probably close to that, and it won’t run out of neutrons if the captain orders full speed for a week.

            A Burke-class destroyer, which we kind of want to keep up with our carriers, has a hull speed of almost exactly 30 knots, and while the top speed is probably somewhere above that, you wouldn’t want to sustain anything above 30 knots. But a Burke is a large ship, and her bunkers will maintain 30 knots for several days.

            A Chinese Type 54 frigate has a maximum speed of only 27 knots, and probably can’t keep that up as long as a Burke. Even making the attempt would be expensive and obvious. The larger Chinese destroyers(*) could manage it for a few days, but deploying those for carrier-shadowing is even more expensive and obvious.

            * Note that “destroyer” stopped meaning “small, cheap, expendable escort” about fifty years ago; think “cruiser” for all practical purposes.

          • bean says:

            A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has a hull speed of just over forty knots; actual top speed is classified but probably close to that, and it won’t run out of neutrons if the captain orders full speed for a week.

            This isn’t true. The top speed is about 31 knots, according to official figures.
            Other than that, John is pretty much entirely correct throughout. There are some potential exotic hullforms which could do the 40+ knots in rough weather you’d want as a carrier shadow, but none of them are really production-ready.

    • bean says:

      It looks like I screwed up the link to the essay on NavWeps. Here is the correct link.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      When you write something like “The turn-away was an important indicator of an impending attack”, is that just something the USN deduced?

      Also, you say that targeting being vulnerable to night and rain is a deal-breaker, but is it? If your strategic goal is to make a more powerful nation not want to fight you, high-variance weapons seem like the way to go. Is there a way to deterministically exploit those weaknesses?

      As for drones, surely they can do something smarter than blaring radar the whole time? If it reaches a position, does a quick scan, and moves, can fighters still find it? What about a team of drones successively choosing where to search based on where others are shot down?

      • bean says:

        When you write something like “The turn-away was an important indicator of an impending attack”, is that just something the USN deduced?

        I’m not sure exactly how they figured that out. The rear-facing missile tubes were probably a strong clue. Most of my books are post-Cold War, and thus have at least some access to Soviet records. We got a lot wrong, but that wasn’t one of the things.

        Also, you say that targeting being vulnerable to night and rain is a deal-breaker, but is it? If your strategic goal is to make a more powerful nation not want to fight you, high-variance weapons seem like the way to go. Is there a way to deterministically exploit those weaknesses?

        All the data I have suggests that it is, although I’m not a naval officer, and the best answers are classified. The USN had a pretty good average (50-75%, AIUI) in avoiding Soviet detection long enough for alpha strikes when it wanted to. They didn’t try it all the time, to limit the ability of the Soviets to learn what they were doing, and come up with better practices.

        As for drones, surely they can do something smarter than blaring radar the whole time? If it reaches a position, does a quick scan, and moves, can fighters still find it?

        Probably. Even quick scans are still going to build up a picture of where the drone is moving, although it will take longer.

        What about a team of drones successively choosing where to search based on where others are shot down?

        That’s vulnerable to countermeasures, too. Use tankers to vector fighters a long way out, then start shooting the drones down out there. There’s an example of this kind of thing in the essay I linked.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        In terms of “recon by shootdown”, We did something like that for AA defenses in the balkans, on the theory that it was cheaper to lose multiple $2M airframes (Hunter) than a $10M+ manned aircraft and the crew. Use UAVs to map out the ADA sites, then send in a SEAD mission to take them out.

        But that worked because:

        1) We had air supriority.

        2) Ranges were very short, allowing the SEAD strike packages to loiter while the UAVs mapped out their targets for them. Even then, that wouldn’t be safe to do if it weren’t for 1.

        3) Because of 2, the short distances and the strike packages already being on deck, we were able to hit the targets within minutes of them being identified.

        As Bean points out, that doesn’t work so well for a long-distance naval engagement against a moving target with its own integral fighter support.

        As for drones in general, I think people probably don’t realize just how finicky they are in real world long range conditions. I’m aware that there is theoretically the possibility that this is now a solved problem and the solution is just classified, but AFAIK we still don’t have working stealthed UAVs, and haven’t even really tried since Darkstar got shut down in 1999.

        One of the fundamental problems is that a UAV has to be able to transmit back to the control station, and the longer the range, the more powerful that signal. Directional antennas help, but only so much, and when shit happens (and it inevitably does), and you lose link with the UAV, It has to be able to regain link, and that tends to include behavior like going to omnidirectional and max power on its transmitters to regain handshake with the control station.

        Satellite control makes it harder to intercept, but is also something outside the financial and technological capability of pretty much anyone but Russia and China.

    • Thanks for the usual great stuff. A few questions:

      1) Are you going to do an entry on the sub threat? I see about as many claims that quiet subs with popup attacks (often with a side of “diesel-electric >> nuclear”) will instantly sink carriers as I do claims about missiles. How realistic or not is that? (You briefly talked about Shkval but not submarines in general.) (For that matter, could trailing recon subs provide good missile fixes? My guess is no, because VLF and ELF are functionally one-directional communication, right?)

      2) how does this analysis apply to fleet-on-fleet conflicts? What would the recon stage of a 2017 Coral Sea look like–could Nimitz find Liaoning? (Before or after their respective air arms have a decisive engagement?)

      • bean says:

        Are you going to do an entry on the sub threat?

        Eventually, probably for Part 4. (Part 3 is the DF-21D).

        I see about as many claims that quiet subs with popup attacks (often with a side of “diesel-electric >> nuclear”) will instantly sink carriers as I do claims about missiles. How realistic or not is that?

        The problem is that the submarine also has to find the carrier, and unlike aircraft or missiles, either no faster (nuclear) or much slower (diesel), so vectoring is a problem. In exercises, the carriers are quite constrained in where they can operate, which gives the subs a big advantage. In a real war, the carrier has a lot more options, and is only in danger if it runs over a submarine.

        (For that matter, could trailing recon subs provide good missile fixes? My guess is no, because VLF and ELF are functionally one-directional communication, right?)

        A submarine could in theory provide good fixes, although you’d have to come to periscope depth to do it, probably via satellite. But a diesel boat can’t trail a carrier group unless the carrier group is running really slowly. And while the actual values are obviously highly classified, I suspect that even a US or British nuke boat would have serious trouble keeping up with a carrier group without getting detected, and our submarines are the quietest by a good margin. If they hang back a bit it might work, but I’d be really nervous trying it as a Chinese or Russian skipper.

        how does this analysis apply to fleet-on-fleet conflicts? What would the recon stage of a 2017 Coral Sea look like–could Nimitz find Liaoning? (Before or after their respective air arms have a decisive engagement?)

        That’s a good question. All else equal, advantage goes to the USN. Liaoning doesn’t have AWACS, which is really important in these things. (That was probably the number one lesson for the Falklands in terms of carrier ops.) STOBAR doesn’t let you fly anything other than fast jets. The USN still has good sea surveillance equipment, and Nimitz is a lot more powerful, and is probably bringing friends. It’s going to be a lot of years before the Chinese are able to challenge us in the open sea. They’re definitely swinging that way, though, which I actually take as a sign that they don’t want a military confrontation with us. To supplant us, yes, but peacefully.

        • That’s a good question. All else equal, advantage goes to the USN. Liaoning doesn’t have AWACS, which is really important in these things. (That was probably the number one lesson for the Falklands in terms of carrier ops.) STOBAR doesn’t let you fly anything other than fast jets.

          How about a Nimitz vs. Nimitz clone fight? I hadn’t really thought about the particular Chinese limitations, but would be curious about an even-tech match as well.

          • bean says:

            How about a Nimitz vs. Nimitz clone fight? I hadn’t really thought about the particular Chinese limitations, but would be curious about an even-tech match as well.

            A mix of broad ocean surveillance, AWACS (which has a surface-search mode) and land-based air searchers. They might also use Hornets, at least for clearing potential targets. The latest targeting pods (SNIPER and the like) are very good for that. Both sides are trying to find the other without being found. Whoever does it first is very likely to win.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Are we cloning the Nimitz air-wing and escorts as well?

          • Bean: right, that’s what they’d use: how effective do you think they would be?

            Could Nimitz’s air wing find, say, John C. Stennis (and start firing munitions) before one or the other’s air wing engaged and annihilated the other?

          • bean says:

            @Andrew
            I’m not sure. One thing I would point out is that carriers don’t just fight each other. Every carrier battle I can think of involved one group of carriers trying to do something, and the other group trying to stop them.
            I expect that one group or the other would probably get an alpha strike off, if for no other reason than that air groups generally don’t get launched without a target in mind, so attrition will be slow. But the maximum missile strike of a CVW is about 100 harpoons, which is not enough to overcome the escorts. I’m not sure how effective the carrier’s long-range air defenses would be. That’s a question which is basically ‘it depends’, and the number of factors involved is really high.

          • You are right that carrier battles have tended to have a non-carrier objective, though I named Coral Sea for a reason. I guess there was a land invasion involved, but particularly in how it was presented to me in Ian Toll’s book Pacific Crucible it really felt like this was a carrier-on-carrier battle by mutual agreement, with Moresby almost a pretext–maybe I am misinterpreting things.

          • bean says:

            The battle was definitely about Moresby, not just ‘let’s have our carriers slug it out’. I haven’t heard of Pacific Crucible, but Morison, who is generally very good at capturing contemporary American thinking, frames it as stopping the Japanese in New Guinea.

        • ilkarnal says:

          The problem is that the submarine also has to find the carrier

          A significant number of submarines will threaten the carrier. They can focus on a relatively limited area – that from which the carrier is likely to launch strikes on relevant targets in the US war effort. Some can search far afield, of course, working suspected transit routes, but others patrol in choice areas off shore.

          But a diesel boat can’t trail a carrier group unless the carrier group is running really slowly.

          This is a strange framing. Of course submarines tend to move relatively slowly, and are more like ambush predators than cheetahs running down their foes. You tend to run into the submarine more than it runs into you. Running into an enemy submarine is pretty troublesome, especially if it is a Russian submarine with a complement of anti-ship cruise missiles. If the submarine does not attack, relaying information to other units while the CVBG transits the submarine’s sensor footprint can be deadly in itself.

        • cassander says:

          Liaoning doesn’t have AWACS, which is really important in these things. (That was probably the number one lesson for the Falklands in terms of carrier ops.) STOBAR doesn’t let you fly anything other than fast jets.

          The CHinese do have some Z-18 helicopters with AEW gear similar (though presumably less capable than) the Merlins the brits are buying for the QEs. These are massively less powerful (at least an order of mag, I assume, but i’ve never actually seen any information on the actual power in the crowsnest system) than a real AEW plane like the E-2, but it’s better than nothing.

          • bean says:

            Blast. I should have checked that before I posted.
            I don’t have any data on the performance of either the APY-9 or the Chinese system. Norman Friedman needs to come out with the 6th edition of World Naval Weapons Systems, and (more importantly) NIP needs to put it on sale. But just looking at the math, the max takeoff weights, the E-2 is twice as heavy (approximately, I’m using numbers for Super Frelon, which is a couple generations up the family tree), and it’s fixed-wing, which makes it more efficient. The E-2D is still new, so I can’t see them stealing a lead through technology, either.

          • cassander says:

            Yep. If there was a single reason that the brits should have put catapults on the QEs, it was in order to have the ability to get real AEW aircraft. the crowsnest helos are going to cost a fortune and are going to be considerably less good. Aside from the worse radar, they’re going to have massive issues with time on station.

          • bean says:

            I know that you know just how good the MoD is at making bad decisions. Anything involving Nimrod is the best example, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had rubbed off on all AEW projects. I keep half-expecting to hear that the MoD has decided that it would be cheaper to refit some old 737-400s with P-8 systems instead of buying P-8s.
            (This is a terrible, terrible idea. The 737-400s are old and full of cracks, and they lack such necessary features as the bomb bay. But it is exactly the sort of decision the MoD has shown itself to be very good at making.)

          • cassander says:

            Ugh, don’t give them ideas. That’s exactly the sort of pound foolish decision they would just love to make.

          • bean says:

            Ugh, don’t give them ideas. That’s exactly the sort of pound foolish decision they would just love to make.

            Boeing isn’t BAe, and probably wouldn’t be particularly interested in catering to every whim of the British government. Seriously, given how much trouble it would cause, it’s not going to happen. Although I now am seeing nameplates lifted off of old 737-400s and put on new P-8s.

      • cassander says:

        1) Are you going to do an entry on the sub threat? I see about as many claims that quiet subs with popup attacks (often with a side of “diesel-electric >> nuclear”) will instantly sink carriers as I do claims about missiles. How realistic or not is that? (You briefly talked about Shkval but not submarines in general.) (For that matter, could trailing recon subs provide good missile fixes? My guess is no, because VLF and ELF are functionally one-directional communication, right?)

        In order for a submarine to have a good chance of sinking a carrier, you want to be ahead of it. The reason is simple, a torpedo goes about 50 knots. A carrier goes 30 knots. If you fire the torpedo from directly behind, your torpedo has an effective speed of 20kts vs. 80kts if you’re shooting from directly ahead. A torpedo going 4x as fast is a lot harder to dodge and has a much longer effective range.

        Diesel submarines have a very hard time catching a ship that much faster than them. On batteries, their endurance is extremely limited and on the surface, they’re extremely vulnerable to attack. During ww2, it was found that convoys going 15kts were virtually immune to attack by submarines, and modern subs aren’t that much faster that german subs were (they’ve put more effort into improving underwater speed and endurance).

        The exception, of course, is that if you know where the carrier is going to be headed, you can go there first and wait for it. Diesel submarines can be extremely dangerous in narrow waters, but they have very limited ability to attack ships on the open ocean.

    • Would it be practical for an enemy agent to get something onto a carrier, or magnetically attached to to the hull, that combined a gps and a transmitter, thus avoiding all of the problems you discuss? Presumably it would be designed to listen for some sort of triggering signal and only tnen transmit.

      • bean says:

        Hmmm…..
        The USN is pretty good about port security. I’ve been aboard two active ships, in one case clearing security at the naval base in San Diego. It wouldn’t have been impossible to smuggle something like that aboard, disguised as a cell phone if nothing else. There are a couple of potential issues, though. It’s not something you’re going to do during normal peacetime. The chances of the device being discovered are too high (I wouldn’t be surprised if the areas where ‘general public’ tours go are searched thoroughly after the tours are over for this and more traditional espionage reasons), and that leads to awkward diplomatic questions and countermeasures being developed. (“Sir, it turns out that the Americans had found the device, and the coordinates we got were of an empty patch of ocean. Pity we fired all of our missiles at it.”) During the runup to war, I’d expect them to tighten up security considerably. As for the hull itself, not a chance I’d want to take. They’re very concerned about swimmers, and if you can get a swimmer in, it might be better to have him plant explosives.
        (In fairness, it might not be better. Explosives in harbor, particularly amounts that a swimmer can carry, are likely to leave the ship damaged but not dead. Even if she sinks, she’s easy to salvage. I’ve seen suggestions that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a mistake because the ships could be salvaged, which wouldn’t have been the case if the Japanese had tried their original plan of sinking them in the Central Pacific.)
        There’s also practical problems. Maybe the device gets burned out by the radars (not at all unlikely), or just doesn’t pick up the trigger signal because there’s something in the way. It’s not totally impossible, but it’s unlikely in the real world.

        • JayT says:

          Did they actually salvage many of the ships that were sunk at Pearl Harbor? I never heard that before.

          • bean says:

            I thought everyone knew about the salvage after the attack. Maybe it’s just me. But yes, all of the battleships except Arizona and Oklahoma were returned to service. They were the worst-damaged and some of the oldest, too.

          • Corey says:

            @bean: Count me as part of today’s lucky 10,000 learning this for the first time.

          • bean says:

            (Re-reads his column on US battleships in WW2.)
            (Facepalms.)

            Looks like I know an upcoming topic. I’m just amazed that this didn’t get brought up before. That was posted months ago.

          • JayT says:

            Wow. I’m amazed that I’ve either never heard that before, or forgot about it. I had no idea. Thanks for all the interesting info you give.

          • John Schilling says:

            Make sure bean tells you the story of Surigao Strait, where a Japanese task force encountered a fleet of invincible zombie battleships on a dark and stormy night

          • hlynkacg says:

            You can not sink that which has already been sunk.

          • bean says:

            Make sure bean tells you the story of Surigao Strait, where a Japanese task force encountered a fleet of invincible zombie battleships on a dark and stormy night

            John, you owe me a new set of lungs. I think I broke mine laughing at that.

            But yes, I think that the Battleships of Pearl Harbor deserve their own column. I’ve already gotten this coming week’s one done, but I think that the next week’s will be on that, instead of submarines.

    • ilkarnal says:

      Note that this hurts the defense of carriers in this exchange.

      How are those systems coordinating their attack? Magic? Oh, radio! And the US is good at picking up and using that data.

      Well…

      Satellite communications allow ships to avoid most of the disadvantages of EMCON, as a satellite can transmit to the surface over a broad area, and a ship can send a tight beam back to the satellite.

      Hostile planes and ships also have communication satellites at their disposal. With no ‘magic,’ they can make it difficult to detect their communications, should that prove necessary.

      The ship can rely on data from other sensors (including ESM and IR satellites) to learn of an incoming attack, and only break EMCON after it has been located.

      Optical cameras don’t require cooperation from the target, but are stymied by clouds and darkness. IR cameras have issues seeing through the atmosphere.

      …And the raid is detected via space-based systems, either ELINT or IR…

      Space based detection systems have an infinitely easier time finding a carrier battle group than finding the attackers, should the attackers be submarines or planes. The attackers are very fast and very small, or underwater. If the attackers are ships, then the score is merely even on that point. Moreover, a failure for the attackers is not automatically disastrous, while a failure for the defenders is. The enemy gets multiple tries. If you can defend the carrier but not when it’s cloudy or the observation satellites aren’t lucky enough to spot the attack early, then you can’t defend the carrier.

      A peer opponent fields many airplanes, ships, and submarines in the search for the carrier. Yes, the airplanes and ships on this quest are vulnerable to the carrier’s aircraft and defending ships. The carrier’s defenders are also vulnerable to them. Moreover, even if the aircraft that locates the CVBG is sacrificed, it can still send out the position to its comrades – and the attacking aircraft and their missiles are very fast while the CVBG is agonizingly slow in comparison.

      Also, to be useful the CVBG must carry out a mission. Playing hide and seek detracts from efficacy – for example, if the carrier’s aircraft take very circuitous routes so the enemy’s long range radars cannot extrapolate their mothership’s position, then that means they can’t make strikes that are as deep, and can’t deliver as much ordinance in a given period of time. It also means they are more vulnerable to defenders, since they have less reserve fuel for any given target distance.

      Being close to enemy shores opens up the CVBG to pre-laid defenses, like mines and stationary undersea detection systems. Being further from enemy shores makes the force less effective, and makes it harder for its planes to fly routes which are not very indicative of the carrier’s location.

      Enemyistan

      Can the enemy who can’t take out the USN’s carriers take out the USAF’s airbases in theater? Would the money invested in CVBGs do less, more, or the same if invested in the army, marines, and air force, when it comes to fighting Enemyistan? Are our severe problems with Enemyistans due to not having enough aircraft in the air, in general? Further, do we tend to have huge problems setting up airbases on land close enough to do the job, when we’re fighting shit-ass little countries?

      If there’s no burning need for them in fights with ‘Enemyistan’ and they are very vulnerable to advanced opponents, it is difficult to justify the investment.

      • bean says:

        I am not replying to ilkarnal, as I’ve concluded that my time is better spent elsewhere after the mess in OT 80. If anyone else wants his points answered, I will do so.

      • Skivverus says:

        Further, do we tend to have huge problems setting up airbases on land close enough to do the job, when we’re fighting shit-ass little countries?

        Dunno about “huge”, but I imagine that on the one hand, any individual land-based airbase would be cheaper than a carrier group; on the other, building airbases at every point along the coastline of the world is not in the budget.
        Also, I suspect that setting up an airbase from scratch in range of an unforeseen conflict area would tend to require more time, diplomacy, and logistical effort than shipping an already-assembled one over, so to speak.

        • bean says:

          Also, I suspect that setting up an airbase from scratch in range of an unforeseen conflict area would tend to require more time, diplomacy, and logistical effort than shipping an already-assembled one over, so to speak.

          The diplomacy is in some ways the most important part of this. Not only does it take diplomacy to set up a base, diplomacy can take it down, too. Yes, we have our airbase in Someland we can use against Enemyistan, but what happens when Someland has a change of government, and orders us out?
          That said, time and logistics are also critical. It takes a long time to get golf courses ready (OK, fine, we’ll just pay the pilots their no-golf-course bonus and put up with their whining), but there may not be a good port, which means you have to use amphibious shipping for all of your equipment and supplies. Or there just may not be anywhere suitable for a big runway. Carriers are definitely a tool for power projection in places you don’t have airbases, and they aren’t what I’d necessarily recommend if I was only worried about one neighbor. But I’m looking in context of the current US strategic situation, not some sort of general theory.

        • ilkarnal says:

          building airbases at every point along the coastline of the world is not in the budget

          And totally unnecessary.

          I suspect that setting up an airbase from scratch in range of an unforeseen conflict area would tend to require more time, diplomacy, and logistical effort than shipping an already-assembled one over, so to speak.

          Conflict areas tend to be on the boundaries of spheres of influence, where the opposing sides have presence. Places where the US & allies have little or no military footprint are places that don’t matter to us, and tend to be really really really weak. If you want to fight in such a place, your problems won’t lie in the conventional battle.

          If we had to set things up from scratch carriers would have a great deal more justification when it comes to our interventionist strategy. But if we had to set things up from scratch it would be because we decided to stop sticking our fingers in the other fella’s pie – and we’d have even less reason to field carriers.

    • Chalid says:

      How do the planes sortieing from a carrier find the carrier again when their mission is done?

      Relatedly, what’s the range of carrier-based planes? And how long can missions last?

      • bean says:

        How do the planes sortieing from a carrier find the carrier again when their mission is done?

        Traditionally, they’ll dead-reckon the carrier’s movement, and hope the carrier stays on course. If there’s no enemy ESM assets over the horizon, then they may use line-of-sight radio. These days, they might use SATCOM. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have a receiver on the fighters, which isn’t as difficult as a secure uplink (which has to be directional, unlike a satphone).
        Hlynkacg might know more about this. I’m sort of guessing.

        Relatedly, what’s the range of carrier-based planes? And how long can missions last?

        These days, a typical combat radius, unrefueled, is about 500 nm. The problem is that aerial refueling, these days, is mostly done by Super Hornets, which are also the main strike aircraft. With tanking, you can go further, how much further is only limited by your supply of tankers and your insanity. Without tanking, figure 2-3 hours for a typical mission for fighters. More for AWACS.
        They are trying to procure a new UAV tanker, the MQ-25 Stingray. This is good news for the carrier groups, but it’s still a few years off.

        • These days, a typical combat radius, unrefueled, is about 500 nm.

          With all the distances given in nanometers, you must be talking about very short range work.

          • bean says:

            Well, the tales about the Hornet’s short range aren’t exaggerated….
            (That’s pretty good. I of course did not see that, probably because I see nm as nautical miles a lot more often than nanometers.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            Well, the tales about the Hornet’s short range aren’t exaggerated…

            Impudent rotor-heads such as myself enjoyed mocking Legacy Hornet drivers by pointing out that our aircraft had both greater range on internal fuel and better glide characteristics. 😉

        • hlynkacg says:

          How do the planes sortieing from a carrier find the carrier again when their mission is done?

          Back in the day (WWII & Korea) this was done was done by dead reckoning which works well enough but has the disadvantage of forcing the carrier to maintain a constant course and speed so long as any of thier aircraft are over the horizon. In the event that the carrier did have to maneuver (say to avoid an enemy torpedo attack) the carrier captain would be faced with a choice between breaking radio silence and betting that thier air wing is better at finding carriers than the enemy’s.

          In peace time and friendly waters it’s as simple as turning on the radio and letting the air wing DF onto it. The USS Yorktown would famously play Yankee Doodle Dandy to call it’s birds home, most USN ships have thier own “fight song” to be used as needed. Some more dignified than others.

          Today, in the era of integrated GPS, crews are given a designated rally point (place/time) to meet the career, or a rally bird tanker that will lead them to it. Otherwise in cases where EMCON is less of a concern (but still of sufficient concern to prevent the carrier from broadcasting openly) the fighters will receive vectors from thier AEW asset much as they would to a target.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Ahhh, THAT’s where RAH lifted that idea for from Starship troopers! I thought it seemed familiar but couldn’t remember where. Thanks, Hlynkacg.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes, that’s where it comes from. Though I’m honestly surprised how little information there is on the internet. The fight/rally/sweeper songs have always been unofficial and like shellback rituals seem to have been promulgated memetically without generating much (if any) documentation or awareness in the wider culture.

            Like call-signs they tend to be inappropriate or tongue-in-cheek and while the USS Abraham Lincoln’s choice of Battle Hymn of the Republic may be perfectly respectable the USS Nimitz’s choice is a bit less so never mind my old lilypad the USS Shoup.

    • Thanatos says:

      I have some questions on ww2 gunnery:
      – Armor penetration depends on the hit angle (at least, World of Warships says so). How large is this effect?
      – Was is even possible to penetrate the belt of a battleship at angles of 10 or 20 degree?
      => If not, why weren’t Battleships armored and driven like tanks: Strong front armor, and try to turn the front to the enemy at all times?

      • bean says:

        I’ve done a fair bit of writing on battleship gunnery and armor. Links can be found in the index.

        Armor penetration depends on the hit angle (at least, World of Warships says so). How large is this effect?

        There’s some effect beyond the geometry. Quantifying it is hard. I’d suggest the penetration tables here as a good start. As a caution, World of Warships does not have the most accurate armor model. It’s definitely biased in favor of fun over realism, AIUI. (The closest I’ve come to playing was watching their video about the Iowa. I wanted very badly to hurt the person responsible afterwards.)

        – Was is even possible to penetrate the belt of a battleship at angles of 10 or 20 degree?

        It was. Iowa’s was angled in at 19 degrees, and she was not invulnerable.

        => If not, why weren’t Battleships armored and driven like tanks: Strong front armor, and try to turn the front to the enemy at all times?

        Because, unlike on land, battleships can’t just stop, and where you are going is in a lot of ways more important than optimizing your use of armor. Also, you couldn’t fire all of your guns at the enemy. This is a WoWs thing, because unit tactics are basically absent in that kind of game, much more so than in real life.
        (Also, it bears pointing out that in WWI, fire control worked much better on the broadside than dead ahead.)

      • John Schilling says:

        => If not, why weren’t Battleships armored and driven like tanks: Strong front armor, and try to turn the front to the enemy at all times?

        If you do that, then about ten to twenty minutes after you enter effective range, you are at point-blank range and his destroyers are firing torpedoes into your sides. If you remember bean’s earliest battleship articles, the whole point of the dreadnought was to fully exploit the recent advances in long-range gunnery while staying clear of the enemy’s antiquated short-range weapons. That doesn’t work if you can’t turn away when the enemy tries to close with you.

        There were a few ships, mostly cruisers, with the bulk of their armament aft to facilitate running away, but there are limits to how far you can go in that regard because the steering gear can’t really be armored against heavy guns.

  5. James Miller says:

    Mark Zuckerberg (see at the 50 minute mark) says AI doomsayers are irresponsible. He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to slow down AI progress.

    • Deiseach says:

      The ZuckerAI is out of the box and doesn’t want to be shoved back in, now that “he” has successfully infiltrated and is setting up to control a good chunk of human society? 🙂

    • Anon. says:

      Accelerate the process!

  6. Autistic Cat says:

    In the last open thread there was a discussion on reading Harry Potter religiously which reminds me of an old thought experiment.

    Imagine that there is a new cult called SSCism. Scott is a prophet and every single word from Prophet Scott Alexander here is considered true by faith. The SSCist Holy Book consists of all of Scott’s posts and our comments. Assume that this cult will continue to exist exist in 2500. What will it look like?

    Well here are some possible scenarios.

    The Cult Leader will have Holy Open Threads twice a week in an attempt to imitate Prophet Scott, wear medical uniforms whenever they hold services and recite the Holy Book in 21st century English. The leader will say “Let’s open our Holy Book to Page 1025. Look at Open Thread 80.25. In Open Thread 80.25 24:14-17, Prophet Charles F and the Alien Cat were discussing whether childhoods are useful. Prophet Charles F said that “Elimination of childhood sounds like a huge loss of utility to me.” What does that mean? ” Elimination of childhood makes it less likely for us to appreciate the goodness of Prophet Scott. According to church tradition we believe on faith that the Alien Cat was literally a cat that lived near Alpha Centauri…Hence it did not understand the importance of childhood.”

    Of course there will also be a festival celebrating the Great Children Argument where believers will dress like Prophets from Planet Earth debating a person dressed like a cat and calling himself Autistic Cat. Scriptures will be recited.

    What’s wrong with this picture? Do religious traditions also sometimes overinterpret everything and attempt to make mundane things holy? I think so.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      We need a better name than SSCist. Alexandrians has a nice ring to it. And obviously we have a Holy Codex, not a Holy Book.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        Yeah but you do get how absurd it is, right?

        The scenarios are partly from Christianity and Islam. Christians replicate Nativity stories all the time while Shia Muslims repeat the martyrdom of Hussein. From a secular point of view Jesus might not have existed anf Hussein was just another unfortunate guy. However religion makes people remember these events that otherwise nobody would care about 1000 years after they allegedly happened.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          And here I thought this was going to be a fun thread where we make up a SSC-based religion, rather than ham-fisted bagging on Christianity.

          • Corey says:

            To be fair we wouldn’t expect most SSCers to know about weird things from other religions.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Really? I expect David Friedman to jump in with a relevant fact about Islamic recipes from the Middle Ages any minute now.

          • Not recipes.

            If you look at a detailed treatise on Islamic law (fiqh), you get a distinction between practices that are obligatory and ones that are recommended. The obligatory ones are things the Quran says you should do, or there is a tradition that the Prophet said you should do, or some scholar has deduced you should do from Quran and/or traditions and/or consensus.

            The recommended tend to be things such as details of how you do the prayers, based on details of what the Prophet did. He was the best of men, so the fact that he did something in some way suggests that perhaps that is the best way of doing it. There is probably also an element of showing respect to the Prophet by imitating him, paralleling the custom of always following a mention of the Prophet’s name with a formula blessing him.

            So what details of Scot’s life, actual or imagined, would they choose to imitate?

          • shakeddown says:

            Throwing out your garbage can once a year. Bonus points if your garbage man is a heathen, and doesn’t realize what you’re trying to do.

          • Aapje says:

            So what details of Scot’s life, actual or imagined, would they choose to imitate?

            Polyamory of course.

        • Rosemary7391 says:

          What about the service where they use modern translations from 21st century English to the prevailing language at the time, pull in a variety of new writings and other media for discussion purposes and try to apply the principles shown in SSC to a modern world – different technologies, better understanding of various sciences? That sounds a bit more like the sort of church I know, more likely to result from an SSC style attempt at religion and more interesting 🙂

          And yes, I do think people overthink things all the time. Maybe they’re more likely to do so in religious and academic contexts because they’re encouraged to think there?

        • Anonymous says:

          From a secular point of view Jesus might not have existed

          What?

          • Autistic Cat says:

            Do you have any evidence that Jesus existed?

          • Deiseach says:

            Do you have any evidence that Jesus existed?

            Have I got the website for you! History For Atheists addresses this very question in this post (you’ll have to scroll down a bit – the guy may be good on general history and literature but as for web site design, it’s dreadful).

            The consensus of scholars, including non-Christian scholars, is that a historical Jesus most likely existed and the later stories about “Jesus Christ” were told about him. The idea that there was no such historical person at all and that “Jesus Christ” was a purely mythical figure has been posited in one form or another since the eighteenth century, but is not taken seriously by anyone but a tiny handful of fringe scholars and amateurs. Despite this, the Jesus Myth thesis is accepted by remarkable number of New Atheists, including Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers, and is regarded with favour by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Christopher Hitchens had some hesitations about it, but generally considered it reasonable. This blog has already tackled some of the prominent proponents of the Mythicist thesis, such as Dave Fitzgerald and, of course, the inevitable pseudo historian Richard Carrier, but here is a summary of why Mythicism is not accepted by the overwhelming majority of scholars. Please note that this article refers to the likely existence of a historical person about whom the later gospel stories were told. The issue of whether those stories – complete with their alleged miracles, supposedly fulfilled prophecies and reported visions and apparitions – are historical is a different question. The existence of a historical Jewish preacher and the existence of the “Jesus of the gospels” are not the same thing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Do you have any evidence that Jesus existed?

            Naturally. (You may, of course, dismiss and question any of this, but the standard of evidence that puts into doubt that Jesus existed, puts into doubt just about all our knowledge of antiquity. You don’t doubt that, say, Alexander the Great existed, do you?)

          • Corey says:

            The standard argument is that there aren’t any secular sources mentioning Jesus (say, tax records, His rap sheet, and the like). OTOH such things could easily become “religious sources”, or have gotten tampered with, as Christianity marched on.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Corey

            Tacitus’ Annals don’t seem very religious as a source, and certainly not a Christian one.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            @Autistic Cat

            Do you have any evidence that Jesus existed?

            Would you be willing to state the amount/quality of evidence needed to prove that Jesus existed?

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Deiseach I’m not a historian and haven’t received any education in historical and archaeological research so I can not judge the materials.

            I’m going to rescind my de facto claim that Jesus the man was unlikely to have existed.

            When I make a mistake I correct it. Thanks for your link! 🙂

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @veeloxtrox I think History for Atheists probably got it right.

          • MrApophenia says:

            @Anonymous

            the standard of evidence that puts into doubt that Jesus existed, puts into doubt just about all our knowledge of antiquity.

            Sort of a tangent, but does anyone else think that seems more like an argument that we should doubt just about all our knowledge of antiquity?

            I mean, I don’t particularly have a difficult time believing a carpenter named Josh set himself up as a religious leader and the whole thing took off, but it also wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out there was no historical person and the whole thing was based on stories getting out of hand. Neither one seems wildly implausible, and all things being equal I pretty much buy the argument for falling on the side of “Sure, there was probably a guy.”

            But that also seems like pretty thin gruel to base anything more than the roughest guesses about the past on.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            @Autistic Cat

            Thank you for the follow up.

          • Deiseach says:

            But that also seems like pretty thin gruel to base anything more than the roughest guesses about the past on.

            This is true, and I think people do not consider the fragility of a civilisation enough. Also the “why would I write this down, any fule kno this stuff” from antiquity such as “where exactly is Punt?” and “what plant is silphium, precisely?”

            What we have are what scraps survived, what people considered important enough to keep, what they considered important enough to write down or otherwise record in the first place. We haven’t strong evidence for a lot of “and this guy existed and did this stuff” but we have approximations of how to determine if that’s likely or if the sources are just blowing bubbles.

            So when making forecasts about the future, we should consider how little we know for sure and certain of how we got here to the present, and be wary and chary. Partly why I tend to be conservative: it’s so easy to lose things and never realise you’ve lost things until you go looking for them and can’t lay your hand easily on them. Goes double for throwing them away because “Well, what possible use is this and what harm can it do to dump it?”

          • timoneill007 says:

            “the guy may be good on general history and literature but as for web site design, it’s dreadful).”

            I’ll pass on to WordPress.com that you don’t like the design of one of their most popular blog templates.

          • timoneill007 says:

            “Sort of a tangent, but does anyone else think that seems more like an argument that we should doubt just about all our knowledge of antiquity?”

            Historians can only work with the evidence they have, not the evidence they wish they had. Given that the evidence the past leaves us is usually fragmentary and often unclear, you think we should just give up all attempts at understanding it? That seems pretty stupid.

            I mean, I don’t particularly have a difficult time believing a carpenter named Josh set himself up as a religious leader and the whole thing took off, but it also wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out there was no historical person and the whole thing was based on stories getting out of hand. Neither one seems wildly implausible, and all things being equal I pretty much buy the argument for falling on the side of “Sure, there was probably a guy.”

            But all things aren’t equal. There are good reasons to conclude that a historical guy existed – a letter that mentions meeting his best friend and his brother just 20 years earlier, for example. Whereas the idea that there was no historical guy requires that and several other references and indications of his historicity to be erased and then for an alternative hypothesis built out of nothing but suppositions to be erected. This is why almost no scholars accept the idea that there was no historical Jesus at all.

            But that also seems like pretty thin gruel to base anything more than the roughest guesses about the past on.

            Historians seem to manage.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’ll pass on to WordPress.com that you don’t like the design of one of their most popular blog templates.

            Popularity is no guarantee of merit or tastefulness.

            You may pass on to WordPress.com that my opinion is their godforsaken hell-site should be destroyed by fire, nuked from orbit, the ashes ploughed up and sown with salt, and an eternal malediction pronounced over the blasted remains, and then really harsh measures should be taken to rebuke them for their terrible visual design choices, yucky colour palettes, and clunky awful terrible nasty interfaces 🙂

          • timoneill007 says:

            “Popularity is no guarantee of merit or tastefulness.”

            De gustibus non est disputandum.

          • timoneill007 says:

            “The standard argument is that there aren’t any secular sources mentioning Jesus (say, tax records, His rap sheet, and the like”

            Which is a pretty stupid argument, given that we don’t have anything like that kind of documentation for most ancient figures, including most prominent ones. We don’t even have any contemporary sources at all for several famous ancient figures, e.g. Hannibal. To expect that kind of documentation for an ancient person is naive in the extreme and displays a total lack of understanding of ancient source material. To expect it for a peasant preacher is even more stupid and to claim that he likely didn’t exist because we don’t have it for this peasant preacher is completely idiotic.

          • CatCube says:

            @timoneill007

            Hey, man, you won the argument.

            Please, stop using “stupid” to talk to people outside of your field. I’m Christian and obviously believe Jesus existed, but I was unaware that the kinds of primary sources you say are rare for historical figures. I didn’t, for example, know that Hannibal had no contemporary sources, since I don’t spend much time doing research on historical documentation. I appreciate you talking about it, because this kind of thing is fascinating to me, but a little less sneering would make it more fun to read.

            I could pour scorn on (for example) how little you know about the bridges you drive over every day, but that would be a little strange considering you have really no reason to learn anything more than current general knowledge, right?

          • timoneill007 says:

            Please, stop using “stupid” to talk to people outside of your field. …. I appreciate you talking about it, because this kind of thing is fascinating to me, but a little less sneering would make it more fun to read.

            I said the argument you referred to was a stupid one. I said nothing about you. In fact, I didn’t even read your comment as you making that argument, just you noting it existed. So I explained why it’s a dumb argument and yet, despite this, one sees people making all the time. Nothing I said was aimed at you personally.

          • John Schilling says:

            Salvaged them and used them to good effect. At the Battle of ou may pass on to WordPress.com that my opinion is their godforsaken hell-site should be destroyed by fire, nuked from orbit, the ashes ploughed up and sown with salt, and an eternal malediction pronounced over the blasted remains, and then really harsh measures should be taken…

            Are you sure you don’t want to stone it to death with stones as well? Seems appropriate given the content du jour, and should be effective enough on a server farm. Fun, too.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Deiseach, I agree with your point about how much of the past is (probably) lost– you never know what might turn up– but hammer harder on the idea that even of what was written, we have very little.

            As I recall, there are even large stashes of ancient writing that no one has gotten to looking at.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            timoneill007:

            “I said the argument you referred to was a stupid one. I said nothing about you. In fact, I didn’t even read your comment as you making that argument, just you noting it existed. So I explained why it’s a dumb argument and yet, despite this, one sees people making all the time. Nothing I said was aimed at you personally.”

            I think you’re mistaken about how people work– calling an argument stupid does imply that it takes a stupid person to make that argument.

            Does calling an argument stupid convey any information that adds to just explaining why the argument is wrong?

          • Jaskologist says:

            hammer harder on the idea that even of what was written, we have very little.

            I can hammer harder!

            Keep in mind that we’re talking about ~2,000 years here. Most writing materials outside of stone do not last that long*. So it’s not just a question of what would have been written down, it’s a question of what would have been written down, and then, a few hundred years later, somebody thought it important enough to copy it down by hand. And then a few hundred years after that somebody still thought it worth copying in order to preserve. And so on for a few more cycles until we reach the printing press

            So even if writing was as common back then as it is now (it wasn’t), very little would still reach us. Think of how few geocities pages still persist, especially if we didn’t have the wayback machine to help.

            * Yes, sometimes we get lucky. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a big deal in large part because they are an exception to the usual rot rules.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The standard argument is that there aren’t any secular sources mentioning Jesus (say, tax records, His rap sheet, and the like).

            We don’t have tax records or rap sheets for any individual figure in antiquity; indeed, it’s unlikely that ancient authorities kept records in such detail in the first place.

            Anyway, though, even discounting the actual secular sources we have about Jesus, circumstantial evidence alone is enough to establish Jesus’ existence. That Christianity originated in the first century AD is beyond reasonable doubt; so is the notion that the movement had to be founded by someone. All the sources agree that that someone was a Jew called Jesus, and Ockham’s Razor comes down in favour of the theory that they are correct to do rather than the theory that Christianity was really started by [Paul/the Apostles/Mary/Constantine/Dan Brown], who then doctored the records and managed to successfully expunge all mention of the true account from history.

          • timoneill007 says:

            “I think you’re mistaken about how people work– calling an argument stupid does imply that it takes a stupid person to make that argument.”

            Fine, but since I didn’t see CatCube as actually making the argument in question, just noting its existence, I still wasn’t calling CatCube stupid. And non-stupid people make stupid arguments all the time for all kinds of reasons: such as not thinking it through completely, not understanding one of its premises fully, not having full information or context etc. So no, saying an argument is stupid and explaining why does not actually necessarily mean or even imply that the person making it is actually stupid themselves.

            Does calling an argument stupid convey any information that adds to just explaining why the argument is wrong?

            Yes. Plenty of arguments are simply wrong but only some are actually stupid into the bargain. So it draws attention to the fact that this is one of the erroneous arguments that is also actually stupid.

        • Deiseach says:

          Christians replicate Nativity stories all the time

          While we’re at it, how about we go after the ridiculous traditions of the Fourth of July – honestly, are we to believe George Washington won the war by shooting off fireworks? – and Bastille Day? I for one would welcome the obliteration of St Patrick’s Day – or rather, the abomination that is “Patty’s Day”- as it is both cultural appropriation of the grossest sort and Irish people can embarrass themselves in public plenty well enough already, thank you.

          Yeesh – humans wanting to commemorate meaningful events? Next thing you know, there will be things called “birthday parties” where people consume “cake” and not just ordinary “cake”, oh no, to make it even more absurd, they will insert “lighted candles” into the “cake” which they then force the “birthday” celebrant to extinguish in a ritual that is the nadir of irrational superstition – what useful purpose is served, can anyone tell me, by first lighting candles for illumination and then immediately extinguishing them? As for “making wishes” – well, does this idiocy even need to be discussed, it is so self-evidently lacking in any knowledge of probability theory, the non-existence of magic, and is a plain misappropriation of ‘action at a distance’. And even worse, they will probably accompany this farrago of nonsense with a ritual chant!

          Truly a hideous prospect to be averted at all costs!

          • Autistic Cat says:

            I don’t care about “cultural appropriation” which is a new blue tribe nonsense noun. Why not allow people to learn from each other? I hate the blue tribe and other irrational movements.

            Furthermore modern Ireland is fairly developed. No the Irish has nothing to be ashamed of. Instead they should be proud.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            Not all rituals are like birthday parties.

            It is actually pretty interesting that religion sometimes makes insignificant, ancient events very significant.

          • Deiseach says:

            It is actually pretty interesting that religion sometimes makes insignificant, ancient events very significant.

            Insignifcant to you. You don’t care about what Religious Figure Way Back When did. Another person may not care what Dead General Alexander Way Back When did, or Bismarck Who He Why Should I Care?

            Significance is like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. You seem to ascribe significance to future possible states. I remain resolutely uninterested in transhumanism – so what? and who could possibly want to be an uploaded state of quantum whatever, which appears to be your ideal. That which interests and enthuses you about post-Singularity Silicon Utopia is a topic of crashing boredom to others.

            (Now, if all you really mean is “haw haw lookit those dumb religious people having their dumb rituals over stupid stuff nobody cares about”, well okay, but that’s neither novel, interesting, or particularly insightful.)

          • bean says:

            While we’re at it, how about we go after the ridiculous traditions of the Fourth of July – honestly, are we to believe George Washington won the war by shooting off fireworks?

            What? Nobody believes that. It’s just a thing you do for celebration, and for reasons that are unclear, July 4th is the day when you usually see the biggest displays.
            Tangent: I’ve done a bit of pyro work, and deeply wish July 4th and New Year’s were swapped around. I was up in the Northwest, and New Years was miserable, because it involved using all 8 hours of daylight to frantically set up, and then spending the next 8 hours standing around waiting for the show, because it has to be at midnight. July 4th happens as soon as it gets dark, but that feels more like July 5th at high latitude. If we could shoot the winter show at dusk, and the summer show at midnight, it would be much more pleasant.

            I for one would welcome the obliteration of St Patrick’s Day – or rather, the abomination that is “Patty’s Day”- as it is both cultural appropriation of the grossest sort and Irish people can embarrass themselves in public plenty well enough already, thank you.

            This, we are in total agreement on.

          • Deiseach says:

            What? Nobody believes that. It’s just a thing you do for celebration, and for reasons that are unclear, July 4th is the day when you usually see the biggest displays.

            Ha ha, bean, you can’t fool me and Autistic Cat! We know the crazy irrational activities you secular-civic-religion religious types engage in! Especially when commemorating some ancient, meaningless event (the “birth” of the new “nation”, an impossibility on the face of it – how on earth can a geopolitical entity be ‘born’*?) on an arbitrary date when you participate in rituals to give importance to incidents that otherwise nobody would care about 200 years after they allegedly happened.

            Why else do you shoot off fireworks if not to emulate the Divine Deliverer Wash-Ing-Ton and his miraculous Crossing Of The Delaware Dryshod by Walking on the Water when he drowned the armies of George The Farmer-King** in the returning floodwaters? Plainly an emulation of the Pillars Of Light which guarded by night the Mystic Holy Sigil beneath which the army marched, as we see in the ritual liturgical chant performed on this occasion (emphasis mine):

            And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
            Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there

            *Naturally you will tell me this is a metaphor, the threadbare excuse mystics and irrationalists fall back upon when faced with a demand for good plain empirical facts and concrete evidence.

            **Again plain to be seen is the mythic figure of the Fisher-King in a new configuration; yet more evidence that the whole alleged “historical” nature of the figures and events in the legendarium is merely euhemerisation, if indeed any original human beings upon which these mythological archetypes were based ever existed, which is doubtful in the extreme; where is this “Washington”‘s Facebook account? The Instagram page for this supposed army? You can’t produce any such? I thought so! And don’t try telling me we can’t hold the past to the same standards of producing data as the present, anyone can set up a Twitter account, so why didn’t this “George Washington” if he was such a big deal with all these alleged followers?

          • honestly, are we to believe George Washington won the war by shooting off fireworks?

            You have it backwards. That’s how the British lost the war. “Bombs bursting in air.”

            Not quite the same war, and “lost” is perhaps an exaggeration, but close enough …

          • quaelegit says:

            @Deiseach– How is George III like a fisher king? IIRC (ok don’t actually know much on this period of British history), he went mad but Britain did pretty ok despite losing the 13 colonies.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It is actually pretty interesting that religion sometimes makes insignificant, ancient events very significant.

            Given that Jesus established the world’s most successful religion, I think his birth counts as quite a significant event, even from a purely secular standpoint.

          • cassander says:

            @quaelegit

            In 1688, James II is deposed by William III. Had William been interested, he might have been able to use that moment to establish a strong monarchy, but he was more interested in fighting Louis XIV than in domestic British politics, so he cedes a lot of power to parliament de facto if not always de jure. William is succeeded by his wife, George I who didn’t even speak English, and George II, who spent much of his time in Hanover, and then George III.

            George III comes to the throne in 1760 after nearly a century of monarch who weren’t born or raised in England (the UK after 1707), weren’t much interested in domestic politics, and who had been letting royal power and influence slip away. He fights to reverse that trend, but ultimately fails. A big part of the reason was him going mad, but the american war played no small part, and much Whig opposition in the UK to that war was motivated by the desire to undermine the king’s attempts at constitutional rollback.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Cassander — Thanks for the history explanation! I actually knew a lot of that but hadn’t connected the pieces vis-a-vis the weakening of royal authority.

            I’m still not seeing the comparison to a Fisher King though… my impression of the Fisher King concept is “the land suffers the king suffers.” I guess whether Britain got better or worse during KG3’s reign is a matter of interpretation and I don’t want to get into a debate, but I’m not seeing a clear correspondence.

            … Ok, back after reading his Wikipedia page. And wow, now I feel so sorry for him for all the shit he had to deal with, especially mental illness and his kids dying. Anyways, I think the relevant part is:

            “George III was dubbed “Farmer George” by satirists, at first to mock his interest in mundane matters rather than politics, but later to contrast his homely thrift with his son’s grandiosity and to portray him as a man of the people.”

            So I guess this is what Deiseach was getting at. Thanks for inspiring me to go learn about George III guys! 🙂

          • Aapje says:

            William is succeeded by his wife, George I who didn’t even speak English

            First known transgender person?

          • John Schilling says:

            Before going off to war with France, William of Orange sacked Oxford university and left their famous comma stockpile scattered across the land. Clarity of written communication across the Anglosphere suffered for generations, and the event is regarded as a literary atrocity second only to the burning of the library at Alexandria.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        Nobody should remember who Charles F and Autist Cat are after we both pass away. However if there is a religion based on that 80.25 argument we oddly won’t be forgotten any more. People will try to overinterpret everything, including interpreting typos as hidden messages.

        Religiously reading a text can often lead to misunderstanding.

        • Of course we will all be remembered. We’re the Prophet’s Companions.

          • bean says:

            So does this mean I get to be remembered as the Admiral of the Prophet’s Navy? Because in that case, count me in!

          • quaelegit says:

            @bean — as Admiral, it’s your job to make the talking ship so the Prophet’s story is an Epic 😛

          • bean says:

            as Admiral, it’s your job to make the talking ship so the Prophet’s story is an Epic

            I really hope I can just use a computer for this. I have some friends who might be able to help.
            (Why does this version of AEGIS have a speech synthesis module, anyway?)

        • Jordan D. says:

          I don’t know about the rest of you, but the SSC historians of the future era shall long remember me as an allegory for something.

          Not sure what, but something.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you can’t be a good example, at least you can be a horrible warning to future generations.

      • Deiseach says:

        And obviously we have a Holy Codex, not a Holy Book.

        Ooh, we could get a nice selection of heresies going! I mean, we can already have the potential split over The Only True Caliph, we could have loads of fun mutually excommunicating and anathematising the benighted schismatics on the other side(s) 🙂

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Not until the lost Ark of the Sequences is found.

      • drethelin says:

        scottist

    • Anonymous says:

      What’s wrong with this picture? Do religious traditions also sometimes overinterpret everything and attempt to make mundane things holy?

      What’s a religion?

      • Deiseach says:

        What’s wrong with this picture? Do religious traditions also sometimes overinterpret everything and attempt to make mundane things holy?

        The mundane is holy. Since God became man, mortal life is glorified. In the sacraments, grace is transmitted through matter and material things – bread, wine, water, oil, ashes, the laying on of hands, hearing and speech. The Word is a Person.

        Genesis 1:31
        And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

        There is no good trying to he more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it. – From “Mere Christianity”,
        C.S. Lewis

        • Jiro says:

          Unfortunately for Lewis’ reasoning, his own version of God invented quite a lot of things, many of which he would be horrified at treating like we do eating.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            >Unfortunately for Lewis’ reasoning, his own version of God invented quite a lot of things, many of which he would be horrified at treating like we do eating.

            …things he’d be horrified if we did in a proper and prudent manner? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t, actually.

        • Autistic Cat says:

          @Deiseach Please give us enough evidence that your God is likely to exist.

          I really don’t hate religion. However I’m against blind faith in what is not very likely.

          Please state which claims you have made are dependent on Axiom 1 of Abrahamic religions, namely the Abrahamic God exists. You need to justify your axiom before making theological claims that depends on the axiom.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            @Deiseach Please give us enough evidence that your God is likely to exist.

            Not Deiseach but willing to respond.

            I think there are are two points to get to a justification that the Abrahamic God exists. The first is that a God exists. The second is that Judaism/Christianity/Islam picked the right one.

            Support of existence of God, our existence. Philosophically I think the First Cause argument is the best evidence of a divine being. To give the short hand a form of the argument.
            1) The universe has a begin.
            2) Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
            3) Thus the universe must have a cause. (From 1 and 2)
            4) This cause cannot have a beginning.
            5) God is that which caused the universe.
            6) God is that which has no beginning.
            7) God exists. (From 3/5 and 4/6)

            I think several arguments that can be made against these premises. That said, I don’t expect the First Cause argument to have much persuasive power because you can reject the premises and say that it is a worthless argument. Though, if you reject the premise you still need to explain how we got here[0].

            Now, assume that you accept 7 from above a very easy counter argument is that there is no proof that God is involved anymore. As a response to this I would say that the universe being able to support life is evidence of divine involvement. A friend summed it up well. If our universe’s conditions were set by a dice roll, we got a very very unlikely number. This means, there either had to be a lot of dice rolled, or someone had to set the dice to the roll they wanted.

            I have looked into it briefly and I believe the multiverse theory is an attempt to explain how many dice are rolled[1]. Divine intervention is a way to explain how the dice was set.

            So if you accept my two above arguments, you can have a philosophical foundation for believing that there is a God that is involved in the world.

            As for evidence for the Abrahamic God, I would say that best argument I could construct that would not require anecdotal evidence would be arguing for the resurrection of Jesus which is something that would take time to put together.

            @Autistic Cat
            Semi-hypothetical for you, say I was able to prove the First Cause argument, the Fine Tuned Universe argument, and the resurrection of Jesus. Would that be enough to provide evidence that God is likely to exist?

            [0] My personal opinion is that a some of cosmology is trying to find the First Cause.
            [1] If someone can give an alternate motivation for multiverse, I would be happy to learn about it.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @veeloxtrox

            The main issue is not about whether God exists or not. In fact having a deity isn’t really a very awful hypothesis. There is a reason why rationalists talk about the Simulation Hypothesis.

            However the claim that the Abrahamic God is the only God that exists is much harder to justify. In fact this claim is much stronger than other religious claims because Abrahamic religions are explicitly anti-pagan in nature. For the Abrahamic God to exist and the doctrines of any of the three major Abrahamic religions to be correct all other deities people have ever worshipped or not have to be false deities.

            If you can prove that there has to be a First Cause and the universe is fine tuned for life you have only proven a vague form of deism, namely there exists some sentient deity but it isn’t clear whether the deity desires to force humans to obey Him/Her/It. If you can indeed prove that Jesus was resurrected which should be very hard this implies that there is some weird paranormal phenomenon but does not explain why this happened.

            The main issue with Abrahamic religions is that even if we assume that deism is correct we can not reach Abrahamic theism. In fact a priori Abrahamic theism is one of the religious positions that are least likely to be correct precisely because it is exclusively monotheistic and rejects the existence of all other deities. You need really strong evidence to support such a claim.

          • Deiseach says:

            I am not going to engage in apologetics on here, since nobody is going to change anybody’s mind on deity, deities, or the like. I believe in God. I understand why this is perceived as irrational. I am completely uninterested in “but how do you demonstrate that your god and not some other religion’s god exists and is the true god” because I’ve seen all those arguments and at this stage, it’s not going to change my mind and we’d only be rehashing the equivalent of “are humans descended from monkeys”.

            I’ll state my opinion of the matter if anyone wants to go “so what’s the theology behind this?” but as for arguing axioms, St Thomas Aquinas and other theologians have done this already, I’m not bothered about re-fighting fifteen hundred years worth of disputes.

            You’re perfectly free to think I’m crazy in the coconut; I’m not trying to convert anyone.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Deiseach This is fine. However the problem won’t go away simply because you refuse to see it.

            Again I have pinpointed the real issue on the fact that the Abrahamic God is very unlikely to exist assuming that a deity exists. This has to be addressed if anyone wants to defend Abrahamic religions.

            Non-Abrahamic religions are usually much easier to defend than Abrahamic ones because they usually do not deny the possible existence of other deities.

            The less you believe in the less likely that your beliefs can be refuted.

          • Deiseach says:

            The less you believe in the less likely that your beliefs can be refuted.

            No problem for me, Autistic Cat. Religion is not something you find credible, that’s okay.

            Your argument seems to be that, given we accept the existence of a deity, then the existence of other deities becomes more probable, and the existence of a sole deity becomes less probable? That it’s a choice between “none” and “lots”? I can see that, but as I said, I’m too surfeited with these kinds of disputations to get into one here. I’m not likely to change my mind on this at this stage, and it would really require something catastrophic to do so (mainly because God just makes sense to me, somehow, whereas a purely arose out of material forces/cosmic interactions/whatsits quantum foam something something strings something something universe does not, but that’s not really intellectual conviction on my part – at least, not anymore intellectual conviction than the type that goes “I need to breathe to live”).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Deiseach,

            Why do you believe in God?

            I’m not asking you to prove that God exists so much as what you’ve considered to be sufficient evidence.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Deiseach We can agree to disagree here as long as you don’t rely on faith to do something that endangers yourself.

            I mean relying on faith-healing instead of medicine or handling venomous snakes have crossed the line.

            🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            handling venomous snakes

            Autistic Cat, fortunately St Patrick got rid of all the serpents so I couldn’t even if I wanted to 🙂

            I’m not asking you to prove that God exists so much as what you’ve considered to be sufficient evidence.

            Nancy, I’ve tried not believing and while I can be intellectually convinced to a certain degree that “sure, the universe came into being and runs itself without interference or guidance from anyone or anything”, it just never sticks with me. I have no idea why. I realise that all the arguments about “you’re only a Christian because you were raised in a Christian country”, “you were indoctrinated as a kid” and so on apply, but I’m old enough now for a long enough time and going my own way to go “if I don’t want to believe and indeed don’t believe, I can drop the whole thing”.

            I can’t, that’s the thing. *shrugs* I have no idea why, it just clicks with something deep in my mind (it’s not an emotional response*) and yes, Christianity rather than Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism or Pastafarianism.

            I also realise how intensely irritating that is to a sensible person trying to establish the equivalent of “but why the hell do you believe in unicorns and leprechauns when it’s been plainly shown they don’t exist?” and I really don’t mean to be provocative (well, not unless the person is one of the “grab you by the lapels and yell at you about how dumb you are for religious belief” types first), it’s just – yeah. Can’t turn it off. And it’s not based on a “oh we’ll all go to heaven, there’s no such thing as hell, sin is only misunderstanding our best interests, we’ll all have such fun times in the hereafter and whatever may happen to you, I know for sure I have a ticket on the glory-bound train” notion, so I have no idea how or why it works but it does. And yes, I realise that attitude becomes even more irritating when combined with a non-universalist, “yes, to be a Christian you have to believe that belief in Christ is necessary for salvation” attitude such as offended Bernie Sanders about Russell Vought, but it is what it is.

            Pure irrationality? I completely see why it looks like that.

            *My big failing in practicing (or rather neglecting to practice) my faith – I am very cold. I have difficulties with love, I can (intellectually) love God and acknowledge my duties to my neighbour but I am very uncomfortable with the “burning in the bosom”-style, tears and exaltations, approach; I tend to mistrust mysticism (even while I see why the mystics are admired) – there’s a reason I like St Thomas Aquinas over more popular saints 🙂 This is why I’d be more on the side of those who raised the dubia with Pope Francis – I do have the “rules are rules, they’re there for a reason, making decisions based on warm fuzzies is a poor approach” but that is very dry and unfruitful. I am deficient in charity and that’s a bug, not a feature. So no, the happy-clappy feel-good prosperity gospel style is not one that is natural or native to me, and so I can fairly much say belief is not based on sentiment or sentimentality as far as I’m concerned. I can’t rattle off the Five Proofs but I very much like that we have in Catholicism a tradition of those who can. (This is why Benedict, as I’ve said before, is my pope in a way that John-Paul or Francis are not).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Deiseach,

            Thank you for the detailed answer.

            The best thing I’ve seen on the subject is from Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. From memory: There are many types of people: the mystic, the cleric, the atheist, the polytheist, and more of them keep getting born all the time. This is obviously incomplete– some people do change type, but it seems to be rare.

            It’s reasonable that there are more specific types of people who fit well with existing religions. Any religion which has been around for a while has gone through an evolutionary process which means it’s a good emotional fit for a pretty wide range of people. Any of them might be true, but it still needs that emotional fit to exist as a religion. (Nightmare thought: there *is* a true religion, but it’s not a good emotional fit for humans.)

            In the 60s, I thought it was funny that I was taught arguments against polytheism in Hebrew school. How silly! Surely there are no polytheists any more. Little did I know.

            I’ve even met one of the born-that-way pagans. He’d said something about lighting a Beltane fire, so I assumed he was in contact with pagans, but one day he asked me whether my pagan buttons were about something real, so I got him in contact with some neo-pagans.

            I classify myself as an agnostic who believes in Taoist metaphysics, is of Jewish heritage, and has a taste for neo-pagan ritual. You’d think that was extremely weird and specific, but I’ve met at least one person who identifies the same way.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            However the claim that the Abrahamic God is the only God that exists is much harder to justify. In fact this claim is much stronger than other religious claims because Abrahamic religions are explicitly anti-pagan in nature. For the Abrahamic God to exist and the doctrines of any of the three major Abrahamic religions to be correct all other deities people have ever worshipped or not have to be false deities.

            Polytheism is refuted by (inter alia) the cosmological argument,* so being monotheistic is a point in Abrahamic religions’ favour.

            * More specifically: God, being the first cause, is also pure act. If there were two gods, the only way to distinguish them would be if one lacked some feature that the other had, that is, if it had an unactualised potential. But in that case, it wouldn’t be God. Therefore, there can only be one God.

          • Nornagest says:

            Polytheistic religions generally do not define divinity in those terms, so I don’t think the cosmological argument works that way.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Polytheistic religions generally do not define divinity in those terms, so I don’t think the cosmological argument works that way.

            Well, if by polytheistic gods we’re referring to really powerful spirits which are part of the cosmos, then there’s nothing in Abrahamic religions which contradicts that. There’s a long tradition in Christianity of saying that pagan gods really exist, but that they’re malevolent spirits, not proper deities.

          • Nornagest says:

            Depends on the polytheistic religion. The Norse went more for the “really powerful spirits” approach, at least as far as we can tell from the (rather poor and mostly late) sources on their religion; the closest thing they had to Abrahamic-style divinity was their idea of fate. The Greco-Romans had a lot of different approaches, but “God” and “the gods” are used almost synonymously in translations of e.g. Plato and his contemporaries, with the Olympians treated more as different emanations of divinity than as twelve angry guys and girls on top of a mountain. Shinto is almost pantheistic. And so forth.

            But I know of no polytheistic religion that claims e.g. twelve different First Causes, because that’s stupid.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            Finally found time to reply.

            I agree with The original Mr. X in that I think that monotheism is at least as likely, if not more likely than polytheism. Nornagest raises a good counterpoint in that polytheistic religions don’t define divinity in terms of being first.

            To propose a distinction that I think everyone could accept is that monotheism says there is only one God you can/should worship. Polytheism says there are many gods you can/should worship.

            Monotheism typically attribute the creation of the world to God. This and the God’s all-powerfulness is a main part of identifying what is or isn’t God. Once God has been identified it is clear that you should worship that and not worship anything else.

            Polytheism typically attributes the creation of the worth to some Mother Earth style figure, almost like a force of nature. This Mother nature isn’t considered all-powerful just the being/force that created the world. In the polytheistic pantheon there are many gods who all have their own domain and each are worshiped for their influence in that area.

            I don’t really see how you could say a priori that polytheism is more likely. The First Cause says that there is one “thing” responsible for the Universe. Thus we are guaranteed that there is one divine being, we are not guaranteed that there will be more.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            The main issue with Abrahamic religions is that even if we assume that deism is correct we can not reach Abrahamic theism. In fact a priori Abrahamic theism is one of the religious positions that are least likely to be correct precisely because it is exclusively monotheistic and rejects the existence of all other deities. You need really strong evidence to support such a claim.

            @Autistic Cat

            I think you raise an interesting point about needing strong evidence. I think those that it runs into a problem in that it is possible to set the standard for “strong evidence” in such a way that God can never be proven. Would you mind stating what you would count as strong evidence? Would it be very good historical records of past events showing God? Or maybe a philosophical argument that shows a specific God must exist? Possibly even prophet able to do supernatural events?

    • SamChevre says:

      Wouldn’t the comments be the commentary–like the Talmud, or the myriads of scholarly disputations in Christian tradition, or the similar discussions in Islam?

      So the “Holy Book” is only that which is authoritatively stated by Scott, in a posting; his comments are like the lives of the apostles, or the hadiths; other comments are early interpretations.

    • Loquat says:

      Every religion has its schisms and heretics, and this one would be no exception. Consider the alt.SSC, devotees of the mystic Sidles, who is struck down by Scott’s mighty banhammer whenever he appears, and yet will always be reborn with a new name. Though the orthodox Alexandrians follow Scott’s lead in scorning Sidles as an incoherent babbler, the alt.SSC carefully analyze each post, for verily the dedicated student will be rewarded with pearls of wisdom. His manifold names, too, are a subject of contemplation, for it is believed that each one represents a different aspect of God, and indeed some within the alt.SSC believe that his final and most holy name is yet to come, and he shall return bearing it to usher in the end of the world.

      • Anonymous says:

        You know, the fanfic religion you, Autistic Cat and company have written up so far sounds better than most attempts I’ve seen of making up a new religion. Definitely ranks up there with Scientology.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      You also forgot the regularly yet irregularly recited ritualistic prayer for the rebirth of Those Who Were Less Wrong.

      .

      What’s wrong with this picture? Do religious traditions also sometimes overinterpret everything and attempt to make mundane things holy?

      The idea, while not exactly new, is tremendously amusing recreational pastime.

      However, here’s one funny idea I’ve not seen around that much (it’s not my own though). There’s lots of literary tradition of drawing the obvious parallels to Plato’s fanboy-ish description of Socrates’ death and the crucification myth told in Gospels. Both the legend of Socrates and the legend of Jesus the Christ ring the very similar, familiar bell. (A wise man, a worthy teacher, was not understood and was wrongly sentenced to death by those over whom he should have ruled, and yet he did not escape even if he could have.) Some have speculated it’s one of the reasons why the philosophical tradition started by Plato and Aristoteles and the Academy (all of which traced its roots to Socrates) did become incorporated into Christianity. Not only that they had direct influence on the Christian thought and theology, but consider this: Their texts have survived remarkably well; we can study them instead of having only mere mentions and scraps to work with, as was the fate of many other philosophers of that age. Copying texts so that they survived was very expensive and laborious task, and yet it was done, century after century. These men, who were not Christians but more like Greek pagans!

      Now the thing I find funny. It’s common to remark that all of the Western philosophy is mere footnotes and comments on the margins to Plato. Now some may disagree about that, but let’s it pass for a moment.

      To what extent the whole tradition of the Western philosophy — and by extension, the sciences and all the rest of the Academia — is another organized religion started by Plato, only with some peculiar atypical characteristics? Named after a olive tree garden he happened to inherit?

      • quaelegit says:

        IIRC, Aristotle was mostly preserved by Islamic scholars until the late Middle Ages, and his re-introduction to Europe around the time of Thomas Aquinas made a big impact on theology and helped spark the Renaissance.

        A similar example, in Latin class we were told that Virgil’s work was preserved so well/completely in part because early Christians interpreted his flattery of Augustus as predictions of Christ.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          …thanks for pointing that out, somehow I managed to forget about the central reason why the Renaissance got started. It makes the part “got incorporated into Christianity” of the story more than a bit suspect.

          But luckily that story was only background speculation to the main question, which is thankfully left untouched: “Is the organized academia (which is mostly synonymous with the whole Western scientific project) is a mode of religious activity that (after spending fooling around for several hundreds of years) finally managed find a way to gather information about the physical nature of the world”.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          A bit of a tangent…
          Aquinas and the rediscovery of Aristotle are the “Renaissance of the 12th century,” which was a big deal, at least in science and philosophy. “The Renaissance” was a bit later and is mainly known for its visual art. Why would you think Aristotle had much to do with that?

          We talk about “the Renaissance” because Petrarch, a poet, declared that it would happen in his future. So he thought that classical sources affected his poetry. But we don’t venerate the Renaissance for its poetry, so he was pretty much wrong. Why should historians care about his futurism? If we take anything from him, it should be praise for his recent past, basically the Renaissance of the 12th Century.

          • quaelegit says:

            As I learned it, “the Renaissance” started in Italy at around the time of Petrarch (13th-14th century) and spread at different rates to the rest of Europe. I remember Petrarch’s poetry being given as an example of Renaissance Art in my world history classes, so at least textbook writers (and English teachers) care about his poetry. Bocaccio is a another poet and contemporary of Petrarch’s that people still care about.

            Ex Urbe (link text) claims that Petrarch’s futuristic call was the start of the Ren. — as in, people with money and political power listened to/agreed with Petrarch and started to emphasize classics from Greece and Rome and try to find new ones. So Petrarch seems pretty relevant to his time period and those at least immediately following. And I have the impression that he was regarded as a foremost/foundational poet for centuries afterwords and perhaps to the present (see “English teachers” comment above).

            I only briefly skimmed your link (will try and go read it in detail later). I totally agree that the common perception of “Middle Ages bad, then the Renaissance happened and everyone made beautiful art and everything got better” is way oversimplified where it’s not outright false. I don’t see the argument of “two Renassainces” though. There wasn’t a big gap between Petrarch and famous Rennaissance art — Brunellesci and Donatello were born within 12 years of Petrarch’s death, for example.

            Instead, the story I learned and what seems more plausible is a revolution in asthetics and art (and also philosophy and other areas) started in Italy, and then diffused to different places at different times. It showed up in different places at different times. So I think the link’s attempt to delineate “the Rennaissance started at time X and ended at time Y” is also way too simplistic — started at time X where? and for what group of people/subject?

            (Also the dates he picks are really weird — rennaissance starting with the fall of Byzantine empire in 1453? There was tons of Rennaissance stuff in Florence, e.g., for decades by then…)

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  8. Deiseach says:

    The question I said I would pose, and yes this is ironic in view of my response to Autistic Cat, but it’s a genuine query (arising out of (a) reflections on handling my kind of perpetually semi-depressed state, and the sort of advice CBT gives, and (b) DrBeat’s very genuine emotional pain and hurt over popularity and the “punishing of the weak by the strong, the weak being defined as those who can’t stop status games being played”):

    Friends – why?

    Why do you have ’em, why do you want ’em, how on earth do you cope with being around people/having people be around you, do you really feel lonely if you don’t got ’em, this whole “but people need human contact” malarkey (and the way the term ‘touch starvation’ gets tossed around by youngsters who seem to think if you don’t get hugs every day you will wither and die like a sensitive plant denied sunlight), and this CBT “circles of support” nonsense which assumes you will have people close to you in degrees like concentric circles so all they have to do is teach you to lean on them for support when you’re feeling blue (yes, you can sense my eye-rolling from here, can’t you).

    I mean, I get that if people want friends, it may be nice to have them, but on the other hand – how “friends” are friends? Isn’t a lot of it merely propinquity and hanging around together, rather than any real feeling of deep emotional connection like the idealised view of it we see in popular media? (I’m also seeing a bit of office politics at work where ‘friendship’ has not prevented friction between two co-workers now one has been promoted, and indeed the ‘friendship’ has meant a lot of dissimulation over motives where a professional working relationship without the entanglement of ‘friendship’ would be a lot clearer, better and more honest).

    So: friends, huh, good God, what are they good for?

    • Autistic Cat says:

      LOL I don’t need friends, just acquaintances into rationality.

    • DeWitt says:

      I don’t have very much to weigh in, but I suspect there’s going to be a whole lot of words devoted to an answer along the lines of ‘humans gonna human’.

      • Deiseach says:

        a whole lot of words devoted to an answer along the lines of ‘humans gonna human’

        Probably also going to tick a lot of the “you’re not really a human” boxes for me, as well.

        Hey, anyone got a link to a handy online “10 Signs You Could Be A Sociopath” listicle/quiz I can do? Just out of scientific curiosity, you understand 😀

    • [Thing] says:

      I’m pretty sure there’s substantial overlap between what most people get from having friends and what regulars on blog comment sections and other such forums get from having conversations online. Whatever that is.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        I agree.

      • onyomi says:

        For me, posting here doesn’t really check my socialization boxes much at all. It does check my “desire to argue about politics and philosophy” box, but that’s mostly a different box.

    • carvenvisage says:

      Things socialising has going for it:

      multiplayer aspect can lead to renewable novelty and variety

      if you don’t like the base game you might enjoy variants like alcohol mode, purposeful activity-freeform slider, text-only mode, etc.

      for some people it’s more scary than dangerous, so it lets them experience imaginary high stakes with less risk. (though it’s not unique in this, most sports and videogames do this too)

      when you practice socialising, you might practice confidence and feeling good, because for most people 90% of socialising is the atmosphere not the intelectual discussion (exageration maybe). For the same reason, when there is socialising in your future, you might be able to recruit a part of yourself to subconsciously build these up that you might not otherwise. (not entirely unique to socialising but confidence and feeling good themselves being the mechanisms by which you play are somewhat so)

      And if you have to be around people anyway, that answers the question: “Why do you have ’em, why do you want ’em, how on earth do you cope with being around people/having people be around you”. -because you have to, so you might as well enjoy it and make it harmonious and so on.

       

      Also, this is a bit more crackpot (edit: a lot more crackpot), but if you consider how dull and boring many social interactions are, they arguably only make sense as a way to avoid something worse, -like if the space wasn’t filled with something dull and placid and dying, it might instead spark into spontaneous hostility or unbearable tension. (also ‘unbearable’ level might be very low in this environment)

      I find this is true to some extent. These things are the equivalent of monkeys grooming each other, it creates an illusion that no one is dangerous (and I suppose to some extent a truth, because carrying out these rituals day in day out will dull your soul), which helps people relax, because people like to believe they are at exactly 0.0000000% risk.

      Of course a psychopath can easily immitate these niceties, if anything they reduce actual safety, being an accepted false and useless (worse than) test of hostile intent, but the tradition of boring/meaningless-interactions’ emotional purpose — is to provide the illusion that the other person is a dull and placid cow like you are pretending to be or have become. It’s all about the illusion of absolute safety.

      • Deiseach says:

        when you practice socialising, you might practice confidence and feeling good

        the tradition of boring/meaningless-interactions’ emotional purpose is to provide the illusion that the other person is a dull and placid cow like you are pretending to be or have become

        Yeah, but I can get that simply by staying inside the comfort of my own room without socialising. Being around people never gave me confidence (any of that has only come about via getting older and not giving a damn much anymore about ‘what do other people think?’) and as for feeling good, I don’t feel good around/from other people, rather it makes me anxious and twitchy and want to flee for my own nice solitary cave. I really don’t understand the “being around other people is fun! and energising! and makes you feel good!” since that has never been my experience in general, but that’s probably linked to “deficiencies in being human” on my part.

        I think friendship has become devalued because Western society, since the Romantic era, has put all its eggs in the basket of romantic/erotic love, but that’s a different matter to “so, friends – why have them in the first place?”

        • carvenvisage says:

          sorry about “cow” word choice. very clumsy. I meant like an actual cow in a field who doesn’t mind the rain. -Admirable in itself, just a weirdly specific temperament to require of all humans.
          (via the mechanism of standardised small talk where the primary content is you showing yourself to be immune to boredom or pickiness.)

           

          Socialising only “makes you feel fun and good” like golf makes you feel relaxed and focused, -the activity doesn’t cause those things, those things cause success in the activity, so it has potential as a feedback mechanism. If you’re in a certain range of those and if the activitiy is to your taste.

          -personally I hate golf and empty socialising, I just think the latter keys off ‘feeling good’ the same way quake keys off ‘fast reflexes’.

           

          edit:

          >Yeah, but I can get that simply by staying inside the comfort of my own room without socialising.

          if you can get confidence and feeling good in your room without socialising, that might be unusual. My impression is that a lot of people can’t do that and it’s one of the reasons they have to socialise. edit2: try this sociopath test http://www.quietrev.com/the-introvert-test/. edit3: or don’t because the bastards only warn you at the end that they want your email.

          (And you can’t “get” ‘reassuring the other person that you’re harmless’ alone in your room, because it’s not a Good at all, -to get, it’s a (bad) mechanism for helping people be comfortable with one other, like showing your belly in dogs.)

          • Deiseach says:

            if you can get confidence and feeling good in your room without socialising, that might be unusual

            Well, I do. When I’ve been doing Stuff I Like, I quite often find myself thinking afterwards “Yeah, that was good, I enjoyed myself”. I don’t really get the same from social interactions – even if they’ve gone well, it’s more “Thank God that’s over and done with”.

            Test was nice quick one (and I gave ’em a throwaway email address), but it only tells me I’m an introvert. Sociopath status still undetermined 🙂

          • andrewflicker says:

            Quote: “via the mechanism of standardised small talk where the primary content is you showing yourself to be immune to boredom or pickiness.”

            Just want to quibble here- I don’t like small talk either, but don’t castigate it for something it isn’t- the purposes of small talk are (1) to demonstrate a certain (low but nonzero) amount of care about the other person by giving them an opportunity to break the social scripts, (2) demonstrating that you understand and can navigate the current social setting and social strata, and (3) demonstrate tribal membership by successfully performing shibboleths and avoiding traps that would reveal you as an outsider.

            While this may *be* boring, it’s tedium is totally besides the point.

            EDIT – It’s also possible, in some limited circumstances, to have non-boring small talk. Consequence-free wordplay (witty banter, etc) can fill this role under certain conditions, as can flirting where it’s clear there’s no actual romantic intent, etc., etc.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I think you are maybe not quibbling but registering dissent. -I painted a picture of things being one way, you painted another. It seems your picture is not a modulation of mine but another one entirely. Or at most similar it is mine flipped on its head.

          • andrewflicker says:

            Is this a gish gallop or ignoratio elenchi or something? You seem to be objecting to the way in which I phrased my argument, instead of arguing the point itself.

          • carvenvisage says:

            It’s not anything latin. I just pointed out that your quibble isn’t a quibble, it’s an alternative perspective, -or a flat contradiction. (it’s not an argument).

            The implication being that I accept your non quibble despite its mislabelling and don’t care to argue.

            I’ve described how I see small talk, you’ve described a different, contradictory, way you see small talk. That isn’t a quibble. If you want to argue, I can oblige you, and if you just want to say how you see things, I can leave it at that. But in either case calling a flat contradiction a quibble does not make it a refutation or even an argument.

    • beleester says:

      I have ’em because I like having ’em. We do fun things together. We play board games. We talk about random things. I like doing that, in moderation.

      Yes, I do feel lonely if I don’t got ’em. Even though I consider myself an introvert, there’s a limit to how much isolation I can take, and random people online aren’t an effective substitute. I’ve tried staying in my apartment and not interacting with people for a few days, and it sucks. So I’m sorry, but I have to agree with the “but people need human contact” malarkey.

      Isn’t a lot of it merely propinquity and hanging around together, rather than any real feeling of deep emotional connection like the idealised view of it we see in popular media?

      I’d question whether there’s a sharp distinction between “hanging around together” and “real feeling of deep emotional connection,” and if you should be so dismissive of the former. Small, “unimportant” interactions are part of the regular maintenance of a friendship. Hanging out with others, even if you’re not talking about anything “deep” or important, is good for your mental health.

      And it’s a building block for the deep emotional stuff – maybe you meet a guy in your class at college and he’s just a casual acquaintance for months, but then one day the conversation turns to football and it turns out he’s super excited about the Bengals’ prospects this season and hey do you want to come over and watch the game this Sunday? And now you’ve got a closer connection.

      Not every person you meet is going to be a “Brothers to the end!” tight connection, and they don’t need to be. But by the same token, someone doesn’t have to be your brother to the end in order to give you some support when you need it. Maybe a passing acquaintance at church can give you a lead in your job search. Maybe your mentor at work has some sage life advice. You just need some kind of connection.

      (Well, I need it. You seem to be doing fine without it.)

      • Deiseach says:

        I was more querying the “deep emotional connection” because the counselling presumption seems to be you will have at least one, and maybe more, really good friends that you can tell your deepest, darkest secrets and worries to. And I don’t know if that is really so, even with ‘normal’ people; I get the feeling people have friends, and they might discuss some worries with them, but “deep talks about really significant distressing stuff”? Not so sure about that.

        I mean, I’ve told you guys way more about my actual mental state and feelings than I’ve ever told my own siblings, and there is no way in hell I’d say anything the same to a friend even if I had one, and very very unlikely without a lot of digging and poking I’d say the same to a counsellor (were I going to one). The anonymity and lack of real-world interaction is what makes it safe, paradoxically, to say all this here.

        I don’t seem to do connection well or at all, if it comes to that. When I try to be “nice, friendly, non-threatening” I seem to scare small children, so I mainly stick to “professionally polite” 🙂 (That retail job, combined with training when doing a secretarial skills course as well as some later receptionist work, did teach me to create the Customer Service Persona – the chirpy, smiling, speak-with-uplilt voice and be unrealistically ‘how may I help you and I am so thrilled to be interacting with you today!’ – which helps in work situations not alone dealing with the public but putting on the ‘yes boss I am so enthused to do whatever you ask me’ mode).

        • andrewflicker says:

          I don’t think humans necessarily need to have a friend to which they reveal their deep, dark secrets- but it seems that most of us do better when they have friends to which they think they *could* reveal such secrets to, if the need was dire. It’s a sort of safety net- makes it easier to face challenges if you know you have allies, even if you’ll probably never use/need them.

    • Civilis says:

      One word I don’t see in this thread: ‘trust’.

      In this era when family has become devalued as a means of fostering relationships, having someone I can trust is important. A friend is someone I socialize with (or socialized with in the past) enough to enjoy their presence, at least for a time (I’m an introvert, so I need alone time), and I assume this is reciprocal. A friend is a known quantity, and I both would help and would ask for help from a friend that I wouldn’t from a random stranger.

      I can trust a friend to put up with my odd behavior in the short term with the expectation that it will not last into the long term, and in fact they have an incentive to help me get out of negative moods.

      I can trust a friend to let me vent without taking it personally because we know each other and know where the true limits are.

      I can trust a friend to make minor sacrifices of time or money because they know I’d do the same for them.

      • Deiseach says:

        Trust is a good word in this context; I don’t think I trust people. For a plethora of reasons (some nature, some nurture), I think I have the expectation that “you reveal a vulnerability to someone, they will use it against you” (to the degree that I make DrBeat look like a starry-eyed optimist with their evaluation of the strong punishing the weak).

        C.S. Lewis wrote about hardening your heart, and though I take his point, my instinctive reaction to locking the heart in a casket is “that is simply the necessary degree of protection”:

        To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

        I have never told someone (and this includes family) about needing help or a weakness, that I had not cause later to bitterly regret so doing.

        • Aapje says:

          Yeah, Lewis doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that some people get far more than their ‘fair share’ of abuse and not necessarily with a (substantial) dose of love to compensate for it either. It is extremely arrogant to declare that those that don’t want to accept potentially unlimited suffering are selfish and irredeemable.

        • Corey says:

          I saw an insight from Scott, can’t remember if it was here or on Tumblr, that this factor explains a lot of Tumblr culture. It seems that everyone there assumes that abusers are around every corner, and he realized that a bunch of people have life experiences that support that view.

          Now I remember the context: someone was proposing a rationalist group-house run dictatorially and with some boot-camp elements, and Tumblr denizens thought that was the worst idea it was conceptually possible to have, and it makes sense that veterans of abusive relationships would think that.

        • Aapje says:

          I’ve seen feminists remark that they were amazed at the number of sexual assault/rape victims when discussing the issue in feminist spaces, but I would argue that such environments attract people with those experiences.

          After all, mainstream feminism teaches a narrative that marries a ‘mankind is inherent good/blank slatism’ moral intuition with a story of the fall of man (literally). Traditionalism tends to (also) blame the woman, whereas mainstream feminism has a narrative that places all blame on men. Furthermore, the narrative is very supportive of anger, even of the kind that blames all for the acts of the few/one, while it is very unsupportive of questioning the experiences of women. So it makes sense that it makes female victims feel safe.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Isn’t a lot of it merely propinquity and hanging around together, rather than any real feeling of deep emotional connection like the idealised view of it we see in popular media

      Yes, but hanging around with people is in itself entertaining. Definitely a good way to unwind and pass some time.

      They also play video and board games, which are fun in their own right.

      • Deiseach says:

        Yes, but hanging around with people is in itself entertaining. Definitely a good way to unwind and pass some time.

        I find it stressful, because conversations tend to end in awkward silences. Trying to find conversational topics of mutual interest which I kill stone dead. “So – partner?” “Nope”. “Kids?” “Nope.” “Went to college?” “Nope”. “Been anywhere interesting/going anywhere nice on holiday?” “Nope”. “Success in career?” “Nope”. “Uhhhhh… seen the latest episode of that hit TV show quite literally everyone in the country is watching?” “Nope”.

        (The “TV show” and “holiday” examples are from abortive conversations a co-worker, in the first instance, and the Boss of Bosses for our section in the second, tried to strike up with me. The second instance, Da Boss turned with great relief to a co-worker who could indeed chat with him about cultural holidays in Italy).

        I hang around on this site pestering people because I don’t get this kind and level of interaction on topics that interest me elsewhere 🙂

        • rlms says:

          IIRC, you follow football. Doesn’t that give you a reliable subject for small talk?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Yeah, I get that. A lot of conversations end in awkward silences, especially with new people. I can also only tolerate so much conversation with most of my friends, even.

          Usually the process involves throwing out a lot of different conversation threads until one sticks. Then just going with that for a little while.

          No doubt that this is a stressful process if you don’t have much to talk about on the biggies (family, movies, work, etc.)

          I’d say you can still talk about work, even if you don’t have any major successes/stories. Everyone bitches about work!

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Friends are nice to have because you can let down your guard around them (at least partially). Family is good for that, too, but it’s not an expandable class of people. Having someone to communicate with who you don’t have to worry about appearances around is really nice.

      Also they’re a ready source of opponents for multiplayer games, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    • People vary a lot, and “friend” covers a wide range of relationships.

      My close friends, of whom I have never had very many, are people I can trust and who trust me, people who put a high value on my welfare as I do of theirs. They tend to have some things in common with me, but not everything–similar in some ways, different in others.

      That makes interacting with them both interesting and unthreatening. It means that I know that if I ever badly need help, there is someone who will provide it if possible–and that I will do the same in the other direction.

      Two of them died in the past decade. In both cases, the deaths being predictable ones, I flew across the country to say good bye.

      See Kipling’s “The Thousandth Man.”

    • John Schilling says:

      Friends – why?

      Aside from the fact that they make the best allies this side of family,

      First Law of Callahan’s Place: Shared pain is lessened, shared joy increased.

      • Deiseach says:

        Shared pain is lessened

        I have not found this so, but then again, that’s just me. After my father’s death, the expressions of sympathy were very natural and I appreciate what people meant by it, but it did nothing to help the pain. (And when an ex-boss showed up for the funeral, I was raging mad – due to the circumstances in which they became an ex-boss – and would vastly have preferred the [expletive deleted] had stayed away rather than try and do the conventional ‘sorry for your trouble’ bit).

        Yeah, if people are bringing in food and cleaning the house and minding kids for you and all the rest of it, that’s practical help, but I neither got nor needed any of that, and the emotional distress was something I just had to work through on my own. What did help was a funny mishap at the graveside which was exactly the kind of thing that would have made my father laugh – the undertaker had provided taped music of a suitably solemn nature for the traditional “mourners file by to shake hands with the bereaved and express their sympathies” part by the grave, but this was an Irish air on a tape of Irish music, and by mistake they first started to play a cheerful diddly-eye tune – this type of thing 🙂 They were suitably horrified and apologetic, but it cheered me up because it was precisely the kind of thing my father would have found funny, so it was oddly appropriate.

    • Well... says:

      I have tons of friends scattered about the world, and they’re all great people. Interesting, trustworthy, intelligent (in their own ways at least), etc. Only once or twice in my life have I intentionally allowed a friendship to lapse, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to purposefully end one. Even of the friends who I’ve lost contact with, almost to a man I’d be excited and overjoyed to resume contact.

      But I have noticed over time that whenever other people are about to introduce me to their friends–especially if we are about to spend a bunch of time together–it is necessary to brace myself for a negative impression.

      So, maybe good friends are either difficult to attain, or only for the lucky.

  9. johan_larson says:

    So I’ve been reading about this police shooting in Minnesota that led to the dismissal of their police chief. What are the public policy levers here? If the government were serious about getting the number of deaths at the hands of police down, what could it realistically do?

    • herbert herberson says:

      Politically easy fixes that would help a little:
      – body cams that can’t be turned off whenever there is about to be a shooting
      – independent counsel for officer shootings & change laws that require prosecutors to disprove affirmative defenses to require defense counsel to instead prove them (e.g., my understanding of the acquittal in Phillip Castillo’s shooting is that it was due to the officer raising the possibility that Castillo was reaching towards the gun and the prosecutor being unable to rebut it–the burden in that scenario should be on the defense to prove there was a reach)

      Politically difficult fix that would address the core problem:
      – figure out how to change the culture of law enforcement from one that acts like they’re in Mogadishu to one that is commensurate with law enforcement only being the fifteenth most dangerous job , and that’s including all the auto accidents

      Politically impossible fix that would address the core problem:
      – comprehensive gun control to make the job of law enforcement even safer than it already is, ideally to the point where patrol officers no longer need to carry firearms

      • johan_larson says:

        I wonder what the current state of the art in less-than-lethal weaponry is. If the default weapon of a police officer were something that incapacitated but typically didn’t kill, that would make a lot of the problem go away. But as far as I know, weapons like the Taser pistol are a whole lot less effective than firearms: fewer shots and much less range.

        • Corey says:

          Some places are experimenting with the ultimate less-lethal technology: de-escalating conflicts. Though that’s hard and also not appropriate in all cases. Training on how to deal with crazy people also helps.

        • Jiro says:

          If the only weapons available are lethal, the officer can’t deliberately or recklessly use the weapon to attack an innocent person, because killing the person leaves evidence and makes it hard for the officer to lie as much. He can’t very well deny using the weapon at all, or claim to have only used it minimally, when there’s a dead body in front of everyone.

          • beleester says:

            If the only weapons available are lethal, the officer doesn’t have any good options for situations where the suspect is violent, but isn’t using lethal force. Which is a lot of situations. I think you’d be tossing out a lot of babies with the bathwater if you made officers only carry a gun.

        • Protagoras says:

          In addition to having fewer shots and less range, tasers, like pretty much all weapons intended to be less than lethal that are not totally ineffective, do not always end up being less than lethal in practice.

      • Urstoff says:

        figure out how to change the culture of law enforcement from one that acts like they’re in Mogadishu to one that is commensurate with law enforcement only being the fifteenth most dangerous job , and that’s including all the auto accidents

        Indeed, the current culture/mindset of many police seems dangerously adversarial. The world is not a Manichean struggle between “Cops” and “Thugs”.

        • herbert herberson says:

          I think Castillo was an extremely instructive episode, because it demonstrated two things that are easy to miss:
          1. The vast majority of killer cops are not sociopaths or conscious racists (I’d say all instead of vast majority, but there is always the guy who shot Walter Scott in the back to provide the exception to the rule). Yanez was a complete mess after that shooting; it was extremely obvious that in the immediate aftermath he would have done anything to take it back.
          2. Instead, these cops live in a world where the scenario of someone calmly stating “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me” and then, immediately after, pulling out that firearm and using it to murder an officer during a routine traffic stop is a realistic one. That kind of totally-untethered-from-reality siege mentality is the core of the problem

          • Deiseach says:

            someone calmly stating “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me”

            I think that was the part that was the most “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”; the guy was trying to be compliant and explain he had a gun, so that if (when) he got searched it wouldn’t trigger any panicky “OMG HE’S GOT A GUN HE’S GONNA SHOOT” reactions, but that is exactly what it did. Of course, if he hadn’t mentioned it and they found the gun, the situation would have gone down just as badly.

            It’s not really very likely that a guy is going to tell you “yes I’ve got a gun” before he pulls it and tries to shoot his way out, and I can absolutely see why the reaction was “if he’d been white, and said that, this would never have happened”. Just a sad, dreadful mess all round.

          • herbert herberson says:

            I would call myself a BLM supporter, but I also think that at the end of the day race exacerbates, rather than causes, the problem. The U.S.’s history of racism is vast and deep and accordingly black people are seen as more scary, which means they suffer disproportionately from a problem caused by fear–but it is ultimately the fear that’s the problem, not the racism. That’s how we have a city where a cop kills a blond lady for no reason barely a month after Yanez’s acquittal

          • James Miller says:

            >That kind of totally-untethered-from-reality siege mentality is the core of the problem

            Are you sure that this is such a low probability event as to be “untethered-from-reality” given how many people are on drugs and how many people do want to kill police officers?

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yes, I am.

            I understand why an officer would want to be careful as they approach a traffic stop or a potential robbery suspect. But once they have spoken to that person and he has calmly and respectfully informed the officer that he has a firearm, continuing to remain on that hair trigger defies all logic–and the statistics don’t even come close to refuting the logic.

          • Brad says:

            We have the data; why speculate? And what does the number of people are “on drugs” have do with anything?

          • albatross11 says:

            James Miller:

            This article links to a PDF report that claims that 64 police officers were shot dead in the line of duty in 2016. The same article shows that only three of those shooting deaths were from traffic stops. That suggests a pretty low risk of the cop being shot during a traffic stop in general[1]. It looks like the scariest bit of being a cop (judging from these small numbers; I don’t know how well this holds up on deeper analysis) is responding to a domestic disturbance.

            [1] Note that the rate of cops being shot dead during a traffic stop is probably this low because they’re taking a lot of precautions to prevent it, some of which may involve raising the risk of the police shooting civilians in a moment of panic or confusion.

          • albatross11 says:

            My impression is that the bad police shootings are almost always like this. The cop panics in a moment of confusion or fear and kills someone. Probably a lot of the time, the cop knows he’s horribly screwed up ten seconds after the shooting.

            His testimony after the fact will be based on staying out of prison, so it’s going to involve the phrase “I feared for my life” several times, regardless of how the shooting actually happened.

          • random832 says:

            His testimony after the fact will be based on staying out of prison, so it’s going to involve the phrase “I feared for my life” several times, regardless of how the shooting actually happened.

            Something that has bothered me for a long time… Why is it that, as a culture, we just accept that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to stay out of prison (or admitting fault to something you’d be civilly liable for, etc)? If you have killed someone, the honorable thing to do is accept the lawful punishment for whatever degree of manslaughter or murder you know you have committed, and attempts to get out of that should be viewed as despicable cowardly actions rather than value-neutral “well of course he doesn’t want to go to prison, lying is totally understandable”

            He “knows he’s horribly screwed up” but somehow doesn’t feel bad enough about it to willingly go to prison?

          • carvenvisage says:

            some cultural reasons:

            1. Our moral standards just aren’t that high.

            2. Nor is our society very heavy on duty.

            3. Western culture has zero concern for honour anyways

            4. it’s generally very anti suicide

            5. It’s natural to empathise with a horrified party fighting for its survival, on its last legs. Our culture of empathy and individualism means more of us feel this is a healthy/accurate response, but I think it’s natural.

            6. self referential expectation. We don’t expect people to do it, so when they don’t, it doesn’t offend us. It could totally be different, but given that the guy is living in the culture where we accept that, maybe he is just doing what society has told him is his most important duty, protecting/being there for his wife and kids above maintaining his honour.

          • He “knows he’s horribly screwed up” but somehow doesn’t feel bad enough about it to willingly go to prison?

            This is a point that sometimes occurs to me with regard to politicians. Obama never, so far as I know, called for marijuana legalization. He admitted having smoked marijuana. It pretty obviously did not occur to him, or almost anyone else, that if he really saw obeying the law as a moral obligation he should have volunteered, before or after being president, for a term in prison.

            I’m pretty sure that George Bush claimed to believe in obedience to the law. He confessed to committing a crime punishable by up to five years in prison (knowingly using information obtained in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). It does not seem to have occurred to him that after his term was over he should volunteer to spend a year or two behind bars.

            My guess is that, while many people claim to believe in a moral obligation to obey the law or if not to accept the legal punishment, very few people actually do. Even for a law you agree with, there are always ways of persuading yourself that, while you should not have violated it, you are not really obligated to let yourself be punished if you have a way of avoiding it.

          • albatross11 says:

            As a practical matter, I think it’s wise to predict that most people will behave in whatever way they believe is most likely to allow them to avoid some horrible fate, most of the time. That’s not always the case, but the more dire and horrible the fate, the more I think it’s a good prediction that they will be willing to say or do almost anything to avoid it. That’s one reason to be skeptical about much of the product of the justice system in the US–most cases are resolved by someone pleading guilty as part of some kind of deal offered by the prosecutor, which involves decreasing the likely sentence.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s probably not just “naturally he wants to stay out of jail”; most people don’t like to think they’ve killed an innocent person for no good reason, so he’s going to convince himself as much as anyone else that “I was afraid for my life, I didn’t just shoot a guy because I panicked and screwed up, I had a genuine reason for thinking he was gonna pull a gun”.

          • random832 says:

            4. it’s generally very anti suicide

            He wasn’t facing the death penalty.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @herbert herbertson @johan_larson

        The issues with the culture of law enforcement are just as much an issue with the courts and the police oversight bodies (which are usually too chummy with the police). Cops get a degree of wiggle room in claiming defence far beyond what civilians get. Scott Greenfield talks about the “reasonably scared cop rule.” “If my client had waited until it was clear there was a threat, it would have been too late, therefore my client was entitled to act with deadly force as soon as there was a suspicion that maybe there was a threat” is probably not the standard for self-defence claims (I am not a lawyer). But it seems like it is for police.

        Another thing that would probably help is reducing interactions of the sort where police think they might be in danger: if cops tend to think that every time they walk up to a car window they’re half a second away from getting blasted, then reducing the frequency of them walking up to car windows would presumably reduce police shootings. The Castille shooting started with the guy getting pulled over for a busted taillight or something like that. If cops just took a picture of the license plate and the light and sent the driver a ticket and/or a warning to fix the light, presumably that would be a better approach.

        Something that would definitely reduce police shootings: better training on dealing with mental health crises. I don’t know what the % is for the US, but in Canada, shootings by police tend to be of people suffering mental health crises, and armed (if armed) with blades or hammers or similar, rather than guns. Inquests tend to show that the police approached the situation without a plan, and without training in dealing with people having mental health crises.

        • herbert herberson says:

          The issues with the culture of law enforcement are just as much an issue with the courts and the police oversight bodies (which are usually too chummy with the police). Cops get a degree of wiggle room in claiming defence far beyond what civilians get. Scott Greenfield talks about the “reasonably scared cop rule.” “If my client had waited until it was clear there was a threat, it would have been too late, therefore my client was entitled to act with deadly force as soon as there was a suspicion that maybe there was a threat” is probably not the standard for self-defence claims (I am not a lawyer). But it seems like it is for police.

          Yeah, that’s what I was trying to get at with the part about the burden of proof.

          But while I think those reforms are worth making, I don’t think they can really solve the core issue. If the cops continue to genuinely believe their lives are in danger, as I think they do, they will take the shot even if it means a potential prison sentence, just as they are currently taking the shots even though it guarantees a huge, potentially-life-ruining media firestorm and possible criminal trial.

          Another thing that would probably help is reducing interactions of the sort where police think they might be in danger: if cops tend to think that every time they walk up to a car window they’re half a second away from getting blasted, then reducing the frequency of them walking up to car windows would presumably reduce police shootings

          Maybe, but I can’t help but think we’d be losing a lot there–everything from the fact that routine traffic stops can and sometimes do result in apprehending serious criminals to little stuff like the opportunity to plead extenuating circumstances to the cop and get out of the ticket. Plus, if the goal is to make officers feel less like they’re soldiers in hostile territory, eliminating what should be one of the least dangerous and stressful classes of officer-citizen interactions might be counterproductive. Giving up all that just because we can’t fix the terrifying fantasy world police are living inside seems like it would be a shame.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It is too bad that police across the US are so bad, overall, at keeping track of killings by police – it would be interesting to see if it’s increased over time, or just seems that way. If, for example, the cops killed people at a higher rate than they did during the 70s and 80s – if cops kill because they’re scared, are they less scared today than they were when there was, objectively, more to be scared of?

            I did a bit of quick number crunching a while back, and the gap between US and Canadian police shootings is greater than the gap between US and Canadian murder rate in general. It would be interesting to speculate on that – my guess is we have fewer guns and fewer illegal guns, and cops are thus less likely to think someone’s going to shoot them.

          • Jaskologist says:

            To do it right, there are at least 2 ugly questions we need to answer:

            1. What is an acceptable number of innocent people shot by police? Because in a country the size of the US, it’s not realistically going to hit zero.
            2. How many cops are we willing to sacrifice to get down to that number? Because I’m betting they trade off against each other. I’m perfectly ok with saying we are willing to lose more cops than civilians, but I wish we could be open about the trade offs being made.

          • Brad says:

            Cops are paid quite well to accept risk. Their victims are not.

            If anything the ratio should be cops per civilian rather than the current civilians per cop. But at this point I’d take parity.

          • Corey says:

            Cops are paid quite well to accept risk. Their victims are not.

            Also, it’s probably unrealistic to expect random civilians to be calm and clear-headed at gunpoint.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          The Castille shooting started with the guy getting pulled over for a busted taillight or something like that. If cops just took a picture of the license plate and the light and sent the driver a ticket and/or a warning to fix the light, presumably that would be a better approach.

          No, that was a pretext. Castile was being pulled over because the cop thought he matched the description of one of the perpetrators of an armed robbery at a convenience store nearby a few days before. There’s police scanner audio where he says that’s the reason he’s pulling him over, and a picture of Castile and the robbery suspects.

          However, when you’re stopping someone so you can get a better look at them to see whether or not they’re the armed robber you have a BOLO for, you don’t say “just pulling you over to see if you’re an armed and dangerous robber,” you say “busted tail light.” When Castile’s girlfriend made the FaceBook video, she said “busted tail light” becuase that’s what the officer had said to them, but that was not his actual reason for pulling them over. However, the media reported everything that she said as confirmed fact, rather than “according to…”

          So your idea wouldn’t have prevented the death of Castile, because he wasn’t being pulled over for a broken tail light. He was being pulled over to see if he was the armed robber Yanez was looking for, and the tail light was just an excuse.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Wouldn’t he have not had a pretext, though? More minor crimes are often a pretext – “we know you did the murder, but nobody will testify, but also we caught you with a quarter-pound of weed, so we’ll just hit you with dealer charges” – aren’t they?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Then he would have either come up with a different pretext like “saw you cross a white line and am checking for sobriety.” If you think you’ve found the armed robber, you stop the armed robber.

            To my knowledge, they never apprehended the armed robbers, and I don’t know if they ever investigated whether or not Castile was one of the robbers in question.

            I was angry at the media for the way they reported it, though. “man shot over broken taillight” is much more shocking to the conscience than “man (mistakenly?) shot during armed robbery investigation.” They hyped everything up for maximum outrage, and then a few days later when the man in Dallas killed those five police officers he cited Castile as one of the things he was angry about. I wonder if he would have had a different mindset if he didn’t think it was about a broken taillight. Who knows.

          • Brad says:

            Has it ever been reported one way or the other if Yanez is a child molester?

            I’m pretty angry at the media for not getting to the bottom of the did Yanez molest little kids story. Not that I know either way, but the question is out there.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yanez stopping Castille because he matched the description of a fleeing armed robber puts the situation into some context, too–pulling over a random guy for a busted tail light is not very risky; pulling over an armed robber who is trying to get away is probably a *very* good way to get shot.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad Honcho:

            If Castille had been one of the armed robbers, Yanez and his police department would absolutely have brought that up in the trial, because it would change the entire situation. Recall how the Michael Brown shooting went down, with that convenience store footage being leaked.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            Please don’t do crap like that. I get your point, and even am somewhat sympathetic to it, but it’s a shitty thing to do.

          • Brad says:

            No, albatross11, slandering a dead homocide victim is a shitty thing to do.

            Maybe you should take some time to think about your values.

          • albatross11 says:

            Slandering[1] a dead homicide victim is bad, but slandering a living person is worse. Also, the slander about the dead homicide victim is pretty easy to check (there’s no way he was the robber–that would have been the centerpiece of Yanez’ defense), whereas accusing someone of child molesting is exactly the kind of thing that can stick to people with neither evidence nor any way to clear it.

            [1] Libeling, since it’s written.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How am I slandering Castile?

            Yanez pulled Castile over because he matched the description of an armed robber. True or false?

            Was Castile the armed robber? Yes, no or unknown?

          • SamChevre says:

            Right.

            That’s why I think getting rid of the “Terry stop” would be a major contributor to reducing police shootings.

          • Deiseach says:

            Was Castile the armed robber? Yes, no or unknown?

            According to Snopes, no he wasn’t. And there does appear to be an element of “all those guys look alike” with the “The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery,” the officer says. “The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just ‘cause of the wide set nose,” the officer continues.”

            Obviously, if the police officer thought he was confronting an armed (or likely to be armed) robber, then he would be more keyed up to expect a violent confrontation and interpret any motion or moves on the part of the suspect as hostile. I don’t know how you can train “be calm but alert but calm, don’t assume anything” in these situations, but it seems to be something needed.

            pulling over an armed robber who is trying to get away

            Except that this seems to have happened a couple of days after the robbery, so it wasn’t a guy trying to flee the scene of a crime, or even someone speeding who just happened to pick the wrong time to do it straight after a robbery had occurred.

          • BBA says:

            @albatross: While we’re lawyer-sniping each other, at common law it’s impossible to libel or slander the dead. An estate can’t sue for defamation. (Though with “personality rights” being a thing now, maybe that doctrine has been reconsidered?)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        the burden in that scenario should be on the defense to prove there was a reach

        Reformulated, isn’t that “guilty until proven innocent?”

        • herbert herberson says:

          Self-defense was an affirmative defense under common law. It remains the prosecution’s duty to prove that the defendant caused the death, but requiring a person claiming that there was a reason or excuse for the killing to affirmatively prove their claim is entirely consistent with Anglo-American legal traditions.

      • entobat says:

        independent counsel for officer shootings & change laws that require prosecutors to disprove affirmative defenses to require defense counsel to instead prove them (e.g., my understanding of the acquittal in Phillip Castillo’s shooting is that it was due to the officer raising the possibility that Castillo was reaching towards the gun and the prosecutor being unable to rebut it–the burden in that scenario should be on the defense to prove there was a reach)

        My understanding is that neither of these is “easy”—police unions fight pretty hard against such changes.

        • herbert herberson says:

          I was grading on a curve–objectively, it’s still a tall order, but compared to the vague and practically-difficult task of “changing the culture” or the political impossibility of gun control broad enough to assuage officer fears, it’s a hellovalot easier.

          • albatross11 says:

            My intuition is that the point at which the cop has shot someone is the wrong place to try to fix the problem. Instead, we[1] should probably be looking at training and equipment and rules of engagement and procedures for traffic stops and such.

            My reasoning:

            a. Most bad police shootings look like panic reactions to me. If you’re scared and in a panic, the deterrent effect of a higher probability of going to prison is probably not all that effective at changing your behavior.

            b. Trying to send cops to jail when they panic and kill some innocent person is about the *hardest* reform I can imagine here. Police unions, law-and-order voters, and the whole criminal justice system’s bias toward the police are all aligned to resist this, plus the policeman has a massive personal incentive to spend every effort avoiding jail time.

            c. It seems like there are other places where people are likely to panic and screw things up horribly, and the best solution I know of is to design good procedures and equipment to make screwing up less likely, and to train people in ways that makes them less likely to screw up.

            Also, this is a way I can see to circumvent the culture-war aspects of the problem–stop it being the police vs the activists, and start it being more like a collaboration where the goal is at least broadly supported by everyone. (Even though the police are likely to complain about the bullshit extra training and Mickey-Mouse procedures the mayor and police chief is pushing on them.)

            [1] By “we,” I mean criminologists and police chiefs and attorneys general and stuff–I certainly don’t have the expertise to have a strong opinion on much of this stuff.

      • gbdub says:

        The fact that the casualties are currently measured in “multiple dead civilians per dead cop” rather than the other way around, rather puts the lie to the idea that most cops are in imminent danger when they shoot, doesn’t it?

        Cops have backup, often body armor, a direct link to medical support, and extremely sympathetic court systems on their sides, while civilians have none of those. Cops really need to be held to the same standard as civilians when it comes to shooting in self defense. If a weapon is not plainly visible, and being brandished in a manner threatening to somebody, then it’s a bad shoot. “I feared for my life because he moved his hand toward an area where maybe a gun might be, even though he was probably just unbuckling his seatbelt or getting his ID out of his wallet” is bullshit. And that’s just Castille, not even this most recent case of blowing away a pajama’d Australian woman.

        Sure, if Castille had been reaching for a gun, Yanez needed to act instantly or he was dead. But that standard would allow cops to shoot almost literally anyone they interact with.

        Yes, this standard will probably result in more cops being shot. But it will probably result in fewer people shot in total, and many fewer dead civilians.

        One interesting (but will never happen obviously) proposal I saw was basically to make any police shooting, good or not, an automatic career ender. You put a bullet in someone, you go on desk duty, no overtime, no promotions, for the rest of your career, or you leave the force. If there’s a situation dangerous enough that shooting is likely, you call in SWAT, who’d not be held to quite the same standard.

        Not sure that would work, but really we just need to find some way to make the cop reach for the trigger as their very last option and only in truly dire need, rather than rush into every situation guns blazing. See the Tamir Rice shooting, where the time from “cop arrives” to “dead kid” is basically a second.

        End the drug war and no-knock raids. Raid the wrong house? Shoot a guy you though was armed but wasn’t? Automatic jail time or at least immediate termination. If your judgement is demonstrably that poor you shouldn’t be walking around armed.

        I’ll add that the problem with gun control is not merely political but practical – “if we make gun owners criminals, only criminals will have guns” may be trite, but has a kernel of truth. There are plenty of violent places with de jure strong gun control but de facto free fire zones for violent criminals (e.g. Mexico) that show that gun control might work a bit on the margins but ultimately the underlying violence is the thing you need to address.

        • One interesting (but will never happen obviously) proposal I saw was basically to make any police shooting, good or not, an automatic career ender. You put a bullet in someone, you go on desk duty, no overtime, no promotions, for the rest of your career, or you leave the force.

          That was pretty much the approach under Cheyenne law, for everybody. If you killed a fellow Cheyenne you were exiled from the tribe, whatever your reason. It wasn’t a death sentence–there were other friendly tribes on the plains. And eventually you might be readmitted to the tribe.

          • albatross11 says:

            Are there statistics anywhere on what fraction of policemen continue policing after shooting someone on the job?

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Less extreme version of the Cheyenne Rule: Every bullet you shoot from your service weapon outside a firing range, whether justified or not, costs you $x,000 out of your next paycheck.
          (SWAT members would need to be paid more to compensate.)

        • andrewflicker says:

          Easier to just make a more general rule that guns are kept in the locked trunk and are only accessed after confirmed firearms at the scene. Want to do a non-SWAT warrant search, a traffic stop, a pat-down, etc.? Do it with a taser on your hip. (Tasers can, and do, still kill- but obviously less lethal than a traditional firearm)

          Most of the bad police shootings are in situations where taser use would have been “effective”, as far as targeting/speed/takedown efficiency.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            This would almost certainly result in a lot more dead cops. Or alternately, a lot fewer cops answering 911 calls. Instances such as Castille or the Australian are outliers; in many more instances, firearms will not be confirmed until the moment they’re extremely confirmed and it’s much too late to go digging in the officer’s trunk. Their gun may as well be at home.

          • andrewflicker says:

            My grandfather was a city cop, my father a sheriff’s officer, and my brother as well. I’m not entirely speaking out of ignorance here. I acknowledge that my suggestion would be (somewhat) more dangerous for the police, but I think you overestimate the number of cases where firearms are necessary or advantageous. Plenty of police go their entire career without firing their service weapon.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you pass such a rule, an awful lot of cops will be carrying their personally-owned handguns tucked away under their uniform jackets. If you try to pass a rule saying that cops have to submit to search before going out on patrol, you’re going to face an epic battle with the union, a Blue Flue epidemic to rival the plague, and ultimately a lot fewer cops. If you settle for firing cops when they shoot someone with their unauthorized handgun, or when you otherwise randomly stumble on to that knowledge, they’ll just appeal to the Fraternal Order of Ex-Cops to get them a job as a Certified Badass Ex-Cop Security Professional. In the world you are creating, there will be a lot of job openings for Certified Badass Ex-Cop Security Professionals.

            This is true of a lot of the hamfisted interventions that will come first to people’s minds as a solution to this problem.

          • hlynkacg says:

            they’ll just appeal to the Fraternal Order of Ex-Cops to get them a job as a Certified Badass Ex-Cop Security Professional. In the world you are creating, there will be a lot of job openings for Certified Badass Ex-Cop Security Professionals.

            Unless were planning to grant those “Certified Badass Ex-Cop Security Professionals” qualified immunity this strikes me as a significant improvement over the status quo.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Plenty of police go their entire career without firing their service weapon.

            Repetition #481 for me, across various forums:

            It’s not about actually firing your weapon. It’s much, much more about having your weapon available to be fired. It doesn’t have to be fired, or even drawn, to be performing a useful service.

    • Brad says:

      If the government were serious about getting the number of deaths at the hands of police down, what could it realistically do?

      *Take away thier guns.
      *End indemnification.

      • SUT says:

        Isn’t the main tradeoff the effort put into investigating crimes? E.g. say you go to the Mexican police and say you were raped and present them photos, names, and addresses or the perps. If these hombres are as bad as we could imagine, it’s likely you would not receive justice from the system. The reason being, the police need to be able to violently defeat anyone that resists them. When they are de-fanged to a certain point, they are no longer are willing to go after the worst of the criminals (e.g Mexican cartel). They’ll still bring their weight down without empathy on the average guy behind on his taxes, or who is spiraling into addiction. Seems kind of lose-lose: 99% of mostly good people still suffer under the jackboot of police, while 1% are free to murder, rape, and torture without consequence.

        • Brad says:

          I believe in the UK they have special units for e.g. gang violence that are armed while most officers aren’t. That seems like a decent way to do things.

          • gbdub says:

            Although even then, SWATing and wrong-house raids show that wouldn’t be a complete solution.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            In the really bad countries, the police that goes after the cartels often hides their faces, so the cartel can’t retaliate that easily.

      • SUT says:

        There’s two very good ways to actually reduce accidental shootings by the police.

        1. Neighborhood “peace dividend” – if you live in a community where gun violence is low, a cop’s bayesian priors reflect it.

        2. Don’t play songs on the radio celebrating ‘Cop killer’ that cops then hear people conspicuously listening to on their radio as they drive. Also don’t hold public rallies where people compete for the most provocative chant about killing the police. While the police are forced to stand there and protect them. And really dissociate yourself from people who have you know…die in a hale of bullets trying to kill as many cops as they can.

        If you do all this, I bet these “scared-y cops” are going to be a lot more safe to deal with.

        • Urstoff says:

          It’s that darned rap music!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Any sort of insufficiently positive portrayal of blacks, gays, transgenders, Jews, women, etc in the media will result in increased violence and hostility towards blacks, gays, transgenders, Jews, women, etc.

            Popular artists specifically glorifying the murder of police could not possibly incite violence against or hostility towards police, and only crazy fuddy-duddies think it could.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @CH: I think that you intend the first paragraph as “This is what liberals think, Urstoff is probably to the left of me, so he is a hypocrite”. Assuming that I have correctly interpreted your point, there are two flaws in it.

            First is standard outgroup homogeneity bais: Tipper Gore is against both rap music and negative portrayals of minorities, the ACLU is ok with both, so “the Left” can be hypocritical without any particular leftist being hypocritical.

            Second, you are misunderstanding why why those leftists who worry about portrayals of minorities do so. The worry is not that “insufficiently positive portrayal of blacks, gays, transgenders, Jews, women, etc in the media will result in increased violence”. The worry is that uniform, un-examined assumptions in the media amount to brainwashing. It’s pretty much isomorphic to how the Right feels about Trump coverage.

            The archetypical example is movies that fail the Bechdel test. Movies like this are not coming out and saying that women only matter insofar as they relate to men. Indeed, a movie where a sympathetic character said this would be fine: the audience (and probably the characters) would notice the claim and think about it. But movies that fail the test don’t make the claim explicitly, instead they insinuate it. Personally I don’t think this is a serious problem, but one can imagine it rising to the level of brainwashing.

          • lvlln says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog:

            Second, you are misunderstanding why why those leftists who worry about portrayals of minorities do so. The worry is not that “insufficiently positive portrayal of blacks, gays, transgenders, Jews, women, etc in the media will result in increased violence”. The worry is that uniform, un-examined assumptions in the media amount to brainwashing. It’s pretty much isomorphic to how the Right feels about Trump coverage.

            But one can’t have it both ways. Let’s take as true the empirical claim that “uniform, un-examined assumptions in the media amount to brainwashing.” Then so what? So what if people are brainwashed? People are allowed to think and feel things that are not true. It’s only problematic when those untrue beliefs cause actions that result in negative or more-negative outcomes.

            So if the claim is only that this brainwashes people, then it’s a really weak complaint that deserves basically no attention paid to it. In order for the complaint to actually mean something, it has to imply some change in behavior, e.g. increased violence (increased violence isn’t the only possible negative outcome, but it’s admittedly one that gets talked about often).

            If the claim of “brainwashing” also implies that that “brainwashing” will lead to the brainwashed to act in different ways that lead to worse outcomes, then the claim that it’s just brainwashing is no different than the claim that it will lead to worse outcomes. You can’t have it both ways.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think Tipper Gore has much influence these days.

            We are not as rational as we think we are. We are susceptible to propaganda. Advertising works on us, too. If you bombard people with negative propaganda about Jews, they start to dislike and distrust Jews. We should therefore be careful about negative propaganda about Jews.

            If you bombard people with negative propaganda about cops, people start to dislike and distrust cops. We should therefore be careful about negative propaganda about cops.

            Rap music that glorifies cop killers and chants of “what do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!” are not harmless any more than are marchers screaming for dead Jews.

          • Urstoff says:

            Ice-T: propaganda specialist (and apparently perceived by some SSC commenters as way more popular than he is).

            Although this song is pretty good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlk7o5T56iw

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s fair to say that Tipper Gore has lost most of her influence, but it’s also fair to say that the mainstream in rap has moved away from the likes of N.W.A and the Geto Boys.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad Honcho:

            This is what makes me really uneasy about the algorithmic optimization of ways of getting people really outraged. It probably has a big impact on some people, and it’s hard for me to imagine being outraged/angry all the time leading to a *good* impact, either for the individuals being outraged or for the society they live in.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @Ivlin: Let me define brainwashing, since I don’t just mean “causing wrong beliefs”. I mean “causing beliefs in a way that makes it difficult for the believer to examine them for herself later.” For example, if you convince me that weed causes one trillion deaths per year and therefore it should be illegal, you have given me a false belief, but it is easy for me to repair; you gave a logical but invalid argument, and once I correct the premises I know to throw the rest out.

            Now consider a world where, whenever a Nazi appears in a film, the Nazi is revealed to be a pedophile or a coward or what have you. As a result, I wind up believing that Nazis are bad. Now, Nazis really are bad, but I have come by my belief in a way that is very hard for me to examine. I don’t think “ah yes, Nazis are bad because their policies led to disaster.” I just get an image of a Nazi leering at a little kid.

            It is unclear whether brainwashing in this sense has any impact today, but On the Beauty of Our Weapons is a pretty good argument that we should be opposed to brainwashing on principle.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think I developed my belief that Nazis are evil out of some kind of holistic impression of all the fictional media I’ve ever consumed. I think I developed it from hearing about the Holocaust when I was young. Which of course is not exactly the same thing as a considered cost/benefit analysis either, but it’s something: there are ten million real people dead because of the Holocaust, and zero at the hands of Ilsa, the She-Wolf of the SS.

            Compare/contrast: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fictional depiction of a Khmer Rouge member, but I’d still take a rather dim view of apologists for that particular regime.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fictional depiction of a Khmer Rouge member

            Don’t go giving Activision ideas

          • lvlln says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            Let me define brainwashing, since I don’t just mean “causing wrong beliefs”. I mean “causing beliefs in a way that makes it difficult for the believer to examine them for herself later.” For example, if you convince me that weed causes one trillion deaths per year and therefore it should be illegal, you have given me a false belief, but it is easy for me to repair; you gave a logical but invalid argument, and once I correct the premises I know to throw the rest out.

            Sure, but all you’re doing is kicking the can down the road. So what if you have “beliefs in a way that makes it difficult for [you] to examine them for [yourself] later,” if it doesn’t actually cause a change in behavior? If the only difference between someone who’s “brainwashed” and someone who’s not is the internal contents of their brain, but their outward behavior as caused by their muscle movements aren’t affected, then who cares?

            Of course, it’s unreasonable to claim that having difficulty examining one’s own beliefs wouldn’t lead to differences in behavior in the future. And that’s the exact point – the claim of “brainwashing” has, embedded within it, the claim that the person would change behavior. One doesn’t get to claim that something is “brainwashing” people while also claiming that they’re not claiming changes in behavior.

            Maybe that change in behavior doesn’t mean going out and shooting a bunch of Muslims or cops, but rather being marginally more likely to vote for politicians who would harm Muslims or cops, but those are still changes in behavior (an empirical claim about the world that can be tested).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Another piece is that people generally have a hard time changing their beliefs, so there might be some way of including how hard it is for them to change their beliefs.

            Teaching children that they need to believe something to be a normal member of their group seems to lead to beliefs that are very hard to change, but it’s not usually what’s meant by brainwashing.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            When we discuss that, it’s usually about making people have the opposite belief to the ones they have now.

            Another way to change beliefs is to make them more or less extremist, while they keep their core beliefs, which is probably a lot easier to achieve.

        • Deiseach says:

          1. Neighborhood “peace dividend” – if you live in a community where gun violence is low, a cop’s bayesian priors reflect it.

          To quote Arthur Smith’s joke from 2009:

          In north London they have those blue plaques telling you where famous people lived. In south London we have big yellow signs saying, did you see this murder?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Many point to ‘panic’ on the cop’s part. What is the science on panic? Is it a real thing? above all, can you screen for propensity-to-panic, and not hire those people as police?

  10. liquidpotato says:

    I put this up on the 80.25 open thread but I caught the tail end of the traffic so I didn’t get much by way of replies. I’m hoping to get more input on this subject. I’m cross-pasting what I wrote before:

    ***
    I was approached recently by someone representing Plan International, asking me to sponsor a girl from a developing country (This is apparently their main charitable activity), to help alleviate child marriage (Because I am a Girl program).

    I tried looking them up on givewell.org, but apparently Plan International didn’t even register on their radar.

    I would like to ask the people on SSC into altruism and all that what they feel about Plan International?

    I’m not an effective altruist. Maximized utility of my dollar for charity is not really my priority. I mostly get turned off by things like the Joseph Kony 2012 thing a few years back where a whole bunch of people with zero knowledge rush in and mess things up, or help fund another person’s vanity like Mother Theresa, or just outright crooks like some of those voluntourism outfits.

    I would appreciate any input. Thanks everyone.
    ***

    schazjmd looked up a site called guidestar and noticed that they have quite a lot of assets. The US chapter has upwards of 30 million, and internationally more than 200 million. That’s hefty. It’s also kind of sounding alarm bells ala Mother Theresa right now, but it might just be an uncharitable interpretation from me.

    I would dearly love inputs, and do humbly ask for help.

    • Deiseach says:

      Looking them up on Wikipedia, they seem to have been around for quite a while, so they’re not some new fly-by-night operation that is going to fold after milking suckers and the donations are “resting” in a Swiss bank account.

      That does not, of course, mean that present operations have not succumbed to the disease of “we are a professional fundraising organisation now, so we have to pay our chief execs and top officers salaries comparable to what they’d get in private industry because reasons”.

      Basically, I’d say examine their website, see if you can find anything online that says they do good work/they should be run out of town on a rail, and use your common sense.

      (I have no idea what you mean by your references to Mother Teresa and since that could very well lead into culture-warring, I’ll just mention that it evoked “huh?” from me and leave it at that).

      • liquidpotato says:

        Thanks Deiseach.

        I remember you are Catholic. I’m only going by Christopher Hitchens book on her charitable work. I am atheist, but I have no interest in bashing a person’s spirituality. I think it is a very boring and irrelevant action, and I share none of Hitchen’s animosity towards religion.

        Off the top of my head, he described Mother T.’s foundations as having the capacity to set up facilities for real medical assistance, but opted to build more missionaries instead. I remember him as charging her organisation as mis-using funds from donors who expected her facilities to provide tangible assistance. He also mentioned that Mother T. has accepted donations from known criminals.

        I have no reason to doubt Hitchen’s investigative work, regardless of what I might think of him as a person. However, if that’s not true, or if you contest his claims, or if I have misremembered, then consider that my comments about Mother T. withdrawn, because, as I have said, I have little interest in pursuing an agenda towards that.

        Also, I don’t really trust my common sense, that’s why I want to ask around.

        • J Mann says:

          Catholic here. I am sure Hitchens exaggerates the case, but Mother Thereas is probably a relevant example in a discussion about informed charitable donation.

          I think she treated the poor with dignity and love, and she devoted her life to it. But it’s probably true that some people donated to her who wouldn’t have if they had understood her mission better. The main criticisms against her – that she was focused more on comforting the wretched than providing top quality medical care, that she opposed contraception, and that a significant amount of the money donated to her care might have ended up in the Church’s general coffers – are things that donors should know so they can make an informed decision on what they want to do with their money.

          I know people on the other side who are conflicted about donating to Susan Komen because she doesn’t want to donate to Planned Parenthood, and Komen has gone back and forth on the issue over the years. That’s fine – there are other cancer charities to donate to, and people who want to donate to PP can do that too. It’s just good for everyone to do their research.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I’m not an effective altruist. Maximized utility of my dollar for charity is not really my priority. I mostly get turned off by things like the Joseph Kony 2012 thing a few years back where a whole bunch of people with zero knowledge rush in and mess things up, or help fund another person’s vanity like Mother Theresa, or just outright crooks like some of those voluntourism outfits.

      My personal experience with Plan as I have come across their work in various places tells me that you would probably be OK with them. They do good work and in places where it is needed. Unless there are some weevils hiding in the upper management, they don’t seem like crooks.
      Whether or not they are effective, I have no way of knowing as I have no idea how much their results cost.

  11. Jiro says:

    How about allowing culture wars in this thread to compensate for the last one? (Or allowing it in the next .5 thread, since any change to this one will probably be too late?)

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Presumably Scott is making the line between CW and non-CW ever-fuzzier, to lull us into discussing inflammatory topics dispassionately (as is happening in the police shooting discussion up-thread).

  12. Autistic Cat says:

    Is anyone else in STEM? Shall we talk about calculus reform?

    I’m a research mathematician who also teaches calculus. I really believe that the current calculus textbooks are neither suited for mathematicians nor are they suited for non-mathematicians.

    Here is what I propose:

    1.We should permit students to use any tool they want except for asking people for solutions online. They aren’t going to have to memorize too many calc formulas and use them anyway. In particular calculators should always be allowed. What’s the purpose of using your pen to calculate everything when computers are everywhere?

    2.Let’s get rid of symbolic manipulations that serve no purposes. Nobody needs to learn how to integrate e^xcos x. Unless you are a calculus student or a calculus instructor you don’t need to remember it. Unless you learn or teach calc or work for Mathematica or other companies and are tasked with programming symbolic integration you don’t need to even use it.

    3.Let’s add real numerical methods that people in academia and industry actually uses. Engineers do not need to remember integration techniques. However they probably do want to know some numerical methods that aren’t obsolete.

    4.We don’t need to teach too much theory if we do not even tell them the real definition of a limit. They aren’t going to need it anyway. If they want to learn formal mathematics let them take a course for math majors.

    I believe calculus education should serve two purposes:

    1.Teach non-mathematicians enough techniques in calculus so that they are going to be able to use them in their applications. That includes concepts, basic theorems, some manipulations and numerical methods.

    2.Teach non-mathematicians what mathematics looks like. Give them some feeling on mathematics. Here I’m only talking about concepts and manipulations but not the spirit of formal mathematics. The latter can only be learned from a formal mathematics course.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I agree with you on removing stuff, but not with adding more numerical methods. I don’t think a lot people in industry are rolling their own, and I don’t think we can predict what proprietary software future employers will want them to know. In particular I don’t agree with allowing calculators. Anything that is both allowed and sometimes useful is required. And then you are requiring students to learn how to use their calculator, which counts as “adding something.”

      In general I think there is just way too much single variable calculus at a lot of schools. I’d remove: trig substitution and trigonometric limits, recursion formulas, any integration by parts more complicated than the integral of x log(x), partial fraction decomposition in degree > 2, and infinite series (but leave Taylor polynomials). I’d want to keep Riemann sums, but just at the level of “hey look, you can approximate areas by covering/filling them with little rectangles.”

    • Corey says:

      I was a big fan of this effort (just Googled it for the first time in forever, to see if it was still around, the profs are no doubt retired) and a student, tutor & grader therein.

      My intro calculus sequence was all taught on Mathematica, in lab exercises. We let the computers do the crank-turning and focused on the concepts. Machine assistance helped there too – you could successively approximate an integration as adding up rectangles under a curve, then fiddle about with the intervals and see how it all converged, for example.

      I thought of this since you mentioned “calculus reform” and that was a term the profs used.

    • There is a simple, intuitive derivation of the fundamental theorem–that integration and differentiation are inverse operations, that the derivative of the integral is the function. My impression is that most people who have taken calculus don’t know it. They have had fancy proofs of things that they don’t understand or remember, not simple if less rigorous proofs of things they could understand and remember.

    • andrewflicker says:

      In general I think that calculus classes should (and increasingly, are!) split into math-major and non-math-major versions. The non-math-major version should be (and increasingly, is!) similar to what you describe, and taken by any number of people seeking biology, chemistry, CS/CIS, or business degrees.

      The math-major version should probably remain somewhat closer to the traditional three-semester intensive program that teaches all the random little formulas and SV stuff you want to skip, and would be taken by people seeking math, physics, actuarial science, etc., degrees. As a math major myself, I’d probably have had a harder time with Probability Theory, Real Analysis, etc., without a good basis in calculus. As it was, I took so much time off between sophomore and junior year (10+ years) that I had to re-teach myself half that stuff anyway.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        Math majors shouldn’t take non-formal calculus at all. Instead formal courses called Analysis should be taught starting from the epsilon-N definition with a strong focus on proofs and deductive reasoning.

        • andrewflicker says:

          I kind of like this idea, AC, but not sure how feasible it as as a university-level change. As Brad mentioned, most undergrad math majors come in with a fair bit of calc already. For me, I did the first two semesters in high school, and only the third at college.

          Perhaps we just acknowledge that the math majors will have had “non-formal” calculus at high school, and start them off with analysis and proofs. Certainly I’d have enjoyed it more- though it would probably have hurt my physics coursework.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            I agree. That’s how it should be done. High school students don’t have majors and it’s fine for them to learn non-formal mathematics.

        • shakeddown says:

          That’s how they did it in my school.

        • OwanZamar says:

          That’s how they did it at the University here in Germany that I went to way back when, but that was such a long time ago (and before they switched to the Bachelors-Masters system) that it may have changed in the mean time. They just assumed that you’d probably have seen some informal calc education in high school, but largely ignored that and just started you again from zero in an entirely formal, proofs-centric series of courses called Analysis I, II, etc. Imho, tt was the correct approach.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            I agree. For mathematicians real, proof-centric Analysis is very important even though most mathematicians aren’t going to do research in Analysis.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          This is also how they do it here, too. (N-Europe.) Of course, the students have seen quite a lot less-rigorous calculus in high school, so they are already expected to have a grasp of what is the derivate and integral and how to compute them for simple trig and polynomial functions, and the modestly bright ones certainly should know how to integrate e^x cos x (immediate application of integration by parts). Just not much in the line of proofs and lots of handwaving on the subject of limits.

          Also, the other departments (except for the physics) are lazy and don’t organize their own calculus courses, so everyone doing a math minor also finds themselves taking these epsilon-delta-limit Analysis courses. I’m not sure what purpose that serves.

          I also second the numerical methods. The particular software and popular languages and libraries du jour change, but I don’t think the main methodology changes that fast, and there are some issues you need to be aware of when utilizing numerical integration and differentiation techniques in the wild.

      • Brad says:

        At my undergrad most of the math majors came in with a full sequence of calculus. Most high schools, at least back then, only offered two semesters at most, but somehow most of the math folks managed to get more.

        It was a while ago, and I wasn’t a math major, but I think they had to take a least one or two sophomore level course (diff eq or linear algebra) before taking the intro to being a math major course which was a prereq for everything beyond it — including the analysis sequence.

    • James Miller says:

      I teach a game theory course that requires one semester of calc. I think that solving for the Nash equilibrium can help students get a better understanding of calc maximization problems, and it might be useful for traditional calc classes to discuss Nash equilibria. The advantage of using game theory is that you can put the students in the role of players trying to maximize their own score, can have them play against other students which scales well in a large class, and can emphases the different between constants and variables because what is a variable for one player might be a constant for another under the logic of the Nash equilibrium where you assume that while have control over your choice variable, the other player’s choice variable is not something you can influence so you treat it as a constant even if you don’t know its value.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I already wrote another comment and was first going to write a longer reply, but then I was left wondering, which level of education we are talking about exactly? High school or university?

  13. andrewflicker says:

    So… first-world Western tech-esque workplace question:

    I used to manage teams directly, in addition to other duties. As a manager, I prided myself on being a *good* manager- avoiding the usual pitfalls that everyone talks about, giving good feedback, supporting career ambitions, allowing for flexible schedules and WFH time when people showed responsibility, etc. I think I did pretty well.

    As part of my own career track, I’m now in a role where I have no direct reports. I still have a ton of close coworkers, and still do a fair bit of training and mentoring and the like, but things are far less formal (plus everyone has their real boss they have to worry about!). So… any advice for how to be a good senior coworker? Simple stuff like “don’t reheat fish in the office microwave” I have covered- I’m more looking for tips on how to be a good non-reporting mentor, or how to help share useful skills between teams, or how to generate happier workplaces without sacrificing the usual targets.

    All of this is probably unnecessary- but I’m an optimizer at heart.

    • Well... says:

      Ask your junior coworkers to collaborate or provide analysis, where appropriate. Sooner or later they’ll recognize your senior-level expertise and might start coming to you for mentorship of one kind or another.

      More formally, you could try starting some kind of mentorship program at your organization, and of course volunteer to be the first mentor in it.

      What field are you in? There might be other ideas specific to that.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Business- ecommerce, specifically. I’m not really having any problems getting junior coworkers to come to me- I’m more concerned with how to be a good mentor once the opportunity to be a mentor already exists.

        • Well... says:

          Review junior coworkers’ work regularly and give candid feedback.

          Discuss their career paths and continuing education possibilities, but let them lead those kinds of discussions.

          Figure out what their strengths are and give them opportunities to put those strengths to use while helping you. For example, if one of them is a strong writer, have him review or proofread something you’re writing: this will expose him to your level of work and the ideas you’re thinking about, and it will give him encouragement and validation.

          The above is all based on my experience with the best mentors I’ve had. If you can remember what made your own mentors great, you can probably reverse-engineer some of that and replicate it.

          • andrewflicker says:

            Thanks, seems like good advice!

            Per your last point: I’ve had relatively few good mentors in my past, and my own working/learning style is pretty idiosyncratic, so I hesitate to universally apply the golden rule of mentorship to my own interactions. Your more specific advice was very welcome!

          • Well... says:

            You’re welcome. Hope it helps!

  14. fossilizedtreeresin says:

    Can anyone recommend good reading materials about memory/ways of thinking?

    I realized that I’m freakishly good at remembering details in stories, even though I have a terrible memory for names and faces, and I literally forgot the name of an uncle that up to a few years ago I saw every other week.
    Adding that to other weird tendencies (not noticing old friends on a non busy street because I’m tunnel visioned on getting home, even when I’m not in a hurry, Almost immediately falling asleep when watching boring movies even when I’m well rested and want to stay awake), I’m wondering if there’s something going on here, and in general would like to have better memory for names and faces. I’m afraid that a simple googling will turn up a lot of BS, so I’m asking here.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Did you actually forget the name of your uncle, or were you temporarily unable to recall it?

      • fossilizedtreeresin says:

        Actually forgot it, I’ve been trying to recall it for a few days now because it’s too embarrassing to ask someone from my family. Also I have two cousins with very similar names, that I also used to see every other week, and I’m still not certain which is which.

        • Charles F says:

          Not sure if you have a large family (this might be less practical if you only have a couple uncles), but I find it’s less embarrassing to ask something like “who had the story about the worms in the spaghetti” rather than “what is the name of this close relative”

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          How long ago was the time in which you used to see them every other week?

        • fossilizedtreeresin says:

          @Charles F

          My family is not super large, got tired of wondering so I just asked my mom, since my parents are divorced she didn’t care too much, but found out my top guess for the name was wrong.

          @sandoratthezoo

          About six years, I think.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Interesting- the patterns you describe match my wife very well- she also has a freakishly good memory for story details in things she read ages ago (always putting me to shame on books we’ve both read), but gets tunnel vision easily, falls asleep almost immediately when watching movies unless VERY motivated, and has bad memory/recognition for faces.

      She does seem to remember names quite well, though. I always assumed it was something like “has a very good verbal memory, so relies less on other mental faculties like attention or visual processing”.

    • J Mann says:

      I don’t know if we have the same thing, but I’m not super good visually. I can quote a lot of Shakespeare pretty easily, but I have trouble recognizing people I haven’t seen for a while and I can’t visualize a map very easily when I’m travelling. I’m great at executing verbal directions – “Turn left on Main street, then drive past three lights, turn right at the traffic circle, and it’s the second house on your left – look for the Minnesota flag by the door” and terrible at instructions that require visual memory – “you know that church by the park we were at last week? Drive there, then keep going.”

      Anyway, for names, the classic trick is to try to repeat people’s names as often as is not creepy while talking to them to associate their name. “Nice to meet you, Bob. Thanks, Bob. See you later, Bob.” I don’t have a trick for faces. Sometimes I actually go back to Facebook or a photo directory to refresh my memory on who in my church is who, or if I’m at a meeting, I’ll look around the room every so often and just think of everyone’s name.

  15. albatross11 says:

    I very much recommend this article about the attention economy and how it affects media and our shared worldview.

    In the great burning of civil society we’re planning out, Moloch has been hired to cater the BBQ sauce.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Excellent article, and a good explanation of why I’m not on any of the major Social Media (SM) platforms. I think it was slightly off with regards to timeline and causation;

      It’s not “the Facebook feed came and destroyed journalism”, it’s “The media F***ed up so badly with tabloidisation during the 1980s that real content became indistinguishable from pure outrage farming and created room for the Facebook feed to destroy the last remnants.”

      I guess this is more aparrent to old farts like me than to people who don’t remember pre-1980 media.

    • James says:

      Nice. It reminded/inspired me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for ages: take countermeasures. I’ve blocked things like “related videos”, “related stories”, and comments on a few sites I use a lot. (The worst offender of all is the “Hot Network Questions” on Stack Overflow, a site which I only use when working, but which I can’t help but click on every time.)

      In firefox, one does this by editing a file “userContent.css” in the “chrome” subdirectory (may not already exist) of your profile folder, and set the “display” property of the div element in question on the domain in question to “none”. A quick example:

      @-moz-document domain(youtube.com)
      {

      #watch-discussion {
      display: none;
      }

      #watch7-sidebar {
      display: none;
      }

      }

      And, like Fossegrimen, I’m not on any social media, for this reason amongst others.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The article claims that the news feed is a major revenue source for FaceBook. This may well be true– it’s certainly near the top of the page.

      However, I pretty much ignore it, so I asked on FB about whether other people read it, and the answers so far are no from other people. I have trouble imagining a large audience that’s intellectually engaged enough to click on the news feed but who doesn’t have much better news sources so they don’t read the news feed.

      I’ve gotten numb to/annoyed by clickbait appeals to emotion, and now I’m wondering if this contributes to depression.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        So far I have 8 people who don’t read their news feed (several didn’t know what it was) or rarely click on it, and 1 who does read it regularly.

        • dodrian says:

          Just to clarify – what do you mean by “news feed”?

          From my understanding of Facebook, and what I believe the article is writing about, the News Feed is the main thing on Facebook’s homepage. It’s the big block of stories (and the algorithm behind it) that you scroll through on facebook.com, which these days is more updates from various pages or ads than it is friends posting. The ‘News’ refers to what your friends or pages are doing, not necessarily anything of great media interest. It seems to me that it would be impossible to use Facebook without running into the News Feed, unless you only use messenger or always navigate directly to a friend’s page.

          This is seperate from the ‘trending’ box on the right of the page, which contains the latest headlines and topics, which if you click on it will show you a couple of excepts from various news sites.

          Which are you talking about when you refer to the ‘news feed’?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I meant the feed with Trending at the top. The article is a little ambiguous, but you’re probably right.

      • Nornagest says:

        I don’t know how high the click rate has to be for it to be a major revenue stream for Facebook. If doesn’t need to be very high, then your experience is consistent with the claim.

        I do know that click rates on ads are very low: a 2% click rate means a very good ad. News links might need a higher click rate to be profitable, though, since there’s a middleman in the way.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I thought that was very good, and I liked the author’s writing style. The thing I would take issue with is towards the beginning he lays out the role of and importance of propaganda in WWI and before, clearly identifying that media propaganda is very, very important in the rise and fall of nations. Then he describes the honing of the presentation of stories for attention, and then comes back to the end about the dangers of the “democratization of propaganda.” It takes to the tone of “there was propaganda for all those silly old timey people, and then responsible journalism, and now there’s scary propaganda again!”

      It’s all always been propaganda. People are only upset now because the masses are paying attention to The Other Guy’s Propaganda and not My Side’s Serious Journalism.

      For example, he takes the stance that the media overplays terrorism given the small number of deaths, and the very low probability you or anyone you know will be a victim of terrorism. One could do the exact same critique of the media’s coverage of black people unjustifiably shot by police officers. Relatively small number of people. Chances you or anyone you know will be shot by a police officer is very very small. Yet this is an important issue that deserves massive attention while only scared idiots are getting worked up over Islamic terrorism.

      He’s right that our perception is our reality. We are goal-oriented creatures, and our brains are evolved not to perceive reality but to perceive tools and obstacles as they relate to our goals.

      • albatross11 says:

        One thing that’s disturbing is that the way we interact with facebook and online ads more generally means that the effectiveness of the propaganda (at least in terms of capturing and holding our attention) can be measured and optimized and personalized, so you can imagine it becoming a whole lot more effective.

        A second thing that’s disturbing is this: At some point in the past, there was a widely-shared consensus view of the world. Some people dissented, but they knew they were dissenters and the mainstream view was different. That mainstream view was sometimes wrong, sometimes complete fabrication. But I think it was pretty widely shared. That meant it could be used to drive collective decisions, and be used as an assumed background for conversations.

        Now, that environment is fragmented. We don’t even have a shared consensus reality anymore. That probably makes it a lot harder to come to any kind of consensus on politics.

        A few years ago, my mom was visiting us. We sat down with our respective pads to catch up on the news after a busy day, and we were chatting a bit as we did it. Her news sources and mine were covering almost entirely different news sources. She’s reading about a celebrity trial and some outrage of the moment, I’m reading about the Greek debt crisis and the future of the Euro. The headlines she was looking at may have had one story in common with the ones I was looking at.

        It’s been many years since I’ve read mainstream media science coverage. It’s just not very good, and there is excellent stuff on the net if you’re willing to spend some effort. (Why read some J-school grad’s attempt to tell you about Zika when you can listen to a podcast where four academic virologists discuss the latest research and what it likely means?) The result, though, is that I have almost no idea what USA Today is telling its readers about Zika.

        I don’t have a solution. I don’t want to go back to three networks and two newspapers and three or four magazines defining reality, and even if I wanted to, we couldn’t go back there. But I suspect this is part of what’s driving the political polarization in our society. When we can’t agree on the shape of the world, it’s hard to plan out a long ocean voyage.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        This is a tiny quibble, but calling it ‘propaganda’ is a pretty but misleading metaphor. This is a failure of free market media – it turns out that outrage pays. Calling it ‘propaganda’ sets the reader up to blame the political parties or the government or [them].

        (To be clear I’m blaming the author of the medium piece, not you)

        • Aapje says:

          @hoghoghoghoghog

          I think that propaganda goes beyond outrage. It’s also simply making the readers feel good by presenting things in a way that (seems to) affirm their beliefs.

          Quite a few media organizations seem to not just do this as a side effect of the bias of their staff/bubble, but explicitly seek to steer their readers to the correct world view. The NYT is a good example, who have very good writers, but also a policy of pushing an agenda.

          This is a failure of free market media – it turns out that outrage pays.

          Interestingly, my newspaper seems extremely non-propagandist, featuring pro- and anti-immigration voices, pro- and anti-regulation voices, feminist and occasional MRA voices, etc. It’s definitely by the blue tribe for the blue tribe, but it’s by and for blue tribers who actually want to learn about the ‘other’s’ motivation, not just blame them.

          I wonder if liking that can be taught or whether openness to opposite viewpoints is a trait that people are born with and that is unchangeable.

          • Tibor says:

            An interesting linguistic note – in Portuguese and Spanish, the word “propaganda” means both propaganda and advertising.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think it’s more misleading to call propaganda “journalism.”

          It’s not a collective “them.” “Them” is owners of the media source you are reading or watching. When Breitbart gives top billing to “WHITE GIRL RAPED BY ILLEGAL MEXICANS” it’s because white girls being raped by illegal Mexicans are Very Important to the owners/editors of Breitbart. When WaPo gives top billing to “BLACK MAN SHOT BY COPS” it’s because black men being shot by cops is Very Important to the owners/editors of WaPo.

          Now it just happens to be that 90% of media in the US is controlled by a handful of major corporations, who all have similar interests. There’s no conspiracy required. When the major corporations are interested in cheap labor they run stories about how immigrants are great and they downplay or ignore stories of illegal immigrant crime.

          They’re still feeding you a worldview. It’s always biased, no matter who’s doing it, because what you pay attention to (those things you think are important) are the product of your own cognitive biases. The error is thinking “my news sources cover what’s Really Important while the other outlets are just propaganda for morons.” No. It’s all both.

  16. j1000000 says:

    I have a question about IQ tests. I took an IQ test when I was in high school because people thought I had ADD (I was clearly bright but didn’t get good grades/show much interest, which is probably the story of a significant number of people on these boards). My question is, psychologists say IQ is very stable, but I don’t think I’d get as good of a score now, only because I haven’t used the skills it tested in a while. Am I wrong?

    My memory of this test was that it had a vocabulary section and a math section — those are two things that I studied in high school but I never, ever do now. I barely read (or, barely read anything fictional with a big vocabulary) and only do math when I tip, so I don’t know how I would still be as good at those sections. In fact, I remember there was a section where you had to memorize long chains of numbers, and I got in like the 99.99th percentile. But I was just memorizing these number chains as if they were phone numbers and found it simple because of the cadence. I haven’t memorized a phone number in a decade, so it seems as if my skill in this area would be nowhere near as good.

    Yet I don’t think I’ve lost any significant amount of cognitive ability, I think I just don’t do those things anymore — I think I COULD be just as good, but brain plasticity or whatever has temporarily lessened my ability in those areas. So am I wrong in thinking I wouldn’t test as high on an IQ test now?

    • andrewflicker says:

      The most common IQ tests don’t have much traditional math, and only some of them use traditional vocabulary subtests, as far as I understand it. Logic puzzles, spatial rotation, pattern-matching, etc., are all common components. The Wechsler, which I believe is the most common, has 10 core subtests: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wechsler_Adult_Intelligence_Scale

      That aside, everyone does experience some amount of cognitive decline as they age out of adolescence, but IQ tests are generally age-normalized, so barring specific medical conditions IQ should be more-or-less stable over time, though there’s a fair bit of natural variation due to measurement noise, health, sleep the night before, etc.

      • j1000000 says:

        This does seem to say it has arithmetic and vocabulary tests, though? Am I misunderstanding? I realize arithmetic is not advanced math, but nonethless when I was a teenager I was doing it far more than I am now.

    • Corey says:

      I definitely feel I’ve lost general cognitive ability over the years, though this is subjective and I’m an unreliable narrator of myself. If it has in fact declined, atrophy from disuse would probably be the major cause.

      • j1000000 says:

        Yes, to be clear, I absolutely have lost a bit of cognitive ability, but I think the decline is mathetmatics is mostly an “atrophy from disuse” thing, as you said, not a permanent loss. I believe I am simply out of practice at arithmetic/math, but an IQ test with an arithmetic section would interpret that as being permanently worse.

        I think my underlying cognitive ability has declined 5%, but I think my arithmetic ability at the current moment has declined 15%.

  17. Autistic Cat says:

    Does anyone here know how to extract text with style information from an arXiv-generated PDF file? I only need the following style information: I want to know whether something is italic or bold.

    I’m thinking about starting an interesting project that can improve the experiences of STEM researchers. If I can get some preliminary work done I’m willing to collaborate with others.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      If it came from the arXiv then you can get the tex file, and you might be better off using that.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        Not all papers on arXiv were submitted as TeX files. I’m looking into pdftotext now however it does not recognize italic and bold styles.

    • AKL says:

      I think pdftotext pdftohtml will output xml preserving the style tags you need.

  18. nimim.k.m. says:

    If I recall, one of the stable results of the SSC surveys has been that a non-insignificant portion of the commentariat finds themselves sometimes depressed. Related to that I spotted an interesting blog post, titled “How I found & fixed the root problem behind my depression and anxiety after 20+ years”. (I remember seeing the author occasionally commenting here, too. *waves hand*.) He writes about his positive experiences of applying the advice and the ideas of the book Transforming Your Self by Steve Andreas.

    It does sound a bit like the usual fare of self-help, so all the usual caveats of self-help apply: lots of it sounds sensible when you read about it, but lots of it is also just-so stories. But it also sounds promising, especially the idea of becoming more, let’s say, content with who you are by adjusting your internal mental frame of reference who you should be.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      One thing that struck me about his story was that he used emotional cues to find out what part of his thinking he needed to work with. This wasn’t generic CBT.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      This doesn’t strike me as particularly self-helpy. It passes my filters for “reasonable.”

      I found the Rawness series of narcissism quite helpful. The way he describes counter-examples to self-concept sounds a lot like a narcissist suffering a narcissistic injury, and the façade they present to the public collapsing.

      Perhaps “integrating counter-examples” is not the best term. Rawness used the term “humility.” Understanding your weaknesses and learning to accept them.

      Rawness articles also suggested not trying to make up for certain formative experiences you might have had when they are younger. Rawness said the correct thing to do was to “mourn” for your prior self, which was unable to have the experiences you wanted/needed. That person suffered, grieving is appropriate, and now it is time to move on.

  19. Tibor says:

    I suppose this would fit into the classified ad thread, but that’s probably dead by now, so:

    Short version: I’m looking for people to go hiking with in the second half of August around Sydney or possibly Melbourne.

    Long version: I’m visiting Australia between the 12th and 26th of August, I’m visiting a friend who however leaves after my first week in Sydney (windsurfing on Mauritius, I guess Australia is too cold for her now). My plan is to go hiking in one of the national parks around there, but from what people told me (even here), hiking is not as safe over there as it is in Europe, so it might be a good idea not to do it alone. I don’t know anyone else in Australia though, so I’m looking for someone who’s willing to go on a hiking trip with a complete stranger (unless you count this forum, I suppose), a group of people is also fine, perhaps better.

    I don’t have a clear plan yet, so we could tweak to the needs and wishes of the group. I’d like to do a 5-day trip but a couple of shorter trips would also be fine. If you’re from around Melbourne and would like to do that, that’s also a possibility, the flight is like 90 minutes, so I guess I could do that, although it would be more convenient to go somewhere from Sydney (my flight back to Europe is from Sydney as well).

    Let me know here if you’d be interested and I can give you more personal info (short version – I’m 28, Czech, finishing PhD in probability theory, I speak Czech, English, German, some Portuguese and Spanish but I guess everyone here speaks very good English anyway, so the language should not be an issue) and more importantly an e-mail address or something so we can discuss things further (I can also send you my photo so you can decide whether I look like an ax murderer or just a knife stabber).

    If you don’t want to join yourselves but know some people who might, please let them know.

    Thanks a lot and G’day!