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OT85: L-DOPEN Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Bay Area SSC meetup today (Sunday September 24th) in San Jose, 3806 Williams Rd, starting at 2. I probably can’t make it but I hope you all have a good time.

2. New advertisement: The Greenfield Guild, a network of independent software contractors you can call for help with various software-related business needs. Free online 60 minute consults available via their website.

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806 Responses to OT85: L-DOPEN Thread

  1. HFARationalist says:

    How will Sub-Saharan Africa develop?

    Here is how.
    http://www.africanews.com/2017/03/01/dangote-ends-nigeria-s-cement-importation-regime-enters-exportation/

    It won’t be because of foreign aid or sentiments. Instead it will be because of hard work and innovation by natives and trade. Cheers to Dangote! He has done far more than any SJW or Christian/Muslim charity in helping Africans in the long run. More factories. More infrastructure. More prosperity.

  2. Kevin C. says:

    So, is it pretty much given that, whatever your position on AI risk “human/technology-generated” x-risk exceeds “naturally-occurring” x-risk?

    • . says:

      I’d say no, particularly if you mean existence of life rather than existence of humans, or existence of humans rather than existence of civilization. I can’t think of anything short of an asteroid strike to sterilize the planet, and to kill all humans I’d imagine you’d need at least a super-volcano or a militarily-useless number of nukes; the former seems more likely.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I’d say no, particularly if you mean existence of life rather than existence of humans, or existence of humans rather than existence of civilization.

        Referring to existence of humans, not existence of life in general.

        To be more specific, I’ve been coming across in my circles people who argue that a reversion to 1700s tech levels (following a civilizational collapse) would make humanity safer, because whatever we lose with regards to losing the posibility of asteroid deflection (which we don’t even have now), or otherwise in protecting from naturally-occuring threats, we gain in removing the possibility of nuclear war, bioengineered plagues, deliberate asteroid impacts, unfriendly AI, AGW, etc. And I noticed a lot of agreement on the weighting of those risks (see, for example, UFAI concerns here), and was wondering if I’m the only one who doesn’t see technology-generated risks as exceeding naturally-occurring ones. Apparently, I’m not.

  3. Kevin C. says:

    So, I’ve gotten a fair bit of schadenfreude from this “Berkeley Antifa” video.

    You’re still white. You’re still responsible. This is your fault. You’re inherently racist. It’s in your blood. It’s in your DNA.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Any chance that was trolling/false flagging?

      Personally I doubt it; I think that’s a demonstration of just the pure lack of self-awareness that’s characteristic of these kinds of protestors. They simply cannot realize that saying “it’s in your blood, it’s in your DNA” is not only pure unadorned racism, but that it concedes one of the more common human neurouniformity opponents’ claims — that behavior is largely determined genetically.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        I mean, I roll my eyes at that quote, but the person who wrote it feels that “racist” doesn’t mean “attributes characteristics (especially not but not exclusively negative ones) to someone due to their race,” they feel that racist means “attributes characteristics (especially but not exclusively negative ones) to someone from a traditionally disadvantaged race, due to their race.”

        And they mean “in your blood/in your DNA” poetically, not literally.

        • HFARationalist says:

          Then “racism” ceases to be a useful term. The more you dilute a term the less properties it describes.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            I’m not the boss of what people mean when they use certain words. I wish I were! But I’m not.

            I think that “You’re still white. You’re still responsible. This is your fault. You’re inherently racist. It’s in your blood. It’s in your DNA.” is risible. But I think that because I understand what the person means (that being white makes me actively and unavoidably complicit in damaging people of other races), not because someone used words using different — and well-established — definitions than I’d prefer.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not the boss of what people mean when they use certain words. I wish I were! But I’m not.

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

    • Mark says:

      Is it bad to be a racist anymore, or good?

      If you agree with them that you are a racist, do they beat you up, or does that end the discussion?

  4. Kevin C. says:

    Since “polyamory” seems to be a recurring topic around here, any thoughts on the recent letter to Liza Featherstone at The Nation by a self-described “Marxist-Feminist Slut

”?

    Monogamy feels antithetical to the type of feminism and anticapitalism I subscribe to. I am repulsed by the idea of being a man’s property. Also, monogamy—like capitalism—requires us to believe in a false scarcity: that we have to struggle for every little bit and that everything we gain comes at someone else’s expense. The kind of liberatory future I’d like to see is one of abundance and generosity and sharing. One of the few places we can experiment with that now is in our love lives. 


    But ALL the decent men I’ve dated are really opposed to open relationships, while the men I’ve slept with who say they fancy the idea don’t ever stick around long enough for the “relationship” part of an open relationship.

    • cassander says:

      Well she sounds positively awful.

    • . says:

      The false scarcity point is interesting. People like to speculate that once we get self-driving cars, individual ownership will become rare, since it’s crazy for cars to spend most of their time parked. Love is a rivalrous good, but it does seem like most loves spend most time in the garage.

      • hlynkacg says:

        It also highlights what I think is one of the most significant divergences between “red” and “blue” culture. She explicitly rejects the idea of struggle/hardship having value unto itself and then acts surprised when she finds herself surrounded by people who are unwilling to put the effort in.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        People like to speculate that once we get self-driving cars, individual ownership will become rare, since it’s crazy for cars to spend most of their time parked.

        I’ve always had difficulty understanding this – do most people not keep anything in their cars?

        • Matt M says:

          Odds and ends, trinkets, and things you need to help improve the driving experience (phone stands, charging cables, etc. which probably won’t be needed in a self-driving environment).

          I don’t think “mobile storage unit” is even remotely relevant to the value proposition of owning a car for the vast majority of people.

        • bean says:

          Me, too, for different reasons. The advantage of having my own car is that it’s mine. It does what I want, when I want it. I don’t have to worry about waiting for a car to come available at rush hour, or trying to hit my pickup window. Anyone who has lived in a house with more drivers than cars recently definitely will get this.

        • Jaskologist says:

          More central planning by childless (and no doubt rootless) elites who haven’t had to wrestle with a baby seat for an hour to secure it in a car.

          • Matt M says:

            Forcing all the parents to stop bringing their screaming, filthy, disgusting, impolite kids to the grocery store with them is a feature for the childless, not a bug 🙂

          • [Thing] says:

            Why bring yourself to the groceries when a self-driving grocery delivery truck can bring them to you?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Even if you don’t use it as a “mobile storage unit” (I can think of examples, but most of them are work trucks or close to it), I think most people do use their personal cars for storage of things for short duration. Outerwear/raingear brought against no longer extant weather conditions. Items being brought from one place to another, while at an intermediate stop. Luggage, while on a trip, before check-in and after check-out (a rental works for this, but not a taxi service, self-driving or otherwise).

          • Matt M says:

            Right. I don’t think anyone is claiming that the value of owning an asset versus renting/leasing an asset is zero.

            The hypothetical “self-driving autonomous uber” doesn’t have to just become as cheap as owning a car. It has to become cheaper. And I think most people who look to a future where people have given up their cars to use this service instead are assuming it will become significantly cheaper.

            Yeah, storing your raincoat is nice. Never having to worry about surge pricing is nice. Nice enough that if the price is exactly equal, ownership still wins. But what if the total all-in cost of self-driving uber is 10% cheaper than owning. Is 10% of the utility of a car due to raincoat storage? 25%? 50%? I think most people are expecting that autonomous uber becomes so much cheaper that it will be the default for anyone who isn’t upper-class, and that car ownership will become the equivalent of flying first class. Still available. Clearly has its advantages. But out of the realm of plausibility for most people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think most people are expecting that autonomous uber becomes so much cheaper that it will be the default for anyone who isn’t upper-class, and that car ownership will become the equivalent of flying first class.

            It won’t, though. AAA puts the cost of ownership of a new vehicle at $8469/year (I believe this is over 5 years). Average number of trips in a personal vehicle is somewhere around 1300 per person per year. So the average trip cost would have to be under $6.50 to beat a new car every five years.

            Call me crazy but I don’t see it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is 10% of the utility of a car due to raincoat storage? 25%? 50%?

            I get that you’re an anti-natalist, or at least play one on the internet, but for people who have children the ability to store car seats, diaper bags, favorite toys, and the steamer trunk’s worth of miscellaneous stuff that tends to follow any modern mother/child pair wherever they go, yeah, that’s probably well north of 10% and probably closing in on 50%. See, e.g., the entire market for minivans.

            I think most people are expecting that autonomous uber becomes so much cheaper that it will be the default for anyone who isn’t upper-class

            Or a parent, but more to the point – is there any rational basis for this expectation?

            Yes, the auto-uber may be in use 50% of the time rather than 10%. Which means it is depreciating 50% of the time. Cars, unlike airplanes, aren’t built for decades of operation at a 50% duty cycle – and if they were, they’d probably cost more like airplanes than cars. A car is, coarsely speaking, good for a certain number of miles of driving, and one way or another you pay by the mile for progressively turning it into scrap metal. You usually accomplish this, even as a private owner, quickly enough that time-value-of-money is a secondary factor. Also, fuel/electricity is paid for by the mile.

            The car that you own, you pay for its mileage when it is taking you somewhere you want to be. The auto-uber, you pay for its mileage when it is taking you somewhere you want to be, or driving empty from where its last user left it idle to where you are waiting for a ride. That’s more miles you have to pay for, which to a first order should make auto-uber more expensive, not less.

            There are second-order effects that will help you. Parking costs, obviously. Maintenance is both cheaper and more effective when done on a fleet basis. And the aforementioned time value of money. But if you’re counting on this sort of thing to not only counter the first-order more-miles-per-util effect, but to give you awesomely massive cost savings on top of that, I think this is naively optimistic.

          • Matt M says:

            So the average trip cost would have to be under $6.50 to beat a new car every five years.

            Is that round trip?

            Because I can get to most of the destinations I want to go to in my city for about $6-7 via uber. At current rates.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            Cars, unlike airplanes, aren’t built for decades of operation at a 50% duty cycle – and if they were, they’d probably cost more like airplanes than cars.

            Why would it be a problem if they go from 20 years of operation at 4%-10% to 5 years of operating at 50%? The latter still means more trips per lifetime of the car. Deterioration happens both due to use and due to aging, so more frequently used short lifetime cars have lower aging costs, so you’d expect less maintenance costs per trip for this reason.

            A shorter lifetime means that new technology propagates more quickly. A higher use rate means that expensive car options are less costly per trip, so people can be offered nicer features at the same cost. So for these reasons, you can expect a nicer car for the same money.

            The car that you own, you pay for its mileage when it is taking you somewhere you want to be. The auto-uber, you pay for its mileage when it is taking you somewhere you want to be, or driving empty from where its last user left it idle to where you are waiting for a ride.

            The owner of the fleet of cars always has the option to have a bigger fleet and have some cars parked somewhere, thereby lowering the average distance their cars have to drive to pick up customers. In other words, that owner always has the option to have their car behave like a personal car, but a purely personal car can’t simply start to act like a fleet of cars when that is more efficient.

            So assuming that the owner of the fleet of cars acts economically rational, they will only let their cars drive the extra miles when this is cheaper than keeping the car parked, so the expected outcome is always going to be equal or better than personal cars.

            There are second-order effects that will help you. Parking costs, obviously.

            The world is still urbanizing. Parking costs are substantial for quite a few people, either directly or indirectly. The outcome that I would expect is that in heavily urban environments, people would rarely own a car. In rural environment, people would normally own one. Then in sub-urban environments, you’d see both, based on needs/preferences.

            The nice thing about uber-style self-driving cars vs personally owned self-driving cars is that the technology is essentially the same, where the only difference is a bit of software which tells the car its destination(s). So there is absolutely no need to choose between one or the other (aside from the network effect making the former more efficient when many people use it).

            @Matt M

            Because I can get to most of the destinations I want to go to in my city for about $6-7 via uber. At current rates.

            And there the main cost is labor, so get rid of the driver and the cost should plummet.

          • Matt M says:

            Not to mention that there’s a certain utility/productivity gain in getting to ride vs having to drive. Especially for businesspeople with long commutes.

            If my 60 minute commute can become 60 minutes of worktime with my laptop, I can sleep in an hour later!

          • John Schilling says:

            Deterioration happens both due to use and due to aging, so more frequently used short lifetime cars have lower aging costs,

            Outside of unusually harsh climates, deterioration due to aging is small compared to deterioration due to mileage. This isn’t going to buy you more than 10-20%, assuming appropriate maintenance in both cases.

            A shorter lifetime means that new technology propagates more quickly. A higher use rate means that expensive car options are less costly per trip, so people can be offered nicer features at the same cost. So for these reasons, you can expect a nicer car for the same money.

            New technology, yes. If the value proposition of Ultimate Uber is that for about the same cost you get to ride in a car that averages three years old rather than ten, sure. But that’s not the same as a cost reduction, which is what was just promised. And I’m skeptical that it is that big a value addition.

            As for “expensive car options are less costly per trip”, explain how that works please. I spend an extra $10,000 over base price for luxury options, and drive my car 10,000 miles/year for 20 years. That comes to $0.50 per ten-mile trip for the luxury options. Uber spends an extra $10k over base for the same options, on a car that drives 50,000 revenue-generating miles per year for four years, for the same useful operating life. That comes to $0.50 per ten-mile trip for the luxury options. Minus a bit because reduced time-related depreciation, plus a bit because non-revenue miles and Uber profit.

            but a purely personal car can’t simply start to act like a fleet of cars when that is more efficient.

            When is a fleet of cars more efficient, to a single specific user, than a fleet of cars? One personal car means there is pretty much always a car when and where I need it, and it’s got my stuff in the back seat and trunk. What, exactly, do you think a fleet is giving me?

            OK, useful when my primary car is in the shop for maintenance or when I fly into an airport far from the one where I left my car, but in that case Avis acts as my occasional “fleet”. Avis gets a very small percentage of my net transportation budget, so I’m not seeing huge cost savings here.

            Show me the math. Where are the huge cost savings coming from?

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            There are a variety of use cases where it is substantially more efficient. Situations with high parking costs and high demand during the day, like is common in many cities. Or situations with variable demand, rather than merely 1 daily predictable commute. For example, people who work at home during part of the week or people who work part-time.

            Another example is that in many places it has become very common that kids are taken everywhere by their parents. Autonomous cars allow the kid to travel alone to sports practice or the game or whatever. A lot of families have 2 cars, where they actually sometimes have a need for 1 and sometimes for 3. So it can make great sense to own zero or one cars and then rent 1-3 cars from the fleet when needed.

            If you want an exact financial analysis for all current car owners, then I can’t give you that, but my argument is not that it will make no sense for anyone to own a car. My argument is that the use case exists for part of the market, which the presence of taxi’s, ubers and snappcar proves already. I also believe that personal & on-demand autonomous cars will change use patterns substantially and that the latter will replace most bus networks.

            Common sense says that fleets of on-demand autonomous cars will be most popular in places where taxi’s, ubers and snappcar are most popular. Then they will gradually expand into ever less favorable environments until the cost/benefit ratio is negative for too many people for the service to be viable.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I think it’s revealing in the opposite way. She wrongly thinks that the scarcity being managed by capitalism is “false,”* just as she wrongly thinks it about relationships. And like the anti-capitalists of old, she can’t figure out why her post-scarcity system isn’t working out in the real world.

        * She seems to be doubly wrong about capitalism’s view of scarcity, which is most definitely not that the economy is zero-sum.

    • Aapje says:

      @Kevin C

      I don’t understand why exclusivity/strong commitment implies ownership and especially not why it would mean unidirectional ownership. Or actually, I do understand why a feminist would interpret a symmetric situation as only harming women, but I reject such bias.

      Her complaint that the men don’t stick around seems extremely hypocritical. Doesn’t she reject ‘ownership?’ The men seem to be complying by not getting tied down to one woman, but apparently she wants commitment from them. So apparently the exact level of commitment that she wants is ‘enlightened,’ a higher level of commitment is oppression and a lower level is wrong too.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’d guess her internal concept of commitment is limited to investing effort in somebody else, omitting the more typical elements of monogamy.

        Which results in a situation which, while not exactly hypocritical, does have the potential (if it isn’t outright inevitable) to be extremely self-serving in our culture, in which men are expected to invest more personal resources into relationship than women. And yes, I am aware this is not universally true, but it IS true that in our culture men who contribute anything less than equal effort are frowned and commented upon, whereas women who contribute less are entirely unremarkable.

    • Zorgon says:

      Man, she sounds so very familiar.

    • Thegnskald says:

      It is sort of a reverse “nice guy” phenomenon. Whereas the guy gives relationships away “for free” and discovers his sexual value declines, she gives sex away “for free” and discovers her relationship value declines. Which fits a certain social perspective about transactionality in relationships.

      But, eh, there are a dozen different ways to characterize her experiences, which we wouldn’t be reading at all if they weren’t unfortunate for her. There’s a bit of a selection bias going on which eliminates any social meaning we might derive from the anecdote.

      • dndnrsn says:

        “Why do the guys I have casual sex with turn out not to want emotional relationships?” is definitely the distaff equivalent of “why don’t girls have sex with me because I’m niiiiiiiice to them?” You’re right that there’s not really hard statistics, but you are far more likely to see either of those than men complaining about all the women who will have sex with them but don’t want relationships, or women complaining that men who are happy to be their friends won’t have sex with them.

        It’s also not a secret that some (many?) men will hold out the (often implicit) promise of a relationship of some sort to get sex, then find some reason to disappear from the picture.

        • Nick says:

          Wait, why is the easy solution not to date a Nice Guy then? Is it that they won’t accept non-monogamy? I don’t think this possibility was discussed in her letter, at least not explicitly.

          • Randy M says:

            Because women don’t just want “a relationship” like men don’t want sex with just any woman–although since sex lasts less time than anything anyone would call a relationship, the men are more willing to settle.
            At least in some of the cases that are complaining.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nick

            I think you’ve got an extra negation in there somewhere. She’s not dating the Nice Guys – the reasons a woman might want to avoid guys like that are completely different from the problem she is having, which is that the guys who will accept non-monogamy do not want to be her primary.

            There also isn’t an easy solution, because heterosexual relationship dynamics have been complicated since having more than one sex developed in whatever species. If there were easy solutions, heterosexual relationship dynamics wouldn’t be the core of a large % of stories, songs, poems, plays, movies, TV shows, etc.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      She wrote a very short letter, Kevin C actually quoted a significant chunk of it, but one thing was very notable by it’s absence:

      What is it that she thinks she’s offering the guys she dates that’s going to make them want to stay?

      As far as I can tell, she wants a good man who’s committed to a relationship with her while she doesn’t commit at all. I know some guys get off on cuckoldry / ‘compersion’ but for the vast majority of guys that’s a lose/lose scenario.

      • Thegnskald says:

        AFAICT, she isn’t expecting exclusivity from the men, so it is an apparently symmetric arrangement; they get the same things out of it as she does. And who knows, that might even be the case.

        The asymmetry arises from a cultural context I don’t think she really grasps, or perhaps doesn’t participate in; for women, sex is risky (in that your are investing social capital in a potential partnership). For men, relationships are risky (in that you are investing both physical and social capital in a potential partnership).

        The “cost” to women of having sex has gone down, albeit not to zero, but the costs to men of relationships hasn’t. (Think of the disproportionate effort and financial expense expected of men.). She may even be “above” this, and pay for her own meals on dates and otherwise behave in an egalitarian fashion, but this doesn’t solve the overall social cost issue.

        Additionally, there is a weirdness point cost – she probably is already deeply in weirdness debt, but most “decent” people aren’t, and don’t want to spend any more. (There is an additional asymmetry here, because again, men are expected to carry a heavier burden of relationships, and it is more normal to expect a man to change for a relationship than a woman, so it would be harder for men to pick up new partners.)

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I disagree about the source of the asymmetry. This seems more fundamental.

          It’s well-known that men care most about sexual fidelity and women care most about emotional fidelity. Insert qualifiers here.

          She’s offering a relationship that promises sexual infidelity while demanding emotional fidelity. That’s just not an attractive proposition for a man.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I’m pretty sure like this was the ultimate nature of arguments I’ve had regarding polyamory with Ozy here in the past. That the situation in general is one that is designed to optimize the needs/desires of (most) women at the expense of the needs/desires of (most) men.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Is she demanding emotional fidelity? I see no indication of that; the general rule in polyamory is you can have as many relationships, sexual or otherwise, as you can manage.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Thegnskald,

            It certainly sounds like it to me.

            I owe dndnrsn for remembering the right word: she’s looking for a primary partner. That’s a relationship defined in emotional terms: fuck as many girls as you like, but always come home to me.

            Some guys want that, as evidenced by the amount of cuck porn out there. But it’s ultimately a niche appeal. The union of sets “cuck” and “good man” is a small target to aim at, and she’s hardly the only woman shooting.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I would guess, given that “submissive” appears to be a far more common quality in men than “dominant” is in women, that there are probably more men who would be okay in that situation than women who desire it.

            But there is no reason for “dominant” to overlap with “polygamist woman” in any particular way, so the problem is probably not that there aren’t men available to fulfill that role, but that she doesn’t find them sexually attractive.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The impression I get is she’s trying to find a primary. She can find casual sex and probably guys who are interested in being secondaries. She doesn’t seem to be considering that within heterosexual dating, men have on average a harder time finding sex but an easier time entering relationships, and women have the opposite situation. Anecdotal evidence bears this out: Men tend to complain that they can enter relationships but cannot get sex (“I’m a nice guy and it’s not faiiiiir“) or complain that women start pushing for a relationship once in a casual-sex situation; women tend to complain that men they thought were friends (interested in a non-sexual relationship) turn out to want sex and get pissy when that’s not on the table, or that men who seemed to be giving out relationship signals hit it and quit it – look at complaints about “fuckboys” or “softboys” (the latter using some emotionally-grounded excuse to exit a relationship that might be getting serious; it can be read as being nasty to guys with emotional issues, but it is not a secret that some guys do this, consciously or not).

        Given this disparity, there is an obvious exchange. Women who want relationships might hold out sex until there’s a relationship or the explicit promise thereof (this is old fashioned), the implicit promise of a relationship, or have sex and then try to leverage that into a relationship. Women do enjoy sex; it’s not a men have x but not y and women y but not x situation, but that there’s a difference in the balance. There certainly are women who just want sex – but there’s also women who want to just want sex, but would be absolutely thrilled if one of those guys turned out to want a relationship, and who once in a relationship admit that the casual sex made them feel icky and used.

        Conversely, there’s men who promise a relationship in exchange for sex explicitly (old fashioned), implicitly, or try to leverage a (nonsexual) relationship into sex (the “nice guy” is where this is going on). There are of course also men who enjoy nonsexual relationships with women – the idea that men and women can’t be friends is a nasty one.

        With regard to the explicit or implicit promise of a relationship, this is where a lot of unhappiness results. I don’t believe many women set out to sucker a guy into being friends with the false implicit promise of sex – that’s almost entirely a fabrication of embittered men. Many men do falsely promise a relationship to get sex then bail. They might do this explicitly – this is a bit old fashioned, but “he said he would marry me if we had sex, and then we had sex, but he hasn’t married me, and now I am a ruined woman” was a trope once. Nowadays an implicit promise is more likely – a guy may do stuff that gives off relationship signals, then find an excuse to bail. Maybe it’s the fuckboyish “whoa we’re not dating I thought you were cool” or “I feel really terrible about this but I don’t know if I can give you what you want.”

        In a poly setup, by and large, the above would suggest an advantage for the woman looking for secondaries and casual sex, beyond just the above: if she’s got a primary, the guys aren’t going to be worrying about extricating themselves from her wanting them to be that. If he’s got a primary, he can’t explicitly or implicitly promise a primary relationship, unless he’s going to straight up lie about his relationship status. The female poly complaint is hers, the male poly complaint is “I sit at home on the couch while my girlfriend is out on dates with other guys.” (caveat: supposedly it is different in the Bay Aryan Rationalist scene, but unless the moon colony is taking off sometime soon, that’s not a group anyone can reasonably extrapolate from)

        Anecdotally, polyamory works best in same-sex relationships, because the heterosexual dynamic is not present.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t believe many women set out to sucker a guy into being friends with the false implicit promise of sex – that’s almost entirely a fabrication of embittered men. Many men do falsely promise a relationship to get sex then bail.

          This implies that women are more honest in the dating realm than men. Do you think this is true? I’d default to no, but its possible and I don’t have first hand experience.
          It might be a difference in communication styles, or naivette.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Well, he includes “sending signals” in men being dishonest.

            Once you include the possibility of women sending signals of desiring sex, you.may get something like parity, assuming you assign women the same agency as men (unlikely, for some reason this makes most people uncomfortable).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Women are not more or less dishonest than men in this regard, but they are dishonest about different things, is the result of my highly scientific anecdatal studies. Where women are dishonest tends to show up in the gap between stated preference and revealed preference in partners (and the extent to which this is consciously “I’m going to lie” or more wanting to want the stated preferences but deep down wanting the revealed); where men are dishonest is in holding out the explicit or (far more likely) implicit promise of a relationship to get sex.

            @Thegnskald

            I don’t mean “sending signals” like “well, she was touching her hair a whole bunch” or whatever, but rather stuff that’s far more concrete – doing couple-y stuff. People don’t generally watch TV series with their hookups or get them breakfast.

          • Randy M says:

            Basically, women* are dishonest with themselves, men* are dishonest with their partners?
            That may be an equal hazard to an mutually satisfying situation, but I’d probably call the former more virtuous that the latter.

            *some, not all, generalizations not valid in all states, etc.

          • Thegnskald says:

            dndnrsn –

            They’re doing hookups wrong, then. There is nothing quite like post-coital waffles.

            More seriously, I feel like that is ascribing significance to the actions of men but not women; watching a romantic comedy with a boy is definitely a signal of romantic intent, to choose a stereotypical friendzone activity.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            I don’t know if I’d put it that simply. And you can’t see into people’s heads. I think that one difference is that the stuff that men used to lie (to others, maybe to themselves) about wanting (“I just want a good wife and mother who has kept herself virginal“) is old-fashioned stuff – perhaps men and women both used to be equally dishonest.

            Or, the gap for women tends to be less commission than omission. Women really do want a guy who is generally respectful and pleasant.* But they might leave off their online dating profile that guys who can lift heavy things and guys who can be a little bit cocky is also something they like. They want their men more bro-y than they indicate, put simply.

            *complicating factor: some men mistake being a doormat for being respectful and being servile for being pleasant.

            @Thegnskald

            Is that something that guys who complain about being “friendzoned” often complain about? “Nice guy” complaints often centre around things that are far less charged than romcoms – stuff that most guys would do for a male friend. Just being generally useful and helpful, hanging out, etc. I think most straight guys would be aghast if a gay or bi male friend was all “I bought you a drink last week and took your books to the library and now you won’t even put out? We even watched Top Gun! YOU TEASE“

          • Barely matters says:

            We even watched Top Gun! YOU TEASE“

            “We gave each other backrubs and snuggled during the volleyball scene! WHAT THE HELL, BRO!”

          • Thegnskald says:

            dnd –

            May I observe, with some amusement, you are considering only the signals the boy is sending there? “I bought you a drink”?

            This is what I mean about agency: You are focused only on what the male is doing, the signals the man is sending. The woman is participating too, and the signals she is sending, intentionally or not, also matter.

            You are treating the woman as an unwilling participant in the relationship, which is an entirely different phenomenon than friend-zoners whine about.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Thegnskald

            It’s two guys in the hypothetical…

            I’m not saying women are passive vessels who sit around doing nothing. I’m saying that some men have a tendency to pick up “generic friendliness” signals from women as “romantic/sexual interest” signals.

            You said:

            More seriously, I feel like that is ascribing significance to the actions of men but not women; watching a romantic comedy with a boy is definitely a signal of romantic intent, to choose a stereotypical friendzone activity.

            And, is that a typical friendzone activity? I don’t know that it is. Plenty of guys who complain about being in the friendzone are complaining about, well, being treated like a friend. Friends do things together. Friends do favours for each other. Etc.

            EDIT: And what brought this all up was me opining that there are more men who are dishonest in the sense of holding out the possibility of a relationship implicitly to get sex than there are women actively trying to “friendzone” guys (I think that the current terminology would probably describe this as “trying to attract beta orbiters” wouldn’t it?), that’s all.

          • Thegnskald says:

            dnd –

            Yes, and you are framing it from the male perspective.

            Having watched a few of these things play out in the real world, I can say that at least some of the women are encouraging the behavior (and at a certain point, are you surprised that somebody would encourage someone else to buy them things and do things for them?) with not-so-subtle signals.

            Women lie to themselves? Man, look at the friend-zoner sometime. They live their lie.

          • dndnrsn says:

            At least some of them are, but I was never saying that none of them are.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The thrust of my disagreement is that women are dishonest in pretty much the same ways men are.

            That we tend to interpret things differently is rather revealing, though, particularly given history reversals on those interpretations.

            “All Women Are Horny” is a trope in continual rotation with “All Men Are Perverts”. iIRC, part of the humorous aspect of Casanova was that it was a -man- going around doing the seduction, in an era in which men were prudes and women were sex-crazed. (Yes, this is a serious thing. “Hysteria” as a term referred to the idea that women went crazy without regular sex, even.)

          • Matt M says:

            Plenty of guys who complain about being in the friendzone are complaining about, well, being treated like a friend.

            I think this is just a little bit off. The friendzone complaint is less “How dare she treat me like a friend” and more “She is claiming that friendship automatically disqualifies one from being a potential sexual partner.”

            Friendzone is less “I value you as a friend but find you physically unattractive. Sorry.” and more “You are great and perfect in every way, but we’re friends, which means I can’t have sex with you, and instead am going to go have sex with a bunch of guys who are the exact opposite of you.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Thegnskald

            Do you think men and women have a similar gap between what they say they want, and what they actually want? Speaking of heterosexual men and women only – gay men, at least, are notable for how blunt they can be about fairly superficial preferences. I’m not sure if lesbians are – do lesbians have an equivalent to “no spice, no rice, no fats, no fems”?

            How would we provide evidence for this either way? I’m not sure what is revealed by our different interpretations. Perhaps we just have different anecdata.

            I’d say that the “women are always horny” trope was an inaccurate one, considering that women back then had far more to lose, for different reasons, than men, and the evidence from different societies at different times indicates that men do the vast majority of paying for sex – the actual proof is that things were similar to today, but with a greater disparity (the combination of the pill, antibiotics, and less social stigma meant that you could get larger numbers of women to do for free what had previously been the domain of prostitutes and kept mistresses). It was just part of a larger cultural perception that women were supposedly irrational.

            @Matt M

            First, there are some guys who are unpleasantly entitled, and who simultaneously interpret friendliness from women as interest, and think that just being baseline friendly should get them somewhere.

            Second, women not being entirely honest, for whatever reason, about what they want would explain the supposed phenomenon of “says she wants a nice guy like you, then goes and dates guys who are terrible.” Maybe she wants to want a nice reliable guy, but deep down knows she doesn’t. Maybe she knows that saying “I like guys who don’t really treat me that great” is frowned upon. Maybe she doesn’t really know what she wants and is surprised that Guy With Tribal Tats #14 also turned out to be a jerk.

            Third, to some extent that’s how you talk to friends. You think when an unattractive woman complains to her gal pals that men don’t like her, or will look for easy hookups but not want to be seen with her in public, that she gets the cold hard truth? “I’m sorry Bill, but you’re a pliable milquetoast” is rather mean.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that the archetypal Nice Guy complaint is that the woman says things like: “I wish my boyfriend was as nice as you.” Then the Nice Guy interprets this as an indication that he is boyfriend material or close enough that some more exposure will make her realize how great he is. Also, the Nice Guy may feel that the woman in question feels committed to her then-boyfriend, but that given how much she complains to the Nice Guy about him, the relationship is bound to (quickly) fail; whereupon the Nice Guy can propose to date and be accepted.

            From the Nice Guy’s perspective, the kind of emotional sharing that the woman does seem romantic in nature (probably also because many men are punished for that kind of sharing outside of romantic relationships, so they associate it with romance). Furthermore, statements like “I wish my boyfriend was as nice as you” are interpreted as ‘I’d date you if I didn’t have a boyfriend already,’ rather than the far more correct ‘I wish my boyfriend was a bit nicer.’

            As for calling this entitled: I think that it’s normal to have expectations based on how you model the world and necessary to incur costs based on expectations since as autistic people know, being direct about what you want often doesn’t work, especially in romance. What I dislike about the ‘Nice Guys are entitled’ narrative is that it claims that these men are ignoring the woman’s needs and purely look at their own needs. I think that the far more correct narrative is that they grossly misinterpret the signals the woman sends and make high costs based on that, which causes them to feel lied to and taken advantage of when they discover that the woman doesn’t want to date them.

            Furthermore, I think that the ‘Nice Guys’ who are bitter against society, rather than (just) a single woman, feel that they are expected to incur huge costs to court women who don’t obviously signal romantic interest or disinterest.

            I think this is very similar in kind to women who complain that they are expected to date men for a long time before the men make it clear whether they are willing to marry and/or otherwise commit for a long term relationship with children.

          • Thegnskald says:

            dndnrsn –

            And yet our species is unique in a number of sexual ways which all amount to “Women don’t need to be in heat to want sex”

            Which is to say, we should be suspicious of evopsych arguments that women won’t want to have sex as much, given that we have explicit evidence that evolution has primed women to have sex more than is reproductively optimal.

            So, throwing flimsy evopsych arguments aside, we are left with “Wouldn’t it be convenient if the social truths we held today about gender were accurate”, which should always make us suspicious.

            As for whether women are more or less honest about what they want – I think you confuse bluntness for honesty. Women, for reasons of social upbringing are uncomfortable stating outright what they want (this is increasingly true of men, as well, as they have been shamed about having sexual preferences for the last two decades), so they tend to be more subtle. But if you pay attention, they are telling you.

            (I have dated both men and women – and I have actually had more “luck” seducing women than men. The perspective most people lack on this matter is that the way people interact with prospective dating partners is different from the way they interact with everyone else, meaning heterosexual and homosexual individuals only ever really get half the picture.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Which is to say, we should be suspicious of evopsych arguments that women won’t want to have sex as much, given that we have explicit evidence that evolution has primed women to have sex more than is reproductively optimal.

            you, uh, didn’t provide that proof

            but anyways, over here in real-world-oville, we consider not only reproductively optimal behavior but life-optimal behavior. For example, in the olden days, pregnancy apparently had a 1% to 1.5% chance of resulting in death for the pregnant woman. Do you not think that would tamp down on the desire to have sex at least somewhat? Why on earth not? Oh wait, that confirms stereotypes (lines up with empirical evidence produced over thousands of years of observation). And as we all know, that should reduce our confidence in the assertion, for some reason.

          • Thegnskald says:

            AnonYEmous –

            Being evolved to have sex when it couldn’t result in pregnancy – when almost every other mammal limits sexual activity to estrus – isn’t proof that we evolved to have non-reproductive sex?

            So what does it mean?

          • Matt M says:

            Furthermore, statements like “I wish my boyfriend was as nice as you” are interpreted as ‘I’d date you if I didn’t have a boyfriend already,’ rather than the far more correct ‘I wish my boyfriend was a bit nicer.’

            I often encounter the “next in line” situation. There’s one particular girl that I’ve been “next in line” with for like five years over multiple different breakups. It basically goes from “I’d date you if I wasn’t already seeing someone” to “I broke up with him and I need some time to myself” to “whoops I found someone else who also isn’t you” with that cycle repeated like 5-10 times.

            Like, it’s abundantly clear that the assurances of “I’d date you if only…” are complete lies, because the if only has happened and it never results in dating!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Thegnskald

            I don’t think I’m making an evopsych argument. The evidence shows that men tend to look for casual and/or novel sex more than women. Whether this is because of some caveman just-so story, or whether it’s 100% socially determined, it’s still the observable case. The last 50-plus years have seen a movement towards women being more amenable towards sex outside of wedlock in the context of relationships, but also more amenable to casual sex, without pay. The spur for this has clearly been social and medical (and medical is social to a large degree) so evopsycho doesn’t really come into it.

            That prostitution still exists, and is almost entirely men paying women for sex, despite it now being socially acceptable (and less medically dangerous) for a woman to have sex with her boyfriend, or even some guy she just met, indicates that men are more interested in casual/novel sex than women. If men and women were equally interested in casual/novel sex (for whatever reason or combination of reasons), male-female, male-male, and female-female dating/hookup scenes would look similar. They don’t.

            Concerning honesty, I am aware that people in general will leave things unspoken for whatever reason I think it is more honest to say “this is what I like” and provide all suitable information clearly and verbally, than provide an incorrect or incomplete version, while dropping clues. Perhaps there are good reasons for leaving the information out, or perhaps it’s not entirely conscious, but it’s still less honest, in the same way that if you ask me if I like something and I say “eh it’s OK” while making a face, I’m being less honest than if I say “no, I don’t like it.”

          • Thegnskald says:

            dndnrsn –

            Why would you expect the dating markets to look identical?

            Suppose for a moment that a new technology came out that moved 80% of men above the previous median attractiveness level – would you expect the sexual marketplace to look the same, since casual sex requires both a man and a woman?

          • Matt M says:

            You didn’t ask me, but I say yes, it would look the same.

            The fact that women have high standards for male attractiveness is a product of the fact that men who are willing to have sex with an average woman are a non-scarce resource. There’s an infinite supply of them. Making men more attractive would do nothing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I said similar, not identical.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Matt –

            Well, our own social convention flipped shortly after a bunch of returning soldiers brought back ideas about makeup and shaving. I think these may be related.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Being evolved to have sex when it couldn’t result in pregnancy – when almost every other mammal limits sexual activity to estrus – isn’t proof that we evolved to have non-reproductive sex?

            but clearly we humans can in fact get pregnant outside of estrus

            which makes it more likely that humans just evolved the ability to reproduce outside of estrus and that behaviors shifted

        • Creutzer says:

          She doesn’t seem to be considering that within heterosexual dating, men have on average a harder time finding sex but an easier time entering relationships, and women have the opposite situation.

          Under the plausible assumption that a relationship entails sex, this is impossible. Did you mean: for women it’s easier to find sex than it is for men, and for men it is easier to find a relationship than it is for women?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      There’s a “seize the means of reproduction” joke in here somewhere, but I’m not clever enough to find it…

  5. THIS IS NOT A DUPLICATE COMMENT! PLEASE ACCEPT POSTING!

    I think Caplan uses one justification for welfare and seems to assume it is the only one.

    I support welfare, but I’ve never thought of it as an extended warranty or insurance. I’ve never taken welfare and I very much doubt I ever will. I have always been very careful with my money, and can think of very few scenarios where I would be poor enough to need it. In fact, I would be somewhat horrified to be dependent on survival from the government.

    I am in favor of welfare because I think our society is wealthy enough that we shouldn’t have people dying in the streets. Yes, welfare involves coercion, forcing people to support the poor when they might not otherwise agree to do this. But in my mind, the level of coercion required for the survival of the poor is low enough that it is not as bad as people dying from lack of food, shelter, etc. It is true that private charity would pick up much of this burden in the absence of government welfare, but I don’t think it is worth the chance that private welfare is not sufficient. It is also true that government welfare does not remove all uncertainty that the poor will die from lack of resources, but it does lower the possibility. Government welfare does not proscribe there also being private charity.

    I don’t know if my point of view is held by more or less than those that think of welfare as insurance, but I know it is held by at least a large minority. My guess is it is held by the majority. Caplan’s arguments are a straw man to a certain extent.

    Edit: Sorry for the scream at the top, but I tried to post this about a dozen times, so I was yelling at the web site, not the people. I tried to put this under Ony’s welfare post, but for some reason this website has taken a dislike to me and won’t do what I ask it to do.

    • Matt M says:

      I am in favor of welfare because I think our society is wealthy enough that we shouldn’t have people dying in the streets.

      Have you been on any streets lately? There are still tons of poor/crazy/sick/disabled people out there. I guess before they literally DIE they can stumble into an ER and get treatment, but the idea that welfare prevents horrible outcomes is clearly wrong.

      • . says:

        I think we should take the dying-in-the-streets example more seriously. It’s expensive to keep the ER open to every poor/crazy/sick/disabled person. And then you start wondering who will pay for it, and whether you should require everyone to have medical insurance so the hospitals don’t get stuck holding the bag…

        • Matt M says:

          and whether you should require everyone to have medical insurance

          Gonna guess the threat of withholding tax refunds doesn’t do much to the homeless schizophrenics of the world.

      • DocKaon says:

        There is very little actual welfare in the United States, if you’re a childless adult. Unless you can qualify for something based on disability, once unemployment insurance runs out you’re on your own. Since the 1990’s welfare reform, basically everything is time limited and connected to work requirements. All of which requires navigating a complex bureaucracy, which if you can manage you’re probably capable of getting work in the first place. In these debates people tend to have an image of welfare which hasn’t been true in 20+ years, if it ever was.

        • John Schilling says:

          There is very little actual welfare in the United States, if you’re a childless adult. Unless you can qualify for something based on disability, once unemployment insurance runs out you’re on your own.

          And everybody can qualify for something based on disability, if they spend enough time pestering doctors and bureaucrats, which they can afford to do if they are unemployed and collecting unemployment insurance while it lasts.

          So there’s a great deal of actual welfare in the United States; what we’re short on is nominal welfare, having short-sightedly decided that we were going to cheer and vote for politicians who cracked down on “things called welfare”. Problem is, the thing that we pointedly don’t call welfare but really mostly is, came bundled with a requirement that anyone who signs up basically has to promise to never work again even if they can find a job.

          But it has a better name, so we’re going to stick with it.

      • Have you been on any streets lately? There are still tons of poor/crazy/sick/disabled people out there. I guess before they literally DIE they can stumble into an ER and get treatment, but the idea that welfare prevents horrible outcomes is clearly wrong.

        I am curious if you have seen anyone die in the streets. I have not. I live in Minneapolis, a medium sized city, and we have our share of poor people. Government welfare in the US is insanely complicated and inefficient, but it does add up to a lot of money. When I see “homeless” people holding up signs asking for money, they don’t look particularly bereft, and many of them are dressed better than me. The ones that do look in bad shape are that way mostly because of their history of drug / alcohol abuse, not their lack of funds, IMO. If we didn’t have government welfare, I think I’d see people in worse shape. And if we had a more rational welfare system (not the dozens of programs, but simply giving money to the poor), we’d see even fewer.

    • Thegnskald says:

      To take the devil’s advocate position: What if welfare increases, rather than decreases, suffering?

      There are several possible paths for this:

      First, you may be redirecting resources that would otherwise be invested in capital goods into dead-end consumption, so that tomorrow is sufficiently worse, compared to the scenario where welfare wasn’t conducted, that any gain is offset by the loss. Consider that the “excess” wealth we enjoy today might not be here if we had diverted resources from capital growth into welfare in the past. Consider more that most of the current capital growth tends to get targeted at the poorest politically stable regions, where return on investment tends to be highest.

      Second, you may be encouraging risky behavior; somebody may take risks they wouldn’t otherwise take, given a safety net to fall upon. Certainly drivers adjust their risk according to their perception of their safety, it may be that you increase the need for welfare by offering it.

      Third, you may get more of what you pay for – that is, welfare may incentive people to get on welfare. Certainly there is the idea, in poorer communities (Appalachians, for example), that lifelong disability is something of a winning lottery ticket; welfare may only truly function as long as there is a strong social element of shame to it, and that shame may be unsustainable, resulting in a culture that encourages welfare-oriented life paths, particularly in the poorest communities, which could destroy the cultural institutions which would allow them to escape poverty.

      Those are the three broad arguments against welfare in the general case that I am aware of; there might be others. They share a theme of “welfare doesn’t actually improve things”, although the specifics vary.

      • IrishDude says:

        State welfare crowds out at least some private charity. One advantage of private charity is there’s competition for charitable contributions, and this encourages innovation in developing solutions to the causes of poverty as well as the symptoms of poverty, to the extent donors actually value those things.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I think the “insurance” argument might apply there – it may crowd out private charity, but it provides stability and continuity instead of flexibility and creative destruction. At that point you are balancing goods/values, and I am uncertain if the argument has the potential to change anyone’s mind. (Anybody favoring flexibility and creative destruction is probably already against government welfare for other reasons, anyone who favors stability and continuity will probably already be for it for still others.)

      • Aapje says:

        @Thegnskald

        Second, you may be encouraging risky behavior; somebody may take risks they wouldn’t otherwise take, given a safety net to fall upon. Certainly drivers adjust their risk according to their perception of their safety, it may be that you increase the need for welfare by offering it.

        This really depends on the type of risks and how often it pays off. You can just as easily argue the opposite: people will be more willing to take risks that grant them high incomes and/or provide great benefit for society.

        • Thegnskald says:

          That presupposes there is a great wealth of people who would otherwise be inadequately utilized by society because they are too risk-averse, and the specific way they are risk averse is that they don’t want to starve to death or die of disease, so are afraid of taking risks.

          This doesn’t look true of the middle or upper classes; they are risk averse about losing their middle or upper class lifestyle, being saved from starvation isn’t even in their risk assessments.

          If this were true of the lower classes, welfare should increase class mobility for them specifically. Does it?

          • rlms says:

            “This doesn’t look true of the middle or upper classes; they are risk averse about losing their middle or upper class lifestyle, being saved from starvation isn’t even in their risk assessments.”
            That is true because welfare stops them having to worry about starvation. I agree that the positive effect of that probably isn’t large, since most middle-class people who took a risk that didn’t pay off would turn to their family and friends before getting welfare.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            My perception is that for the American middle class, healthcare insurance is the safety net they often base their decisions on. As in: being unwilling to start their own business or work for small employers that don’t offer good healthcare insurance.

      • Yes I agree that government welfare does have downsides. Actually the things you list are the same downsides of private charity. By giving people money today, we will have a slightly poorer society tomorrow. If we wanted to maximize the wealth of society tomorrow, we’d cut off welfare and penalize private charity for the disabled and those unwilling to work, and encourage them all to die, so we don’t have to support them in the future. There is a clear trade-off, in my view, between welfare today and wealth tomorrow. I think the fair compromise is to provide enough to live off today, but not to live well. Obviously, everyone has a different idea of what is enough to live on, and what is too much welfare. So I don’t have a clear answer to how much welfare, but I think there should be some.

    • IrishDude says:

      I am in favor of welfare because I think our society is wealthy enough that we shouldn’t have people dying in the streets. Yes, welfare involves coercion, forcing people to support the poor when they might not otherwise agree to do this.

      How comfortable do you feel about this on an interpersonal level? That is, if a homeless hungry person on the street asks you for money and you decline, are they justified in using physical coercion to get money from you? If you defend yourself, are they justified in injuring or killing you in the process of getting your money?

      I think people are much more open to coercion when it’s more abstract. If it’s other people doing the coercing in a far off, more invisible way, or when the threat of coercion is credible enough that actual coercion needs to rarely be used, it seems more justifiable to people than when the coercion is right in front of their face.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I think you have a bit of central mind fallacy going there – most people are perfectly comfortable with some level of coercion, many with quite high levels.

        The difference is who is using the coercion; you can view it as a status hierarchy if you wish, that is probably approximately the internal framework in use, because it comes down to higher-status people get to use coercion on lower-status people. (Where status depends on your perspective; think of the many leftists who seem basically okay with leftist violence against the right-wing, but horribly offended by right-wing violence against the left wing.)

        There are very few people who couldn’t think of one person who they think could be improved by a good beatdown.

        • IrishDude says:

          most people are perfectly comfortable with some level of coercion, many with quite high levels.

          I agree. But for most people, this is usually more strictly confined to self-defense type situations with coercion being justified against aggressors. The context of my post was about the use of coercion to assist people that are economically struggling. There, I think how abstract and distant the coercion is makes a difference in how morally justified people think it is. This isn’t to say that other factors don’t matter to people too, just that distance from the coercion is one factor.

          The difference is who is using the coercion; you can view it as a status hierarchy if you wish, that is probably approximately the internal framework in use, because it comes down to higher-status people get to use coercion on lower-status people.

          In the context of the homeless hungry person asking people for money, do you think they’d feel that coercion would be justified against them if the homeless person got Rick, a higher status person from the “victim’s” perspective, to use force against them on the homeless persons’s behalf?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Imagine this scene: An emaciated child watching an overweight man eat a pile of hamburgers. Suddenly, an angry woman in a nice dress walks over, slaps the man, calls him a selfish asshole, and takes a hamburger and gives it to the child.

            We can substitute in a superhero, with the violence implied and a heroic speech about responsibility, or any other sufficiently and obviously high-class person. One key is that violence itself is lower-class, although an implication is not.

          • IrishDude says:

            Care to address the scene that I stipulated?

            I’ll address yours: Switching from hungry to emaciated and adult to child makes morally relevant differences to the justified use of coercion. In your scenario, the status difference between the nicely dressed woman and the emaciated child don’t have any moral relevance to me, as I think the emaciated child is justified in taking the hamburger herself.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Rick doesn’t seem like a very high-status person. Saying he is high status makes him feel low status, and indeed, “high status” in my social groups is low status, because you’re performing normality or whatever.

            And if you are okay with emaciated children coercively taking food, you’ve lost the fundamental argument against generalized coercion; what makes it worse if this morally acceptable action is farmed out to the government to engage in?

          • IrishDude says:

            Rick doesn’t seem like a very high-status person.

            The hypothetical stipulates he’s high-status from the victim’s perspective, but you can respond to the hypothetical by thinking of Rick as high-status from your perspective.

            And if you are okay with emaciated children coercively taking food, you’ve lost the fundamental argument against generalized coercion; what makes it worse if this morally acceptable action is farmed out to the government to engage in?

            I don’t have a fundamental argument against generalized coercion, if by that you mean an argument that coercion is never justified. I believe in a strong non-aggression presumption, that can be violated in rare circumstances. I think this is what most people believe and how they behave in their interpersonal interactions.

            As to outsourcing, I think that if coercion is justified in a particular circumstance, say physically stopping someone from robbing you, then outsourcing the physical coercion to someone more capable can also be justified. I think most things the State does are in violation of most people’s interpersonal norms, and if it only engaged in behavior that accorded with people’s interpersonal norms, it wouldn’t be a State anymore. To me, the State requires political authority, and political authority requires some group of people being perceived to have special moral status to act in ways that would be considered wrong if done by non-state agents.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The issue is that I am talking about a personal perspective – it may seem ridiculous and abusive.to an outsider if Rick is the victim’s preacher, but within the local context, it would probably be acceptable.

            I changed the example so that it would be the right situation and status for a relatively generic audience; it is the same situation, but the apparent moral valence changed.

            So, let’s take your original situation, leave the actors alone, and change the situation.

            Our homeless person has stumbled into an outdoor eatery, obviously emaciated, from the forest it looks into. He lunges for the victim’s food, who pulls.it away; Rick, the victim’s preacher, who for reason was standing nearby, chastizes our victim for selfishness, grabs his food, and gives it to the homeless man.

            If this is acceptable, given the coercion involved, I cannot see how welfare isn’t, at least for some level of welfare; obviously this justification is limited to a minimal standard of living, but it suffices at least for that.

          • IrishDude says:

            Our homeless person has stumbled into an outdoor eatery, obviously emaciated, from the forest it looks into. He lunges for the victim’s food, who pulls.it away; Rick, the victim’s preacher, who for reason was standing nearby, chastizes our victim for selfishness, grabs his food, and gives it to the homeless man.

            If this is acceptable, given the coercion involved, I cannot see how welfare isn’t, at least for some level of welfare; obviously this justification is limited to a minimal standard of living, but it suffices at least for that.

            Here’s some details that would be morally relevant to me: At or near this outdoor eatery, is there a charity providing meals that are accessible to the homeless man? If not, did the homeless man ask the victim for his food first? If so and the victim refused, is Rick capable of buying food for the homeless person? If not, then Rick is probably justified in his actions. Still, if possible I think there is probably some obligation on Rick or the homeless person’s part to try to compensate the victim at a future point if possible.

            In other words, I think all reasonable non-coercive solutions should be explored first before coercion becomes justified, and that if theft is used then it creates an obligation to compensate at a future point if possible.

            I don’t think state welfare meets those criteria so don’t find it justified. Also, emaciation due to hunger is almost non-existent in the first world and likely would be in the absence of state welfare, making the premises of this scenario something that would be very rarely satisfied in first world countries.

            EDIT: Also, to the extent the State is morally justified to engage in a particular act (like welfare), I think this implies private parties are also justified in engaging in that act. And if the State is just acting in a way that would be morally justifiable based on interpersonal norms people have, I don’t think it’s a State.

          • Thegnskald says:

            We can engage in moral whiplashing for a while – my point is that there is a general principle under which coercion is acceptable to provide for welfare. We can move the situation across a line and back by adding details, but the line exists.

            Now, you may personally believe that hunger isn’t a good enough reason, but starvation is, but at this point we’re merely quibbling over the price that non-coercion gets sold at. There isn’t a moral principle you can point at, just intuition, and other people’s intuitions differ. So somebody else can legitimately disagree with you about where that line should be drawn.

            And once we have the line, we can simply it to “When needs exceed X, and costs to satisfy them fall below Y, it is moral to satisfy those needs.”. And having a government categorize X and Y isn’t any worse than anybody else doing so.

            Which all leads to my substantive point: The NAP is either sacrosanct, or it is for sale for the right moral price.

      • rlms says:

        “If it’s other people doing the coercing in a far off, more invisible way, or when the threat of coercion is credible enough that actual coercion needs to rarely be used, it seems more justifiable to people than when the coercion is right in front of their face.”
        It doesn’t just *seem* more justifiable, it *is* more justifiable. Hardly anyone considers coercion to be a first-class object; most people use a combination of good/harm, rights violations, and justice/injustice to make moral evaluations. At best, freedom from coercion is just one of the rights in a long list, and not one a particularly high-priority one at that.

        • IrishDude says:

          It doesn’t just *seem* more justifiable, it *is* more justifiable.

          I want to be clear on your claims. Are you claiming
          1) if a particular act of coercion is unjustified when it happens in front of you, it becomes more justified the further away from you it happens?
          2) if a particular act of coercion if unjustified, threatening to engage in that coercion can be justified?

          If my restatements aren’t capturing your claims accurately, can you clarify?

          At best, freedom from coercion is just one of the rights in a long list, and not one a particularly high-priority one at that.

          In interpersonal relations, it’s one of the highest priority rules most people believe: don’t hit, don’t steal. Most other rules of interpersonal interaction fall lower down the priority list than not using aggressive violence against others. The exceptions people make to the prohibition on aggressive interpersonal violence, where other considerations trump that norm, are rare. That’s my observed experience, but perhaps your experience is different?

          • rlms says:

            1) No.
            2) Yes. I consider the implicit threats used to make people pay taxes to be justified, but if everyone suddenly stopped paying taxes I would have moral doubts about the government following through on those threats.
            Also 3) “more invisible” threats are more justifiable. I pay taxes ultimately because I’m threatened, but the details of that threat are quite obscure. If I refused to pay I’d probably get handcuffed and thrown in a police car at some point, but I don’t know when or how. In comparison, if a mugger waves a knife at me, the consequences of not obeying are very legible.

            I’m not sure how you’re defining coercion. If it’s just “aggressive violence, or immediate threats of aggressive violence”, then I agree that it’s pretty high priority. But if it includes the implicit threat of police violence against people who commit crimes, I think most instances of it are widely approved.

      • How comfortable do you feel about this on an interpersonal level? That is, if a homeless hungry person on the street asks you for money and you decline, are they justified in using physical coercion to get money from you? If you defend yourself, are they justified in injuring or killing you in the process of getting your money?

        You’ve set up a stark example there. I certainly believe that if a person is starving and they have no way outside of theft of relieving their hunger, they are justified in theft. This is probably not the case in most real life scenarios. And theft is better for both the thief and the robbed if it is done through sneakery and not violence. Violence is a bad thing and to be avoided. But there are some circumstances when it is justified. If it is the only way for a starving person to eat, then it is justified. I doubt that is ever the case in First World countries.

  6. Thegnskald says:

    Suggestion for a new form norm:

    Never mention “True, Kind , Necessary” in the context of criticizing another comment.

    I have yet to see it not start a fight.

    Report, if it needs to be reported. Arguing over whether or not it qualifies as needing to be reported is just moral posturing, clutters up the comments, and makes everybody involved look bad.

    Such assertions are almost never obviously true, they are by their nature never going to be kind, and they are always unnecessary.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t think report works in the standard browser interface anymore and I don’t think scott is spending a lot of time looking at the reports that do come through. Self policing is not perfect, but I think it is better than nothing.

      • Nornagest says:

        The question we should be asking here is not so much whether self-policing is a good idea but whether Victorian Zen Sufi Lite cites are an effective form of self-policing.

        From where I’m standing, it looks better (in terms of light/heat ratio) than “you’re being a jerk”, but worse than “you’re being a jerk for reasons X, Y, and Z”. And even the latter’s rarely a good idea, unless the reasoning’s exceptionally tight.

        You can report posts temporarily after logging out and back in, at least on the systems I regularly browse from. It’s kind of a chore, so I usually only do it for Sidles posts.

        • quaelegit says:

          A convention I’ve seen on SSC (and I thought someone pointed it out here but I can’t find the post now) is people just replying “Less of this, please”.

          I like this and will try to remember to use it in the future in preference to explicit citation of Victorian Zen Sufi Lite rules. It’s a direct “tone it down” that is polite, and if the admonished poster is confused you can follow up with an explanation.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        To be precise, the problem with the reports is the latency, maybe monthly.

        I agree with Nornagest.

  7. veeloxtrox says:

    An often cited study is that given two resumes that only differ in name that the resume with the “black sounding” name will receive less call-backs then the “white sounding” name. Does anyone know if a study has been done to see how much of a skill difference there has to be for the “black sounding” name to have the same call-back rate as the “white sounding” name?

    I think this would be a possibly useful piece of information to know, because if a small (say 0.1) increase in GPA is all it takes to reach parity that would be interesting. Also, if the change had to be large (say working for Google instead of Mom and Pop Software) that would also be interesting.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The criticism of this study is that the black-sounding names also correlated with low social status. Yes, Tyrone gets fewer calls than James. How does Cletus do compared to Tyrone or James?

  8. aldel says:

    Can anyone recommend a good charity for hurricane/earthquake relief? GiveWell and the two EA-related SSC sponsors don’t seem to say much on the subject.

    (If you want to argue that I should instead give money to the standard “most effective” charities, even though they don’t (as far as I know) do disaster relief, I’ll read what you have to say, but it’s not what I’m asking.)

    If I don’t get any good recommendations here within a day, I’ll just pick one of these: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/world/americas/hurricane-maria-donate-charity.html

  9. termojew says:

    Is there any way I can get a rss feed of of all open threads including those hidden ? I honestly don’t see the point in hiding them even in the rss feed. You can always filter it.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The system is the way it is because it just barely works. Scott wants the open threads hidden from the front page and the sidebar. He achieves that by setting a “hidden” attribute that also hides it from rss. If you suggest a different way to accomplish the same thing, without hiding the rss, he might accept it, but it’s probably not worth it to him to experiment. (A different wordpress method that is equally easy he’d probably accept. php hacking, probably not.)

      I told feed43 to scrape the archive list to produce a feed of URLs without content.

      Maybe it would have been easier to use the sitemap, but I
      I just had to come up with this search pattern
      <div class="sya_postcontent">{*}<a href="{%}"{*}>{%}</a></div>

      • termojew says:

        I see. I’ve also thought of using something like feed43 but there is no way to fetch the dates. Are you familiar with any online rss readers that would allow me to use them as a caching system ?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          2. I think everyone uses feedly.

          1. Why do you want dates?

          You might want dates to sort new stuff to the top. But the archive is already organized that way. The sitemap is opposite, although I think that there is another sitemap that has recently modified items at the top. Do you have a feed reader that needs dates?

          The sitemap has dates. In fact, the blog has dates in the URLs. But feed43 does not seem to support a pubdate output.

          • termojew says:

            I use newsbeuter between multiple devices. Not having dates means that when I add a feed it’s date is automatically the date when the feed is fetched, superseeding all other articles in that group of feeds (I have a group feed for various open threads related to ssc and lw like the media thread they have on lw, culture wars on /r/ssc, etc). This would mean I have to tolerate the feed list as it is a few weeks and then sync and migrate the cache file for the rest of my life.

  10. wobbler says:

    I’ve been often described as “sweet” (romantically) by people. I’m not even sure what they mean; I’m just (to my eyes) being kind, polite and respectful, all of which (I think) are admirable traits for any sort of human interaction.

    But it seems that being “sweet” is a turn-off for many women. I understand the whole “Nice Guy” stereotype is involved here, but I swear that I’m not doing that. But I would like to know what concrete actions to take to be less “sweet” and more of a “bad boy” (or whatever the opposite is) without actually, y’know, being a terrible person.

    (This is relevant for non-Real-Life reasons as well, as I’m a LARPer, and sometimes I get given a role that calls for me to play more of a “bad boy” type, romantically. And I simply have no idea what to do in those cases!)

    • onyomi says:

      I’m finding more and more applications lately for that saying about “a man (or in this case, a woman) always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason.”

      You probably actually are a nice guy (and I mean that literally, not that you are a “nice guy”), but you should also consider the possibility that people who say this are simply lying to you to spare your feelings and/or avoid embarrassment.

      That is, if you express romantic interest in someone one way or another and the feeling is not mutual, an awkward situation arises. It is typical for people to try to diffuse this by saying something nice about the other person but which, ideally, cannot be confused for an expression of romantic interest. “You’re a nice guy,” “you’re sweet,” “you’re like a little brother to me,” etc. etc. These may be true or may not be, but the reason for saying them isn’t because they’re true. It’s the romantic equivalent of “you’re great at your job, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction.” The first part may or may not actually be true, but you’re likely to hear it either way.

      I don’t think I have much advice on how to be a “bad boy,” but I would say that it’s probably not helpful to think of ways to stop being “sweet” or “nice,” since those things, whether true or not, probably aren’t the real reason the person is rejecting you.

      • wobbler says:

        That does make sense (It’s a good generic compliment without having to actually point out anything concrete), but I’m getting “sweet” a lot even in non-romantic/rejection-worthy contexts.

        I can see that my behaviour is different from people whom I recognise as “bad boys”, but I can’t put my finger on what that difference is. So it’s less a thing about rejection, and more what trying to understand how “bad boys” do what they do and why it works. I _think_ it must be something to do with being able to very accurately parse body language, maybe?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      To be a non-terrible-person bad boy (I’d regard this as mainly advice for LARPing), I think you should aim for “slightly selfish, and not concerned about social conventions.” Not, like, pathologically selfish, but just, yeah, you do stuff first for you, presuming that it’s not harmful to others, and you don’t apologize for that, and if other people don’t like what you’re doing for any reason other than “this is actually harming someone else,” then fuck ’em.

      • wobbler says:

        Hmm, that makes a lot of sense. It’s just a definition of “harm”, I suppose — if your actions make someone less happy than they could be if you did something different, are you “actually harming” them? Is it a threshold thing? An action vs. inaction thing?

        (Also, probably related: I tend towards negative utilitarianism for my personal ethics.)

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          I think that a certain amount of the bad boy ethos is to be pretty individualistic and to regard people as — to a large degree — responsible for their own happiness and state of mind. If I, as “bad boy,” want to go and let’s say go hunting, but you want me to come shopping with you, and it makes you unhappy that I’m a. Not going shopping and b. Hurting animals, then… that’s your problem, not mine.

          (In contrast, if I punch you, or call you a shitbag, then that crosses the line and is no longer your problem.)

          • wobbler says:

            Hmmm, OK. I can do that (in LARPs at least). Thank you.

            Still not sure why behaviour like that is (sometimes) a desirable trait, though.

          • Matt M says:

            wobbler,

            I think that sweet/nice, when used negatively, is essentially a euphemism for “pushover.” Being a pushover is problematic from the perspective of future romantic partners, and probably for platonic friends as well, because it can be seen as lacking the proper amount of confidence and self respect. Also suggests “if he won’t stick up for himself, he’ll never stick up for me.” In confrontational situations it could be seen as cowardice.

            Basically, you have to establish that you won’t always let other people boss you around. My recommendation isn’t “act like a jerk” as that’s going way too far. Find some times where someone disagrees with you, and refuse to concede. Make it about something small, like where you go to dinner or something. Don’t start fights, but assert yourself occasionally.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Have you ever said:

            “Where would you like to go for dinner?”

            And been with someone who always says, “Wherever you want to go is fine”?

            And isn’t that annoying as shit? Like sometimes you just don’t want to make a decision, and sometimes you worry that if you choose a place they don’t actually like, they won’t have a good time and you’ll be responsible for it and they won’t assert themselves?

            Multiply that by every element of your shared life, and that’s why people (sometimes) want to be around a (somewhat) assertive person who takes responsibility for their own happiness.

          • wobbler says:

            sandoratthezoo, I have been around people who “anywhere’s fine” me, but I don’t find it annoying, it simply gives me permission to choose the quickest/closest/cheapest/easiest option guilt-free.

            (FWIW, I find it very annoying if someone says “Oh, anything” and then gets upset when I _pick_ anything. If they have a preference, they should state it. If they don’t, then don’t, or at least don’t blame me when your unstated preference gets ignored)

            As you could have predicted, I’m often an “anywhere’s fine” person myself as I simply don’t care, but I have had to suggest the quickest/closest/cheapest/easiest option sometimes when I can tell they are getting frustrated with me (it would be impolite to continue giving them permission to do what they want, so NU forces my hand at that point).

          • Nornagest says:

            if someone says “Oh, anything” and then gets upset when I _pick_ anything. If they have a preference, they should state it. If they don’t, then don’t

            They want you to demonstrate your regard for them and your knowledge of their preferences by picking something they’d like. It’s like buying gifts: they’re getting more out of knowing that you can make them happy than the actual meal.

          • Matt M says:

            They want you to demonstrate your regard for them and your knowledge of their preferences by picking something they’d like.

            This may belong farther up in the “everything is a test” discussion, but I was once dumped by a girl for picking the wrong movie to watch after she specifically said “let’s watch whatever you want,” because earlier in the day she had told me what her favorite movie was, and because we had watched one of my favorite movies the night before.

          • wobbler says:

            They want you to demonstrate your regard for them and your knowledge of their preferences by picking something they’d like.

            Hmmm. That does fit with the reactions I’ve had (and also the annoyance when I say “anything” and then don’t pay much attention to what they pick. Presumably they considered my response was a prompt for them to demonstrate their regard and so forth, whereas I was actually saying “I am disinterested”.)

            Although it does seem counter to people being responsible for their own happiness and having agency. But I will happily admit I’m an outlier on this and need to learn that “anything” doesn’t mean what it sounds like it should mean.

          • Nornagest says:

            Although it does seem counter to people being responsible for their own happiness and having agency.

            Well, it’s also plausibly deniable. You could have picked it because you want to make them happy, or you could have picked it just because you like the restaurant, in which case it’s evidence that you share interests, have stuff in common. If they want to see you as more independent, they get to pretend the latter’s true, and if they want to see you as more concerned with them, then they get to assume the former. Ideally both should be true: it’s not a great move to pick something you’re obviously suffering through, either.

            That’s in a friendly context. In a romantic context, if you’re a guy, you’re probably going to find yourself making these decisions more often than not, because the advantage of playing the guy’s role in the current hetero dating game is that you get to have more agency and take more responsibility for your own happiness. That is also the disadvantage.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            the advantage of playing the guy’s role in the current hetero dating game is that you get to have more agency and take more responsibility for your own happiness.

            As Matt M’s story demonstrates, that is highly dependent on how much room the woman gives for the man to be selfish. In reality the male role can result in anything from the man always getting his way to the woman always getting her way (there is a wide array of controlling behavior that is ‘passive’), with healthy relationships being closer to the middle.

            But there are a lot of unhealthy relationships.

          • Nornagest says:

            As Matt M’s story demonstrates, that is highly dependent on how much room the woman gives for the man to be selfish.

            No, no, no. You should not mistake “having agency”, etc. with being selfish or getting your way. Everyone wants to get their way; everyone’s happiness in a relationship depends on getting their way at least a good proportion of the time. The difference is that if you’re in a high-agency role, you make that happen for both parties (or at least appear to), and if you’re in a low-agency role, it’s done for you (or appears to be).

            It’s absolutely possible to be selfish while taking a low-agency role. We call that things like “needy” or “clingy”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            Everyone wants to get their way

            I disagree, some people make it their life goal to make other people have their way and ignore their own needs.

            everyone’s happiness in a relationship depends on getting their way at least a good proportion of the time. The difference is that if you’re in a high-agency role, you make that happen for both parties (or at least appear to), and if you’re in a low-agency role, it’s done for you (or appears to be).

            You seem to take it as a given that there is an attempt at fairness. People exist who care very little about that and/or have an extremely lopsided definition of unfair (which is effectively the same thing), some in the direction of unfairness to others and some to themselves.

            The male ‘agency’ role is generally perceived by feminists as being the role which is in power, but this is actually false. The ‘agency’ role gives some ways to wield power, while the ‘no agency’ role gives others. For example, the woman can threaten or do all kinds of things if the man doesn’t act as she wants, like withholding sex or shaming him publicly. A weak-willed man who is partnered with a strong-willed woman merely has agency in the sense that he makes decisions where he only has 1 option.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think we actually disagree. The passage you quoted was in the context of a healthy relationship; I accept that unhealthy ones exist and that there are ways for the dynamic to go sour.

        • Nornagest says:

          I tend towards negative utilitarianism for my personal ethics.

          That might be the problem right there. If you’re unwilling to take chances or assert yourself because it carries a low risk of hurting the people you’re with, regardless of upside, then you’re liable to come off as weak or passive. That’s the kind of thing that might get you called “sweet” by people who’re trying to let you down gently, but it’s not a good look.

          • wobbler says:

            I think you might be exactly right there. And my “sweetness” isn’t just a romantic thing; it’s probably the most common personality descriptor I’m given by anybody who spends some time interacting with me.

            I guess I was brought up that politeness was the greatest virtue (which is basically minimising the discomfort of others), as that’s the social lubricant that makes communities work and people who don’t do that are basically sociopaths. Hence it was very easy to segue that into NU, which at least is a more coherent and generalisable framework than the various laws of etiquette and so forth.

            Now, how to manoeuvre myself into a more assertive ethics model?

          • Aapje says:

            Both politeness and assertiveness make communities work. It’s about the balance. Too assertive means you trample, not assertive enough means that you get trampled. Too polite means that you don’t give people a chance to assert themselves (some ‘struggle’ improves decision making by getting to utility maximizing compromises better), not polite enough means that you place a high burden on others to constantly fight for their rights.

            The (modern) Western model is fairly high assertiveness and low politeness. Straying too far from the average means that you will compromise poorly with the average person.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Aapje

            Spot on as normal.

            There are also second order effects.
            Being vulnerable to transgression empowers and makes the field more attractive to transgressors, leading to others being transgressed upon.

            Spammers are annoying, and they’re only still around because it keeps working on enough people to remain profitable. Don’t facilitate or empower behaviour you don’t want to spread.

            You standing up for yourself incrementally benefits everyone.

          • wobbler says:

            @Barely matters

            Dammit, that is the most compelling argument I’ve heard for not always being polite to people. I shall have to consider that.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Defect against defectors, in the general sense. (Don’t defect against people who cooperate with defectors, though. That’s a purity spiral, and it corrupts useful signals.)

    • James says:

      But it seems that being “sweet” is a turn-off for many women. I understand the whole “Nice Guy” stereotype is involved here, but I swear that I’m not doing that.

      Uncharitably, “Nice Guy” in the sense to which you refer could be considered a motte and bailey. The bailey would be the things that you swear you’re not doing; working out what the motte would be is left as an exercise for the reader.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      You’re right that if a woman calls you sweet that’s typically a bad sign.

      I would strongly suggest that you look into Game, particularly Day Game. Personally I found Bang and Day Bang by Roosh V to be helpful, although there’s probably better stuff out there now that a few years have passed. I heard there’s even a feminist guy who rewrites Game advice with a PC spin (Mark Something?) in case the implied sexual politics put you off.

      The thing is that you’re not trying to be a “bad boy” so much as an guy with options. A lot of what you’re doing, including the dreaded ‘neg,’ is establishing the frame that you’re just slightly out of the woman’s league. That you’re better than the guys she’s been with before and she needs to step up her game if she wants you.

      You could say that self-aggrandizement is inherently impolite but I don’t personally see it that way. I’ve had a fair amount of success without having to be rude beyond playful teasing.

      • James says:

        I heard there’s even a feminist guy who rewrites Game advice with a PC spin (Mark Something?) in case the implied sexual politics put you off.

        Mark Manson, but he’s not as bad a hack as this makes him sound.

      • Deiseach says:

        That you’re better than the guys she’s been with before and she needs to step up her game if she wants you.

        Okay, then the woman should be asking herself “If he’s so great, then why is he giving me the time of day?” If you’re just out of her league as being above it, then she’s just out of your league as being below it, so either you’re lying about being better or desperate/horny enough that you just want a disposable thrill.

        If all she’s looking for is some easy fast no-strings attached fun, then sure, I can see that working; but someone who might be interested in something more, or at least doesn’t want to feel that “so long as you’ve got a pulse and are breathing, you’ll do for now”? Well, I got burned expressing my opinion on “what women want” versus the Experienced Man Of The World before, so I’ll simply shrug and say I don’t understand! 🙂

        • Thegnskald says:

          It makes a certain amount of sense, if you are looking at the subset of women at a location looking for casual sex.

          Such behavior, in that case, is a credible signal that you are also looking for casual sex, and won’t become clingy or emotionally attached afterward.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Okay, then the woman should be asking herself “If he’s so great, then why is he giving me the time of day?”

          Yeah, she probably should. As a rule though she won’t.

          “Yes, all women” is kind of a rude thing to say but that’s been my observation. It works just as well on ‘good girls,’ and virgins, and women who are ‘sick of games and looking for a serious relationship.’ It arguably works better on more intelligent and better educated women.

          It’s honestly a bit maddening that the most common reaction from people who hear about Game is “sure it works in practice, but it doesn’t work in theory.”

        • The Nybbler says:

          Okay, then the woman should be asking herself “If he’s so great, then why is he giving me the time of day?” If you’re just out of her league as being above it, then she’s just out of your league as being below it, so either you’re lying about being better or desperate/horny enough that you just want a disposable thrill.

          It’s not called “Game” for no reason. She’s expecting him to puff himself up. I think people would rather feel like they’ve stretched or been stretched to than settled or settled for, so playing oneself up (but not TOO far up) works without making yourself look either unattainable or as if _you’re_ settling.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t it make sense for wobbler to find more efficient methods of finding a woman who wants a sweet man?

      Assuming that sweet actually means pro-social, and that there are pro-social women who would like a pro-social man, this might work out to being a very happy couple.

      • Matt M says:

        No. Meeting single women is hard enough. Trying to limit the field to “women who like generally unpopular attribute X” decreases your odds of success by orders of magnitude.

        His best options are

        a) Trick women into not thinking he’s sweet
        b) Stop being sweet

        • James says:

          a) Trick women into not thinking he’s sweet

          Relevant song.

        • . says:

          Well, you’re always going to limit yourself somehow just by choice of venue. Might as well make that choice with sweet-acceptance in mind. Go where the Unitarian Universalists hang out rather than the Satanists. Wear more tie-dye and wool rather than Tapout shirts, so potential clients know enough to self-screen.

      • James says:

        I think the key point is that “sweet”, seemingly an unambiguously good thing, actually equivocates between prosocial and something like “pushover”. But you’re right that women do vary somewhat in how much they like this mystery cluster of traits.

        You don’t have actually have to stop being prosocial. You can fake it!

      • Thegnskald says:

        Personally, I’d say no. A good relationship balancing strengths and weaknesses; compounding them makes things worse, not better.

        You need somebody on your side who can be mean when the situation calls for it.

        The challenge is finding somebody who is willing to be mean, but not inclined to be, at which point you may be looking at a very small pool of potential partners.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t it make sense for wobbler to find more efficient methods of finding a woman who wants a sweet man?

        I guess it worked for Fred Rogers, but he was pretty singular.

        Most of the time “You’re sweet” is an elliptical construction meaning “You’re sweet, and I wouldn’t consider you romantically or sexually attractive in a million years.” Or to be a bit less harsh, it’s typically used when a man has made a kind gesture which could be interpreted romantically or platonically to indicate the woman rejects the romantic interpretation.

    • johan_larson says:

      How to be less “sweet”?

      Be less polite. Stop using ubiquitous pleases, thank-yous, and if-you-wouldn’t-minds. Say what you want. End transactions with a curt “thanks”. Also, be more critical. If you don’t like something, feel free to say so. You don’t need to pile on with nastiness; just say what you mean without a lot of apologetic social tap-dancing.

      Generally speaking, this is the way to act like a high-status person, someone who doesn’t need to please those around him.

      And to say what should be obvious, doing this requires calibration. If you take this advice literally, you are going to come across as an utter asshole, or maybe a robot whose social-relations module was never installed.

      • wobbler says:

        Yeah, it’s the calibration aspect which worries me. I have LARPed assholes before (and can be very good at it according to my co-players) by basically doing all of what you describe.

        But I’ve found my feedback loop to be assertive-but-not-an-asshole is inadequate, and when I try for that in LARP (which is as close as anything I’ve found to being a consequence-free, kind-of-idempotent, social/emotional experimental space) I really feel like I’m lost.

        Which is one reason I found comfort in NU; it’s a simple set of rules to apply to situations which is polite and simple (but not always easy) to follow. It does seem to be lacking, however.

        • johan_larson says:

          Well, one way to find out how to act like a high-status person is to be around high-status people and to try to fit in. That means finding a venue full of such people and gaining entry to it. I would try an athletic club in the fancy part of town, like a tennis or golf club. Now that won’t be cheap, but that’s the point; it’s an environment that screens out everyone but the wealthy and the most committed strivers (like you.)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Those are good points, though part of what we’re up against is that we don’t know what wobbler is actually doing.

        I’ll add one more to your list. Only apologize if you’ve actually hurt someone.

    • Barely matters says:

      If your description (Kind, polite, respectful) is accurate, then the unattractive meaning of sweet is that you devalue your respect by giving it out too freely to people who haven’t earned it. It could also mean that you give your time/attention/energy to people who take advantage of you, and usually has an element of inability to confidently handle conflict and tension (ie, you’re harmless). We’ve got the disclaimer that you’re not doing the typical nice guy thing, but don’t have much of a mental picture of what you are doing. So I can give generalities for now, and can get into more detail if you flesh out your current behavioural set.

      Concrete ‘badboy’ (hurk) actions can broadly be thought of as things that demonstrate successful risk taking, competence in wielding dominance over others, and an understanding and respect for your own self worth. The hardest part for people who don’t do these things naturally is that they’ll backfire without the skillset to pull them off convincingly. This is by design, because being hard to fake makes them trustworthy signals. For any given action, run it through the above criteria and see if it ticks any of the boxes. Ideal actions will tick all three (There are more, but let’s stick with the simplified model for now), but you’ll get mileage for things that tick them individually too.

      The other way you can take this, is to use cues that ‘badass’ (hurk) groups style themselves with to piggyback on their reputation. Again, you need to do this holistically and be able to signal convincingly, or you’ll be called out as a fake really fast. If you want to get on this, get some tattoos and/or piercings, wear a leather jacket, hit the gym until you’re huge etc. The details depend on what your social circle thinks are cool (But at this point we’re essentially describing most modern fashion)

      For concrete actions, start small. While there’s not much that approaches “Publicly beat the shit out of someone who the audience agrees deserves it” in terms of “No one will describe you as ‘sweet’ afterwords”, it comes with a ton of complications in terms of physical and legal danger, and that unambiguous villains are in really short supply (See the bajillion culture war examples of attempts to get around this difficulty).

      So, off the top of my head, Successful risk taking: Buy and ride a motorcycle, join a boxing gym, get your license and learn to use firearms, take up rock climbing or another extreme sport, start a business, travel to places with reputations for danger, break laws that you think are pointless and that you can get away with (Eg, have/smoke weed with your friends, drive faster than the speed limit, trespass in interesting places). If doing it wrong could kill you/ruin you/ or have you jailed, it’s probably a good candidate.

      Demonstrating dominance over others: Have people do things for you, win at sports, especially combat sports, be comfortable giving commands, lead your group decisively (Eg. When it comes to choosing where to eat or what movie to see), use strong, comfortable, and nonweird eye contact, seek out and win confrontation (Which is the smaller version of ‘get into and win fights with people who deserve it’. This works for verbal altercations too.).

      Healthy boundaries and self respect: Demonstrate that your respect must be earned. Be comfortable taking up space. Accommodate people only as much as they are willing to accommodate you. Be willing to openly and honestly disagree with people rather than placating them. Be comfortable calling someone on it if they say something stupid. Respond with appropriate force if transgressed upon (If you’re ‘sweet’, then ‘appropriate’ is probably more force than you think it is). Be comfortable telling people ‘No’ when they ask for things. Be willing to walk away if people aren’t meeting your standards or are wasting your time. Be willing you prioritize your own happiness above that of other people.

      You can extend those lists much further depending on how many toes you’re willing to step on for greater effect. A lot of those examples were less concrete than I was hoping for, because a lot of the later categories tend to be reactive.

      In your LARP acting roles, you’re probably looking at some cutting verbal banter, maintaining a strong and independent frame, responding appropriately to provocation, not being a pushover, and being willing to transgress social boundaries.

      • wobbler says:

        To be clear, I have no problem getting first dates (I’m tall and OK looking, which helps), but keeping them interested beyond five or so dates is the struggle.

        And in those three categories, I fulfil several suggestions pretty easily; I have non-obvious piercings and often dress well (leather jackets feel a bit to “on the nose” for me, so I tend for field jackets or well-cut suits). I go to the gym weekly, and practice Krav Maga. I used to mountain-bike regularly (until I broke my neck & shoulder in an accident, so I do that less now). I try to go camping and hiking every few months. I smoke weed occasionally (I don’t really enjoy it as much as my friends seem to, though).

        I live in England, so no firearms for me (but I do play airsoft, which obviously doesn’t have the same connotations). I started and run my own business, and in interviews/business situations I maintain eye contact and negotiate well. I’m also generally regarded as an excellent leader of men in combat LARPs/airsoft (again, not a “real” situation, but I know I’m good with shouting at people to follow orders when required.) Several members of my family went into the military, but I’m Type 1 Diabetic, so I can only pretend.

        It’s everything in your “Healthy boundaries and self respect” that I don’t have, as it seems very selfish (which I was brought up to believe was the greatest sin), the opposite of being polite, and my principle of “first, do no harm” in the interpersonal space.

        • onyomi says:

          keeping them interested beyond five or so dates is the struggle.

          Are you trying hard to seduce them by around date… two or three?

          • wobbler says:

            Kinda finding it hard to parse “trying hard to seduce them”.

            But we often — but not always — end up sleeping together starting somewhere in the 3rd-5th date range. There seems to be minimal correlation between sex (or the lack of it) and them losing interest in me, though.

            (I was _terrible_ at showing my interest when I was younger, and have improved significantly in recent years, FWIW)

          • onyomi says:

            I guess was wondering if you were trying too hard to be respectful and not rush things with the result that they started to wonder if you were interested or not (my experience being that women want men to be somewhat sexually aggressive so they can be in the position of accepting or rejecting those advances rather than having to try to make advances themselves).

            Since that sounds like it’s not the case, it’s interesting to me just because very different from my experience. For me, having sex tends to be something of a watershed past which the “let’s just be friends because you’re such a nice guy” thing no longer happens. In my experience, after sex, it tends to quickly turn into either “now we’re in a relationship that will sort of continue, if not necessarily seriously, for the foreseeable future,” or else “now we’re never going to see each other again,” but not much in between.

          • wobbler says:

            I certainly had the “trying too hard to be respectful and not rush things with the result that they started to wonder if you were interested or not” thing going on when I was younger. And consequently nothing much happened at all.

            I must confess I still fall down that path with people I “just meet”, but I do fine when going through dating sites/apps, as there’s an implicit “we both want to find a relationship” thing going on, and it was pointed out that by hiding my intentions/desire at that point was doing them a disservice as they didn’t have all the information with which to make a reasoned decision about me. (And doing someone I care about a disservice is something I avoid at all costs)

            So now (when introduced via a dating app, at least), I’m fine with initiating consensual escalation. But I’m not at all comfortable when a “they are at least interested in the possibility” prior hasn’t been established unambiguously.

            And for me, like I said, sex & continuing relationships are very much orthogonal IME. My working theory is that I’m hot/engaging enough at first to be willing to jump into bed with me, but I’m not dynamic/interesting/assertive enough to be worth committing to. (And from what my women friends have told me, five dates is the kinda threshold making the ‘this is/isn’t an actual relationship’ call) Maybe?

          • onyomi says:

            And for me, like I said, sex & continuing relationships are very much orthogonal IME. My working theory is that I’m hot/engaging enough at first to be willing to jump into bed with me, but I’m not dynamic/interesting/assertive enough to be worth committing to.

            I think what makes this different from my “sex as watershed” experience is that, in my experience, once sex has happened, the enjoyability, or lack thereof, of the sex itself tends to be the factor determining whether the relationship rapidly fizzles or continues for a while.

            If there’s “chemistry,” “passion,” etc. during the first sexual encounter, then the simple motivation to keep feeling that is itself enough to keep things going for a while, at least until the “intense passion has worn off and now we have to decide if we actually want to spend a huge amount of time doing daily life stuff together,” phase sets in.

            If the first sexual encounter is awkward and not obviously a lot of fun for both parties, then any further attempts at dating etc. feel weird and pointless.

          • wobbler says:

            Ah, I don’t know what our relative ages are. As in my case, I’m OK at sex, but the women I date tend to be willing and able to find sexual partners very easily should they want to, but finding someone to settle down with is a harder struggle. i.e. I seem to attract a lot of 30-something professional women — lawyers, accountants, doctors and so forth — who have had a lot of fun in their 20’s whilst they were focused on their careers, but now are looking for more than just sex.

            So even if I’m enjoyable to be with, if the rest of me isn’t a compelling proposition, they have no qualms about finding someone else who can be as passionate as me bed, _and_ is more interesting/worthwhile to commit to.

        • Barely matters says:

          That’s exactly the sort of information I was hoping for, and by the sounds of it you’ve got a great base that can improve quickly with only a few minor tweaks in mindset.

          Your upbringing with respect to selfishness even sounds like it was mostly good, as generosity and being willing to sacrifice for others are great and laudable attributes that the world could definitely use more of. It’s only at the very edges that the beliefs feel like they paper over some subtlety with a blanket ‘prioritize others’ stance (If I’m reading you correctly).

          When it comes to boundaries, there’s nothing selfish about not letting yourself be exploited. You, as a human being, have every bit as much right to being respected and to taking a share of the common resources as everyone else you encounter. Making sure others get what they need is, in fact, very attractive, so long as you don’t torpedo yourself in the process.

          What sort of business do you run? A lot of these dynamics can be thought of as price signals. Wherein expending time, energy, and goodwill towards people without expectation of reciprocity maps to the low status artist model of working for exposure. Doing so when you’re just cutting your teeth can be a useful thing (for instance, buying the first round with the assumption that the other person buys the next one), but doing it indefinitely isn’t a sustainable practice (Though I’m sure the other person enjoys all the free drinks). After all, you have to eat too, and the other firm/person isn’t somehow entitled to your help just by virtue of existing and being hot. Essentially you, in business and in personal matters, aren’t a charity, and there’s nothing selfish about working to ensure that both parties are getting what they need. Pricing yourself like Apple is going to get you a lot further than pricing yourself like Zune.

          It sounds like you have the ability to be decisive, and are physically capable. How willing to react are you when it becomes appropriate? The core of ‘badass’ (And I really, REALLY, wish we would all stop using the term) is restrained violence. People who align with you, romantic partners especially, need to know that if things get crazy you’re willing and able to deal with the threat, whether that’s punching someone in the face, or kicking down a door, firing someone, or just telling that jerk that they’re no longer welcome at your wine and cheese social.

          Another good analogy here you can take from airsoft. If you’re going into a match and your fireteam partner is hesitant to pull the trigger, preferring to try to negotiate or looking for a peaceful solution, his lack of assertiveness is going to get you shot. It seems like an absolutely absurd example, because real life isn’t full of people trying to tag you at every opportunity, but stop and think for a moment. A lot of women have been sold on the idea that there are, like, a million murderers, rapists, and creeps hiding behind any given shrubbery. A lot of them do live in fear that there are *bad people* all over the place seeking to do them harm. If you can’t or won’t stand up for yourself, you’ve become a liability to the team because you won’t protect them from those threats.

          Now, I know that those threats don’t actually exist as presented, and you know that those threats don’t actually exist as presented, but they seem very real to a lot of the women you’re interested in. It’s paternalistic, and even patronizing, but the frame of “Wait here, I’m going to make damn sure there are no monsters under this bed” gets you a ton of mileage with costs that are entirely symbolic.

          The last key point that isn’t necessarily apparent to most guys: The women themselves will test you on this. Virtually all women will prod and push at your boundaries to see if you’ll fold. And if you’ll fold to them, you sure as hell can’t be expected to stand up to a real threat. I suspect this is where you’re getting burned.

          So, I’d say you’re 90% of the way there already.
          Just remember that you teach people how to treat you, and whatever you tolerate is what you’ll get more of.

          • wobbler says:

            I think your diagnosis is correct generally, and thank you.

            As to your questions; My business is in mobile IT consultancy (involved with a major bank) at the moment. I’m not rolling in as much money as you might expect (debts), but I’m doing OK 🙂

            And I generally try to avoid confrontation and not cause a scene. I’m better at not doing that in LARPs, but I haven’t really been tested in Real Life. (Although I like to believe that it it escalated to actual violence I would be the HELL violent back.) But if it’s a difference of opinion or an argument I just let it go; adding more fuel on the fire doesn’t feel like it would ever help.

            So your analysis is correct I think. Women probably do test me, and since that’s not on a violent level, I just bend and accept it. And it follows that’s not a great look when that’s all the information you have.

          • James says:

            The last key point that isn’t necessarily apparent to most guys: The women themselves will test you on this. Virtually all women will prod and push at your boundaries to see if you’ll fold.

            How real is this? I often see it or something like it in the literature on this kind of thing, but I’m a bit skeptical. Can’t pretty much anything up to and including a woman telling you to leave her alone, creep, be read as a test if you’re of a mind to?

          • Thegnskald says:

            James –

            Simultaneously total bullshit and brilliant wisdom.

            It is an incorrect model of women in that they generally are not constantly testing you.

            It is a correct model of people in general in that everything you do gets filtered and interpreted and turned into a model-of-you.

            An example: My first Christmas after meeting a woman, I got her a relatively expensive gift. She got me an extremely thoughtful gift, which I couldn’t possibly match on that quality, so I went instead for “Useful and more expensive than most people are comfortable purchasing for themselves.”

            She refused it, stating it was too expensive.

            I later married her, and that interaction figured into it. I wasn’t testing how she would react to the gift – if she had accepted it I wouldn’t have thought twice – but her refusal told me something about her morals anyways.

            “Everything is a test” isn’t a healthy moral outlook, but it is the beginning of understanding a critical social lesson that people remember and interpret your behavior.

          • Barely matters says:

            How are you guys jumping from ‘virtually every woman will test you’ to ‘everything is a test’? That doesn’t follow.

            You could read refusals as tests if you were of the mind to, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I recall Louis CK having a sketch about the girl who was pissed that he accepted her ‘No’ for an answer, and he thought “Are you high? I’m not going to go around raping girls on the off chance that one of them was hoping I’d just go for it!”

            So it happens on occasion, but I sure as hell wouldn’t risk it.

            That said, talk to some in-demand girls, most are pretty open about the fact that they test for weakness and read into responses.

            For Wobbler

            Sounds like a good gig. And that’s perfect, because you already know all about the dangers of offering to do too much pro bono work.

            At this point, I think you just need to work on a more robust repertoire of appropriate responses to small transgressions. If she asks you to hold her purse and wait while she goes and talks to another guy, accepting it and standing there is a losing move. You don’t have to be aggressive, but you’re a lot better off if you say “Nah, I’m not really in the holding business. I’m going to keep going, catch up with me when you guys are done.” and walk off to do whatever you were doing. Same if she takes phone calls or texts excessively when you’re out together. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, accept people who don’t respect your time. If you make a habit of tolerating that, they sure aren’t going to start respecting you later.

            How do you do with small disagreements? As in, do you think your partners are confident that if they asked for an opinion about something they like, that you’re willing to say “Oh god no, Kanye is human garbage. How can you listen to that?” if that’s how you felt? Or do they think they have to read between the lines of various “Well he’s ok” responses to get a feel for what you actually mean? This one is also of outsized importance, because as much as women like being flattered, if they can’t trust a compliment, it’s worthless.

          • James says:

            Thanks, Barely Matters. My point wasn’t that you were saying “everything is a test”, exactly. More along the lines of how do you know whether something’s a test, when pretty much anything could be interpreted as one? Like, I don’t know how to tell the difference between “she asked me to X because she wanted me to X” and “she asked me to X to find out whether I’d X”.

            But maybe by treating it as a truth claim I’m being too literal. Maybe the idea is more like “treat everything as if it were a test, and you’ll get good results”.

          • wobbler says:

            Oh, I certainly tolerate holding stuff and things if I can. And with small disagreements I very much fall into the “well he’s OK” camp. I don’t actively lie, but it’s more making non-committal “mmm” noises, or changing the subject, or making “well, he’s not my cup of tea” minimisation.

            And yeah, your comment about the trusting a compliment makes a lot of sense.

            So I do need a more robust repertoire of responses, I think.

          • Barely matters says:

            James,

            I wouldn’t even go as far as to say treat everything like a test, because what you and Thegnskald are talking about is a real failure mode to watch out for. You can ask yourself what a given reaction communicates about your identity, but grading you isn’t usually someone’s focus at any given time.

            What I’m saying is that for any given woman you’re spending time with, expect her to throw a few tests your way to see if you can back up your talk. Some can be real ballbusters and throw them all the fucking time, (you’ll know them when you see them, and they’re typically more trouble than they’re worth unless they’re particularly high quality. The flipside is that they’re likely to put your competition through the ringer too, so it’s not all bad) but for the most part it’s just smaller things here and there.

            Sometimes it’s big stupid tests like the one described in the video I mentioned earlier, but usually it’s smaller things like seeing if they can get you to buy them stuff, or back down from something, or if they can cow you into doing things they know you don’t want to. As a rule, if they can control you they aren’t going to stay interested for very long.

            For Wobbler

            I think you mostly need to be comfortable being you without being worried it’s going to offend people. Disagreements are ok. The complete lack of disagreement comes off as weird. I talk about tension a lot as something that most guys don’t think about, and this is part of it.

            Being agreeable all the time is like trying to throw a rubber band. To really get some distance you’ve got to counter-intuitively pull it back, create some stress and conflict and tension, hold it, maintain it, aim just right and then release. You can’t even talk about tension and release without it seeming vaguely sexual, and this should give a hint as to why this is such a powerful and necessary tool.

          • Aapje says:

            @Barely matters

            It also explains why some people keep on seeking out abusive relationships*, as they desire a rather unhealthy level of disagreeableness.

            The polar opposite of disagreeable is (for most people) not agreeable, but boring, tiresome and weak. So it’s about the balance.

            * Mutually or one-directionally

          • wobbler says:

            I think you mostly need to be comfortable being you without being worried it’s going to offend people. Disagreements are ok. The complete lack of disagreement comes off as weird.

            and

            The polar opposite of disagreeable is (for most people) not agreeable, but boring, tiresome and weak. So it’s about the balance.

            This does seem like it’s the root cause of my “sweetness”.

            But I had hoped for something more concrete than “be comfortable being you” as advice. At the moment, “being me” is “being someone who will do his utmost to be agreeable and flexible and compromising unless you escalate to physical violence against me or people close to me”. So I need to knock myself out of my comfort zone in order to become an ‘appropriate’ amount of disagreeable to lose some (but not all, not by a long way) of my sweetness, and gain some interestingness/lose some weirdness.

            I guess I’m always open minded about stuff and don’t hold strong idealogical positions. So if you really like Kanye, and I think he’s an idiot, you thinking that doesn’t bother me. And I think it’s pointless to believe that my opinion will sway yours (or vice-versa). So why point out disagreements? (I thought/think) it’s just a waste of time and effort for everyone involved.

            EDIT: Unless, like in this case, where it’s a rational discussion with someone who is genuinely interested in the situation and there is openness for learning/reflection on one or both sides.

            And for more physical tasks (like holding a bag or whatever); If I have a “higher-priority task” pending (like I need to get to work where staff and income are dependant on me, and you would be delaying that) I will gently refuse, explaining that I can’t do that right now. But otherwise, as a capable adult, I default to “well, I don’t have anything significant I have to do right now, so why not?”

            So on minor things I should disagree, say, 10% of the time? (Whilst retaining consistency, I suppose — don’t say I hate Kanye one day and say he’s OK the next)

          • Aapje says:

            @wobbler

            But I had hoped for something more concrete than “be comfortable being you” as advice. At the moment, “being me” is “being someone who will do his utmost to be agreeable and flexible and compromising unless you escalate to physical violence against me or people close to me”.

            I just realized something for the first time*, which I see as a frequent source of confusion. There are two You’s:

            You #1: The uncivilized You. This is how you’d act without social expectations, if you wouldn’t be afraid to be hurt (again), weren’t socialized to be considerate of others, etc.

            You #2: The guarded, careful You with all that stuff (which in large part is necessary to function in society).

            I think that advice to “be comfortable being you” is really advice to be more like You #1, which people often see as the real you. Of course, like much advice, it is direction pushing stated as target hitting, so you shouldn’t take it as advice to actually revert back to You #1 completely. Ultimately it is advice to change, but not towards some bland ideal of an agreeable person, but more to an authentic person that then supposedly attracts women who like that kind of authenticity***.

            * Common advice by women to romantically unsuccessful men is ‘be yourself’ which is horrible advice if taken literally, but makes slightly more sense if interpreted like I just did**.

            ** Although it then does assume that all men are naturally dominant and such, which is almost certainly not the case, so it is still bad advice.

            *** Whether a substantial group of women is attracted to every kind of ‘authentic’ men is questionable, though, so it’s probably smarter to change to behavior that many women actually respond to, although staying as close as possible to your more authentic self is probably more pleasant.

          • wobbler says:

            You #1: The uncivilized You. This is how you’d act without social expectations, if you wouldn’t be afraid to be hurt (again), weren’t socialized to be considerate of others, etc.

            I like the theory, but I don’t feel like I have any idea who the “Uncivilised” Me #1 is. I was taught politeness at around the same time as I learnt to talk (I think my parents taught me the sign language for “please” and “thank you” before I could say my own name, and I wouldn’t get fed if I didn’t say “Biccy please Mummy” when I was a toddler.) And it only built from there. It would be like me saying your “true” self is the one which doesn’t know how to walk, or doesn’t know your own name.

            So I need to build a convincing facsimile of an “uncivilized me” I can steer towards, I suppose.

            (And you are very much correct I got the “be yourself” advice a couple of decades ago. Which went about as well as you might expect. It wasn’t until someone actually gave me an actual detailed model of what society expects, romantically, which I could then improvise around that I got comfortable with and it now comes naturally.)

          • Barely matters says:

            Wobbler,

            You’re right, that was a trite aphorism on my part and I can see how it was vague and unhelpful. Luckily, I think this conversation has plunged us right into the heart of the matter. You need to start holding strong positions on things that matter to you, ideological or not. If nothing qualifies, you need to find things to care about, because being devoid of passion is not going to go well here.

            If I’m hearing what you’re saying right, it seems like you don’t have much of an identity at all without another person to give it direction. What I’m suggesting here is that you need to be able to know what your stance is on things independently of what anyone else (Especially whoever happens to be standing in front of you) thinks. I think you’re operating at one level too meta here when I mention ‘being comfortable being you’. If your normal MO for ‘being you’ is “See what the other person wants”, that’s the opposite of the advice.

            Not having a strong identity will hurt you in a number of ways here, and with good reason. Foremost being that someone who just says whatever the person standing in front of them wants to hear is inherently untrustworthy. What if tomorrow they end up talking to someone who doesn’t like you and wishes you harm? Will they go along with it to avoid conflict? Servility really, really isn’t a good trait for a partner. Because people need to know where you stand in order to trust you.

            So, we’ve all heard the Delphic advice to “know thyself”, and here it’s vitally important in all the situations you’ve described in the previous comments. “He doesn’t know what he wants” is an absolute kiss of death, and what people mean when they say it comes back to a lack of identity.

            Above all, you need to know who you are, what you want, what you stand for, and how you’re pursuing it. Those answers will inform all your other questions.

            The reason you don’t do someone’s busywork just because you can, is because you have something better to do with your time and energy. If you don’t have something better to do, this is the problem. Find something better to do that moves you along on your path to whatever you want to be and do, even if that’s just amusing yourself in the moment.

            You don’t need a disagreement quota. You need to develop the ability to check in with yourself and see what you think about the topic independently of the observer, and be able to report that honestly. Essentially you should say you loathe Kanye on days that you loathe Kanye.

            For another take on the ‘there’s no point in disagreeing’ section, think of it in terms of helping people incrementally build a consensus. You’re right that your opinion won’t necessarily sway them alone (Although it can, given enough charisma), but that isn’t the point. It doesn’t have to bother you that they disagree, and exchanging that information, especially if done passionately, can be great for bonding with people. You can think of that in and of itself as part of the point.

            I hear you on early habits being hard to break.
            The best advice you’ll hear, is that if your system is fucked, Unfuck it. You’re a man, and no one is going to slow pitch this in for you. You either figure it out or you keep failing the same way. It might be a slog, but you seem to have the necessary wherewithal and introspective ability to change those habits given some effort.

          • wobbler says:

            That all seems like an (annoyingly) accurate assessment.

            Above all, you need to know who you are, what you want, what you stand for, and how you’re pursuing it. Those answers will inform all your other questions.

            I honestly can’t even conceive of answers to those which don’t reference other people. I guess I need to work on that, and find something (instead of other’s wellbeing) to be passionate about. (It was my work back when I was in the videogames industry, but that damn near killed me through workaholism and loneliness, and I’m not going back to that.)

            Not an easy a fix as I had hoped! But then again, worthwhile things seldom are.

            Thank you for your help and belief in me though!

          • Aapje says:

            @wobble

            I honestly can’t even conceive of answers to those which don’t reference other people

            It’s fine to say that you dislike Kanye because you agree with how Noam Chomsky feels about Kanye. Or that your goal in life is to make great inventions like Einstein. That your morals compass is based on Kant. Etc.

          • wobbler says:

            It’s fine to say that you dislike Kanye because you agree with how Noam Chomsky feels about Kanye. Or that your goal in life is to make great inventions like Einstein. That your morals compass is based on Kant. Etc.

            Ah, yeah of course. But I didn’t mean like that. More that, at the moment, I would give answers to those questions something like:

            * I am polite, and a good, reliable, supportive friend/partner.
            * I want my friends/partners to be happy.
            * I stand for duty to my friends, listening charitably, and trying to see things from many points of view.
            * I pursue these goals by being polite, reliable, and always there for my friends. And trying to keep an open mind about things and considering situations and other people’s points-of-view (and why they have those viewpoints) thoughtfully before drawing conclusions. Rationality + Negative Utilitarianism seem like the best tools to help me do this.

            As you can see there isn’t much there defined in terms of myself.

          • Barely matters says:

            There are definitely ways to define yourself by your service to others attractively. All those (ideal) cops, firefighters, and doctors have service to their community as a cornerstone of their identity and they do pretty well for themselves.

            I think one of the key elements here is to recognize that Good is not necessarily Nice. If you think about those (honestly excellent) principles of wanting to maximize the happiness of others globally and systemically instead of in relation to whoever happens to be watching at the moment, I’d say you’ve got a good start.

            It’s still going to be important that “Whatever makes you happy” (Directed towards the current audience) isn’t the only thing that puts a smile on your face. So I highly recommend taking some time to think about the things that you would enjoy entirely for their own sake. The good thing about internal work is that you can do it anywhere and any time. And it really does bear repeating, you’re allowed to be good to yourself without it being selfish.

            (I’ve gotta jet off to a call, so this is kind of a half finished thought. Good luck man!)

  11. Mark says:

    From the conspiracy theory files: Cleon Peterson.

    So, this dude (a Rothschild favourite) was commissioned to create a mural under the Eiffel Tower. His previous works mainly consist of black people (black colored characters) killing and raping white people in a variety of ways. The Eiffel tower mural depicts the same black and white characters dancing with a black male character kissing a white female character in the middle. The interlocking hands of the dancers surrounding the couple appear to form a vague Star-of-David-like shape.

    Firstly, I think you’d have to be mad to encourage this guy to make this stuff. I would say it’s not the product of a healthy mind. Though as some kind of troll, I guess it could be pretty funny?

    Secondly, why isn’t this racist? I honestly don’t know what the hell is going on anymore if we can’t rely on the left to condemn the depiction of black people as murderous rapists as racist. Is it only racist if the victims are black? Murder of whites not such a big deal anymore?

    Mental.

    • HFARationalist says:

      Murder of whites is of course a big deal. PC insanity needs to be corrected. In fact PC is unsustainable.

    • beleester says:

      I haven’t seen this in the news, but I’d guess it’s because the characters don’t “read” as African and Caucasian. They’re heavily abstracted, literally pitch-black and snow-white, not realistic skin tones. So it gets filed under “Huh, that’s kinda wrong when you think about it” rather than “This guy is obviously calling Africans a race of killers.”

      For reference, this is the mural with the “Jewish star.”

      EDIT: I googled up a little more of his art, and found black people killing red people, white people killing black people, red/black cops beating red people, and black people killing black people. I think he just really likes violence in contrasting colors.

      • Mark says:

        Maybe – I’m just surprised that living, as we do, in a world in which almost everything is racist to someone, no-one seems particularly concerned about the black characters being horrible raping murderers.
        I mean, is this a time period where you’d think that the abstract nature of the characters would stop people from calling it racist?

        What I’m saying is – this is political correctness gone mad. I’m calling it.

        Not like, “that’s silly”. Like, “I have no way of modelling what politically correct people are thinking of anymore.”

        • beleester says:

          The characters are drawn in black ink, but they’re not “coded” as black. It’s kind of hard to point to the exact features in the art that make it work, but that’s the impression it leaves for me – I wouldn’t have thought about racial implications in those pictures if you hadn’t brought them to the front of my mind.

          It may also be that Peterson has “built up credit” by making other art that’s not obviously racist, which means people are inclined to be charitable and say “I think he just likes contrasting colors” rather than “He’s obviously making statements about real black people.” Or, as The Nybbler suggests, he might just be well-known as Someone with Good Politics.

          All speculation aside, I think that saying “PC activists aren’t getting upset about this, but they should be, because I know they’re the sort of people who think everything is racist” is an awful way to approach the culture war. You’re basically assuming your conclusion. Maybe PC activists just aren’t as rabid as you thought?

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, could be an example of the Eddie Izzard fallacy. (Your argument undermines your own assumptions – “Nigel Farage – your family are immigrants and you are married to an immigrant – why do you hate immigrants so much?”)

            I think it’s probably quite common in the culture war – I suppose you could say my original suggestion was being maximally uncharitable.

            On the other hand, I really do not understand how we are judging racism in art these days, and, while I’m not really a pc type of person, this really does seem somewhat racist to me.

            So, being charitable, I don’t understand pc people.
            To me it’s all just a stream of random directives and accusations.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Calling that a Star of David is pretty fanciful; there’s six dancers of each color and they’re arranged radially symmetrically, but that’s as far as it goes.

      His previous works have the black people killing white people and other black people (for example “The Light Bearer ‘Victory'” has a black figure holding a club in one hand and in the other hand, it is holding another black figure’s head as if it were a lamp).

      As for why it isn’t considered racist, my cynical guess would be that Peterson has the proper politics.

      • Mark says:

        Hmmm… the arms of the black dancers do form a sort-of six pointed star. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch.

        Yeah, I can see one of his works on google images in which there are white people attacking black people, but the black people seem to be escaped criminals of some type, so….

    • Matt M says:

      Is it only racist if the victims are black?

      I can’t immediately tell this guy’s race, but I thought under current cultural appropriation theory, it’s racist for white people to draw black people, but not racist for black people to draw anyone, and the actual content of the drawing is basically irrelevant.

    • Samuel Escalona says:

      Why does this surprise you?

      They did it to prove that it could be done. It’s an exercise of power to assert dominance.

      “We really hope you don’t mind if we mark our territory underneath your nation’s greatest monument. But in the very likely event that you do…whaddya gonna do about it, whitey?”

    • q-tip says:

      Secondly, why isn’t this racist? I honestly don’t know what the hell is going on anymore if we can’t rely on the left to condemn the depiction of black people as murderous rapists as racist. Is it only racist if the victims are black? Murder of whites not such a big deal anymore?

      Seconding the points made by beleester. Peterson’s figures are not racially coded in the way, say, Kara Walker’s are, and you seem to be looking for a chance to believe the worst about your ideological enemies.

      Did you perhaps recognize that the interpretation of Peterson’s art as racist and ___-Semitic was a significant stretch — is that why you refer to the “conspiracy theory files?” I’m curious.

      I think you’d have to be mad to encourage this guy to make this stuff. I would say it’s not the product of a healthy mind. Though as some kind of troll, I guess it could be pretty funny?

      Like a lot of fine art, it is at least doing something similar to trolling. Look at Kara Walker’s silhouettes — they’re clearly meant to shock and disturb. I skimmed a couple of interviews with Peterson and he cites Larry Clark as an influence — another trollish artist.

  12. onyomi says:

    Based on my discussions with proponents of welfare programs, Bryan Caplan’s take on their underlying motivation seems spot on to me: that is, like the so-called “extended warranty” one is offered when purchasing products like computers, most welfare programs are a bad deal when you actually weigh the likely costs and benefits, but people go for them anyway because most people put a really high premium on a perception of “certainty.”

    I say this sounds right to me, because one of the most common reactions I’ve heard to arguments against welfare programs is “well, I just like knowing that there’s a bottom limit to how hard people can fail” or “sure, private charity might be able to take care of people in desperate need, but I like knowing for sure that they will be taken care of.”

    As Caplan rightly points out, the problem with this is that there is no certainty in life, including government provided certainty. Maybe because the government in places like the US is so enduring and powerful compared to most institutions people feel like a promise from the government is as close to certainty as one can get in this life. But of course, a government guarantee that you will receive “health care” or “an old age pension” is no guarantee you will receive the health care you need in a timely fashion or an adequate pension, etc.

    To steelman Caplan’s opposition, I wonder if he doesn’t underestimate just how highly people value the psychological benefit of a feeling of certainty. For example, I have argued before that, when weighing the expected benefit of buying a lottery ticket, it’s not enough to just compare the price of the ticket to the size of the payout and probability of receiving it. On the positive side of the equation you also have to add “the sense of fun anticipation and mild hope one gets daydreaming about winning the jackpot and the excitement of watching the drawing (minus the feeling of disappointment when you don’t win).”

    That is, maybe the feeling of certainty one can count on even a really bad deal is really valuable to people, as is “not having to think about it,” e.g. “I don’t have to worry today about when I’m sick or old because I know the government’s got me covered.”

    Not that I believe it’s a good deal or ethically justifiable.

    • willachandler says:

      In his final post, the dying Canadian citizen-scientist Andy Skuse steelmans the rational, moral, and economic case for certainty in healthcare access.

      • onyomi says:

        No disrespect to him, but all I’m really seeing here (unless I’m missing part of it) is a case against the terrible US system of linking health insurance and employment, which is a direct result of government-created tax incentives. I agree this is terrible and should be ended immediately (like subsidized college loans, it’s an example of a subsidy to those doing relatively well at the expense of many doing worse that everyone thinks is wonderfully ethical because they only look at the positive side of the ledger), but it’s not an argument for certainty in healthcare access, just an argument against the particular kind of precarious access we Americans endure.

        • willachandler says:

          To the degree that a healthcare system is economically efficient and politically unregulated, won’t that system necessarily deny coverage to patients in Andy Skuse’s cohort?

          Indeed, to the degree that data-scraping programs can ascertain that Andy Skuse’s genetic relatives died young of cancer, won’t efficient/unregulated healthcare systems necessarily deny coverage to patients in Andy Skuse’s genomic cohort … from their day of birth?

          So aren’t efficient/unregulated science-guided computer-optimized healthcare systems inherently dystopian … in a privacy-invading eugenic sense whose optimized informatic implementation is quintessentially Orwellian?

          This (to me) is a “steelman”/rationalist summary of the implications of Skuse’s essay.

          • onyomi says:

            If we’re dealing with absolutely efficient systems, wouldn’t a perfectly efficient government-run, single-payer system also do genetic testing and once they determined his case was incurable, refuse to spend money on trying to do so?

            The best ethical steelman I can think of for government guarantees of healthcare access is: decisions to buy or not buy more healthcare (and let’s not forget that it is still technically possible to just directly buy health care without insurance, usually in the less regulated jurisdictions) sometimes involve life or death; the amount one can spend on healthcare intended to stave off death is often extremely high; therefore, patients and loved ones are faced with an agonizing choice between financial ruin and/or death.

            I think the problem with socialized medicine as a solution to this is that it just shifts responsibility for the agonizing decision onto someone else, since single-payer systems absolutely do make decisions about who gets how much potentially life-saving treatment and how soon. It doesn’t mean no terrible decisions must be made; only that those most closely involved don’t have to make them. Maybe that is a kindness to them on some level, but honestly, it wouldn’t feel that way to me.

            For example, if I were suffering a fatal illness in Canada but the doctors there had told me I wasn’t going to make it, I would still have the option to use up my life savings on a new clinical trial somewhere I was allowed to buy expensive healthcare, like America. The decision would still be there, and honestly, “well, the government panel decided it was hopeless,” isn’t a satisfactory Schelling Point for me when it comes to something like this.

            What would truly be dystopian to my mind would be a “Canada world,” where no one is allowed to buy private coverage (even worse, of course, if also not allowed to directly self-finance treatment).

          • willachandler says:

            Why do you imagine that Canadian citizens (and citizens in other nations) don’t already substantially enjoy the freedoms that you describe?

            As a practical matter, if you’ve got sufficient cash — quite a lot of cash, to be sure — then in any nation of the world, you already can purchase whatever kind of healthcare you desire.

          • What would truly be dystopian to my mind would be a “Canada world,” where no one is allowed to buy private coverage (even worse, of course, if also not allowed to directly self-finance treatment).

            Not typical of socialised medicine and not relevant to Caplan’s point.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            where no one is allowed to buy private coverage … not allowed to directly self-finance treatment).

            Can someone steelman that particular policy choice for me?

            It seems both insane and pointlessly evil to me, so there has to be a better reason.

            One of the problems facing the argument for universal coverage in the US is that people in the US think “single payer like Canada does it”, look at that, think that all universal coverage systems are single-payer (they are not), and that they all effectively ban out of system healthcare (they don’t).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Can someone steelman that particular policy choice for me?

            One typical justification is that if some people have the option to go outside the system, they won’t be incentivized to make it better.

          • willachandler says:

            To express Nybbler’s point (as I appreciate it) via a colorful phrase from Robert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy

            One stroke of the lash would change his slimy mind!

            To state the parallel explicitly:

            When Aunt Gertrude’s grand-niece was denied healthcare coverage from birth, by privacy-invading data-scraping AIs, Aunt Gertrude’s appreciation of 21st century free-market efficiencies changed irretrievably.

            This is common sense, eh? I for one — together with Aunt Gertrude and all of her family’s healthcare providers — do NOT welcome our new privacy-invading efficient-market AI overlords.

          • rlms says:

            “It seems both insane and pointlessly evil to me, so there has to be a better reason.”
            Yes, it does seem pretty crazy. In 2005, the Canadian Supreme Court found it violated the Quebec Charter of Human Rights. I’m not sure what has happen since.

          • willachandler says:

            Perhaps these matters aren’t particularly complicated … when we consider them from cognitive-science perspective.

            In proportion to the Cluster B cognitive traits that the above-mentioned Aunt Gertrude exhibits, she will be indifferent to her grand-niece’s healthcare problems and sympathetic to free-market political ideologies … and no amount of rational discourse will change her mind.

            The above-quoted passage from Citizen of the Galaxy is Heinlein’s meditation upon the obstructions to civic discourse that are posed by dispassionate Aunt Gertrude’s exhibition of (what today might be called) “Cluster B rationalism”.

          • Brad says:

            Funny, I could have sworn John Sidles was banned at this website.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            For example, if I were suffering a fatal illness in Canada but the doctors there had told me I wasn’t going to make it, I would still have the option to use up my life savings on a new clinical trial somewhere I was allowed to buy expensive healthcare, like America. The decision would still be there, and honestly, “well, the government panel decided it was hopeless,” isn’t a satisfactory Schelling Point for me when it comes to something like this.

            I have the opposite reaction to this as you. I think it’s tragic that at great personal expense people are willing to keep their permanently comatose relatives alive through life support machines. It imposes immense burdens on them, material and psychological, which they are often driven into debt in order to afford, and it robs them of the chance for a dignified farewell. It corrupts the natural order of things. It makes people slaves to their impulses. Giving people a choice in this matter is downright sordid. Authority should be transferred from the emotionally distraught–who can only respond in a singular, mechanical way–to the health care professionals who, possessing the clarity of thought granted by distance, are able to think more rationally.

          • Nornagest says:

            Don’t feed the troll, guys.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, what do you expect to be the mechanical, singular response of the emotionally distraught parent to the distant medical professionals who say, “Based on the authority vested in us by [mumble] and guided by the powers of Rationality and Clear Thinking, we have decided that the optimal course of action is to let your sick child die. Kiddie hospice is three blocks down on the left”?

            Be sure to factor in the competing medical professionals, even if only charlatans, who will promise that for mumble dollars they can save the sick child, and the presently-out-of-power political faction that will explain that the distantly authoritarian medical professionals are in fact a “Death Panel”. Alternately, be explicit about the censorship regime that you are going to impose to make sure the emotionally distraught are not exposed to such messages.

          • Matt M says:

            Isn’t the steelman basically an appeal to fairness/equality, which is essentially the same proposition used to justify government involvement in healthcare (and everything else) in the first place.

            As in “It’s unfair that rich people have access to higher quality care than poor people.”

            So long as you allow private healthcare to exist, it will end up being higher quality than government healthcare (not because there isn’t a market for low-quality healthcare, but because such care will be made illegal in the name of protecting consumers). And then rich people will still have better stuff than poor people, which is problematic.

            Isn’t this argument used against private/charter/homeschooling all the time?

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @John Schilling,
            I think the key point to consider is the likelihood that either system has of screwing up. The failure modes for a government mandated system are, as you say, corruption and bureaucratic incompetence. While these failures could arise and a government–in abstract–could begin mandating the deaths of saveable babies, I see no evidence of this happening in extant systems such as those in Western Europe. Furthermore, immediately jumping to the worst case scenario when denigrating something one doesn’t like seems like it is a common bias in human thought and therefore ought to be scrutinized with exceptional care. Just because such a worst case scenario is possible doesn’t mean it is likely, so before taking it for granted that such possibilities are highly probable, there ought to be some evidence to that effect. I see none, and as I mentioned the evidence from induction seems to contradict it.

            Conversely, my criticisms of the current system stem not from suppositions I have conjured but from witnessed accounts I have read and seen. Our own host has arguments posted on this very blog against the value of these life-sustaining technologies. Scott says that vast sums of money are spent on practices that are of dubious value, either to the patients or their families. These are practices which the doctors administering them, themselves familiar with the more sordid aspects of the affair, choose to forego. They choose to forego the very treatments they employ. Scott mentions how such practices seem only to persist because they exploit a flaw in human psychology in which relatives, feeling morally compelled to do literally everything they can in sustaining to sufferer’s life, do so far beyond the point of advisability. He even mentions that the more estranged the relatives are the more likely they are to favour the treatments, suggesting that the treatments aren’t done out of sheer compassion but because of this flaw they exploit. But even relatives closest to the victims seem to overvalue the treatments compared to doctors, so that even they seem to be subject to the follies inherent to low information and psychological bias, making them unfit to make properly rational decisions in the matter. I have not only seen evidence presented by Scott to this effect, but from other sources as well. One source that gave me an unwholesome view of even the more mild treatments–those connected to the merely comatose rather than, as in Scott’s examples, the aged–was Louis Theroux’s documentary called, The Edge of Life. In this documentary, we find that, as in Scott’s posts, the family members are unreasonably likely to choose to utilize the option of life support even when the sufferers are utterly comatose, unlikely to revive, and, if miraculously revived, likely to be severely brain damaged. All of this at extreme cost. Some of the doctors in this documentary appeared demoralised and depressed with the state of affairs. The state of affairs seems like it is inherent to the capitalist system, which follows the impulses of those who are psychologically vulnerable, intellectually disfavored, and that the only cure would be to adopt a socialist system in which more rational people make the calls for the plenitudes. After all, what avails the plenitudes of freedom and unrestrained choice when they are so prone to wild caprices? It seems like the consumer is largely unfit to decide what is to their advantage, given that they are uneducated, chaotic. I think that rather than treating death as something to be feared and avoided under all circumstances it should instead be something that is considered dignified and ennobling, a part of the circle of life. That does not mean that no efforts should be made to sustain life, but there should be a line where one says: passed this point we are transgressing on the beauty and nobility of the human spirit. Passed this point, we are not making life a more beautiful thing, but deflowering it, robbing it of its grace. We should want to preserve life but not at the price of transgressing on how life is lived or experienced. What is currently done in the name of medication and in the name of consumer choice, in the name of acceding to the erratic demands of the marketplace which go contrary to logic and dignity, is a travesty.

          • John Schilling says:

            Our own host has arguments posted on this very blog against the value of these life-sustaining technologies. Scott says that vast sums of money are spent on practices that are of dubious value, either to the patients or their families.

            Yes, because the families want it to be so, because they find “dubious value” to be a better proposition than “certain imminent death”.

            I may agree with you and Scott and disagree with most families on this matter, but their values have to count – if only because lots of them vote and many of them have guns. And I don’t think I am positing “worst case scenarios” here. If you tell someone that further medical care for their children/grandparents/selves would be of “dubious value”, they will very likely disagree. Someone else will offer to sell them further medical care and swear that it is of great value. Someone else again will try to secure their votes, and their services as a martyr, by screaming “Death Panel!” or the local equivalent. And all too often, people will buy into that. This isn’t some hypothetical thing that might happen if things go badly, this is what we observe actually does happen quite frequently.

            Even in the land of socialized medicine, er, single-payer health care, with rational and emotionally distant medical professionals making the decisions.

          • If a bad outcome is predictable at the time you want to buy insurance and the seller can reasonable expect that you know the prediction, then it’s uninsurable. If genetic testing gets good enough, the risk of having genes that make you likely to have medical problems becomes uninsurable, although you can still insure against all of the remaining medical risk.

            That wouldn’t be true if there was some way of proving to the seller that you had not had yourself tested, but it’s hard to see any way of doing that in a many country world.

            “Dystopian” is a pretty strong label for that situation. There are lots of risks that are, in practice, uninsurable. Is your point that any world where some people get worse outcomes than others for reasons not their fault is dystopian? That would seem to describe all societies that have existed, probably all that will exist.

            in a privacy-invading eugenic sense

            I don’t think it is privacy invading if someone is only willing to sell you insurance on the condition that you let him get information relevant to what the insurance will cost him and be worth to you that you already have.

            And I don’t think any of this has anything to do with eugenics. The insurance company isn’t trying to breed better humans, it’s trying to base the cost of what it is selling on what it will cost them to provide it.

          • So long as you allow private healthcare to exist, it will end up being higher quality than government healthcare (not because there isn’t a market for low-quality healthcare, but because such care will be made illegal in the name of protecting consumers).

            Even if it isn’t, if government healthcare is made available for free, people will only be willing to pay for healthcare that they believe is better.

          • Matt M says:

            David,

            I thought of that, but also considered that lower “quality” private healthcare that cost something (while government care was free) MIGHT still be somewhat desireable if it was at least faster.

            (My understanding is that the biggest criticism of Canadian/English systems is that it takes a really long time to say, see a specialist – it’s possible that a private health care provider could get you to a (less qualified) specialist much faster)

          • British employers often offer private health plans to key workers on the understanding that they will get back to work quicker.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling, I think it would be better to frame it as “further treatment will just cause needless pain” rather than “further treatment is of dubious value”.

            It’s possible that saying “most medical professionals would refuse this treatment for themselves” would work, especially if it’s true.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think it would be better to frame it as “further treatment will just cause needless pain” rather than “further treatment is of dubious value”.

            Unless the medical treatment in question is known to be useless at prolonging life, then this framing turns into one of the relative value of life w/pain vs that of death w/o hope. I think that, depending on the level of pain, that can easily cross into “dubious value” territory.

            It’s possible that saying “most medical professionals would refuse this treatment for themselves” would work, especially if it’s true.

            The patient and/or family, obviously, isn’t going to poll most medical professionals. They are going to hear the opinion of their family doctor, of every charlatan promising false hope, maybe a doctor whose experimental procedure offers real hope, and if we insist a bureaucrat citing a sheaf of studies on why we should let their child die.

            It’s going to be really important that they and we trust their family doctor on this one. Which brings us to the perennial question in American health care reform at least, of “Can I keep my family doctor?”

    • rlms says:

      Have you read Kahneman and Tversky’s work on prospect theory, or the relevant bit of Thinking Fast And Slow? The gist of it is that people take too many risks when considering potential gains (and hence buy lottery tickets), but take too few when it comes to potential losses (and hence buy insurance). People even react differently to the exact same problem depending on whether it is phrased as being about gains or losses.

      • My interpretation of the relevance of Kahneman’s work for the lottery/insurance puzzle is different. The fast mind doesn’t do probability theory very well–it’s basic classifications are impossible, possible, and certain, not p=x. A lottery ticket raises an attractive outcome from impossible to possible, insurance lowers an unattractive outcome from possible to impossible, both gains.

        I don’t remember if Kahneman made that argument or if I derived it from what he wrote about decisions under uncertainty.

        • Matt M says:

          insurance lowers an unattractive outcome from possible to impossible

          I don’t think this is quite true. It’s always possible that the insurance company will weasel out on paying up due to various excuses and technicalities. Which falls in line with the larger point that the government can do this too. Social security is not “guaranteed.” They could decide to stop paying it tomorrow if they really wanted to.

    • Based on my discussions with proponents of welfare programs, Bryan Caplan’s take on their underlying motivation seems spot on to me: that is, like the so-called “extended warranty” one is offered when purchasing products like computers, most welfare programs are a bad deal when you actually weigh the likely costs and benefits, but people go for them anyway because most people put a really high premium on a perception of “certainty.”

      Nothing he says supports a point about “most” govt. programmes. Many govt programmes , eg socialised medicine, are not a top-up to something else, so the “how much extra” analogy fails. Also socialised medicine, along with every other variation, is cheaper than the US non-system.

      As Caplan rightly points out, the problem with this is that there is no certainty in life,

      Fallacy of grey.

      Based on my discussions with proponents of welfare programs

      Have you noticed anyone with skin in the game, in the sense that the are or are likely to become, dependent on welfare enthusing about the solution of you-get-charity-if-the-charity-feels-like-it-otherwise-not? BecauseI haven’t.

    • Matt M says:

      That is, maybe the feeling of certainty one can count on even a really bad deal is really valuable to people, as is “not having to think about it,” e.g. “I don’t have to worry today about when I’m sick or old because I know the government’s got me covered.”

      This. The extended warranty issue is a good analogy, and one that has always puzzled me. My position is always “the fact that businesses profit on warranties suggests the warranty is a bad deal for me, and that on average, are bad deals in general, because the price I pay for the warranty must be higher than the conditional probability value of my expected loss.”

      So I basically never buy warranties. I do buy insurance, but typically not much more than the law (or other parties) require me to.

      But I’m constantly amazed at how many people do buy these things. Even people who aren’t very poor, and even for items that aren’t very expensive. I know people with six figure incomes who buy the extended protection plan on their phone in case they break the glass. Lots of people. Mathematically this makes no sense. It’s a negative value proposition on net, and they can easily absorb the financial loss in the unlikely event of phone breakage. There’s really no other way to explain it than what you outline above.

      • I think Caplan’s extended warranty analogy fails, and you do not argue that it succeeds as an analogy, only that extended warranties are bad.

      • Extended warranties that take the form of a service contract may sometimes be justified on the basis that the seller is more competent to arrange to have his product serviced than the buyer.

        • Matt M says:

          I guess. But they’d have to be SO much more competent that even after their profit margin it was still cheaper to go through them. I’m not certain that this is the case (or even if it was, they’d just keep more of the gains for themselves as profit)

      • Aapje says:

        @Matt M

        It’s probably a psychological defense: having a phone break is highly distressing to many people and by having insurance there is an upside to it, so people feel less bad.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s probably a psychological defense: having a phone break is highly distressing to many people and by having insurance there is an upside to it, so people feel less bad.

          Pro tip: Swearing when something does break also relieves the distress, and is considerably cheaper.

          But then, I’ve managed not to break a phone. Some people break theirs often. I assume most people know roughly how likely they are to break one. So the financial sense of the extended warranty depends on a race between adverse selection and the small print of the extended warranty companies.

          Example: I once had a digital watch with an extended warranty that covered everything but the battery, case, crystal, and band. Uh, yeah, that’s everything that’s likely to break.

        • Aapje says:

          Listening to an MP3 is also way, way cheaper than going to a concert, yet many people prefer the latter. If people prefer insurance over swearing, they have a right to that preference. There is no objective reason to believe that your own coping mechanisms are optimal for them (to believe otherwise is the typical mind fallacy).

          And you are correct that optional insurance is more or less a subsidy by those with a low risk to risk tolerance ratio to those with a high risk to risk tolerance ratio. Of course, this is why healthcare insurance is at risk of defector spirals, especially when solidarity/wealth transfers are part of the premiums.

          Your digital watch extended warranty is a good example of exploiting high risk intolerance and ignorance about the actual risks. There is a huge asymmetry between insurers and potential insurees in access to information about actual risks, so even somewhat rational people can fall for this.

      • CatCube says:

        Yeah, I’ve never gotten the protection plan. It was something like $8 a month, and I figure I can afford to pay out of pocket in the unlikely event that I break my phone.

        Of course, I *did* break my phone once. I got a new phone, and the rep tried for like 10 minutes to talk me into taking the warranty. Then, the phone slipped out of my hand and fell onto concrete while I was using the camera less than a week after I got it. It was kind of embarrassing going back to buy a new phone. Still didn’t take the warranty.

        • Matt M says:

          Heh, I bought a new car a year ago, and declined the gap insurance.

          It ended up underwater due to Harvey and I owed about 2k more than it was worth. Oh well!

          • Thegnskald says:

            Buy it back from the shop that totaled it – it should cost significantly less than the payout – and get it repaired to a workable level, if not completely. (Depending on the state)

          • Matt M says:

            It was almost entirely submerged. I don’t want it back. I’ve heard that flood damage can follow a car forever and never be entirely “fixed.”

  13. HFARationalist says:

    Prediction about Kurdistan

    What’s the likelihood that an independent Kurdistan will exist within a year?

    Here “Kurdistan” is defined as any independent Kurdish-controlled entity

    • HFARationalist says:

      I somehow can not edit the post above.

      “Kurdistan” is defined as any Kurdish-controlled independent state that needs to exist for at least six months that actually controls territories. Kurdistan has to be independent but does not have to be recognized by any state.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Define “independent”. Like dndnrsn said, Syrian Kurdistan counts but I don’t think that’s what you meant. I think the probability that the vote in Iraqi Kurdistan leads to more independence is less than 5%.

        • HFARationalist says:

          “Independent” is defined by claiming to be independent and controlling some territory. Syrian Kurdistan haven’t declared itself independent yet.

          I think Iraqi Kurdistan is pretty likely to be independent. They can basically ignore Baghdad because of Peshmerga. However if Iran or Turkey invades they will lose their independence.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Should independent include being recognized as such by other governments?

            It’s a bit weird to think of independence as being dependent on other similar entities, but it might somewhat work like that.

      • John Schilling says:

        Hasn’t there been a de facto independent Kurdistan since 1991 at the latest, which nobody recognizes and which pretends to acknowledge the sovereignty of one or more other nations for diplomatic purposes?

        Or if not, you’re going to have to try and demarcate the fuzzy border around the concept of “independence”.

    • dndnrsn says:

      “Any independent Kurdish-controlled entity” in a year seems quite likely. I doubt the Syrian government is going to be able to take back the Kurdish-controlled regions there. Anything beyond that is unlikely. I’m around 80% confident on the first, 90% on the second.

  14. HFARationalist says:

    Defending Merchants and Merchant Cultures

    Merchants or at least some merchants are vilified in many moralistic traditional cultures. So are merchant cultures. However I don’t believe there is anything wrong with either. Merchants are a healthy part of a society. Earning money is morally good.

    Here I would like to mention antisemitism which is basically a prudish, jealous or lunatic response to legitimate trade and legitimate merchants who just happen to be good at their jobs.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      You might be interested in Jane Jacobs’ Systems of Survival.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Thanks! I have bought it. I fully identify as someone who largely behave in a commercial manner which explains many of my behaviors. In fact I even desire that traditionally guardian issues be dealt with in a commercial manner.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          You’re welcome!

          I’m inclined to think Jacobs overdoes it– most businesses involve some defense of territory.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think you’re mistaken on a couple of grounds here.

      First, a culture need not be moralistic or traditional to dislike a group perceived as both merchants and foreign. They just need to be envious, feel that they’re getting ripped off, whatever. “Those people who aren’t us are doing awfully well, they must be pulling some sneaky tricks” with a possible side of “also there’s fewer of them than there are of us, so…” doesn’t need moralism or traditionalism.

      Second, anti-Semitism is a lot more complicated than that. Consider all the religiously-based European anti-Jewish traditions (blood libel, etc). That occurred whatever the role the Jews in a given place played in the local economy.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I agree that antisemitism is more complicated than that.

        As for your first point, I already included “jealousy” into a cause of antisemitism. A foreign group that does really well in trade is very likely to either be cognitively much better than natives, culturally much better than natives or both. There is a reason why cats can cause extinction of birds on small islands. And..this is not the cats’ fault. Similarly there is a reason why Indians can dominate trade in Uganda and it is not Indians’ fault. The only legit way for natives to take back their market is to be as good as the foreign ones. Using violence to achieve it is illegitimate and does not actually cause natives to retain the market. Instead the businesses tend to fail or new foreigners who are as competent as the old ones take over the market returning the situation to square zero. For example Zimbabwean blacks believed that there is a white problem. When many white farmers are gone black Zimbabweans do not really take care of the farms that well. The same applies to Indonesians expelling Chinese. That did not make natives more capable of running businesses.

        As for your second point I included “lunatics” and “prudes” as well. People who invented well poisoning etc were insane.

        • Mark says:

          Using violence to achieve it is illegitimate and does not actually cause natives to retain the market.

          Would you describe Sakoku as a success or a failure? If the Japanese have the same cognitive potential as Europeans (or greater) is violence against foreign merchants justified?
          How can we tell?

          Also, you had the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, which I don’t believe had any long term major economic consequences?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Mark Sakoku was overwhelmingly a bad idea. Japan needed to make sure that Catholicism does not become a problem by instigating people to revolt against Japan in favor of Spain and Portugual. That’s it. Trade itself on the other hand is good.

            If violence against foreign merchants has no long term major economic consequences then it did not need to happen in the first place because this implies that natives could more or less compete with them.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition is a history of how non-Jews have seen Jews, and it’s a sad story of people just making stuff up.

          One thing that came as a surprise to me was how frantic the situation was for early Christians– they had what they thought was the true Messiah, but He didn’t resemble the Jewish prophecies (which expected real-world victory) or the Greek philosophy of an impersonal God.

          Jews not accepting Christ was a hard problem for Christians. I can’t say the Christians handled it gracefully, but then I wouldn’t.

          • dndnrsn says:

            To a large extent Christianity became a thing due to this weirdo Jewish cult sect having to answer the question “so the guy who was supposed to be the new hotness just got humiliatingly executed by the occupying colonial power – what’s up with that?”

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          As I understand it, part of what went wrong in Zimbabwe was that the farms which were confiscated from white farmers didn’t go to black farmers, they went to black people (in the military, I think) who were getting favors from the government.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Neither would help black Zimbabweans though. You don’t just know how to manage something by being offered it.

            Managing a farm requires a lot. And..this is what many black Zimbabweans haven’t learned yet. You need fertilizers. You need to constantly take care of the crops, etc. Most black Africans really haven’t learn that in history maybe because their population density was seldom high enough due to diseases to require intensive agriculture. I don’t consider it a form of racial inferiority or something because mere lack of knowledge doesn’t imply stupidity.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I don’t know enough about black Zimbabwean farmers to have a strong opinion. My guess is that at least some of them would have risen to the occasion, and they generally would have done better than people who weren’t farmers and had just been handed the land as corruption.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz Sure. However this isn’t the most important factor. There are enough lands in Africa that can feed everyone if properly taken care of.

          • . says:

            @HFAR: I don’t think this is central to your point anyway, but I strongly suspect that you are wrong about this. The Bantu have been farming since 400 AD at the latest. As for fertilizer, even if we assume that Black Zimbabwe didn’t have the industrial base to produce lots of fertlizer, surely they could just buy it.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @. I agree with you that Bantus indeed knew how to harm which is one reason why there was a Bantu expansion.

            However merely farming is no longer sufficient to feed Africa which has more people than before. Efficiency matters. Leaving too much arable land gathering dust is no longer a good idea. Pickling and drying food is a good idea for famines can occur. And..if you want to sell anything you’d better learn how to compete against your global competitors.

            As for fertilizers the cheapest ones are free. They are called manure. I’m glad that many people in Africa are already trying to make their land more productive. That’s a good start.

            Industry in Sub-Saharan Africa is indeed awful. However if they try I think they can produce some fertilizers on their own. The main difficulty is infrastructure instead of technology for an average high school student can already understand how to manufacture ammonia but without adequate energy supplies you aren’t going to get ammonia production finished.

          • Aapje says:

            The white Zimbabwean farmers had black workers and if the farms had been handed over to them, they might plausibly have done a decent job.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Aapje Sure.

    • Mark says:

      I don’t know.

      I was going to say that a useful distinction might be drawn between anti-merchant sentiment owing purely to jealousy of wealth gained by performing some useful social function, and jealousy of power, and that Evil May Day might be an example of the former.
      That’s how Evil May Day was taught to me at school. But, having a look at it:

      Several prominent aliens became infamous for both their political power and scandalous behaviour… the king granted him licence to trade overseas without paying customs duties. Most notoriously of all, de Bardi persuaded the wife of an Englishman to come and live with him, leaving her husband but bringing his silver and gold plate along with her. Remarkably, de Bardi then sued the Englishman and had him arrested for failing to pay the cost of his wife’s lodging.

      Man… those merchant tricks.

      Another especially well-known immigrant was John Meautys…he lived at a large house called Green Gate on Leadenhall Street, where he sheltered some of his countrymen from English law. According to a chronicler of the time, Meautys’ home became a prominent sanctuary for French pickpockets and wool-carders, who flouted London’s rules on trading. His royal favour ensured that Green Gate remained largely outside the law.

      Maybe we can say that merchants are a valuable part of society, but that there has to be a limit to how far they can control society. (Or that there will be a reaction from other groups if their power is seen to extend too far.)
      If I remember correctly, David Graeber’s argument in ‘Debt’ was that Judaism emerged as a reaction to debt peonage – a reaction against mercantile ethics.

      So, yeah. There’s a place for merchants, just as there is a place for warriors. We don’t want society run purely for either of these groups’ benefit, though. We want them in their place.

  15. Mwncsc says:

    Art & entertainment by controversial artists:

    After getting involved in a moderator-truncated conversation on another site about Top Gear and Woody Allen, I would like to further discuss if it is possible to appreciate and analyze art without acknowledging the personal failings or exploits of the creator.

    In my opinion, it is possible to enjoy a show or a film without giving any thought to the character of the artist. Roman Polanski is a rapist, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy Chinatown any less. Further, I don’t think it is necessary to preface any discussion of Chinatown with a rote restatement of the facts against Mr. Polanski and an assurance that the critic finds him totally reprehensible. Obviously if you are writing about how Polanski’s status as a fugitive impacted his directorial vision, bring up whatever is relevant.

    I was taught that authorial intent was not the sole prism through which art could be understood. What, then, is authorial character?

    • Randy M says:

      Perhaps an analogy can be made to a criminal trial for something like self-defense. Character isn’t relevant if you know the intent, but that can’t always be known. In some circumstance, intent isn’t even relevant, but it can be in others, like an ambiguous work with some possibly immoral (for whatever criteria matters to the critic in question) implications, and character can be a clue to what that intent likely was.

    • Montfort says:

      I tend to agree with you. I don’t think discussions of most shows or films really hinge on authorial intent, much less character. But since these works are usually for mass consumption, and so are the discussions of them, it probably saves time and effort for the critic to repeat the standard disclaimer rather than have to deal with every fifth person chiming in with it like it’s new and pertinent information.

      If you had a more closed format, like an academic journal or at an industry event or similar, it would be easier and productive to discard that kind of boilerplate. Or, for an example maybe closer to your experience, I’d expect a forum specializing in media criticism (of a more serious kind than just quick reactions) would be more sympathetic to your ideas than if you posted in the media criticism/discussion area of a more general forum.

    • keranih says:

      I would like to further discuss if it is possible to appreciate and analyze art without acknowledging the personal failings or exploits of the creator.

      I think it is not always easy, but nearly always preferable. I am not always able to do this – Polanski is a great example.

      For me, it’s easier if I focus on the art, rather than the creator of it. I’m not entirely ok with this approach, as it ‘cheats’ the creator of my appreciation of their effort and talent. But at least this way I can appreciate the work itself.

      As to the larger (and unasked) question of how much we should honor people for the good they do, and how much of the bad they do we should ignore/forgive – that I don’t have any answer for.

    • BBA says:

      If the artist’s identity is intimately associated with the work, then it can become impossible to enjoy. The Cosby Show – named after its creator/star/producer/quasi-autobiographical subject – was one of the most successful shows ever, but is likely to never appear on television or be available commercially again.

      What becomes harder is if a work is a collaboration. Phil Spector is a murderer, but should this ruin our enjoyment of songs he co-wrote or produced? Should Darlene Love stop singing “Baby Please Come Home” each Christmas, even though the song is much more closely associated with her than with Spector?

      The trivial answer is to simply refuse to enjoy anything with a contribution from someone who’s done something morally unsavory, but then we’d be down to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and maybe not even that if you start combing through every name in the credits.

    • A lot depends on whether something is meant to be cosily family entertainment, or dark and transgressive…rock starts and the like get away with a lot.

    • Standing in the Shadows says:

      Can you read the sex scenes in any book by MZB without vomiting?

      I feel ill just remembering I had read them, decades ago, before I knew.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://franklinmethod.com/transformation/…

    It’s a description of the anatomy of the heart and how it relates to movement. There are exercises to give the heart more room– the heart sits on the diaphram, is between the lungs, and is suspended from the top at the back and front.

    The heart and lungs form a large ball joint in the middle of your chest (ok, a little to the left), and it feels good to appreciate movement in that area. To be more exact, it feels good to me, and I expect it would feel good to most people.

    There’s a plausible argument that it’s good for the heart to have room, and this takes a relaxed, upright posture. Hunching or slouching means the heart has less room.

    This is me speaking, not Franklin– aiming directly at being more upright isn’t necessarily helpful because it’s possible to just add more tension. There are a lot of systems that aim at freedom of movement rather than correct shape, and I think they’re more sensible.

  17. rlms says:

    From Facebook: a rare viral culture peace video.

    • Zorgon says:

      It’s certainly heartwarming, but I’m so poisoned by the culture war at this point I can only see it as “BLM activists given free publicity after expressing the motte version of their position to the usual rapturous applause”.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        https://www.ted.com/talks/theo_e_j_wilson_a_black_man_goes_undercover_in_the_alt_right

        Getting beyond Social Justice to looking for peace with people.

        • keranih says:

          As a person adjacent to those Wilson is trying to convert/understand, I think his approach needs a bit more work. He’s still stuck in the idea that he’s got all the right answers.

          (But perhaps when he’s talking to altright (rather than to ctl left, as he is in the ted talk) he phrases things differently.)

          I do appreciate the effort, though. And I am completely stealing the concept of internet trolls as those beings who dwell under the overpasses of the information superhighway.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Good talk, but I agree with keranih. He didn’t quite understand the people or issues he was talking about.

          1) Grouping Milo Yiannopoulos with Richard Spencer and David Duke is an outgroup homogeneity bias error.

          2) He responded to “white genocide” fears with an allegory to nature, but a steelman of white genocide casts it as a political problem, not a natural selection problem. Responding to a political process that enslaves or exterminates blacks with “lol I guess nature doesn’t like black people” would not be a persuasive argument, certainly not to black people. If his goal is to engage with people who hold this view and change their minds, he needs a better argument.

          3) On echo chambers, I get the impression he believes the situation is symmetric. He was in a liberal bubble, and assumed the right or the alt right is in a right-wing bubble. One would have to be very dedicated to establish a right-wing bubble, and would therefore obviously be aware of it. Blue Tribe cultural values are pumped into the homes of everyone with a television set, are enshrined in every school curriculum and every HR department. To not get messages like “racism and sexism are bad” and “diversity is our strength” you would have to not watch TV, movies, the NFL, attend school, or hold down a job. It’s far more likely that right-wingers have heard left-wing arguments and reject them than that right-wingers exist in a bubble and have never heard left-wing arguments, and that left-wing conceptions of right-wing arguments are filtered through left-wing sources. Listening to what the Daily Show says about a Donald Trump speech is not the same thing as listening to a Donald Trump speech.

          4) Too much focus on facts. There’s this idea that “my side has the facts and the other side believes lies and slanders, and if we just get them to see the facts they’ll agree with me!” No. What matters is which facts are relevant to you. An unarmed black man is shot by police on the same day a pretty white girl is raped by an illegal Mexican. CNN devotes 24/7 coverage to the shooting, while Breitbart devotes article after article to the rape. Liberals get really worked up about the shooting and police brutality and don’t give much concern to the rape or illegal immigration, and conservatives are up in arms about the rape and illegal immigration and mostly indifferent to the shooting or policing issues. Which group is ignoring the facts and wallowing in lies? The world is full of facts, the vast majority of which are irrelevant to us. Agreeing on the facts is far less important than agreeing which facts are relevant.

  18. johan_larson says:

    Red River Valley is a whole lot of fine melody per unit of difficulty. Do any other pieces of music manage to do better, when adjusted for difficulty?

  19. Chouchani says:

    I am going to start teaching to inmates next weeks (not in the US): do you have some advice ?
    More specifically, what should I do /not do so as to assert my authority over tougher and older people ?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      That sounds like a question we as a group are uniquely unqualified to answer.

      Side note, what are you teaching them?

    • You don’t say what you are teaching or in what context. My only suggestion is that you should make it clear why what you are teaching is of value to them. That will be more persuasive if attending is voluntary–you don’t say if it is.

      • Chouchani says:

        Sorry for the lack of precision – I haven’t myself been fully briefed yet. I’ll be teaching HS-level Maths and Physics mostly, in a French prison. The inmates there will be serving either short sentences or awaiting trial which implies a lot of turnover, and complicates teaching conditions.

        Attending is voluntary, as I won’t be teaching juveniles. I’ve been told, however, that for a non-negligible minority of inmates the motivation for attending classes is that it can reduce prison time: some therefore don’t feel an incentive to actually learn.

    • willachandler says:

      Inmates have stories … understand and respect those stories … you have a story too … insist that your inmate-students understand and respect it.

      In or out of prisons, successful classes nurture and strengthen the hopeful elements of shared stories — the resulting diverse-yet-compatible commitments power the class.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I lack sufficient information both about you and the inmates to give any detailed advice, and as Nabil notes, this is probably the wrong crowd to ask anyway (talk to your fellow teachers, the prison chaplain if applicable, or any guard who doesn’t appear to be complete d-bag).

      That said, the most common mistake I saw from newly promoted Lts and NCOs was not following through on threats. IE if you tell someone that you’re going to “write them, up” or kick them out of the class, for being disruptive YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO IT, and do so with the absolute minimum of hesitation or ambiguity. You also need to remember that you’re not there to make friends, (which isn’t to say you can’t make friends) you are there to teach and they are there to learn and this must come before all other considerations

      • CatCube says:

        To add to this, a corollary to hlynkacg’s advice is to be judicious with threats. Because you’ll have to carry them out to be credible, be sure you don’t make threats that you aren’t willing or able to carry out. The prisoners are likely to know as well as or better than you what a teacher can or can’t do, and if you threaten to do something that you can’t do it’ll destroy your credibility.

        Also remember that it’s better to be a little too strict at first, then lighten up. People get really resentful of people who establish start out easygoing and then try to tighten the screws when things get out of hand. They mind it a lot less when people start with too strict a classroom/workplace/etc. and then loosen up when it becomes apparent that they don’t need to be that strict. I don’t mean like Captain Bligh, just make sure your rules are fair and known and that you will enforce them to the letter.

      • Carolus says:

        Having taught at San Quentin for years one of my favorite memories was a student exclaiming “You aren’t here to make friends, are you?” To which I responded “No, I’m not!”

        He had just asked whether something was going to be on the exam and my response was something like “Just learn the material.” His response was delivered with a grin – as was my retort! A good classroom is based on mutual respect, but not friendship.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I have family in corrections, and family in education, and have done a lot of paid adult tutoring.

      Keep your word inviolate- everyone respects this, but inmates especially so. Don’t make threats or promises you cannot or will not keep- that includes things like “if you work hard, you’ll be great at this!” if they might not be even with effort, as well as the more prosaic “if you disrupt class again, I’ll report you to the officer”.

      Since your sessions won’t be guaranteed to build on themselves (due to high turnover), focus on standalone “puzzle-style” topics that introduce and solve a problem in one session. Lots of this in algebra and some in physics- though with physics it will be tougher to introduce problems without teaching some definitions/vocabulary first. I’ve had some success with tutoring physics (I got an AS in it before I switched to math) by pitching it as better understanding how the world works, and by trying to tie it to future topics that require it and might appeal to the student (say, engineering, or sports medicine, etc.).

      General tips for teaching adults: Respect their life stories, accomplishments, and challenges, but don’t let them use it as baggage to excuse failure. Do not encourage “group discussions” or other student-to-student interaction where you aren’t directly mediating it until well after you’ve got a read on the relative status dynamics and likely personalities. Project knowledge and self-confidence: You want to give the impression that the time they are spending with you is valuable. Do not give out additional personal information that would dox/connect you to the students, but don’t hesitate to make up stories that demonstrate principles you want to teach- many people respond better to concrete past-tense experiences rather than hypothetical thought experiments, even if it’s just a matter of phrasing.

    • Carolus says:

      I volunteered at San Quentin for years during grad school via the Prison University Project .
      Surprisingly with that population, asserting authority wasn’t an issue. I can’t remember ever having to deal with disruptive behavior beyond talking in the back. The most common misbehavior was simply not doing the work. That, I would let slide (even though I failed the worst offender). You have to decide whether you want to let the slackers slack or spend time motivating them. I found it was better to focus on those who wanted to get something from the class. You’ll need to feel out your classroom and determine what the best approach is, but I don’t think you will find it to be a battle of wills.

      Most of the time just be consistent in what you say and do. Think of them as students and treat them with the same respect you’d give to any other student. You are there to teach, you aren’t there to rehabilitate. Rehabilitation comes from the confidence they’ll gain by doing something they thought they couldn’t do and by being treated as a member of the classroom and with respect.

      Part of treating them like a student is not asking them about their personal lives. You wouldn’t ask a traditional student invasive questions – same applies here.
      They’ll share, if you do it long enough.

      Good luck, it’ll be a great experience if it is anything like mine. Please share what your impressions were like on your first day. I remember being more intimidated by the guards than the students!

    • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

      If you are a woman with male inmates:
      Look, dress, speak, move as unsexy as possible.

  20. BBA says:

    The first science fiction convention (and thus the first fan convention of any kind) was held in the 1930s. As with most other topics within fandom, which event was the first convention is up for debate. The contenders are the First Eastern Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia, held October 18, 1936, and the First British Science Fiction Conference in Leeds, held January 3, 1937. I don’t believe anyone who attended either convention is still living, but we have their linked reminiscences to record what went on at each convention.

    The central point of contention is that the Leeds Science Fiction League had started planning their convention in September ’36 and to that end had rented a convention hall, organized a program of speeches, etc. The American convention, meanwhile, had only been planned a few days in advance as a visit of New York’s main SF club at the time, the NYB-ISA, to meet with their Philadelphia counterparts, the PSFS (which unlike the other clubs I mentioned, still exists). After some sightseeing, the two cities’ groups gathered in the living room of a Philadelphia fan and spontaneously proclaimed themselves a “convention.” This was apparently the idea of Don Wollheim, who had read about the planned British convention and wanted to beat them to the punch.

    There are cases to be made as to both events being called the “first convention.” From a modern viewpoint, they both seem very similar. Notably, they both were tiny compared to modern cons, with 9 and 14 attendees respectively. Neither had any guests (although Arthur C. Clarke gave a talk at the Leeds con, he was just a fan at the time!) or a dealer’s room. True, there was no set program at the Philadelphia con, but there are unstructured “relaxacons” being held to this day. The main point in favor of Leeds is that they had announced and advertised their event, while the Americans had done neither. But fandom being as small as it was at the time, I doubt that there was anyone who would’ve wanted to go to Philadelphia but hadn’t heard about it in advance.

    Personally, I give the edge to the Philadelphia convention, because I’m a jingoist, America fuck yeah because of the later history of conventions that sprang from it. The main result of the “business meeting” in Philadelphia was to organize a “Second Eastern” convention in New York for the spring of 1937. At that somewhat larger convention, the decision was made to hold a “World” convention in conjunction with the New York World’s Fair of 1939. And thus Worldcon was born, and the rest is history. In addition, the PSFS held the “Third Eastern” in the fall of 1937, followed by another con in fall of ’38, and what they’ve since named “Philcon” continues to this day.

    The Leeds group also made plans for future conventions, and established the Science Fiction Association as a national club to organize fan activities. The SFA sponsored the second and third British conventions in London, in ’38 and ’39, before the war put a halt to their activities. After the war, Worldcon and the American fan groups resumed, with the planned hosts of the 1942 con in Los Angeles going ahead with it in 1946. The SFA, sadly, did not reform, and it was an entirely different fan group that restarted the British national conventions in 1948.

    In some sense, then, every mob of cosplayers that’s terrorized a major city over a weekend can trace its heritage back to the handful of nerds who proclaimed themselves a convention in 1936.

    (Side note: according to Fancyclopedia, from the first Worldcon until 1960 or so the standard usage was to reserve the name “convention” for a national or international event. Smaller regional events like Philcon were called “conferences,” and even smaller gatherings could be deemed “conclaves” or “confabulations.” This usage is basically defunct, although it does explain why so many events call themselves SomethingCon.)

  21. Wrong Species says:

    Star Trek Discovery impression: It’s basically Game of Thrones in space. Spoilers:

    Oheaunz qrpvqrf gb ynhapu urefrys ng gur bowrpg, rira gubhtu gurer vf ab ernfba sbe vg naq cyragl bs ernfbaf abg gb. Gur Pncgnva nyybjf ure gb naq fur raqf hc pnhfvat n jne. Ohg jr’ir frra guvf xvaq bs guvat orsber ba Fgne Gerx fb gung’f abg gung ovt bs na vffhr. Ubjrire…

    Gur svefg bssvpre qrpvqrf gb zhgval ntnvafg gur Pncgnva sbe varkphfnoyr ernfbaf. V xabj fbzr zrzoref bs gur perj unir abg sbyybjrq beqref orsber ohg arire nalguvat fb oenmrayl greevoyr. Ubj ner jr fhccbfrq gb flzcnguvmr jvgu ure?

    • DrBeat says:

      “It’s basically Game of Thrones in space” is enough to tell me I’m right to be watching the Orville.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The Orville definitely isn’t perfect but it has improved each episode. The last episode was classic Star Trek.

    • John Schilling says:

      Can we compromise on the proposed solutions to the crisis and launch Lt. Burnham out a photon torpedo tube at the Klingon ship?

      More to the point, can we get a reading on who the target audience is, that is supposed to see her as in any way a sympathetic character after all that? Because this is making me revise my opinion of J.J. Abrams’s arrogant rebel Kirk, slightly upward by comparison.

      • Deiseach says:

        J.J. Abrams’s arrogant rebel Kirk

        Oh, I was hopping mad over that! There is no way Kirk should have retained command of the Enterprise after the first movie; battlefield promotion is all very well but they’re still a crew of just-graduated cadets and moving him back down to Junior Lieutenant for his first posting, like the original Kirk started out, is the way any ordinary military-based organisation is doing it.

        As for his conduct in the second movie, throwing a hissy fit over his First Officer doing his job, expecting to get away with the stunt he pulled (falsifying mission reports) and being “punished” by “we’re only busting you down a rank and you can still serve as First Officer on the ship under my captaincy” was silly. I was glad Pike tore a strip off him in the debriefing but Kirk plainly (and we plainly also should have) thought he was in the right and was being unfairly treated.

        One of the few things I appreciated about the second movie was the way Marcus played Kirk like a fiddle: giving him back captaincy of the Enterprise, encouraging him on his vengeance for Pike mission, flattering him and taking him into his (seeming) confidence, all the while winding him up and setting him off to start the Federation-Klingon war without Kirk tumbling to any of it, being too blinded by his own anger, grief, and over-confidence.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      What does “basically Game of Thrones in space” mean? What are the qualities of Game of Thrones that this series shares? High production values? Lots of sex? Kills seemingly important characters?

      I ask without agenda; I don’t really care about either show.

      • cassander says:

        my take on the comment, and I had a similar criticism, was characters doing things that make little to no sense because the plot demands it in order to set up big dramatic set pieces.

      • Wrong Species says:

        High production values, killing characters, making characters not good people and focusing the series on war. Basically, they wanted to make Star Trek certified Dark and Gritty.

        Also, what cassander said.

    • Deiseach says:

      Haven’t seen any comments to that effect in the few cautiously positive reviews I’ve seen online. As to your question, I think the answer there may be going for the B5 factor I mentioned before – Sheridan revolts against the chain of command in effect but is supposed to be so charismatic and plainly In The Right we should not question it.

      Now, if the show comes down on them like a ton of bricks for this and doesn’t let them get away with it, that will be a good sign.

      • John Schilling says:

        Babylon 5 spent about a season of B-plots showing us that the President was a murderous usurper engaged in the violent repression of political dissent, before expecting us to agree that mutiny was a good idea. Discovery expects us to buy that it’s appropriate for the first officer to mutiny because her captain didn’t accept her tactical advice when after all she’s the star of the show and the captain is just supporting cast.

        • MrApophenia says:

          I’ve only watched the first episode so far, but based on that I don’t see any evidence that we’re meant to think she was right to mutiny. On the contrary, it’s portrayed as a pretty messed up, and I read the whole situation as clearly being on the captain’s side of things.

          Of course, that may prove to be wrong as I watch more episodes, but so far I didn’t see a problem there.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The problem isn’t whether she is properly punished(based on the previews CBS showed us, the new Captain seems to give her an out). The problem is that she did it at all. There have been times on Star Trek when the characters went against the Captain but that was usually because they thought something was mentally wrong with the Captain or he was being influenced by an alien. But we haven’t seen anything so brazenly terrible before. Star Trek is supposed to be about good, maybe flawed, people, not anti-heroes bordering on villains that every new drama is trying to conjure up.

          • Matt M says:

            not anti-heroes bordering on villains that every new drama is trying to conjure up.

            One of my biggest problems with modern TV. The pendulum has swung way too far. Yes, shows where everyone is a goody two-shoes model human being are boring, but shows where everyone is an evil, conniving, self-serving, egomaniacal jerk are JUST AS unrealistic, and even harder to put up with, because I don’t want to spend 60 minutes of my life every week virtually hanging out with a bunch of jerks.

          • John Schilling says:

            where everyone is an evil, conniving, self-serving, egomaniacal jerk…

            Lt. Burnham was a naively overconfident well-meaning jerk. That’s completely different. Well, slightly less dark, at least. Enough to maybe justify a night light for her oubliette.

          • MrApophenia says:

            True, I guess in Starfleet, officers do typically attain the rank of Admiral before they begin taking ethically dubious actions that go against Federation values in the name of a good cause. (See: Basically all episodes involving Admirals.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Captains can also sometimes get away with it. And there’s historical precedent for that. But it’s one thing to turn a blind eye to an order conveyed from a distant authority that may not understand the facts on the ground; physically assaulting the superior officer who is standing right there, listening to your proposal and your explanation and saying “No; on due consideration we are going to use my chosen tactics for achieving our shared goals” is right out even by Star Trek’s traditionally loose standards.

            Stealing the Enterprise to go on a Search for Spock would also fall into that category; to be fair, they did actually save the world on their way home and were nonetheless all sentenced to appear in “Star Trek V” for their penance.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Stealing the Enterprise…

            Is about the only ship they could have stolen that would have allowed the Federation Council to be as lenient as they were: a highly damaged obsolete wreck that was about to be decommissioned, that nearly every officer in the fleet and every citizen of the Federation would agree “belonged” to that crew metaphorically if not legally, and then they destroyed it before it could be captured.

            It’s also interesting that they were tried by the Federation Council. This is like being tried by the US Senate or by the UN General Assembly. The Watsonian explanation is for crimes as major as “mutiny by a command officer with a capital ship”, the Federation does not trust the Fleet’s own Military Judiciary or the Admirality to adjudicate it. One can even construct Watsonian backstory as to why that would be the case.

          • Seppo says:

            Also a bit like being tried by the House of Lords.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I was referring less to questionable orders from the admiralty and more to the fact that it seems like practically one in four Starfleet admirals is actively seeking, at any given moment, to secretly foment a war, stage a military coup, back a rogue black ops agency, or otherwise be the “surprise” villain of any given episode where an admiral appears.

            Always with the greater good in mind, of course!

          • cassander says:

            I was referring less to questionable orders from the admiralty and more to the fact that it seems like practically one in four Starfleet admirals is actively seeking, at any given moment, to secretly foment a war, stage a military coup, back a rogue black ops agency, or otherwise be the “surprise” villain of any given episode where an admiral appears.

            Always with the greater good in mind, of course!

            This is just part of the genius of the star trek universe. The basic conceit in star trek is that humans have basically solved all their problems and then gone out into the stars. One of the most basic human problems, of course, is organization theory.

            The people that set up star fleet knew that some humans will always be excessively ambitious, so they wrote the rules of star fleet to put most of the power in the hands of the people out on the front lines, then designed the promotion system to rapidly elevate anyone more concerned with getting ahead than with doing a good job to the admiralty. That way, everyone wins. The people who care more about getting shit done stay captains and stay out in ships doing good work, and the people who just want power and prestige become admirals where they get to enjoy endlessly and ineffectually plotting against each other instead of wrecking things for the productive people.

            It’s a brilliant system, putting the Peter Principle to work for good! Or, at least, that’s my head canon explanation.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            back a rogue black ops agency

            Section 31 is not “rogue”.
            They have almost never exceeded the scope of their charter.

            The fact that they do not have a history of using their power to increase the individual powers and luxuries of their individual members makes me suspect they do brain surgery on their command staff and on their own internal investigations operators. Which is something that sounds exactly like something they would do.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s also interesting that they were tried by the Federation Council.

            I think part of the reason there was that they had fled to Vulcan and were seeking/had been granted political asylum there, so it was no longer an in-house Starfleet matter, it was now dragging in civilian administrations. Plus they’d involved the Klingons, so for political reasons having a court-martial where they were tried by Starfleet would not have looked good (the Klingons would doubtless have complained that this was as good as letting them off scot-free, because their own military is unlikely to condemn its officers for fighting Klingons, right?)

      • Iain says:

        A number of online reviews (written by people with early access to future episodes) mention that Burnham doesn’t get away scot-free. You may be pleasantly surprised.

        • John Schilling says:

          If she winds up as the first officer of the starship “Discovery”, she got away scot-free. If she doesn’t, there’s no television series.

          I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be surprised by which choice CBS makes. Also not going to be surprised when they spend an episode or two trying to make us pretend to believe that she might actually go to prison or something before sending her back to be second officer of a starship with a really stern talking-to. Nor when a key reason for that is that Captain Jason Isaacs insists that her combination of initiative, moxie, and/or Klingon-murderyness is just what he needs in his Number One.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            If she winds up as the first officer of the starship “Discovery”, she got away scot-free. If she doesn’t, there’s no television series.

            What if she dies and someone else takes over?

          • John Schilling says:

            Then much of their PR investment is wasted, a significant segment of the fanbase is offended, and really nobody is going to invest production or advertising money on somebody taking that sort of risk with such a valuable franchise. So there’s no series, retroactive past the point where we know there is a series.

          • Protagoras says:

            Considering the way things end at the end of episode 2, and some of the previews of future episodes they flash at the end, I still feel like you’re being premature. Maybe I’m just knee-jerk contrarian when it comes to the opinions of the SSC commentariat, but I still have both severe doubts that Orville will turn out to be worthwhile in the long run, as well as cautious optimism that Discovery might.

    • dodrian says:

      The first officer saw a solution to a huge problem, the solution would likely save many lives (or so we would think from what we know about the Trek universe). That solution also went against one of Starfleet’s core values.

      That’s great potential for a new Trek show (especially as it seems like this is a set up to a multi-episode arc). It was a horribly botched execution.

      The production values were high, and there was glitz everywhere, but it felt like the flashiness was there to drive the plot forward. There was no time to appreciate anything, nor to think about the conflict. I think it hinted that they were at a standoff for several hours after the ‘flash’, yet the show felt the need to heighten tension by rushing things.

      My wife commented afterwards that we only learned about three of the characters on the bridge. We know more about the admiral from a brief 30s conversation than anyone else on the Shenzou, though I think this is because after another episode or two we’re going to get a new ship and new crew. Could this episode have been done better through flashbacks (potentially in a court-martial scene or similar)? We’ll see if this particular approach pays off, but it doesn’t indicate to me that the writers care about the cast as an ensemble.

      The United Klingon storyline has potential, I’m not a huge fan of the new Klingon aesthetic, but I’m willing to wait and see what direction it’s taken in. But there’s a big danger that it will detract from the series as a whole. This is supposed to be Star Trek: Discovery, will the cast be out exploring and discovering, or will they be focused on a war with the Klingons?

      Of course I’m not actually going to watch any more episodes until it’s put on something I already pay for.

      • cassander says:

        I was surprised, actually, by how good the secondary characters were. Sarek was great, the admiral was great, even that redshirt ensign who got wounded was great. All of them were more sympathetic and interesting that any of the klingons or main human characters. I do not think this bodes well for the future of the show.

        • dodrian says:

          I liked the captain, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing much more of her. Sarek was good too, but I think they could have chosen a vulcan other than an already established character.

          • cassander says:

            The captain wasn’t bad, but she was extremely bland. Compare her to the admiral, who gave a greater impression of competence and humanity in 30 seconds on screen than the captain did in 30 minutes. She’d have been fine as generic captain who our heros rescue, but couldn’t sell great captain and mentor.

      • Deiseach says:

        The little bit I saw of it has one problem, so far as I’m concerned: the tech is way ahead of anything we see in TOS (that ‘walking around the bridge’ hologram of the Admiral for a start) but the timeline is supposed to be just before (fuzzy on how long that is) the start of TOS.

        Okay, I know the outside-universe reason for this is because this is 2017 and audiences expect up to date flash tech, and would not accept the traditional Trek technology, also the show wants to be new, different and special so it’s throwing all this fancy eye-candy at us to hook us and make us sign up to pay to watch.

        But how the heck are they going to explain it in-universe (“yeah we had all this cool stuff on our starships but um, something happened and now we don’t”), or will they simply ignore it? Are we supposed to think this is yet another split-off timeline, one where Spock had a human step-sister etc? I think I would have preferred if they’d just gone “Discovery: in between the end of TOS and the start of TNG” and not dragged in characters like Sarek (I love Sarek! But please don’t keep re-using and retconning his family!)

        So yeah – looks great but will the writing hold up over a season? Or will they fall back on the tired old “let’s break most of the rules of Starfleet/the Federation just to establish that our heroes are always right and 21st century American-centric liberal/centre-left social values are the ultimate bestest in all of history! It’s not colonialism or cultural appropriation if, for example, we break the Prime Directive in order to liberate a world suffering under the yoke of sexism, homo- and transphobia, and wearing MAGA hats!” (I think the Prime Directive is a tough rule, and having a tough rule like that where it’s very tempting to meddle is a good thing because it does set up real moral dilemmas, but solving that by breaking the rule every time because you are convinced your values are the right ones, and always having that gamble work out, is cheating).

        • Nick says:

          (I think the Prime Directive is a tough rule, and having a tough rule like that where it’s very tempting to meddle is a good thing because it does set up real moral dilemmas, but solving that by breaking the rule every time because you are convinced your values are the right ones, and always having that gamble work out, is cheating).

          Breaking it when it’s convenient is bad, but very pointedly not breaking it to stop the long suffering and death of an entire species is unarguably worse.

          ETA: Enterprise, giving us the worst Prime Directive story of all, before there even was a Prime Directive!

        • MrApophenia says:

          The fact that this is set in the new timeline gives them their official out for the more technologically advanced TOS-era. Remember, this isn’t just a universe where history was changed a few decades earlier – it’s a universe where a bunch of century-ahead future tech showed up, and was promptly captured and studied by the locals for 25 years. (The backstory for the Abrams movie is that Kirk’s dad crippled the bad guys’ ship, and it and they were captured by the Klingons and studied before they got free again.)

          To be fair, this explains the Klingons having much better technology, but it’s not obvious how this would get to the Federation, given that it’s a big plot point that the humans have had almost no dealing with the Klingons. On the other hand, the Vulcans absolutely have, and it seems plausible that some of the technology could have spread from there.

          I don’t expect they’ll ever go super in detail about it, but the presence of a TNG-era ship getting dumped into the timeline and studied for decades is plausible enough for me to handwave away why the tech is different.

          • Don P. says:

            “The fact that this is set in the new timeline…”

            — I don’t think that’s true, although I’m having trouble finding a from-the-horse’s-mouth statement. Time Magazine’s recent article says:

            “The writers have said that Discovery will maintain continuity with the old series, and events from Discovery will explain plot points in the original Trek…the writers say all the discrepancies between Discovery and the original show will be explained.”

            I also have read that the movie IP is contractually separate from the TV IP, or at least not included in the TV contract, but I can’t find that either right now so take that as a rumor.

            (From http://time.com/4952491/star-trek-discovery-timeline/)

        • thepenforests says:

          The little bit I saw of it has one problem, so far as I’m concerned: the tech is way ahead of anything we see in TOS (that ‘walking around the bridge’ hologram of the Admiral for a start) but the timeline is supposed to be just before (fuzzy on how long that is) the start of TOS.

          Okay, I know the outside-universe reason for this is because this is 2017 and audiences expect up to date flash tech, and would not accept the traditional Trek technology, also the show wants to be new, different and special so it’s throwing all this fancy eye-candy at us to hook us and make us sign up to pay to watch.

          Haven’t watched much Star Trek in general, and haven’t seen Discovery at all, but: sounds like a similar situation to Star Wars. And if the way the prequel trilogy was handled is any indication, they probably won’t address it at all (beyond at most a few extremely unconvincing hand-wavy explanations). So…I’m guessing it’ll pretty much be left up to the fans, who have the option of going full-on Doylist, coming up with slightly less unconvincing retcons, or just trying not to think about it too much.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Star Trek Discovery was one of those rare shows that I was physically unable to watch. All the random camera angles, combined with pointless jump cuts every 1..2 seconds, made it totally impossible for me to follow. Made me dizzy, too. And that’s even before the lens flares…

    • BBA says:

      I’m just a little upset I missed it, and even the “free preview” episode needs a subscription to stream online – which I have no intention of doing. WTF, CBS.

    • Elephant says:

      Having now watched the first two episodes, and the teaser for the rest of the season, I’m not excited about watching more. The whole thing looks like it’s going to be Dark and Gritty Space War, with maybe some Dark and Gritty character arcs. What happened to discovering new worlds and new civilizations, and even having a little fun?

      • Matt M says:

        I mean that’s basically what DS9 was, and everyone praised it…

        • toastengineer says:

          DS9 wasn’t really that dark, and it was in a time when the market was hungry for that, not saturated with it.

          And I suspect it was more praised for having people realistically react to extreme and dramatic situations than for being generically “gritty.”

        • John Schilling says:

          Also, it was an inferior knock-off of Babylon 5 in every way except the production values, so not all of us were praising it.

          “We’re not some Deep Space franchise – this place is about something!”, S. Ivanova and P. David, S2E14,

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I really liked the visuals. The show looked great. And it had promise up until it looked like the plot is going to revolve around War among the Stars. That’s a different franchise. I was hoping Discovery would be about exploring strange new worlds and new civilizations, but I guess not.

      On the other hand, I really enjoyed the third episode of The Orville.

  22. AntagonisticPleiotropy says:

    Another example of an Agloe-style map-summoning-terrain situation: the EURO banknotes.

    They feature seven different bridges. To be even-handed, these are European-styled bridges that do not exist in real life. Or they didn’t. In 2011, “town of Spijkenisse in the Netherlands built seven bridges of colored concrete after the designs on the seven euro banknotes”.

  23. There was an interesting discussion just getting started on the last thread between me and nimim.k.m about the effects of parents or previous ancestors on one’s current behavior. It was part of a thread started by HFARationalist, where he was saying that the dead should have no rights, but I am mostly interested in this sub-thread.

    @ nmim. Interesting comments. I can identify with them more than your initial comments.

    1) First of all, guilt for doing something wrong. Yes, I do think that the guilt I feel if I do something wrong (presumably by harming someone), partially comes from engrained guilt picked up as a small child, being told in no uncertain terms by a parent NEVER to do that again. Although I think it also comes from two other places: a) I have empathy for others when they are harmed, which I think is built into my genetic make-up, and b) I have a bit of fear that the person harmed will sometime confront me with my mis-deeds. But I agree that part of my current behavior probably does come from my parents, even though I don’t feel the direct connection.

    2) Maintaining a legacy from one’s parents, such as holding onto keepsakes. I have nothing like this in my personal life, but I can understand the point. I think this is partly that one feels more valuable as person if one is part of an ancestral chain that stretches back (and hopefully forward) into time. I assume there is also the parental guilt instilled in one as a child, as I discussed in #1, that this keepsake is IMPORTANT. As I said, I haven’t experienced this myself, so I could have it slightly wrong.

    3) Your third example was maintaining the ancestral real estate, which I agree is less important for most these days than it would have been 200 years ago. This tie to the land may explain why some people won’t leave their ancestral homeland, sometimes seemingly irrationally, such as when a very hostile army has invaded. I think this tie to the land is for the same reasons as #2.

    I suppose this does tie back to HFA’s original point of the rights of the dead. I think your point, nimim, is that these emotional connections have nothing to do with the rights of the dead per se, but instead, the rights of the living to keep these connections? I certainly agree that when we do give rights to the dead, the point is to benefit those still alive. At least that’s how it should be.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I think your point, nimim, is that these emotional connections have nothing to do with the rights of the dead per se, but instead, the rights of the living to keep these connections?

      This sounds about right, but I may have to think about this more before writing a longer response.

      (Pending that longer response…. To clarify my positions in the previous thread, [or at least what I think my position was]: I tried to make explicit the various reasons why it feels to me very natural to have these connections, practically a direct consequence of the connections one has with the living people.)

  24. GregS says:

    I thought this might be of interest to some SSC readers. I have a long blog post suggesting an alternative to the standard narrative of the “prescription opioid epidemic.” I’m using a Vox piece by German Lopez as a foil. The whole thing is here. Feel free to read, offer critiques, suggest other things I should read, etc. I’ve been looking into this for the past two years. I’ve commented here and on Tyler Cowen’s blog whenever this subject comes up. Thanks.

    • Matt M says:

      Didn’t read word for word, but did skim and appreciated the piece. I think the part about how “the doctors really are best positioned to make the decisions here” cannot be emphasized enough. The notion that we need government policy to enforce blanket bans on entire (effective) courses of treatment in order to maximize the avoidance of drug-dealing doctors selfishly forcing opioids onto patients who don’t really need them is absurd.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        My wife cut her thumb almost to the bone with an immersion blender a few weeks back and after they stitched it up the ER docs would not give her any pain pills. Yes, I understand they don’t want to hand out oxy to everybody who stumbles into the ER and say “uh my back hurts,” but she’s clearly not faking the sliced-open thumb to get pills.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Some people will actually do themselves serious harm to get prescribed pain pills. And ER docs are some of the most jaded about such things.

          Here in NJ, the state has been running a campaign implying you shouldn’t allow opoids to be given to children in severe pain due to surgery or injury, a campaign I consider morally equivalent to advocating torture. And they don’t allow an initial opoid prescription to be more than 5 days supply for any reason (adults or children), which having broken my hip a few years ago (it takes months to heal, and when you first start putting weight on it a few weeks in, you can reach really high pain levels) I also consider tantamount to torture. Theoretically you can get a further prescription; in fact you have to consider the possibility that asking for more pain pills is going to get you labeled as drug-seeking, and then you never get them again.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sounds like this is a highly regional issue.

            A couple years ago I went in to a hospital in Oregon for some minor surgery and they practically threw opioids at me — they prescribed me a couple weeks’ supply of two different types (along with some non-opioid topical stuff) with instructions to fill the milder one immediately, try it, and then get the stronger one filled if that didn’t work. I ended up using about a week’s worth of the milder one, and then the rest of the pills sat in my medicine cabinet until I threw them out in a move.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This was the first time my wife had been injured in any way that would justify pain pills in probably 15 years. You would think they could give somebody 2-3 days worth of pills just until the worst of the pain is over. So, yes, I think they’re going too far in the fight against over-prescribing opioids.

          • Matt M says:

            Some people will actually do themselves serious harm to get prescribed pain pills.

            You know, in cases this extreme, maybe the optimal outcome is just to give them the fucking pills? Or refer them to psychiatric help?

            Or is this one of those moralistic “we do not negotiate with terrorists” sort of policies?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The latter, I think. Drug warriors put essentially zero value on pain relief and extremely high moral value on not taking drugs.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      If you read the study, it says nothing about the causal link between prescription painkillers and subsequent heroin use. Recall that there were 85 million prescription opioid users in 2015. If any of them subsequently become heroin users, they will be counted in the 75%.

      Do you really think that they would say something that stupid? JAMA isn’t Vox.

      It is unclear, but in some parts it says that 75% of heroin users previously abused prescription opioids. This article is unequivocal, spelling it out in the title.

      • Nornagest says:

        What does abuse mean? Serious, long-term recreational use, or any off-prescription use?

        If I were interested in opioids, I imagine it’d be easier for me to buy some pills off a friend’s prescription supply than to go out and find a heroin dealer. I likely wouldn’t keep doing that if I decided I liked them (or they decided they liked me), but that doesn’t necessarily make them a gateway drug in the conventional sense.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The 75% is for any nonmedical use. I think people ask that to inflate the numbers, but also because it is a sharp delineation, comparable across studies.
          Only half of heroin users are considered dependent. The study I linked cited a study finding that 39% of Seattle heroin users (addicts?) were dependent on opioids before starting heroin.

          • Nornagest says:

            That number sounds more believable to me.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It sounds like the same number to me. If half of heroin users aren’t addicts, you wouldn’t expect them to previously have been pill addicts. If addiction (1/2) and prior pill use (3/4) are independent, then 3/8 of heroin users were pill addicts.

            (But if the study is only of heroin addicts, then it is a substantially smaller number.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I assumed addicts, which on rereading might not be the right assumption. It’s what you’d get if you’re using the most straightforward ways to get a large sample of heroin users (i.e. drawing from substance abuse programs, where you don’t end up unless you’re an addict or else very unlucky), but it’s not what the wording says strictly read, and they might be doing something more ambitious.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The Seattle study surveyed syringe exchanges. I have no idea if that ends up meaning addicts.

            The 50% not addicts figure requires that some studies not restrict to addicts.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        How many people who “abused prescription opioids” later used heroin? That’s the more interesting and predictive number.

        And, real “abuse”, not legal technical “abuse”.

        By the legal technical definition, I’ve “abused” prescription opioids. For just one example, decades ago, after some moderately painful dental surgery, was given a bottle of percocet to cover “two pills every 12 hours for 14 days”. I only needed two a day for half a week, one a day for a week, and then didnt need it anymore. The rest of the bottle lasted for a few years, dealing with other occasional painful injuries, no more than one or two at a time. I think finally I threw the last 3 or 4 down the toilet, prior to a move.

        Legally, that’s “abuse”.

        Practically, do I have any sort of addiction, cravings, or destructive habits regarding opioids? Nope.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          As far as I can tell, that is not included in the statistic.

          Maybe this statistic is not useful, but that’s no excuse to lie about it.

    • Garrett says:

      I volunteer in EMS. All of the opioid overdoses I’ve dealt with have been from street drugs (in stamp bags).
      All of the prescription drug overdoses I’ve dealt with have benzos and similar (notwithstanding one case where a pt. got their medication mixed up with their wife’s, but that was mostly cardiac meds).

      On a personal note, I finally got the probation-like treatment of a “controlled substances” contract from my rheumatologist. See, the FDA, in their infinite wisdom decided that they needed to reduce the amount of acetaminophen/paracetamol/APAP in Fioricet because of accidental poisonings. So they mandated that it go from 325mg of APAP to 300mg. Concurrently, they decided to move it from being an unscheduled drug to being DEA schedule III (or not – there’s a possible exemption on this which is confusing). So my request for 10 Fioricet (I use about 1 every 6 months) for treatment of breakthrough arthritis pain required me to agree to random urinalysis and to not get any controlled substances from any other practice. Because clearly my rheumatologist is going to take over my psychiatric care as well.

      Needless to say, I turned that down and will be trying to address this through other channels. And in the event of breakthrough pain I’ll just go to the ER. I’m sure they’ll just love me. 🙂

    • analytic_wheelbarrow says:

      Top notch blog post re. the opioid “epidemic”! (Just reverse that color scheme! Black on white bg is easier to read.)

      I recommend this article to other SSCers. Thanks for sharing.

    • GregS says:

      Thanks analytic_wheelbarrow. That is exactly the kind of practical feedback I am looking for. I had read an argument once that light text on dark background was more readable. I’ll reconsider.
      Garrett, much appreciated. I also have anecdotal evidence that people aren’t able to get the opioids they need. In this case, it’s a doctor I know with a pinched nerve in his neck. He wasn’t offered opioids (though probably should have been) for his nagging pain, and he certainly didn’t want to ask for them.
      Douglas Knight is correct about the 75% figure. It refers to past misuse, not any past use including legal use. It is stated near the beginning of the paper (which apparently I didn’t read carefully) and not at all clear throughout the body (which I thought I had read carefully). IMO this is not material to my argument, but I added an edit. It’s important to get the details right.
      Matt M, that is quite similar to my take.
      Really appreciate the feedback from the SSC community. The motive-impugning I see on other comments section is (mostly) absent here.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I like dark backgrounds, less eye strain. White text in most fonts is not as sharp as black, though. It’s a tricky situation – I usually edit sites I’m reading to color-on-dark for those reasons, but it would probably look gimmicky as a default.

  25. robinkulle says:

    Hi Scott (and whoever might be interested),
    Do you have any thoughts on the german election? And do you see paralleles between Trump and the AfD? While I dislike the AfD, I feel like there are a lot of paralleles between the treatment towards Trump during the US election and them, regarding the approach the media and the other parties take on them, i.e. painting them as racist instead of criticizing their “normal-but-appalling” somewhat-right-wing views. I fear we’ll get into a situation similar to the US in polarization, if we continue to not engage in debate.
    On the other hand, most germans seem to favor centrism. This is obviously in part a result of a culture change following WWII, but is also, I think, thanks to the german election system.
    Often big and bold approaches are being discussed here, neo-reactionanaries vs. democracy for instance, but why not push a debate on if the US can improve their democratic system? When Germany created their constitution in 1949 they, after all, could draw from 200 years of experience. A priori, Germany’s system should be better?

    • pontifex says:

      I haven’t been following Alternative for Deustchland (AfD) closely. But I do remember reading that the party specifically prevented people they viewed as crazy (like fascists etc.) from registering as party members. I remember thinking that it would have been wise for Trump, Breitbart, et al to do something similar to avoid getting painted as Nazis.

      Often big and bold approaches are being discussed here, neo-reactionanaries vs. democracy for instance, but why not push a debate on if the US can improve their democratic system?

      There have been some discussions of things like open primaries and preventing gerrymandering here. Those seem like positive developments. But in my opinion, the biggest problem is the toxoplasma of rage on Twitter and Facecbook these days (plus the hollowing out of the press), and tweaking the electoral system doesn’t seem to do much to help that.

      When Germany created their constitution in 1949 they, after all, could draw from 200 years of experience. A priori, Germany’s system should be better?

      Do you mean proportional representation? I think a lot of Americans are afraid of that because they feel that it would mean giving a voice to extremists. Like we would have a Breitbart party and an SJW party, rather than factions witihin the Dems and the Repubs trying to push the big tent parties in those directions.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I haven’t been following Alternative for Deustchland (AfD) closely. But I do remember reading that the party specifically prevented people they viewed as crazy (like fascists etc.) from registering as party members. I remember thinking that it would have been wise for Trump, Breitbart, et al to do something similar to avoid getting painted as Nazis.

        I don’t think it would work. Lots of people seem to be saying/insinuating that AfD are just modern Nazis, their membership restrictions notwithstanding.

        • Aapje says:

          Many Germans are logically very wary of Nazis, so taboos are strong (for example, they draw the line for euthanasia at active intervention, merely allowing the doctor to provide the poison, to have a strong Schelling fence against euthanasia of undesirables).

          The AfD are trying to destroy some of these Schelling fences which means that they will be called Nazis for that, regardless of whether they have any actual Nazi members.

    • blame says:

      I fear we’ll get into a situation similar to the US in polarization, if we continue to not engage in debate.

      Before the elections, I noticed something that struck me as very odd and reminded me of the situation in the US.

      In Germany it is common for universities to organize panel discussions with local members of the main parties. (Actually, I think they are organized by student groups, not the university itself…)
      I have heard of many cases where no AfD member was invited for the usual “no-platform” reasons. These organizers are probably the same people that were shocked about Trump winning the US election and are now surprised about the AfD getting ~13% of the votes. Well, duuh… you could almost think that simply ignoring them doesn’t solve anything.

    • Deiseach says:

      Just going off what I heard this morning in the news, but they seem something like UKIP with maybe a smattering of the BNP types, and they’ve already started tearing themselves apart in squabbles over their success, so way to go, guys!

      This reminds me of the similar way the Irish Green party reacted to electoral success, which meant the really pure True Believers all walked away, the moderate/pragmatist types remained, the deal for getting into government in a coalition with Fianna Fáil was done, and then the majority partner made the Green Party their bitch, to use the vernacular term, over the four years of the government and the Greens got hammered in the next election due to everyone being unhappy with them for selling out their principles yet not getting a good bargain on passing policies in return.

      If AfD follows the same path, things may not be so troubling as people are forecasting.

      • tmk says:

        Merkel is not going to form any kind of coalition with AfD, so that exact failure mode is unlikely. Internal fighting is likely, and their parliamanet members may turn out to be both disloyal to the party leadership, and generally embarrassing idiots. Compare for example with the Swedish “New Democracy”, that gained 6.7% of votes and 25 seats in 1991, then imploded before the next election.

        • Deiseach says:

          Merkel is not going to form any kind of coalition with AfD, so that exact failure mode is unlikely.

          Unlikely but not impossible, though I grant it would need catastrophic circumstances before it can happen. But going by news reports, she’s going into a three-party coalition, one of which is the Greens, and in cases like that (from Irish experience anyway) it gets very shaky when one party decides it can hold the coalition to ransom by demanding concessions or else they’ll walk out and cause a snap election. I think the Greens may be likely to do this, but naturally this is a complete ignorant outsider’s view.

          AfD being the third largest party gives them some leverage, but the infighting and quitting as soon as elected and the rest of it is likely to piss away their advantage, and if there’s a rump of ‘moderates’ left, Merkel might be in a desperate enough situation to do a deal with the Devil. Maybe not coalition, but voting pacts on getting bills passed? Slight shifts in the direction of things that might appeal to AfD voters, which can be passed off as minor policy adjustments?

          Look at Theresa May and Arlene Foster after the ill-judged election in Britain, where the 10 DUP MPs made all the difference.

      • Aapje says:

        @Deiseach

        They were infighting even before the election.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        This is reminding me of something Harold Feld says: Remember to prepare for success.

        • Aapje says:

          They couldn’t. The same happens everywhere. It’s unavoidable.

          The problem is that:
          1. The very nature of an anti-establishment party is that it attracts people that have a problem with authority.
          2. It’s always easier for people disagree with something than to agree on an alternative. Since it’s harder to get into power than to stay in power, it makes sense to postpone resolving this until later, rather than have a very nice consistent platform with support by so few people that they don’t get into parliament in the first place.
          3. Open populists get heavily discriminated against and they know it (hence people lying on polls, refusing to be interviewed, keeping silent to their friends/family, etc). So the type of people that you want (somewhat moderate, societally successful, tactful, etc) are the type of people who usually know better than to enter the outgroup of much of society. The people who are left are exactly the type of people who create trouble.

          • Peffern says:

            so, Whale Cancer

          • Aapje says:

            For those who didn’t get that.

            The issue is that the discrimination often creates strong resentment. If the other parties keep denying that there is an issue, these people will often still keep voting for politicians they deem incompetent, as they desperately want the mainstream politicians to adopt their concerns. At that point it’s more signalling than that they actually want the people they vote for in power.

  26. David Shaffer says:

    Random question-if I want to get into AI work, what’s the best way to do so? Learn computer science, learn math, what exactly does it entail? At present, I have a BS in geology, math through calculus 2 and no computer background. Is there a good route from here to working with someone like Google Deep Mind, Open AI or MIRI?

    • . says:

      I know someone who went from PhD in useless non-computational pure science to getting paid to do machine translation. He just did kaggle competitions (and whatever background reading seemed immediately relevant to whatever he wanted to accomplish that second).

      • . says:

        By the way, I don’t know anything about AI but the answer to “what math should I learn” is always “linear algebra.” Unless you already know linear algebra, in which case the answer might be “more linear algebra.”

    • johan_larson says:

      Deep Mind, huh. That’s setting your sights high.

      A master’s degree in computer science, focused on AI, would be a solid stepping stone to what you want to do. Did you do well in your undergraduate studies? You’ll need good grades to get into a decent graduate program. And you’ll need to learn how to code, and more importantly, convince CS professors you know how to code. To that end, you should take some programming courses at your local college. You don’t need a complete CS undergrad curriculum, but it would be really useful for you to have taken at least a couple of third-year courses, probably in data structures and algorithms (and their prerequisites.) A single first-year course in programming isn’t going to be enough to do well in a graduate degree in CS.

    • Brad says:

      As far as I know / can tell you need a Phd to get an interesting job in AI. You can work around the edges without one, but the heart of the teams have doctorates.

      I don’t think you could get into a reputable CS Phd with your current background. So the first step would either be a masters in computer science or the equivalent knowledge and experience (in math and CS) gotten in some other way.

    • Björn says:

      For the current neuronal network stuff, I think knowledge about stochastics, numerical mathematics and programming is the most important. So I think getting a mathematics degree where you focus on the things above would be very helpful. You can maybe work with neuronal networks if you only learn to program, but I think coming up with appllications of neuronal networks that are very similar to excisting applications is rather low level work every computer science graduate can do.

  27. KG says:

    I was thinking about Unsong’s character of Thamiel and that basilisk thought experiment, and I came up with this question.
    What are good or rational reasons one would want to maximize suffering–in a particular setting or in general?
    Mostly what I thought of were deterrence-related reasons–“if you are bad, you go to Hell/Naraka/Tartarus/etc.”, and for this place to be maximally deterring it needs to be maximally unpleasant.
    There could also be some kind of weird cosmic order thing, wherein you believe that suffering and happiness are necessarily balanced, so the more suffering there is for one half of the universe, the more happiness there is for the other half. But I find this much less appealing and believable.

    • C_B says:

      If you’re being consequentialist, I don’t think there’s ever a good reason to “maximize suffering.” Instead, there are cases where causing some amount of suffering will cause a greater amount of good. In that case, the correct thing to do is to cause the minimum amount of suffering required to achieve the greater good, up to an upper bound of (n-0.0…01) utils, where n is the amount of good the greater good is worth.

      In terms of applications to real-world behavior, this trades off against all the usual “your prior for inflicting suffering being a good idea should be very, very low, so think long and hard about all the consequences, and then still probably assume you’re wrong” arguments against inflicting suffering for the greater good as a heuristic.

    • beleester says:

      Is there a consequentialism variant that rewards punishing evildoers per se, instead of using punishment only because it deters future evil?

      I feel like that lines up with our moral intuitions. We like to see bad guys get punished. You could formalize this as “Seeing an evildoer get punished provides positive utility to the people watching the punishment, which outweighs the suffering of the victim.”

      But even that’s not quite right, to my intuitions. It’s not that we think that making Hitler burn in Hell is a regrettable but necessary component of serving justice, we think it’s a good thing, full stop. We want Hitler to lose utility from being in Hell, or at the very least, we don’t care. Under such logic, maximizing suffering for people in Hell would be a good thing – any extra utils we can squeeze out of them, by any means, are pure profit.

      But the trouble is this doesn’t universalize beyond Hitler – as soon as we start disagreeing on who counts as an evildoer and how much suffering they deserve (and the victim themselves will always disagree), we can’t argue that it’s purely beneficial any more. From behind a veil of ignorance, if we went to Hell, we would want other people to care about our suffering.

      So I guess this framework would only work in a setting where you have some sort of perfect moral judge that you all agree is correct (say, the God that created Hell). In which case, you’d be able to say “I know there’s no chance I’ll end up in Hell unless I deserve it, so I’m okay with torturing people in Hell.”

      • roystgnr says:

        Consequentialism combined with some kinds of decision theory ought to do it. I want evildoers deterred, which requires me to want evildoers punished. However, after the fact, punishment is purely costly, both to implement and because a priori hurting people is bad, even if those people did evil. I won’t do something purely costly, so my threat of punishment is ineffective, so I have no deterrent.

        This is bad, so a decent decision theory requires me to precommit to do things differently: I will carry out punishments even if they’re costly. But this is equivalent to changing my utility function: I now see punishing evildoers as a benefit, not a cost.

        Perhaps evolution has already made this precommittment for us, which would explain why so many people empirically desire the suffering of evildoers.

        Things are easier if you have a perfect moral judge, but if not then perhaps you could model punishment under uncertainty: punishing an “evildoer” has an N% chance of punishing an evildoer and 100-N% chance of punishing an innocent, and since we generally hate the latter much more than we like the former, we try to avoid criminal punishment unless there’s so much evidence that N is quite large and our expected value goes positive. (Whereas in civil punishment, where the damages done to the accused are typically just paid back to the victim, we’re much more comfortable with a loose “preponderance of the evidence” standard)

        I’m not as confident about any of that last paragraph, because it gets back to decision theory and game theory again – if you just do a straight expected value calculation regarding each accusation, then you may create incentives for criminals to strike when they know the evidence against them will be weak or for false accusations to be made when accusers have a chance of “framing” the accused. This might require another level of decision theory to come into the picture, which might lead to e.g. restrictions on circumstantial evidence, hearsay, etc.

  28. Nick says:

    What are your favorite “truly alien” aliens from fiction?

    I have in mind the sorts of races that aren’t just rubber-forehead aliens or a planet of hats. I imagine that most of the examples are science fiction, but fantasy can certainly explore this as well.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’m going to give my top vote to the Moties from “A Mote in God’s Eye”, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, 1974. No rubber foreheads, and at least half a dozen very distinctive hats (does anyone have a canonical list of Motie castes?). A lot of thought went into a very alien physiology, with psychology and culture to match, and some very good storytelling followed.

      The same team also have us the Grendel from “Legacy of Heorot”, if you’re interested in seeing a ravenous predator that can out-alien “Alien”.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Lowbrow for sure, but Piers Anthony’s Cluster series has some fairly alien aliens, at least as far as ‘weird biology’ goes. Sadly, no one seems to have put a description of all the species up on the internet.

    • Anatoly says:

      Stanislaw Lem is really good for this. “Solaris” and “Eden” both feature very “truly alien” aliens.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Seconding. Impossibility of communication was sort of Lem’s thing.

      • James says:

        Is Eden any good? Solaris is one of my favourite novels, but the fragments I’ve read of some of his other books, and the summaries I’ve read of the rest, all seemed dull to me. Not sure I’ve heard of Eden, though.

      • C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur books have some very alien aliens, but you never get a clear picture of how they work, just of the problem of interaction between species so different that communication is very limited. Her Foreigner books have a detailed picture of aliens, but they are not much more different than a very odd human culture might be.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Peter Watts is pretty good at those, especially in Blindsight.

      • DrBeat says:

        Absolutely not. They are from a Spaceborne Entity of Hats, and their Hat is “enforcing the author’s message, no matter how little sense it makes”.

        Fuck Blindsight.

        • Deiseach says:

          Seconded. The vampires might be interesting except the author carefully wrote them so they can’t have any kind of meaningful society (the instinctual territorial fighting if two adult vampires encounter one another) and because of that, we only get from the human point of view that they are scary, so scary, really really scary ooh they make you wet yourself and run away they’re so scary, and we don’t get to see the post-vampire conquest Earth because I think Watts realised that he’d either have to break the rules he set up for it to work or it would all devolve into vampires without consciousness now slaughtering each other because of that instinctual territorial drive, which knocks on the head his point about “a species doesn’t need consciousness to survive and thrive”.

          The aliens aren’t even noteworthy or memorable because they’re the author’s puppets as well.

          For weird creation, there is David Lindsay’s 1920 Gnostic SF novel, A Voyage To Arcturus. He creates new primary colours, all kinds of various humanoids (only to destroy or murder the representative characters), and the climax of the book is that the material universe is a trap and a net to get the food of the Demiurge, the living elements of what could be called souls.

          In one chapter he describes a new sex, the phaen:

          Then he experienced another surprise, for this person, although clearly a human being, was neither man nor woman, nor anything between the two, but was unmistakably of a third positive sex, which was remarkable to behold and difficult to understand. In order to translate into words the sexual impression produced in Maskull’s mind by the stranger’s physical aspect, it is necessary to coin a new pronoun, for none in earthly use would be applicable. Instead of “he,” “she,” or “it,” therefore “ae” will be used.

          He found himself incapable of grasping at first why the bodily peculiarities of this being should strike him as springing from sex, and not from race, and yet there was no doubt about the fact itself. Body, face, and eyes were absolutely neither male nor female, but something quite different. Just as one can distinguish a man from a woman at the first glance by some indefinable difference of expression and atmospheres altogether apart from the contour of the figure, so the stranger was separated in appearance from both. As with men and women, the whole person expressed a latent sensuality, which gave body and face alike their peculiar character…. Maskull decided that it was love — but what love — love for whom? It was neither the shame-carrying passion of a male, nor the deep-rooted instinct of a female to obey her destiny. It was as real and irresistible as these, but quite different.

          As he continued staring into those strange, archaic eyes, he had an intuitive feeling that aer lover was no other than Shaping himself. It came to him that the design of this love was not the continuance of the race but the immortality on earth of the individual. No children were produced by the act; the lover aerself was the eternal child. Further, ae sought like a man, but received like a woman. All these things were dimly and confusedly expressed by this extraordinary being, who seemed to have dropped out of another age, when creation was different.

          Of all the weird personalities Maskull had so far met in Tormance, this one struck him as infinitely the most foreign — that is, the farthest removed from him in spiritual structure. If they were to live together for a hundred years, they could never be companions.

          Maskull pulled himself out of his trancelike meditations and, viewing the newcomer in greater detail, tried with his understanding to account for the marvellous things told him by his intuitions. Ae possessed broad shoulders and big bones, and was without female breasts, and so far ae resembled a man. But the bones were so flat and angular that aer flesh presented something of the character of a crystal, having plane surfaces in place of curves. The body looked as if it had not been ground down by the sea of ages into smooth and rounded regularity but had sprung together in angles and facets as the result of a single, sudden idea. The face too was broken and irregular. With his racial prejudices, Maskull found little beauty in it, yet beauty there was, though neither of a masculine nor of a feminine type, for it had the three essentials of beauty: character, intelligence, and repose. The skin was copper-coloured and strangely luminous, as if lighted from within. The face was beardless, but the hair of the head was as long as a woman’s, and, dressed in a single plait, fell down behind as far as the ankles. Ae possessed only two eyes. That part of the turban which went across the forehead protruded so far in front that it evidently concealed some organ.

          Maskull found it impossible to compute aer age. The frame appeared active, vigorous, and healthy, the skin was clear and glowing; the eyes were powerful and alert — ae might well be in early youth. Nevertheless, the longer Maskull gazed, the more an impression of unbelievable ancientness came upon him — aer real youth seemed as far away as the view observed through a reversed telescope.

          • Bugmaster says:

            That sound exactly like a whimsical hat to me — though I haven’t read the full book, so perhaps I’m missing some context.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I was talking about the actually alien aliens, not vampires.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yes, but Watts’ vampires and aliens are both pushed as having solved the problem of intelligence without consciousness and as being superior to poor ignorant possessing self-hood humans. The ending strongly implies that what awaits the protagonist back on Earth is nothing more than a vampire-victory planet, with maybe then the aliens turning up for a tussle with the vampires over the solar system – or not. Anyway, humans have had their day.

            They’re both meaningless to me, since they only exist to exemplify Watts’ point, and yeah that’s what most aliens are there for in novels and TV shows and movies, but I don’t even find them interesting because there’s no there there, as it were: they’re cardboard figures whose main point is “not humans, see how not humans they are? yup, definitely not humans” but we never see what they are as vampires or aliens.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            I was genuinely confused by the implication that the vampires, or for that mattter, anyone, would be able to do jack-all. The entire point of the story is that consciousness and intelligence don’t matter. And Earth, presumably, has been filled with security drones to watch over the sleepers in simul-space. Any vampire who popped up and tried to use their Superior Consciousless Mind to start feeding would presumably catch a plasma bolt to the forehead in short order via an Even More Consciousless security drone, built by modern tech to be better than anything organic.

            As in many cases, the story did not carefully examine where its premises would lead if you didn’t assume the conclusion the author wanted. And given that human consciousness created science and industry and lead directly to Humanity dealing with the cthuloid aliens according to their traditional meiter (namely, crashing a big goddamn boat into the Big C until he’s not a problem any more), it seems really disengenous to claim that scramblers or vampires are superior to humanity, when we have the capacity to make technological murder-drones, and they apparently do not…well, the proof is kind of in the pudding as to which cognitive layout is superior.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Everyone Else

            SPOILER WARNING

            I find the “I don’t like the book so I’m not going to warn people about spoilers or ROT13 it” thing mildly annoying, but the damage is done by now. Just don’t read the rest of my post if you don’t want details of the ending spoiled. I strongly recommend the books.

            @Robert Liguori

            Not “Intelligence and consciousness don’t matter”. Intelligence clearly matters. Rather, “Human or level intelligence and technological, tool-using behavior does not require consciousness and in fact may be able to achieve greater heights without it”. The scramblers are tool-users and technology-creators too, so I’m not sure where the emphasis on humans having science and industry while scramblers don’t thing comes from, unless you just meant the vampires. Even then, it’s clear that Vampires can be technological innovators. They never had the chance due to the ‘crucifix glitch’. With that evolutionary quirk corrected, they’re golden.

            As for Earth’s security situation, your security drone theory is directly addressed in the text multiple times: Yes, in this setting security drones WOULD be more efficient and effective without a human in the command and control loop, but human governments have explicit refused to allow that sort of arrangement. As Bates puts it:

            “Run themselves just fine. Response time actually improves without spam in the network. I’m more of a safety precaution.”

            And later, Siri thinking about the setup:

            Amanda Bates wasn’t just a head: she was a bottleneck…How much more deadly would those grunts be, once every battlefield reflex didn’t have to pass through some interminable job stack waiting for the rubber stamp? Szpindel had had it all wrong. Amanda Bates wasn’t a sop to politics, her role didn’t deny the obsolescence of Human oversight at all. Her role depended on it.

            Humans of this setting do have some level of AI, but that AI is deliberately NOT given control over weapons systems like the drones, which are instead tethered to the brains human soldiers like Bates so that a human controls them (The Captain never had control over Bates’ “Grunts”, for example). The “grunts” are referred to in at least a few instances as having no initiative on their own. That to me doesn’t look like “the story didn’t examine its premises”. Instead, that’s another example of the story’s point: You’re right, IF humanity had FAI security drones guarding them, they probably would be ok. But they deliberately chose not to.

            Finally, it’s not clear if the humans came out on top or not in the final clash with Rorschach. Keeton says he’s “pretty sure the scramblers went up along with my own kin”, but at the same time admits that he didn’t actually see the final engagement as it happened behind the curve of Big Ben. Given the power of Rorschach’s attack (an X-ray blast on the scale of a similar flare from a brown dwarf observed in 2000), and the lack of any evidence given for his “pretty sure”, that seems thin beer to me.

        • . says:

          Thirded. The problem is that philosophical zombies are very interesting, but this means that intelligence-without-consciousness is interesting in inverse proportion to how much it affects the plot.

          Nest by Bruce Sterling does a great job of “maybe intelligence isn’t good.” The oenva-ercyrgr is brilliant and grotesque.

    • C_B says:

      The Tines from A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.

      (Sorta spoilers follow – not plot points, but not all of the features of the Tines’ minds are explained to the reader immediately, so reading this might spoil some of the mystery of how they work.)

      The tines are pack minds built from 4-8 individuals who communicate through auditory signals between members. Lots of discussion in the book of the consequences of this:
      -It’s very hard for packs to think clearly when their members are too spread out, or when it’s noisy.
      -Sex between packs involves temporarily putting identity on hold because of auditory interference from the other pack’s members.
      -Radio is a revolutionary technology because it allows a pack to spread out but retain its identity.
      -Pack personality is a mostly-but-not-entirely-unpredictable emergent property of the traits of its members; the species’ first scientists are working on learning how to build better packs, some gently and some ruthlessly.
      -Exotic mind-states are achievable via weird pack setups; e.g., a sentry line, where members are strung out in a line within thought-distance only of the nearest member. The “pack” as a whole ends up being very dumb, and being a member requires lots of training to handle the mental stresses, but it lets the pack transmit info about intruders at the speed of sound along its length.
      -Prey animals from their world have evolved “shriek really loud in thought frequencies” as a defensive strategy to confuse hunters.
      -Cultural differences about how you should adopt new members – some Tines try to “keep their souls pure” by only taking in their own within-pack offspring, but others view this as perversion (and it has obvious inbreeding consequences). “Pilgrims” are known for adopting new members willy-nilly, and therefore rarely being the exact same person they were a few years ago; other more typical packs wonder at how they can bear having such a lack of stable identity.

      By far my favorite aliens.

      • Nick says:

        Vinge is actually an interesting semi-counterexample in my opinion. One character, I think it was Ravna, says early in A Fire Upon the Deep that she thinks all races are capable of seeing eye to eye and being friends, or something to that effect, and this seems more or less borne out by the sorts of aliens we meet. While we get some strange and cool psychology from the Tines (and the skroderiders, for that matter!), they still seem largely to think in ways mutually understandable to each other.

        I do love the Tines as well, and I’m curious to see what Vinge has planned with the Tycoon’s stuff in the tropics. We’ll see where the series goes.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        This is reminding me of a Poul Anderson novel whose title I can’t remember.

        The aliens a triple symbiosis– they form triples of a bird, a monkey, and a rhinoceros. As with the Tines, there’s personality which is a composite of the three animals. There’s cultural variation in how much trading of partners is permitted.

        • engleberg says:

          The Rebel Worlds, Poul Anderson. Good stuff- the simple ‘Captain Flandry kicks butt’ plot allows Anderson to throw in a lot of complex world-building, and of course it’s very well-written.

          The Handicapped aliens in Known Space especially impressed me- intelligent beings, no grasping appendages, yearning to be sold artificial limbs. Niven’s always done great aliens.

    • . says:

      Not at all what you asked for, but the far-future humans in Book of the New Sun are pretty alien.

    • keranih says:

      Sooo…I think there’s an ‘uncanny valley’ or some sort of ‘exotic’ spectrum at play here – it’s likely that truly alien beings would be creatures we could not communicate with, and whose motivations would be so strange as to prevent ordinary humans from being engaged in their stories. (*)

      There is also the issue of people being averaged out over a group, and for someone to get past the “omg all so very different” to “all different from *me* but also different *from each other*” takes both time and a variety of examples of “other” to observe.

      Having said that:

      Both B5 and Farscape did what I thought was a bang up job showing ‘other nations’ with motivations and outward appearances that were very different from Terran standard.

      Tanya Huff postulates several races with both consistent generally similar traits and cultural/individual variation. CJ Cherryh remains an acknowledged master of this. (She’s also one of those who shows humans as the ultimately infinitely adaptable sorts of the universe – at least in so far as humans are better than most others.)

      (*) Not that different sorts of *humans* don’t have this trouble.

    • ottomanflush says:

      I like the aliens in They’re Made Out of Meat.

    • pipsterate says:

      The Puppeteers from Ringworld are fairly alien. Three legs and two heads, along with some interesting psychological differences from humans.

    • Sfoil says:

      The…whatever it was in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch that introduced Can-D to the Solar System.

    • Björn says:

      The planet in Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. The book is about a planet that is covered by a goo that has very intristing properties, which is why humanity has built a space station researching the planet. Mysterious things happen on the station which seem to be the planet reacting to an experiment, but communication with the planet turns out to be futile.

      • mtraven says:

        Jn the same vein — the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. A very alien (to the point of incomprehensibility) place, not even clear if there is an alien entity to interact with, let alone a forehead.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I enjoy the aliens from A Crucible in Time- but it has a bit of the same problem as Vinge, where the aliens are very physically different, and implied strongly to have different mental machinery, but still end up having fairly similar social outlooks and ability to form human-like relationships.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m not sure whether that’s worth reporting, but I’m less likely to recommend ssc than I used to be.

        • Randy M says:

          Likewise Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, surely?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Randy M, I’m not seeing how your comment is connected to what I said.

          • Randy M says:

            You apparently found something objectionable in Jaskologist calling women an alien species, despite that being a well worn cliche at this point. This seems rather overly sensitive.

            Or possibly to the low brow, low effort, off-hand nature of the comment. If so, then yeah, it wouldn’t have a connection to my point.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Here’s the original question: “What are your favorite “truly alien” aliens from fiction?”

            It does seem to me that Jaskologist was writing from the point of view of “we’re all men here, so women are very strange”.

            A cliche can get more tiresome from getting repeated rather than blending into the background.

          • quaelegit says:

            Jaskilogist’s comment was not truthful, helpful, or kind. Maybe its just a dumb joke, but I can go to Reddit for those. I expect a higher bar for SSC.

            For a similar reason I have a low opinion of incurian.

          • Randy M says:

            It does seem to me that Jaskologist was writing from the point of view of “we’re all men here, so women are very strange”.

            It seems to me he was writing from the point of view of Jaskologist, which, given that for him, the word “you” refers to Jaskologist, seems fair.

            It’s true that women exist in real world, but since they’re in fiction as well [citation needed] I’d say he’s not off on that part either. Obviously, any implication that female identifying creatures are a different species is a wild exaggeration unbefitting the current year.

            But, to whatever extent 1 more of the approximately 108,120* open thread comments being trite andronormism mitigates whatever you expect your acquaintances to get out of it, recommending it that much less is doubtless a proper Bayesian thing to do. It just seemed to me that that was about the same rate as objecting to one book featured in a bookstore and shunning it for it.

            *85*318*4

          • Jaskologist says:

            It was just a dumb joke, and I’m sorry I offended people, but it’s past the edit/delete window now.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thanks.

          • Brad says:

            Obviously, any implication that female identifying creatures are a different species is a wild exaggeration unbefitting the current year.

            Even more obnoxious than the original comment. Well done!

          • Randy M says:

            Even more obnoxious than the original comment. Well done!

            I’d say I try, but that’s a pretty low bar, after all.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Maybe its just a dumb joke, but I can go to Reddit for those. I expect a higher bar for SSC.

            Man, there goes like 95% of my comment output.

          • Iain says:

            I would encourage people who think this is silly to consider a hypothetical alternate universe in which one of the board’s lefties had replied “Trump supporters”.

            It’s a joke, sure — but it also signals certain attitudes and assumptions about the other parties in the conversation, and serves as a way of marking territory: “Those Trump supporters! They sure are the out/far group, aren’t they!” One of SSC’s selling points is that it generally does a good job of avoiding that junk. It is fair to expect better.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Outgroups aren’t generally the “favorite.”

          • quaelegit says:

            Outgroups aren’t generally the “favorite.”

            Ah, this revealed to me a different interpretation of the original comment. In responding to “FAVORITE ‘truly alien’ aliens”, the statement could be taken as “I like women”. I (and I think Nancy) interpreted it with emphasis on “truly alien”, and I at least was disheartened to be called inhuman. (Yes, this is overinterpreting it, everyone has already agreed this was a flippant comment that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I’m just overexplaining to show/attempt to understand the original disagreement.)

            @Jaskologist — also thank you for the apology.

            @Whatever Happened — I looked at your posts in the past couple Open Threads and didn’t see anything that seemed out of line. Mostly short comments, but on topic, and none struck me as unkind (although maybe I just wasn’t the target of any of your jokes). Not that my opinion matters, as mostly-lurker, but offering a second opinion for calibration if you want it.

            @Iain — Thank you.

            @ Randy — Why do you say “citation needed” that there are women in fiction? If you’re actually asking for an example, Amanda Bates was brought up in the Blindsight discussion above. In other threads, people have been discussing female officers in Star Trek and Ellen Ripley from Alien.

          • Nick says:

            quaelegit,

            Why do you say “citation needed” that there are women in fiction?

            It’s very probably to mean the claim is so obvious as not to need a citation. I think people get it from xkcd, which has been doing that for years.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Nick, Randy M — Thanks! I was a regular reader of What-If so I should have gotten that…

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I can get behind the object-level annoyance. “I’m less likely to recommend ssc than I used to be” is an awfully passive-aggressive way to tell someone to knock it off. Please don’t.

    • Iain says:

      As a rare example of linguistics-centric science fiction, the aliens in China Mieville’s Embassytown probably qualify.

    • lvlln says:

      I’m a big fan of the space monsters from the 1980s anime Gunbuster/Aim for the Top! Their origins aren’t explored too much in the show (and is obviously completely impossible IRL), but the general gist is that they’ve evolved to survive in space like fish survive in the sea. They lay eggs in stars to reproduce and use supernovae as nests. They traverse through space like spaceships, including some biological form of hyperspace. They seem to have some social structure but it’s pretty much incomprehensible to us humans; in the show they’re clearly antagonistic, but for no explained reason.

    • Well... says:

      The monolith from 2001. Is it an artifact put there by aliens? Is it the aliens themselves?

      Also, the eponymous Sphere.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I was quite impressed with Kosh from Babylon 5. I find Kosh quite well done as an actually-alien alien for a few reasons:

      * For one thing, almost all the aliens on the show are typical Trek-style rubber forehead aliens (or in the case of B5, Stupid Hair aliens.) So I appreciated that they did throw in one actual alien and make them a major character.

      * When Kosh first shows up, the alienness is mostly in the form of being hidden inside a weird spacesuit and oh-so-enigmatic weird comments that just don’t seem to make sense. What makes it more impressive is that because of the (revolutionary at the time) serialized nature of the show, they are able to build and develop it past that. What starts as just sort of incomprehensible mysterious wisdom actually does get developed into a proper character, which is impressive. What makes it more impressive, though, is that even after Kosh becomes a real character, he never actually becomes human. He becomes comprehensible once you begin to understand the basic idea of what the Vorlons are and what is driving them, but he never stops being really quite legitimately different from everyone else in how how thinks.

      Also, what starts out as just a weird looking spacesuit actually has just enough articulation and detail, and the show put enough effort in, that after a couple seasons of the show, what at first just appeared to be random animatronics movements actually start to convey meaning to the audience. You start to actually read expressions into the title of the head-camera-thing, or the way the lens on the front telescopes open or closed.

      There have been a fairly decent number of truly alien aliens in scifi literature, but I think Kosh might be the only one to be a recurring character in a long running television show.

    • Nornagest says:

      Wayne Barlowe’s Expedition (basically an ersatz National Geographic coffee-table book on the ecology of a fictional planet) did a pretty good job with this. Most animal life is blind, tripedal, hermaphroditic, and sees by echolocation, and a lot of it is liquivorous, feeding by injecting digestive enzymes into its prey and sucking up the digested gel. If it isn’t, it’s probably a filter-feeder, eating by horfing up clouds of tiny flyers into gill-like anatomy. Few animals have what we’d recognize as a head or a mouth, and a lot of the flyers use air-jet rather than flapping wing propulsion.

      There’s no intelligent life in the book, though, except possibly for one encounter with something that seems roughly caveman-level.

      • Well... says:

        Maybe I’m misunderstanding the “planet of hats” trope, but isn’t this just that?

        – Blind/uses echolocation – yeah just like bats.
        – Hermaphroditic – yeah just like slugs.
        – Liquivorous – yeah just like a lot of insects.
        – Filter-feeding – yeah just like whales.
        – Air-jet propulsion – yeah, a sky octopus.
        – Tripedal – yeah, we know bipedal and quadrupedal, so tripedal is supposed to be weird and different…but it’s just another -pedal.

        Are my standards for “truly alien” too high?

    • Witness says:

      I’m fond of Planet, from Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.

    • Seppo says:

      The Tlic from Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky is one of my favorite examples of this. The aliens themselves don’t even feature in it, but the trash they left after them alone is fascinatingly weird and alien.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        the trash they left after them alone is fascinatingly weird and alien

        If that’s even what it is! As Dr. Pilman points out at one point, we don’t actually know what all the stuff in the Zone is, or why the aliens left it, or why they came, or if they came, or… anything. The “roadside picnic” hypothesis is just that; in fact we don’t really know anything.

        So, yes, seconded: an excellent example.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Many of the examples I’d give have already been listed, but I’d like to posit a couple more.

      First, and I’m surprised nobody mentioned this, but there’s always The Colour Out of Space.

      Also, in the “not so alien as to make communication impossible, but still convincingly Not Human in psychology and morality” category, particularly done in a non-written medium, there’s the Incubator from Madoka Magica.

      • Nick says:

        First, and I’m surprised nobody mentioned this, but there’s always The Colour Out of Space.

        Yeah, cosmic horror is generally a good place to find this.

      • Wander says:

        I don’t think Kyubey’s morality is that strange, all things considered. They’re taking a very straightforward “sacrifice these people for the benefit of everyone” sort of deal.

        • beleester says:

          It’s a little more alien than that. Kyubey thinks that the system benefits humans as well. “If it weren’t for us, you would probably still be living in caves.”

          (There are some schools of utilitarianism that think on similar lines – arguments that cattle farming is a net benefit to cows because it leads to more cows being born – but it’s definitely a weird one.)

          He also considers the deal to be a fair trade at the individual level – magical girls are paid for their hard work by getting a wish granted. Never mind that he’s lying by deception in nearly all his interactions with the girls, and that they wouldn’t take the deal if they knew all the consequences. In his eyes, he never lied to them and gave them a fair deal.

          • Nick says:

            I have to wonder whether Kyubey thinking he’s offering a fair deal is just programmed into him. Or on a Doylist explanation, it’s just to make him more like a literal evil genie. I wonder because his morality would be way more understandable if it were just “sacrifice these people for the benefit of everyone,” and it’s not like he’s actually answerable to the magical girls, so it’s odd he would have such a strained belief.

          • beleester says:

            Yeah, the Doylist explanation is definitely that the story is Faust with magical girls and Kyubey is playing the role of Mephistopheles.

            But despite being a manipulative bastard, I don’t think he’s totally wrong about it benefiting both of them. You have to admit, in a typical magical girl show, the girl doesn’t get anything in exchange for her hard work, just gratitude and some lessons about the power of friendship. And not fighting witches isn’t really a good option either; somebody’s gotta do it.

            (Yuki Yuna is a Hero approaches this from a different angle, with less Faustian bargaining, but the protagonists reach a similar conclusion – they’ll have to continue their fight, and just help each other past the awful parts.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It seems to me that an author has to tread a fine line with truly alien aliens. If their behavior is incomprehensible, then they’re merely arbitrary. I suppose that’s still interesting if they’re scary enough.

      A few adjacent thoughts….

      What’s the Lafferty story where the aliens turn out to be practical jokers?

      King’s The Tommyknockers has UFO aliens which a lot like scary traditional fairies.

      I’ve noticed that in urban fantasy/paranormal romance, the more plot you have about elves, the less chaotic they become.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Surprised nobody’s mentioned the Pequeninos from Speaker for the Dead.

    • Wander says:

      Personally, I’m extremely fond of the creatures in Nemo Ramjet’s “All Tomorrows”, despite the fact that they’re technically humans. Some end up extremely incomprehensible despite starting from the same point.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The Endurium aliens from Starflight.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I liked the Zang in Brin’s Uplift series, though we don’t get to see much of them (or of their behavior, I guess). You could say they’re mostly background scenery, considering how little they interact with the more-normal aliens.

      Oh, hey, I forgot those stack-of-wax-rings aliens from Uplift: different combinations of rings can drastically alter personality or identity. They reminded me of Vinge’s Tine (discussed above).

  29. Error says:

    PSA: It is possible to quasi-killfile commenters, using uBlock Origin rules of the following form:

    slatestarcodex.com##.comment-author-{{name}}

    Where {{ name }} is usually the user’s display name, in lower case, with punctuation omitted and spaces replaced by dashes. Hence “J. Random Commenter” becomes “comment-author-j-random-commenter”. Some seem to be different, e.g. Scott is ‘admin’, not ‘scott-alexander’. You can dig the correct name out of the DOM using your browser’s developer tools, if needed. Note that the effect is recursive; it nukes all posts by the offending commenter and all descendants of those posts.

    You can kill a subthread rather than a user with slatestarcodex.com###li-comment-{{id}}. You can find the ID in the comment’s permalink. Hover on the comment’s date/time and your browser should display the link URL in the status bar; the digits at the end are the ID. (edit: this is very similar to what the Hide button does, and is really only useful if you don’t trust yourself not to un-hide a thread next time you notice its stub)

    Feature request: A button to show a comment’s ID and author class, to make life easier for non-techies. Alternately, display them when reporting a comment. Even better, support built in persistent killfiles for logged in users.

    (Scott, I experimented with the report button by reporting one of your own posts. I thought there’d be a confirmation dialog. Sorry.)

    While I use uBlock Origin, the same technique probably works for similar filtering tools. The syntax may be different. Anyone who uses a different tool, please take a moment to describe the equivalent method.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      No one is going to add UI because there is an official killfile Chrome extension.

      • Error says:

        That doesn’t help for those of us who don’t use Chrome, but it’s still good to know. Maybe I’ll write something similar for Firefox.

        • Bakkot says:

          It’s just a userscript, so you can use it as-is on Firefox with Greasemonkey. Assuming Greasemonkey is still a thing, anyway.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          It’s also exclusively to hide users. Thanks for the subthread method.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            hide users as opposed to what?

            I think the only difference is that Bakkot’s tool allows you to see that the subthread has been collapsed.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t want to hide users. Even the most obnoxious will occasionally post something worthwhile (or get banned).

            But there are usually a few threads per OT that I just have no interest in and it’s tedious to keep re-hiding when I reload the page for new comments on the threads I care about. (Though don’t get the wrong idea, sticky-hide-by-default would be even worse)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Thanks!
            I missed that.

  30. . says:

    What sort of technology could help accommodate NIMBYism more cheaply? Looks like the US spends somewhere from 10% to 50% on accommodating NIMBYs (through housing restrictions in productive cities) as it does on healthcare, so this is a big deal.

    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/05/impact-housing-price-restrictions.html
    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/05/new-hsieh-moretti-paper-land-use-restrictions-economic-growth.html
    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2015/06/nimbyism-is-a-huge-drag-on-americas-economic-growth/394925/

    • . says:

      Just spitballing:

      1) One reason current residents don’t like development is increased congestion. There’s existing technology to reduce vehicle congestion, like busses, but what about pedestrian congestion? Maybe some sort of one-size-fits-all mass-produced double-decker sidewalks? I know that UIC experimented with double-decker pedestrian paths but they were torn down for some reason.

      2) Another problem is noise. If you could cheaply detect noise pollution without spying on everyone, you could charge people for it (or more likely, charge the owners of the buildings that it comes from). Is there a noise-detector sweet spot, that can measure the direction and intensity of noise, but is really unlikely to be able to decipher speech even with future machine learning progress? Maybe if there is some way to guarantee on the hardware level that it can’t measure pitch?

    • Ivy says:

      It’s my impression that NIMBYs’ fundamental concern is that new housing will reduce their property values.

      There’s a clear win-win solution here: “formalize” the rents they are extracting, and bundle any new housing with an explicit payout to nearby homeowners.

      Alternatively, make developers bundle new housing with a free insurance policy for all nearby homeowners that protects against a fall in their property value relative to some reasonable baseline.

      • . says:

        Along the same general lines: deregulation would make buildings less valuable but would make the land more valuable. Maybe splitting land ownership and building ownership would be politically useful.

      • tmk says:

        But development also increases property values. Property of the sme size in a bigger city tends to be worth more after all. The effect may just be slightly further away. I would be unfair for new developments to have to reimburse any negative effect without capturing positive effects.

    • John Schilling says:

      Cheap space travel gives us access to a nigh-infinite amount of Not Anyone’s Back Yard. The Commercial Space Transportation Study looked at doing high-level nuclear waste disposal in outer space back in 1994 and found it to be within an order of magnitude of practical at 1994 prices, and of course science fiction has a long history of putting maximum-security prisons in various extraterrestrial locations.

  31. Wrong Species says:

    Why do people believe that repression doesn’t work? Not only does it defy common sense but there isn’t really strong evidence that it works either. If people rise up against your government, then giving them what they want simply increases the demands. If you make something illegal, people will use less of it than before. This shouldn’t be anything controversial and yet somehow it ends up being the minority position. Why?

    • OptimalSolver says:

      It depends on how well the repressors can contain the situation. A lot of time, it ends up in a tremendously violent explosion of anger. Just ask the Romanovs.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I thought one of the problems with the Romanovs is that they were gradually allowing more freedoms, and that blew up on them following WW1.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The fall of the Romanovs was a combination of WWI, and inconsistent repression. It’s a bad idea to be mean enough to piss people off, but not mean enough to keep them down. And inconsistency means nobody knows what the reaction will be to any given thing.

    • . says:

      Selection bias? With modern political technology, most governments are both feared and loved. The ones that need to use fear exclusively have messed up pretty bad already, so repression and collapse are correlated. Past states with crappier technology might not show this correlation.

    • christhenottopher says:

      Because the people who say repression doesn’t work tend to be either the folks getting repressed, or folks who might get repressed if a government turned against them. Claiming that repression fails is both an attempt to convince governments to not try it, and a way to rally followers. “See? This violent response is really a sign of weakness and if we all stick together the government is doomed!” Thus this is less an empirical argument about what tactics produce results a state desires, and more part of a counter-strategy.

    • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

      Because history? See data here.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I’ll have to take a look at it. But from what I know of history, it doesn’t seem that way to me. Basically whenever an autocrat decides to make concessions, people demand more. When he cracks down, they might get enraged at first. But generally, if it’s brutal enough, people begin to fear more than hate and they disperse. I think the archetypal example would be Syria in 1982 when the President massacred the people in the city of Hama. The islamist insurgency effectively ended. Some would say that the beginning of the current Syria Civil War is a challenge to the repression narrative. But Assad initially cracked down on the protesters much less than Bahrain did. By the time he started a full on crackdown, the protesters became an insurgency.

      • John Schilling says:

        I think the archetypal example would be Syria in 1982 when the President massacred the people in the city of Hama.

        Well, except here we are one generation of Assads later, and Syria is in the middle of a bloody civil war, so maybe not the canonical example.

        Also from the 1980s, Tiananmen square. “No, we are NOT going to have a democracy here. We aren’t even going to allow you to know how many people we killed to make sure of that, but you’ll be vaguely aware that there are some questions you DO NOT ASK. Here, go make some money. Make a lot of money, if you’re up for it, but make sure you do it as a loyally apolitical subject of the Communist Dynasty. Or Else.”

        Pretty sure we’re not going to be seeing a civil war in China any time soon. Or a democracy.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      People generally seem to bring up Prohibition in the US to support the idea that banning things doesn’t work, so I’m guessing the reason is overgeneralising based on a single data point.

      • Nornagest says:

        Oh, Prohibition “worked” in the sense that it cut down on drinking a lot — seriously, if you look at alcohol consumption statistics from the 1800s we were all a bunch of lushes. It just did so at an enormous material cost — and an enormous moral cost too, if you have an issue with any of (a) massive expansion of coercive state power, (b) making criminals out of a huge slice of the population, or (c) the creation of modern organized crime and all the bad stuff that goes with it. And it still didn’t get the figure anywhere close to zero.

        Whether or not that’s all worth it depends on how bad you think the thing is that you’re banning, and what you think its growth prospects are.

    • beleester says:

      If you make something illegal, people will use less of it than before.

      Prohibition says hi. When the need is strong enough, people start looking for alternative ways to do the illegal thing. And those alternatives might well be worse than the thing you want to ban.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        When the need is strong enough, some people start looking for alternative ways to do the illegal thing

        So the question is what percent of the people P who partake of bad thing X “need” it enough to risk punishment Y. And whether internalities and externalities Z for this portion X and the other externalities for P-X are equal, less than, or greater than internalities and externalities W which existed before.

        • Loquat says:

          Also important: ease of doing X without getting caught. One of the problems with Prohibition was that the enforcement agents were often paid badly enough that accepting bribes from alcohol smugglers was a very attractive option, and another was that it’s actually really easy to make your own alcohol from such common legal ingredients as fruit, sugar, potatoes, grain, etc. This may be more difficult to measure numerically, though.

      • Evan Þ says:

        On the other hand, prohibition worked. Alcohol consumption fell from 2.6 gallons per capita per year shortly before the Eighteenth Amendment, to 1.2 just after the Twenty-First.

        Some people look for alternatives; others don’t.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Right. To say that Prohibition worked doesn’t mean that literally ever person stopped drinking. It just means some did. If not a single person lowered their consumption in response to repression it wouldn’t just be shocking. It would defy everything we know about incentives. It would be saying that incentives don’t matter in the slightest. I don’t think people realize the implications of what they are saying.

          And yes, Prohibition had bad effects and probably wasn’t worth it. But that’s completely different than saying prohibition didn’t work.

          • beleester says:

            Hence why I said “Those alternatives might well be worse than the thing you want to ban” rather than “it didn’t work.”

            However, I think “It was technically successful but had such bad side effects that we stopped doing it” is pretty much equivalent to saying “It didn’t work,” so I’m not sure why you’re splitting hairs here.

            (By your criteria, Soviet communism “worked” – it brought equality between rich and poor, it built an economy that did pretty much exactly what the central planners wanted, it just had a few unwanted side effects.)

          • Wrong Species says:

            It’s not splitting hairs. It’s the difference between saying that incentives don’t matter and that policies can produce unwanted side effects. Only one of those is a reasonable statement. And no, the Soviet Union didn’t work because they were trying to accomplish more goals than equality. They genuinely thought their economy would be stronger than ours. Once everyone saw the undeniable strength of the Soviet system, they would agitate for revolution until everyone was heading for communism. That was obviously a failure meaning the Soviet Union was a failure.

            Also, you quoted the part where I said that prohibition will make people use less of that thing than before and tried to dispute it so I’m not sure why you’re now saying that you were right.

          • beleester says:

            I brought up Prohibition because it’s an obvious case where banning something failed to improve matters. Whether it succeeded in the stated goal of reducing alcohol consumption is pretty much irrelevant.

            I think “It accomplished the stated goal, but failed at accomplishing the actual goals we wanted, which the stated goal was merely a means towards” can be safely rounded off to “it didn’t work.”

            For a very clear-cut example: If my house was on fire, and you extinguished the fire by bombing the house into rubble, I would be justified in saying “Airstrikes don’t work for firefighting.” The intended goal was obviously not just to put out the fire, but to prevent further damage to the house, and saying “Well, it did work, because it put out the fire” is missing the point.

            To bring this around to your original post, I don’t think anyone’s arguing “Repressing protesters increases the number of protesters on the streets.” That’s pretty trivially false – obviously if you throw enough police and guns at a protest it’ll eventually stop. (Or become a civil war, but either way it’s no longer a protest.)

            The argument is instead that, while repression can accomplish the stated goal of reducing the number of protesters, it’s not going to accomplish the actual goals of the state – maintaining political stability, not starting a civil war, etc. So arguments of the form “If you make something illegal, people will use less of it than before” aren’t useful because they only address the stated goal, not the actual goal.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Do you think alcohol prohibition works in Saudi Arabia? They obviously have less consumption of alcohol than they otherwise would have and it doesn’t look like they have high crime rates from bootlegger gangs.

          • rlms says:

            “They obviously have less consumption of alcohol than they otherwise would have”
            Do they? What are consumption rates like in similar countries that don’t ban alcohol? I expect they do have less, but not by much.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I love that beelester said no one would deny that repression works at its stated goal and then someone immediately does just that.

            My prior is pretty strong on incentives mattering. If prohibition didn’t lower consumption by a noticeable amount, it would actually be shocking. I decided to look in to some data just to see what it said and what do you know, countries with alcohol bans have less alcohol consumption than other countries. Shocking. Bahrain as a muslim country has low consumption but it’s 10 times higher than in Saudi Arabia. I’m sure someone can come up with a way to fit the square in the circle but it’s going to take a lot more than a plausible sounding argument to convince me otherwise.

          • rlms says:

            Why would you compare Saudi Arabia (officially 100% Muslim, in practice probably 90-95%) to Bahrain (70%)? Making more appropriate comparisons, Iraq (85%) and Egypt (90%) have a slightly higher consumption level than Saudi Arabia (and Kuwait, Libya etc.), but a slightly lower one than Iran and Brunei. I don’t think that table provides compelling evidence for the effectiveness of prohibition, especially when you consider that the causal arrow surely goes the other way to an extent: people in countries which ban alcohol are probably less inclined to drink anyway.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If you want to go ahead and do a regression analysis, be my guest. I’m sure alcohol prohibition has nothing to do with the fact that the lowest countries in alcohol consumption are ranked where they are.

            I’m also curious what your explanation is for alcohol consumption dropping during Prohibition in the United States. Did everyone just decide to stop drinking less and then immediately resumed drinking more during that time period for completely unrelated reasons?

          • rlms says:

            The six countries at the bottom of the table do all prohibit alcohol, but the other five countries that totally prohibit it are not at the bottom. Obviously they’re not at the top either, but that’s irrelevant. My point is that within the group of countries with >90% Muslims, prohibition of alcohol doesn’t seem to have a very strong effect. Yemen prohibits it and has 0.3 litres/capita consumption, Egypt doesn’t and has 0.4, Afghanistan does and has 0.7, Jordan doesn’t and has 0.7, Iran does and has 1.0.

            Why do you think I disagree with you about the effectiveness of US prohibition in reducing alcohol consumption? I don’t.

          • Nornagest says:

            It might also be worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia is one of the scarier regimes in the world, repression-wise. If we were willing to do the kind of stuff it does in the Thirties, we’d probably have stamped out more alcohol use than we did, though at a correspondingly higher social cost.

            (We still wouldn’t have gotten into Saudi Arabia territory, because we are not 95% Muslim.)

          • By your criteria, Soviet communism “worked” – it brought equality between rich and poor, it built an economy that did pretty much exactly what the central planners wanted

            I don’t think either of those statements is correct. Inequality was not eliminated and may well have been higher than in developed capitalist societies. For one striking detail, city highways had a lane which only high level party members were allowed to use.

            Here’s another, I think from the book The Russians. People sometimes arranged fake marriages in order to get permission to immigrate to the U.S. In the USSR, they did it in order to get permission to move to Moscow, which was a (poor) first world city in the middle of a mostly third world country.

            And the economy did not do what the planners wanted. They wanted to catch up with, and eventually surpass, the capitalist West. They invested a sizable fraction of the national income and did not get the economic growth that investment was supposed to produce.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think talking about Saudi Arabia is particularly useful here, because they don’t have a long cultural history of drinking alcohol, only then to have it taken away. Alcohol consumption has been frowned upon for hundreds of years in their culture. Similarly, I would guess that if prohibition were brought back that the drinking rates of Mormons wouldn’t change much.

            Also, as far as prohibition working, it did drop alcohol consumption in the early years when the breweries and distilleries were first shut down, but after a few years the illegal supply got the country close to back up to pre-prohibition levels. Also, I would guess that we have more accurate statistics about the pre-prohibition amounts drunk than how much was drunk during prohibition. I’d guess there was a lot of bathtub gin made that no one ever knew about.

    • yossarian says:

      Repression does work. For a time. Then people (especially people with useful skills) start leaving the place, people start finding ways around the repressive measures, people start being depressed and less motivated (because of the repressive measures), sometimes repression causes people to miss opportunities that would have been explored in less repressive environments and so on. So in a long run, it doesn’t work very well (for example, Soviet Union, which was not defeated in a military struggle, but instead sort of crumpled all by itself). Plus, if you want to have a repressive government that represses just the bad things – you might run into a problem right there. So far, I haven’t seen one.

      • Wrong Species says:

        China figured out how to do political repression with economic growth. And if you think that they are destined to fail you are going to be waiting for a long time. People have been saying it for years.

        • yossarian says:

          Well, as far as I understand the situation in China, they are not just doing repression – they are slowly and carefully (so as not to follow the way of USSR) unrepressing ever since the Mao times. Plus, they might be politically repressive, but economics-wise – far less, like, those dudes don’t give a shit for the copyright laws and whatever (here in Russia, we still get quite a lot of… ahem… original Chinise Abibas sneakers and such. Plus, (just personal experience, but still), I know about 20 good scientists, programmers, etc who emigrated from China to US, Russia, Europe, but I only know one or two dudes who went the other way, which probably isn’t good for China. And China does have a billion of people and a lot of untapped economic potential, so it might be growing for quite a while still, repressions or not.

          • onyomi says:

            What is strange about the Chinese case is that, thus far, at least, they seem to have succeeded at liberalizing economically, without liberalizing all that much in terms of civil rights. Though one can certainly speak more freely now in China than one could forty years ago, they are, if anything, cracking down on e.g. VPNs, anonymous internet commenting, and that sort of thing recently.

            I’m optimistic that you can’t allow people to travel and communicate relatively freely around the world and not have them eventually demand the kinds of rights they see others enjoying; what is depressing, is that so long as they are enjoying the same level of material wealth they see others enjoying, seeing others enjoy e.g. greater freedom of speech is seemingly not as big a deal.

            Supposedly the USSR eventually fell in part because everyone could see on e.g. TV and movies that people in the West were enjoying such a vastly superior standard of living: average people could afford cars, etc. Now imagine the USSR had liberalized the economy enough that many could enjoy a standard of living that compared favorably to that people saw on US TV and movies, but managed not to allow political freedoms. That’s sort of the situation the Chinese are in now.

          • johan_larson says:

            @onyomi

            I’m optimistic that you can’t allow people to travel and communicate relatively freely around the world and not have them eventually demand the kinds of rights they see others enjoying

            I suspect the target the Communist Party is aiming for looks a whole lot more like Singapore than like the Netherlands or the United States. They want a prosperous nation run by a self-perpetuating technocratic hierarchy, perhaps with some vaguely democratic elements.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Economically they are less controlling than they used to be. What makes you think politically they are less repressive than 20 years ago? And how slowly does liberalization need to happen to count as evidence against your hypothesis?

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @onyomi

            What if they don’t observe that much difference in the level of political liberties?

            I don’t know much about the Chinese system, but I once argued with a Russian elsewhere on the internet, who argued that in Russia, the sane opposition works within the Putin’s political party, and in the end, having all of the establishment inside one large party isn’t fundamentally so different from having multiple equivalently eternal establishment parties taking turns in sitting in the opposition. If you subscribe to this view of world, everyone attempting to act outside the one-party-state platform in an authoritarian state is comparable to a lunatic who wants to circumvent the parliamentary institutions of the Western democratic system.

            Now, there’s many issues with this interpretation of things: If you follow or participate actively in the politics you notice that sometimes it truly matters who or what the people vote for; and anyway, many of the best parts of the liberal democracy are not the “voting for political parties” part but things like pursue of rule of law and bureaucratic transparency and predictability, and so on.
            But it has enough of meat — often the political process does not affect many drastic changes; you seem to never to get rid of high-level political corruption; all the reasons why intellectual people still quote Yes, Minister decades after the end of the show; Gitmo and secret CIA prisons in Poland; Western intelligence services spy on everyone already at will; when a BigCorp wants something done, your protests will often amount to nothing — that it appears to be superficially true, especially given a tactful propaganda effort by the official media to portray the Western politics in a certain light.
            And if you believe in that, maybe you don’t then observe many significant differences in political liberties, especially if you only visit foreign countries or even immigrate but don’t take much active interest in politics.

    • yossarian says:

      Plus, to add to my previous comment – the repressive government usually doesn’t end up repressing just bad things, like actual crime – it ends up repressing other, not so bad things more. Hells, if the government managed to be repressive just towards the actual bad shit – I would totally sign up for that (a strange thing to hear from an anarchist, is it not?) But it doesn’t. Like, for example, in Sharia law countries thieves might get punished by having their arm cut off. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? But you might get stoned (in a bad meaning of this word) for fucking (in a sexual meaning of this word) a wrong person or for saying that you don’t want to worship Allah any more. Or, for a stereotypical example, Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union. When I read the books by or about the concentration camp prisoners, I always wonder – why the hell do the actual criminal criminals get the nicer treatment, but the political prisoners get the worse one? Axe-murder your neighbour – you get 5 years of jail, and you might get a nice cozy position like a cook or a brigadeer. Wipe your ass with a newspaper with Stalin’s face on it – and you get 20 years without parole…

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t endorse repression. I’m just realistic about it. The “inevitability” of freedom is part of the reason why North Korea is as problematic as they are today. Our government thought they would just collapse on their own when totalitarianism can actually be very resilient. That’s the kind of problems that come from peoples naiveté.

    • cassander says:

      Because confusing “is” and “ought” is a universally popular human pastime, especially about somewhat esoteric philosophical questions that don’t directly impact their daily lives.

    • moscanarius says:

      I think this happens for the same reason people say things like “free market has failed” or “taxation is theft”: the rightful criticism has grown out of its valid limits during its metamorphosis into a group-widespread meme.

      The thing is that very few policies will “work” 100% of the times in a 100% of the cases under all reasonable definitons of the word “work”, so there will always some valid criticism of any policy. Then, if start with a society that firmly believes the validity of a certain policy (“repression works”), it won’t take long for some smart (or better say, smarty) people to find the limits of said policy’s efficiency and trumpet them to everyone willing to hear them – initially, mostly other smarty people. It’s not difficult for them point the cases where policy A loudly failed; it is certainly easier than counting the silent cases of success.

      Smarty people punch above their numbers in terms of cultural impact; and since smarty people love to band with other smarty people, and love to sound smarty by spreading things other smarty people believe, you often get that criticism of any given policy will start to spread among them and from them to the masses. It starts with a few thoughtful observations, then moves to some rants, then to some supposedly edgy inside jokes. At this point someone writes a definitive text condemning whatever-policy-is-in-discussion due to its five or six shortcomings, gets widely read, and the meme is born.

      As it becomes more widespread, the criticism gets diluted as more smarty people try to write more edgy texts against policy A, sobby stories about how policy A destroyed the author’s life, novels where policy A is the root of all the story’s conflict, long articles detailing why policy A is bad because of the five examples the author gathered, university lectures about the challenges to policy A, and finally TV shows and movies and the like. Soon what we have is a short meme that contains one grain of truth amid many layers of bad assumptions and group signalling. Eventually some of this reaches the masses, where it becomes the new traditional truth until it be displaced by a new cycle edgy smarty criticism.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        At this point someone writes a definitive text condemning whatever-policy-is-in-discussion due to its five or six shortcomings, gets widely read, and the meme is born.

        Amateurs

  32. OptimalSolver says:

    I have it on good authority that the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita Muscaria, which is unrelated to the more common psilocybin family of hallucinogenic mushrooms and contains a completely different psychoactive compound (muscimol, as opposed to psilocybin), causes lucid dreams.

    I’ve been told that when taken at small doses of less than 1g (optimal range = 500-750 mcg), in the form a stew at bedtime, it usually has following effects:

    -Increased sleepiness
    -Extremely vivid dreams
    -High awareness and self-reflection that are usually missing in the dream state.

    Just putting this rumor out there as a curiousity. I, of course, do not recommend the consumption of hallucinogenics of any kind.

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t care if your good authority is the Archangel Gabriel, messing around with amanita mushrooms unless you very feckin’ well know exactly what you’re doing is not going to end well. Maybe I’m too old-fashioned and nowadays practically nobody at all gets poisoned, but I don’t think running the risk of that for the sake of lucid dreaming is a good risk.

      Even the non-lethal side effects don’t sound too great. If you’re going to use them in a stew, the safest thing sounds to be that you parboil them first and throw out the water, then put them in the stew – don’t throw them in as a raw ingredient:

      Drying and cooking convert most of the ibotenic acid in these amanitas to muscimol. Only blanching and throwing out the cooking water significantly lower the toxicity.

      Amanita muscaria has been eaten without symptoms in small quantities after boiling and throwing out the water. Eaten raw or nearly so, Amanita muscaria acts as a “poor man’s hallucinogen” and was very fashionable in the 60’s. However, it is far less potent in this respect than psilocybin mushrooms and much more likely to have unpleasant results. Recreational use of Amanita pantherina in California has been less frequent than in the PNW.

      “Mushroom the Journal” had an educational story in its summer 1991 issue. A busload of high-school students, coming back from a jazz competition mushroomed in woods near their dinner stop. Thinking to get high from Amanita muscaria they picked Amanita pantherina. They shortly began to vomit and hallucinate and even a few became semi-comatose. Three boys ended up in an intensive care unit, two others were kept overnight in hospital and six more were treated and released after ipecac and activated charcoal treatment. Oregon State police rushed the samples to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. The university in turn got Janet Lindgren, chairman of the Toxicology Committee of the Oregon Mycological Society, out of bed at 2 a.m. The symptoms, the time of year and the fragments clearly identified the offending mushrooms as Amanita pantherina. The school temporarily suspended those who poisoned themselves; the others hopefully learned by example.

      • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

        If you are going for the poor man’s stuff: It is excreted via urine and thus can be recycled several times (in diminishing concentrations). As did Siberian shamans.

        • Deiseach says:

          Which is why I think if you’re desperate enough to get high that you will drink pee, just forget it and go for good old traditional brain-cell killing booze. The traditional apéritif (which has long since lost any “tonic” qualities) to achieve such a state is this one, although more modern choices are cheap lager, cheap knock-off vodka, and cheap ‘sherry’.

  33. rlms says:

    Does anyone else think the Spanish government is responding very badly to the Catalan referendum? Suppose they let the referendum go ahead, and the result was a moderate majority in favour of independence. I expect that the consequences would be a lot of talk, but not much action. Instead, they’ve decided to send in thousands of armed police. That seems like a surefire way to massively increase both support for independence and resolution to actually achieve it if the referendum favours it.

    • Matt M says:

      Suppose they let the referendum go ahead, and the result was a moderate majority in favour of independence. I expect that the consequences would be a lot of talk, but not much action.

      Why? Wasn’t Brexit technically a non-binding referendum? And wasn’t it only a moderate majority in favor? And isn’t it leading to direct action?

      If you let people vote and then ignore the consequences, you look like a dictator, and the separatists will become increasingly emboldened and perhaps pick up more followers, upset at the corrupt national government. If you simply refuse to let them vote, you can talk about the proper process and the importance of national sovereignty or whatever else, while strongly implying that the vote would have failed anyway because it was only supported by extremists who want to destroy the nation (and nobody can really prove you wrong)

      • rlms says:

        I think the Brexit referendum was widely viewed as binding, whereas I don’t think there is a consensus in Catalonia about their referendum, and the Spanish government certainly doesn’t see it as binding. Brexit is happening, but pretty slowly. In a world with an unsympathetic British government and EU, I expect it would be proceeding at a speed of approximately zero.

        I’m not suggesting that the Spanish government just ignore the referendum. But responding to a vote for independence by saying “it was illegal and hence meaningless, and anyway you’ve not really thought out how independence would work even if it did happen, and what about this vague compromise position” seems to me to be a better plan than arresting politicians (which will turn previously sympathetic politicians against you), shipping in riot police (which will displease the general population), and censoring Catalonian websites (which upsets the EFF).

        • Wrong Species says:

          a better plan than arresting politicians (which will turn previously sympathetic politicians against you), shipping in riot police (which will displease the general population), and censoring Catalonian websites (which upsets the EFF).

          Catalonia makes up 16% of the Spanish population. The government doesn’t need the support of Catalan people. They just need the support of Spanish people. And of course, Catalonia itself will be split on the question even with the crackdown.

          • rlms says:

            “The government doesn’t need the support of Catalan people.”
            Only in the sense that the US government doesn’t need the support of black people — they don’t, but if they reject it they’d better find a similarly sized bloc to replace it if they want to be elected.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            Despite only accounting for about 16 percent of the Spanish population, Catalonia represents about 25 percent of all Spanish exports, and it accounted for 23 percent of all Spanish industry, according to the regional government.
            2015 figures
            No wonder the would hit hard to keep ’em.

        • apollocarmb says:

          actually the vast majority in catalonia support the holding of a referendum

        • Matt M says:

          In a world with an unsympathetic British government and EU

          What? Is this not the exact world we live in?

          • rlms says:

            No. The EU have not yet arrested any Conservative politicians or declared Brexit illegal, and it seems unlikely that they will do so in the future.

          • quanta413 says:

            No. The EU have not yet arrested any Conservative politicians or declared Brexit illegal, and it seems unlikely that they will do so in the future.

            Unsympathetic != Violent Repression. If you wanted to say “in a world where the British government arrested its own politicians for supporting a slim majority of the people” or “in a world where the EU had serious military force and the countries inside it were like California is to the U.S.” you should have said so. It’s pretty clear most of the ruling class didn’t think they’d actually lose a referendum and then have to contemplate actually engaging in Brexit. Brexit really is proceeding at a glacial speed. There’s no guarantee yet it will actually happen although I think it probably will.

        • Eric Rall says:

          My understanding is that the Brexit referendum was not formally self-executing, but was generally understood as and intended by Parliament to impose a duty on the government to implement the results of the referendum. This duty carries a fair amount of weight under British political culture, and moreover could be enforced by the Queen (probably by using her reserve power to dismiss the PM) if the government refused to respect the referendum.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Don’t know anything about this story, but making a prediction now that Russians were involved in this too (not a joke).

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Wait, were the Russians (allegedly) involved in Brexit?

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I don’t know, but would not surprise me. The Russians have a clear game plan with the West, which they will enact to the best extent they are able. Russia is quite poor, and can’t really project force, but their spy game is the best in the world.

          The other thing is, Russians don’t create things ex nihilo, they opportunistically exploit found weaknesses.

          • Aapje says:

            I really think you are being paranoid and are seeing a nefarious plot of Jews communists Russians behind everything. Spying can merely be used to selectively expose information that benefits an agenda. It doesn’t magically make people upset with the EU or the Spanish central government, where otherwise they would be perfectly content.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My current handy generalization about Russians is that they’re bad at government and business, but brilliant in small specialties– and you can’t predict which specialties they’ll be.

            Spying might be predictable…. but there’s also ballet, exercise physiology, space…. There might be some others I’ve forgotten, and I’m sure there are more I haven’t heard of.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Aapje: that’s exactly what I am saying, spying can’t create major issues ex nihilo, some sort of underlying problem needed to be there to be exploited.

            Nancy, the way you are phrasing things sounds kinda racist. Russia is a society with poor cooperating norms, which leads to a lot of bad things. To the extent that you can carve a cubby hole for yourself and create, that you can do just as well as in the West.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It is kind of racist, but if I can’t say that sort of thing here, where can I say it?

            It’s interesting that that communism only made for a temporary stop to business in China, and overseas Chinese are a middleman minority.

            I have no idea whether the difference is (mostly) genetic or (mostly) cultural.

          • John Schilling says:

            but would not surprise me.

            Where espionage is concerned, “it would not surprise me” ought to point to a nigh-infinite number of potential conspiracies, for each specific one of which your prior should be “pics or it didn’t happen”. The only winning strategy in espionage is to not be surprised by anything but to also not believe anything without solid evidence.

            If instead your bias leans to “X is to the benefit of Y, Y is a bunch of malevolent conspirators, therefore Y did X”, that way leads to the Protocols of the Elders of Whatever, and to madness, and to near-universal disdain. Particularly by Z, who actually did X and are amused by how easily you fell for it.

          • It is kind of racist

            I don’t think so. It was a statement about Russians, who are a nationality, not a race.

            Is it racist to say that French are good at cooking or Germans at engineering or Italians at art?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Nancy you can do whatever you want, here or elsewhere. Even be an asshole.

            How many Russians do you know, personally?

            “Russians are bad at government” sounds like “women are bad at math.”

            John, you should read up on Russian spying after Yeltsin (and before, for that matter). It’s interesting reading.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            here’s an edit:

            I don’t like beating a drum of “false racism accusations are bad”, but you yourself acknowledge that:

            Russia is a society with poor cooperating norms, which leads to a lot of bad things.

            Of course, if you leave the nation you’ll still have those norms more-or-less impressed on you, unless you integrate / assimilate successfully, which would arguably make you not Russian any more. What was this all for ?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ilya, you’ve previously linked to websites tracking retweets of videos put out by RT as an example of what I assume is an unacceptable form of propaganda. What’s your opinion of Al Jeezera America?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Do you not understand the difference between “the country has problems” and “oh, and it’s due to the people”? See also the difference between “there are too few female mathematicians, compared to male mathematicians” and “women are bad at math.”

            But again, this is all fairly obvious, and I am sure you are aware of the difference. So I am not sure what you were trying to say.

            Since Nancy seems to know a ton about Russians, I thought I would ask how many she personally knew.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is not really a bright-line distinction between white propaganda (that is, information openly propagated by an actor, not anything race-related) and regular news, especially state-run news. Every newroom on the planet has its biases, and they’ll spin stuff towards them if they can or refuse to run stuff if it can’t be spun. Al-Jazeera America is no exception, and its biases do have a lot to do with Qatari state interests, but you could say similar — though maybe subtler — things about NPR or the BBC.

            Some of the stuff Russia Today does, though, verges on gray or even black propaganda.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Conrad, can you be more specific, re: AJ? Did you have some specific questionable thing in mind?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Some of the stuff Russia Today does, though, verges on gray or even black propaganda.

            Can you give me an example or two?

            ETA:

            Ilya, not really. I don’t watch AJ or RT. I was wondering if you had an opinion on AJ, because I was curious if it was all foreign news/propaganda you disliked, or just that from Russia. Nornagest believes there’s a difference between AJ and RT, though, and I’m interested in what that is.

          • Nornagest says:

            Can you give me an example or two?

            Let’s take it as given that the Russians were involved in the 2014 Crimean Peninsula takeover (note the well-documented presence of Russian-speaking troops in Russian vehicles wearing unmarked Russian uniforms and carrying Russian weapons). Let’s also take it as given that the Russian government is the only major actor that’s interested in spreading FUD. Now, if RT broadcasts a Kremlin representative denying Russian involvement, that would be white propaganda: they’re openly acting as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin. If they dig up an “independent expert” who says he’s done an analysis that disproves Russian involvement, then that’s gray propaganda: covertly acting as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin. And if they put someone on camera who falsely claims to be a CIA agent and says there’s no Russian involvement, then that’s black propaganda: falsely attributing the message to its targets. (In practice there are often differences in style and methods as well as attribution.)

            RT definitely did the “independent expert” thing in that case; black propaganda is more debatable. But the Crimea’s an unusually clear case, because usually there’s more than one significant actor taking a given line on a story, and so it’s usually possible to get the spin you want without lying about your sources. If we were talking about Occupy, for example, it’d be possible to take just about any angle, because there are plenty of legitimate sources on every side that’re just dying to tell you their stories. This is more the MO of conventional state news.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Presumably AJ:A might push some sort of angle. Folks who own AJ are from Qatar. I don’t know what the status of Qatar and US is, they used to be allies at one point, but perhaps this is changing now?

            Presumably even allies try to lobby and influence public opinion in their favor, using things like the media. To the extent that this conflicts with US interests, it might be bad.

            The problem with Russia is, it’s clearly a hostile power. That is, we have very few shared interests.

            I am not Vladimir’s close personal friend, but based on stuff he said, I rather expect his foreign policy is something like “sow discord in the West, and try to reestablish the USSR borders while the West is distracted or fighting itself.”

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Do you not understand the difference between “the country has problems” and “oh, and it’s due to the people”?

            Russia is a society with poor cooperating norms, which leads to a lot of bad things.

            Societies are made up of people, so it’s clearly possible to argue that it’s the people in a cultural sense; indeed, you have already done so. But you know what, let’s agree that statements like this are unequivocally racist and everyone who makes them should really re-think their life choices. Wait, what type of statements are we talking about, again? Ones like this?

            The other thing is, Russians don’t create things ex nihilo, they opportunistically exploit found weaknesses.

            Wow, are you saying Russians don’t create things? And they exploit weaknesses? This is a really offensive quote, I sure hope this Ilya…Shpitser, character, feels bad about himself. You should give him a stern talking-to.

            Seriously man…I’m sure you can find some type of difference between you and Nancy’s statements if you want, but the bottom line is you said that expecting us to understand that it wasn’t a DNA-driven assertion. From Nancy’s original message there wasn’t any proof of a DNA-driven assertion either, so why blow the whistle?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Look, I don’t know what you want me to say. Communication is complicated. We can argue about how people should express themselves, and we can disagree on where the line ought to be.

            For me the line is on statements isomorphic to “women are bad at math.”

            For any sort of statement like that, the real thing that’s true is very complicated, and if you phrase it as above, you are just thoughtlessly blurting things out.

            So, for example, you wrote a paragraph about cultural issues in Russia, and tried to link it to “Russians-as-due-to-cultural-emergent-phenomena.” But — communication is complicated. If you say “Russians are bad at X” you are hiding a ton of this detail, because lots of other complicated paragraphs map to that sentence above. Onus is on the person talking to speak clearly.

            There is all this personal growth advice on not saying “I am bad at X”. Tabooing that type of phrasing is advised precisely because of how people typically interpret that phrasing, in an essentialist and immutable way.

            I don’t think people who speak like this should be silenced or punished, but I think they are assholes. That’s all.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Nornagest

            That’s interesting, but I don’t think much different than anything western news agencies do. The New York Times doesn’t say stuff much contrary to the interests of Carlos Slim and WaPo editors align with the interests of Jeff Bezos. They cite “independent experts” to “explain” their positions.

            What I’m really looking for with regards to “Russian propaganda influenced the US election” is what, exactly? “Thing A about the US or Hillary is false, but here’s a story started by RT that picked up traction in the US media.”

            I’m not sure such a thing exists. If it does, I doubt it’s distinguishable from every other small-time propaganda outfit, which makes it noise, compared to the massive signal from CNN, MSNBC, Fox, NYT, WaPo, etc.

            @Ilya

            The problem with Russia is, it’s clearly a hostile power. That is, we have very few shared interests.

            Hostile to whom? I don’t feel any threat from Russia. Russia mostly seems to be acting in Russia’s internal and regional interests. I think it’s more troublesome that NATO seems intent on surrounding and isolating Russia.

            I’m sure you can argue that Russia is a “hostile power,” but if you put the modifier “clearly” in there I think you’re assuming to much. They may be outgroup to you, but they’re fargroup to me. I don’t really care much what Russia does, and I don’t understand the left’s obsession with them. There are many other nations that are more hostile and/or more active in US affairs than Russia that do not provoke such ire.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Of course Russia is acting in its self-interest. But it’s self-interest includes things like starting wars, grabbing land, and screwing with Pax Americana.

            We had a really long cold war with Russia’s predecessor state.

            “You” are just some guy, and “your feelings” don’t mean much to how the US operates on the international stage. What you are probably interested in is winning the culture war by any means necessary, a bunch of dead Ukrainians, world history and USSR, and the kind of stuff Russia gets up probably don’t mean very much to you. You are probably worried about the Democrats more than about Russia — which is precisely what Putin’s exploiting.

            Fortunately, there are folks who worry about geopolitics in the US who have more foresight than you do.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            no offense dude but you have a very unpleasant attitude and it’s not based on very much

            for example, the argument you had with me basically ends with you admitting that your ideas about ‘isms’ are based around one emotionally-charged example and have no objective basis outside of this

            and then you have this

            Fortunately, there are folks who worry about geopolitics in the US who have more foresight than you do.

            “foresight”? If oil prices drop much lower Russia may well collapse, but I guess they’re a big threat we need to worry about. Even if they do kill a lot of Ukrainians…is this our business, as such? What about the India-Pakistan war, in which credible (at least I think they are) threats are being made about tactical nuke usage?

            Speaking of nukes, that’s the only reason we should care – we asked Ukraine to give theirs up in service of nonproliferation, and they agreed for some godforsaken reason, which sort of makes their defense our responsibility. Give them their nukes back and move on with it, is my opinion.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s interesting, but I don’t think much different than anything western news agencies do. The New York Times doesn’t say stuff much contrary to the interests of Carlos Slim and WaPo editors align with the interests of Jeff Bezos. They cite “independent experts” to “explain” their positions.

            Fabricating an expert, not finding one. Everyone in news has their line to push, and one should expect them to find sources consonant with it, but as long as those sources are legit it’s at worst white propaganda (which, as I’ve said, is not clearly distinguishable from ordinary communication). It starts to drift into gray territory when you start making sources up or lying about their credentials.

            What I’m really looking for with regards to “Russian propaganda influenced the US election” is what, exactly? “Thing A about the US or Hillary is false, but here’s a story started by RT that picked up traction in the US media.”

            Can’t help you there. I follow geopolitics stories, but I’ve been doing my best to avoid anything that touches on domestic politics since the election. But by the same token, domestic politics isn’t how I know about RT.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Also the ants. (A joke, but I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see a mainstreamish article claiming it)

    • Wrong Species says:

      If Catalonia passed a vote in favor of independence then that gives the movement a sense of legitimacy it otherwise would not have. By denying them that vote, the Spanish government is denying them that opportunity and preventing them from trying again if they fail(which the Scottish will probably attempt at some point). Better to nip the whole thing in the bud sooner rather than later. If people think there is a chance, then some of them will keep pushing for it until they get it

      • Mary says:

        By denying them that right, the Spanish government is setting themselves up to described as tyrants. It ain’t all benefit

    • apollocarmb says:

      If independence is accepted via vote independence will be declared regardless of the spanish reaction to the holding of the vote. Back in 2014 the government pledged to set up a catalan republic by 2017.

      But yes they are handling it very badly, not only are they opressing the catalan people but they are increasing the chances of a majority voting in favour of independence. This blatant disrespect of self determination will not only make pro-independence catalans more likely to actually vote but they will also possibly convince those who are undecided to vote for independence

  34. Whalefallen says:

    Does Scott or anyone else have any advice for my situation? I’ve developed a very stubborn psychological aversion to my girlfriend’s scent due to mold 🙁 The short version of it is that without any of us realizing, her pillow grew mold inside sometime during autumn 2015. So whenever she slept, toxic mold spores would cling to her neck and hair, and then I’d breathe them in along with her regular scent whenever we were intimate. This manifested as me inexplicably finding her scent more and more repulsive and anxiety-provoking, but since I didn’t understand what on earth could cause it, and no doctor I saw could offer any explanation, I put it down to just some weird fixation and tried to ignore it as best I could.

    Over time, however, the discomfort grew worse and worse, and when we finally found the cause and threw out the pillow (and not just perfumes and other things that might have caused it), my brain and nose had developed an incredibly stubborn aversion to any scents emanating from her. It’s now been 1,5 years since we got rid of the mold (we are 100 % sure the actual physical irritant is gone), and the aversion still causes me daily pangs of instinctive anxiety from just interacting with her normally, even as our relationship in all other respects continues to be strong. It’s the weirdest and most difficult problem I’ve ever had to deal with.

    The anxiety reaction is incredibly automatic – it just instantly floods my brain with fear upon smelling her, leaving no opportunity for higher brain functions and mental coping techniques to take the edge off it. This research really captures my experience:

    Most people – including scientists – assumed we can’t just sniff out danger.

    It was thought that we became afraid of an odor – such as leaking gas – only after information about a scary scent is processed by our brain.

    But neuroscientists at Rutgers University studying the olfactory – sense of smell – system in mice have discovered that this fear reaction can occur at the sensory level, even before the brain has the opportunity to interpret that the odor could mean trouble.

    I’ve also started noticing new, strong scents in situations surrounding her that I never could detect prior to the whole mold episode, so it seems my sense of smell has been heightened in response to the ”danger”. The fact that I now pick up a ton of strange smells combined with my brain being highly suspicious of any new and unexpected smells from her is very, very nerve-wracking.

    Other than this issue, I am generally healthy and function well in all other parts of my life. I’ve had physical check-ups to rule out things like brain tumors, but nothing.

    It was really difficult to broach the subject with my girlfriend at first, when I had no idea what was going on beyond that I suddenly had started finding her scent really repulsive, and had no clue as to the reason. But now she knows as much as I do, and while we both find it extremely unfortunate, she also understands that it’s caused by the situation, not by anything intrinsic to her. Still, it’s a very tough issue and kind of a Sword of Damocles for our relationship, even though we try to attack it as a team most days.

    As for treatments, I’m seeing a reputable hypnotherapy practitioner soon. The list of things I’ve previously tried includes CBT, meditation, exercise, hours of concentrated exposure therapy, l-theanine, black seed oil, ashwagandha (didn’t tolerate this well, had some weird side effects that still remain after cessation), vorinostat (HDAC inhibitor. May have used it incorrectly) and general talk therapy, but nothing has provided lasting relief. I suspect that since we had almost six months in which almost every single physical interaction I had with her involved the mold, my brain was fed an incredible amount of ”data” that scents emanating from her are fundamentally dangerous.

    I’ve previously written about this problem on Reddit, there’s some more information there if someone is interested. Feel free to ask me anything about the whole thing.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I would dump her. In my non-professional opinion, the male sex instinct ought to be strong enough to overcome any kind of learned aversion to your sexual partner. So you have probably lost interest in her romantically and sexually for whatever reason. In fact, this business about the mold might very well be just a rationalization you have subconsciously constructed to avoid facing the real reasons you are averse to her.

      • Whalefallen says:

        Both sex and general love feelings can sometimes suppress the aversion when things are particularly great between us – but only temporarily. It’s as though the aversion resurfaces whenever things settle a bit more on the oxytocin front or something. Still, the love and anxiety seems to manage to co-exist, generally.

        Yeah, many people I’ve spoken to have tried coming at it from the angle of something else being off about the relationship. I can see how that might seem to be the case but as for my subjective experience of our relationship, it was really good and loving in all respects, until suddenly, being close to her became the most anxiety-provoking sensation in the entire world, and later started hurting my nasal passages (i.e. the mold). If the post-mold aversion is caused by a subconscious dislike of the young, pretty girl I love and previously had a really fun, healthy relationship with, that dislike must be incredibly strong.

        Sorry if this is all a bit muddled, thanks for your input.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          How old are you? How many relationships have you been in which were serious to the point of living with the person?

          • Whalefallen says:

            29. This is my first relationship where I live with them. Only had a few casual relationships before.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            My impression is that you don’t really appreciate just how much a man’s sexual/romantic interest in a girl can drop after a couple years of regular sex.

      • Well... says:

        I think you should dump her too but for different reasons. I think basically the association which has formed in your brain is irreversible. You guys can just be friends, but a physical relationship is no longer possible. Dump her so she can get on which her love life and you can get on with yours. Don’t waste any more time.

        • liskantope says:

          I see the reasoning behind this suggestion, but I’m a little put off by how flippant-sounding the “dump her” advice sounds, both here and above. If a romantic relationship has a lot of things going for it, just throwing it away even due to a major difficulty is easier advised by an outsider than done by one of the people involved. This is obviously a serious problem for Whalefallen and their girlfriend, and not knowing anything more about the relationship I can’t say whether its strength elsewhere outweighs the likely difficulties in overcoming the problem, but I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that it’s not worth it to continue trying.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Seriously. It’s like reading r/relationships. “Flawless or bust!” is a dogshit attitude to approach relationships with.

          • Whalefallen says:

            Thanks both of you for your input. It’s been really hard to know whether to keep trying or just break up.

            I guess I feel that it’s just this one infuriating circumstantial issue that’s keeping me from living life normally with the woman I love, and that there surely must be some way to fix it. But there may not be. Even so, I want to feel that I’ve tried everything (within reason) before calling it quits. I have a hypnotherapy appointment on Wednesday, and if that doesn’t help, I’ll start running down the list of things I haven’t tried yet (some good suggestions in this thread). If none of those pay off as well, I guess there’s just not much else to do but go our separate ways.

          • Well... says:

            @liskantope:

            If there’s kids, that’s the one thing I’d say should overrule it. Otherwise I put this in the same category as “Girlfriend loses arm/I have a legitimate incurable phobia of all things related to amputation.” I’m not being flippant. A physical relationship is essential to the health of a boyfriend/girlfriend thing. They can amicably split and remain friends, but I don’t see how they can have a physical relationship. Maybe if there’s a medical breakthrough that allows Whalefallen to get over the mental association?

            @Gobbobobble:

            This isn’t “flawless or bust,” it’s the opposite: “Incurable visceral aversion or chance of a future together.”

            @Whalefallen:

            I’d say keep trying if you think there’s some remedy that might yet work. I wasn’t getting the impression there was one from what you said, so I gave the advice I did. I want to re-emphasize, you can always stay friends.

            To all three of you:

            Romantic relationships are valuable and precious, but it’s possible to move on and find others. You can get more than one in this life. If there’s no kids in the relationship, then there’s nothing lost but memories.

    • rlms says:

      Could you ask her to try to change her scent?

      • entobat says:

        This seems like the obvious low-cost first attempt, and I was surprised to see it unmentioned in the OP. Why not have her buy a nice perfume, and for good measure also switch body wash / shampoo? (Shampoo is probably particularly important.)

        Maybe after a while your aversion to her original scent will be dampened due to a long period of non-exposure, and she can even go back if she wants.

        • entobat says:

          Can’t seem to edit comment, but want to say that “have her buy a nice perfume” should be worded in a way that does not necessarily suggest that the gf bear the entire cost of this scent-change plan.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes. It also probably couldn’t hurt to change your own shampoo/deodorant/cologne as well, just to have different scents around you all the time in general.

        • Whalefallen says:

          Sorry, forgot to mention it. We’ve tried introducing new hygiene products before, but there seems to be a strong contextual element to the aversion, where even previously neutral or pleasant smells become anxiety-provoking as they become associated with her. For instance, a new shampoo that I enjoy the smell of in the store can become a trigger for the anxiety a few days after she starts wearing it.

          It’s positively ridiculous at times. I’ve even had anxiety attacks from smelling my own dried saliva on her neck after kissing her!

          I didn’t explain it well in the OP, but when I talk about her scent/s, it actually seems to be just about any scent that emanates from her. Some become stronger triggers than others, though.

          • entobat says:

            That…seems tough. Perhaps try exposing yourself to those smells intentionally while doing activities that you enjoy? Other than that I’ve got nothing.

            This sounds weird enough to be “ask beg a doctor” territory.

    • Mark says:

      Exposure therapy. Take a holiday together and sniff her continuously whilst in otherwise relaxing surroundings.

      Or clothes peg on nose until you forget the association?

      • Whalefallen says:

        Yeah, we’ve done a ton of concentrated exposure therapy, though only at home. We also did visit Paris together recently, but we only interacted normally while there. Might be worth trying some focused exposure the next time we’re on a trip together.

        Heh, I actually bought a few swimmer nose clips to use whenever the anxiety became too overwhelming. It felt as though it would worsen the anxiety in the long run by avoiding it, though, plus they hurt my nose. Also not particularly socially accepted to wear in public.

    • Creutzer says:

      I get the impression that psychedelics have the potential to enable rewriting of habits and associations to some degree. No idea what the neurological basis for that is and whether it would even touch such things as smell, but taking psilocybin together with your girlfriend might be worth a try.

      • Whalefallen says:

        Yeah, I’ve heard that as well. I have had some bad experiences trying other substances though, most notably vorinostat, and I’m pretty squeamish in general with drugs, so I haven’t dared try anything else since.

        Disclaimer: Really rickety unqualified neuroscience ahead. Anyone who actually knows this stuff is super welcome to correct me.

        So the explanation I’ve heard is that there’s an epigenetic component to many forms of psychological trauma. Supposedly the brain has these mechanisms where it can turn off the genes normally responsible for fear extinction in order to safeguard specific memories and behaviors in order to avoid really, really dangerous things. So that would be why some forms of PTSD and such can be highly resistant to exposure therapy.

        It’s also the reason I tried vorinostat, which is FDA-approved for cancer treatment but is also being studied for fear extinction alongside other histone deacetylase inhibitors. They induce greater epigenetic plasticity, and thus while they’re active, the epigenetic ”locks” on aversive memories are relaxed, allowing fear extinction to take place.

        (There are a few threads about this on Longecity and r/nootropics, which is where I learned about it)

        Anyway, so I participated in a group buy of vorinostat and tried it a few times. I couldn’t get it to work though – all it did was give me increased anxiety and a night of heart palpitations. I kind of suspect it interacted with the ashwagandha I was taking during that period though, as the effects were very similar to rebound anxiety from ashwagandha. And HDAC inhibitors seem to have the ability to ”prune” the epigenome of lingering effects of various substances, which is why they’re also being studied for addiction cessation, so my best guess is that the vorinostat just instantly removed the built-up effect of ashwagandha in my system, and the resulting rebound anxiety blocked any fear extinction that might otherwise have taken place.

        I have no way to be sure though, and I was kind of freaked out about the whole experience, so I haven’t worked up the nerve to try vorinostat again without any other substances in the picture. I had a really weird and bad time getting off the ashwagandha afterwards, as well, and some lingering effects so I don’t know if I accidentally did something dangerous to myself. I also seem to have become weirdly sensitive to even mildly serotonergic substances(?). Feel mostly okay though.

    • Deiseach says:

      Did desensitisation therapy not work for you?

      I can only suggest something like pick a scent – say a new perfume – and first expose yourself, and yourself alone, to it in situations where you feel calm, happy, relaxed and so on so that you associate this smell with good feelings.

      Then take a piece of her (laundered) clothing, spray the scent on it, and again expose yourself to it by yourself (i.e. she doesn’t wear this article of clothing) in the same conditions so you associate good things with this.

      She wears the clothing so it picks up her scent, she or you sprays the scent on it but not enough to overpower her scent, gives it to you, do as above.

      Then move on to she wears this scent while you’re with her. See if that can overcome with “new good associations” the “danger, danger!” associations of her scent. If that works, then move on to she doesn’t wear that scent and see if that has helped any.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Just to underline: the original post mentioned exposure therapy, which is an effort to overload the phobic response. This can backfire.

        Deiseach is describing *desensitization* therapy, which is a matter of approaching the phobic trigger gradually, and calming oneself after each exposure.

        Also, is there anything which could numb the sense of smell?

        • Whalefallen says:

          Ah, interesting. Yeah, I think I’ve only tried the flooding variant of exposure. I’ll add Deiseach’s method to the list of things to try if my hypnotherapy appointment on Wednesday fails. Thanks.

          I have some nose clips that I tried for a while, but it felt as kind of an unhealthy crutch in that it facilitated avoidance rather than exposure. They were also really uncomfortable.

    • Telminha says:

      Something similar happened to me, but it was related to food.
      You may find this interesting:
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conditioned_taste_aversion

      Aversions can also be developed to odors as well as to tastes.

      The way I was able to overcome my aversion was by avoiding that particular food for a certain period of time, and then reintroducing it slowly.

      • Whalefallen says:

        How long did you avoid the food in question? The longest I’ve been away from my girlfriend since the whole thing began is only about a week.

        I wonder how conditioned taste aversions relate to conditioned anxiety in PTSD and various anxiety disorders. Hmm.

        • Telminha says:

          I am sorry you are going through this. I hope you can find a good therapist.

          The food in question was beans. One day, I became very ill after eating beans. I stopped eating them completely for about two months, but because it was something I had really enjoyed for most of my life, I decided to reverse my aversion. Even the mention of the word beans would make me feel nauseous.

          First, before I reintroduced beans, I moved the couch to a different position. Strange? Indeed. But the reason I did that was because I remembered spending the day I became ill lying on that couch. I stopped using the clothes I was wearing that day. I cooked the beans in a different pan. These things sound silly, but I feel that the changes helped somehow. I also believe that taking a small break from the trigger food/situation was important in the process.

          I have used this “technique” in different situations. For example, after a car accident, I become very fearful of driving. I took a little break (a month or so), changed a few things in the car, and gradually started driving again.

          My non-professional advice would be: Spend some time apart (if possible). Move to a different house (if possible). Get a new bed. Buy new bed sheets, covers, pillows, etc. You could clean or wash them with hot water, but this is about removing triggers and lessening the intensity of those memories. Ask her to change perfume, shampoo, deodorant, soap, creams, and laundry detergent to neutral, low scent or no scent versions. She may get upset with all the requests, so be careful.
          Wish you well.

    • [Thing] says:

      Have you tried applying Vick’s VapoRub to your nostrils to overwhelm your sense of smell? Someone already suggested this in the Reddit thread, but I didn’t see a response. The reason it occurred to me is that I recalled reading that this technique is used to trick mother bears into adopting orphan bear cubs whom they might otherwise kill because of their unfamiliar scent. A quick Google search suggests this technique is still in use, so I guess it’s legit. If it can trick a bear into mistakenly thinking she has one more cub than she was previously aware of, maybe it can trick your subconscious into thinking your girlfriend doesn’t have any distinctive scent for long enough to unlearn your fear. To maximize odds of effectiveness, I suggest first using the VapoRub (or perhaps there’s some other way to neutralize your sense of smell for a prolonged but finite period of time) at the start of a period of at least few days away from her, and continuing it for at least a few days after your reunion, during which you try to take it easy and have fun together.

      • Whalefallen says:

        Interesting about the bears! I actually tried to find VapoRub to deaden my sense of smell back when the mold was still in the picture, before I’d realized that my nasal discomfort wasn’t just something all in my head. But I’m Swedish and I couldn’t find any store that carried VapoRub here, so I never got a chance to try it out.

        The closest analogue I’ve got is using nose clips meant for swimming while interacting with her. They completely shut out any and all scents. I wore them on and off for a week or so before I realized it wasn’t a sustainable solution for everyday interactions, but perhaps they could be worth trying while doing focused exposure? Maybe I should dig them out again and give it another shot.

        • Nornagest says:

          It looks like Vicks VapoRub is just some diluted essential oils, mainly camphor, eucalyptus and menthol. You can probably find all of those in hippie shops or online, even if VapoRub isn’t sold as such.

    • Dog says:

      I would say vorinostat as a treatment for fear extinction is still somewhat speculative at this point, and it’s definitely not the only thing with clinical evidence. What about propranolol?

      • Whalefallen says:

        Yeah, I think it seems pretty promising but I guess the same can be said for a lot of things pre-clinical trials. And regardless of the reason, it didn’t work for me.

        I tried propranolol as well but I didn’t understand the method of administration in the studies, so I just took it immediately after interacting with my girlfriend normally (triggering the anxiety), which had no particular effect that I could discern. Do you know if there’s a more efficient method?

    • yodelyak says:

      A friend I know always describes himself as “olfactorily blind” because, since as long as his family has known anything about his sense of smell, they’ve known he basically doesn’t have one.

      Is it possible to just “go blind” from time to time, smell-wise? You hear about people for whom holding their nose while eating makes all the difference for things like blue cheeses… could you just try nose plugs? Your food might get less tasty, but it might be a solution.

      • Whalefallen says:

        The only effective solution I’ve found along those lines is using nose clips meant for swimmers to close off the nasal passages completely, forcing you to breathe through the mouth instead. They do work, it just didn’t feel like a long-term solution since you can’t really live like that, but perhaps it could be worth experimenting with them some more to see if they could be useful for exposure therapy. Thanks.

  35. fahertym says:

    Go watch American Vandal on Netflix. It looks really stupid, but it’s amazing. Just give it 2 episodes to get going. To say any more would be a spoiler.

    • Well... says:

      Just write the friggin spoilers. Let people skip over them if it spoils anything for them.

      Gosh, this is really getting to be a recurring frustration for me, something I might get on a soap box about.

      • quaelegit says:

        Im probably not going to watch this so it doesn’t matter here, but I want to address the general point that I appreciate people’s efforts to avoid spoilers here (rot13 and others). Some of us don’t realize we’re reading spoilers until we’ve already spoiled it for ourselves.

        Well… If you want to know what happens, I find that A.V. to be pretty good for plot summaries and analysis. Imdb and Wikipedia sometimes also work.

        • Well... says:

          But it gets to be ridiculous.

          OK, maybe there’s a few stories with big significant M. Night Shyamalan-style twists in them–“they were dead all along”–but for the most part it’s “he gets the girl” or “the blue team wins” or something, and usually the spoilers in question are less significant than that. More fundamentally I’d say if the plot is so important to you that “what happens next” has to be guarded at the expense of potentially interesting discussion about “what happened next” then you’re not taking it in with the level of analysis that you’d appreciate that discussion once you saw it in the first place. That’s how I feel about it anyway.

          I come here to read about stuff and discuss it. I shouldn’t have to go somewhere else for something as basic as “Why American Vandal isn’t as stupid as it looks.”

        • Montfort says:

          @quaelegit Strongly seconded.

        • Well... says:

          Does a spoiler REALLY spoil anything for anyone? I find this hard to believe. You seriously get a plot element “spoiled” for you, then go and watch the thing, and think “damn, I’m not enjoying this because I know the plot element that’s coming up”? There’s nothing else there you’re interested in and get enjoyment from but the plot?

          A spoiler for me is when Bruce Willis stops what he’s saying, turns toward the camera, and says “It’s hard being Bruce Willis.” That’s a spoiler. If someone tells me beforehand that he’s a ghost, I don’t care. I’d have found that out eventually, and finding it out might have been interesting–no less so when someone told me!–but it doesn’t titillate me. And being titillated isn’t what I’m watching for anyway.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m aware of the research, but I don’t trust psych studies. The field has been spoiled for me.

            In any case, even if most people (many people?) prefer spoilers, I’d rather read a book fresh. The first reading is precious to me.

            I really regret knowing in advance what Focus is in Vinge’s _A Deepness in the Sky_.

            For some reason, I went into Mieville’s _Un Lun Dun_ with a complete “tell me a story” attitude. I didn’t even read the book jacket. And it worked very well that way.

            While I don’t know how it fits into hedonic theory, I read King Lear on my own in high school, and while I was shocked and sad about how it worked out (possibly even crying, I don’t remember for sure), I would much rather not have known in advance.

          • James says:

            I have a fanatical, dogmatic aversion to spoilers for things I know I’m going to see/read and go further than most in avoiding any information at all about those movies/books/whatever, once I know I’m going to see them. Not just what are commonly considered spoilers, but anything about the plot, the setting, who’s in it, whatever.

            Going to see something that you know almost nothing about is, to me, a totally different experience, and much more fun–all these things I mentioned above are really enjoyable surprises. I recommend everyone try it once.

            Of course, determining that you want to see/read something without already being exposed to at least some of this information is tricky, but it can happen if you know you like the director or writer.

            I also do something similar with critics’ scores: if I already know I’m going to see something, then I’ll deliberately avoid reading what critics have to say about anything or checking its rating on metacritic/rotten tomatoes/whatever. It lets me make my own mind up about whether it’s any good or not without my judgement being polluted by others’.

            The hardest part is that book blurbs are frustratingly hard not to read. Many times I’ve (what I consider) spoiled a book I’m reading by accidentally glancing at and reading a few pages of the blurb of a book lying face-down.

        • Aapje says:

          The science says that people actually get slightly more hedonic pleasure from spoiled stories.

          Caveat emptor: the study looks lazily done, so I don’t really trust it (for instance, they had mostly female test subjects, so probably a pool of psychology students. They don’t divulge that or the average age of the subjects. They also don’t check for gender differences, even though the known differences between the genders, like risk avoidance and more people vs system-oriented thinking, may change susceptibility to spoilers.)

        • John Schilling says:

          I would prefer not to be spoiled about anything I am going to read/watch and enjoy, and to be massively spoiled for the rest so that I may avoid wasting my time and/or participate to some extent in the discussion. This being an unreasonable thing to request of any community not primarily dedicated to my personal pleasure, I accept the burden of avoiding unwanted spoilers and ask nothing more than that they be reasonably foreseeable (e.g. after a warning or title drop) and not gratuitously highlighted. If it’s necessary to make your point, go ahead and spoil.

          It probably is reasonable to avoid or rot13 spoilers until after first broadcast for a TV show, opening weekend for a movie, or the first month or so after release of a book, on the grounds that a significant fraction of the audience will still reasonably expect the discussion to center on spoiler-free reviews and not expect a title drop to be followed by spoilers.

          Also, don’t imagine you are doing me or anyone else any favors by gratuitously spoiling things for us, no matter how much you like being spoiled or how many people you find who agree with you. If I want to be spoiled I can always ask. If it happens in passing, my bad for not staying clear of that discussion. If you do it to me deliberately, then may you forevermore eat nothing but pizza with your most-hated toppings, cheerfully served by someone who insists you will enjoy them if only you open your mind to the experience.

  36. OptimalSolver says:

    Also reading Eliezer’s post on the space of possible minds, Roman Yumpolsky’s Universe of Minds, and Aaron Sloman’s structure of possible minds, it’s unclear to me what is meant by “mind.”

    I tend to define it as control program for an embodied system, but I could do with a more rigorous definition.

  37. OptimalSolver says:

    CMV: All genetically possible humans should be brought into existence.

    If we imagine the set of all genetic combinations that result in something that could be conceivably thought of as “human,” only an infinitesimal fraction of humans will ever be born through traditional sexual recombination. To be born is to win a lottery with astronomically long odds.

    As biotechnology advances, we will be able to conceive and grow humans using completely artificial means (eg artificial wombs). Do we, the relatively tiny population of humans who have had the luck to be born, have a duty to the much more vast population of “genetically possible humans” to bring them into existence?

    I think we do if we ever reach a post-scarcity society.

    Three obvious problems: genetic mutations that would make a life unbearable, the phenomenon of twins, and the astronomical number of resulting humans.

    I’m sure we’ll be able to identify extremely negative mutations and either fix them or abandon those genomes. The issue of twins means we’re not generating every possible human mind, but creating a reasonable sampling of that space (we observe twins have very similar life outcomes). To the last problem, I have no solution, I’m just assuming the Universe is spatially infinite with an even distribution of matter and energy.

    BTW, it might be simpler to just simulate these humans, but I’m still extremely uncertain as to what extent a human in a computer = a human in meat-space.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      To be born is to win a lottery with astronomically long odds.

      Seems to me it’s not just luck; a lot of alleles are more common because they are more adaptive.

      Anyway, have you considered the demographic implications of your proposal in terms of how it would change the current balance of racial and ethnic groups? You might not be interested in tribalism, but tribalism is very interested in you.

    • . says:

      Humans are just a lucky sort of information. A post-scarcity society should devote itself to the ultimate goal: the enumeration of all finite binary sequences.

      We will encode them with 25 orthographic symbols, and bind them in books of four hundred and ten pages; each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which will be black in color.

    • pontifex says:

      So, basically you’re steelmanning the bad guy from the The Island of Dr. Moreau?

      Some days I think half the commenters here are James Bond villains…

    • Why stop at the genotype? You need every possible genotype times every possible life-experience.

      • Nick says:

        Doesn’t Sirhan suggest this in Accelerando? I’m pretty sure he’s interested in this after humanity has mapped or is in the process of mapping the phenome.

  38. johan_larson says:

    One of the problems with art is that it’s easy to get caught up in fads and distracted by trivia. A good way to get critical distance is simply time: flash fades, but quality lasts. With that in mind, let’s look back fifty years to 1967 and try to discern what good stuff was being produced back when our parents were young.

    1967 was a good year for film. A whole bunch of films were released that are still talked about today: The Graduate, Cool Hand Luke, The Jungle Book, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, The Producers and The Dirty Dozen. Two of those (The Jungle Book and The Producers) have been remade since then. And the year saw two James Bond films released, Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice. Of course not everything lasted. A Challenge for Robin Hood, anyone? Island of the Burning Damned? Perhaps not.

    Pressed for a pick, I’d go with The Dirty Dozen, a great adventure that still holds up. I respect Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night, but oh my do they ever look oldfashioned now. Some things reallly have changed for the better. I wonder, is there a group in our society so perched on the edge of respectability that you could make a version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 2017 without looking ridiculous?

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh, I think you could still make a version of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner with the same characters in the same situation; after all, Jordan Peele’s Get Out revolves around the idea of white liberals being so gracious and welcoming yet when a real black guy shows up in their community he feels out of place and uneasy with what turns out to be good reason. That the villains here are not the expected rural redneck Klan types is what makes it novel: the parents’ generation of liberals and the children being the generation of “allies”.

      is there a group in our society so perched on the edge of respectability

      In the wake of all the bathroom laws brouhaha, you could re-do it with a trans character in the Sydney Poitier role, though probably a movie studio would prefer to cast Katherine Houghton’s character as the trans woman (the actress Jamie Clayton could play this role, if she’s not considered to be too old at the age of thirty-nine).

      And I see they remade the movie in 2005 as a gender-flipped comedy called “Guess Who”. Well, of course they did 🙁