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Open Thread 86.25

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

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717 Responses to Open Thread 86.25

  1. bean says:

    Naval Gazing:
    Fire Control, Part 2
    Series Index, Part 1
    Last time, I talked about the origins of naval fire control, and the basic problems that fire control systems have to solve. The fire control systems on Iowa are recognizable as descendants of the early systems, solving the same problems, but in a much more integrated and sophisticated way. Iowa’s two main battery directors, designated Mk 38, each have an integrated rangefinder 26.5 ft (separate rangefinders have an irritating tendency to range on ships other than the one the director is looking at) and are fully capable of providing level, cross-level, target range, target bearing, and estimates of target course and speed. This data is sent to the plotting rooms via a devices called synchros. The synchro is a special type of electric motor, in which what happens on one end is mirrored exactly on the other. This is helpful as the synchro is continuous and more precise than the step-by-step motor. Most importantly, though, it is self-aligning, allowing recovery from power outages and quick switching of inputs and outputs.

    Each plotting room contains two main devices, the Mk 8 rangekeeper and the Mk 41 stable vertical. The Mk 41 is a specialized gyroscope that is the preferred source of level and cross-level data for the ship. It is more accurate than the Mk 38, and does not have to see the horizon to function. Interestingly, it is designated in the director number sequence, and is considered a director in the ship’s fire control schematics.

    The Mk 8 is a fully mechanical fire-control computer, a distant descendant of the mechanisms first used to find range rate. (I’ve written more about the history here before.) The target data from the director is combined with data on the ship’s course and speed to create a virtual model of the engagement. The relative bearing and range to the target are tracked in real time, giving a constant estimate of the latest range rate. Iowa’s own movement is fully compensated for, allowing the ship to maneuver while still engaging the enemy effectively. (Sadly, compensating for enemy maneuvers is still rather difficult.) The director also has the appropriate ballistic cams to deal with the final range to the target. Manual inputs for air density, average muzzle velocity, and wind speed and direction allowed those factors to be taken into account as well. In the past I’ve claimed that the system included compensation for things such as the coriolis effect and the magnus effect. It appears that this is not quite the case. There is a compensation for overall drift, but I’m not sure how this is calculated, or if it’s simply empirical. I don’t have a copy of the Mk 8 manual, which is probably the only place the full logic is laid out.

    The gun orders are passed from the rangekeeper to the turrets themselves, where the last pieces are put into place. Mechanisms in each turret compensate for parallax (the offset between the turret and the fire-control reference point, usually the conning tower) to ensure that all of the shells land in the same place instead of producing a 400 ft pattern, as well as for barrel wear in each gun (which reduces muzzle velocity) and for any misalignment of the turret roller path with the ship’s level. The turret itself can be operated in follow-the-pointer mode, although the US was the first to introduce a successful Remote Power Control (RPC) system. RPC involves replacing the guy matching pointers with a set of synchros and servos that automatically drives the gun to point where the orders tell it to. While this sounds simple today, it was at the cutting edge of contemporary technology, and gave the US a major advantage.

    The guns themselves could be fired from inside the turret, or, more commonly, from a pair of triggers on the stable vertical. There were two different modes, and two different methods of firing. In normal weather, the stable vertical sent both level and cross-level continually to the rangekeeper, and the guns constantly moved to match it. If the ship was moving too much for the guns to keep up, selected level (or cross-level) was used instead. No attempt was made to compensate for the other axis, and a constant value, representing about the midpoint of the movement, was sent to the rangekeeper. When the ship rolled into the correct position, a contact on the gyro met another on the frame of the stable vertical. If the automatic firing key was pressed at that time, it completed a circuit and fired the guns.

    Even with all of this sophistication, spotting was still necessary. However, another development greatly simplified cross-checking the solution against the real-world. Not only did the turrets have RPC, but the director did as well. The rangekeeper kept it pointed at where it thought the target was, and if the target moved out of the crosshairs, this meant the solution was off. The crew would bring it back on target, updating the rangekeeper’s solution in the process. The result? A closed-loop control system, running on late 30s analog technology. As an example of how good this system was, during the bombardment of Ponape Atoll in 1944, Iowa was sighting on a reference point (and spotting the fire from there). The ship sailed out of sight for 15 minutes with the director in auto-track mode. When the reference point came back into view, the solution was off by 100 yards of range and 1 milliradian (.05 degrees).

    Impressive as all of this is, Iowa’s designers considered the possibility of damage. There are two Mk 38s, and two main battery plotting rooms, each with one Mk 8 and Mk 41. These can be cross-connected, but the directors are high in the ship and inherently impossible to armor. A third (auxiliary) director (a Mk 40) is placed in the upper level of the conning tower. This is a fairly simple system, using optical stabilization and a Mk 3 ballistic computer. It also had a trunnion-tilt (cross-level) corrector attached. This position was primarily used as a target-designator for the main directors, as it was where the ship’s gunnery officer was stationed.

    In extremis, the turrets could fire under local control. All three turrets were completed with 46-ft baseline rangefinders, although the rangefinder in Turret I was removed as it tended to get blinded by spray, and improved radar had rendered it less useful. There are sighting hoods on the sides of each turret for one trainer and three pointers (each gun elevates individually and has its own pointer), and a Mk 3 ballistic computer (without trunnion-tilt corrector).

    There were also four Mk 37 directors for the 5” secondary battery, tied to Mk 1A computers paired in the forward and aft secondary battery plotting rooms. These are right next to the main battery plotting rooms, and there are suggestions that the directors can be cross-connected in some of my books. This may have had to be done manually, with cables passed through a porthole in the bulkhead between the two rooms. The Mk 37 was very similar in principle to the Mk 38, although it had to deal with targets in 3 dimensions. It was a fantastic system, which I’ll probably talk about later, when I finish the book I’m reading on the subject.

    One thing I haven’t mentioned is radar, with good reason. The system as originally designed did not have radar (and in fact, optical bearing information remained preferred over radar bearing even in the 80s), although a few of the designers did know it was coming, and made sure that the directors had flat roofs. However, the second-generation Mk 8 radar had been installed on Iowa before she was even commissioned, giving full blind-fire capability. This was an early mechanically-scanned phased-array system, and it was replaced in the 1945 with the Mk 13 that is still on the ship today.

    When the ships were reactivated in the 1980s, a pair of HP digital computers were added as adjuncts to the Mk 8. These were used to provide a much better estimate of initial muzzle velocity and compensate for Earth’s curvature and rotation, trunnion height, target height, and wind, in the form of spots into the computer. The biggest problem was that the Mk 8s were limited to a fairly small range of muzzle velocities for the 1900 lb and 2700 lb shells, and any new shells had to be ballistically identical to one of these. The subcaliber shells under development would have required a different computer, and it was planned to replace the Mk 8s with the Mk 160 digital ballistic computer used on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, although the ships were decommissioned before this happened. My source indicates this was only an issue of cams, and nothing to do with improving accuracy.

    • bean says:

      I had a friend of mine who isn’t a naval geek review these posts before they went up to try to improve readability. During the process, he said “I like the idea of human military history being a series of patch notes where the devs take a hardline stance against reversing buffs and almost never hand out nerfs” and gave me the following “patch notes”, which I felt I had to share.

      Old posts, included for reference [In the Google Doc I used]
      patch notes: replaced old post with a newer, more up-to-date one.

      massively improved guns
      patch notes: buffed ship-based guns to incentivize naval combat.

      made them much more powerful than the heavy guns for a short period
      patch notes: buffed light guns for balance

      the director
      patch notes: buffed heavy guns to match the recent buffs to light guns

      rapidly-improving torpedoes
      patch notes: buffed torpedoes to avoid making guns in general too overpowered

      It is more accurate than the Mk 38
      patch notes: added the Mk 41 gyroscope to replace the Mk 38

      gave the US a major advantage
      patch notes: added the remote power control (rpc) system to specific servers: north america (west), north america (central), north america (east). other servers will receive the update shortly.

      but the director did as well
      patch notes: added rpc to the director so more users would have access to it.

      improved radar
      patch notes: buffered radar to make up for recent improvements in line-of-sight targeting.

      the rangefinder in Turret I was removed as it tended to get blinded by spray
      patch notes: removed turret 1’s rangefinder due to a persistent bug where particle effects from the water would cover up the viewing point.

      although a few of the designers did know it was coming, and made sure that the directors had flat roofs
      patch notes: flat roofs added to the directors on the Iowa in preparation for a later set of radar tweaks.

      replaced in the 1945 with the Mk 13
      patch notes: replace the Mk 8 radar with the Mk 13 radar due to bugs with the mechanical phased-array system.

      a pair of HP digital computers were added
      patch notes: added a pair of HP computers, which should improve the feel of the ship in general for Iowa players.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      How precise were battleship guns? Putting aside aiming technology, suppose I kept the same elevation/bearing set for the guns on an unmoving ship and fired salvo after salvo. How big is the circle I could reasonably expect most of my shots to land within?

      Did this meaningfully improve from Dreadnought to Iowa?

      • bean says:

        How precise were battleship guns? Putting aside aiming technology, suppose I kept the same elevation/bearing set for the guns on an unmoving ship and fired salvo after salvo. How big is the circle I could reasonably expect most of my shots to land within?

        Obviously, nobody took that specific measurement. On most ships (Iowa included), the guns loaded at a fixed angle, but I don’t think that inaccuracy in the elevation mechanism is going to play a major part in the pattern size. So I feel reasonably confident in reporting typical salvo spreads as the answer.
        The biggest driver was probably uncertainty in muzzle velocity. When the Iowas recommissioned in the 80s, they had some fairly serious accuracy problems, which were attacked first and foremost by working on the propellants to reduce variation in MV. My notes show that Yamato had salvo spreads at maximum range for 457 to 549 m for 4 and 5 gun salvos. Iowa at 34,000 yards in the 80s had that down to 219 yds for a 3-gun salvo. I don’t have good numbers offhand for earlier ships, but I’ll see what I can find.

        Edit:
        In 1944, a US 16″ 3-gun salvo was expected to have a pattern size of about 1% of range, and a 9-gun salvo was 1.9%. For 14″, a 3-gun salvo was 1.2%, while a 12-gun salvo was 2.4%. Nevada is listed separately as 3.4% for a 10-gun (full) salvo. Not sure exactly why, as she’s listed at 1.2% for the 3-gun salvo just like the later ships. I’d almost suspect a typo. By the 80s, the Iowas were down to around 1.5% at short ranges, slightly less at long ranges for 9-gun salvos.

        • bean says:

          I finally tracked down some numbers for earlier ships/systems. In 1916, the British credited their 15″ guns with a salvo pattern of 200 yds, the 13.5″ guns with 300 yds and the 12″ guns with 400 yds, all at 12,000 yds. These correspond to 1.7%, 2.5% and 3.3% respectively. These look not entirely unlike what I’d expect for full salvos, although my source doesn’t say. So there was some improvement in precision, although not as much as you might expect. This is proving surprisingly difficult to figure out. I’m going to see if I can scare up some combat data from Jutland.

          On further reflection, while there were some weapons known for having too much dispersion (the British 12″/50 and the US 14″/50 spring to mind), the opposite was also a common problem. Basically, the salvo spread can help compensate for errors in mean point of impact, and I know of several cases where one side said that the other’s salvos were too tight. So there wasn’t much point in tightening the salvos below 1.5-2%, as it might actually hinder hitting. In the 80s, the Iowas were mostly planning on shooting at shore targets, which is somewhat easier, and their system may have been better than average for the era. I don’t have great data on that yet.

    • Matt M says:

      non naval-gazing related question

      How are you always the first one to respond to every new OT?

    • gbdub says:

      How did the director compensate for the ship’s travel? Did it measure / integrate the ship’s heading and speed somehow? I thought INS units came a bit later.

      • bean says:

        Course came from the ship’s gyrocompass, or possibly the stable vertical (not sure which offhand). Speed was from the pitometer log (think pitot tube, but for ships).

      • CatCube says:

        I don’t know if it covers the exact machine on the USS Iowa, but this training video from 1953 shows how fire control computers in general used mechanical integrators to keep track of current range. That link is to the specific part of the video for your question about mechanical integrators, but the whole thing is worth watching.

        I’d seen the video before, but m.alex.matt linked it in the last OT and reminded me of it.

    • It occurs to me that I have a WWII naval story that you might be able to contradict or expand on; it involves torpedoes, not guns.

      WWII chips had torpedo directors, analog computers used to calculate where to aim a torpedo at a moving ship. To design one, you need the performance characteristics of the target, most obviously its speed. The U.S. did not have that information for Japanese ships, but we figured that their characteristics were probably close to ours, so designed our torpedo directors accordingly.

      At some point in the war, we captured a Japanese torpedo director. It occurred to someone that they had probably done the same thing, so if we could reverse engineer it we would know the characteristics of their ships and be able to improve our torpedo directors accordingly.

      The problem was given to the Statistical Research Group, a bunch of civilian academics doing various sorts of war work that included some pretty high powered people. They were never able to solve it.

      My theory is that the torpedo director that was captured was from a ship using the O92 oxygen fueled torpedo, which had a much longer range than any torpedo used by any other nation. The researchers didn’t know that, so were doing their reverse engineering on the assumption of much too short a range. But that’s just a guess.

      Do you know anything about that story? My source is my memory of an account by my father, who was part of the Statistical Research Group.

      • bean says:

        At least some of this is wrong, but I can’t say how much is right. The maximum speeds of ships are set by basic hydrodynamics, and most surface fire control systems (torpedoes included) went up to 40-50 kts, plenty for any warship afloat. (You had to set speed, as well as course and range, not just assume it as part of the design.) The likely attempt at reverse-engineering would have been to determine the torpedo characteristics, and it’s possible that they kept being told ‘that answer can’t be right’, as it took several years for the US to figure out just how good the Long Lance was.
        The best source I know of offhand for Japanese torpedo FC is Naval Technical Mission to Japan report O-32, prepared by the Navy after the war. I hadn’t heard of any Japanese FC equipment being captured and examined during the war, but it’s possible that someone was able to salvage something, almost certainly in the Solomons. I’m trying to think of where to look for more info on this, and not coming up with anything. Try Warships1. That’s where the sort of people who know this are most likely to hang out.
        Edit: The other thing that doesn’t hold up is the group at Columbia getting involved. This seems very much like the sort of thing the Bureau of Ordnance or Naval Intelligence would do in-house.

        • I am pretty sure that the SRG was involved, since that’s how I got the story. I don’t know if the relevant performance characteristic was speed–I suppose it could also be turning radius, or perhaps something else I haven’t thought of.

          The SRG was involved in a fair range of mathematical problems for the military.

          • bean says:

            I am pretty sure that the SRG was involved, since that’s how I got the story. I don’t know if the relevant performance characteristic was speed–I suppose it could also be turning radius, or perhaps something else I haven’t thought of.

            Turn radius makes even less sense, actually. The torpedoes of the time were straight-runners, and the equipment just wasn’t up to dealing with turning targets. I suspect it was speed, and they kept getting told no because the US military didn’t figure out the Long Lance until March of 44.
            All of that said, I did some googling, and the SRG (which I had some knowledge of) did a bunch of work on things like optimal torpedo spreads. There was a reference in one book to working out the optimal lead angle for aerial torpedo salvos based on photos of Japanese destroyers. My guess is that they were in fact trying to work out turning radius and then work out where to put the torpedoes to maximize hit probability. That sounds a lot more like what you’re describing, and something the SRG would have been given.
            Edit: It’s possible they were looking at an aerial torpedo director, which is both more in keeping with the sort of work they’d be likely to do and more likely to embody specific assumptions about their ships. You couldn’t do what surface fire control systems did from an airplane in those days, although I have to admit to some ignorance of what they did do.

  2. Gobbobobble says:

    We’ve had a lot of good threads on book recommendation – what about specifically for audiobooks?

    With audiobooks, a good narrator is key. If I’m distracted by crappy pronunciation or bored by lack of energy, it yanks me out of the story. I’ve dropped a few podcasts due to a podcaster who, while having a good grasp on their material, have grating presentation. And as much as I love the concept, I’m done with Librevox: their quality control is nonexistent and it just ruins the source material.

    Lately I’ve been most impressed with the Kingkiller audiobooks – the narrator does phenomenal accents. Every new place the story goes there’s a new accent to be impressed by, and it actually helped carry me through a few lulls in the plot.

    Other good examples are Dresden Files, Game of Thrones, and Master and Commander, though the latter I admittedly haven’t heard since high school. Special mention goes to Hardcore History (they’re basically audiobooks…) – I haven’t encountered any podcaster with anywhere near the narrating chops as Dan Carlin.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I’ve also been greatly enjoying the Blackstone Audio Aubrey-Maturins (listened to Desolation Island on a road trip last week) — second the recommendation.

      I don’t like Harry Potter very much, but thought that Stephen Fry’s rendition of the British ones was captivating.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Jim Dale did an amazing job with the Harry Potter books. Seriously.

      Deepness in the Sky uses the same narrator as the MHI series, which is – uh, disconcerting. But he is quite good.

      Pretty much all of Brandon Sanderson’s books get good narration; not a huge fan of the Stormlight Archive narration, whose narrators also narrated the Wheel of Time books, but it is less because they are bad, so much as that I dislike when books change narrators.

      Douglas Adams did a pretty good job narrating his own stuff; Stephen Fry and whatever the Arthur Dent actor’s name is, not so much.

      • Vorkon says:

        Overall, I feel like switching narrators in the Wheel of Time audiobooks worked pretty well, since so much of that story is based around the divide between male and female, so having a male narrator and a female one fit the story thematically…

        That said, in the last few books, the female narrator pissed me the hell off, because so many of the events in the last three books revolve around the Seanchan in Arad Doman, and she pronounces “Damane” and “Domani” EXACTLY the freaking same!!! >.<

      • Vorkon says:

        Oh! Speaking of Brandon Sanderson audiobooks, while it’s true that his regular audiobooks that you can get on Audible always have outstanding narration, the original Mistborn trilogy also had this one AMAZINGLY good full cast production by a company called Graphic Audio, which was probably the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to. If I recall, the first book in that series was nominated for a Grammy, which was where I first heard about them.

        Strangely, I haven’t listened to anything else from Graphic Audio, but their versions Mistborn books were good enough that I probably should.

        • cassander says:

          I love audio books, but I absolutely loathe graphic audio. I find the full cast enormously distracting. I much prefer a really good single narrator, which are fortunately not in short supply.

          • Vorkon says:

            I’ve listened to bad full-cast productions before, and in general I agree with you. But that Mistborn one, specifically, was really, really good.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I like Dan Carlin enough to listen to all of his podcasts, and will likely get around to buying them all, but damn if I don’t start giggling every time at the way he says “ENDQUOTE”.

    • bean says:

      Personally, I don’t use audiobooks. I have my phone set up to read me regular ebooks. It’s probably not as good as real audiobooks (the text-to-speech engine occasionally makes interesting choices), but I only need to get the ebook, which is easier, cheaper, and doesn’t require dealing with large files.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Ah, interesting. Finally a reason it could be worth using my phone for audio instead of a dedicated cheapo mp3 player. Though for best of both worlds I’d probably want to export the ebook auto-read to an mp3 and put that on the device whose battery and physical integrity I don’t care about.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t really use audiobooks. But usin the text to speech seems like it would be really distracting for fiction.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        Mind sharing your ebook to phone-audio process? I’ve got some kindle books that I wouldn’t mind listening to this way (that don’t have audio versions) and I could download the kindle app.

        • bean says:

          It’s a bit complicated. I use FBreader, with the FBreader TTS plugin and the default google text to speech engine. For Kindle files, I use Calibre with the deDRM plugin to turn them into files that FBreader can read. You may have to download an old version of the Kindle desktop app for that, though. I’m not sure if deDRM has been updated to handle the file format Kindle added ~6 months ago. (I rolled back and haven’t bothered to look again recently.)
          There may be apps that work on native kindle books, but that’s the method I use.

    • lvlln says:

      I’ve listened to a few of Jon Ronson’s books in audiobook form, including The Psychopath Test, Them, and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, as well as his podcast series on Audible called The Butterfly Effect. Jon Ronson narrates all of them, and his soft voice with a British accent is an absolute delight to listen to.

      The books are all good, too. Them and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed might be of interest of some people here interested in culture wars and fringe political/social groups.

      I’m currently listening to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov narrated by Jeremy Irons, and his creepy Humbert is just excellent. I mostly think of his Scar voice, but it’s not quite the same and does a great job bringing the creep level to at least 9000.00001. Also, the book is masterfully written. I might get a written copy to read after finishing it on audio, because it’s just filled with beautiful passages.

    • cassander says:

      The version of the Silmarillion narrated by Martin Shaw is one of the first audiobooks I ever bought, and remains the best. It sounds like an old testament patriarch dictating the bible.

    • Nick says:

      This post is so well-timed; I had just resolved this afternoon that I ought to try out audible.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I’ll lead with my strongest recommendation:

      Scott Brick is an outstanding narrator, and he’s narrated a lot of very good books. I particularly recommend:

      Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge Of The Sith by Matt Stover. This novelization is basically one of the greatest “fix fic”s of all time, IMO, and goes a long way towards making Anakin’s internal journey a believable and emotionally compelling one.

      Sean Drummond series by Brian Haig, starting with Secret Sanction. Really, you can start anywhere. These are solid legal thrillers following the exploits of a former SF soldier turned JAG attorney. A good example case would be ending up on the defense team of a golden boy West Point grad who’s about to torpedo US-ROK relations after he’s arrested for the homosexual rape and murder of a young KATUSA (Korean soldiers liasing with US forces in Korea). Drummond is…not exactly happy with getting this case in a late 90s/early 00s military where DADT is still controversial, and even less happy when the defense the officer offers is that he couldn’t have done it because they were very much in love…something that would be even worse to use since the dead young man in question is the son of a very prominent, very socially conservative South Korean politician…

      -In a similar vein, Nelson DeMille’s thrillers and mysteries, especially the John Corey series, this time mixing technothriller tropes and classic NYPD police procedural ones.

      If you haven’t tried Larry Correia’s series, I highly recommend all three, and all three have solid narrators (Bronson Pinchot, Oliver Wyman, and Tim Gerard Reynolds).

    • AdamDKing says:

      Phil Dragash’s audiobook for LotR is great. A little difficult to find, but it can be torrented with a little searching.

    • BBA says:

      The late Frank Muller’s excellent narration of The Dark Tower roped me into that series, and I wasn’t even a fan of Stephen King. Ah, listening to my dad’s books-on-tape on those long road trips, those were the days.

      There were also a bunch of otherwise forgettable British mystery novels, notable for the narrator’s helpful instruction to take a malfunctioning tape out of the player and “slap it smartly.”

    • Vorkon says:

      Anything by Larry Correia. Even if you don’t like his politics, or aren’t a fan of the sort of action-packed gun-porn he generally writes, the people who he gets to narrate his books are always on point.

      Also, I just finished listening to the last Witcher book today, and I feel like the narrator did an excellent job on those, too. I keep thinking back to this one point where he did a great job of portraying both excitement and weariness at the same time. I’m still not sure how I feel about the series as a whole; the author meanders way too much, and seems to think he is far more clever than he actually is, but I feel like I might be losing something in the translation. The narration was excellent, though.

      Even though most of the actual books themselves aren’t that great, I also feel like they tend to do a very good job narrating Star Wars books. Though, a big part of that to me is just the way they mix in the John Williams music; it really makes it sound like it belongs in the same universe as the movies, and they do a good job of impersonating the actors voices, as well.

      In general, just try to avoid any books with a celebrity doing the reading. They tend to suck. (Unless you count James Marsters’ Dresden Files narration, of course, which is, as you already pointed out, outstanding.)

      I’m sure I could think of more, but other than the things that have already been mentioned, those are some good ones off the top of my head.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I’ve been chipping away at the 45 or so hour audiobook of It by Stephen King – read it as a kid and given the premise, going back and rereading as an adult who half remembers it has been interesting.

      Stephen Weber reads it and he is absolutely killing it. This is a challenging book to do a read of, between accents, Bill’s stutter, and Richie’s voices, but he is really selling it. And his Pennywise is great. Might be my imagination but I think it is inspired by Tim Curry, while still doing his own thing.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      In case it is of use to anyone else, this person has an interesting recommendation that you listen to audiobooks on high speed, and, for maximum sinking-the-information-into-your-brain, listen at high speed while reading the text.

    • Orpheus says:

      The books narrated by Karen Savage on Librivox are all really good.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      If “basically audiobooks” count: I like Iroquois History and Legends a lot.

  3. Andrew Hunter says:

    What poorly-known technology, either extant or theoretical, do you find particularly exciting / wish was better known?

    For me, it’s definitely the nuclear salt water rocket (I apparently share this love with Charles Stross, who keeps finding excuses to stick them into his books.) A quick description: dissolve as much uranium salts as you can into a big tank of water. (This tank is heavily baffled with neutron absorbing material.) When you want to go fast, squirt the water into a combustion chamber, assembling a large contained mass…which goes prompt critical. (“critical” is to “prompt critical” as “nuclear reactor” is to “nuclear bomb”.) The runaway fission reaction rapidly disassembles itself out the back of your rocket. The best part: someone who knows more nuclear physics than me did some mathematical analyses that proves the radiation also goes backward, so you don’t irradiate yourself. Or so he claims–I can’t really verify it. Hope he’s right!

    End result is an engine with ludicrously high specific impulse (exhaust velocity) but also very high thrust (this scales up quite well to large quantities of propellant.) It’s not unique in hitting this holy grail [1], but it’s definitely the coolest way.

    I don’t understand why anyone gets excited about Orion drives, let alone boring nuclear thermal dreams. Why would you bother building crazy ablative pusher plates, or finicky fission piles, when you can instead have a continuously firing nuclear bomb directly shoot its working mass out the back of your rocket at something like a percent ofc?

    (Paging John Schilling to tell me how everything I just said is wrong, amateurs tend to.)

    [1] I recently saw a good explanation of just why it’s so hard to hit high specific impulse (efficiency) and high thrust, which made more sense than most: it’s just dimensional analysis. Specific impulse has units of velocity (well, it’s quoted in units of time, but this is a really stupid convention. Fundamentally your engine is more efficient at getting thrust out of propellant if the propellant goes out the back faster.) Thrust has units of force. Velocity times force equals power. If your engine pushes really damn hard and is really efficient at getting thrust out of propellant, it’s necessarily using the same power as a decent sized nuclear plant…and hence probably has one.

    • bean says:

      NSWR: For people who think the normal Orion drive is too boring!
      It’s definitely an interesting idea, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s the sort of thing you come up with on a dare to find the weirdest and most dangerous type of propulsion you can.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I mean, to me it sounds safer than Orion–at least the Death Destroyer Of Worlds is, in principle, moving away from your vessel. Continuous loads vs pulsed ones also sound better to me all other things being equal.

        • bean says:

          Normal nuclear weapons are very safe, and only become dangerous when you want them to. NSWR is the only drive type I’m aware of where you have the potential of Hollywood-style explosions if the ship gets damaged. Good for drama, but it makes me as an engineer nervous.

    • Loquat says:

      Several years ago, I heard about a scientist basically pressure-cooking pig manure into something resembling crude oil – able to be refined into gasoline, etc. Supposedly the resulting stuff contained substantially more energy than he’d used to cook it. This seems like a great way to solve the problem of excess pig manure, but apparently the problem remains unsolved across large swathes of hog-raising America.

      It probably turned out to be uneconomical on larger scales, but it seemed really cool to me.

    • Well... says:

      Ordnungs are a kind of technology, right? I wish those were better known.

    • The propulsion system I like is the interstellar ramjet.

      If you have to carry your reaction mass, you need to shoot it out really fast and a lot of the energy you start with ends up in the reaction mass. If you have free reaction mass, on the other hand, you push it back very gently and almost all of the energy you started with ends up as kinetic energy of your spaceship.

      How do you get free reaction mass? Your ship has some mechanism, probably involving magnetic and/or electric fields, to pull inward interstellar hydrogen from a vast area ahead of it and push that hydrogen gently backwards. Your battery is a chunk of antimatter. You get energy by burning a little of the interstellar hydrogen on it, so the battery has an effective energy content of twice mc^2. If the ship has a mass of M and the antimatter is, say, a tenth of the mass of the ship, then in the limit the ship ends up with kinetic energy of .2Mc^2, which means it is going very fast.

      • Well... says:

        Isn’t antimatter (potentially) highly explosive? If so, if you had any significant amount of antimatter to start with, you could just use it for your propulsion.

        • Antimatter+matter is the most explosive thing possible. Antimatter per se needs something to react with , which is the point of scooping up matter from the environment — it halves the propellant mass you need to carry, assuming antimatter has positive mass. Preventing the kind of explosion you don’t want means you need sophisticated electromagnetic containment , the kind of thing fusion reactors aim at.

          • Well... says:

            Sure. But handwaving past that to David Friedman’s theoretical battery (which let’s say has the mass equivalent to a kernel of corn) then you just need to bring an actual kernel of corn along with you to produce the explosions.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            What does a gram of corn mass? Like… a gram or two?

            So E = mc^2, (.004) * 9 * 10^16 Joules = 3.6 * 10 ^ 14 Joules

            If your spaceship weighs let’s say 100 metric tons, and you can convert that energy 10% efficiently to KE, then:

            KE = 1/2 m v^2

            3.6 * 10 ^ 13 = 1/2 (100000) v ^2
            v^2 = 7.2 * 10 ^ 8
            v = 2.something * 10^4

            So a kernel of anti-corn isn’t enough to accelerate a spaceship to relativistic speeds. But a few kg would be enough, so carrying normal matter reactant is a trivial cost.

            EDIT: Wait, shit, no it’s not. Because there’s a square root in there. There is actually a notable cost to carrying normal mass.

          • and you can convert that energy 10% efficiently to KE

            People are focusing on the antimatter battery and ignoring the more radical part of the design. With external reaction mass, you can convert energy to kinetic energy at (in the limiting case) 100% efficiency.

            If you start with a ship massing 2M, half of which is antimatter fuel, you end up (in the limit) with:

            kinetic energy of a ship of mass M = 2MC^2

            If classical physics were correct, that would give a velocity of 2C!

            For the relativistic calculation we use conservation of energy:

            relativistic mass m=M/(1-v^2/c^2)
            mc^2=total energy of the moving ship

            That equals 2MC^2 from burning twice M of matter plus antimatter plus MC^2, the original rest energy of the ship, not counting the antimatter.

            So (Mc^2)/(1-v^2/c^2) = 3MC^2
            3=1/(1-v^2/c^2)
            1-v^2/c^2 =1/3

            v=c/√3

            It’s a long time since I was a physicist so someone may want to check my calculation.

      • bean says:

        That’s an interesting variant on the Bussard ramjet. Doesn’t require P-P fusion, but does require antimatter. Not sure if that’s an improvement, and you still have the trouble of starting the thing.

    • John Schilling says:

      Nuclear Salt-Water Rockets almost certainly don’t work. In particular, their operation is almost certainly not stable, and the instabilities will manifest either as the reaction immediately quenching or as nuclear-ish explosions inside a system that cannot reasonably be hardened against them. Or both, in either order. Even ordinary rocket engines are prone to many sorts of unpleasant instabilities before you get into coupling with the neutron dynamics on the upstream side or the plasma dynamics downstream. Against this, Zubrin has only a quasi-1D, steady state, analytic approximation with an emphasis on “approximate”.

      And he admits this in his paper on the subject, stating at the time that this really called for a complex 2-D transient model which he didn’t have the resources for. Subtext: “someone at Sandia or Livermore, please look at this in your spare time and tell us if it might work”. In the quarter-century since, the computational tools necessary to do that have proliferated widely, but still nobody has published even the most vaguely promising analysis. Zubrin’s 1991 paper is still pretty much the first and last work on the subject.

      Comparing that to Orion, which has a decade or more of detailed analysis, engineering, and even flight test hardware to back up the nifty-idea paper, isn’t even apples-to-watermelons.

  4. Paul Brinkley says:

    Lately, I’ve been interested in reverse dictionaries. The mathematician in me prefers the term “inverse dictionary” – anything that takes a meaning, and gives you a word or term. But “reverse dictionary” seems to be the consensus term, at least according to english.stackexchange. Another very similar term is “conceptual dictionary”. The trouble with RDs and CDs, however, is that nothing quite scratches the itch.

    There are things which come close. OneLook Thesaurus, Wordsmyth.net, and reversedictionary.org (I’m twitchy about the spam detector right now, so no links, sorry – a quick search should turn each up) seem to be the top players online. All have varying success with definitions such as:

    male parent
    father of father
    brother of father
    slang for milk
    someone who is afraid of flying
    literary term for an obsession
    dish containing chopped meat, beans, lettuce and tomato inside a tortilla
    blue metallic element
    fourth largest moon of Jupiter
    taxonomic order containing bats

    In general, all seem to do some sort of word search among the definitions it has. They no doubt rely on the user using common words in the definition they have. They aren’t trivia question answerers a la Watson. None appear to be able to do any semantic processing, although it’s hard for me to construct an experiment for this.

    Does anyone know of alternate references? Are these the state of the art in online reverse or concept dictionaries? Any other thoughts?

  5. Collin says:

    I’m searching for a Founder’s Pledge-style mechanism for employees instead of founders.

    I want to pledge X% of any value I gain in an exit event to EA Funds. I want other interested people in my company to be empowered to make a similar pledge. And I want it to be trackable and sharable internally to inspire others to join/pledge. For this to work it needs to be legally binding like Founder’s Pledge.

    I imagine I can create the technical framework for such a system (it doesn’t seem that complicated). What I need is someone who is familiar with startups/exits/equity to help on the legal side of things. Even better, do you work for or with Founder’s Pledge? I’ve emailed them but haven’t heard back yet.

    • chrisminor0002 says:

      Or how about not? Just let people be. I would really hate for my co-workers to hound me about donating to their causes (especially in a legally-binding way).

  6. Tibor says:

    What are your thoughts on Catalonia? To me the whole thing looks like a situation that could be solved in a very simple way and the Spanish are turning it into a rather tragic telenovela. I cannot help not to compare this with Czechoslovakia. But while Czechoslovakia split in a very friendly way, the Spanish and the Castillians (although mostly the Castillians) are doing all they can to make the other side hate them more.

    I understand that other countries don’t really care about Catalonia, but still it is a bit shameful when the EU and the French government in particular not only does not condemn the Spanish police actions during the referendum but also threatens Catalonia with expulsion from the EU in case they declare independence.

    On the other hand, it should be said that many things about the way the referendum was organized were far from koscher. I am not talking about the provisionary way it actually happened, since that wast mostly the fault of the Spanish government which tried everything to prevent it from happening, but rather the way the law about the referendum was passed in the Catalan parliament. Nevertheless, I cannot find a single good reason why Rajoy, who really just had to proclaim the referendum as invalid and not recognize it regardless of the result (and the result was more likely to be a close “stay”…not after what happened now though). Unless I am missing something it is a stunning example of diplomatic illiteracy.

    Now Rajoy threatens Catalonia with removing all of its state rights and being controlled directly from Madrid. If that actually happens I would not be entirely surprised if Spain devolved into the Yugoslavian scenario.

    I can understand opposition to separatism if the separatists want to join another country, particularly a big country, particularly a hostile country (like Russia in Ukraine). I cannot understand it, when all they want is independence, especially when you can still keep the common market, even the currency would stay the same as Catalonia could simply keep using Euro…that is if Spain did not block its EU membership which they would (even though it would hurt them just as much as the Catalonia). There are only two reasons why they might want to prevent Catalonia from leaving- The first is that Catalonia pays more on taxes than it gets, but the difference is not that staggering. I think they represent about 16% of the population and produce 19% of the GDP or something like that. The second is just stupid nationalism, or rather supranationalism (Catalans are a different nation anyway).

    • Matt M says:

      On the one hand, the optics of a bunch of riot-gear equipped police dressed in all black beating up young mothers and old men for the crime of simply attempting to vote in a non-binding referendum are REALLY bad.

      On the other hand, most of the mainstream media seems to have ignored all of that and focused on the “really huge protest against secession!”

    • John Schilling says:

      But also threatens Catalonia with expulsion from the EU in case they declare independence

      Catalonia can’t be expelled from the EU, because Catalonia isn’t a member of the EU. Spain, is a member of the EU. Spain the political institution, and in particular Spain the government based in Madrid, not Spain the geographic construct.

      Denmark is a part of the EU; if Russia conquers Zeeland that doesn’t make Russia in any way a part of the EU. Not even if they do it using Danish-speaking Little Green Men. One of the basic principles of the EU is that it isn’t open-admission, you don’t get to be a member just by owning real estate in (the right part of) Europe, you have to apply to join and you have to be accepted for admission by the current members. That’s not going to happen for Catalonia, and it’s not wrong to make sure the Catalan people know that.

    • rlms says:

      “To me the whole thing looks like a situation that could be solved in a very simple way and the Spanish are turning it into a rather tragic telenovela.”
      I broadly agree, and said so before the referendum here.

      A third reason why Spain wants to stop Catalonia leaving (and why other countries don’t support Catalan independence) is that it would greatly embolden the other Spanish secessionist movements. I think the Basque and Galician nationalisms are the only ones with major support for secession, but even they are another 10% or so of the population.

      • Matt M says:

        Right, generally speaking, all national governments have a pretty strong interest in suppressing all secessionist movements. After all, if we entertain the notion that these people can leave, what’s to stop other people from trying to leave in the future?

        • Tibor says:

          Ok, but what is the problem with people leaving? Apart from taxes and nationalism. Unless there is a military threat associated with that but that is hardly the case of any of the secessionist movements in Spain.

          • Mary says:

            Apart from taxes and nationalism.

            Those aren’t enough?

            Besides, there’s the question of power. How can you control them if they can leave?

          • aNeopuritan says:

            Tibor and Mary: not just power over the subdivisions – if Spain is reduced to Greater Castille, it becomes more of a joke than it is in dealings with other, already-existing countries. Imagine how much the EU would change if Germany split into 4 countries (former GDR, Bavaria, don’t ask me where the line would fall on the Western side).

          • Tibor says:

            @aNeopuritan: A joke in what sense? They’d have fewer votes in the EU, but the way EU runs is a whole different problem, which should be fixed by unanimous voting or a very large majority for all decisions. In practice, when Germany and France agree on something, nobody else can really stop it save for everyone else forming an opposition to them.

            Splitting Germany into (at least) four countries would be good for both Germans and everyone else. The conservative Bavarians have clearly different political opinions (on average) than socialist northern Germany (Lower Saxony in particular), the “new states”, i.e. the former GDR is also different. They could each do things their way instead of being angry about the other parts of the country. I’d do the same with France (perhaps Aquitaine, Occitania, Brittany, Normandy and France proper around Paris), although arguably with Germany it would be easier as it is already federal (although in reality a lot of it is rather cosmetic, it is not nearly as federal as Switzerland or the US).

            You are Brazilian, right? Do you think Brazil is doing better as a massive country? I think at last in part, the extreme corruption is a result of the size or definitely related to it. Splitting it into the current states wouldn’t be such a bad idea, I’d say. The north would be harmed by not being subsidized by the relatively well-off south but even they’d get more direct control and perhaps they could (or some of the states there could) turn it for the better.

            Had Singapore stayed in Malaysia, they’d be a medium income country today. I’m not saying this is what all small countries do, some fail spectacularly but a multitude of small countries allows for a nonbinary outcome – you don’t even do well or not (like in a single large country…and I’d say that doing well is less likely), some parts will do well and hopefully others can then copy their policies to also do better. Or their citizens can move to the different country. If everyone speaks the same language as would be the case of Brazil or Germany (unless Bavaria instituted Bairisch as the national language and forces everyone to learn it…not completely outside the realm of possibility but not very likely :-), this is incredibly easy.

          • Tibor says:

            @Mary: Well, ok, I don’t see any good reasons then 🙂

            With taxation it is also peculiar. People say “oh, the selfish Catalans, they should show more solidarity!” (i.e. subsidize other parts of Spain). But why should Catalonia do that and not Andorra? Andorra is very rich, they are also vaguely related to the Spanish (or the French), so by this logic Spain should annex them and force them to subsidize Spain. At the logical extreme, every country should subsidize every country poorer than itself until everyone is equally well off (or rather equally poor).

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            At the logical extreme, every country should subsidize every country poorer than itself until everyone is equally well off (or rather equally poor).

            I can’t tell if this a parody of what internationalist blues want, or actually is what internationalist blues.

            I think they call it “justice”, for some reason.

          • vV_Vv says:

            The state wants to be big.

            There are two reasons:

            1) Politicians want power. The more people and resources are under their jurisdiction, the more power they have.

            2) There are institutional Moloch-type evolutionary pressures at work: countries that didn’t strongly oppose secession have already disintegrated and disappeared. Countries that pursued annexation grew bigger and stronger. This has shaped the “memetic DNA” of the countries (laws, institutions, or even informal Schelling points), which bind their behavior even irrespective of the will of individual politicians.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Well, ok, I don’t see any good reasons then

            What do you mean by “good”?

            Preventing the tax base from shrinking is a rational reason to oppose secession. You may consider it selfish to use your military might to force a group of people to subsidize you, but this is a moral judgment, not a political one.

            At the logical extreme, every country should subsidize every country poorer than itself until everyone is equally well off (or rather equally poor).

            No, the logical extreme you are looking at is a socialist world government where all the people are equally well off independent of their productivity. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

            At the other logical extreme you have the ancaps who claim that all taxation is theft and want to effectively secede each into a single-person sovereign country.

            Clearly both positions are unviable, thus some middle ground must be found. The issues of territorial borders, scope of government, government regional subdivision, amount and type of wealth redistribution, etc., don’t seem to have any obvious optimal solution. In practice many developed countries seem to be close to local equilibria that work fairly well, while some other countries might be trapped in bad local equilibria. Organic, path-dependent solutions seem to generally work better than massive socio-political engineering, that’s the reason why the EU doesn’t seem very popular with its citizens. Since global optimization is impossible, if you are doing fairly well you may probably want to defend the current Schelling points.

          • Preventing the tax base from shrinking is a rational reason to oppose secession. You may consider it selfish to use your military might to force a group of people to subsidize you, but this is a moral judgment, not a political one.

            Secession shrinks both the tax base and the expenditure base, so the selfish argument only works if you are losing more in taxes than you are saving in expenditures you no longer need make.

            If that isn’t obvious, doesn’t your version also imply that Catalonia should selfishly object to Spain seceding from it?

          • vV_Vv says:

            Secession shrinks both the tax base and the expenditure base, so the selfish argument only works if you are losing more in taxes than you are saving in expenditures you no longer need make.

            Obviously.

            If that isn’t obvious, doesn’t your version also imply that Catalonia should selfishly object to Spain seceding from it?

            Catalonia has a selfish reason to secede. Spain has a selfish reason to oppose Catalan secession.

          • onyomi says:

            Regarding tax bases and the problem with people leaving: imo, politicians in modern democracies, especially chief executives, are paid primarily not in financial spoils, but in self-aggrandizement (consider the current POTUS’s likely motivations…).

            Lincoln didn’t want to stop the South seceding on his watch because he would suffer financially. Or even necessarily that the nation would suffer financially, on net. He wanted to be president of the next major world power, not to preside over its Balkanization.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Tibor

            I think at last in part, the extreme corruption is a result of the size or definitely related to it.

            Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatamala, not to mention a plethora of small African states would like a word with you.

            Had Singapore stayed in Malaysia, they’d be a medium income country today

            They wouldn’t be a country at all, they’d be a very rich region of a middle income country, a position that carries with it some advantages, including easy access to larger consumer markets, and a massive supply of very cheap labor.

            On average, all things being equal, large countries should have an economic advantage because, by having more people living under a single legal and political system they are better able to exploit productivity gains resulting from specialization of labor.

            The reason Singapore is rich has little to do with it’s size, and a lot to do with it’s location.

            This is an interactive map of the of world shipping in two thousand and twelve. Do you see the area in between Sumatra and Malaysia that is almost solid blue? That is Singapore, it is a perfect natural harbor siting on the busiest shipping route in the world.

            Other than the fact that it is one of the very few countries that got rich in the twentieth century by following policies that are in any way flattering to libertarian assumptions, I don’t know why people keep sighting Singapore as a model for international development. It’s almost like using Dubai as an example.

          • bean says:

            @hyperboloid
            I’ve been to Singapore, and am currently reading a book on Singaporean history. This isn’t really true. They were quite poor when they first gained independence. There was a rich upper crust, but the Singapore of today is the result of the policies of the government.
            (Which, by the way, are not that libertarian.)

          • rlms says:

            @bean
            “They were quite poor when they first gained independence.”
            I don’t see how that’s relevant. The UAE wasn’t always rich either.

          • bean says:

            “They were quite poor when they first gained independence.”
            I don’t see how that’s relevant. The UAE wasn’t always rich either.

            Singapore is notably lacking in oil and other natural resources. While it’s a good harbor on a busy trade route, it’s not as much of a natural trading point as you might think. 200 years ago, there were some Malay villages on the island. Nothing more than that, despite there being quite a bit of trade through the general area. It was all going to Melaka and Riau. Singapore has been built up into a trading hub, but one aspect of trade is that it moves, and if the government decided to be hostile, it could move elsewhere. There are lots of places that have good ports and lots of trade which haven’t shared Singapore’s growth. (Panama springs rather forcefully to mind.) And there’s a lot going on in Singapore which isn’t just moving containers around, too.

          • PedroS says:

            The prime location of Singapore in the world’s sealanes cannot be the major explanation for most of their development: Panama, Gibraltar, Suez and Ormuz are also very important choke-points for major portions of sea trade and they did not develop as much as Singapore (or even relative to their close neghbors. Singapore MUST have done something right that the other nations/terrritories holding major choke points did not do.

          • BBA says:

            Lincoln didn’t want to stop the South seceding on his watch because he would suffer financially. Or even necessarily that the nation would suffer financially, on net. He wanted to be president of the next major world power, not to preside over its Balkanization.

            This strikes me as ahistorical. There are legitimate reasons to not want a hostile power on your capital’s doorstep, especially in an era when wars of aggression were considered perfectly legitimate.

          • rlms says:

            @Pedro S
            Those places are not really comparable with Singapore: Gibraltar is one hundred times smaller for instance. It’s also worth noting that Panama is in fact more developed than its near neighbours; it has 4.6x the GDP/capita of Honduras and Nicaragua, and 1.4x that of Costa Rica (its richest near neighbour), in comparison to Singapore which has 3.2x the GDP/capita of Malaysia.

            But in any case, I’m not claiming that presence of natural resources like being on a busy trade route (or massive amounts of oil) is a sufficient condition for success — just look at Venezuela and the mineral-rich African countries. However, natural resources generally make countries that don’t have other problems (bad government, the various things wrong with sub-Saharan Africa) much richer than they would otherwise be, so you shouldn’t conclude that successful countries with them such as Singapore, Norway, pre-crisis Venezuela, and oil-rich Arab states are such *because* of their policies (except in as much as it suggests that their policies aren’t utterly terrible).

            @bean
            See my response to Pedro S. I also think that the possibility of successful ports enjoying positive feedback loops is relevant: it seems plausible that Singapore just had the luck of getting started before any possible competitors.

            There’s a lot going on in e.g. the UAE that isn’t oil, and there will be even more in the future. But that doesn’t convince me their government’s policies are worth copying.

          • bean says:

            See my response to Pedro S. I also think that the possibility of successful ports enjoying positive feedback loops is relevant: it seems plausible that Singapore just had the luck of getting started before any possible competitors.

            It didn’t, though. In 1965, when they broke with Malaysia, they had really serious economic problems. They had 14% unemployment, 50% illiteracy, and no natural resources. Oh, and they’re not part of Malaysia any more, so one might expect trade in rubber and oil to go elsewhere for tax and paperwork reasons. Then, in 1968, the British announce a plan to pull out, making things even worse. They’ve done something spectacularly right to turn themselves into the country they are today. I’m trying to be skeptical on this, because most of my knowledge of independent Singapore comes from their government museums, but they’ve outperformed everyone else around so comprehensively that I can’t just wave it away. For instance, how did they manage to become one of the largest oil refining areas in the world during the 70s? They didn’t have the oil themselves, and they had to convince companies to ship the oil to them for refining instead of doing it in Malaysia or Indonesia.

          • On average, all things being equal, large countries should have an economic advantage because, by having more people living under a single legal and political system they are better able to exploit productivity gains resulting from specialization of labor.

            If multiple small countries follow free trade policies, I don’t think much of that advantage is left. On the other hand, the problems associated with rational ignorance are greater the larger the population, for two reasons:

            1. The individual voter has less influence the larger the polity.

            2. Knowing what the government is doing and what it should be doing is harder the larger the polity.

            To put the point more generally, there are diseconomies of scale as well as economies of scale.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            Tibor: sorry for taking this long; some S HTF. Yes, nobody can stop Germany + France, but a) that may be because Germany has allies with near-identical incentives (Netherlands, Austria, Finland), and b) if Germany and France disagree, Spain has weight – Greater Castile would be much lighter, and maybe find Catalonia and Euskadi *always* on the opposite side (which would have weight even if they were outside the EU; even more if they were in).

            Part of why you see splitting Germany as wholly-good may be you being from a country that (no offense intended – I’ve a lot of appreciation for Czechia) can go nowehere on its own – it even happens to be landlocked. I think partitioning Germany might be good for everyone else in the EU (and that if they didn’t find themselves with a power vaccuum, or in a true dictatorship by France), but bad for Germans, with the possible exception of AfDland (for the obvious reasons, and if they didn’t find themselves bullied by Poland).

            Brazil is a country that *potentially* can go places on its own (much harder than the optimists would say, but at all possible, which makes it have interests different from Czechia). Wikipedia tells me that we have 40% of the EU’s population, and about 1/3 of their GDP/head (about the same as China). And most of our people already accepts that we belong under a single government, while the EU … (Which means that defending the EU against Russia is the US’ job, and nobody defends it against the US.)

            A decent chunk of Brazilian corruption can be traced to feudalism-encouraging transportation difficulties, that would persist even with breakup, because many of them are between small slices of coast and *everywhere else*, and thus would stay a problem for the current states. Another decent chunk wouldn’t be instantly reduced by the population suddenly growing greater education/IQ (and my South is less different from the rest than your sources may think, which is one of the 2 reasons why I’m not separatist, along with the realism).

            Current Brazilian state borders don’t mean much of anything. The divisions that do mean something are

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_Brazil , and

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_socio-geographic_division ,

            and each of them would mean the Center-South *at best* being permanently locked into US colony status, maybe with mild prosperity thrown in (currently Brazil lacks the mild prosperity, but has the possibility of ceasing to be a colony). The only doubt for the Legal Amazon and the Northeast is whether they’d belong to the US too, or be weak enough for Chinese takeover. (I think the first would involve more deforestation than current, and the second a lot more.) Such things could also mean the current parts of Brazil having a Cold War of their own.

            Singapore has a number of good policies, but a lot of its success is only possible on a geographic position equivalent to its own, and it exists because others want it to (and no part of Brazil can become 60% Han quickly – and even if it did, that wouldn’t benefit me and people similar to me).

            If the Southeast separated from the Northeast, its first policy would be a big beautiful wall. It’s been penetrated by Northeasterners enough that I don’t predict either to ever happen. (In fact, construction in Rio Grande do Sul gets done by Northeasterners paid approximately nothing, which has led me to say “Mexicans” by reflex a few times. If construction paid a decently salary, I might’ve done it myself.)

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          I like pointing that out to the CalExit and the Free Cascadia people. If they get to leave the US, what is going to stop all the very Red counties an hour’s drive away from the very Blue cities involved from having a secession in turn, and then petititioning the US for admission?

          It would be really funny to watch Seattle, Portland, the SF region, and the LA region suddenly run out of water, power, and food, while at the same time watch a half dozen of the ports that were surveyed in the 1930s but never developed suddenly get developed into ports. I could live in the new states of Lincoln, or Olympic, or Sierra…

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I mean, if there’s a war, sure. But if it’s a “peaceful secession”, commerce still exists, they can still buy the food from the neighbouring states or elsewhere. It’d be more expensive, and they’d probably struggle to get products that are up to their moral/aesthetic standards, but they’d make do.

          • Brad says:

            It would be really funny to watch Seattle, Portland, the SF region, and the LA region suddenly run out of water, power, and food

            Odd sense of humor you have there.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Odd sense of humor you have there.

            It used to be darker.

          • cassander says:

            Dark humor is like food, not everyone gets it.

          • James Miller says:

            After a CalExit Trump says to Mexico “I admit that the U.S. basically stole California from you. If you agree to pay for the now much longer wall you can take it back.”

    • cassander says:

      You can’t believe in democracy and self government and also be against a presumption of a right to secession. Not an unlimited right, of course, but at least that the burden of proof should be on the people that want to prevent it rather than allow it. To say otherwise is to argue that the terms of a 900 year old marriage alliance override the the rights of people today, which is clearly absurd.

      • Aapje says:

        Only if you believe in self-government at all levels, where say: a person can declare his property to be an independent country and start selling child porn from his home. Or start constructing a nuke. Such a model is not workable, for obvious reasons (which are the same reasons that justify making people obey laws created by democracies).

        Self-governance is a simplistic concept which, if taken to its extremes, creates really bad outcomes. I think people who think they support it, actually support a restricted form of it.

        So then the question is just what restrictions one believes are right, not the black/white choice you pretend exists.

        • Tibor says:

          I’d say this criterion is a good rule of thumb – there are countries (in Europe) even smaller than Catalonia which are independent, which are not even city states and which function quite well. As long as your separatists are a larger group than those countries, you don’t have to worry about workability.

          • John Schilling says:

            Nit: There is probably a size below which nations only thrive within the framework of a larger alliance, but are in some (e.g. military) respects a net liability to that alliance. You may want to keep a few of those nations around for legacy reasons and/or because it’s convenient to conduct diplomatic meetings and shady banking transactions in small politically unambitious countries, while discouraging the whole of your alliance from fragmenting into such ministates.

            This probably shouldn’t be an issue where Catalonia is concerned.

          • Brad says:

            I think the caveat about city-states is an important one. The microstates of Europe work, but only because of the sufferance of their highly benevolent neighbor(s).

            If we look at three criteria: population, economy, and physical size and for each what are the smaller Western European countries other than the microstates. For population there’s Iceland (330k), Ireland (4.7M) and Denmark (5.7M). For GDP there’s Iceland ($23B), Greece ($194B), and Portugal ($200B). For area there’s Belgium (30k sq. km), Switzerland (41k) and the Netherlands (42k).

            Tossing out Iceland as an outlier that gives us a rough threshold of 4.5 million people, $200B GDP, and 30k sq. km. Catalonia is 7.5 million people, $255B GDP, and 32k sq. km. (including a coastline). It’s would definitely be towards the small end, but looks to be viable.

          • cassander says:

            I’d go with a more fundamental assessment. Make a list of the bare minimum requirements for a functional polity (I’d start with a port and an international airport), add up how many people/square miles it takes to support them, and you get your answer. I suspect your figure is about right, a couple million people and a few hundred square miles, a few thousand if you don’t have just one big city. If your proposed polity can support those things, and your secession won’t deprive the country you’re leaving from them, you’re good to go.

          • Brad says:

            To John Schilling’s point though, I’d say one of those bare minimum requirements has to do with fielding a military. It’s true that as things stand today very few countries can truly be independent world powers, but at the very least a country should in theory be able to field a military that is at least barely respectable vis-à-vis its immediate land neighbors (if any). Otherwise you end up with a situation where you are basically a protectorate.

            That’s one thing if it evolved that way historically, but if you are seceding from a country and then you plan on turning around and free riding off it — well I hope it was a *really* amicable split.

          • quaelegit says:

            @brads analysis of small European countries:

            Is Iceland a unique? There’s also Malta: pop 450k, size 300km^2, gdp $18b.

            Idk if it counts as a microstate or only exists at the sufference of larger neighbors, and Idk if it counts as Western European….

            (Also Luxembourg is bigger and richer than both: 500k pop, $60B gdp)

          • Brad says:

            I don’t know if there’s a formal definition of microstate but I was thinking of: Vatican City, San Marino, Malta, Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg.

            Iceland is very small population-wise, even smaller than Malta, and mostly as a consequence also GDP wise, but it’s pretty big area-wise and it’s a relatively far off island. So it doesn’t have the “little brother” thing to the same extent as the other countries on that list.

            Where we draw the line is pretty arbitrary, but in terms of ideals I think the international system works better with countries that look at least like Denmark rather than either Iceland or Monaco.

          • John Schilling says:

            At the very least a country should in theory be able to field a military that is at least barely respectable vis-à-vis its immediate land neighbors (if any).

            If you’re basing your security on being part of an e.g. Pan-European alliance, the real issue is whether you can make a meaningful contribution to the defense of Europe, even if the attack comes on the far side of the continent.

            Nationalism does seem to be one of the more powerful motivating and unifying factors for the sort of people who make up winning armies. And a Brigade Combat Team is probably the minimum viable independent combined-arms formation in modern warfare. So if you can field at least two BCTs (because one is always going to be staying home) of your nationality, you’re probably making a real contribution; anything less and you’re probably a freeloader whose token company or battalion is just getting in the way while shouting “We’re Helping!”.

            Of the variously small nations on Brad’s list, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands all maintain 2-3 BCTs of regulars. So that is looking like about the right scale.
            Switzerland also has four divisions (~12 BCTs) of militia because Switzerland, while Greece has eighteen regular and seven reserve BCTs because Turkey.

            The Greek example suggests that you might be able to relax the GDP requirement to $20B, and population to a million or so, if you are really seriously committed to the military aspect of national sovereignty. But then, maybe you don’t want to use the Greek economy as your role model for a sovereign state. On the other hand, if people are cracking jokes about how the Germans should come repossess your country for debt non-payment, maybe you will sleep better with a Greek-scaled army.

          • bean says:

            The Greek example suggests that you might be able to relax the GDP requirement to $20B, and population to a million or so, if you are really seriously committed to the military aspect of national sovereignty. But then, maybe you don’t want to use the Greek economy as your role model for a sovereign state. On the other hand, if people are cracking jokes about how the Germans should come repossess your country for debt non-payment, maybe you will sleep better with a Greek-scaled army.

            You might need a bit more than that. There’s a big difference between an army expected to fight on your own territory in a defensive role, and one you can contribute to a pan-European force. I’d guess a minimum of a 2-to-1 ratio, once you take the support and other overheads into account.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’d guess a minimum of a 2-to-1 ratio, once you take the support and other overheads into account.

            I had already mostly figured that in when I set a 2-BCT minimum; most of Europe’s small-but-not-micro nations seem to have a “one BCT for NATO, one for the Homeland” force structure.

            Admittedly, extrapolating to a 2-BCT mini-Greece raises the question of what fraction of macro-Greece’s force structure is available for supporting NATO vs. defending Greece vs. invading Turkey, which complicates things.

          • bean says:

            I had already mostly figured that in when I set a 2-BCT minimum; most of Europe’s small-but-not-micro nations seem to have a “one BCT for NATO, one for the Homeland” force structure.

            I was suggesting that a NATO BCT cost about twice as much as a homeland defense BCT on the cheap. Better soldiers, better gear, more training.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            A more interesting question is just how hollowed out those militaries are. Going through and doing as thorough an analysis as open-source materials make possible of readiness, training, and maintenance levels in various EU militaries is something I’ve wanted to do for some time.

          • johan_larson says:

            A more interesting question is just how hollowed out those militaries are.

            Apparently it’s pretty bad in Germany.

          • there are countries (in Europe) even smaller than Catalonia which are independent

            As I have been putting it, Catalonia is obviously too small to be a country–it’s only about twenty times the population of Iceland.

            Of course, Greece might get worried if the Catalans say they want Athens back.

          • Aapje says:

            A more interesting question is just how hollowed out those militaries are.

            It’s really bad in The Netherlands due to cut after cut. The military tried to maximize their ability to bounce back from these cuts, rather than optimize their operational capabilities. So rather than repair equipment with spare parts, other equipment is cannibalized. For example, only half of our 105 F-16’s are used (and we used to have 213, so we already have half the capacity as it is). The plan is to replace these 105 F-16’s with 37 F-35’s, BTW. So the numbers of usable planes gets lower and lower.

            Training is mediocre due to ammo shortages (during some training exercises, the soldiers yell out ‘bang bang’ rather than fire their weapon).

            Last year two soldiers died and one got heavily injured due to a mortar grenade exploding in the tube during a mission. These grenades were known to be bad, yet were still used. I strongly expect that this is due to the cuts. If so, the cuts are not just harming operational capability, but are costing lives.

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje

            My understanding with the Netherlands is that they’ve basically given up on fielding full fledged independent units of quality, and have been focusing their money on more limited areas, hence the F-35 buy and its partnering with the Germans. I grant you, this is a huge comedown from the 90s, when the country of 15 million was fielding a whole armored corps explicitly for nato missions, but it strikes me as a not unreasonable way for a small country to maximize its actual usefulness to its allies.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Cassander

            Once you factor in real-world sortie rates and the need to maintain some back home for defense, a complement of three dozen multi-role fighters is still pretty meager. That shrinks from “meager” to “meaningless token” if, as I suspect, it ends up not being accompanied by the necessary spending to supply them with sufficient fuel, parts, and munitions to maintain them and their pilots in a state of readiness, and to store up sufficient munitions, fuel, and parts on top of THAT for actual operations without having to draw heavily on allies to sustain them.

            And all of this ignores the need to actually provide for a meaningful ground forces, which a nation cannot simply ignore. Saying that you’re going to outsource your ground forces to other nations is effectively abrogating any hope of national defense absent coalition partners doing all the fighting and dying for you. I would add to John’s point about force strength is that in order to effectively sustain operations for even low-intensity conflict, you want about 3x the strength you actually plan to commit. That allows you to have a rotation like this:

            Unit A: Training Unit B: Deployment Unit C: Rest & Refit
            Unit A: Deployment Unit B: Rest & Refit Unit C: Training
            Unit A: Rest & Refit Unit B: Training Unit C: Deployment

            When OEF and OIF kicked into simultaneous high gear, we started trying to shave down and combine the training and rest/refit cycles, and it cost us. So to go back to John’s “One Brigade for home defense, one for allied operations abroad”, If you want to always have two brigades at peak readiness, fully manned, fully equipped, fully trained and fresh and ready to fulfill their missions…you really need SIX brigades in your military, not two.

            …And now I find myself wanting to deep dive into the Dutch military as an example, but I don’t speak dutch and I don’t have access to Janes and similar OSINT services anymore (much less SIPRNET and stuff like the NGIC database), so I’m not sure how long it would take me to do a really solid job.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            Not really. They did get rid of the tanks, but…then they leased tanks from Germany. Overall the desire is to do everything a little bit, rather than focus on a few strong units.

            Fundamentally, there is the issue that missions like peacekeeping requires something very different than fighting the russkies, both in equipment and how you coordinate.

            If the Russians come, we are basically just German auxiliary, but for peacekeeping missions, Dutch politicians want more control over how the troops operate.

        • cassander says:

          the general unpopularity of sealand makes me think that there is not much to fear from excessively tiny countries being formed and while that this particular argumentum ad absurdum isn’t technically fallacious, it also isn’t a serious problem.

    • Lillian says:

      As an (expat) citzen of Cataluña who considers its capital one of her favourite cities in the world and has family living there: i would personally give Barcelona the Grozny treatment rather than permit Cataluña to secede.

      That said, the National Police screwed the pooch in its handling of the referendum. Keeping people from voting was a counter-productive effort. Not only did they lack the manpower to do it, but people have a right to peaceably assemble, and it’s bad optics to infringe it. The vote was already declared illegal, meaning no means to prevent fraud, and most of the voters to staying away from the polls, that alone is enough to cast doubt on its validity.

      If they really wanted to sabotage the vote they should have attacked the ballot boxes. Have small teams of officers show up and confiscate them. No footage of injured people on the news, no radicalising violence. Still outrage though, but much less.

      • Matt M says:

        If they really wanted to sabotage the vote they should have attacked the ballot boxes. Have small teams of officers show up and confiscate them.

        My understanding is that this is exactly what they were intending to do. Things got messy when they were encountered with large groups of people who weren’t too keen on them doing that.

        • Lillian says:

          Sort of, they seem to have been excessively focused on actually closing the polls instead of simply sabotaging the process enough that no clear results could be obtained. That said, on the whole the sabotage was successful, such that the results of the referendum don’t really mean anything.

      • IrishDude says:

        If they really wanted to sabotage the vote they should have attacked the ballot boxes. Have small teams of officers show up and confiscate them.

        They did do that in at least this instance. Potentially here too, but harder to verify.

    • Mark says:

      Isn’t nationalism a bit pointless if you’re in the EU?

    • DeWitt says:

      Spain does as Spain does. Ever since the 16th century, the Spanish state has been entirely unwilling to at all be lenient to the slightest whiff of rebellious intent, and this is no different today.

    • I agree that nations should be open to secession movements, but also discourage them (not by sending police to shut down polling stations and arrest voters). I thought the UK handled the Scotland referendum pretty well.

      However, I do think that secession is generally bad for both parties, as I think larger countries do better economically, and also these smaller countries are more vulnerable to hegemony from large countries around them. No I don’t have statistics on this, and I realize that some tiny countries have done well economically, but I don’t think this is generally the case.

      It is also a very large change to make and so should only happen if agreed to by a super-majority of the region, say 60% or even 2/3. Of course if the country sets these super-majority tests, it would certainly appear they are just setting standards that they know will result in referendum failure. I wish that a large organization such as the EU or the OECD would set some proposed rules for reasonable secessionism. I suppose they never will, because it would appear that they were encouraging secessionism, and no country wants that.

      And yes, for the same reason I thought that Brexit should not have been accepted with such a tiny majority voting in favor. Momentous changes need to have large majorities in favor of the change.

      • Tibor says:

        Which large countries do well economically? The US and…? No other country with over 100 million people is a developed economy.

        My ideal world consists of many small countries which cooperate in bigger blocks akin to the EU, but less centralized than the current EU (kind of like the EU was before it was called the EU). Well, in the ideal world of nothing but small countries you simply have free movement of labour and goods everywhere and that’s all centralization you really need.

        In the real world, there is one aspect where I would not be against even more centralization – the military. The only good argument I see for a large country is a large military force to deter aggressive neighbours. But I think that should be achievable without a central government, NATO essentially is just that. It is true that NATO relies heavily on the US and if you just had a group of small countries it would be harder to keep the coalition in a state where it provides a credible deterrent. NATO is a nice gift to Europe from the US but in case Americans decide they don’t want to subsidize our defence, it might be a good idea to have something to replace it.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Which large countries do well economically? The US and…? No other country with over 100 million people is a developed economy.

          Considering there’s only 12 countries with a population over 100 million I don’t think that really says much. And Europe has the most developed countries but I don’t think anyone thinks the reason they got that way is because their population is relatively small. If anything, Germany seems to show that getting bigger strengthens your economy.

          • Tibor says:

            Fair enough. There are definitely too many factors in play to say that being large is necessarily damaging. What you can say though, is that being small isn’t necessarily bad either. Europe is full of rich small-ish countries. The richest one are actually one of the smallest (Switzerland and Norway…although Norway has oil, so maybe it should be discounted).

            I don’t quite agree with Germany though. Look at France or Italy, they struggle quite a bit and are countries of comparable size and population to Germany. Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands are all better-off than Germany if you look at per capita purchasing power (Austria just a tiny bit).

            Germany exports a lot, but that is partly because of the Euro. Deutschmark would be a lot stronger than the Euro, making German goods more expensive abroad.

          • onyomi says:

            And Europe has the most developed countries but I don’t think anyone thinks the reason they got that way is because their population is relatively small.

            I do. Not that Europe is rich because its total population is less than that of e.g. Asia, but that part of why it got rich was because power was more diffuse and checked than that of e.g. Chinese emperors. And Germany, historically, was more politically decentralized than e.g. France or Spain.

            Relatively small territories means there’s a limit to how oppressive you can be before people move. Having the Pope as a competing source of political authority probably didn’t hurt either.

          • Brad says:

            There’s a statistical effect where if you have groups of different sizes ranked by average in some criteria you expect the top and bottom of the list to be dominated by smaller groups. Can’t remember the name though.

          • Charles F says:

            I’m pretty sure that effect is part of the central limit theorem. Averages of samples follow a normal distribution, and the smaller the sample, the greater the variance of the distribution.

            Technically the samples are supposed to be composed of independent measurements, and people who join the same small group are probably biased towards being similar, but that would probably only increase the variance if each part of a sample tends away from the mean in the same direction.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @onyomi

            The history of states is a history of small decentralized states. What you’re saying may explain why Europe became richer than China but it doesn’t explain why Europe is richer than India.

        • quaelegit says:

          Japan is ~120 million and usually included in the “doing well economically” category.

          Also I sort UK, France, and Germany into the “large country” category in my mind (respectively 21st, 22nd, and 16th out of ~200 in pop size).

    • BBA says:

      I for one don’t think there’s any meta-level moral argument for or against secession in the abstract. Look at the object level – why do the secessionists want to secede? In this case, the Catalan nationalists have a platform of “ending capitalism” and heap praise upon democratic rule as practiced in Venezuela. As such, my initial instinct is to oppose them as at best a bunch of clueless ass-clowns, though the central government’s jack-booted thuggery has tempered my instinct a great deal.

      I’d discount the “overwhelming pro-independence vote.” Many of the unionists boycotted the referendum on the grounds that it was called illegally and therefore without effect, and the highest court of Spain had ruled as much. Most opinion polls show that the unionist/nationalist divide is about 50/50, which is reflected in the narrow majority that the nationalist parties hold in the Catalan parliament.

      Finally, I’m reminded of how Quebec separatism essentially ceased to be viable when a leading separatist blamed their narrow loss in a referendum on (((money and the ethnic vote))). And I’m wondering if there will be a similar gaffe to defuse this situation, and whose gaffe it will be.

      • aNeopuritan says:

        Catalonia had localist (as usual for Spain) and linguistic reasons for secession long before SJWism. BTW: http://www.unz.com/isteve/catalan-nationalism/ .

        As for Quebéc, I’m going to use no parentheses, but there were the ethnic votes of immigrants who’d rather just speak English, and of Amerindians (on the latter, IMO, the Frogs should welcome Partition).

      • rlms says:

        “In this case, the Catalan nationalists have a platform of “ending capitalism” and heap praise upon democratic rule as practiced in Venezuela.”
        I don’t think that is true. The pro-independence parliamentary coalition stretches across the political spectrum, but the largest chunk of it is centrist, and I don’t think the ERC are particularly radical.

      • onyomi says:

        I support secession on principle, regardless of why people want to secede. This was why I was hoping Scotland would secede, though they seemed to want to do so to institute policies I wouldn’t like.

        I think anyone who thinks democracy is morally preferable to autocracy should want people to have a say not only about the laws of their polity, but about the shape and scope of the polity they’re in.

        I also think it has good utilitarian effects. Any secession anywhere undermines the idea of nation-states as indivisible units everywhere. Saw student posters in Hong Kong to the effect of “Independence for Catalonia! Independence for Scotland! Free elections in Hong Kong!” They don’t know the details of why Catalonia wants to secede. They just know they want to secede. That makes them think maybe they can do it, too (though the PRC is a LOT less nice than the government of Spain, or probably any democracy, I’m sure…).

        I guess I can conceive of a world in which the right for a group of any size to secede is widely accepted and some people are, for whatever reason, doing so to bad effect–breaking up perfectly functional alliances over immaterial squabbles, or something. In such a world I’d stop reflexively supporting all secession. But that’s not close to the world we have now.

      • Brad says:

        (((money and the ethnic vote)))

        Seriously? How many Jews are there in Quebec to begin with?

      • I’d discount the “overwhelming pro-independence vote.

        The refusal of the Spanish government to permit the vote or offer an equivalent suggests that they, at least, thought there was a fair chance that a majority would vote for secession.

        • Montfort says:

          BBA (emphasis mine):

          I’d discount the “overwhelming pro-independence vote.” Many of the unionists boycotted the referendum on the grounds that it was called illegally and therefore without effect, and the highest court of Spain had ruled as much. Most opinion polls show that the unionist/nationalist divide is about 50/50, which is reflected in the narrow majority that the nationalist parties hold in the Catalan parliament.

          you have added no information to what he said. Though I think pre-vote polling was more like 40% for secession.

  7. SamChevre says:

    From a family discussion: are you related, and if so what is the name for the relationship, to a person if you and that person have siblings married to each other?

    It’s one step beyond sibling-in-law. My wife’s brother is my brother-in-law; what do you call his relationship to my sister?

  8. Well... says:

    A while ago we’d talked about that particular, slightly strange British accent that (if I remember right) Howard Jacobson has. Well, I found another person who has it: RT reporter Murad Gazdiev. If we can find a few more people with that accent we might be able to say something about its origins!

      • Well... says:

        I think it’s the way he pronounces every consonant, especially hard ones at the ends of words.

        • Deiseach says:

          Haven’t heard the person in question speak, but by the description it sounds like it could be the result of elocution lessons. I remember a British lady on a radio programme talking about how, as an aspiring young actress with a regional accent back in the 70s, she had it drilled out of her at drama school to speak proper Received Pronunciation and you could hear it in her voice, the way she hit every final consonant and especially when words ended in “t”.

          Getting taught how to talk English proper can often leave you with a weird over-precise accent.

          • Well... says:

            I just realized there’s something else too, which is a kind of slow, tumbling rhythm. I don’t know whether or not elocution lessons train people to do that as well.

            I know a guy who is Israeli but speaks English with a (mostly) British-sounding accent and the effect is very similar. I don’t know if Murad Gazdiev is Jewish, but Howard Jacobson is, and being Jewish makes you more likely to know Hebrew, so I wonder if this could possibly somehow be an effect of speaking English with a British accent while knowing how to speak Hebrew too.

        • I’ve noticed that about Woody Allen’s accent.

  9. gbdub says:

    Inspired by a question near the last open thread: For your favorite and/or least favorite sport, what rule(s) would you change to make the game more enjoyable to watch and/or play?

    Basketball: In the last 5 minutes of a half, a team that takes a non-shooting foul while in the bonus gets the option of a free throw attempt OR possession out of bounds, WITH A FRESH SHOT CLOCK. Yes, this eliminates the possibility of late hack-a-Shaq free throw contests “dramatic comebacks”. Those are dumb. You want a chance to come back late? Earn it by playing basketball.

    Hockey: Make the blue lines 5 ft wide. This will reduce offsides penalties and make the game flow better. Too many ticky-tack offsides where a player is in early by like a foot, or the puck just dribbles over the blue line out of the attacking zone and the offense needs to reset.

    No decisive game should be decided by a shootout. Play hockey until someone wins.

    American football: There’s a really stupid rule where, if you fumble the football and it goes out of bounds (before anyone recovers it) anywhere outside the end zone, it is your ball where the ball went out (or where you dropped it, whichever is farther from the goal line – you can’t “fumble forward”). BUT if you fumble it into the end zone you are attacking and it goes out of bounds, your OPPONENT gets the ball – at the 20 yard line! This is dumb and weird. You should retain possession, getting the ball back where you fumbled it, as you do anywhere else on the field.

    A rule that comes up more often: pass interference as called often rewards bad throws. Example: cornerback is in good trailing coverage (running right behind the receiver). Quaterback throws the ball way short – receiver stops suddenly to play the ball, getting run over by the cornerback, and often getting a flag. Or a receiver and cornerback are running side by side. QB throws the ball way wide, on the defender’s side. Receiver, trying to get to the ball, runs over the defender – and often a flag is thrown AGAINST THE DEFENDER. This is weird and dumb. The defender should have some degree of “right to his momentum / position”. The penalty ought to go against the player who “initiates” contact, and I think “slowing down suddenly to get run over” or “changing direction into another play” ought to count as initiating contact.

    Baseball: Pitch clock. Pitcher gets the ball, next pitch comes in 10 seconds or a ball is awarded.

    50 game regular season.

    • Matt M says:

      As a big hockey fan, I’m not sure wider blue-lines solves the offsides issue. I would say “eliminate replay for offsides calls.” It has created more problems than it has solved. Personally, I’m against instant replay being used in sports at all, but that’s obviously a losing battle.

      In terms of increasing scoring, I’ve always liked “eliminate the ability for the defending team to ice the puck during power plays” as an easy way to marginally increase goals, but that also increases the referee’s effect on the game in general, which is probably not a great thing.

      “Eliminate the enforcer rule” is a long-standing suggestion by the die-hard old-school fans, and I don’t really have a problem with that either.

      • gbdub says:

        I think the idea is that, when attacking, you would count the puck as “in” the zone as soon as it crossed the front of the line, but you wouldn’t count a player as in until they were across the entire line. Would reduce inadvertent offsides on quick breaks.

        Once in the zone, the puck wouldn’t be “out” until it fully crossed the line, but players could “tag up” to just the start of the line. I don’t know, it seems like at least half of offsides calls are “guy without the puck on a two-man break is off by a skate” or “hard pass hops over point man’s stick and it takes him a few inches to recover it”.

        The idea is that offsides should be used only to prevent the offense from gaining major unfair advantages, not to impede puck movement substantially.

        I kind of like that icing is “off” for power plays – I think eliminating it would make power plays too big an advantage.

      • Tibor says:

        Why are higher scores a good thing? What I like about hockey is that it strikes a balance between every goal mattering (unlike basketball where a few points don’t mean much and so the excitement/anxiety of a chance/incoming danger are also reduced proportionally to that) and remaining undecided till the end. If you’re losing by three goals in football (soccer) by the middle of the second half then you’ve pretty much lost. But if you’re losing by the same number in the last third of a hockey match you might still even out.

        • Well... says:

          I agree. I think hockey games feature the perfect number of goals. Minor league hockey especially, where scores like 7-4 are not all that uncommon.

          Besides, watching goalies make awesome saves is way cooler than watching shooters squeeze one by.

        • gbdub says:

          I actually agree about hockey, I just think it has too many stoppages.

          That said, right now the NHL average is a bit over 5 goals a game, I think that could afford to go up a goal or two (roughly where they were in the 80s/90s) and be a bit more exciting. A goal per period per team average seems about right.

        • Matt M says:

          Oh I’m in perfect agreement with this. “Higher goals” is often cited as an aim of the NHL with the idea that more goals will bring in more casual fans. Whether this is true or not is certainly up for debate.

    • Rob K says:

      for basketball there’s semi-serious discussion of trying out a game end rule where the final quarter is two minutes shorter than the others. When the clock runs out on that quarter, the game enters untimed play; the first team to reach a score n points above the current score of the leading team wins. Values of n would have to be tested for what’s best.

      Preserves comeback potential, eliminates unsightly foulfests, would almost certainly prove to be broken in some other way, but I hope someone tries it.

      • Well... says:

        Breaks if one team is getting creamed. I don’t think fans want to watch a team try and come back from 64-101 by seeing who can get to 121 first.

        • Iain says:

          How is that broken?

          Under the status quo, if a team is up 101-64, nothing interesting will happen during the last two minutes of a game. Teams will pull their starters, and jog back and forth half-heartedly. The losing team simply can’t win, because there isn’t enough time left to catch up.

          Under the new proposal, that probably still happens. However, it’s at least theoretically possible that the losing team suddenly clamps down defensively and goes on a 47-9 scoring run. By forcing teams to beat the other team, not just the clock, you guarantee that both teams always have something to play for. Once in a blue moon, you get an instant classic miracle comeback.

          It’s a weird idea, but I’m not convinced it’s a bad one.

          • Well... says:

            Hmm. Alright, I see your point. It’s harder than I thought to conceptualize basketball without a clock!

          • Rob K says:

            @Iain

            The biggest argument I can see against it is to point to the recent classic playoff games, Finals Game 6 in 2013 and Finals Game 7 in 2016. In both cases the score and the clock aligned such that the clock generated incredible drama, without getting into foul-fest territory.

            I mean, think of (for those who watched it) the experience of watching the 4th quarter of that game 7. Four and a half minutes of game clock with only one field goal made and two free throws attempted (one made) and it might have been the most intense sports viewing experience of my life, because the clock was ramping up the drama.

          • Well... says:

            Come to think of it, my favorite moments in basketball are when the game is really close and the clock is winding down. Game-tying or -winning buzzer shots from way outside are probably the height of play for me. [Edit] No, second-highest, after the play where someone is taking a shot and an opponent flies out of nowhere and swats it down.

            I can’t think of any right now, but how could basketball be modified so that those situations happen more often. Of course if they happened more often would they be as cool?

      • Nornagest says:

        Wouldn’t it be simpler just to define the winner as the first to a hundred, or some other reasonable value?

      • lvlln says:

        This is the standard that ultimate Frisbee follows at every club level in tournaments (professional level – which, btw, isn’t as high quality in terms of play as the highest club level – plays to time in 4 quarters just like basketball).

        By default, the winner is the first one to score 15 and also win-by-two, but since ultimate tournaments have time as a very limited resource, after a certain time, a “soft cap” is put on. Once the soft cap is on, you just add 2 points to the higher score, and the 1st team to reach that score wins (no need to win by 2). This helps especially in windy/rainy/snowy conditions where offenses have a harder time scoring, and so reaching 15 within the time limit is less likely.

        Most tournaments also have a “hard cap,” which is that once the hard cap goes on, the teams continue to play out the point they’re playing, and then the game ends if one team has the lead. If the score is tied, then the 2 teams play one final sudden death point (in ultimate, this is called “universe point,” or less commonly “double game point”).

        I think this sort of combination of time and scoring to determine the game end makes sense. In ultimate, I like the excitement of knowing that every game – except for rare hard-capped ones – has to end by the winning team scoring. This is missing from the professional league games, except for when they go into overtime sudden death, which is rare.

        I wonder how it would translate to basketball, since points are so much easier to come by than in ultimate. I imagine adding 2 to the higher score like in ultimate wouldn’t work since it would be over way too quickly. I do like the idea that every basketball game should end with the winning team scoring a basket, and removal of using fouls to game the clock as a viable strategy. I wish professional ultimate had tried this, actually, with 3x 12 minute quarters followed by a 10 minute quarter, then adding 1 or 2 to the higher score and playing till one of the teams reaches it. It gives tremendous advantage to the team that’s in the lead – as it should – while still giving the losing team a chance to come back no matter what the situation, kinda like baseball.

    • Well... says:

      For baseball I think I’d make the outfield fences both higher and ensure they are more readily climbable, because that play where an outfielder darts up the wall and robs someone of a home run is the greatest play in all of sports.

    • Well... says:

      I think a big part of what makes basketball so boring (to me) is all the back and forth. I’d like it more if the game was half-court and teams alternated each quarter as defending or attacking the basket. (More like innings in baseball.) You’d still have them switch sides of the court at halftime, for the same reasons as exist now.

      I would keep the opposing basket, though, but move it forward to the top of its key. If the attacking team somehow turns over the ball while it’s in play, the defending team has some small number of seconds to try and get the ball into that other basket and it’d score them like 10 points or something. Maybe add a rule where it has to either be shot from outside some ridiculous boundary (maybe the half court line) or must be dunked or alley ooped to count.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Basketball: In the last 5 minutes of a half, a team that takes a non-shooting foul while in the bonus gets the option of a free throw attempt OR possession out of bounds, WITH A FRESH SHOT CLOCK. Yes, this eliminates the possibility of late hack-a-Shaq free throw contests “dramatic comebacks”. Those are dumb. You want a chance to come back late? Earn it by playing basketball.

      Frankly, I always felt that solutions like this didn’t quite solve the problem. It gets rid of outright Hack-a-Shaq, but it does allow you to foul “Shaq” whenever he gets close to being a problem, or even any time someone else is a problem and you want a reset (although the refs might not notice it in time). My personal solution is simply to combine both; a free throw AND the ball. A bit harsh, but it basically removes the incentive to foul beyond very specific situations (because a foul can still result in a basket, and fouling so hard to prevent this can be ruled flagrant)

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I would mandate the two-point stance in football. It would probably be one of the biggest improvements in neurological outcomes. (I’d want to change a lot more, but line play comes to mind especially.) The data is making me more and more guilty about enjoying the sport.

      • Matt M says:

        Really? My understanding is that the biggest risk for concussions comes to players who get hit (QB, RB, WR) and the ones doing the hitting (LB, DB, etc.). I would have figured playing on the line is the safest possible place, at least as far as head trauma goes?

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          CTE isn’t just about concussions, it’s about the accumulation of sub-concussive impacts. Ball handling positions don’t get hit on every play. Linemen do.

      • gbdub says:

        That’s clever, I like it.

        Another idea would be to eliminate platooning and go to limited substitutions. This would reduce player body-type specialization and disincentivizes hitting quite so hard (if you have to go for a whole game, you can’t go 110% speed on every play).

        • FranzPanzer says:

          Or you could cut out the middle man and immediately start watching Rugby : )

          • gbdub says:

            Football has plays-from-scrimmage and the forward pass going for it as things that make for very photogenic, “dramatic moment” action.

            As an analogy, consider UFC vs traditional Greco-Roman wrestling.

            Anyway the wildest football to watch is Aussie Rules.

            They are all better than soccer.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Do you think going back to leather helmets would help? Players might be less likely to ram their heads into each other if it hurt more.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Soccer should get rid of the goalie. The game would be far more exciting.

      • Well... says:

        I’d support this only if the goal was reduced to the size of a basketball hoop and mounted to a drone that flies in a diagonal pattern along the invisible vertical plane where the old goal used to be. (GoPro mounted on the drone of course.)

      • Matt M says:

        This sounds insane but given that most games don’t actually feature that many shots on goal, might actually be somewhat feasible. Although with no goalie presumably teams would shoot at the net a lot more rather than trying to set up the perfect play.

        Maybe you mandate that at least one player is not allowed to leave the goalie box area, but is also not allowed to use his hands?

        • sohois says:

          Goals are certainly much too large for this to be a feasible change. High level players can get shots on target from behind the half way line easily enough so a removal of the goalie would most likely lead to teams leaving one or even two players permanently stationed in the goal mouth to stop pot shots from scoring. The end result would just be turning a 20 person outfield game into a 16 person outfield game I’d imagine. The reason why shot totals now are not high is because largely teams have realized that shots from outside of the box are very low percentage, not because teams are insufficiently attacking.

          • gbdub says:

            On the other hand, they already manage to miss plenty.

          • beleester says:

            Make the goal wider. That way it’s harder to defend most shots, but it probably won’t enable shots from the other end of the field since the goalie has time to see them coming.

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            Larger goals were actually proposed as part of the rule changes when MLS was starting up on the grounds that goalies are considerably larger now than when the sport was standardized. It was shot down as being too expensive to manufacture special goals just for MLS.

            The 35-yard penalty shootouts were kind of fun, though, if silly.

          • Matt M says:

            Aside from the expense of custom goals, it just strikes me as a terrible idea to make your game significantly different from the more popular/lucrative leagues in Europe, as this would

            a) Prevent famous/good European players from easily transitioning to MLS
            b) Discourage good American players with aspirations of someday playing in Europe from starting in MLS

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      American football: All performances of the National Anthem are monitored by a league official who has a copy of the sheet music. Performers are fined $1000 for each note that isn’t in the song.

      • Well... says:

        Yes! And it’s a march, dammit. It should be played at 1/4=120 bpm!

      • Matt M says:

        If you want high quality anthems, ice hockey is the sport for you. Most of the teams have fairly regular performers who take pride in not screwing around with the damn song, and deliver it very much in a “get you hyped for the game” style.

        I particularly recommend Jim Cornelison of the Chicago Blackhawks. I’ve seen games in over 10 NHL arenas and the anthem in Chicago is quite possibly the coolest moment I’ve ever seen in a hockey arena.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          I mostly follow hockey only during the playoffs but I do know about Cornelison. Most preposterously fruity voice I’ve ever heard; I love him to pieces.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          He performed for the Bears when I saw them this season–he is, in fact, spectacular.

          • Matt M says:

            He performs in other locations reasonably often. Bears, Cubs, and IU football/basketball (he’s an alum).

            As a fairly fanatical hockey fan I’m becoming increasingly familiar with some of the regular anthem singers of different teams. It’s quite interesting.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Another Cornelison fan here though to be honest I couldn’t have told you his name. I just recognized that preposterously fruity fucking amazing voice the moment the song started.

          @ Andrew Hunter, was that the home opener?

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Or you could just not have the anthem at all, and get straight to what the people have paid to watch.

        I am not remotely qualified to comment, being galactically uninterested in, and ignorant about, sportsball, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but here in the UK, I don’t think we have a national anthem sung before within-country football or rugby matches. I imagine we probably do have them before international matches, but I believe most American football teams are American, i.e. very few American football matches are international. Do you routinely have a national anthem before any match, just for professional teams, just for tournament finals etc, and why? It seems like a strange thing to do from the outside, but it’s possible that my ‘outside’ is just an abnormally non-anthem-singing region of the world.

        • FranzPanzer says:

          Well, we’re talking about a country where about half (?) of all children pledge allegiance to the flag every day.

        • B Beck says:

          Down to the high school level.
          It’s not quite a unique practice, though. Indian theaters are required to play their national anthem before movies, I believe. here

        • Montfort says:

          Do you routinely have a national anthem before any match, just for professional teams, just for tournament finals etc, and why?

          Generally before all professional matches and some amateur matches (e.g. some high school and college games) for most team sports. Historically, the practice became widespread during WWII, because patriotism. Before WWII, it was occasionally played, especially at baseball games, but not always at the beginning, and it was more of a hassle when you had to hire a band. After WWII they just never went away, partially because of patriotism and partially, I suspect, because by then it was traditional, and part of the entertainment. I expect it was also encouraged by the government to some extent (for comparison, see this report on “paid patriotism” in 2012-2015).

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think the extra point in American Football is just a waste of time. I say give it to the team automatically and they can gamble it on the extra point if they want.

      • S_J says:

        There’s a rarely-used rule which I think is called a Two-Point Conversion.

        Basically, instead of kicking an Extra-Point-Attempt, the team attempts to move the ball into the End Zone again, as if they are attempting to score another touchdown. (It’s a single-play option, so any down outside the end zone results in zero points and no further play until after kick-off.)

        As I noted above, it is worth two points.

        I’m not an American Football fanatic, so I was unaware of this … until I saw it attempted in a recent Super Bowl.

        • gbdub says:

          I’m pretty sure that’s what Wrong Species referred to as “gamble it on the extra point”. Basically, nix the nearly automatic extra point kick, award the point automatically, and leave the option to “go for two” by risking one point on a try for the end zone.

          On the other hand, teams do occasionally miss the extra point kick. Or fake a kick for a two point conversion. Or it gets blocked and run back by the other team (which is worth two points if they make the other end zone).

          • Wrong Species says:

            Missing the extra point is just irritating though. Imagine that after every three pointer in basketball, you had to stop the game to make a free throw shot or it didn’t count.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        I forget: if you get a touchdown with no time left on the clock, do you get a chance to get an extra point or conversion? If not, then that’s at least a somewhat meaningful difference.

        • gbdub says:

          Yes, in fact the play MUST be run, if the score of the game is within 2 points either way – you are not allowed to decline the extra point try (though you could just take a knee) because the other team could theoretically return a fumble / block for two points.

          Note that the extra point try is always an “untimed down”.

    • Well... says:

      GOLF
      I don’t have any suggestions for changing the sport of golf (not for lack of ideas so much as for reverence), but I do have suggestions for how to improve the way it’s televised:

      Instead of the traditional camera setup, use a small swarm of RC helicopters/quadcopters with 4K cameras on them to cover the action and also to get cutaway shots of the course. Maybe GoPros on the putter heads too. Remove all commentating and replace it with Hans Zimmer music (or Wagner and Sibelius–might as well go to the source material). Mandate that all televised golf tournaments be held early or late in the day. Get rid of the spectators and ban the display of logos.

      In fact, don’t even televise it; hire Walter Murch to pore over the footage for years and then release it as a documentary on Netflix and Blu-ray.

      NASCAR
      Get rid of teams and crews and all that crap. Each race, drivers drive the same factory stock automobiles with only some standardized safety modifications. (So as to not be confused with classic car events, the earliest year of manufacture could be set at 35 years before the date of the race.) Different years, makes, and models are driven each race so that today everyone in the race is driving a 1982 Toyota Celica GT-S, while tomorrow everyone might be driving a 1997 Ford Taurus Wagon, the next race features 2004 Nissan Altimas, and so on.

      • gbdub says:

        I actually find golf to already be a particularly watchable sport (at least on TV). Yeah, following one guy around for 4 hours would be dull. But on TV they constantly cut to interesting action, and every shot is potentially dramatic/meaningful. They can show you every shot of the leaders, while giving highlights of the rest of the field.

        Golf is also great because they can adjust the difficulty of the course. Every other sport, the players are always doing things that no normal human could do. But for golf, a couple times a year (usually the Opens) you get some dastardly set up that turns seasoned pros into Sunday hackers. Stuck in a bunker for 3 shots? I’ve done that! Take an 8 on a par 4? Been there! Best sort of schadenfreude.

      • Montfort says:

        I was going to reply with my proposed improvements to golf, but it turns out speed golf is already a thing. I don’t know if they have multiple (helmeted) players on one hole simultaneously, but I think that’s crucial to keeping the competitive spirit going.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Have you ever watched Australian V8 Supercars? That’s what I’d change NASCAR in to.

        The most exciting part of any race are the beginning, and the end. Middles tend to be boring. So in Australia they have 3 shorter races instead of one long race. Three starts, three ends, shorter middles. And in between segments the crews repair damage and tweak the vehicles for road/weather conditions. That becomes part of the entertainment, in a “Top Gear see how fast they can rig something up to make the car drive again” way.

        Also, road courses.

    • Montfort says:

      Baseball: the American League should drop the DH. Pitchers should only be able to be switched in between batters (except in the case of injury, and if this clause is abused, then I’d start awarding a walk when it’s triggered). Batters should be able to attempt to “steal” first on any uncaught pitch, but if they start going down towards first they can’t resume their at-bat. “Reverse” steals (e.g. stealing first from second) should be allowed because they’re funny but will almost never happen.

    • Aapje says:

      Soccer/football: 9 vs 9 instead of 11 vs 11, so there is more room for attackers and it’s harder for defenders to double team
      Road bike racing: Limit teams to 6 riders for most races and 7 riders for grand tours
      Formula 1: Redesign the cars so they don’t lose that much downforce in dirty air

    • lvlln says:

      So ultimate Frisbee is by far my favorite sport, and it’s been in a strange place the last few years due to a couple pro leagues developing, with lots and lots of rule changes for the purpose of making the game more enjoyable for fans (examples include lowering the stall count – equivalent to the 5 seconds you’re allowed to hold the ball in basketball – from 10 seconds to 7, changing the game from win-by-score – like tennis – to play-to-time – like basketball/football/hockey).

      One of the 2 pro leagues, Major League Ultimate (which ended up going bankrupt last year) was a lot more creative with rule changes in ways that I thought helped the game a lot. One such rule change is to change who starts on offense when there’s a Callahan.

      As background, every ultimate Frisbee game is made up of a sequence of points, with each point starting with one team on offense and another team on defense. A point ends when one team scores by catching the disc in the opposing end zone (which always adds exactly 1 point), and the next point begins with the team that just scored starting on defense. At high levels, turnovers are rare in ultimate, so this gives a strong advantage to the team that lost the previous point, by allowing them to start on offense next. However, this also means there’s less momentum – it’s harder to string points together if you have to force the other team’s offense to get a turnover every time.

      A Callahan is like a safety in American football – it’s when a defensive player intercepts the disc in the opposing end zone, which automatically ends the point with a score for the team of the defensive player (here’s an example of it happening – it’s very rare). What the MLU did was to change it so that if your team scored via Callahan, instead of starting the next point on defense as normal, you start the next one on offense.

      This, I think, adds a little extra volatility to the possible outcomes of a point, since it’s possible not only to score a point but also to gain an advantage in the next point. I think this volatility may help make the game more exciting in terms of comebacks, since it provides another extra way in which to maintain momentum. I also think it makes sense to reward a Callahan more than a regular goal, because it really is the best thing you can possibly do as a defender – it’s always incredibly exciting when you accomplish it, and the fact that it’s rewarded exactly as much as a boring goal seems a bit of a shame.

      The MLU also experimented with other rules that I’m less excited about, though I see their strengths. One was that if you called a time out before the “pull” (equivalent to a kickoff in American football), you got to pull from half-field instead of from your end zone. This made it easier to put the disc far into the opposing end zone, which meant the offense had to work more to score a point and also more chances for Callahans. I’m ambivalent-to-negative on this rule, because pulling from half field is such a huge shift from pulling from your own end zone (a 40 yard difference in the pro leagues).

      Another was that if a pull rolled out of bounds in the opposite end zone, the offensive team had to take the disc where it rolled out of bounds, instead of getting to walk it up to the front of the end zone. Again, this makes offense harder and increases chances of a Callahan happening. This rule I do like just because it makes sense to me that if someone makes that good of a pull, they should be rewarded with the full distance of the pull, instead of allowing the offense to gain up to 20 yards (the depth of the end zone is 20 in ultimate, in part because a disc flies with a more horizontal arc than a football). Also, since at the pro level offenses tend to be so good, I tend to like things that make it harder on the offense, at least as a spectator.

      So, TL;DR as a player, I’d like Callahans to be rewarded with getting to start on offense in the next point, and as a spectator, I’d like that rule change PLUS the rule change that a pull that rolls out of bounds in the end zone needs to be taken where it rolled out.

  10. cassander says:

    Why DS9 is the best Star Trek

    At its core, Star Trek is a simple idea. Humanity, having finally gotten it’s shit together, has ventured out to the stars, because they’re there. This idea is not exactly free from problems, but it’s a great premise for a show. It’s aspirational, the west wing in space, with characters that feel like a team you can root for. DS9 is the best star trek because of all the series, it most consistently takes the basic premise and challenges it in interesting ways without undermining it. This approach is perfectly summed up by a quote from sisko:

    “On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it’s easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven’t been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints — just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!”

    DS9 didn’t ask what if the the world isn’t really a paradise, what if these people aren’t all evolved. It said alright, if these people sincerely want peace, what happens when they meet someone who doesn’t? At its best, it really explored the basic concept about as well as could be done in the format at the time.

    The other series did this either less well or less often. As much as I love TNG, didn’t challenge the premise as much (though you’ll note, some of the best episodes tend to), which is why can feel somewhat bland. Voyager challenged even less, and with worse writing. Enterprise had a whole host of problems I won’t get into.

    Discovery, unfortunately, does not seem to be challenging the premise so much as undermining it. It is assuming that these people aren’t all well intentioned and evolved, but seems to be drafting the cast of Battlestar Galactica into Star Fleet. And as much as I liked BSG, it won’t ever work as Star Trek.

    • Matt M says:

      I liked DS9 to the extent that it gave us a pretty strong glimpse into the Bajorans – who are basically humans but without all the Roddenbery utopian bullshit. Bajor is what Earth would probably really be if we suddenly discovered we are not alone in the universe. We’d still be a largely fractured society along religious and socoieconomic grounds. We’d probably encounter aliens far advanced compared to us, and rather than talk them into letting us become the rulers of their hyper-advanced alliance built on diplomacy, we’d probably irritate them into conquering us instead, at which point a whole lot of us would instantly become collaborators to save our own skins. We’d probably try and find some OTHER big advanced race and beg them to liberate us from our oppressors, at which point we’d immediately show no gratitude whatsoever and tell those guys to fuck off so we can resume our petty religious squabbling and infighting.

      I think the Bajorans come across as annoying to many viewers because it hits way too close to home and is an uncomfortable reminder of how annoying we really are. Everyone’s instinct is to get all mad at the scheming old lady who is selling out her race to its greatest enemy for the sake of power. As if that’s not what you would do in her situation. Please!

    • Randy M says:

      I watched some of this back in the day, and was thinking of going through it on Amazon now that I’ve noticed they have it available, and it has always been well praised.

    • John Schilling says:

      At its core, Star Trek is a simple idea. Humanity, having finally gotten it’s shit together, has ventured out to the stars, because they’re there.

      I think you’re putting too much weight on the “having finally gotten its shit together” part. TOS almost never, and TNG rarely, depended on the United Federation of Planets being more culturally or politically advanced than the United States of America. Less overt racism and sexism and somehow we don’t destroy the world in a nuclear war with the Rooskies, but otherwise the crew of the NCC-1701 would have felt at home on CVN-65 and not that far off from CV-6. On TNG you’d sometimes have one of the crew make a sanctimonious speech about how they don’t care about money or status any more, or have to explain to Wesley Crusher why people in the bad old days were sometimes terrorists, but it rarely actually affected the plot and the crew continued to e.g. play poker like people who care about money.

      Mostly, it was about people not terribly different from contemporary American venturing out to the stars because that’s so awesome that you’re going to do it whether you’ve got your shit together or not.

      It said alright, if these people sincerely want peace, what happens when they meet someone who doesn’t?

      If I recall correctly, TOS explored what happens when the Organians wanted peace and met the Klingons who do not, what happens when the Federation sincerely wants peace and met the Romulans who do not, what happens when Edith Keeler sincerely wants peace meets the Nazis who do not, and for that matter what happens when Vaal and his people sincerely want peace and the crew of the Enterprise do not. Among others. So I’m not seeing the difference, except that the format of DS9 makes for an extended look at a few cultures rather than brief glimpses of many.

      “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before”

      This is the essence of Star Trek, and the measure of the best Star Trek. TOS defines it, and I can sometimes convince myself that TNG bettered it. With DS9, the clever bit where you stand in the crossroads and have the new life and new civilizations come to you is kind of neat, but it’s only good for third place.

      • cassander says:

        So I’m not seeing the difference, except that the format of DS9 makes for an extended look at a few cultures rather than brief glimpses of many.

        One, I think that distinction matters. you can’t do an extended examination of a planet of hats, because there’s nothing to examine, it’s just a schtick. Two, there’s also frequency that matters. DS9 did it a lot. TOS did it a few times, though I’ll admit, I’m not very familiar with TOS.

        >This is the essence of Star Trek, and the measure of the best Star Trek.

        By that definition, shouldn’t Voyager be the best Star Trek?

        • hlynkacg says:

          I’d say Voyager had the potential but bungled the execution.

        • Nornagest says:

          Voyager’s problem was that it couldn’t commit to its premise past the level of a shallow plot device. The Five-Year Mission was a plot device too, but TOS and TNG weren’t leaning on it for drama; Voyager actually asked us to care about how the crew of the Voyager was doing getting back home, and the show by its very formula couldn’t deliver on any meaningful gains or setbacks. Throw in the occasional negative space wedgie and even the least attentive viewer would figure out pretty quickly that they were being handed fake drama.

          Well, that was one of its problems. Arguably just as serious were that most of its characters were annoying (the Hologram Doctor was cool, though, and eventually Seven of Nine rose above the fanservice), and that its writers couldn’t think of any factions that were compelling on the level that the Klingons or the Romulans or the Bajorans or even the damn Betazeds had been.

        • cassander says:

          I agree with both of you. Voyager’s premise was excellent, but they never really took it seriously and were either unwilling or unable to commit to the serialization that was needed to really make full use of it. I like to point out that Nog on DS9 goes from partially illiterate ferengi kid to lieutenant in less time than Kim goes from ensign to….ensign.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Yeah, at the end of the day the primary difference comes down to the quality of the writing. Voyager is a fantastic premise with bungled execution; Deep Space Nine was a cheap attempt by the studio to rip off Babylon 5(*) that was elevated by great writing.

            (*) They literally handed the pitch document from Babylon 5 to Berman and Braga with Straczynski’s name blacked out and told them to develop a Star Trek show based on it.

          • pontifex says:

            (*) They literally handed the pitch document from Babylon 5 to Berman and Braga with Straczynski’s name blacked out and told them to develop a Star Trek show based on it.

            I *knew* it!

            TNG was the last true Trek.

          • James Miller says:

            Seven of Nine jumped the shark when she helped Obama become President.

        • Matt M says:

          The only thing Voyager got right was the video games. The two Elite Force games are probably the best Trek games I’ve played. Surprisingly good, in fact.

    • Loquat says:

      I always preferred DS9 because the presence of real story arcs gave the writers a lot more room to develop both individual characters and the major alien cultures. As much as I enjoyed Worf and the occasional Klingon-centered episodes on TNG, I feel like I got to know the Bajorans and the Cardassians a whole lot better.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Why TNG is the best:

      Captain Jean Luc Picard. He’s the best Captain(sorry Kirk fans), certainly the one who most exemplifies the Star Trek ethos, Patrick Stewart is by far the best actor on all the series and is just generally one of the most compelling characters on Star Trek. His defense of Data, his actions on Best of Both Worlds, his speech in “The Drumhead”, “There are four lights!”. It’s all some of the most best moments in tv. And he was definitely the most intellectual Captain, which really appeals to the nerd in me. Honestly, I think Picard by himself makes the show the best Star Trek but there are other reasons.

      Best of Both Worlds is just fantastic in general.
      Data
      Worf
      Q
      “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”
      Hugh
      Chain of Command
      Measure of a Man
      The Inner Light

      The problem with serialization is that the individual episodes don’t stick out as much and I don’t think I remember them as well as these. Deep Space 9 is a great show and probably my number 2 Star Trek but I just don’t think it holds a candle to TNG. I will say this for it though. Worf was great in TNG but he was so much better in Deep Space 9. They really fleshed out his character and turned him from a good character to one of the most compelling.

      • gbdub says:

        Oh god Q is awful. I tried to start rewatching TNG like two weeks ago. I forgot the pilot was 2 full hours of Q. And Wesley. Two of the most annoying characters in Sci Fi history, on the same damn show. Ugh. Haven’t been able to watch another episode, and I loved it as a kid.

        • toastengineer says:

          How ’bout that Okana, huh?

          But yeah, start watching at the part where Riker grows a beard. I suggest Chuck Sonnenburg’s Trek reviews (and pretty much everything he does actually.)

        • MrApophenia says:

          Q improves dramatically in later episodes. In the early season stuff like the Robin Hood episode he’s pretty insufferable, but they make Q much more interesting (and actually funny, instead cringe-inducing efforts at funny) in the later seasons.

        • Wrong Species says:

          That is one of the worst episodes in the worst season of the show, which probably tainted your opinion of him. I think his other appearances are a lot better. That’s one of the biggest problems with TNG, it’s first season was probably worse than any other Star Trek season.

          • gbdub says:

            Maybe I’m only remembering the bad episodes, but I recall not liking Q when I watched it the first time either, though that was 20+ years ago.

        • Deiseach says:

          I didn’t mind Q’s introduction, as the visual style made me think of a cross between Edith Sitwell and a Plantagenet king, but the over-use of him later did annoy me – Q’s character as a whole was too smarmy. Early TNG, until they developed the characters enough and had confidence in what they were doing, suffered from trying to both copy and be different from TOS; flat-out remaking episodes like “The Naked Time” as “The Naked Now” and dreadful characters like The Outrageous Okana (a cheap Harry Mudd/Cyrano Jones knock-off). But once they got happy with having Picard not be quite the same action captain as Kirk (they did indulge in that a little), and when everyone had fallen into place (making LaForge Chief Engineer and so on), it worked well. I still do wish they’d given Troi a proper uniform much earlier, but they didn’t quite know what to do with her (they didn’t want her confused with Spock over the same ‘half-human alien with telepathic powers’ template, so they over-did the ‘she’s an empath, she reads emotions not thoughts’ emotionality a bit and they really did go for the cheesecake with the outfits Marina Sirtis was poured into).

          DS9 really is great, and it benefited from having TNG going through all the teething difficulties first so by the time they got to making it, the timeline had been established, the new species and new events had been established, and it really was as easy as handing over the torch and letting them go.

          Voyager‘s problem was that they didn’t stick with the premise; they tried to do it honestly at the start but made it boring (the Kazon weren’t even a one-trick pony and there was entirely too much of them) so they more or less dropped that for the sake of “exploring new quadrant = more exciting”, only now and again remembering that they were supposed to be so strapped for supplies and energy (really, holodeck episodes? at the same time you are reduced back to Neelix physically cooking food grown aboard or dug up out of the ground on the planets visited, like cavemen?)

          And the favouritism for Paris over Kim was ludicrous – Harry starts and ends an Ensign, whereas Janeway pretty much promotes Paris at once to Lieutenant and Bridge officer, despite his convict past, and despite the stupid stunts he pulls in early episodes, and despite the cosmetic ‘busting him back to the ranks’ which is reversed later on. And it’s fairly clear this is all because of her massive crush on his dad, her former commanding officer, so it’s nepotism run amuck!

      • John Schilling says:

        I’m going to go with Big Bang Theory’s take(*) on this: TOS > TNG, but Picard > Kirk for all the reasons you cite. So kind of a wash. Also, for best results wait until Riker grows a beard, Troi puts on a uniform, and Wesley stops being the focus of every second episode.

        Voyager and Enterprise both had solid concepts and poor execution. I really, really wanted to like Enterprise. Wasn’t happening.

        * The trick question on Sheldon’s roommate application test

        • gbdub says:

          I can buy “TOS > TNG, but Picard > Kirk”

          The thing is, Picard is great, but the rest of the supporting cast of TNG is inferior to their TOS counterparts (even when the TNG characters are good!). Data vs. Spock? Mayyyyybe you could argue for too close to call. But I say the win goes to Spock, because it took 2 people to replace him (Data and Troi, and rank wise a bit of Riker).

          Geordi vs. Scotty? No contest. Bones McCoy vs. Dr. Crusher? Please. Kirk vs. Riker (who is the real Kirk counterpart) – Kirk all the way. Checkhov vs… Wesley I guess? HA. Worf doesn’t really have a counterpart, and he has his moments, though “Worf getting his ass kicked” is a trope, and not a good one. Is his overall impact better than Uhura (the TOS main cast member without a close TNG counterpart)?

          • John Schilling says:

            I would say that Troi replaces part of Spock and part of Bones from the original, and that when she puts on the uniform she holds up her end of that fairly well. And I’ll agree with Spock vs Data in the “too close to call, leaning Spock” category.

            But the two Crushers are quite weak, Bearded Riker really shines only to the extent that he serves as a counterpoint to Picard, and the rest are all sort of OK but unexceptional.

            Hmm, O’Brien vs Christine Chapel as the token non-command-staff (because somehow the doctor is always hanging around on the bridge) regular? I’ll give the win to O’Brian because we all know Majel Barrett was wasted in that role.

          • Nornagest says:

            Data is great, but he’s kind of a one-trick pony. Spock had more range.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’ll grant that individually, the characters were generally not as good as their TOS counterparts but they worked well as a team. You can see this clearly in the senior level staff briefings. Kirk generally just listened to Spock and Bones and then simply pulled a rabbit out of his hat to save the day. And the aliens were better on TNG. The Ferengi were terrible but there’s also the Borg, the improved Klingons and the Cardassians. TOS just had people that were a little weirder than humans. And of course the production values in general were low enough to be distracting. I can’t really blame them for that but it still makes it harder to watch.

      • Brad says:

        > Patrick Stewart is by far the best actor on all the series

        Hard to know who would even be number two. After having seen Kate Mulgrew in a very different role in OITNB I have a lot more respect for her talents as an actress, but I don’t think it really came across in Voyager.

        • cassander says:

          Andrew Robinson’s Garak is up there. As are Jeffery Combs’ multiple roles, but particularly his Weyouns.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’d probably go with Leonard Nimoy for #2, but being typecast as Spock made it difficult for him to prove it.

          And for all J.J. Abrams got wrong, I do give him credit for finding actors who could very convincingly portray younger versions of TOS’s Kirk. Spock, and McCoy. Even if he did chose to give us only the worst side of Kirk.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Robert Picardo as the Doctor is easily top 5. I think he would have my vote as number two.

          I agree with John that Spock is good but he was restricted.

          Colm Meaney as O’brien. I’m not sure if he was one of the best but it was very good.

          Agreed with cassander on Weyoun and Garak.

          What about Michael Dorn as Worf? Maybe I’m just mixing up the writing and the acting but he had these great mannerisms.

    • MrApophenia says:

      And as much as I liked BSG, it won’t ever work as Star Trek.

      It’s interesting to see this comment in the context of this post, given that Ron Moore was a pretty integral part of the really good part of the show during the era where the TNG-writers backed off and Moore and Ira Steven Behr made a real effort to add the sort of moral complexity you discuss.

      Also, Moore has been pretty up front that BSG itself actually started its life as his original plan for Voyager; the whole idea was to dump a Starfleet ship in unknown, hostile space without enough supplies or fuel to maintain their society, with a crew made up of political enemies who may work together to survive or try to backstab each other. When it became clear he wouldn’t actually be allowed to do that kind of show with Voyager, he rebooted BSG and did it there instead.

      • cassander says:

        Moore was great in TNG and DS9, I’d never argue otherwise. and BSG is an odd show. the average quality of the individual episodes is very high, the series as a whole feels disappointing.

        The writers strike is at least partly to blame for it, but I think part of the problem was Moore himself. His director commentaries are very interesting, particularly the one about the revelation of the final 5 cylons. His says explicitly inspiration for that was a vision of a scene of 5 people realizing that they were cylons. He fell in love with the scene and wrote himself to it, rather than building a broader narrative arc then filling it with scenes, and I think that approach is indicative of the rest of BSG, which has a ton of great moments, but is lacking in overall structure. Much was set up, but because there was no plan, it was either never paid off or did so in a way that was disappointing.

        • John Schilling says:

          I just finished rewatching the first two seasons, and that much of the show I think holds up quite well as an integrated whole as well as the individual episodes. After that, it falls apart as a whole though there are still some decent scenes and even episodes.

          But that’s been the way of things all the way back to “The X-Files”. If you say There Is A Plan when what you really mean is that you have a notion and you’re going to make the rest up as you go, you can probably make up a season or two of reasonably coherent plot before you go completely off the rails.

          • Thegnskald says:

            My impression of the modern BSG is that the writers kept changing the plan whenever the fans correctly guessed it.

            Because what you ended up with was unpredictable, it was also necessarily incoherent.

    • Urstoff says:

      Why Voyager is best:

      • Deiseach says:

        Hey, I liked Harry Kim and thought his character had potential for development, if they hadn’t used him as the butt of every joke!

        Tom Paris should either have been abandoned on some planet or turned into organic fertiliser for the hydroponic gardens. Chakotay could have been a lot better if he hadn’t been the token Mystic Tradition guy, badly hampered by being someone who didn’t particularly believe in those traditions and who always made the wrong command decision (Seska. Need I say more?) Chakotay as “Hey, I don’t believe all this hokey guff but you white-eyes eat it up so here, have a prayer wheel thingy drawing” would have been a lot meatier as a character.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I know it’s supposed to be the enlightened future and everything where everybody’s an atheist, but since I don’t see religion going anywhere any time soon I’d like to see Star Trek officers with some faith. I want a Catholic science officer, and maybe a Muslim at Ops who yells “Allahu akbar!!” when launching photon torpedoes at space infidels.

          • Matt M says:

            Not human, but Kira played a relatively good proxy for this during DS9. Particularly awkward given that her superior officer was also her version of Jesus, essentially.

          • Matt M says:

            Also Mass Effect: Andromeda has a (probably) Catholic science officer!

          • lvlln says:

            One of my favorite small moments in an 80s mecha anime called Gunbuster was at its climax when (IIRC) a spaceship captain and an officer are facing what seems like impossible odds against a bunch of space monsters, and something serendipitous happens to help them out, and the captain asks the officer if he believes in God. The officer responds No, and the captain says that he does, and he believes that God just helped them out in a major way to guarantee humanity’s survival.

            Nothing more is made of that, but I liked that the creators decided to put in people talking about religion – much like how people talk about it in the real world – into this mecha anime about humans fighting against monsters in space. One thing, though, is that Gunbuster took place sometime this decade, IIRC, so it’s not as if it implied that religion had survived into the far-flung future (rather, the high technology in Gunbuster was justified as humans stepping up in response to an existential threat in the form of space monsters).

            The sequel Diebuster which came out 2 decades later actually does a lot more with the concept of God, though its approach isn’t about traditional religions but rather about technological innovations leading to the creation of a God.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you actually recommend Mass Effect: Andromeda? I liked the first 3 but I saw all the screenshots of the derpy looking people in Andromeda and passed.

          • Matt M says:

            I loved Andromeda. Thought it was great. I think it was the victim of a well coordinated attack by trolls and haters.

            Any game that has tens of thousands of animations will have a few that are less than perfect. Such a pointless criticism. I never really noticed it in-game, or at least, not that it was any worse than any other game.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’d say a lot of the criticism of Andromeda wasn’t trolly, though. I’ve watched cinematic footage with zero commentary, and it still looks muddy and dated, as if it were developed with 2014 technology. In some cases, it looks even worse than ME3. And the characters’ facial expressions often look comically out of sync with what they’re saying, which reliably took me out of the moment.

            Reviews I was reading that didn’t look like mere haters were saying that practically all the footage was like this (with one notable exception – a love scene near the end done by a completely different animator).

            Given that the ME series stands primarily on its cinematics, this was enough for me to pass on it. (I might buy it on sale someday if there turn out to be a lot more player reviews like Matt’s saying “actually, I thought it was pretty good”.) This will be more likely if the gameplay was as good as or better than ME3’s (the first of the series that I actually found challenging).

          • Matt M says:

            All I can say is that was not my perception/experience. In terms of animation, facial expressions, etc. I didn’t consider it to be sub-par as compared to previous entries in the series, or other games in general.

            Except for Sarah Ryder being needlessly ugly. That one’s a bit inexcusable (although you can customize her to make her more normal looking)

          • Deiseach says:

            We have the Bajorans for that, Conrad 🙂

            Matt M, I thought Sisko was more their version of Moses, given that the Bajorans seemed to have religious rituals tilted towards Judaism (calling it “temple”, the memorial service Kira performed for Bareil which put me in mind of the Month’s Mind in Catholicism but plainly was meant to not be Christian, etc. Granted, the Kai is more like a kind of “Pope” but could equally well be seen as the Chief Rabbi).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Conrad_Honcho,

            Regarding ME: Andromeda, my lead-in question would be “Did you play Dragon Age: Inquisition, and if so what did you think of the basic formula?”. Because ME:A takes that formula and turns it up to twelve, for both better and worse.

            My take on it?

            I -wanted- to like ME:A, and I certainly sunk a lot of time into it, but I came away with a profound feeling that “Ehhh…it was kind of ok I guess”.

            It Has Crafting AND Equipment Customization!!…that ends up feeling like a grindy resource/time sink, and regresses us back to the era of Mass Effect 1 when all the weapons felt mostly the same and progress was measured by going from Generic Gun Mark 3 to Generic Gun Mark 5. In all fairness, it tries to offer you some of the distinct weapon design differences of ME 2 and 3, but I found that the balance was lacking, and the nature of the crafting and upgrade tree means that experimenting is penalized unless you’re a crazy completionist like me who wants to spend 20 extra hours grinding resources.

            It Has A New Combo System That Encourages You To Mix And Match Combat Abilities To Create Devastating Effects!!…that you’ll barely need to use except on the higher difficulty levels, and then find that you can’t use effectively because the squad controls that were a real highlight of ME 2 and 3 have been streamlined and simplified pretty much out of existence.

            Direct Your Own Tactical Teams, Dispatching Them On Missions That Change How The Game Plays Out!!…except that the feedback from them is a simple “Success!” or “Failure!”, with none of the narrative heft or tie-ins to the main game that the War Table had in Dragon Age: Inquisition. On top of that, the rewards are so anemic that without the narrative feedback it’s barely worth pursuing, especially since it’s heavily tied to the…

            Multiplayer mode!!…because what every PC RPG needs is multiplayer Horde Mode and Team Death Match with microtransactions.

            Before I go too far, I want to make it clear that on the whole I DID have enough fun with ME:A to finish it. It has some interesting ideas and interesting setpieces.

            Unfortunately, they are mostly executed poorly and haphazardly, and half-buried in the aimless bloat (of both narrative and gameplay) of a game that was obviously in terrible need of a coherent, guiding vision.

            ME:A tries to be all things to all audiences, and in the end it fails all those audiences. I could write a whole post on what’s wrong with the timeline of the game and the world-building they’re trying to set up, but I’ve already gone on long enough.

            Bottom Line: It’s worth picking up on sale IF you are a big Mass Effect / Open World RPG fan. Otherwise, it’s probably skippable. What’s wrong with the game is NOT the animations, though before the major patch there were some pretty cringe-worthy ones.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Sure, Harry Kim had potential. The Maquis crewmembers had potential, and then the Equinox crewmembers after that. Being limited to 38 photon torpedoes had potential.

          None of that potential was ever realized. Voyager was all about wasting its potential and playing it safe instead.

          • Deiseach says:

            I do think the problem was they tried to be realistic in the first season (cut off from everything, no spare power, no easy access to supplies, having to scrounge everything they could, being stuck in an unknown area of space with no allies) but the problem was they made it boring. They didn’t move Voyager out of Kazon space fast enough, and the Kazon simply were not an interesting culture as presented.

            So people were bored to tears with it, and naturally the producers/writers started relaxing things here and there (holodeck plots are always popular, so let’s allow Voyager to have a working holodeck even though we’ve already establishing they’re rationing replicator rations) and then they said “Ah, to hell with it” and gave us “exploration of the Delta Quadrant with Voyager able to fight any belligerents and go where it likes and oh yeah, we’ll throw in some means of contacting the Alpha Quadrant and knock lumps off that ‘sixty years to get home’ estimate”.

            The second problem was that they tended to latch onto a fan favourite character and give us episodes all about them and cram as many in as they could, which unbalanced things for the ensemble cast and for the plot arc, but that was not their flaw alone – TNG had Q, and Data, and even Lxwana; Voyager had first the Doctor and then Seven.

        • cassander says:

          the story of Paris’ character is a lot more interesting than the actual character. Apparently he was originally going to be the cadet from a TNG episode who had gotten Wesly crusher in trouble. Then found out that they’d have had to pay the original writers royalties for every episode he was in, so they shelved the idea and wrote up something similar but much blander.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, I remember that about Paris; they simply cut’n’pasted Cadet Locarno’s story for Paris. The idea of a disgraced former Starfleet cadet would have been interesting, except he stopped being disgraced about ten minutes into the pilot, since Janeway’s nepotism (the son of my BELOVED COMMANDING OFFICER WHO NURTURED AND MENTORED ME AND TREATED ME LIKE A FAVOURITE DAUGHTER *HEART EYES*) meant he was given a lot more favourable treatment than he should have been, and his origin story made him look like a loser: comes from a career military family with a remote, overbearing, pressuring father who gives him the mandatory daddy issues – honestly, between him, Riker and reboot Kirk, not to mention reboot and to an extent TOS Spock, is there anyone in Starfleet without daddy issues? – which gives us some sympathy for him; screws up when he eventually gets assigned to a ship and causes the death of three fellow officers; joins the Maquis more or less out of that rebelliousness against his father; screws that up too by getting caught and sent to jail – this being Federation jail, it looks like one of the low-security Club Fed types – and sells out his Maquis comrades in a heartbeat when Janeway dangles the chance of getting out of Vacation Resort Prison in front of him.

            (Poor Chatokay: between Paris being the rebel without a clue, B’Elanna more or less joining up because “it was either this or anger management lessons and this was cheaper”, Tuvok being a Federation spy and Seska – yeah, well, Seska – he was practically the only one in that cell who was a genuine Maquis genuinely believing in the cause. And yet somehow as commander of the ship, he never noticed all the spies and turncoats under his command – d’oh!)

            Set up as the rebel character on Voyager, doesn’t make a particularly convincing fist of this (I can’t blame the actor too much as Robert Duncan McNeill was a lot better when his character was finally allowed to grow up and act like an adult than a sulky teen still mad that daddy didn’t love him) and really gets treated way too generously for what his character is supposed to have done (yes, I’m still mad about Harry Kim being the diligent, obedient, non-treasonous officer who got no respect or promotion).

          • Randy M says:

            Tangent: Wasn’t the Maquis a Bajoran organization? How would a crew member on the far-flung voyager have anything to do with them? Or did they make it home at some point and cross over with the DS9 storyline?

          • Protagoras says:

            Maquis were frontier human colonists who went rogue when the Federation signed away their colonies in a peace treaty.

          • Loquat says:

            @Randy

            As I recall, the whole reason Voyager wound up so far from home to begin with was that they were in the middle of chasing a Maquis ship when suddenly a super-powerful alien teleported both ships across the galaxy. Both lost crewmembers in the process, and the Maquis ship wound up too damaged to be viable, so they decided to merge.

          • Deiseach says:

            How would a crew member on the far-flung voyager have anything to do with them?

            Okay, quick gallop through backstory: in a TNG episode there was a peace treaty between the Federation and the Cardassians about disputed border area which involved some former Federation planets being signed over to the Cardassian side and some former Cardassian planets to the Federation.

            Some of the Federation colonists very much objected to this, so Enterprise was sent to evict them and we got the Moral Dilemma Plot of the Week. What eventually happened was that a resistance movement, called the Maquis after the Earth group of that name, was set up and a lot of people drifted into it, including some Bajorans (because of the anti-Cardassian thing) and especially at least one Starfleet officer (this storyline was explored further in DS9).

            So when Voyager‘s pilot episode was shown, what we had was a Starfleet spy (Tuvok) in deep cover on a Maquis ship. He was Captain Janeway’s security chief, and when the Maquis ship goes missing, she wants to track him down. So she heads off to the prison where Tom Paris, disgraced ex-Starfleet junior officer and now former Maquis member, is being held and makes him an offer: she’ll take him aboard her ship to guide her to where the likely hide-out of the Maquis ship, based on his recent up-to-this-time knowledge, is likely to be and in return she’ll get his sentence reduced. Paris indignantly refuses out of principle and loyalty to his erstwhile comrades jumps at the chance to drop the dime on them, Voyager heads out to the last known position of the Maquis ship, and the whole “turns out we’ve all been transported to the Delta Quadrant” plotline kicks off.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Star Trek was lightning in a bottle. It took the collaboration of Gene Roddenberry, the Suits, and published SF writers to make it as good as it was.
      Roddenberry’s series bible was a killer frame for a space-based science fiction anthology. He loved and wanted to popularize a genre, middle-period SF (which I’ll define as from Gernsbeck until the fall of the short story market), whose biggest weakness was ciphers for characters. But he worked better in the Hollywood collaborative process than as an auteur. Watch the original pilot, where Spock hadn’t been developed and the doctor is so wan compared to Deforrest Kelly’s McCoy. The Suits told Roddenberry to fire his mistress and otherwise shake up the cast, and it was only at that point that the character dynamics clicked.

      By 1987, I think the community of SF short story writers had withered up, so TNG might not have been able to escape generic television writers. Meanwhile, Roddenberry’s brain had been eaten by fandom flattery and Marxism, leading to the one-two punch of preachiness and his author avatar Wesley Crusher.
      Star Trek went on to become a big commercial success on TV with “The Best of Both Worlds”, but Roddenberry’s Vision(TM) had become an albatross around the franchise’s neck. Whosoever got a job writing for Star Trek had to get around it to do anything with interpersonal drama.

      Deep Space 9 remains an outlier among the Trek shows because it was a spinoff, based on the Cardassian stuff TNG developed (as opposed to a sequel, prequel or “here’s a different Starfleet ship whose crew you’ve never seen before”), whose premise was sitting still to interact with aliens. That’s interesting and outside the TOS formula they’ve kept trying to re-bottle.

      • Wrong Species says:

        To be fair, they are trying something different with Discovery.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, but so far it seems to be “different in the wrong way”. “I want to see what Captain Psychopath does next” in a fan review is not precisely the kind of thing I want to hear!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Too much shooting aliens, too little moral dilemmas discussed around the conference table. The Orville is doing Star Trek better than Star Trek is right now.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Agreed. I’m still expecting Fox to fuck it up though.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think they pulled that off last night. A premise that would have been a good fit for classic Trek, and I even liked the resolution, but the dialogue in the second and third acts was so painfully bad that I had to go off and do something else for half an hour. It looked like they couldn’t decide, scene to scene, whether this was Star Trek Classic or Star Trek Parody and so did neither one well.

      • Matt M says:

        whose premise was sitting still to interact with aliens

        But much like Voyager, the premise was only honored when it suited them to do so (in the case of DS9 this was for the better, in the case of Voyager it was for the worse).

        One of the more common lines in all of DS9 is “Let’s go get a runabout/the Defiant (depend on what season you’re in)”

      • Urstoff says:

        As far as writers go, I think its more that the sci-fi short fiction was in a very different place in the 80s that didnt lend itself well to the types of stories that a Star Trek show would tell (indeed, by the time TOS was airing, SF was already moving on in a completely different direction than the 40s/50s SF feel TOS had). It is hard to imagine what a TNG episode written by Bruce Sterling, Connie Willis, or Robert Silverberg would be like.

  11. Jeremiah says:

    This seems like the perfect place for a soft launch of the Unofficial (though approved by Scott) SSC Podcast. For those, like me, who find it easier to consume audiobooks than physical books. Think of this as the audiobook version of SSC. All posts will be added going forward (and if there’s demand possibly some of the classics as well.) Currently it’s just the last four (not counting Open Thread 86 for obvious reasons):

    DIFFERENT WORLDS
    SSC SURVEY RESULTS ON TRUST
    IN FAVOR OF FUTURISM BEING ABOUT THE FUTURE
    SSC JOURNAL CLUB SEROTONIN RECEPTORS

    It’s in the process of being approved by iTunes, but if you can’t wait, here’s the rss feed:

    http://sscpodcast.libsyn.com/rss

    It will get more polished as time goes on. But beyond that feedback is welcome.

  12. BBA says:

    Meet the 2017 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” Fellows and then ask yourself where your life went so horribly wrong (or right) that you aren’t doing what they’re doing.

    Alas, none of 2016’s MacArthur Fellows worked on Dear Evan Hansen, thus breaking the streak of two consecutive Best Musical Tony winners by MacArthur grantees (Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, respectively). And none of the new bunch look like they’re destined for Broadway glory either. Sad, really.

    • willachandler says:

      The mathematical work of the new MacArthur Fellow Emmanuel Candès, regarding the feasibility (or not) of compressive sampling, is foundationally relevant to perennial SSC concerns that include: (1) the computational feasibility (or not) of efficient dynamical simulations of cognitive processes, (2) the physical infeasibility (or not) of experimentally demonstrating Quantum Supremacy, and (3) the cognitive capacity (or not) of hot/wet/biological minds to play Go comparably well to silicon minds.

      In these three domains at least, it’s evident that some SSC readers/commenters ARE pursuing MacArthur-relevant objectives.

      • j1000000 says:

        Among the recipients, Candes appears to be the only man from a western country working in a STEM field whose work is in no way given a social justice framing. I’m too dumb to understand it, but I’d imagine his work is pretty good. I mean, clearly all recipients are very bright and doing good work, but that seems pretty amazing.

      • willachandler says:

        “Candès appears to be the only man from a western country working in a STEM field whose work is in no way given a social justice framing.”

        Historically speaking, this separation holds only superficially (if indeed, it holds at all). As a concrete example, Spinoza’s Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect (circa 1661) sets forth Enlightened STEM-objectives as follows (lightly abridged):

        Whatever can be a means to his attaining it is called a true good; but the highest good (summum bonum) is to arrive — together with other individuals if possible — at the enjoyment of the union that the mind has with the whole of nature.

        This, then, is the end I aim at: to acquire such a nature, and to strive that many acquire it with me … To do this it is necessary, first, to understand as much of nature as suffices for acquiring such a nature; next, to form a society of the kind that is desirable, so that as many as possible may attain it as easily and surely as possible. Third, attention must be paid to Moral Philosophy and to Instruction concerning the education of children … fourthly, the whole Medicine must be worked out … Fifthly, Mechanics is in no way to be despised.

        Candès’ contribution to this Enlightened Spinozist agenda — an agenda that manifestly is both SSC/LW-compatible and SJW-compatible — is to strengthen the mathematical foundations for a coordinated SSC/LW/SJW worldview in which:

         •  the extended Church-Turing Thesis (ECT) is true (both formally and practically);
         •  concomitantly, demonstrating Quantum Supremacy is infeasible (both formally and practically);
         •  Spinoza’s “Mechanics” accordingly is computationally simulable and nondestructively observable (at all scales from atomic to organismic);
         •  thereby “the whole of Medicine can be worked out”, in precise accord with Spinoza’s presciently Enlightened vision of 1661.

        In summary, the domain and range of the modern-day SSC/LW/SJW vision encompasses the creative works of all of the 2017 MacArthur Fellows … this is why it won’t be simple or easy for alt.conservatives to “stem” the 21st century’s tide of Enlightened genius! 🙂

    • skef says:

      24 years since the most recent philosopher …

    • cassander says:

      I can’t stand overachievers who are younger than me. By the time Alexander the great was my age, he was already dead! How am I supposed to compete with that?

  13. onyomi says:

    Is there any systematic work on how people behave in groups of different sizes? I know the idea of “Dunbar’s number” (that 150ish was the size of a tribe in our evolutionary history, and that, no matter how many Facebook friends you have, you’re only really “friends” with a max of about 150 of them at any given time), but also thinking about smaller and larger groups.

    Libertarians tend to treat group behavior as nothing more than the sum of individual behaviors. And this may be helpful for eliminating some types of confusion. But we all know, for example, that a group dynamic changes qualitatively, in a non-scalar way, when it increase from say, 2 to 3 people or 5 to 7 people (I think it’s hard for more than 5 people to all participate in a single conversation at the same time) or 30 to 50 people (in a class of more than 50 students I give up trying to remember everyone’s name).

    This is relevant to my interests because I think a lot of problems today arise due to group sizes of various sorts (whether they be sizes of nation-states, universities, companies, etc.) having recently ballooned to completely unmanageable sizes. This could lead to the apparently widespread, but imo, incorrect perception that the world currently suffers from “overpopulation.” I don’t think it does, but people are recently forced to be parts of overly-large groups, like the millions of poor young Chinese people all competing for spots in the few, top universities of that massive nation-state.

    • willachandler says:

      USMC doctrine asserts a “ Rule of Three“:

      The Marines experimented with a Rule of Four and found that effectiveness plummeted.

      By this doctrine, the optimal depth of the “planetary org-chart” is ~20.

      • Aapje says:

        Good job on making a comment that is appropriate and short!

        More of this, please.

      • bean says:

        That’s not unique to the USMC. Typically, ground units have 3 subordinate maneuver units, along with support units, although square units (4 maneuver units) were used in the past. Attempts to go past 4 rarely work well, at least on land. It probably depends heavily on your command technology and the opponent you’re facing what the best solution is. I wouldn’t necessarily expect 3 to be optimal for an office environment just because it works well on the battlefield.

    • onyomi says:

      This also seems relevant to me because of what is apparently called the “lunchroom dynamic,” where you tend to get all the black students sitting together, all the white students sitting together, etc.

      I can testify that this happens even among the most enlightened, mature, Blue Tribe individuals: for example, at a large dinner of many Sinologists, somehow the white people seem to end up sitting together (somewhat less surprisingly, the Cantonese speaking Chinese also tend to sit together, the Mandarin speakers together, the Taiwanese, together, etc. as well). This all feels very unplanned and unintentional; it just happens.

      I find this relevant to the question of whether/how diversity works: it seems like you can have a very diverse small group and no one fractures into “the black people group,” “the Chinese people group,” etc. nor does anyone necessarily feel ill at ease or out of place. This seems also to work out if there is one clear majority group and a bunch of very small minorities. I can be one of only two white people at a party of all Asian people and I don’t especially find myself drawn to talk to the one other white person at the party just because he’s the other white person; if anything, I may be a bit reluctant to do so for fear of putting up a minor psychological “wall” between myself and the rest of the attendees. However, if there’s enough white people at the Asian-majority party to form a kind of cluster, I may find myself sucked into that group at a higher rate than chance.

      Similarly, some cities you get “the black neighborhood” and “the white neighborhood” and “the Hispanic neighborhood” despite government attempts to increase integration, and despite not many people actively disliking members of the other group or even consciously preferring members of their own group.

      My working theory is you can have a small enough group that no one group is obviously a majority or you can have one big majority with no one other group big enough to form an alternative. However, once you have two or more groups of adequate size that they can comfortably clump together, they will tend to do so, generally along the lines of differences they can easily see or hear, like race and language.

      If this is correct, it may also imply that diversity is easier to achieve and happily maintain at smaller scales, like Singapore, than larger, like the US. Then again, what works at a party may or may not work at the level of a city, what works at the level of a city may or may not work at the level of a moderate-sized state, etc. etc. I’m kind of wondering whether there’s any good way to catalogue or predict how group behaviors change at various scales.

      • Aapje says:

        Another way is to create a difference that is stronger than the differences that are race-related. Then you can have, for example, the working class white and black people at one table and the middle class white and black people at another table. Although this then breaks down again if the groups get big enough, and you’ll get white working class, black working class, white middle class and black middle class clumps.

        Perhaps the most enlightening is to look at what solutions nationalists chose, as they had this exact same problem and did reasonably well at solving it. Of course, the currently dominant ideology tends to reject nationalism-style solutions, confusing them for intolerance, when the actual intent was to produce large-scale solidarity.

        PS. It doesn’t make much sense to argue that Singapore is too small for racial segregation, as it is way above the size of a large dinner. Singapore has ethnic quotas for housing, suggesting that their success at mixing ethnic groups is at least partially due to social engineering, not size.

        • onyomi says:

          I mentioned Singapore in part because Philosophisticat, who lives there, I believe, has previously cited it as an example of doing diversity “right,” so to speak, and I wondered, insofar as that’s correct, whether it isn’t at least partly because of its size that it’s possible.

          On the other hand, one can take the example of Singapore two different ways: either that diversity is at least, not incompatible with peace and prosperity, since Singapore is peaceful and prosperous or, on the other hand, that it’s not natural, because, even in a small geographic area, people will split up along racial and ethnic lines if you don’t actively try to stop them.

          • Aapje says:

            Tribal behavior seems to be an inherent trait of humans and a very effective way to unite a diverse group of people is to make them hostile to another group of people. One way to deal with it is to make it positive, rather than negative (‘We Americans have the American Dream, so we are way better than everyone else’), although even seeking tolerance as a goal is not a guarantee that it doesn’t become negative (‘We are super-tolerant and anti-racist & sexist, unlike white men’).

            Another way is to channel it into sports or other rivalries with little consequence.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            To be clear, I’ve never claimed that Singapore does diversity “right”. I don’t have a view on that. It is a counterexample to various claims about what is or isn’t possible in ethnically homogeneous vs. heterogenous societies.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Has there been any theory developed about how people would behave differently if there were a lot more of them?

      Since theory is fun, we could loosen earthly resource limits. Suppose you’ve got a trillion ems– they’ve got some energy limits, but if they’re organizing themselves, what might the structures look like?

      • Baeraad says:

        I would be very surprised if there were any differences whatsoever. After a certain point, the human mind just stops grasping the difference between one big number and another big number.

        • lvlln says:

          Completely off-topic, but this reminds me of when I learned about Graham’s Number. As someone who studied a lot of math and number theory (undergrad level, at least), I thought I had an intuitive grasp of numbers and infinite, but Graham’s Number put things more into perspective for me, in realizing that this number, which is so large that if you could write 1 digit on each proton/neutron/electron, you couldn’t write the number of digits its number of digits has in the observable universe, is basically indistinguishable from zero when you compare it to aleph_0.

          Obvious with any basic understanding of numbers, but seeing it with a concrete example so stark left an impression on me.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          If you’ve got that many people, they will organize themselves somehow. Part of the problem, assuming their minds are like ours, is making the complexity at least somewhat manageable.

  14. Well... says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot today about algorithmic bias. Specifically about the issues raised by the tech journalists who cover it. A common implicit call to action of that journalism is that tech companies need to hire more women and nonwhite and other minority programmers, who will lend their diverse perspectives and suggest that algorithms take input data from different datasets and/or process the data in different ways that the straight white male programmers wouldn’t have thought of because straight white male programmers are too busy having privilege and stuff.

    Has this been tried? Has a very diverse group of programmers gotten together and written an algorithm that could be compared and contrasted with one written by mainly straight white guys?

    What happens if the straight white guy programmers are carefully chosen to have a lot of intellectual diversity but they’re all still straight white guys? Does the effect (the difference in outcomes between their algorithm and the Diverse Team’s) diminish?

    It seems like there’s an interesting paper waiting to be written there if it hasn’t been already. Could either be crushing or very validating for tech journalists.

    • toastengineer says:

      They’d either ignore it completely or pick out the one part of it they think they can understand well enough to call it racist. They’re professing, you can’t disprove profession because it isn’t a belief. They’re just saying what they’re expected to say.

      Still, computers using race as (or proxies for race) a factor in decisions… creeps me out. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

      • Well... says:

        They’d either ignore it completely or pick out the one part of it they think they can understand well enough to call it racist.

        Yeah, that’s probably true. Still, I wish somebody would do this experiment and publish on it.

        Still, computers using race as (or proxies for race) a factor in decisions… creeps me out. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

        Same here. That’s why I wish the coverage of this issue was better, and less infested with the same dumb political conversations people are having on Twitter.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Still, computers using race as (or proxies for race) a factor in decisions… creeps me out. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

        They’re not doing that. If you don’t tell a computer about race, they don’t use it. The idea of a human using a “proxy for race” is something like “Aha, this dude’s from Compton, so he’s probably black (which I’m not allowed to know), and ‘everyone knows’ black people have a high default rate, so I’m turning him down or bumping up his interest rate”.

        The computer won’t and can’t do that. It may know that people from Compton have a high default rate, but it has no idea about ‘black’.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          But it’s still a proxy for race (actually Latinos make up 65% of Compton now. It’s essentially being ethnically cleansed). So if your loan acceptance algorithm looks at zip code instead of race and accepts more loans from the zip code where lots of white people live and not the zip code where lots of black people live that’s what “proxy for race” means.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            That’s a reasonable academic definition for “proxy”.

            I think the more usual interpretation of “proxy for race” is “we can’t be openly racist any more, but we still really want to be racist, so we’re deliberately going to look for something innocuous-sounding that still discriminates”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Right, I’m using proxy as meaning “I’d really like to make the decision based on criteria R, but I don’t have the data so I’ll make it based on criteria L which is correlated to criteria R.” Just declaring that everything which results in disparate impact is a “proxy” is fixing the outcome.

            Suppose I had Algorithm T, which uses precognition to determine perfectly the person’s payment habits and approves/denies and/or sets interest rates to achieve exactly the same profit per loan dollar from each person. And suppose further that this approves more loans and gives lower interest to white people. In some sense you could say it’s using loan repayment as a proxy for race, but that’s not really a useful sense of the word.

          • It seems to me that you have it backwards.

            If you want to loan money to people who will pay it back but you don’t have decent information on individual financial histories, you might use race as a proxy, assuming you do know that different races have different rates of default. But if all you have is zip codes and what you want is to lend to people who won’t default, you aren’t using zip codes as a proxy for race, you are using zip codes as a proxy for not defaulting.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But when basically everyone is well aware that neighborhoods tend to be racially segregated one finds it hard to believe you’re not designing the algorithm with race as an input.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Some people are going to believe the algorithm is using race regardless. But theoretically I could develop this algorithm as a neural net, flat-start it (that is, set it up so everyone gets the same results), then train it on actual data (chosen by random sample from my history of defaulting and non-defaulting borrowers) which does not include race. It can’t be using a proxy for race because it never had the information, but it could still give disparate impact if race really is correlated with default.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And eventually your neural net will identify an awful lot of characteristics that serve as proxies for race. Ultimately, as you said, loan repayment as a proxy for race.

            I think this is essentially unavoidable because reality is racist.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Ok, someone with a stats background: “correlated with” != “proxy for”, right? Because my current understanding is that conflating them is to muddy the waters.

          • Thegnskald says:

            A proxy is a variable correlated with another (unobserved) variable; the observed variable is a proxy for the unobserved variable.

            So the usage is roughly correct.

          • And eventually your neural net will identify an awful lot of characteristics that serve as proxies for race. Ultimately, as you said, loan repayment as a proxy for race.

            No. Past loan repayment is a proxy for probability of future loan default.

            If you have good data on past loan default it is a better proxy than race would be. If you used data on past loan default by zip code as a proxy for race and then used race as a proxy for probability of future default you would do worse, because you would be throwing away useful data.

    • Aapje says:

      @Well

      These algorithms tend to use race/gender/etc as a factor or make decisions that are on average different for races/gender/etc because of actual differences in behaviors that correlate with race/gender/etc. In other words, they are ‘racist/sexist’ or result in disparate impact because it makes them more correct than if they wouldn’t.

      So a ‘diverse’ group of programmers (like one with 34% Asians*) that create an equally optimal algorithm will have the same issues.

      Of course, one could choose to create a sub-optimal algorithm by eliminating race as an input or measurements that correlate with race. However, this is also rather discriminatory in that the measurements you do use are no less a group-level trait than the ones you refuse to use. So you ‘punish’ some groups for their group-level traits, but not other groups.

      For example, let’s say that you sell yearly subscriptions of shampoo and vary the price of your offers to the amount of shampoo that people use. You find out that your machine learning algorithm asks a higher price of male Sikhs and hipsters (presumably because they often have beards and thus use more shampoo on average). Now if you change the algorithm to no longer offer a higher price to Sikhs, the effect is that you declare it unfair to make Sikhs pay for their higher propensity to sport a beard, but not unfair for make hipsters pay more for their higher propensity to sport a beard. How is that fair? And how did this change reduce racial discrimination, when in both cases the actual reason to ask a higher price has nothing to do with an immutable trait, but with culture? So was there actually even racial discrimination in the first place?

      Isn’t it weird to not hold people accountable for their behavior if they get a lot of people of the same race/gender/etc to do the same (and thus align their culture with race/gender/etc); but to consider it quite valid to hold people accountable when their choices are copied by a diverse set of people? Doesn’t that just incentivize people to build up racially/gendered/etc cultures, since those get treated a lot better than other cultures?

      * Like at Google.

      • Saint Fiasco says:

        In other words, they are ‘racist/sexist’ or result in disparate impact because it makes them more correct than if they wouldn’t

        They are more correct but are they the most correct? They might be stuck in local maxima.

        For example a local maximum if you want to lend money to trustworthy people is that you should lend to highly educated upper class white people. But that leaves money on the table because a lot of trustworthy people are black, or lower class, or don’t have good formal education. Therefore nowadays they use a more sophisticated system of credit scores that take a lot more information into account.

        Notice there is a tradeoff here. If an algorithm makes a decision about you based on complicated calculation that takes into account things like your job, your income, where you live, who your friends are, what school you went as a child, your past behavior, your social network profiles, your criminal history and so on, people get creeped out because of the privacy implications. But if the algorithm respects your privacy and uses only information that is already obvious and public anyway, like your race and gender, that makes people angry too.

        In your example, if the algorithm can include length of facial hair directly in the inputs, it doesn’t need to know if you are hipster or Sikh, it can just use your facial hair length directly. But then the shampoo company would have to know the faces of their customers, and the customers might not like that.

        • Aapje says:

          I agree that it is fairer to use length of facial hair directly. However, that still results in disparate racial impact and thus will get objected to by ‘anti-racists’.

          Loads of people fundamentally reject the idea that race/gender/etc may align with choices/culture. However, these same people tend to accept that it is fair to hold people accountable for their choices. Because the facts don’t align with these beliefs, you get irrational positions, where people support algorithms that reward or punish choices that people make, but reject disparate racial/gender/etc impact. However, support for the first will result in the second.

          Furthermore, these people tend to not even be consistent in their denial of reality, accepting disparate racial impact against whites, disparate gender impact against men, etc. So they are actually being racist and sexist, while the programmers that they blame for being racist and sexist, are actually holding people to account for their choices neutrally and pretty consistently find that their (machine learning) algorithms pick up on race or proxies for race automatically, because reality is what it is.

          An argument can be made to sometimes tweak algorithms, for instance to break loops (where the outcomes of the algorithms make people behave in ways that reinforce the outcomes of the algorithms). However, such social engineering cannot be successfully undertaken by those who reject facts and rational thinking.

          Finally, I want to point out that the problem of using poor inputs is not just limited to whatever group the zeitgeist cares about. Merely caring about fairness to some is unfair to those that the people of today don’t care too much about. So IMO, the goal should be fairer/better algorithms for all, not just for those who have the sympathy of those in power.

          • Matt M says:

            Loads of people fundamentally reject the idea that race/gender/etc may align with choices/culture. However, these same people tend to accept that it is fair to hold people accountable for their choices.

            I think this is true, but also that among these people, A always over-rides B. Meaning that if they are forced to choose between admitting that race correlates with choices and failing to hold someone accountable for a bad choice, they’re going to fail to hold accountable every time.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            their (machine learning) algorithms pick up on race or proxies for race automatically, because reality is what it is.

            Hold on, that makes it sound like facial hair is a proxy for being Sikh and bad financial decisions are a proxy for being black. Isn’t it more likely that it’s the other way around? The algorithm uses skin color not because it’s a better signal than financial history, but because financial history is hard to get and skin color is a cheap proxy. Skin color gives less information but is much more obvious.

            What the outgroup believes is that not using race will make the algorithm both less racist and also more accurate, because the programmers will be forced to give their algorithm better information. They think the programmers are lazy for not providing that information, just like racists are lazy for judging a person by skin color instead of actually getting to know the person.

            The privacy implications of an algorithm “getting to know” someone at that level will probably only sink in after it’s too late. People can’t think two steps ahead when they are mindkilled.

      • Baeraad says:

        Isn’t it weird to not hold people accountable for their behavior if they get a lot of people of the same race/gender/etc to do the same (and thus align their culture with race/gender/etc); but to consider it quite valid to hold people accountable when their choices are copied by a diverse set of people?

        That depends. If your behaviour is one closely correlates with that of a group you were born into, then your choices are strongly affected by your upbringing (at the very least) or your very biology (in some cases) – either way, it can reasonably be argued that you’re not just engaging in that behaviour out of sheer perversity but that you have an ingrained habit towards it that you originally had imposed on you rather than choosing to take it up.

        To use your example, Sikhs are generally born into Sikhism and internalise from an early age the idea that a beard is something a man ought to have. Sure, they could shake that idea as adults, but it’s a simple fact that people don’t generally do that – most of us are most comfortable remaining whatever we started out being. Treating that sort of comfort as something people are entitled to and ought not be punished for the particulars of, within limits, is not an unreasonable social policy.

        Doesn’t that just incentivize people to build up racially/gendered/etc cultures, since those get treated a lot better than other cultures?

        Possibly. Is that such a bad thing? A bit of collective identity is good for one’s sense of well-being.

        • Aapje says:

          it can reasonably be argued that you’re not just engaging in that behaviour out of sheer perversity but that you have an ingrained habit towards it that you originally had imposed on you rather than choosing to take it up.

          I think that our fundamental disagreement stems from you seeing this in very moralistic terms, which I think is completely the wrong way to look at this issue and blinds you to the full scope of the issue.

          To use your example, Sikhs are generally born into Sikhism and internalise from an early age the idea that a beard is something a man ought to have. Treating that sort of comfort as something people are entitled to and ought not be punished for the particulars of, within limits, is not an unreasonable social policy.

          These algorithms don’t punish people in the sense that they fine people for breaking rules, but rather, they hold people accountable for the costs that their behavior imposes on other. This is no more punishment than if I have to pay more if I order an bottle of wine than the person who orders a glass of wine.

          Do you believe that person A is entitled to impose greater costs on others than person B, without person A then also having to pay greater compensation to those that he imposes upon than person B?

          Secondly, I object to your implied claim that only people with immutable traits are subject to internalization. People who are raised by hipster parents probably internalize the idea that a beard maketh the (hipster) man much more than people not raised by hipsters. Why would the Sikh deserve the comfort of not having to face the consequences of the behavior that results from internalized ideas, while the hipster does not? Why does Sikh culture deserve this special consideration, while hipster culture doesn’t?

          Is that such a bad thing? A bit of collective identity is good for one’s sense of well-being.

          I prefer to not have collective identities aligned with race/gender/etc, because that tends to result in racial/gendered/etc enforcement of social norms.

          If culture is not strongly linked to immutable traits, people are more free to change/switch culture. A hipster can sell his fixie, shave his beard and stop wearing hipster chic to escape stereotyping and the enforcement of the norms of hipster culture, while a person not born into hipsterdom can adopt those trappings to be consider a hipster by others. It’s a lot more difficult to change race or gender.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          That depends. If your behaviour is one closely correlates with that of a group you were born into, then your choices are strongly affected by your upbringing (at the very least) or your very biology (in some cases) – either way, it can reasonably be argued that you’re not just engaging in that behaviour out of sheer perversity but that you have an ingrained habit towards it that you originally had imposed on you rather than choosing to take it up.

          So, affluenza?

        • Thegnskald says:

          These algorithms don’t punish people in the sense that they fine people for breaking rules, but rather, they hold people accountable for the costs that their behavior imposes on other.

          Technically, they hold people accountable for the costs people in their group – however we define the group – impose on others, which is the problem people object to.

          So if hipsters have a poor repayment history, and we use the beard group identifier, Sikhs get punished for it regardless of their own behavior. And a hipster who would repay a debt gets punished for the behavior of others in his group.

          [Edited to use blockquote instead of code]

        • Treating that sort of comfort as something people are entitled to and ought not be punished for the particulars of, within limits, is not an unreasonable social policy.

          I’m bothered by your word “punished.” You punish people for something either because you think they deserve punishment or because you want to deter that something. But not all adverse outcomes fit that pattern.

          For one obvious example, men have, on average, shorter life expectancies than women. Does that mean they are being punished for being male? I don’t think so, unless one assumes that God set things up that way deliberately as a punishment, perhaps for Adam’s sin.

          Suppose I am born with some serious medical condition that will badly handicap me unless other people spend a great deal of time and money fixing it. Very likely they don’t, and I end up handicapped. Is someone punishing me by declining to make sacrifices on my behalf?

          Now come to the Sikhs. I will suppose that, because they wear beards, they spend less on razor blades than non-Sikhs. Are the rest of us being punished for not being Sikhs?

          Perhaps I am misreading you, but the way you use “punish” seems to imply that all bad outcomes for people are deliberately chosen by other people and that those other people are then responsible for those outcomes.

        • Aapje says:

          @Thegnskald

          Correct, people who are similar by some metrics to people who have certain behavior can get treated the same.

          The issue is not that people object to this. The issue is that people blame this on discrimination by those who make the algorithms (and usually only care about this when it impact the groups they feel sorry for), while the actual issue is a data quality issue. So the activists try to replace these programmers with other people who supposedly have different biases, but these new programmers operate under the same constraints as the earlier ones. If they still only have a database with zip codes, their ‘black’ machine learning algorithm will use that same data and have the same outcomes as the ‘white/Indian’ machine learning algorithm

          This is similar how replacing white cops with black cops doesn’t necessarily do very much when those black cops operate under the same constraints as the white cops.

    • The Nybbler says:

      In the white corner, sponsored by Peter Thiel, we have Jeff Dean, Qi Lu, Brian Kernighan, Linus Torvalds, Donald Knuth, Amit Singhal, Esko Ukkonen, Bjarne Stroustrup, and Robert Tarjan.

      In the multicolored corner, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Diversity Coalition, we have Brianna Wu, Erica Joy, Kelly Ellis, Tim Chevalier, Zoe “LW1”, Shanley Kane, Julie Anne Horvath, and Susan J Fowler.

      I think it’s clear what the results would be.

      Both teams would fight among themselves and produce nothing of value.

      (Also I don’t know if all the men I’ve picked are actually straight. Some are Asian, but this is Silicon Valley rules. _The Advocate_ claims Thiel has the wrong politics to be gay so I think I’m on solid ground claiming him as a sponsor of team straight white male)

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        I would pay $10000 to have a long dinner conversation with that first group.

        I would pay $10000 to not be required to do so with the the second group.

        • rlms says:

          I also enjoy expressing my dislike of my outgroup.

          • Randy M says:

            But you aren’t a rationalist if you don’t do it with numbers!

          • toastengineer says:

            Not as much as I enjoy expressing my love of the ingroup.

            But seriously: the people in the first group are mostly genuine geniuses, many of whom are actual heroes to us computer folks. A couple of the people in the second group are genuinely deeply awful people and\or a reputation for really nasty public behavior.

    • Jiro says:

      The answer to that question is “consider what already happens with Asian programmers”.

  15. bean says:

    I’ve been considering setting up Naval Gazing as its own blog, and I think the time has finally come to do so. I want to do things I can’t here (edit old posts and include pictures, most prominently) and I’ve de-risked it in terms of getting an audience and not having the work ethic to actually post. But I also have basically no experience with the technical side of running a blog, so I thought I’d turn here for advice. I’m not after anything fancy, and either wordpress or blogspot would probably work well.

    • dodrian says:

      Are you planning on hosting it yourself, or taking a subdomain at wordpress.com/blogspot.com?

      I’ve set up a number of self-hosted wordpress sites, they’re great in that once they’re set up they’re pretty much maintenance free. They even automatically apply the latest security updates, so you don’t have to worry about that. You choose a name and a theme and that’s pretty much it. There are good plugins for most common things you’d want (comment spam detection, site statistics, etc) which are one-click installs, and if you know a little CSS it’s possible to tweak most themes to your liking. The workflow is easy enough that once I had set up the site even my completely technically-illiterate father was able to manage editing pages and writing new posts.

      It might also be worth checking out Medium, especially if you’re not planning on hosting on your own domain. That seems to be the cool blogging platform at the moment.

      • bean says:

        I’m open either way, but based on what you say I’m leaning towards hosting it myself on wordpress. Space is cheap, and it lets me do what I want.

        I looked at Medium, and I’m going to say no for what are basically style reasons. It’s not my kind of place.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Hi bean,

      I’ve been running, for a bit of time now, my own little experiment in customized site hosting:

      https://wiki.obormot.net/

      Several people have taken me up on offers to host wikis for them as part of OborWiki (and I host my own blog there, as well), and they’re happy with the results (or so they say ;). I’d be happy to host your blog there, as well. The way it works is, I handle the technical (server admin, configuration, etc.) part, and you get full control (i.e. wiki / blog admin) of running the site.

      There are no ads, of course, and I’ve got a growing list of features that no commercial service can offer you. I think your posts are pretty cool, so if this helps you get them to a wider audience, I’d love to help. Let me know if you’re interested.

    • orihara says:

      I suggest having a domain name associated with the blog fairly early. It’s one of those decisions that is difficult to undo latter (because everyone has bookmarks to the old site). It’s especially so if the old site name is no longer under your control when you’re forced to switch.

      Alternate idea to wordpress is the static site: github pages is one of the better known ones. Advantage is that everything is hard baked in when you make a post. So there are no issues with people hacking it (or at least, nothing in the website code they can hack). Downside is commenting is more annoying: you have to use someone else’s commenting engine, like Disqus.

      • bean says:

        Alternate idea to wordpress is the static site: github pages is one of the better known ones. Advantage is that everything is hard baked in when you make a post. So there are no issues with people hacking it (or at least, nothing in the website code they can hack). Downside is commenting is more annoying: you have to use someone else’s commenting engine, like Disqus.

        That’s not really a plus in my view, if I understand what you’re saying right. One of the things I least like here is that I can’t edit after an hour. My nitpickers commenters often notice things I missed in the initial pass, and I can’t fix them.

        • orihara says:

          You’re not understanding what I’m saying right: Any change to the blog pushes a new version of the site out. This is not just new posts, but edits to existing posts. All you do is (in the example of GH pages), make your change to your local copy, and push to the repository. That triggers a rebuild, and any required files end up getting changed (RSS feed, etc).

      • pontifex says:

        Yes, you definitely should buy your own domain name (that thing what goes in the URL bar). It should be less than $10 a year at some place like Namescheap. Then, if you don’t like the service that WordPress (or whoever) is providing you with, you just switch the domain to point to someone’s else’s service. You’re not locked in.

  16. AutisticThinker says:

    Autistan

    Is it possible to start a viable society where autistic norms prevail? It does not have to be on this planet.

    Autistan does not have to be exclusively autistic. Instead nerds, social dissidents and eccentrics who aren’t actually autistic should also be able to find refuge there. However its norms must not be allowed to evolve to be less autistic.

    Bugmaster said in this thread that normies who don’t care about facts (or basically almost every single non-essential issue other than social stuff) can easily masquerade as productive fact-oriented people aka nerds and then gradually subvert and take over anything good nerds produce. In fact this is what happened to softwares and the internet.

    Now here is the issue of how to stop this process. For anything to be sufficiently rational and great we need to somehow prevent most normies from getting close to it to prevent normalization (and inevitable corruption) of anything great nerds invented. For example normies can use the phrase “beliefs need to pay rent” without actually caring about it because they just want to signal intelligence or something. When enough normies use the phrase for a normie purpose instead of its intended rationalist purpose the phrase will be hijacked. Of course we should still sell some normalized services to normies so that we rational folks earn money. Earning money from normies through whatever legal means is good because it strengthens us. However we do need to hide some stuff from normies. They may pervert what we enjoy. They (Nazis, ISIS and any other irrational conformism-enforcing or morality-promoting entity) may have their usual moral outrages (in the case of Nazis it is whenever someone says something sane and rational about Jews such as ZOG being fictional and in the case of ISIS it is whenever someone does not accept its doctrines) whenever we actually think of something independently that societies are too irrational or hypocritical to accept and use mobs against us when they don’t have facts on their side.

    When can we have our Autistan where the persecution of nerds and autists is finally stopped?

    • AutisticThinker says:

      I think this should be tried as a part of Scott’s Archipelago idea.

      I think it should be clear what I want for Autistan:
      1.STEM, philosophy and rationality.
      2.High income, good infrastructure and lots of production.
      3.Free flow of information and zero censorship on the grounds of promoting rationality and STEM.
      4.No culture wars or other forms of moral pseudo-arguments on the grounds of their irrationality.
      5.Absolute individualism. Live and let live. No moral brainwashing allowed.
      6.No de-autistication of Autistan. We want to talk about facts, not moralize or be obsessed with social status.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        3 and 4 seem like a contradiction: you can’t censor anyone, but you also can’t say certain things. And 6 seems problematic too, anything that can be labeled as “de-autisticating” the country is forbidden.

        This leads to a pretty strong incentive to build arguments for why speech you don’t like is “de-autisticating” the country. Especially with the phrasing of 6: if something is incorrect, well then surely promoting it is moving away from using facts, and destroying the unique character of Autistan, and that should be forbidden. So… no speech that the people in power believe is incorrect (or are willing to say is incorrect). Oops, you’ve just gone Orwellian.

        If you have a recipe for 2, I’m sure a lot of countries would like to hear it. Because as we’ve said before, this is inevitably going to result in smart people needing to work in the mines and waste their intellect so that other smart people can accomplish things, and this isn’t something that seems like it’s going to be meekly accepted.

        • AutisticThinker says:

          Culture wars are bad for the same reason why racial slurs aren’t allowed on my site. No it’s not about people getting offended. Instead it’s due to the fact that these stuff tend to promote irrationality. My free speech is about free rational speech. Immoral speech should be protected while irrational speech should not.

          De-autistication is a serious concern. Normies may knowingly or unknowingly subvert Autistan if no fight against de-autistication occur.

          Promotion of factually correct ideas is good for Autistan. We should only care about the actual factual accuracy of statements but not whether they are liked by normies. Autistan should be a refuge from normies and normalization. Hence it should be so alien to normies that even North Korea and ISIS make more sense to them compared to Autistan and we shouldn’t give a shit about normie moral and social screams. Normies already have the world outside Autistan and hence there is no reason why we have to accommodate them inside it. Once there are enough normies they will naturally subvert Autistan through deceit and complete disregard for facts. For example they can pretend to care about facts even more than real autists and nerds. Then when there is a normie majority they will subvert everything. This is how normies manage to corrupt nerd achievements.

          The idea that facts are whatever powerful people claim to be facts is non-autistic. We can largely get rid of it in Autistan through education. Leaders have to talk about facts and be factually accurate as well. In fact they need to care about that even more than the average Autistani because Autistanis will document and analyze leaders’ speeches for factual inaccuracies.

        • Aapje says:

          @moonfirestorm

          I don’t think that you can equate autism with ‘smart,’ especially when some autistic subgroups have reduced IQs.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Agreed, my apologies.

            I was thinking back to an earlier discussion where Autistic Thinker’s autistic utopia was heavily based on “autists are more rational, so they’ll all be focused on tech and science stuff, thus everything will go better”.

            I’m not positive they’re not making the same mistake again, but I shouldn’t have equivocated between the two so casually.

          • AutisticThinker says:

            @Aapje Autistan should not discriminate against people based on IQ.

            I believe that STEM and rationality are good for everyone. Not everyone can be an Einstein, Grothendieck or Zuckerburg but learning some STEM and rationality certainly helps. In this diverse world we must not only refine rationality in academia but should also spread it and its wonderful fruits in the poorest villages in Africa so that nobody feels that we are letting them down.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Not everyone can be an Einstein, Grothendieck or Zuckerburg

            ~One of these things is not like the others
            One of these things just doesn’t belong~

          • AutisticThinker says:

            @Gobbobobble Autistan needs scientists. However it also needs entrepreneurs. Imagine an Autistani Silicon Valley. That would be awesome.

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t Silicon Valley already more or less Autistani Valley?

            😛

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Aapje

            Depends on if sociopaths count as autistic 😛

        • Deiseach says:

          this is inevitably going to result in smart people needing to work in the mines and waste their intellect so that other smart people can accomplish things

          I rather get the impression AutisticThinker imagines “Oh, our smart people will invent robots to do things like mine work and dirty, heavy, manual labour because we will all be smart and rational and STEM workers and can just solve problems by being smart and rational and STEM”.

          Actually, the more I think about it, the more Autistan sounds like Australia from Team Fortress 2:

          Every one of mankind’s innovations now comes from the lager-pickled brain of an Australian. Because of this.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I rather get the impression AutisticThinker imagines “Oh, our smart people will invent robots to do things like mine work and dirty, heavy, manual labour

            Autibots, roll out!

          • Deiseach says:

            Autibots, roll out!

            And then Autistan gets wiped out in the ensuing robot civil war?

          • AutisticThinker says:

            @Paul Brinkley
            Autibots are indeed needed. However it is not because autists don’t have a working class. Instead it is because many autists don’t enjoy work related to nurturing. Furthermore Autistan needs a lot of sexbots.

          • johan_larson says:

            What? Nobody bothered to bring an inexhaustible labor force of robots???
            What’s the plan now, genius?
            We’re all gonna have to TILL THE SOIL!!!!

            Bob the Angry Flower

          • AutisticThinker says:

            @johan_larson
            Tilling the soil is honorable and important. Why can’t Autistan have farmers? Farming isn’t boring unlike nurturing humans which really need to be left to robots.

          • Nornagest says:

            …have you ever done farm work? I don’t deny there are fun, engaging parts to it (as there are to nursing, I imagine, though I haven’t done that), but some parts of it are incredibly boring.

          • johan_larson says:

            I’m just wondering how a population known for being picky and sensitive about innocuous things like clothing is going to deal with tons and tons of pig shit.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest & AutisticThinker

            I think that both of you are making the mistake of thinking that ‘boring’ is objective.

            For highly systematizing/autistic people, things can be very engaging that are highly boring to more people oriented/non-autistic people & vice versa.

          • Aapje says:

            @johan_larson

            Become vegans. Duh.

          • Randy M says:

            nurturing humans which really need to be left to robots.

            … pity the non-autist born in your dystopia.
            Well rather pity them all, I suspect.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Non-autists will be nerve stapled so that they may better serve the hive.

          • John Schilling says:

            Nerve stapling can also produce a loyal, efficient labor force for Morgan Industries. And you know Academecian Zakharov nerve-staples the control group, every time. Can you even imagine trying to do proper social or psychiatric science if the control group has free will? It’d be like living in the dark ages of the 20th and 21st centuries…

          • Lillian says:

            Nerve stapling is one of the more misguided policies of the more heathen factions here on Planet. The procedure is ungodly and monstruos, inflicting incalculable damage upon the souls of the faithful.

            It is the duty and responsibility of leaders to guide and discipline their followers, but obedience is meaningless if not done freely. To bypass the will via nerve stapling is pure unadulterated corruption. This crass use of will suppression technologies is destroying the humanity of flock and shepherd alike, and their continued proliferation is sure to damn us all.

            We must dissent.

      • Deiseach says:

        If I had Mark Zuckerberg’s money, instead of sticking it into a tax-shelter foundation I’d love to fund an experiment like this, just to see all the interesting ways it would go “kablooey”. (And please don’t think I’m picking on “autistics, nerds, social dissidents and eccentrics” alone, every commune or new entity that will replace the state that has tried this has generally not managed to survive past a generation or two).

        First you’d have to pick somewhere to establish your state of Autistan – an island of its own? Or part of already existing territory – say buy a whole province of some nation (there may be a lot of empty land in the interior of Australia, for instance). So how do you decide – do you get all your potential inhabitant and citizens to vote on an option, or is there some council already selected that picks?

        Or are you, AutisticThinker, the Dear Leader who has already made all the decisions about where it will be, what type of houses, setting up things like refuse collection services, etc?

        The idea of a large group of extreme individualists all avowedly devoted to rationalism sounds like a recipe for disaster. Why should I, An Autistic Rationalist, listen to your solution about fixing the dam? Oh, you’re an engineer? I should trust you just because you’re An Expert? You’re saying I’m too stupid to understand the maths involved, is that it? Expand this out to debates on every single damn thing, from where the capital city should be located to what currency or cryptocurrency will be used to can you paint your front door whatever way you like, with everyone involved being very likely to say “I’m taking my ball and going home”, and it’ll be fun and frolics galore!

        Because, AutisticThinker, you seem to be going on the idea that “I me myself will create this perfect society and naturally everyone I approach will fall into line with it because they will all be rational and will agree on reasonably-derived, and not emotionally-derived, grounds with my conclusions” and I’m willing to venture it would not be so.

        No moral brainwashing has me rolling around the floor in stitches. “Joe pokes out Bill’s eye. Nobody tells Joe ‘you should not do this’ because oh no, that would be imposing our morals onto Joe and who is to say he would agree with them if he independently examined various moral systems?”

        And you can’t dodge it by saying “Well, the law will say you can’t poke out people’s eyes”, because law is itself a system of morality and if I happen to think law is slavery, why should I, An Individualist, agree with the herd-morality?

        So setting up your State of Autistan – will it be “everyone who agrees to be a citizen gets an equal share of land/resources” to start them all off equally as Productive Self-Financing Citizens or “if you have money/valuables from the outside world you can purchase a larger house/tract of land/factory for yourself”, in which case there will be inequality from the start as Some have more than Others? Will there be a welfare net? Will everyone be expected to set up as a self-employed person/entrepreneur or will people work for others? If one of the autistic persons has severe social anxiety and would prefer to stay in their own apartment rather than go out and work in a shared environment with others, what can they do if (for example) they are not a hot-shot programmer who can be a free-lance consultant working from home, but just an ordinary Joe? Will your eccentrics all need to also be high IQ, which seems likely given that you seem to contemplate STEM as the be-all and end-all?

        Will there be restaurants in Autistan, or will everyone be too busy working in STEM to do things like set up as chefs and bakers? NO MORE COFFEE SHOPS, CAN YOU BEAR THE HORROR? 😉

        There’s a lot to decide, including your system of government, before this ever gets going. Do you advertise for “any interested person please submit details of your certified IQ score and diagnosis as “not a normie, honest!” and other qualifications, and we will select the top ten thousand to be our first citizens”? Because you need to work all this out before you all find yourself dumped on the shores of Van Diemen’s Land with only the cargo of the ships that brought you for supplies and equipment and not even a wattle-and-daub hovel to shelter you for the night.

        • AutisticThinker says:

          Really thanks! This is an interesting and thoughtful response! 🙂

          If I had Mark Zuckerberg’s money, instead of sticking it into a tax-shelter foundation I’d love to fund an experiment like this, just to see all the interesting ways it would go “kablooey”. (And please don’t think I’m picking on “autistics, nerds, social dissidents and eccentrics” alone, every commune or new entity that will replace the state that has tried this has generally not managed to survive past a generation or two).

          Why are natural ethnic groups more stable then? Is this because of identity indoctrination? (i.e. members of group X force their children to be members of group X hence X identity continues to exist)

          First you’d have to pick somewhere to establish your state of Autistan – an island of its own? Or part of already existing territory – say buy a whole province of some nation (there may be a lot of empty land in the interior of Australia, for instance). So how do you decide – do you get all your potential inhabitant and citizens to vote on an option, or is there some council already selected that picks?

          Or are you, AutisticThinker, the Dear Leader who has already made all the decisions about where it will be, what type of houses, setting up things like refuse collection services, etc?

          I believe Autistan should be a democracy. One person should not decide where it is or make other major decisions alone. I prefer Autistan to be outside this planet but others may not share this preference.

          The idea of a large group of extreme individualists all avowedly devoted to rationalism sounds like a recipe for disaster. Why should I, An Autistic Rationalist, listen to your solution about fixing the dam? Oh, you’re an engineer? I should trust you just because you’re An Expert? You’re saying I’m too stupid to understand the maths involved, is that it? Expand this out to debates on every single damn thing, from where the capital city should be located to what currency or cryptocurrency will be used to can you paint your front door whatever way you like, with everyone involved being very likely to say “I’m taking my ball and going home”, and it’ll be fun and frolics galore!

          I don’t think autists necessarily have problems with experts in fields we completely don’t understand making choices we can’t understand. For example I work in algebra. Yet I know how ignorant I am about the theory of 4-manifolds (which isn’t in Algebra) that I would never try to dispute what researchers in that field do. The same applies to biology, etc. There is a reason why I’m very uncertain about IQ research, namely my own ignorance in the field.

          Because, AutisticThinker, you seem to be going on the idea that “I me myself will create this perfect society and naturally everyone I approach will fall into line with it because they will all be rational and will agree on reasonably-derived, and not emotionally-derived, grounds with my conclusions” and I’m willing to venture it would not be so.

          I never claimed that. This is an absurd belief. My views are not identical to reality. Otherwise why do I read news or come here at all?

          No moral brainwashing has me rolling around the floor in stitches. “Joe pokes out Bill’s eye. Nobody tells Joe ‘you should not do this’ because oh no, that would be imposing our morals onto Joe and who is to say he would agree with them if he independently examined various moral systems?”

          And you can’t dodge it by saying “Well, the law will say you can’t poke out people’s eyes”, because law is itself a system of morality and if I happen to think law is slavery, why should I, An Individualist, agree with the herd-morality?

          The law is not a system of morality. If anything Autistan should only indoctrinate Autistanis in the virtue of self-interest. Then people will naturally be pro-social or at least not be anti-social due to legal incentives and disincentives.

          My motto is: “I couldn’t care less if you would murder a million humans if the law breaks down one day as long as you don’t actually murder anyone due to your fear of prison.”

          So setting up your State of Autistan – will it be “everyone who agrees to be a citizen gets an equal share of land/resources” to start them all off equally as Productive Self-Financing Citizens or “if you have money/valuables from the outside world you can purchase a larger house/tract of land/factory for yourself”, in which case there will be inequality from the start as Some have more than Others? Will there be a welfare net? Will everyone be expected to set up as a self-employed person/entrepreneur or will people work for others? If one of the autistic persons has severe social anxiety and would prefer to stay in their own apartment rather than go out and work in a shared environment with others, what can they do if (for example) they are not a hot-shot programmer who can be a free-lance consultant working from home, but just an ordinary Joe? Will your eccentrics all need to also be high IQ, which seems likely given that you seem to contemplate STEM as the be-all and end-all?

          Will there be restaurants in Autistan, or will everyone be too busy working in STEM to do things like set up as chefs and bakers? NO MORE COFFEE SHOPS, CAN YOU BEAR THE HORROR? 😉

          There’s a lot to decide, including your system of government, before this ever gets going. Do you advertise for “any interested person please submit details of your certified IQ score and diagnosis as “not a normie, honest!” and other qualifications, and we will select the top ten thousand to be our first citizens”? Because you need to work all this out before you all find yourself dumped on the shores of Van Diemen’s Land with only the cargo of the ships that brought you for supplies and equipment and not even a wattle-and-daub hovel to shelter you for the night.

          Autistan isn’t elitist. You shouldn’t need high IQ to emigrate there. Of course there will be restaurants. However please expect the food to be much blander than neurotypical foods on average. We Autists aren’t always into art or other unnecessary activities.

          I would expect typical Autistani food to be bland, convenient but nutritious. However there are some autists who love tasty food. Some of them may run the few restaurants that actually serve gourmet that might even be better than normie gourmet. LOL! 🙂 The typical Autistani coffee shop may have no human workers at all. I mean it might simply be a food vending machine with some chairs and tables. Some Autistanis may go there, pay for the coffee and then drink the coffee while thinking about their autistic interests there. The same applies to a typical Autistani restaurant. No human workers. Only a food vending machine, some tables and chairs are around. Similarly a typical Autistani bar should have no bartenders and there is no sex or dating happening there. Instead there should be simply a few autists verifying that they can legally buy alcohol by scanning their ID or something, buy alcohol from a vending machine and then drink it. Since alcohol does not make the usual autistic discussions easy I doubt bars (aka liquor shops with tables and chairs) can be very popular at all. Of course there will also be cat cafes. Maybe a lot more cat cafes then what we have in Normiedom. You know, an autist goes there and look at some cats.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Deiseach: I’m quite sure he doesn’t realize this, but *you* realize that this country would not be of any interest to huge numbers of people on the autism spectrum, right? That not all such people have these particularly bizarre preferences?

          (I’m reminded of a post I saw somewhere on Tumblr that sex scenes in novels often say more about the author’s fetishes than they realize: “When I saw his long flowing hair, I had the same reaction any straight woman would–an instant lust for him to run that hair along my body.”)

          • AutisticThinker says:

            Could you please explain that? Why would many autistics not want to be Autistanis?

            The main idea behind Autistan is the same as the idea behind Israel. Autists are persecuted by Normiedom. Hence there needs to be a place where autists are safe and can build everything on our own. We don’t believe that the outside world will show us mercy or love. Instead we believe in ruthless struggle against a hostile environment. Through hard work and intelligence will we develop our own land in spite of the world and its persecution of us.

            Does this remind you of Ze’ev Jabotinsky or other Zionist leaders? I believe in the same idea they had/have at the meta level. Be it about rationalists, autists or STEM people my ideas are always like that, namely small, rational groups must be defended against the large irrational mob at any cost. You can imagine what I will develop if I ever get Autistan which is almost impossible anyway. Nuclear weapons and other deterrence weapons with a clear “no autists, no humanity” policy.

    • willachandler says:

      When can we have our Autistan where the persecution of nerds and autists is finally stopped?

      A concrete step would be widespread good-humored appreciation of the comedic social realities that underlie yesterday’s xkcd “Logical“! 🙂

      Another consideration is that relations between Autistan parents and their “normie” teenage children will be mighty challenging for all concerned — parents may exhibit demand-avoidant behaviors precisely at a time in life when their children are most demanding — a helpful (real-life) resource is the UK’s National Autistic Society website “Understanding an autistic parent: a guide for sons and daughters.”

      It must be acknowledged, to be sure, that strained relations between parents and their teenage children are common in ALL societies.

      • Deiseach says:

        Another consideration is that relations between Autistan parents and their “normie” teenage children will be mighty challenging for all concerned

        AutisticThinker doesn’t believe in reproduction, so it’ll be either vat-grown and government nursery raised with no parenting involved by the sperm and ova donors, or no kids at all, numbers are kept up by immigration of autistics from Normiedom.

        • AutisticThinker says:

          There is a huge gender disparity in autism. Even though there are many LGBTs and asexuals among autists there is still a very significant shortage of straight and bisexual women if polyandry or sexbots aren’t the norm. Both male and female sexbots will have to be imported if Autistan is to be real.

          For the sake of everyone Autistan needs cats but do not need non-autistic kids who might freak out in Autistan. Emotional disconnection is essential for some autists like me
          (in fact forcing us into maintaining emotional connections IS abusive) but is abusive for most non-autists. Families should be at most optional because autists don’t always like relationships and probably like imposed ones even less. Autistan may have to produce some kids if it ever wants to continue to exist for more than one generation. The TFR of Autistan may be well below 0.5 so at least 75% of the kids have to be produced by the state. If we consider gender imbalance the amount of produced kids need to be even higher. Kids should be brought up by Autistan itself using robots because not that many autists enjoy nurturing kids.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Children communally raised in kibbutzim have yielded some very interesting psychological studies (see, e.g., Bettelheim’s Children of the Dream); I’d be very interested in seeing how children communally raised by robots turn out – in, of course, a “watching the slow disaster” way.

          • AutisticThinker says:

            @Evan A group of emotionally distant autists producing more emotionally distant autists isn’t bad as long as they are actually happy about them being emotionally distant and the weakest Autistanis are shielded from Normiedom.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Well, I doubt that’ll be the case, since autism isn’t completely genetic. But even so, children raised in kibbutzim didn’t become emotionally distant autists. They were raised communally, with much closer relationships to their fellow children than any caretakers, and Bettelheim explores the impact of that (among other things) in their lives. I think that’d only be heightened if the caretakers aren’t even human.

            And this’s in the optimal case, where robots are able to meet children’s basic psychological needs. The “wire mother” monkey studies show we’re working against innate instincts there. Okay, perhaps things are different for autistic children; I’d be interested in seeing any studies there (though I doubt they’d get past the IRB.) Or, maybe we can wave our hands and appeal to Better Future Robots. But things could be much, much, much worse.

    • Brad says:

      From Against Against Autism Cures

      I work as a psychiatrist and some of my patients are autistic. Many of these patients are nonverbal. Many of them are violent. Many of them scream all the time. Some of them seem to live their entire lives as one big effort to kill or maim themselves which is constantly being thwarted by their caretakers and doctors. I particularly remember one patient who was so desperate to scratch her own face – not in a ‘scratch an itch’ way, but in a ‘I hate myself and want to die’ way – that she had to be kept constantly restrained, and each attempt to take her out of restraints for something as basic as going to the bathroom ended with her attacking the nurse involved. This was one of the worse patients, but by no means unique. A year or so ago, after a particularly bad week when two different nurses had to go to the emergency room, the charge nurse told me in no uncertain terms that the nursing staff was burned out and I was banned from accepting any more autistic patients. This is a nurse who treats homicidal psychopaths and severely psychotic people every day with a smile on her face. When she says “autistic”, it seems worlds apart from the “autistic” that means “good at math and makes cute hand flap motions”. When a mental health professional says “autistic”, the image that comes to mind is someone restrained in a hospital bed, screaming.

      Some of this is purely biological. Thirty percent of autistic people have comorbid epilepsy, often very severe. Over half of autistics are cognitively disabled. Autistics have three times the risk of Tourette’s Syndrome, five times the risk of cerebral palsy, about a hundred times the risk of tuberous sclerosis, and various balance and coordination disorders, plus an increased rate of other psychiatric disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia. There are treatments for these conditions, both pharmacological and otherwise, but they come with their own set of side-effects and difficulties and none of them are 100% effective.

      Is Autistan going to welcome, care for, and reflect the needs and beliefs of all autistic people? Or are you using the word ‘autistic’ to only refer to yourself and however many people are extremely similar to yourself (how many would you say that is)?

      • AutisticThinker says:

        They need to be cared for. Autistan has to be for all autists. We autists (and our robots) understand other autists better than non-autists. Hence it is good for high-functioning autists and our robots to take care of institutionalized autists. We will do this job better than non-autists.

        Autistan should be the Israel of autists. All autists regardless of age, IQ, race, gender, etc should be allowed to emigrate to Autistan and the Autistani Defense Force should keep foreign haters of autists at bay. Just like Jews autists are persecuted in the world and hence we deserve our own nation that prioritizes our needs, namely Autistan.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          I’ll buy that autistic people are more familiar with the difficulty of low-functioning autism since there are at least some correlations in the thought patterns, but how effective at they at providing care for a set of behaviors that ends up being pretty irrational (“Why are you screaming? Nothing’s happening. That doesn’t make sense, stop.”)?

          How many autistic people end up in the nursing field in our current world? It doesn’t seem like a particularly good career match from what I understand about autism.

          And just a note that some of these paragraphs are starting to look like Trump parody: you might want to focus less on “We’re going to do this better than everyone else and keep out the people who are doing bad things because” and more on the specific details of why Autistan will do something well. Those claims at the moment seem to be “infinite science because some autists are good at STEM, then utopia”

          That seems like a pretty aggressive claim when you’re starting out with a population that is, per Brad’s link, 50+% cognitively disabled.

          • AutisticThinker says:

            Nursing sounds boring to me. Autists aren’t necessarily very nurturing in general. Hence if Autistan is to be a thing nursing robots have to be invented first. Otherwise we won’t be able to find that many caregivers.

            I agree that this is a serious problem.

          • Deiseach says:

            50% may be a little high, but I agree it would be a challenge. And how welcoming are the productive autists, who produce the material goods that the normies buy in exchange for money or other items of value, going to be to the idea of “we are going to take a large chunk out of your earnings to look after the lower-functioning brothers and sisters”?

            Families should be at most optional because autists don’t always like relationships and probably like imposed ones even less.

            Given that AutisticThinker has already expressed extreme disdain for any kind of bonds or obligations on human beings, including that of families, how are they going to impose on individualists that no, you have to hand over this money and you get no choice on how it’s spent?

            And their robots are going to have to be very, very, very damn good to be able to meet the needs of non-verbal and pre-verbal autistic children with sensory/processing problems, sensitivity to environmental stimuli, tendency to loud screaming, fixations, etc. Maybe they will be, and maybe they’ll make the problem worse. At least they’ve acknowledged the problem of lack of caregivers, and that they’ll have to have high-functioning robots to perform these duties first.

          • AutisticThinker says:

            @Deiseach I assume that high-functioning Autistanis should be able to do reasonably well. It is feeding low-functioning Autistanis that is the real problem. I guess that we need to depend on robots to at least make nursing facilities reasonably self-sufficient (i.e. Robots will grow food in nursing facilities to feed institutionized Autistanis and sell some to others both home and abroad).

          • Evan Þ says:

            So you say “farming sounds interesting” but “nursing sounds boring”? On what studies are you basing distinctions like this, whether studies of normal people or autists?

            And if you’re postulating robots able to do all these boring jobs… well then, we’re already pretty close to a post-scarcity society.

          • AutisticThinker says:

            @Evan I haven’t checked any studies. However I do believe that farming which is related to inanimate objects is more autism-friendly than nurturing and nursing humans.

            Sure. It is a post-scarcity scenario. However post-scarcity is even worse for autists compared to the world we live in now in terms of social status. When non-autists no longer need to worry about material things they will despise the unpopular autists who sometimes make important contributions even more. Non-autists’ dependence on material goods is something that alleviates anti-autistic persecution. Without such dependence things will be worse.

          • Evan Þ says:

            However I do believe that farming which is related to inanimate objects

            Tell me about that, I say, remembering how my aunt’s horse tried to bash my head against a tree.

            Okay, maybe your farmers will produce only crops; the animal welfare folks will applaud.

            Sure. It is a post-scarcity scenario.

            Okay, then. That’s a huge difference from the present, so you should highlight it. And in that case, why’re we talking about people running farms in any sense bigger than “Okay, someone needs to check the farmbots’ programs, and if someone wants, they can head out and work the fields alongside them”?

          • Aapje says:

            Temple Grandin got along with cattle pretty well.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            @Autistic Thinker:

            I think you might be underestimating the changes in a post-scarcity society. Not having to compete for resources is really important: that’s pretty much the major drive for interpersonal conflict, and the only thing that forces people who don’t want to interact to interact.

            If a non-autistic person doesn’t like autistic people right now, they’re occasionally forced into encounters with them regardless, because they often need the same things (food, medical care, transport from one place to another). Once you move to post-scarcity, there’s no longer a need to provide things efficiently, so the forced shared interactions don’t really happen. You don’t run into the autist at the grocery store because your robots just deliver food to your house whenever you need it.

            Similarly, the important effect of politics is often moving resources around, and people have to participate because otherwise they lose out on the resource pool. Make that pool infinite, and there’s no real point in politically pressuring anyone else, because you gain nothing.

            At worst, a post-scarcity society would socially shun autists (assuming a coordinated and widespread dislike, which I don’t think our current society could produce). But being socially shunned in a world of infinite resources really isn’t that bad, especially when you’re disproportionately uninterested in social interaction and already proposing your own social isolation. Non-autists don’t need anything from you, but you don’t need anything from non-autists, so at worst you just go your separate ways.

            There’s also going to be a bunch of stranger perspectives that emerge once there are the resources to support it. I don’t think there’s much time for a coordinated disgust reaction against autists when there are people who surgically combine 4 of themselves into a single massive organism that’s constantly having sex with itself, for example. Humanity can get a lot weirder than autism.

            You may also be underestimating how hard it is to get to post-scarcity, as an aside. I’m not sure it’s super meaningful to talk about how we as a society will adapt to it, because it is going to change our perspectives significantly, and happen so far in the future that society is going to have a completely different set of problems.

          • Not having to compete for resources is really important: that’s pretty much the major drive for interpersonal conflict

            We currently live in a society where obesity has, if anything, a mild negative correlation with income. By the standards of most of history, that means we are post-scarcity–very few people in a developed society starve to death or freeze to death or die of a contagious disease and the fear of those things is no longer a significant motivator for most people. Do you observe the patterns you project for a future even more post-scarcity society appearing in the movement from past to present?

          • Deiseach says:

            Robots will grow food in nursing facilities to feed institutionized Autistanis and sell some to others both home and abroad

            You know, we used to have places like these. They were called “asylums” and the trend of thought turned that these were horrible, abusive institutions that should be dismantled. (I’m not saying that was right or wrong; they started out with good intentions and ideals, ossified into places that probably in some instances were harmful, but the solution did not go to plan either – see how ‘care in the community’ came to be used as a euphemism for “crazy guy wandering in the streets shouting at imaginary people and attacking people with a sword“).

            This is the kind of thing you need to seriously think about in world-building. Running functioning food production and food processing and feeding the inmates are different functions and will need different specialities and will need some level of human oversight at some level,
            even if it’s only a board of governors (unless we do have the God-Emperor AI in charge of everything).

            Growing enough food to sell at a surplus to fund your institution is again another problem; farming cash-crops for export is not the same thing as a kitchen-garden.

            I realise I’m being very heavy on you here, and if really all you want to say is “A society run by me for people like me who think exactly like me would be better than the horrible real world I have to live in with people who are not like me, yay autists boo normies!” that’s okay as far as it goes (and Heaven knows, it was an attitude of SF fandom for fans versus mundanes up until recently, and perhaps still is).

            But as far as it goes is only “day dreaming and helping me shore up my psychic defences against the assault of everyday life”, and not really something that is any way plausible in reality unless you have a lot more structure and thought put into it, and that includes listing and planning for real problems without the handwaving of “we’re so smart we’ll work out a solution, probably one involving computers and robots”.

          • AutisticThinker says:

            @moonfirestorm

            There are stuff that can never be enough for everyone regardless of how rich people are. For example, power over other people. Another example is social status.

            In fact post scarity will destroy the only leverage we High-Functioning Autists have over non-autists and will lower our status even more. For example In the past when people regularly starved to death some autists actually reproduced due to them having a trade. Right now wherever people no longer have to marry for money or die autistic genes are eliminated from the gene pool. I don’t want sex ever but I need basic respect as a human and as a STEM dude. Post-scarcity can take away this respect unless resources are distributed in a way that arbitrarily favor STEM people.

    • Rowan says:

      Are you sure “autistic norms” are sufficiently A Thing? I mean, “rational” is enough of an attractor in ideaspace to maybe get “care about facts instead of social stuff” with slightly more sincerity than a normie, but the set of all aspies, high-functioning autists, broad autism phenotype nerds, and adjacent isn’t going to be a huge cluster of people just like you. Some of them believe things you think are irrational, some will have personalities different enough from yours that you’d hate each other even if you believed the same thing.

      I mean, we call the normies “neurotypicals”, have you considered that *we* might be a diverse group?

  17. onyomi says:

    Anecdotally/personally, but overwhelmingly so, it seems to me that gay men and trans women are more likely than any other group I can think of, certainly more likely than straight men or women, to be libertarians.

    Anecdotally/personally, but overwhelmingly so, it seems to me that lesbians and trans men are more likely than any other group I can think of, certainly more likely than straight men or women, to be SJWs.

    These two groups are often thought of as extreme rightists and leftists, respectively, though perhaps not fairly. If we very broadly generalize that gay men and trans women are like straight men, but with more typically female hormone profiles, and if we assume the reverse for lesbians and trans men, this would lead us to expect gay men’s political views to be a little more like straight women’s political views than straight men’s, and similarly, but reversed, for lesbians.

    Yet that’s not what we find at all. Gay and trans people seem to have more “extreme” political views, as judged by mainstream society, rather than the more moderate views we might expect based on the idea they have a hormonal profile somewhere closer to the “middle” of straight male and female profiles.

    One possibility is my impression, and I’ve seen at least a little data to back up the idea, that gay and trans people are higher in average IQ than straight and cis people, all else equal (this could also relate to the previously discussed autism-trans connection). It could be that libertarianism is just “high IQ rightism” and SJW is just “high IQ leftism,” so those men and women with higher IQs gravitate to the more sophisticated-seeming version of the philosophy their gender is naturally attracted to. But is it that simple?

    Of course, hormones, political spectrums, etc. are all hugely complicated, but I’d still be interested in better understanding these correlations.

    • skef says:

      If we very broadly generalize that gay men and trans women are like straight men, but with more typically female hormone profiles

      “hormone profiles”? In adult gay men? You know they study this stuff, right?

      Anyway, the trend you’re noticing about gay men isn’t evident to me. And any such trend would have to be checked against alternative explanations, including personal political interests and being an adult man without children.

      • onyomi says:

        Or in the womb. Or brain structures that are influenced by maternal hormone levels.

        I’m quite aware I’m playing very fast and loose with the biology here… though maybe that’s not a good idea if I want to nail things down. But what I am interested in is why this particular pattern might exist, if it indeed exists, not the biology per se.

    • Thegnskald says:

      It is a mistake to treat SJWism as “Leftism turned up to 11” – it is its own kind of terrible, which is why so many leftists complain about it – I’d say particularly high-IQ leftists. Likewise, libertarianism isn’t super-right – indeed, it tends to be regarded as whatever-is-not-currently-in-power, but since it has won most of its important social issues (except drug legalization, which is making progress), and is still fighting its most important economic issues, it looks slightly closer to the Republicans and neoliberals (Hillary Clinton) right now.

      SJW is right-wing Leftism, with a high focus on fairness, opposition to libertine ethics, community values (Leftism proper tends to emphasize the individual), and authority. It is a good demonstration of what is wrong with the usual left-right spectrum, as it takes extreme elements from both sides.

      Libertarianism looks more like extremist left-wing philosophy, but for historical reasons we tend to behave as though communal emphasis is part of the left wing, even though all communal emphasis ideas except universalism are treated as right-wing ideas (patriotism, nationalism, sexism, racism, theocracy, etc.)

      • onyomi says:

        I think there’s a big hint here, which partially inspired it:

        “More liberal in social compassion and more conservative in traditional morality” sounds like a pretty good description of “not libertarian”.

        In other words, women are more likely to support both stuff like welfare and stuff like prohibition (and they got the vote in 1920…), which straddles the two parties in the US today, insofar as the Republicans used to be more likely to complain about e.g. violent video games, etc. Could be wrong, but I’d guess they’re more anti-war and pro-environment as well. It’s a mixed bag, of course, but all these positions are more broadly thought of as “left” in the US today, than “right,” even including the busybody stuff, like taxes on soda, increasingly (when was the last time you heard a Republican fighting hard on that sort of thing? Even abortion seems to have fallen by the wayside to some extent).

        Libertarians are the opposite: against both busybody policies like prohibition and social safety net. They are usually anti-war, however. Arguably they are more liberal in a very classical sense. Or left wing in the sense that they are not supporting today’s priesthood and orthodoxy, which is some brand of SJW. Though the ones most directly opposing that are the alt-right, also a pretty male-dominated group with, yes, a lot of gay men, surprisingly enough.

        Put another way, regardless of how we define left and right, it seems like lesbians tend to embrace a more extreme version of typically female political views, while gay men support a more extreme version of typically male political views, excepting, perhaps for the anti-war stance.

        So instead of contrasting libertarians and SJWs, let’s contrast the alt-right and the “control left” (both of which are arguably the opposite of what we think of them as, historically speaking). I still have the impression that my initial assertions hold, especially with respect to lesbians and the busybody/welfare-state supporting kind of leftism (the radical left-wing men I know, gay and straight, tend to be much more the Bernie Sanders sort of socialism light+really, really love labor unions kind of leftist).

        But if gay men’s brains are a little more like women’s brains than straight men’s brains and lesbian’s brains are a little more like men’s brains than straight women’s brains (though maybe that’s a fundamentally wrong assumption; I’m sure it’s a huge oversimplification), then that is the opposite of what one would expect.

        Or maybe it really is just as simple as: women are conservative, men are liberal, libertarians are “socially liberal and economically conservative” (on a US definition), and SJWs are “socially conservative and economically liberal” (on a US definition). Conceivably libertarianism and SJW mix the two traditional “sides” in ways that are simply congenial to those brain architectures. If gay men seem less libertarian than lesbians are SJW, I think it’s because of the historically contingent fact of their being an “oppressed group.” As that stigma is lifting, I think you’re seeing more and more of the Peter Thiels (and conservative/libertarian Jews…).

        Edit to add: The more I think about it, the more of a big deal the rather sudden addition of female voters to democracy seems, and generally very overlooked, probably for PC reasons. I wonder if it could be responsible for a lot of the ways “left” and “right” don’t seem to make a lot of sense anymore. Men are going to tend to want to vote like other men in some ways, and women like other women, but you’re going to have the countervailing trend where men and women in the same family are going to want to feel on the same “team”; this results in both major tribes in any given democracy having something of a split personality, because it has to appeal to both male and female voters of that tribe?

        • Walter says:

          I dunno anything about you, man, but if you think abortion has fallen by the wayside in the modern republican party it feels like you might not be working from first hand knowledge. You have no reason to privilege my statement over your own experience, of course, but let me weigh in against you here. Abortion is the beating heart of the Republican party.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I mean… if so, the Republican party is having some heart issues lately. Abortion is nowhere near the political issue it was even ten years ago.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Thegnskald,

            It’s more that the issue has almost entirely been sorted by party at this point; every Republican official knows not to openly question this issue, so there’s little controversy to report on. It is still *very* live when the matter of Supreme Court appointments, and is the major reason Supreme Court justices are the #1 issue for many Republican voters. Without that, I bet far fewer would have held their noses to vote for Trump.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I mean, it is my perception they care so much about the Supreme Court because that is where their major cultural defeats have tended to come from, and they have a perception that Democrats choose Supreme Court justices based on how they will rule on pet issues.

            I don’t think they have an overt goal of overturning abortion, so much as preventing something like that from happening again.

            ETA:
            And support for either position is substantially weaker than is usually presented, among both parties; in practice, the debate vanishes when abortion is limited to the first trimester, is weak on the second trimester, and really only gets intense on the third trimester. But most polls ask if abortion should be legal, in which case the question gets answered along party lines. If you ask by trimester, most pro-choice people oppose third trimester abortions, and most pro-life people support first trimester abortions.

          • Nick says:

            And support for either position is substantially weaker than is usually presented, among both parties; in practice, the debate vanishes when abortion is limited to the first trimester, is weak on the second trimester, and really only gets intense on the third trimester. But most polls ask if abortion should be legal, in which case the question gets answered along party lines. If you ask by trimester, most pro-choice people oppose third trimester abortions, and most pro-life people support first trimester abortions.

            Side question: that’s an easy thing to legislate at the state level, I’m sure, but how do you enshrine a thing like that constitutionally? I don’t see how e.g. a right to privacy can permit some abortions but not others. (Necessary disclaimer that IANACS, and to be honest I’ve never even read the Roe v. Wade decision.)

          • Brad says:

            Roe v. Wade had a trimester framework were restrictions on abortion faced a different legal test if they were in the first, second, or third trimester. From presumptively unconstitional in the first to presumptively constitutional in the third. Planned Parenthood v. Casey eliminated that framework and replaced it with viability as the division between two different constitutional regimes.

            I’m not going to try to explain how either case arrived at those conclusions because I don’t find either one very convincing.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Personally, I would push for a constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to bodily autonomy for human beings (maybe I am sneaking drug legalization and anti-circumcision stuff in here…) and a second amendment defining human life to begin at some arbitrary point – if we wanted to throw a bone to compromise, say life begins at the third trimester.

            Problem solved, only the most extreme people are left unsatisfied.

          • Deiseach says:

            if we wanted to throw a bone to compromise, say life begins at the third trimester.

            Problem solved, only the most extreme people are left unsatisfied.

            Which, if you will pardon the harsh language Thegnskald, is a really fucking stupid solution that satisfies no-one.

            This is reverting back to the notion of quickening, and at an even later date, and an already exploded idea of embryology. Yeah, that’ll work for those who plume themselves on “well, I make my decision here on SCIENCE, a foetus is just not viable before [arbitary cut-off point]”.

            So the contents of the uterus (to use one of the charming terms floated by the pro-choice side) don’t become alive until the third trimester, which commences at the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy? Cue Frankenstein shouting IT’S ALIVE!!!

            Up until then it was not alive, it was just a goop of cells floating in the amniotic fluid? Except that premature births become viable at twenty-four weeks (viability improving the later the stage) which would leave you with the embarrassing legal problem of a twenty-five week pregnancy being delivered and the resulting entity, object or whatever we agree to call the thing not being legally alive. Good luck on that one.

            It’s not a question of human life, it’s a question of personhood. Because the product of conception is alive, that’s the whole problem! That’s why you need to intervene to terminate the pregnancy! And it’s even human life, because what a pregnant woman is carrying in the womb is not a banana or a gorilla or a tricycle!

            “Sorry, guy, you were a premature birth, so legally you’re not alive” – well, why not create a new class of citizens – oops, no, sorry, they’re not citizens – a new class of not-human not-life that can be exploited? As for “problem solved”, there have been articles by mothers detailing how yes, they were absolutely sure it was a baby and yes, it was a human life and yes, they chose to abort it because they already had a kid and it would not have suited their life at the time to have another baby, now praise me for my brave and bold and selfless decision!

            The “fatal foetal abnormality” crowd have the pity-vote already sewn up, so they won’t be too bothered about “it’s alive at this date but not before it”:

            Discussing our options and making a decision were the hardest things we ever had to do. From the research we did, we knew doctors would take no life-saving measures once she was born due to the disorder she had. Our greatest desire was to keep her from pain, but how could we make a decision that would end her life? I was her mother; it was my job to take away her pain and to help her. We decided we wanted to end the pregnancy, or “say goodbye early” as the Trisomy 18 Foundation calls it, through a labor and delivery abortion. With this procedure, we would have been able to hold her, take pictures and have her remains, so we could have her cremated. We would have just a short time to make memories that would have to last us a lifetime.

          • onyomi says:

            When I say abortion has “fallen by the wayside somewhat” I mean relative to when I was growing up (eighties and nineties), when it was one of the single biggest issues in the news and brought up at every debate, etc. all the time.

            It may be to a large extent, as Jaskologist says, that the voters have sorted themselves so thoroughly that everyone in the GOP knows better than to be openly pro-choice and every Dem knows better than to be openly pro-life, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

            Example: many Catholics (but maybe a good deal fewer than when I was growing up, especially if you discount Hispanics?) vote Dem despite being pro-life. If that were as important to them as voters as it seemed to be in the 90s, I imagine the GOP would still be making more effort to court those votes by touting their pro-life stance. But seemingly they don’t. At least not relative to 20 or 30 years ago.

          • Nick says:

            Brad,

            Thanks!

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think they have an overt goal of overturning abortion, so much as preventing something like that from happening again.

            I’m not sure the two can realistically be separated, given that Roe v. Wade is a quintessential example of a major cultural defeat coming from the Supreme Court.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t know if its an explicit goal or not, but the conservative wing is only one more Gorsuch away from having Roberts be the swing vote on abortion. And while Roberts might not vote for a big-bang overruling of RvW, I do think he’d support endlessly chipping away at it until there was nothing left.

            Ginsburg is 84, Kennedy 81, and Breyer 79. Based on the SSA tables, the probability of at least one of them dying in the next year is a little better than 1 out of 4.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have been hearing for upwards of fifteen years that we’re only one Supreme Court seat away from an overturn of Roe. It was a hot topic at least in the 2000 elections, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was already around by 1996 or 1992, though I don’t specifically remember it being.

            When a political meme lasts that long, truthiness starts to edge out truth as an explanation for its longevity.

          • Brad says:

            That’s a pretty terrible and anti-intellectual response to be frank.

            The 2000 court was: Stevens, Breyer. Souter, Breyer, Ginsburg, O’Connor, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist. O’Connor, Souter, and Kennedy had written the plurality in 1992 that saved RvW. Stevens, Breyer and Ginsburg were firmly the pro-abortion rights camp. That’s six. If someone back then told you the court was one vote away, he was simply wrong.

            Since then Roberts replaced Rehnquist, Alito replaced O’Connor, Sotomayor replaced Souter, Kegan replaced Stevens, and Gorsuch replaced Scalia. The change in margin from six to five came when Alito replaced O’Connor in 2006. That was 11 years ago. Since then the Court has indeed been one seat away.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Anti-intellectual”? Seriously?

            Okay, have fun.

        • Deiseach says:

          but you’re going to have the countervailing trend where men and women in the same family are going to want to feel on the same “team”

          This is true, my mother told us all, as we became old enough to vote, exactly which candidate in what election we were going to vote for 🙂

        • The more I think about it, the more of a big deal the rather sudden addition of female voters to democracy seems, and generally very overlooked, probably for PC reasons.

          Gordon Tullock used to have a puzzle. If you graph government spending as a share of GNP for different countries, there is a consistent pattern–a roughly constant level for a long time, then a rapid growth. What is described in other contexts as a hockey stick. The date at which the growth starts is different in different countries.

          I’m not positive, but I think Gordon eventually concluded that it was linked to when women got the vote.

          • Evan Þ says:

            If you’ve got a link, I’d be very interested. Did he examine whether women’s suffrage caused the increase, or whether they were both caused by something else like Progressivism in general?

          • Matt M says:

            Also interested in this, as well as hypothetical explanations as to why.

            I think people usually default to things like “women are naturally more caring and collectivist than men” but maybe it’s something a little more direct like “women historically didn’t have the opportunity to be independent entrepreneurs under capitalism so they failed to see the upsides, but still wanted to protect people from the downsides”

          • I’m going on memory of long ago conversations–Tullock was a colleague and friend. I think his point was correlation–for instance that Italy, if I remember correctly, was very late to give women the vote and very late to have government spending take off.

            The conjecture that occurred to me was that, with the traditional gender based division of labor, at least for middle class and above, the wife was running a tiny socialist state, the household, while the husband was out competing in a capitalist market. So the idea of the state as a household writ large was more attractive to the wife than to the husband.

          • DavidS says:

            Is this controlled for other changes to suffrage. If women getting vote is often alongside or shortly after removal of property qualification for men then this is relevant

          • @DavidS:

            A legitimate point but I have no idea. I’m merely repeating an interesting idea that I remember from Tullock, not pointing at published research.

      • cassander says:

        Hillary Clinton is not a neo-liberal. Bill was, but she abandoned almost everything even vaguely neo-liberal in her campaign.

        • dndnrsn says:

          How so? Fairly pro-corporate; fairly hawkish/interventionist foreign policy…

          • cassander says:

            “pro-corporate” is an insult, not a position that anyone actually holds in a meaningful way. And while she’s definitely a hawk, neo-liberalism has basically nothing to do with questions of foreign policy besides being pro free trade, a position Clinton abandoned.

            neo-liberalism is, not a particularly useful term as it is used far more often as an insult than a genuine position, but to the extent it was a real thing, it was about reforming the welfare state to work with market mechanisms rather than against them. Its tenets were free trade, privatization of nationalized industry, entitlement reform, labor market reform, and monetarist monetary policy. Accept for the latter, which is the CW now, she’s not in favor of any of those things.

          • dndnrsn says:

            How would you categorize her? She was pro-corporate compared to Sanders, certainly. I’m pretty sure she got more money from big business than Trump did.

          • cassander says:

            again, “pro-corporate” is an empty, meaningless phrase. It’s an insult, not a description of anything.

            as for whats Clinton, she’s whatever you want to call the mainstream american left. I grant you that the mainstream left used to be fairly neo-liberal, but that hasn’t been true for a long time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Can we say she was more friendly to corporate interests than Sanders? In any case, the mainstream American left is far more left socially than it is economically. I think that’s a fair statement.

          • cassander says:

            Can we say she was more friendly to corporate interests than Sanders?

            For this to be a meaningful statement, there would have to be collective “corporate” interest or set of interests, which there isn’t.

            In any case, the mainstream American left is far more left socially than it is economically. I think that’s a fair statement

            I suppose that’s true, but it’s not really useful.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            interesting

            if you think neo-liberal is a bad thing, she’s it

            if you think neo-liberal is a good thing, she isn’t it

            so is this just “hillary clinton is bad” or is one side actually correct here? And if so, which?

          • Can we say she was more friendly to corporate interests than Sanders?

            You can say that, and it might even be true, but I don’t see what it has to do with neoliberalism. Maybe she was just more willing to be bought, or chose to be bought by different people.

            Corporations are the main backers of protectionism–corporations that sell largely in the domestic market and don’t want foreign competition. Does that make protectionism part of neoliberalism?

          • dndnrsn says:

            In retrospect, I suppose I am using “neoliberal” as a boo word, and shouldn’t be doing that.

            Clinton’s campaign was left-wing on “culture war” topics, generally, but centrist on much else. Were she a Canadian politician, she would likely be on the right wing of the Liberal party, or the left wing of the Conservative party (which still exists, sorta, maybe).

    • Aapje says:

      @onyomi

      I think that you incorrectly attribute this to (merely) biology, rather than (also) their experiences.

      The gender roles tends to result in male desirability being judged by the ability to collect wealth, protect and other behavior that requires taking risks, while female desirability tends to be judged by being attractive, a good mother and other behavior/traits that are well served by making the same choices as other women.

      A social safety net is inherently more attractive to risk avoiding people, while being less attractive to risk seekers. It takes away part of their payout for successfully taking risks, reducing the benefits of that strategy. Furthermore, it is (much more) shameful for men to depend on welfare, so it’s less valuable to them to have it. When you have a gay couple, they probably tend to reinforce this in each other.

      Women tend to get approached by sexually interested men, which is both flattering, irritating and an opportunity to date. Lesbians don’t have the latter benefit and probably are flattered way, way less than straight women. Lesbians also don’t benefit from the male provider role or the male protector role like straight women. In general, we can expect that straight women experience way fewer benefits from masculinity and the male gender role than straight women. So it’s not surprising that they are way more likely to reject gender roles and to be hostile to men/masculinity. Furthermore, they also don’t see the downsides of the male gender role in the shit that their partner has to deal with (that partner not being a man), further encouraging an extremely strong sense of male privilege and female oppression.

      PS. Young, still female trans men probably are also displeased by getting approached by sexually interested men, because it requires them to play the female gender role. Furthermore, they are likely not to feel that they can trust men to protect them. I don’t have an explanation for trans women.

      • onyomi says:

        A social safety net is inherently more attractive to risk avoiding people, while being less attractive to risk seekers. It takes away part of their payout for successfully taking risks, reducing the benefits of that strategy.

        Doesn’t it also reduce the potential downside of risky behavior?

        • gbdub says:

          It does, but risk takers generally aren’t people that care a lot about downside risk.

        • Aapje says:

          @onyomi

          Yes, but men are taught to feel shame for taking advantage of a social safety net (and medical care, etc). A real man doesn’t take a handout, he rolls up his sleeves and yadda yadda yadda…

          Just like the value of a Rolex is not just its value as a way to tell the time, the value of welfare is also not just how much it can help you financially. In both cases, willingness to pay for it also reflects how much it helps you socially.

          I believe that self-esteem, which is strongly linked to how others perceive a person, is one of the strongest human needs. So people are often willing to suffer personal harm to achieve it.

    • onyomi says:

      An additional factor I’m surprised I forgot to consider in OP:

      Though autism is more common in men and has even been described as a case of “extreme male brain” (though it may be that there are more autism-spectrum women than commonly realized due to it presenting differently in women and being underdiagnosed), neither does one have the stereotype of autists as unusually “masculine” in ways other than e.g. system over people thinking.

      If anything, the autism spectrum people I know, male and female, tend to be somewhat androgynous in appearance and behavior. Perhaps we might say this is because gender “performance” norms don’t make sense to them, but that wouldn’t explain the apparent correlation between autism and gender dysphoria (or maybe it does? if you don’t automatically osmose gender norms the way neurotypicals do you’re more likely to feel uncomfortable with your assigned gender, whatever it is?).

      This leads me to the idea that homosexuality and, indeed, gender dysphoria, may not be “opposite” in the two genders, but rather the same thing as expressed by either sex as assigned at birth, even though the results, in terms of whom you’re attracted to, are opposite…? That is, rather than thinking in terms of yin and yang, with gay men being yang people of more than average yin and lesbians being yin people of more than average yang, perhaps it is better to think in terms of “strongly sexually dimorphic” individuals and “weakly sexually dimorphic/androgynous” individuals, with homosexual and androgynous individuals of both sexes having certain shared, hypermasculine features.*

      This seems to correspond to the “homosexuality as hypermasculinity” theory, opposite of the common “male homosexuality as hypomasculinity” intuition (of course, it could be and probably is some of both). Maybe a certain type of hypermasculinity manifests as a tendency toward political “extremism” (or non-conformism), but the form that non-conformism takes varies, as it does with sexuality, depending on the sex.

      *Yeah, I know I’m probably just coming up with ideas long ago considered and complicated or refuted by actual biologists, but this kind of brain dump is sort of how I think…

  18. johan_larson says:

    The year is 2317, and the country you inhabited in 2017 no longer exists. Obviously the landmass is still there, and someone governs it, but there is no meaningful continuity with the state that governed it in 2017. What happened?

    I’m in Canada. As it turns out, global warming turned out to be a very bad problem indeed, and this led to severe political and economic problems in the early 22nd century. As discussions about emissions caps got heated, Alberta, where most of Canada’s oil industry is located, decided they were not going to put up with any National Energy Program, part II. They seceded and were accepted into the United States. This triggered the long-dormant separatists in Quebec, and that province went its own way two years later. The remaining provinces put on brave faces and tried to keep going but having the country in three separate parts wasn’t really workable, so after ten tumultuous years and three hard-fought elections, the remaining provinces joined the United States, too. Fifty-five stars is a lot, so the new revised American flag featured a blue field that stretched all the way to the bottom of the flag.

    • Thegnskald says:

      North Korea, after decades of sabre-rattling at the US and South Korea, started rattling its sabres at China in 2098. It was promptly and completely nuked.

      In the chaos, NK launched nukes across the world; the Eastern seaboard of the US was protected by our defense network, but several got through to hit Texas, Tennessee, Nevada, Michigan, and Washington state.

      Claims were made that the nukes were deliberately let through in an attack on the Democratic Party, whose voters predominantly come from the South and West; the Republicans president launched a classified investigation, and declared no wrongdoing had occurred. After thirty years of heavily edited responses to FOIA requests, FOIA was overturned, and Texas and California declared independence, promptly joined by most of the Southwest.

      For the first century, there was a steady cold war between the “rogue government” and the United States. Then the Southwest petitioned Mexico for admittance in 2201, and Canada invaded Michigan, who population had begun raiding across the border. US military forces attempted to invade Louisiana, but the drones disintegrated in the onslaught of heat, humidity, and shotgun-wielding swamp people. Long unaccustomed to conventional warfare, the counterattack took Florida and began up the United States; conventional armies massacred each other up and down the Appalachians, and Tennessee valley became a mass graveyard of millions. As it became increasingly clear the Calitexas government would win, nukes were launched, then in both directions, destroying every major city except Salt Lake City, long the technological capital of the world, which had built its own nuclear defense system a half century earlier.

      The Mormons now rule everything north of Panama in a pseudo-theocracy, although in practice not much has changed, except that polygamy is standard – but given the extraordinarily high casualties of the ground wars, this probably would have happened anyways.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Addendum: A century later, normalized gender ratios, combined with high levels of polygamy, create incredible social instability. Eventually, after several crises, this is resolved by sterilizing or killing 80% of men based on eugenic grounds, beginning with various tests of intellectual capacity and culminating in martial tests. A race of superhumans evolves over the next three centuries, conquers the world, then are all abruptly wiped out by an asteroid.

        Squirrels evolve intelligence and take over the planet. There are many arguments about the humans, ultimately concluding that their fatal flaw was that they didn’t bury enough food for a catastrophe.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Another addendum:

          In the distant future, the squirrels – whose name for themselves is a squeak-screech (subtle tonal emphasis differentiates it from the dozens of other squeak-screech words) – have cannibalized the planet, and much of the solar system, in their attempt to escape the expanding sun. An interview with one of the 20% of remaining squirrels, still trillions in number, warns that the solar system itself will die eventually, and they need to escape it instead of, as happened on Earth, getting trapped in a gravity well consuming the resources they will need to escape in order to increase the population of squirrels who will then need to escape.

          It becomes famous, the interview repeated for thousands of years after Earth is consumed in fire and the last evidence of mankind is burned away, but ultimately the warning isn’t heeded, and only a relative minority of the population escapes the solar system before the sun becomes too weak for solar sails to take them away, and other energy resources already significantly consumed. This pattern is repeated tens of thousands of times over, even as the number of viable star systems dwindles, and the great squirrel civilization dies a quiet death as the last colony settles in a star system that doesn’t have the energy for them to escape even when they settle it.

      • Nick says:

        A Canticle for Leibowitz, but with Mormons? I don’t approve, but I don’t disapprove either….

        • Thegnskald says:

          It is interesting that the Catholic version of that story is about preserving knowledge, rather than expanding it.

          • Nick says:

            Well, the monks weren’t really in a position to rebuild civilization all on their own, and it’s a nicer analogue for the role of monasteries following the Roman Empire. The Mormons have a whole city(-state), so they’ve got a much better shot at expanding knowledge.

            There’s regular calls from traditional-leaning Catholics to e.g. turn Wyoming into a Catholic confessional state, but until we’ve got one of those, I’m afraid we’re going to be spending the post-apocalypse copying syllogisms and circuit diagrams. 😀

          • Thegnskald says:

            The analogue is what I was referring to; I wonder what that “preservers of human knowledge” idea has done to Catholic culture.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the Vatican Observatory meteorite collection is a good example of the kind of research that comes from Catholic culture. Slow, plodding, meticulous.

            I think part of that comes from simply being one of the oldest continuously operational organizations in the world. Long view of history. There’s no rush here.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Shouldn’t Canada massively benefit from global warming? The parts of the country that are frozen wastelands can be turned in to marginal farmland and the parts of the country inhabited become a lot nicer to live in.

      • johan_larson says:

        On average, probably, but there are several intervening factors. When your trade partners in trouble you are in trouble too. Weather is a complex chaotic phenomenon, so there could be bad secondary effects caused by things like a shifting jet-stream. Also, any sort of change tends to have costs in the short term even if it brings benefits in the long term. And finally, while most of Canada’s major cities are isolated from the effects of sea level rise, we do have Vancouver and Halifax on the coasts, and they would be in trouble if we are talking about metres of rise. So we wouldn’t get out of this scenario scot-free.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      After humanity was nearly wiped out by a virus, inadvertently caused by unregulated Alzheimer’s research, super-intelligent apes took control of most of the world. They developed their own society and, for some reason, decided to replace the Lincoln monument with one celebrating Ape Lincoln.

      For a marginally more serious answer: if the US federal government collapsed for any reason other than a nuclear war, New York City is already 90% of the way to being a city-state. We’d probably pick up Long Island and the greater New York metro area too but not much further upstate than Westchester county. There’d be blue, white, and orange flags everywhere.

    • Deiseach says:

      The year is 2317, and the country you inhabited in 2017 no longer exists. Obviously the landmass is still there, and someone governs it, but there is no meaningful continuity with the state that governed it in 2017. What happened?

      Emboldened by the success of their first infiltrator into national politics, the Leprechaun Revolution of 2025 means the island of Ireland is (again) no longer a human-dominated state.

      • John Schilling says:

        Wow. OK, we shouldn’t hold his height or age against him, but I assume you all have added something to your constitution prohibiting the current president from ever wearing a green coat or hat in public, right?

        • Deiseach says:

          He’s not permitted to, but his wife can do so on his behalf 🙂

          Unlike the US elections, our current president seems to be so popular that there are already straws being floated in the wind in the media that he should be re-elected unopposed, given that his term ends in November 2018. Though the 2011 election was hilarious, in one respect, since everyone and his dog decided to go for the nomination. Michael D. was not even the favoured prospective candidate of his party but he imposed himself upon them* (a bit like The Donald, come to think of it) and steered his way cannily home while other candidates foundered on various rocks (a raft of mini-scandals including combining being a no-hoper with semi-financial irregularity; a businessman/media candidate – again, a bit like The Donald! – with financial irregularity having overtones of criminality; writing a letter to the Israeli courts on behalf of your ex-boyfriend up on charges of statutory rape, though oddly enough this didn’t generate sufficient outrage to prevent this candidate returning for a second bite of the cherry for the contest, presumably since he was the gay candidate; ‘is the country really ready to elect a former terrorist as president?’ while forgetting about Eamonn de Valera also being a former member of the IRA and becoming president; being religiously and politically conservative with ties to American right-wing circles while having a family member on charges – but found not guilty and cleared of same – of sexually abusing another, younger, family member; and the insurmountable handicap of being Gay Mitchell).

          Irish presidential elections are generally not this interesting and entertaining and it looks like the next one will be deadly boring as usual, with maybe one token ‘opposition’ candidate put up to run against President Higgins.

          *Humbly, quietly, and with ruthless efficiency:

          He was selected as candidate for the presidency at a special convention in Dublin on 19 June 2011, beating former senator Kathleen O’Meara and former party adviser Fergus Finlay. His candidacy was endorsed by Hollywood actor Martin Sheen, who described Higgins as a “dear friend”.

          • cassander says:

            Isn’t the Irish president a symbolic figurehead?

          • John Schilling says:

            ‘is the country really ready to elect a former terrorist as president?’

            Since I just admitted to rewatching S1/S2 of Battlestar Galactica, let me repeat my admiration of the writing team for setting up, in the near aftermath of Bush v Gore, a fate-of-the-species presidential election where the major candidates were a respected and admired scientist / former VP against a drug-addled religious fanatic, and the obvious choice for any rational observer was “Well, maybe the drug-addled religious fanatic, but there’s also a former terrorist angling for power and can we get him to run instead of either of these two?”

          • gbdub says:

            SPOILERS for BSG (which is 10 years old and if you haven’t watched it – c’mon already)

            Angling to get the former terrorist in power? He was the VP candidate! (Though the whole thing is a little weird – do Colonial elections actually have VP candidates or are they just appointed? Does Roslin ever announce who her replacement for Baltar is after he defects (over the legality of abortion!) and announces his own candidacy?)

            The former terrorist, despite winning against the religious fanatic, eventually realizes he was dumb and makes up with the religious fanatic (who had been up to some terroristing of her own by that point) just before they are about to be murdered by robots (but get saved at the last minute by a militant labor union leader).

            Then the former terrorist is briefly the president, and, knowing he’ll never actually be accepted because the de facto but not de jure commander in chief of the military (himself a popular hero that just saved everyone’s bacon at great risk to himself) hates his guts, offers to appoint the religious fanatic VP and then resign.

            But not before he takes his brief opportunity as El Jefe to go full HAM on suspected traitors with secret extrajudicial executions.

            This upsets the religious fanatic, but she lets him be the VP anyway, with a little black market racketeering on the side. He has an opportunity to be president again when the religious fanatic gets kidnapped, but everyone in the military still hates him so he has to play #2 to an interim president, who happens to be the character he played in the original series.

            Later, after the religious fanatic loses her religion and teams up with genocidal monotheist robots to get some sweet phlebotinum, he joins a one-legged gay computer nerd in an abortive coup and gets executed for his trouble.

          • Deiseach says:

            Isn’t the Irish president a symbolic figurehead?

            Yes, which is generally why nobody is much interested in contesting the election. But the power of symbolism, and how you can maneouvre that into influence if not the same thing as raw power, is something recent presidents have been interested in exploring – take our first female president, Mary Robinson, who parlayed her term as president into a Big Job with the UN (and other high-falutin’ influential organisations afterwards); there was some slight comment about her eagerness to be done with the presidency at the end and get on to her post as High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as one or two other little matters which looked perhaps like she’d lost the run of herself:

            Robinson became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on 12 September 1997, resigning the presidency a few weeks early in order to take up the post.

            Michael D. Higgins is no fool, despite his grand-father leprechaun appearance, and he’s quite fluent in the language of symbolism (being a published poet and all) so he knows how to use the post as a platform for being a world statesman, even if he has no real executive power.

    • rlms says:

      Hopefully, the Yorkshire independence movement succeeded.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Challenging myself to do this without massive war!

      After repeated swaps of the presidency between increasingly monolithic political parties, the US finally has a fully-contested election in 2116. Amid rampant accusations of vote fraud, hacking of a now-all-electronic voting system, actual protest and mass abstention through much of New England, a “Republican” president takes power. (By this time, the Republican party is largely a lightly-Christian-inflected isolationist party, focused on anti-war and anti-immigration sentiments.)

      The outgoing Democratic administration begins by asking for calm and the usual transition of power, but the Supreme Court does not legitimize the election due to New England riots denying millions their right to vote and (in a concurring opinion) the failure of two states to participate in the Electoral College. The Democratic lame-duck President reverses course in mid-December, and states that a new election on the first Tuesday in January will be held to preserve the original Jan 20th inauguration transition.

      At this point, massive chaos and protests swamp the country. Most states have trouble readying themselves for another presidential election, some state elections and senatorial campaigns also sign on to the “do-over” election (despite the SCOTUS not holding on these matters), and supporters of the Republican presidential candidate engage in occasionally-violent rioting and mass protesting.

      The election in January is a colossal screw-up: Many polling places never open due to mass riots, confusion over process, and contradictory ballots being printed over the preceding weeks. No one serious even tries to certify the national results, and the National Guard is mobilized to quell protests (which mostly just makes things worse). After months of lawsuits, protests, and (a pretty good) argument that the sitting President is holding his seat in violation of the 22nd amendment to the Constitution, SCOTUS reverses decision *again* and certifies the original November election.

      The Republican candidate takes power, but at this point acrimony is high, the Senate is a mess, and the gloss of the USA holding fair, open elections is permanently broken. Over the next few decades, fraud, party machines, vote buying, and rampant corruption spread throughout the republic. By 2160, most states are single-party organisms, and federal law is frequently undermined or flat-out ignored. By 2192, New England plus New York secedes (with the tacit support of Canada) to form the Commonwealth of the United States- the federal government screams bloody murder, but no one actually wants a war enough to fight one (and with an economy in shambles and a much-shrunken military, no one is sure they can win one).

      A now-lopsided USA grows more corrupt and even more partisan. When massive Californian earthquakes devastate the state, and the federal government doesn’t send relief efforts, a modernized Mexico does- annexing the state with the agreement of the party machine controlling the state. Over the next few decades, Oregon and Nevada join them, and the states of Washington and Idaho declare independence.

      By 2240, advances in artificial intelligence and automated manufacturing processes have led to mass global unemployment at last- two hundred years later than many prognosticated. Enormous wealth and the “greening” of power generation leads to lives of low-luxury for many: Simple houses, government paychecks, cheap entertainment and cheaper food, but little true power or economic reserves for 99% of the population.

      The demographic transition and increased medical care have led to an average age in North America of 68, and the population has shrunk to just above 100 million- a solid half of which are part of a loose agglomeration of religious communities that encourage above-replacement fertility.

      National borders mean less and less, as everyone has access to instantaneous perfect language translation, and mass media has homogenized cultures to a much greater degree than the twenty-first century. Several further states of the “rump” USA declare independence, but most people barely notice- it’s the affair of political hobbyists and the occasional interested trillionaire.

      Instead, non-geographic organizations of research scientists, offworld corporations, and decentralized autonomous organizations form the real sociopolitical power on Earth. Phoenix, (where I currently live), is technically the capital of the independent republic of New Mexico- but less than 10,000 people live there amidst the automated factories and spaceports that spread over the desert in the late 2200s- and most of them are “bureaucrats” roleplaying at politics.

    • willachandler says:

      The alt.ultranationalist scenario is North American race war followed by enduring racial apartheid … no small portion of the alt.community perceives this scenario to be desirable and even inevitable … hence they are working vigorously to realize American apartheid sooner rather than later … rightly or wrongly, this alt.community perceives the Republican Party and the Trump White House to be their ideological allies.

    • Walter says:

      Alright, Trump presidency is nearing its end. All signs indicate that he is going to be trounced in the run for reelection, Dems have nominated a popular candidate and are looking at a wave to retake power.

      Suddenly, the Supreme Court is assassinated in a big explosion.

      After/During the mourning ends Trump nominates 9 new justices, ideologically ranging from Neil Goresuch to Steve Bannon. The Republican majorities fast track these through confirmation, just in time for them to rule on a variety of election related issues that come up.

      The democratic wave founders on a sea of executive orders and hastily passed laws, backed up by unanimous or near unanimous findings from the court. Leaks happen in a non stop rain, making it impossible for the public to ignore the blatant skullduggery and/or outright lunacy happening not so far behind the scenes.

      Several states attempt to bring articles of secession, and the military is ordered to forcefully quell them. Unwilling to fire on peaceful demonstrators, the military becomes divided against itself, as other units are sent in to disarm those who originally disobeyed their orders. Shots are fired in the process of this disarmament.

      Cooler heads prevail for a moment, as all parties involved back away from the brink of civil war, but this does not last. The core divide, with red americans thinking blue ones are bad losers, while blue americans think red victory is an existential threat, and anyways was definitely fake, cannot be bridged. ‘Leave’ partisans create a shadow government which claims to actually represent the people’s (non gerrymandered, no suppressed) will.

      This shadow gov is composed of a wide variety of well liked, well admired politicians, who were not consulted before being placed on it. They deny any connection or involvement, but the White House nonetheless calls for their arrest on charges of treason. Civil war breaks out in full as elements of the military act clash first with the police, and then with one another.

      Historians quibble about who fires the first nuclear weapon. Was it the administration, whose leader may well have been in the full grip of dementia? Was it the rebels, hopelessly outmatched by the loyalist military, but supplied with leaked launch codes? It barely seems to matter as the United States launches the worlds most powerful weapons at it self, to horrific effect.

      By 2317 new technologies have been discovered by whatever posthuman digital life controls the world’s resources, and what was once Earth’s mightiest nation is recolonized quietly and without fanfare.

      • Vorkon says:

        This shadow gov is composed of a wide variety of well liked, well admired politicians

        I was with you until this part, but the idea that any of those exist is too implausible to believe.

    • quaelegit says:

      Well this isn’t exactly what you’re asking, but I just finished Too Like the Lightning which takes place just a few decades later and in which almost no current countries still exist. Your question just made me realize that North America barely figures in the book at all. There’s a brief mention of Mexico City but nothing of cities currently in the USA or Canada. So I wonder what happened them in Terra Ignota. (There seem to be “reservations” that don’t participate in the global world order based on traditional religion — a Vatican, a Tibetan reservation, and also a “great African reservation”– so maybe there is also a North American reservation? I haven’t read seven surrenders, and I’m planning to reread tlta more carefully, so maybe I missed some hint.)

    • Nornagest says:

      Calexit went off without a hitch, to everyone’s surprise, but just as the saber-rattling was getting started in earnest, Google DeepMind flipped the switch on its first large-scale prototype. The resulting composite entity proved surprisingly adept at diplomacy and economic guidance despite its quirks, and following a series of annexations, everything from Vancouver to Cabo San Lucas is now governed by a peaceful paperclipocracy ruling over a mixed society of humans, cute plastic robots, and uplifted octopi.

      World shellfish prices have never been higher.

    • With a fully developed public key infrastructure, it became impossible for any government of a technologically developed society to control its citizens’ cyberspace activities. The combination of greatly increased bandwidth and greatly improved VR led to more and more activities shifting to cyberspace, leaving less and less of human life subject to taxation. Ultimately all government controlled was realspace land, the value of which was diminished by the option of a cubicle plus a VR mansion. Well before 2317, the result was that governments in the conventional sense had disappeared, morphing into firms that controlled areas of land and rented them out at competitive rates to highly mobile customers whose lives were primarily online.

      • Deiseach says:

        firms that controlled areas of land

        Land is food. Unless there is some huge advance in growing using hydroponics or the like plus vat-grown protein (and by 2317 there well may be: huge, fully-automated and run by robots and AI, industrial scale facilities for mushroom farming to produce the mycoprotein that is turned into the foodstuffs everyone eats), ultimately even someone living in a cubicle and using VR and cyberliving is going to have to eat; even if it’s ‘meal inna pill’ space-age food, it has to come from somewhere.

        And ultimately the raw materials come from on top of/out of the ground – this is why Plutus was the lord of wealth! So owning huge tracts of land that can grow rice, oats, or other crops, or even swathes of the materials needed for the mushroom farms (like the straw and compost) are going to be valuable and perhaps even more valuable than commercial urban property. You can have robot manufacturing to make anything you may want or need while living in your cubicle, but you still can’t grow your own food in that patch of ground.

        Heck, even if we go off-planet for our mineral and similar resources needs, we’re still going to need to eat. The Moon as Earth’s Mushroom Basket? Someone who owns and operates a Lunar Mycoprotein Production territory is going to be not alone very rich but very influential; the power to induce a famine in a mega-population is a lot of power!

        • Land is food.

          But landlords are not governments. In a world where all individuals are highly mobile and all governments control is land and there are lots of governments, all they can do is collect the market rent on their land.

          • Deiseach says:

            The highly mobile individuals are just moving from one cubicle in a mega-city to another cubicle in a different mega-city (even on another continent), yes?

            They still own nothing of the land they live on, which is not so important. But what is important is that the entities (be they governments or private corporations) that do own the land – because they don’t just collect the rents, they give permission for what is done on the land. If they decide they don’t want to sell the mineral rights, okay, the AI has to build probes to mine the asteroid belt (the staple of Golden Age SF for where we’d get our material resources after exhausting Earth).

            But if the AI or the Food Provision Corporation or whomever needs the land to produce the mycoprotein or soya or rice, then the owner can charge what it likes. Google are influential because they control access to a lot of tech, yes? So replace Google in the future with “everyone can have their own tech of that nature because the AI provides it” but the AI can’t just magic up food and materials out of thin air (or at least not yet) so the influence now goes to MegaMyco, the company that feeds the billions of mobile cubicle members who are so mobile and migratory. MegaMyco isn’t mobile but it owns a huge chunk of land in one location that is covered with towering stories of mushroom farms that produce gigatonnes annually of the raw protein that gets turned into the various foodstuffs our mobile individuals eat from Hong Kong to Desolation Island. Piss them off and it’s not simply having your Internet access cut off, it’s not having anything to eat.

            Right now, anyone can walk down to the store. Or even better, order online and have their groceries delivered to their doorstep. And the future isn’t going to go backwards on that.

            But where do those groceries come from? Where do you get your steak, avocados, strawberries, kale? They don’t pop out of cyberspace, they’re grown on land, and that’s not going to change vastly in a century or two. You can have someone in the future society moving from the Bay Area to the Antarctic the same way people nowadays take their morning train commute, but they will still need to eat, and the land owners who own the land that produces the food will have power, especially if it’s all industrial-scale agriculture as we’re developing nowadays – imagine the entire central part of the USA as one vast tract of farmland owned by a few mega-agribusinesses. You really think that’s not going to translate into power? A government can forcibly purchase or introduce legislation to make those businesses feed the populace, but the future won’t have the same kind of government with the same kind of power, so who is going to force them to do what they don’t want?

          • But if the AI or the Food Provision Corporation or whomever needs the land to produce the mycoprotein or soya or rice, then the owner can charge what it likes.

            We have to eat. Why can’t farmers at present charge what they like?

            You are imagining one organization owning all the land, which isn’t very plausible. I’m describing a situation where a hundred or a thousand or a million organizations own the land. No one of them can charge what he likes because if the price is too high another will undercut him.

  19. Sam Hopkins says:

    I was reading Considerations On Cost Disease and the follow up Highlights From The Comments On Cost Disease and it occurred to me that the disease doesn’t just affect the industries mentioned in the posts – it actually affects everything, we just don’t necessarily realise it.

    As society has evolved, the basic minimum standard that is deemed to be socially acceptable, for everything, has been rising. Some examples:

    – Raising a child. It used to be pretty easy – you had to feed and clothe them to some basic level, but aside from that they would play outside on their own until they were old enough to help you with your work. These days it’s expected that you monitor them 24 hours a day, drive them to and from a variety of activities, provide them with all kinds of toys and gadgets, throw lavish birthday parties, and keep them in full time education until 22 years old. If you don’t do these things, society will shame you.

    – Getting married. This used to be so easy that people could do it by accident. These days the engagement alone involves an elaborate proposal that should be filmed and possibly end up in a Buzzfeed article about the 10 Most Heartwarming Proposals Ever (Try Not To Cry When You See Number 7), along with a ring that costs thousands of dollars. The wedding then costs tens of thousands of dollars more, plus about a year of planning. If you don’t do all that, you’re seen as weird, and possibly not committed enough to your intended spouse.

    – Being a fan of something. Sports, comic books, ordinary books, films, games, gardening, pretty much everything has suffered from a kind of dedication inflation, whereby if you don’t spend most of your free time and disposable income on a hobby, you’re not taken very seriously by the rest of the fandom, and you will certainly never reach the upper echelons of the community.

    – Being physcially attractive. In ye olden times, being attractive was a matter of some good genes plus the wherewithal to take a bath more than once a month. These days, you still need those good genes, but you also need to spend around 10 hours a week in a gym, eat the correct diet, develop a personalised grooming/makeup routine, buy the right clothes and haircuts, and get your teeth straightened and your eyes lasered, at a minimum. If you don’t do all these things, then, well, you might be lucky and meet someone who can see past your hideous exterior, but just think how much better you could do if you did do all these things.

    None of the above have any regulations imposing the increasing standards – they’re all a result of the desire to be above average. Everyone is engaging in this all the time, so the standard for what is considered normal gets pushed up relentlessly.

    I therefore posit that the increasing regulations and cost burdens imposed on education and healthcare are merely a reflection of the expectation inflation that pervades all of society, rather than being the cause of those specific cases. The fact that costs are not kept under control in those industries is not a disease – it is normal. What is extraordinary is that costs are kept under control for consumer goods. How is that happening?

    My guess would be that the differentiator is whether anyone’s personal livelihood depends on keeping costs under control.

    If your business is manufacturing TVs, you had better make sure that your customers can afford them, even while you’re adding all the things they now demand, such as flatter screens, brighter colours, remoter controls, and advanced fuses that protect against giving electric shocks to children who stick their tiny fingers into the back.

    On the other hand, if your business is selling widgets to hospitals that have an ethical obligation to buy widgets and no real cost ceiling then, well, it would be nice if costs were kept under control, but if there’s another provider out there whose widgets are 0.1% safer than yours, then you had better spend millions of dollars making yours 0.2% safer, or the hospitals will buy theirs instead.

    And if your business is being physically attractive, and a rival spends 15 hours per week in the gym then, well, it would be nice if you didn’t have to spend very much on it, but still, you had better spend 16 hours in the gym and carefully tune your protein intake to balance your carb-loading days more precisely than they do, or else they’ll have first pick of the available mates.

    Scott posed some questions along the lines of “Would someone today prefer a modern education, or an education from their parents era plus $5000?” The answer is that of course they would prefer the latter, but they’re not the ones who get to choose.

    The old fashioned education seems like a bargain, right up until the moment that a child injures themselves in the playground, and their parents realise that the next school over has carefully made sure that there are no sharp edges or concrete floors in their playground, and so they tell the local newspaper, who shames the cheaper school on the front page, and the headmaster is forced to resign for putting kids at risk for the sake of saving money, and the school has to spend two hundred thousand dollars child-proofing their playground, and… well, you get the idea. In practice, the minimum standard for what we consider to be a proper school has increased massively, and the schools have no choice but to play along.

    Does this sound familiar? It sounds to me like our old friend Moloch. Why do schools and hospitals cost 10x what they used to, while the workers within those industries feel more and more under pressure? Moloch. Where is the increase in costs going? Moloch. Who is choosing a modern education over an old fashioned one plus $5000? Moloch.

    In short, “It’s Moloch all the way down,” Tom said soullessly.

  20. Thegnskald says:

    Anybody else interested in death or black met vocals, or tuvan throat singing? Death metal vocals and tuvan throat singing both use the same basic technique, using the false vocal cords, or vestibular folds, to produce sound. It is interesting trying to learn how to use them, and I can only compare it to learning to twitch your ears – that is, finding a mentally-unmapped muscle and mapping it, with lots of false starts before it starts to become intuitive. (You do use them, for the throat clearing noise, but doing so deliberately outside this context is weirdly challenging, and I keep finding myself using my vocal cords instead, as the mapping isn’t well distinguished yet.)

    Haven’t researched black metal vocals yet, but that is next on the list.

    • Urstoff says:

      It’s really interesting to me that death metal vocalists have a unique timbre just like regular vocalists. You can often tell who is singing by their distinctive growl.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Tyr’s vocalist (he doesn’t always growl, granted) and Amon Amarth’s are the most distinctive to me, followed by Sabaton and Project Hate. A lot of the others are pretty bland cookie monster; even Alestorm wouldn’t be that distinctive if not for the accent. (But gods is that accent distinctive.)

        Danny Filth sounds unique, but he isn’t really growling (he uses his vocal cords, which is why he became known for coughing up blood).

        • Urstoff says:

          Hegg is indeed pretty recognizable; so is Mikael Akerfeldt when Opeth still did that sort of thing (I think he may have blown out his death growling ability given how terrible he’s sounded live in recent years), Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder, and Oli Peters of Archspire (although that’s more his delivery than tone), and, of course, Chuck Shuldiner. There are a lot of great bands who need a dedicated vocalist because the guitarist songwriter does the growls and it’s just not very good (e.g., Revocation, Obscura).

          • rahien.din says:

            Mikael Akerfeldt when Opeth still did that sort of thing (I think he may have blown out his death growling ability given how terrible he’s sounded live in recent years)

            Yeah, he pretty much spends it all on “Demon of the Fall.” That’s all fine and good, but I will probably die without ever hearing “Blackwater Park” live.

            Daylight Dies are actually a good facsimile of Opeth, right down to the early-era vocal stylings. Their singer is not exactly like Akerfeldt but he’s pretty damn good.

            Randy Blythe of Lamb of God

            This is a double-edged sword. Yeah, Blythe is the Swiss-Army-knife of metal vocalists, and he deserves a big stage, but I really feel like LoG’s misstep was pushing him to the front at the expense of the guitars and Chris Adler.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Hopefully Fallujah gets somebody good; their vocalist , who, yeah, I think was also their writer (but not a guitarist, I don’t think), wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t quite up to the level of the rest of the band.

      • rahien.din says:

        Abbath’s frogman voice is pretty damn unique!

        Behemoth’s vocalist has this unhinged, blast-furnace roar that I find totally inimitable.

        Aaron Turner (Sumac, Ex-Isis) isn’t death metal per se but he’s notable because sings like an angry bear.

        Totally agree about Amon Amarth. Johan Hegg is the absolute perfect Viking metal vocalist.

        I didn’t even know there was a middle ground between punk and black metal vocals until I heard Kvelertak.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I’ll admit to not having heard much Abbath except his appearance with Dimmu Borgir (if I am remembering who is who correctly).

          Mostly I listen to shit that is weird even by metal standards; I wouldn’t even listen to Amon Amarth (or Dimmu Borgir) except my wife loves them. (Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, they’re just not… I don’t know, weird enough. Although I do love Dimmu Borgir’s ridiculous music videos; they’re like B movies, and I never know how seriously they are intended, but they are usually hilarious)

          And punk metal sounds interesting. I will have to give that a try.

          • rahien.din says:

            Kvelertak are like folk metal, but set in a grimy punk basement instead of at the ren faire. Pick up their self-titled. They take black metal and old-school punk, and run through a triple-guitar attack, and out comes something colorful and ferocious.

            Ashes of the Damned is a great example of froggy ol’ Abbath. I wish he would do a guest stint with The Great Old Ones. That would be peak-Lovecraftian.

            Who do you listen to? I’m always looking for new bands!

          • Thegnskald says:

            In order of remembering the band name: Silent Stream of Godless Elegy, Old Man’s Child, Project Hate (their older stuff, their new stuff is garbage), Finntroll, Korpiklaani, Inheritus Dei, Unexpect, Butterfly Temple, Wintersun, Ghost Bath, Heidevolk, Nekrogoblikon, Tennger Cavalry, Fallujah. Turisas, Psycroptic, and Sabaton are good mood-based music (well, I like there Turisas songs, Psycroptic is good music to get angry to, and Sabaton is good work-on-stuff music). In Flames. On the metal-ish side of prog rock, Divinity Destroyed is good Dune/Jesus music (seriously, those are their two themes, Dune and Christianity).

            There are a huge number of bands I like exactly one song from. I assume that is the song the record label brought in the good producer for to see if the band could go viral.

            And I am missing a bunch of bands I can’t recall the names of. Powerwolf is pretty good for power metal, had to look their name up.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Thegnskald’s list

            Interesting. Of the ones I’ve heard, I really like about half of those, and find the other half painfully harsh. Turisas is interesting in that, overall, they’re one of my favorites but I had to learn to just put up with the parts where Nygard gets screamy.

            There’s a bunch of metal bands, actually, where a few songs are crazy good but the majority go in the “painfully harsh” bucket.

            To my ears, Joakim Broden is the GOAT. Any idea what to call his style to find more like it?

            Also, since this is a vocals thread, ever tried Van Canto?

          • rahien.din says:

            Thegnskald,

            Interesting! Very power/folk/symphonic.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I tend to prefer symphonic – not actually a huge fan of power metal, but any song that gets stuck in my head (Drip Fed Fred…) is automatically a success in my book, and power metal does seem to trend towards catchier lyrics than other forms of metal.

            Mostly I like novelty, and symphonic metal and folk metal are the major providers of that in metal music; otherwise the genre tends to be “Gradual refinements on a common set of techniques”, which isn’t my thing at all. (Until you get into technical death metal, at least, when the refinements circle around into what is for all practical purposes a novel way of playing metal).

          • Thegnskald says:

            And as for Sabaton-like vocals…

            Ogden Ogan’s vocsl style is sort-of similar in a way I can’t define. Powerwolf’s vocalist also shares a nameless quality.

            His vocal style is described as being a power metal voice, which I guess fits. I think it may be a combination of the Swedish accent, his deep voice, and power metal stylings. So you might have some success looking into other Swedish power metal bands.

            en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Swedish_power_metal_musical_groups

            Other people also
            recommend Raubtier (listed in the above link, so Swedish, I guess) and Windhammer, but I am not familiar with either band, so cannot comment.

            ETA: Van Canto! I have been trying to find that band name for a while. Heard “Fear of the Dark” and didn’t write anything down. Now I need to listen to their other stuff.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Yeah, Raubtier is already in my regular rotation 🙂 They hit the sweet spot of being heavy without being harsh. And if you like the synthesizer aspect of symphonic, I’d recommend giving their “Bränder” or “Legoknecht” a spin.

            Powerwolf does have good pipes. I’ve got enough catholicness left that listening to most of their stuff is pretty dissonant, but they’ve got some tracks that were worth the search 😛 I’ll check out Ogden Ogan.

    • rahien.din says:

      Hell yes! I’ve been working on this for a couple months now. About 10-15 minutes of practice on the way home from work is nice and fun and cathartic. Mostly, I still suck. But every now and then I nail it and it’s fucking awesome.

      I’ve had this weird experience where, after warming up a bit, I get a decent growl but with a weird dissonant high-pitched moan riding on top. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but it sounds pretty unique.

      Any techniques you want to share?

      I’ve read that the best way is to start by singing black metal, because that will engage the folds more consistently than death metal. Seems to be working for me.

      Also, even though they have the quality of a maximal-effort scream, death and black metal vocals aren’t actually produced at full volume. The sound is better at sub-max volume where you have more control.

      • Thegnskald says:

        For the ringing, check your tongue and jaw position; you may be accidentally doing some khoomei or sygyt, which are parts of Tuvan throat singing that produce a higher-pitch harmonic (it sounds more like a buzz than a moan, though). You could also be engaging your vocal cords, which can be bad for them, depending on what you are doing; if you taste blood, you may want to stop doing that.

        I have been working on tuvan singing, with a bit of death metal growling mixed in when my false vocal cords get tired and stop producing the right noises; it still trains them, and I no longer have to stop every two seconds to keep from going into a coughing fit, but after about forty minutes I can’t reliably produce the noise.

        For that, you have it close to right when you develop a percussive feeling like vocal fry (popping in your tones). Working on khoomei-borbangy right now, which is multiple harmonics, and requires absurd precision, and also working on being able to speak – each vowel requires its own distinct mouthshape, and some consonants cause my airflow to slow briefly, which drops me into a growl.

        Turning a growl into kargyraa (throat singing) is mostly a matter of increasing air flow through the throat and holding certain tones while tightening your throat (no idea how else to describe it); it may be that different tones require different airflow, I can only reliably produce a very narrow range of tones right now, shifting too far up just turns it into a whining growl, and I am already near the bottom of my range.

        How do you do black metal growls? I haven’t done the research on those yet.

        ETA:. Kargyraa is best practiced while doing sygyt, which can be practiced at normal tones; basically, put your tongue against your top teeth (folding the tip down slightly) and push your jaw forward. It should produce a whining “eee” noise, with harmonics if you adjust your mouth a bit. It sounds a bit like a flying insect when you get it. When you do that with kargyraa, you will produce a very distinctive noise that sounds like a heavy-metal bee.

        • rahien.din says:

          How do you do black metal growls? I haven’t done the research on those yet.

          Total amateur, might be doing it wrong, but : I start with a kind of “angry sigh” to make sure the feeling is located right (sort of behind the nose, or, behind the angle of the jaw. Then I add support until it sounds right. I’ve read that mouth position makes most of the difference between black and death metal timbres and I’ve sort of found this to be true (or, trve).

          Like I said, I still mostly svck!

    • Winter Shaker says:

      As I’m sure I’ve mentioned on these threads before, one of my favourite singers ever is Albert Kuvezin of Yat-Kha – and it is a deep disappointment to me that pretty much every single modern ‘growly’ metal singer goes to the trouble of learning to do the growl, and yet doesn’t do it melodically like Kuvezin does. The tuneless growl I just find annoying, to the degree that it entirely spoils music that I might otherwise enjoy.

      Kuvezin is not the most polished kargyraa singer, and in the upper reaches of his range you can definitely hear the ‘real’ vocal folds kick in and the false vocal folds just adding noise rather than definite pitch, but his low notes are about the most satisfying sound in the world.

      On the other hand, having learned how to do it a bit myself (though I am years out of practice and can no longer do it without a bit of a coughing fit), I am utterly bamboozled at Vladimir Oidupaa. It’s like, he’s singing kargyraa, but in the normal vocal range of a guy who isn’t singing kargyraa. Did he have an unusual vocal apparatus? An unusually high pain tolerance?

      • Thegnskald says:

        A new name to investigate!

        I can’t figure out how you would even do kargyraa at higher pitches than I already do. Maybe there is a muscle control thing I haven’t developed? But I find lower pitches more painful than higher pitches, insofar as my range permits.

  21. Idea for a study: seeing if illusions in perspective prime thought patterns for other tasks. For example, if I see the dancer going left, or the dress being blue and black, and then I concentrate and make the dancer go right, or change the dress to white and gold, will my mind work more like somebody else who sees it that way when performing other tasks?

  22. I’m increasingly struck by the inferiority of the interface here to the interface I used to have on Usenet.

    The basic problem is that comment threads are very long. That wouldn’t be a problem if there was a quick and easy way of avoiding subthreads of no interest to me, which at the moment include SF television series (the only one I watched any significant amount of was the original Star Trek), various music things, Autistan, and probably several others.

    With the threaded interface I used for Usenet, I could do it–just collapse all of a long subthread. I don’t see an easy way of doing it here.

    • Nornagest says:

      The “Hide” button next to the “Reply” button will collapse a comment and all of its children.

      You’re outta luck if a conversation turns boring at max depth, but that should cover most of the cases you’re interested in.

    • johan_larson says:

      It’s an issue of purpose. This is WordPress, a system for blogging. It makes it easy to write articles and has an incidental system for comments. Usenet, meanwhile, was a system for having discussions, so it makes prefect sense that it was in fact better for conversational interaction.

      Is Reddit better?

      • cassander says:

        I like the reddit system a lot, but others disagree. reddit makes multi-person conversations quite difficult, which is a problem here.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Is the sweet spot an actual forum site, then?

        I admit, I miss trn. Has anyone ever tried to make a webbed version of it?

        • johan_larson says:

          Easynews offers Usenet, and they have a web interface.

          https://www.easynews.com/

          I’ve never tried it.

          Google Groups also offers Usenet groups, and they have a web interface.

          https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/rec.arts.sf.written

          There are a number of vendors of forum software. vBulletin is one.

          https://www.vbulletin.com/

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I guess I wasn’t clear. I don’t mean online software for reading the old Usenet; I mean a trn-style interface for modern forums. As in, a manipulable list of topics, a view of the tree of discussion within each topic, a mouseless interface for navigating that tree, a way to hide topics or subtrees that persists across sessions, a killfile feature, etc.

            I consider Usenet pretty much dead today, despite the Groups feature. (And the UI for Groups isn’t really any better than WordPress.)

          • johan_larson says:

            You want a piece of software that can connect to a heterogeneous set of existing forum sites and present a common interface for interacting with these forums using trn-like features. Is that it?

            I doubt such a thing exists.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Nah. It’s enough that it connects to one site, or rather, that any given site chooses to use it, in the same sense that anyone chooses to install phpBBt.

            A site that publishes its discussion content via a REST endpoint that one can then access using their discussion reader of choice would be extra credit.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I consider such a reader to be especially worthwhile for a site such as SSC, given the size of the OTs. Bakkot is doing yeoman’s work, but he / she is fighting an uphill battle against comment nesting and sheer comment count. Every OT already takes longer than I’d like to load, even when all I want to do is respond to the last ten or so comments.

          • johan_larson says:

            RSS feeds are probably as close as it gets right now, but those are read-only.

            I suppose one could invent a Common Forum Interaction Protocol, write a UI for it, and lobby forum software vendors to implement the back ends. Not really sure why they would do so, particularly since some of the forum operators are ad-funded and really want people on their own sites.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            That’s an interesting point. I agree it would be difficult. It might be workable if the reader vendor went out of their way to pass the content site’s ads through to the user. But this would take a developer with both the chops to write a proper threaded reader and the chops to deal with the business model.

    • pontifex says:

      I actually like the fact that comments are all expanded by default. It makes it much easier to read on a mobile device that has spotty internet connectivity.

      I wish WordPress had a better way of dealing with deeply nested comments, though. The “max depth” thing is a hack, which can make things hard to follow.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I’m genuinely unsure what you mean. If I had spotty internet connectivity, I would want only the comments I care about to be downloaded, possibly proactively. Which makes me think you’re looking at this problem in a way that hasn’t occurred to me.

        ISTR that trn – one of the last Usenet newsreading applications before the WWW – gave you the ability to “kill” subthreads, meaning any replies to them would be hidden from you by default. So for instance, if you weren’t interested in some reply to a Naval Gazing post that got into the details of radar antennas, you could hit a link on it similar to “Hide”, and then when you walked all the new comments (by looking at every instance of tilde-“new”), you would see everything except replies to that one subthread, until you used another link on the header of that post to un-kill it, even if you reloaded the page.

        Currently, “Hide” hides that comment and everything beneath it, but it all pops back up again if you reload the page to see newer comments, causing you to run across them again. This is because the page code doesn’t remember each user and which comments they’ve collapsed. It also doesn’t track subthreads past five levels, so if the chain you want to hide is past that, you end up having to hide all of its siblings as well, whether you’re interested in them or not. Usenet, by contrast, handled threads that were indefinitely long, and trn accommodated this innately.

        All of the features I can think of that WordPress + Bakkot offers that Usenet didn’t – such as Unicode support, HTML, word wrap, auto-notification, reporting, and local storage of comments – are merely artifacts of Usenet having predated the WWW, and could be added to a hypothetical trn without breaking its internal model.

        • pontifex says:

          I’m genuinely unsure what you mean. If I had spotty internet connectivity, I would want only the comments I care about to be downloaded, possibly proactively. Which makes me think you’re looking at this problem in a way that hasn’t occurred to me.

          Well, one very nice thing is that I can load a giant page, and then look at it at leisure. So if the train is going through a tunnel, I can continue reading comments from the rest of the giant page.

          I agree that the loading strategy is not very “smart”– as you said, reloading the page reloads a lot of stuff I already saw, and resets the folds. Usenet was definitely more efficient along many axes.

  23. johan_larson says:

    Epistemic status: overt trolling

    One of the salient characteristics of Jesus was that he extended his ministry to scorned groups in his society, such as slaves and prostitutes. This suggests that those who aspire to do as he did should try to minister to scorned groups in this society. And no one is more scorned on the internet than the foul-mouthed hentai-clutching neck-beards over at 4chan. So, how does one preach the gospel to 4chan?

    • rahien.din says:

      On one hand, you’re exactly right. The group I would compare 4chan to is the tax collectors – members of society who had acquired abnormal power, abused that power to their own gain, and largely reveled in it. It would seem rather counter to Christ’s teachings simply to write them off.

      On the other hand, there were certain situations in which Christ did not preach, but instead chased people with a whip. He also did not attempt to preach to the crowd crying for Barabbas’ release. 4chan is a community whose currency itself is scorn. It may be exactly wrong to engage 4chan as a community. Christ went to the homes of tax collectors. He didn’t arrange for an audience with the local tax collectors’ guild.

      Maybe the idea should be (as always) engage with the person. We bring the Gospel to people, not to organizations – sort of the other-side-of-the-coin from Ephesians 6:12. Even if we suspect or believe a person is on 4chan, this should not be cause to withhold the Gospel from them.

    • dodrian says:

      In person.

      It’s not ever recorded that Jesus went to the brothels to preach to the prostitutes (no doubt they would have been wary of another rabbi coming to lecture them), but whenever he encountered someone failed by society he treated them with compassion and dignity. That approach worked well back then, and it works well now.

      • Well... says:

        It’s not ever recorded

        Yeah, I kinda agree with where this is going.

        These days my mental model of Jesus is that he was basically a Karaite poking his finger in the eye of the Talmudics. Then after he died a bunch of people decided he was this son-of-god type guy and ascribed a bunch of words and actions to him that he never actually said or did.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      If you’re worried about the degeneracy on 4chan, going there and preaching at them sounds about as effective as preaching the Word in the comments section at PornHub.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        It might not be as ineffective as you imagine.

        I used to read Savage Love, a sex-advice column, online and in every comment section there was this one conservative Christian troll pointing out how utterly degenerate Dan Savage’s answer was. Everyone publicly mocked him but I started noticing that he was making a lot of good points. Eventually I stopped reading Savage Love and began looking into more traditional stuff.

        He didn’t convert anyone as far as I know. But I’m better off now as a result of his evangelism.

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      That might be casting pearls before swine, something Jesus warned against.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      1. Go to /pol/ where there is already a fertile soil of people trolling by preaching the virtues of liturgical Christianity over the hollow degeneracy that has resulted from Western Protestant culture

      2. Go full Proud Boys and give alienated young nerds a real-life social support structure based around no-fap and other Christian-adjacent redpill trends. Organize gofundmes or donations for group members with sudden financial problems. Start an online Secret Santa, etc. things to build loyalty into zealotry for people that don’t have anyone else to care for them

      3. Make them post everywhere on 4chan and make it extremely unfun and tedious for anyone to post anything sinful

    • keranih says:

      “Preach the gospel always. When absolutely necessary, use words.”

      – St Francis of Assisi

  24. lvlln says:

    So left-wing college students forcibly shutting down speeches/discussions by people they don’t like has turned into just background noise at this point. In observing its growth from something unexpected to something banal in the past few years, it only really occurred to me just now, while reading this article about BLM shutting down an ACLU talk and also scrolling through the video of just how much these protestors seem to be wasting a huge opportunity with how they conduct their protests.

    In a lot of these cases, the protestors have basically a captive audience (not literally captive, but generally the audience tends to stay – in the hope that the event will get back on track, maybe? Or just fear for their safety?) who have proven that they’re interested in hearing political arguments just by showing up at such an event. This to me looks like a perfect opportunity for one or more eloquent member of the protestors to make an impassioned argument for why they are protesting, what they want to accomplish, what path forward to achieving justice they see, why they believe their proposals are more likely to lead to more just outcomes than the proposals that come out of the people they protest. It wouldn’t even have to be tailored for the event; just have a manifesto ready to present.

    Instead, we mostly seem to get 30 minutes of cycling through boring chants that tend to be, at best, variations on chants we’ve heard a million times before. Just looking at video in the Reason post, it almost looks like the protestors take pride in how good they are at chanting, and they’re making a conscious effort to show it off. Rather than taking pride in their just, coherent, and practical ideology and showing that off.

    Is there something obvious that I’m missing? Perhaps speeches tend to be less effective at crowd control than chants, but I feel like protestors could just as loudly and intimidatingly make coherent speeches as repeating chants. And these protests are planned in advance – sometimes weeks in advance – which should provide plenty of time to prepare some coherent argument to present at the protest itself.

    It just looks like leaving money on the table. If one protests because one is truly convinced that one’s own ideology is what’s best for the world, then it seems like using a protest to spread that ideology by presenting arguments that convinced the protestors how great that ideology was is a no-brainer.

    I was reminded of something Bret Weinstein (former Evergreen State evolutionary biology professor who faced protests in his class) mentioned briefly in an interview, that the protestors seem to be focused more on the intensity and vulgarity (e.g. just yelling at him “Fuck you!” or “Piece of shit!” – which are very generic insults that don’t actually have any specific connection to the issue at hand) than on actual ideology, and how he perceived it as more of a claim of power rather than a claim of truth or justness. This actually mirrors what I’ve heard Jordan Peterson (U of Toronto psychology professor and also clinical psychologist who faced protests in guest lectures) say a lot about how he sees the modern left as being focused on power rather than truth. (Aside: Peterson tends to use the phrases “post-modernism” and “neo-Marxism” a lot which makes it hard for me to take him too seriously when he talks about this, but it also occurs to me as someone who hasn’t studied post-modernism or Marxism much at all that I may be just obeying my leftist tribal impulses rather than analyzing his claims with detachment. Certainly the fact that Peterson is a psychology professor and psychologist who has studied 19th-20th century history with respect to ideology and psychology quite a bit makes me feel like I ought to extend more charity to him than I otherwise would).

    So I don’t know. Does anyone else feel similarly that these protestors are not making good use of their powers here? Or are there good reasons why they’re sticking to their boring near-content-free chants? And do you think those good reasons are related to things Weinstein and Peterson posited, or something else entirely?

    Or maybe my perception of these protests is just wrong, and there really are a lot of them where protestors do use this platform that they seized in order to spread arguments in favor of their ideology? Certainly the videos and descriptions of protests I’ve seen are not exhaustive or random, so it’s very possible that I’m just missing a big chunk.

    • dndnrsn says:

      You seem to be assuming that the purpose of a protest like this is to convince people. Is it?

      First, anything like this has a “team-building” element to it. People want to feel like they’re doing something, getting involved in some action.

      Second, going in with a debate over it acknowledges that it’s something that is down to debate. Left-wing activist groups of this type tend not to accept that framing.

      • lvlln says:

        You seem to be assuming that the purpose of a protest like this is to convince people. Is it?

        What I’m assuming is that the long-term purpose of a protest is to make it more likely such that the vision the protestors have of a better future is the future that we actually get. I’m not assuming that the purpose of a protest like this is to convince people, but I do believe that convincing people is one means by which one can make it more likely that one’s vision of a better future becomes reality.

        First, anything like this has a “team-building” element to it. People want to feel like they’re doing something, getting involved in some action.

        I think a speech – which could be given by many people or even by everyone in the group – given on a platform that was only possible because a team of protestors forcibly took that platform could serve this purpose. Maybe not quite as effectively as them all chanting in unison over and over again, but I don’t think the difference would be all that significant.

        Second, going in with a debate over it acknowledges that it’s something that is down to debate. Left-wing activist groups of this type tend not to accept that framing.

        I’m not talking about a debate. That’s why I wrote above that there’s no need for the speech to be tailored for the event. What matters is that these protestors presumably believe that they have some sort of coherent ideology which is virtuous. It’s trivially true that something convinced these protestors that their ideology was correct, and it’s obviously true that there exist many people who haven’t been convinced to the extent these protestors were (otherwise they’d have no one to protest!). So why not try to help others out in coming around by presenting whatever it was that convinced the protestors themselves? Clearly whatever it was that convinced them worked at least once.

        Unless I’m misinterpreting you, and by “debate,” you don’t mean debating with whatever event is actually happening, but rather you mean the very idea that their ideology might not be self-evidently correct and therefore needs something to support it. Which certainly describes a lot of behavior by leftists (and rightists!). If that’s what you mean, then it sounds like the “power” explanation makes most sense: they’re primarily concerned with their ability to impose their will upon people rather than convincing them, because anyone who’s not already convinced is either malicious or in denial. While this is a neat explanation, it also feels somewhat uncharitable to me, which is why I’m wondering if I’m missing something.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m maybe not being 100% charitable, but “this isn’t up for debate” is a not uncommon sentiment.

        • I think a speech – which could be given by many people or even by everyone in the group

          I don’t see any practical way of a group giving a speech–are you imagining that they read it in unison?

          An individual giving a speech in that context is at risk of being continually interrupted either by other protesters who disagree with him or want to put in their own version or by members of the audience who resent having the speech they came to hear prevented.

          • lvlln says:

            I was thinking more speeches given in sequence, not parallel. I think enough protestors could coordinate this so that they have some master speech they all agree with, and have protestors who aren’t speaking at any given moment using their physical bodies to prevent the audience from disrupting.

            I don’t think this is a trivial thing to do, but I guess it’s strange to me that I haven’t seen this really attempted in widespread manner in these protests.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          You mentioned JPB, so yes, this is where you have the disconnect with the post-modernists. You subscribe to what Derrida described as phallogocentrism. Which is the belief in “truth” or “logic” to guide decision making.

          It’s trivially true that something convinced these protestors that their ideology was correct

          No, it’s not. “Correct” does not exist in post-modern thought. So no, they do not want to talk to you, they do not want to convince you, because even getting into a debate with you is stepping into your phallogocentric frame of reference which is simply the means you use to exercise power over them. Since there is no truth (i.e., no preferred way of looking at anything), then your (alleged) power over them is arbitrary, so they might as well take power over you for themselves.

          The counter to this is that yes, they’re half right, there are multiple (perhaps infinite) interpretations of reality (or a text or whatever). Except they’re not all equal. You can debate all you want whether or not nails and broken glass count as “food,” but at the end of the day if you’re eating nails and broken glass instead of fruits and vegetables you’re going to die.

    • Randy M says:

      Is there something obvious that I’m missing?

      The ability to clearly articulate coherent arguments is rarer than the ability to angrily stomp about and shout, enough so that there might not be anyone so capable at any given protest.
      People driven by explicit goals and reasoned plans write pamphlets; people driven by anger, unrest, or fear storm stages and tear up pamphlets.

      Then again, there probably are plenty of people capable of talking at length about such subjects–after all, many of their professors don’t hold views that far from what they claim. Perhaps calm reasonable people capable of persuasion aren’t often in favor of protesting to make reasoned argumentation harder?

      • lvlln says:

        The Internet is a big place, and you only need one, though. Maybe it’s not possible to get an eloquent speaker at any given protest or even any protest at all, but as soon as one person writes one speech, that could just be copied and read aloud (or memorized) by someone. Sure, not as good as an actual intelligent, educated, eloquent speaker making a speech in the moment, but still better than the chants, I think, because there’s actually information being communicated there.

        • Randy M says:

          True, even if it was just some rote talking points it might make a more justifiable case for the actions. “X% of people control Y% of wealth!”
          Perhaps this generation is under the impression that feelings are their own justification. In a sense, needing to use facts or logic undermines the purity of your emotions.

    • Matt M says:

      and how he perceived it as more of a claim of power rather than a claim of truth or justness.

      I think this is about how I see it.

      Their goal is not to convince anyone to join them due to rational argument and the natural superiority of their positions. Rather, the goal is to intimidate into silence and cowardice. They don’t care whether or not they can convince anyone who would want to listen to Milo that their views are superior to his. They’ve already dismissed those people are irredeemable racists. Even if they could convert them, they probably don’t even want racists among them. Their goal is to use force and power to shut these people up. And to intimidate any potential other people out there who may want to say similar things to be silent.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think the reasoning behind this kind of storming the stage/having plants in the audience to stand up and chant, at the start, was “giving a voice to the voiceless” in the sense of those perceived not to be invited to contribute/not represented, but now it’s just turned into “whoever can scream the loudest wins”, if you want to call that “winning”.

      I also think because it’s college students, they’re very young and the most of them probably haven’t had adult responsibilities, so they really do think a crowd chanting in unison* accomplishes something, and the heady rush of unity and feeling like you’re part of a larger body that is stronger than the whole of its parts has a part to play in that. The irony there is that this is also how fascism got popular: the heady rush of feeling part of something big and strong that could stand up to the powers that be and change things with pithy slogans. I don’t think they’re historically literate or reflective enough to think about the mentality of mobs.

      *Being fair, not just college students and fascists. Something like this really does feel transcendent at times.

      • The irony there is that this is also how fascism got popular: the heady rush of feeling part of something big and strong that could stand up to the powers that be and change things with pithy slogans.

        I’m not sure “irony” is the right term. In lots of ways Antifa et. al. are a fascist movement–the same approach even if different slogans.

        One of John Buchan’s novels, written (I’m guessing) just after WWI, is set somewhere in the Balkans (I think) and features a youth movement, Juventus, portrayed in a generally favorable light. I think it quite likely that he was modelling it on real movements that ended up as fascist.

      • cassander says:

        If you want to understand fascism, you need to read Storm of Steel. Ernst Junger was absolutely not a fascist, he was was a prominent critic of the nazis. But his is all about how, despite world war 1 being objectively horrible, that feeling of the nation in arms, all working together, striving for the common goal, was the greatest elation in life. Fascism was , more than anything else, an attempt to build a political movement on that feeling. And not just fascism, of course, plenty of movements rely on that same instinct, but fascism elevated it to prime principle.

    • Nornagest says:

      Trying to make a pitch to someone implicitly frames them as basically sane and rational and open to argument. That’s not what you want to imply if you’re protesting someone. You want to cast them as brainwashed drones, or hateful intellectual vandals, or just plain crazy: in any case, people who can’t be reasoned with, only shouted down.

      • lvlln says:

        I’m talking about lecturing the audience members, not the speakers, though. Unless you mean like what Matt M wrote above, that merely being willing to go to listen to the speaker is enough to label you as someone who can’t be reasoned with. Which is certainly a view you see among these people.

        Then that goes to the “power” explanation, that they see their ideology as so self evidently correct that anyone who doesn’t agree is malicious or in denial and therefore need to be dominated rather than convinced.

        I must admit this seems a neat explanation, but one that I don’t find satisfying, because it requires that I conclude that the people whose ideology I have a problem with must be ignorant or amoral. Certainly that may be the case, but I’ve noticed that whenever someone concludes that the people whose ideology they have a problem with must be ignorant or amoral, it is actually not the case that those people are ignorant or amoral, and the person making the conclusion was just being uncharitable and missing something. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a single example of such a conclusion being true.

        Again, not to say that that conclusion isn’t true in this case, just that it makes me suspicious that I’m committing some error that conveniently makes me feel better about myself.

        • Nornagest says:

          Unless you mean like what Matt M wrote above, that merely being willing to go to listen to the speaker is enough to label you as someone who can’t be reasoned with.

          Unfortunately, I think that’s probably exactly what’s going on here. The framing seems to be that a big crowd at e.g. a Milo lecture is more intimidating or marginalizing than a small one, so just by showing up you’re choosing to act as an oppressor. That makes you one of the Bad Guys and hence irredeemable.

    • Brad says:

      Young, and in the case of Evergreen State not terribly bright, people feeling their oats. That’s all the there that’s there. Writing and delivering a manifesto is too much like the very school work they are avoiding by going out an having a great time protesting.

      In a different, maybe better, world they’d be foot soldiers in a movement directed by older, wiser, brighter people capable of conceiving and carrying out an actual plan with actual goals, but in this one the various popular movements — Occupy, BLM, and Resistance — didn’t evolve that way.

      Why you and so many others on the left and right insist on continually dignifying these meaningless yawps into the void with attempts at serious analysis is beyond me. Like too much drinking after finals, this is the kind of crap that makes university administrators, at least one or two days a year, earn their ridiculously lavish salaries and that the rest of us should just ignore.